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Criminals have been a problem for as long as humanity has existed. In the year 2569, all people convicted of crimes are sent to the planet Zeautian, where they are put to hard labor mining precious metals and ore for 16 hours a day, or farming on large fields to support other planets populations. The planet houses 9 Billion prisoners, but it only has 500 million guards. The main point of the prison is to collect the resources of the planet, and secondly to rehabilitate the prisoners. So, what would be the most effective way to run the prison with both the aforementioned goals in mind?

The prison is supposed to be run like a Terran penitentiary, prisoners have 16 hour shifts, with three lunch breaks, one shower pre day, and 8 hours of sleep. All the prisoners are occasionally watched by camera-bots.

The prisoners are only able to access farming vehicles and tools, and mining equipment, and semi-decent sanitation, everything else is below medieval tech.

The guards, on the other hand, are well equipped with powerful equipment. The mostly refrain from contact with the prisoners, with most guards stationed on isolated islands in the middle of oceans that the prisoners can’t access, or near the arctic and Antarctic circles of the planet. They are equipped with advanced helicopters, powered armor suits, plasma rifles, and etc. To add another line of defense, the guards also placed the some of the most monsterous creatures in the galaxy around their stations, to eat up any prisoners straying to close.

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    $\begingroup$ This question seems a little broad for the way this site works. Please consider adding some constraints or restricting the scope in some way. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon - Reinstate Monica Apr 2 '18 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ Do you want your prisoners to be fully controlled, like in a penitentiary, or moving more a less freely, like an exiled settlers? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Apr 2 '18 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ Hard labor deep in the mines is contraindicated to rehabilitation, if for no other reason than you're disconnected from your family. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Apr 2 '18 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ You let the prisoners do what they want and trade them goods in exchange for Ore, they will quickly organize themselves or die. You can monitor their organization and set your prices accordingly to what the colony can handle. $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Apr 2 '18 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ The concepts of 'forced-labor' and 'rehabilitation' have little congruence. Work, in combination with other techniques, can be an effective rehabilitative tool for some real criminals under proper circumstances...which 16-hour work shifts generally are not. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Apr 3 '18 at 1:05
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Why waste that much money on so many guards?

The prisoners are on a planet that they can't get off. They aren't going anywhere.

Since you insist on exporting things off the planet then that creates a vulnerable point at the space port. Guard that.

Never allow the prisoners to come into direct contact with a guard. This prevents attempts to bribe, threaten or otherwise influence the guards. Put the guards in armored facilities and use sound filters to make all of the guards voices sound the same.

You also have an absolute tech advantage. Any guard outside the facility should be in powered armor (if that is a thing in your story) or in a tank or armored aircraft. There should only be one reason for guards to exit the facility; which brings me to the next important point.

Since you need the prisoners to mine or farm (I think that this is a bad plan, much better to have a dedicated prison planet) and bring the results to the space port, you have to enforce that behavior through quotas. This is a planet. People will likely find a way to support themselves by growing their own food and making items to use or trade among themselves. Instead of wasting time, manpower, and money trying to curtail this, make it irrelevant. In fact it will decrease the cost of your operation if they have to grow their own food and make their own tools.

Don't give the quotas to individual people, that's too hard to manage. Give the quota to the planet. If the quotas aren't met, send out the suitably armored troops to cull the prisoners. Missiles or unmanned drones would be even better. It doesn't matter who you kill just so long as every prisoner knows that they could be next if they get unlucky. The prisoners will, eventually, organize to make sure the quotas are fulfilled.

The quota should be based on the number of prisoners. That way the as the population grows and shrinks, they can meet the quotas. Otherwise, the prisoners would learn that it is useless to try to meet the quota.

If it is important to release prisoners after a certain period of time, have some way of announcing across the planet that prisoner XXXX needs to be at an access point within x number of days. I pick 10. If the prisoner (or the prisoner's body) has not reached one of the pickup points within that time period, send armored troops out to each access point. They are to approach the first person they see and ask if that person is Prisoner XXXX. If the answer is no, shoot them and move on to the next nearest person. Eventually, the prisoner population will learn to make sure the prisoner is at a designated location promptly.

This will also help with the prisoner census. It will be in the best interest of whoever is running the prisoners to show proof of death for every prisoner who has died. Not only will that prevent a slaughter if the prisoner is called out but it will decrease their total quota.

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The only problem is the scale of operation.

My understanding is that you want a mega-prison, not "prison-at-large" planet often depicted in science fiction. In modern prisons, inmate to guards ratio is about 9:1. For 9 billion to 500 million the ratio would be 18:1, which is high, but considering futuristic environment with lots of cameras and AI that should be perfectly doable.

So, the main problem would be maintenance: providing food, utilizing trash, treating ill, repairing buildings and machinery. Some of these tasks can be done by prisoners themselves, while others would require professional staff.

To minimize the risk of escapes and revolts, the planet has to be totally inhospitable, meaning that running away from prison is a certain death. Allowing the possibility of any prisoners living on their own outside the prison system will eventually turn the environment from fully controlled to a guerilla-infested territory, with high rick of insubordination and riots. That's Ok if you are willing to kill rioting or escaped inmates en masse, but it looks like this is not what you want for your prison planet.

