I assume the technology for anti-depression drugs will keep improving. That seems reasonable. And I assume that being in jail would make the average person depressed. Prisons have healthcare for the inmates, and depression is a legitimate health problem. Here's the dilemma: Do you give a prisoner drugs that will make him happy despite being in jail, or do you have an obligation to keep him depressed? After all, you don't want people thinking that committing a crime will improve their happiness whether they get caught or not.

I expect some quibbling about the definition of depression. I understand there is a big difference between the debilitating form and the type where you are sad for a perfectly good reason. But if your reason for being depressed is a long prison sentence, that reason probably won't pass for years. And if you are having suicidal thoughts, that is generally considered a sign of the serious type of depression. I have to think most people with a long prison sentence entertain the thought of suicide. At what point is it ethically appropriate to treat prison-induced depression?
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+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 24, 2008
Being someone who suffers from depression, I can attest to what isomorphic and BeyondKen have to say. If these people have severe enough depression to begin with, it would probably have been a factor in their reasons for committing the crime. It generally isn't taken into account, especially if the person is unaware of their condition. It is certainly possible that these people are acting out of heightened self-interest in trying to find a small aspect of gratification in a dreary life. Of course, I'm grossly generalizing, but I thought that is what we do here.

Other than that, I just return to your idea that we should make attempted suicide punishable by death. That way, everyone wins.
Nov 24, 2008
Depression is a disabling mental illness. Being depressed is a part of the human condition. The two are not the same thing, they just sound similar.

Great advances have been made in drugs to treat mental illness including depression. That fact that drugs are so successful in treating it is evidence that mental illness is actually a physical illness of the brain. But, these drugs do not make you 'happy'. They provide (often partial) relief from the disabling effects of mental illness.

There is no moral dilemma.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 24, 2008
I would wholeheartedly be in favor of this if this led to actual rehabilitation of the inmate. I believe our prisons focus way too much on punishment and this has led to a system of prisons that are in effect criminal training grounds. Too many inmates that come out of the system end up right back in because they have committed far worse crimes.
Nov 24, 2008
It would have to be a huge leap in chemistry to create drugs that actually make depressed people happy. That discovery would be quickly followed by mass abuse from high school kids around the country.

Right now, most anti-depressant drugs just make the person sedated and numb and just aren't that fun. If we have advances in pharmaceuticals, I would imagine we'd manufacture drugs that cure chemical imbalances. Making something that actually makes emotionally sad people happy would be tangent to creating a really good illegal narcotic.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 24, 2008
Depends on what you believe prison is for… 1) Protect society 2) punish 3) prepare for reinsertion in society.
Nov 24, 2008
Prison is punishment. Of course, precautions are taken to make it more difficult to commit suicide in prison - taking away belts and such, keeping an eye on the prisoners, padded walls and straightjackets in severe cases. But someone with enough determination will still manage it at some point. So besides prevention, what options are there? Therapy, drug treatment, padded walls. I would consider drug therapy and padded walls only for those who are demonstrably insane or chemically-unbalanced, and leave only therapy for the rest. But still, we need a reliable test for insanity.
Nov 24, 2008
I don't believe in happiness being a direct consequence of your surroundings. All your feelings are relative. They also relate to your actions. It makes sense to be afraid of going to jail because it would dissuade you from doing things that might end you up in jail. But once in jail, these emotions have no purpose so I would guess they don't exist.
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