Tom Paris, prison whore?

by Mandragora

It's often posited in fanfic that Tom Paris had a really hard time in prison, that he was subjected to much abuse, beatings, multiple rapes, even torture. At the very least, he was obliged to find a 'protector', someone who, in exchange for sexual favours, protected Tom from the depredations of other prisoners.

And, gosh, but there's been some wonderful fanfic posted using that premise. Some of the very best fanfic writers around have used this idea in respect of Tom's incarceration in prison and used it very well--plus it makes for a cracking good story.

But I don't believe it.

If Tom had been incarcerated in a 20th century American prison, him having been abused might well have been the case. But he's not; he's in a 24th century prison, in New Zealand.

So, I'm not so sure that the abuse is a realistic scenario--unless you're going to divert way off canon--given what we've seen on the show.

The prison we are shown, in New Zealand, looks to me to be pretty much akin to what are called Open Prisons in the UK. These are for non-violent offenders, who are not a danger to the community as a whole. You get a lot of fraudulent lawyers, accountants, bankers etc there. These people work, some are allowed to actually work outside the prison during the day, although they have to come back once work is over. They receive very low wages, but they are paid.

Now, Tom, although he joined the Maquis, was not indicted (so far as we are aware) with a crime like murder. I doubt very much that he was regarded as a danger to the community on Earth. Plus if the emphasis even now is changing (albeit slowly) to rehabilitation where possible, rather than simply punishment, how much more is that likely in the 24th century?

So, the prison Tom was sent to is unlikely to be much like a 20th century American high-security prison, where all the worst offenders are incarcerated. My understanding is that these people are regarded as a danger to the community and are locked away more to protect the general public than for any other reason. I understand that in some (not all) of these prisons, the prisoners can pretty much do what they like to one another, so long as they're within prison walls. This seems to be the scenario that many fan writers have picked up on.

But you know, although that may be the case in some US prisons, it's not the case, even now, in the UK (or, I believe, New Zealand...). In the UK the worst offenders are under very strict observation and control, to prevent a breakdown of law and order within the prison. Of course, there is a pecking order amongst the prisoners but, frankly, most of them are more interested in how much 'snout' (cigarettes and pot) they can get their hands on than raping a fellow prisoner. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, it does, but it's relatively rare and by no meant the norm. Drug taking is a problem, mostly because if these people become addicted they'll need to turn back to crime when they get out, in order to finance their habit.

You do get men turning to other man for sex, 'fuck buddies', that type of thing, although even that isn't as common as people think that it is. But this type of activity is consensual and is more likely to involve a bit of mutual masturbation than full blown intercourse, which happens of course, but is less common than in\line heterosexual relations.

 And what about Tom's fellow prisoners? It's been pretty much established that 24th century Earth is a paradise. I think it might have been in one of the TOS movies (The Search for Spock--set a century earlier than Voyager) when it was said that there hadn't been a murder on Earth for fifty years (if this wasn't stated in a movie it was a DS9 episode I think). By the 24th century Earth is even more of a paradise than it was in the 23rd. Now humans may well commit murder elsewhere, but if they do they're likely to be incarcerated where the murder was committed and not on Earth. Captured Maquis may be taken back to Earth, but a human who commits a crime on Betazoid (for example) would surely be dealt with by local law and not on Earth. So the chances of Tom having been locked up with murderers in New Zealand are minimal.

Incidentally, in the case of most murders (at least in the UK) the victim knows their murderer, the murder is a one off and as such the murderer is not a danger to the community as a whole. They're locked away as punishment, not prevention.

I would argue that the chances of most of Tom's fellow prisoners being rapists were also pretty low, simply because 24th century Earth is this paradise where violent crime is practically unknown. The type of prisoner he was likely to be locked up with are people like Julian Bashir's father, who broke the law because he had his son genetically enhanced (hardly the type to go about raping his fellow prisoners).

There seemed to be non-human prisoners in the New Zealand penal facility. It is possible that they committed more violent offences on Earth that your average human, but I doubt it, simply because in a non-violent community as a whole, violent crime is much less likely to happen. Those who have violent inclinations are more likely to take them elsewhere and commit them outside the community. As an example, I know of a country that hasn't had a murder for fifty years, the only crime to speak of is generally petty theft and even that is pretty rare. People can happily leave their cars unlocked going to the supermarket in the sure and certain knowledge that no one will attempt to enter them in their absence. It is also possible to go where you like whenever you like--there's no worries at all about being out alone at night.

But as the people who live in this country are normal human beings, they undoubtedly do experience the full range of emotions, including the impulse towards rowdy and even violent behaviour, young men especially. But they don't act like this where they live, they go over the border into the adjacent country and wreak havoc there. Not everyone who lives in this country is a native by any means, at least 25% of the current population is from other countries, but because there is really no crime to speak of, no one, no matter what their upbringing or country of origin, commits significant crime.