So, to keep things in perfect order, every prisoner should be under control of a prison guard.

Potential weak points, like in modern prison system, will be guards' weapons and escape routes. You can address it accordingly - guards that go among the prisoners would never have lethal weapons on them, and every possible escape route has multiple checkpoints.

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You Don't

You do absolutely nothing. Inmates are dropped off by automated landers and left to fend for themselves. If exportation of harvested resources are important automated landers pick them up or drop off tools and supplies necessary to gathering this resource. Enforce a quota. When quotas aren't met automated landers drop off hunter killer drones with quotas of their own to fulfill. unlike the inmates, the hunter killer drones ALWAYS fill their quotas....

The automated landers do not posses any more fuel or life support than is absolutely the bare minimum necessary to make it to the surface and drop off inmates, cargo dropoff or pickup landers have zero life support what so ever. The Landers don't posses even an ounce of extra fuel beyond what is required to land or boost to an unpowered orbit where they are picked up by a manned ship that comes by to collect the planet's quota every several months. That's a long time to float in space without power, food, or life support. In addition unless specifically dropping off prisoners the landers reenter and blast off at higher G's than can be survived by a living passenger. Any attempt to stow away is suicide.

As long as the automated orbital security system is recording quotas are made then the inmates run their own affairs. The planet is given a deadline, if a century of quotas are met and the native born population reaches a certain point of stability, infrastructure development, and lawfulness the planet will be freed and allowed to join the rest of the intergalactic community. If quotas aren't met people die. Carrot and the stick. Someday freedom might be an option, which makes an excellent carrot, and if the population gets tired of chasing the carrot the hunter killer drones provide an excellent stick to beat them back into productivity again.

Excellent way to harvest resources and colonize difficult planets with a minimum expense of manpower..... well... not anybody you particularly care about anyhow.

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Simple: don't.

At the point civilization becomes spacefaring, it would be pretty easy to identify planets without any resources for use technologically. Drop prisoners in with only enough tools to establish primitive farming operations, and then monitor their activities from orbit. That's it. Even if they somehow figure out how to magically build a spaceship out of nothing, there's no way they could defend themselves against even the cheapest orbital defense systems. It would save money, time, and would eliminate all risk of escape.

Your only risks are prison break attempts from outer space, but you'd have that problem anyway, and with all the money you'd save this way, defense would be a trifling matter.

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You only need to hold the space ports.

Trade food, medicine, netflix subscriptions, heavy machinery, or whatever for resources at big forts with heavy weapons. Let the inmates run wild on the rest of the planet. You wouldn't even need hundreds of millions of guards. Inmates with good behavior would make working infrastructure, and protect it from bad behaving inmates; the proof of being fit to return to society is running a society successfully.

If you want to control them more finely, send guards into their places with remote monitoring. If the guard dies you bomb the surrounding area flat.


18:1 inmates to guards is only about double current US standards, which might be achieved with better automated monitoring, better economies of scale, or with a disregard of inmates lives.

Especially given how limited the ability to escape a planet is and how little modern defenses have to worry about mobs of poorly armed people, if you have 500 million officers it should be no problem running mining, agriculture, or even industry on a planet.

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The same way 10000 Spartans controlled 100,000+ helots and others. Ruthlessly.

In this case you have the advantage of better numbers and weaponry. Whereas the Spartans had the same arms as the helots.

Assign roles and leaders and oversee them, put down any insurrections with massacre and ruthlessly enforce any rules.

You divide the 9 billion up and you will never have a wholesale insurrection, local ones your guards will outnumber and outgun. Many societies managed it for centuries, Romans spring to mind. Your huge advantage is in the armaments. A sword is a sword is a sword... but a pickaxe vrs a machine gun is a different story.

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I hope that none of other the people answering this question ever get reach any positions of power in society!

In seriousness, since you want to rehabilitate the prisoners and not create a brutally oppressed and violent slave-state, those answers might not be suitable. Especially if the prisoners are intended to eventually return to the rest of society. I think the best solution is to have the prisoners guard themselves. Give people two paths they can walk on the prison planet---work in the mines/farms for the required amount of time in order to return home, or to progress up through heirarchies of supervisors/managers on the prison planet and stay. Those roles can be rewarded with money/goods just like regular capitalist society. After all, slaves rebel a lot more often than employees. It also creates a large group of prisoners with an incentive to maintain the status quo (and the regular prisoners, who buy food from markets and so on, also would suffer from any disruption). If there are leaders of a rebel movement, just end their prison terms early and whisk them off-planet.

The prison planet would probably even develop its own prisons. Of course, there's always the possibility of a Boston Tea party type situation, but there's a reason it was the Boston Tea party and not the Boston essential-food-items-and-manufactured-goods-that-are-unobtainable-on-this-planet party.

On a final note, think about the earth, and imagine if aliens were actually using earth to harvest heavy metals/cash/excess food. We're invested in maintaining our own social order here, we don't need 500 million alien guards (and in fact, their presence here would almost certainly make rebellion more likely). The best alien strategy might be to brainwash/blackmail the ruling (political/business) class and take 50% of grown food which we waste anyway, rather than vaporise people with alien weapons whenever the gold mines drop their production.

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