Just for the record, a summary of this year’s novel, as it’s developed so far.
The Warden (temporary title) is speculative SF that takes place in a near-future world very much like ours. The federal and state prison systems are collapsing under the weight of stricter laws and increasing numbers of prisoners. Taxpayers are rebelling against the building of new prisons and the cost of maintaining them. Privately-owned prisons take some of the burden, but have become a source of massive human rights violations.
One state decides, amid violent controversy, to experiment with a more rational and humane system. As it begins to seem that it could become a model for other states, Federal funds make it possible to expand the experiment. The incorrigibly violent are sentenced to life imprisonment. Non-violent incorrigible offenders are sentenced to slavery for life. In-between is a multi-level system with an emphasis on rehabilitation. The system is still in its early stages, with many problems yet to be worked out.
Den Carter, a former professional Dom, is the Warden of a small residential prison, the last stop before slavery. Its residents are the system’s failures, and it’s Den’s job to try to return them to society. The other central characters are Larry Scott, a state intake officer for the state; Ross Chandler and Stacey Dankin, new inmates; and Paul Martin, Den’s assistant, lover, and slave.
Against a background of discussions between Den and Larry about the development, effectiveness, and morality of the system, Den struggles with his own doubts, and with prisoners who don’t always want to be rehabilitated.