Coming back to Tom, when we saw him in the prison, he was using a tool that could be used to damage other people, as were others of his fellow prisoners. The very fact that they were able to use these tools suggests that they were not regarded as violent or dangerous, otherwise they wouldn't have been given them.

Now, it is possible to argue that the very effect of incarceration could make people change into the type of person who would commit rape and murder on fellow prisoners. This is possible, I suppose, but not, I would suggest, very likely. People in prisons in the UK don't tend to change like this (how they do change is that they become more adept at committing crime--being taught by fellow prisoners how to do it. <Sigh> This is particularly so in the case of those prisoners who are in Open Prisons, where most offenders are not violent, so why should 24th century prisoners, where (presumably) the emphasis is more on rehabilitation, behave like that?

What I don't doubt is that the very fact that he was in prison had a major adverse effect on Tom. I have been to several UK prisons (for professional purposes I hastily clarify) in my time and have met people who have committed all sorts of crime, ranging from petty theft to rape and murder.

I used to hate going to these places, because there is a miasma of depression and despair that hangs over them (even the Open Prisons, although it isn't as bad there). Trust me, going to prison is *not* a soft option (which some proponents of capital punishment seem to believe). Every time I came out, I used to\line draw a deep breath, thankful I was out--and I was only visiting. Being locked up in one of those places with no possibility of escape makes me shudder.

I have no reason to doubt that that depressing atmosphere would attach itself to even a 24th century prison. Or that Tom would have hated being there. It is quite likely, I would have thought, that he would have been regarded as a Maquis traitor by a large percentage of his fellow prisoners, who would probably have completely ignored him. Those who were Maquis might well have taken the same attitude, thinking that he betrayed them to the authorities. Being treated like this, as a non-person, can have very adverse psychological effects, particularly when your only source of companionship is these people, when you can't simply leave the unpleasant situation behind. Someone who was treated in this way would likely have become very depressed, even suicidal. This I can readily see.

In TOS, there was an episode (Dagger of the Mind) in which the Enterprise visited an asylum for the criminally insane. It had about six inmates, including a former Starfleet captain called Garth of Izar. These people were referred to as the only untreatable insane people in the galaxy (or Federation, at least). So this seems to suggest that anyone who commits a really heinous crime, such as mass murder, will be treated in this way, because they will be regarded as sick. They won't be in prison; they will be in hospitals.

Now, the idea of Tom having been abused on a regular basis in prison makes a good story, of course it does. I can buy the idea of an isolated act of violence, such as a rape or beating up. Perhaps, even in the 24th century there are people who harbour jealousy towards Tom, for his supposedly privileged upbringing--although this also is debatable. But it would not, I suspect, have been a usual occurrence. The prison authorities would, I suggest, have soon put a stop to that, given that the idea of prison is meant to be rehabilitation as well as punishment and subjecting someone to abuse doesn't do them, or the perpetrator, any good at all. I also find the idea that the authorities of a 24th century prison on Earth are not in control of the prison a difficult one to believe in. It would be very easy, for example, to set up surveillance equipment run by computers programmed to sound the alarm at the first sign of violence.

Suppose, given that, a prisoner had attempted to attack Tom? I'm not sure quite what some people see when they look at him onscreen. He's been variously described as 'delicate' and 'shorter than Chakotay', for example, neither of which I see at all. On any objective measurement, Tom is taller than Chakotay. I've read fanfics in which he's only capable of sitting wringing his hands and crying, while big, strong Chakotay (this scenario typically occurs in C/P fiction) comes to the rescue. Can't begin to say how much I loathe these stories. Tom looks to me like someone who is reasonably able to take care of himself. In The Chute, he was doing well at just that, plus looking out for Harry, before a couple of prisoners ganged up on him. So, unless a group of prisoners ganged up on Tom (and why should they all have risked losing their chances of parole by doing so?), I would have thought that as a Starfleet officer trained in self defence he should have been able to hold his own against any single prisoner.

I also find the idea of a corrupt prison administration a la the 20th century difficult to swallow--not when everyone lives in a paradise to start off with. So bribery for material gain etc is out. I suspect the prison administrators are likely to be civic-minded citizens who want to help the rehabilitate the prisoners, rather than small minded sadists.

On the other hand, if an author comes up with a plot in which one of the prison administrators had a grudge against Tom, for some plausible reason and made his life hell, that I could buy. But, this prison administrator would have had to have been subtle about it. After all, the prison must have doctors, who are duty bound to report all serious injuries.

Of course, there are places where violence is a way of life, even in the 24th century (the planet Tasha Yar grew up on, plus other non-Federation worlds, where the Orion Syndicate holds sway, readily spring to mind). There the prisons probably are sinkholes of rape and murder, but Earth is not one of them.

So, Tom Paris, prison whore? Nope. Sorry, I don't believe it. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy the stories though...

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