Since medieval times politicians have argued that harsh punishments (such as drawing and quartering, torture and the like) has a substantial deterrent effect on criminals.

Some philosophers disagree that such punishments actually deter such behavior.

I was told by ThruGog that "the way most wizards speak about Azkaban certainly seems to indicate its effectiveness as a deterrent" (The Politics of Harry Potter).

Do wizards (perhaps we can restrict to British ones from 1991-1998) think Azkaban is effective (whether or not it actually is)?

What textual evidence suggests that rank and file wizards support the use of their methods?

  • I did a VTC as Off Topic, as this question seems to be eliciting real science as an explanation for Azkaban's effectiveness. Azkaban is, of course, fictional. None of the sources cited are from Harry Potter canon. Not everyone has read The Politics of Harry Potter, nor should the OP take another user's comments about that book at face value. To me, this question is off topic. – Slytherincess Aug 1 '15 at 10:36
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    @Slytherincess His question is what do wizards think of Azkaban, he's discussed real world events but is the overall question off-topic? – ThruGog Aug 1 '15 at 11:13
  • @slytherincess - Edited to remove the political message – Valorum Aug 1 '15 at 12:23

There’s not much in the canon about public attitudes to Azkaban.

Here are the few things I was able to dig up:

  • There was public opposition to its initial use as a prison.

    Azkaban wasn’t originally built as a prison; it was the island fortress of the dark wizard Ekrizdis, and the Dementors were among the less frightening aspects of the place. The initial plans to use it as a prison were drawn up by Minister for Magic Damocles Rowle, of which Pottermore tells us:

    In spite of opposition from many wizards, among them experts on both Dementors and buildings with Azkaban’s kind of Dark history, Rowle carried out his plan and soon a steady trickle of prisoners had been placed there.

    This followed a spate of smaller prisons spread across the country, set up in the wake of the Statute of Secrecy.

  • The issue of Azkaban was mostly ignored by politicians.

    Rowle’s successor, Eldritch Diggory, visited the prison and was horrified by the conditions. He wanted to close or improve it, but died of dragon pox before it could be done. Again, quoting from Pottermore:

    From that time until the appointment of Kingsley Shacklebolt, no Minister ever seriously considered closing Azkaban.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean the general public were in favour of its continued use – politicians have a remarkable talent for ignoring the electorate – but apparently it was never discussed in political circles.

  • As a means of keeping prisoners away from the public, Azkaban is unusually effective.

    We’re never told exactly how many prisoners were kept within Azkaban, but it probably numbers at least in the hundreds, over the three centuries it was used as a prison. In that time, only two prisoners ever escaped, and that was fairly late in the prison’s life.

    Indeed, as Pottermore tells us, this is how successive Ministers justified continuing the prison:

    Most justified their attitude by pointing to the prison’s perfect record at keeping prisoners locked up.

    I think that positive outlook was probably shared by the public. Most of them didn’t know much about the Dementors, or the terrible conditions of the prison. And since most inmates go insane and never leave, the risk of recidivism is extremely low.

    I can imagine a lot of citizens finding the external concept of Azkaban very appealing.

  • Can you add in sources for the quotes you have used? I don't recall reading that in the books, so I assume it is from somewhere else? – Dr R Dizzle Aug 1 '15 at 10:46
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    @DrRDizzle All the quotes are from the Pottermore article on Azkaban. I can’t find an exact transcript on Google, but a lot of the information is repeated on the HP Wiki: harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Azkaban – alexwlchan Aug 1 '15 at 10:58
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    Fudge at one point mentions that he would be kicked out of office for suggesting protection of Azkaban be taken away from the dementors – user13267 Aug 1 '15 at 11:59

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