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In even a small settlement, crime of some sort is almost inevitable. Lack of crime may even be considered as a social problem, showing either that the society is overly controlled, or that it is not reporting truthfully on the behavior of its individuals. Minor crimes may be dealt with through fines or restrictions of privileges, depending on the structure of authority in place at the settlement. More serious crimes may require imprisonment or return to Earth. A complete judiciary system will need to include different provisions for property crimes and personal crimes.

Americans on Mars will probably be subject to the The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984[1].

Crime in Antarctica can offer an example of what might be the initial situation for a Mars settlement, until the society becomes large enough to promote its own legal code. Isolation and boredom appear to be a source of crime in Antarctica. Communication with Earth might reduce isolation, but the important time lag in communications will make real conversation impossible. Keeping the colonists busy may be important; a growing colony could offer a constant challenge to keep people occupied.

Construction camps in and mining facilities in Northern Canada have extensive exercise and recreational facilities. However, almost all workers are present on shifts, in the fly-in fly-out mode and therefore spend long periods of time back in larger societies. Again, this would not be possible on Mars.

If child rearing is possible on Mars, then this might offer enough of a challenge to keep most of the adults out of mischief. Until the adolescents reach their own transgressive period, and commit crimes of juvenile delinquency that need to be addressed by the judiciary system, or by other means of integrating what may be considered normative adolescent behavior. Risk associated with this type of behavior in what might be expected to be a 'fragile' environment may be a significative challenge for Martian societies.

Judiciary system

Although a very early settlement may have a simple system with a single authority (the capitan, the chief, the boss) the volume of decisions required in a society of over a few hundred individuals will require a separation of powers and delegation of authority to various individuals. Since the delays for a return to Earth will be quite long, most of the time, a local system of dealing with crimes, criminals and victims will be required.

Judges and/or magistrates will eventually be required to officiate the judicial functions, while support staff will be needed to document the proceedings and assist with research and counselling.

A body of laws and their interpretations will naturally evolve from the particularities of life in a Martian Settlement.


National laws

International and UN laws and treaties

Possible Penalties

  • Fines
  • Restricted privileges
  • Reduced rations
  • Unsavory tasks - such as waste management
  • Duties which separate one from the group, such as scouting for resources
  • Confinement
  • Exile
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