This!!! With all the freedom they will give players, that these other MMOs do not have, prison and law systems are an absolute necessity. I am absolutely fascinated by this game due to these freedoms. If I am going to do criminal activity, which I may dabble in smuggling and some other shady activities, I am actually excited that there is a law system and prison. That makes the "criminal" activities actually criminal, and gives intense excitement not to get caught, kind of what I imagine criminal activities may be IRL for some people. If that does not make criminal play style more exciting and appealing to those players due to having to ACTUALLY smuggle with risk of getting caught or pirating, slaving, etc.. then I feel like it would be boring, and if not boring for these people it makes grieving and being an all around jerk way too easy which will negatively affect everyone else.I sincerely hope you are wrong. From early on the game design elements have been showing up to mitigate or moderate that segment of the population who think causing pain is the highest possible calling. Tony Z has touched on the subject repeatedly.
IF the system works to separate those from everyone else for a period of time, that would be a perfect result for a game. If prison gameplay becomes so incredibly boring for those personalities that they change behavior, or seek greener pastures, it's still a win. If it traps them into murdering each other for a while, that's a win, and will allow the 'long term costs' to be felt sooner than for the rest of us.
Creative players will be able to use prison mechanics to accomplish a lot of previously unavailable gameplay, and it's clear that is one of the intents. But for a certain segment it's going to feel like Hell.
Criminal activity will most likely be high reward for those players that choose it, and whats that saying? "The bigger the risk the greater the reward."