It’s better to be dead than hanging by a thread over a pit of spikes, or lions, or acid, or lava, or boiling oil. True sadists prefer that others be imprisoned than dead. The purpose of prison is to give all the people not in prison the comforting knowledge that other people are enduring massive, ongoing suffering.
For future-oriented animals, it is much better to be dead than to be perpetually poised towards death. And it is better to be dead than to be perpetually tortured, or shunned, or locked in a box where guards can abuse or kill you without fear of arrest.
Imprisonment is a kind of torture—a soft torture comprised of sleep deprivation, harassment, threats, random searches and destruction of property by guards, retaliatory transfers to other prisons, random attacks by inmates and guards, and the thought that all of this happening to you. You are never secure, always stressed, because you know that guards, like cops, have carte blanche to attack and even to kill with total immunity. Because Americans love their other-suffering.
Angry Americans are made happy by knowing that right now, all over the world, but most importantly down the street, people are undergoing massive suffering much worse than their own. Knowing that great suffering is close by makes your own comparatively mild suffering seem like joy.
Here’s to institutionalized soft torture! Here’s to the prison industry. It pays shareholders with monetary profit, and it pays neighbors with Schadenfreude.