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Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead’s take on Prison Reform: Can Negan change?

- Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

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Is Negan’s stay at Alexandria’s rusted, destitute jail cell just a modern-day pillory on the public square or meant for self reflection and penance?

The Walking Dead has gotten down on one knee and popped the question to viewers, “Do people change?” If you believe as Michonne that “No, people don’t change. Not really,” then any argument for letting Negan out for ‘good behavior’ becomes moot. Eye for an eye, Hammurabi’s code of law, lex talionis. There is no substitute, no action Negan can ever undertake to make up for his prior deeds from Michonne’s standpoint. It would take a literal emergency and severe undermanned defenses for it to be even plausible for her.

However, if you feel like Judith Grimes that the passage of time and circumstance changed her adopted mother, then Negan’s freedom gains liquidity. Shaped in the soft motion of water rather than the rigidness of stone. Can you marry into giving another chance to Negan knowing new potential instances of ruthlessness loom based on your answer? At the same time, matrimony could see a Negan in equilibrium, rehabilitated and reformed. An active asset to society rather than a living statue of deterrence.

Keep in mind, there is no correct answer for this subject. Yes or no, it’s purely case-by-case individual basis at best. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the arguments for and against keeping Negan locked away with only books as amenities.

Arguments against keeping Negan locked away:

Removal from society creates vacuum

By removing Negan, you’ve created a void for another figure to possibly rise in his place. Just because Negan lost his throne doesn’t mean the demand for what he provided vanishes into the wind. The people of Sanctuary loved Negan, even after being ousted from power, his grip on the people’s sentiments remained intact. The inequality in trade he claimed elsewhere assured them a richer, better quality of life. Not to mention, his code provided structure to a society on the brink of madness and chaos. Look back at Sanctuary residents’ growing discontent with Simon and The Saviors when Negan was temporarily missing-in-action.

Without Negan’s Savior whistle sending chilling fear across the land, Alpha and Beta have risen without opposition. Where the group might have been limited to a junkyard as The Scavengers with Negan to keep them in check, they’ve been allowed to develop uninhabited. People that might have become productive members of society in Sanctuary or elsewhere joined Alpha’s cause instead.

Reduction in cost of limited resources

By confining a healthy, strong individual from giving back to society, you’re essentially making them a net negative on resources. A drain on Alexandria’s already limited food and medical supplies as an isolated community. One that’s always on the edge of teetering on economic collapse. Really, all it takes is one random natural disaster for the entire utopia of Alexandria to come to a somber end. In Negan’s own words, he could help Michonne run the place if given the opportunity.

There is no denying Negan’s leadership ability, methods withstanding. By reintegrating Negan into society, you add leadership, defense and potential to both add resources and loyal people to the community.

Rehabilitation and Reform

What is mercy really? Negan referenced himself being kept alive as a public display of mercy from the great Rick Grimes on last week’s Walking Dead episode. If an individual appears sincerely ready to rejoin society, humbled and apologetic… Is it mercy to allow them a second chance to reform, or a crime against the families their deeds hurt for eternity?

Arguments for keeping Negan locked away:

Deterrence

Rick and Michonne’s not so subtle message through Negan’s jail sentence is to keep others from doing the same. By not seeking absolute vengeance and keeping Negan alive, Rick showed the whole new world that the sun was on the horizon. No longer would an eye for an eye based society where might makes right control the land.

Negan is a walking, talking symbol for deterrence. His four-by-four cell serving as a community wide memo on what happens when you break their laws. Arbitrary as they might be in the time of the apocalypse, Michonne’s charter was poised to bring about a new code of ethics.

Time served and Restitution

If the punishment should fit the crime as the old phrase goes… Is there any amount of time Negan can ever pay back to make up for what he’s done? Though Maggie once said the Negan she knew was already gone upon seeing him, it’s doubtful she’d want him to walk free. Even if he can make up with physical labor through willing restitution, those hurt might see any flexibility as reward. Michonne even wanted his window to the world closed off last episode (“Guardians“). There might be no emotional restitution Negan can ever provide tangible compensation for.

Retribution

Negan’s jail sentence in Alexandria didn’t arise out of coincidence, it’s exact retribution for the lives of Abraham, Glenn and countless others lost in the war. Although Rick ultimately didn’t go through his verbal eye for an eye promise to Negan upon vanquishing The Savior monarch, he still took away everything he had.

Would you let Negan out of jail? Tell The Natural Aristocrat in the comment form below!

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