New advances could make convicts feel like they've served hundreds of years in prison in a matter of hours.
Researchers at Oxford University are exploring controversial technology and drugs that could keep criminals alive indefinitely, to serve a sentence befitting the crime.
"Some crimes are so bad they require a really long period of punishment, and a lot of people seem to get out of that punishment by dying," Dr. Rebecca Roache told Aeon magazine.
"There are a number of psychoactive drugs that distort people’s sense of time, so you could imagine developing a pill or a liquid that made someone feel like they were serving a 1,000-year sentence," Dr. Roache told Aeon.
Researchers also looked at uploading the mind to a digital realm -- an artificial hell that could make a prisoner feel they had served a 1,000 year sentence in eight-and-a-half hours.
-- Pros and cons --
The time-distortion technology could be a huge benefit to municipalities dealing with overcrowded jails and prisons.
But there are ethical and philosophical concerns.
"There is a widely held view that any amount of tinkering with a person’s brain is unacceptably invasive," Dr. Roache admits.
"There is [also] a long-standing philosophical question as to how bad the prison experience should be," Roache said.
Additionally, while hundreds of years will have passed for the inmate, only a few hours will have passed for the victims and their families. Will that feel like justice to them?