The first point is that the emphasis in punishment must be not on paying one’s debt to “society,” whatever that may mean, but in paying one’s “debt” to the victim. Certainly, the initial part of that debt is restitution. This works clearly in cases of theft.If A has stolen $15,000 from B, then the first, or initial, part of A’s punishment must be to restore that $15,000 to the hands of B (plus damages, judicial and police costs, and interest foregone). … What happens nowadays is the following absurdity: A steals $15,000 from B. The government tracks down, tries, and convicts A, all at the expense of B, as one of the numerous taxpayers victimized in this process. Then, the government, instead of forcing A to repay B or to work at forced labor until that debt is paid, forces B, the victim, to pay taxes to support the criminal in prison for ten or twenty years’ time. Where in the world is the justice here?
Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (via pars3cs