Personal Identity and Memory

A Short Story on Selective Memory Erasure

Prison overpopulation had always been a severe problem, but it reached a tipping point in 2034, when it was revealed that inmates in a prison were forced to share rooms made for two people with up to ten people. The government received serious backlash for their mishandling of budgets and so, hoping to avoid any further criticism, they set in motion one of the most controversial pieces of legislature in British history.

The Prison Reintegration Scheme was a plan to identify key points in an inmate’s life that may have influenced them to commit their crimes, through therapy. Then, through the use of ground-breaking technology, the programme would selectively erase those memories and allow the inmates back into society, under a close watch.

Initially, the legislation created massive protest, and people felt that it was unfair to blame a person’s circumstances for their crimes. By allowing inmates out of prison, without any memory of the crimes they had committed, the government was enabling individuals with heinous acts on their conscience live a life devoid of regret. Nevertheless, the legislature surged through parliament with a surprising enthusiasm, and the first group of inmates to participate in the reintegration scheme were announced.

As the first cohort, it was not surprising that the offenders who were chosen weren’t particularly controversial. Most of them were due to be released soon, and were convicted of minor drug offences. When they were released, they all went on to lead regular lives, working in manual jobs. This initial success seemed to silence most of the protests, since it appeared to correct the behaviour of those who had strayed onto a wrong path.

More criminals were churned out of the programme, and were moulded into productive citizens without a single hitch. The programme proceeded without any controversy, until Edward Miller was announced as one of the offenders to undergo it. Edward had been sentenced to 23 years for murder. Prior to being imprisoned, he was a successful hedge fund investor. Understandably, this caused a massive uproar and reignited protests once more, which seemed even more incensed and fervent than the program’s earlier protestations.

People argued that a violent offender like Miller simply couldn’t be rehabilitated. The family of the victim also complained, that they felt that it was unjust that their daughter’s killer was allowed to live freely, sans any memory of the pain and suffering he had inflicted. The head of the programme responded by issuing a statement, reiterating that the aim of the programme had always been to reintegrate inmates who would go on to become productive members of society, regardless of their crimes.

Subsequently, despite the turmoil, Miller’s reintegration proceeded. He was stripped of his memories, and was released from prison, unaware of the transgressions he was guilty of. His freedom was only short-lived, however. Only a few weeks later, he was shot dead in his home. There remained one, sole piece of evidence left at his crime scene – a note which read, “This is true justice”.

by Ayo Adesansya

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