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What if...

I keep hearing that it costs more to put a person in jail for a year than it does to send them to college for a year.

What if when someone was arrested in your town, the town was taxed for putting the person in prison. They had to pay the actual cost of emprisonment, but could choose between a standard jail or a job training/re-habilitation jail.

Would these for-profit jails start competing on cost in ways that would drive better or worse bahavior?

Would the towns seek out crime reduction strategies to prevent putting people into jail?

I often hear cops complain that they are only encouraged to lock up criminals, not stop the crime before it happens. Would towns change how they reward cops?


Here's the real question: Can you construct a small, realistic, policy change that would create incentives towards reforming people rather than punishing people?

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That is, of course, predicated on the notion that reform is possible in a sufficient number of cases that the change in focus is worthwhile.

I'm sure that pilot programs can hand-pick candidates for likely outcomes and show 90% success rates. I don't think that that maps to the broader population.

What part of your comment relates to the link I posted? (this link)

All of it relates to this part:

NPRI participants are assisted in their job search and provided with mentoring and training by community organizations. So far, NPRI has served more than 600 formerly incarcerated individuals and pushed participants' one-year recidivism rate below 10 percent.

The word "proven" is slung around, but if many of these measures - job training, high school equivalency - were truly effective on a broad basis, we would be seeing those results on the ground due to their availability for, oh, the past thirty years.

Then again, there's the focus on "non-violent drug offenders" - as if that should make a difference. The difference between non-violent drug offenders in this context for the most part (low-level street dealers, for instance) and violent drug offenders is circumstance - that they had not yet, or not in the specific case, needed violence to accomplish their goals.

"non-violent drug offenders" -- yes, the definition is arbitrary, but you have to start somewhere. Where would you start?

I'm not sure you have to start somewhere. Starting somewhere is based on the assumption that rehabilitation is possible in a broader number of cases than it is currently being achieved. And other than slinging around the term "proven" without actually supplying any proof, I see no reason supplied such that I should believe that.

Underlying all that is a belief that people will avoid criminal activity if they can achieve some level of "good enough" without it -- that crime is an act of desperation. And I'm not sure I believe that.

In Jentopia (to be founded, by me, after the zombiepocolypse) if you fuck with someone else or their stuff you go to Actual Rehab type jail. Like..sprirtual guidance of many flavors, learn how to mebbe do a new trade or improve a skill.. etc.. If you are caught again doing something harmful to others/their stuff. You die. Obviously your desire to be a helpful member of society and not suck is not strong enough, so.. yeah. Why waste time and money locking someone up for years and years and years etc.. you just be ded. off you go. :P i ain't got time for that bullsheeit.

So in Jentopia, if I'm unemployed and can't find a job with my current skills, and I can't afford ITT Technical Institute for retraining, I should go on a three-state crime spree until I'm caught, at which point I'll get a nice four-year-trade-school program with three squares and cable. Sweet. Good to know.

Well hopefully a) there'd be less people so b) totally more job things for people to do / learn c) i don't like how money rules the world so it wouldn't be quite "go to school - attempt to find a job - so it pays money - so you can spend more than you have - so you have to keep doing a job you hate". That's not much of a utopia in my world. I'd rather do something i love and enjoy coz i do, and get decent enough benefits - people paying me in food and whatnots. And crazy amt's of money for further education when it should be a basic right if people want it. Soo..the entire thing has to be redone basically. ~grin~ not that i'm saying it's all planned out to a T yet. Just initial planning of Jentopia stages.

Ok. So, you've got a person, convicted the second time, and he's executed. Then you find evidence that someone else did that second crime, ie. you convicted and therefore killed the wrong person. What do you do?

I guess that's what there will be cameras & barcoding for..

Is my short silly answer. My long answer went rambly and i'm not sure you want to hear it (or if tom wants me ranting randomly in LJ). ;)

can email the rest if you like!
Oh and.. i'm not saying the plan is fully planned out. Questions are good!

Oh and The Plan for Jentopia starts with the zombie attack. So depending on how likely you think zombies are.. depends on how serious i am. (All i'm saying is if there *ARE* zombies.. shit son, i'ma try creating jentopia like a mo'fo'!) (if i'm not eaten first. Running is hard)..

You can email it to me if you want to. I like chatting about these things.

>> Oh and.. i'm not saying the plan is fully planned out. Questions are good!

I figured you were still in the planning stages (~grin~), which is why I poked you on that bit.

My basic point is that if one is in danger of being wrongfully murdered by someone, which is better: random nutjob, or your own government?

re: zombies and running

(Deleted comment)
I'm not sure that this counts as either "small" or "realistic", but I'll toss it out anyway, just in the interests of starting a fight:

Bring back corporal punishment and public humiliation. Public whipping and the stocks, basically.

And yes, I'm dead serious. Putting a mugger or a car thief in jail for 3-6 years is the most losing proposition ever: nevermind the oft-noted fact that jail is basically high school and college for an aspiring criminal hoping to increase his/her criminal skills, there's the much more pertinent (from a behavioral-science perspective) problem that putting a criminal in jail puts him into a peer group that will applaud and encourage his antisocial behavior. This is so counter-productive it makes my head hurt: if your dog bites random passers-by, do you attempt to train him out of the behavior, or do you try to introduce him to the nearest pack of wolves?

My other hobby-horse:

If jails are going to be (god help us) profit-making entities, their incentives need to be correct.

Right now, private jails are paid on a fee-per-prisoner basis. Their incentive, therefore, is to house as many prisoners as possible, as cheaply per head as possible. If this happens to have the side-effect of turning their facilities into sociopath-breeding hellholes... well so much the better really, as they can expect to continue getting paid to house the same (and growing) population of criminals in perpetuity as they keep getting re-arrested.

Now, I'm not sure that there is a way to actually make the incentives work in practice, but there's one obvious idea that should at least be tried: make payments based on recidivism rates. A prison with a 10% re-arrest rate should be at least 10 times more profitable to run than one with a 90% re-arrest rate. Instead of cash payments per prisoner, issue (or better yet sell) some sort of bond-like instrument which immediately collapses to $0.00 value if the prisoner is convicted of another crime after release. Okay, we probably just breezed past "small" again, so let's set our sights a little lower: any prison with a >50% recidivism rate gets no new prisoners sent to it.

Also, lobbying for new or stronger additions to the criminal code on the part of prison owners or workers should not only be illegal but punishable by death.

Your bond should be non-transferrable. If they end up in the hands of, say, organized crime or municipalities you get various other bad incentives.

Just getting rid of the slew of victimless crimes would help a lot. Sure, there a some things like drunk driving that should stay and people should wear seatbelts as the cost to society is extremely high if they are injured or die in a crash, but things like possessing small amounts of cannabis is really no different from tobacco or alcohol and should be treated the same (I just picked drugs because they're easy, there's a whole host of other crimes that don't and generally can't really cause damage and shouldn't be crimes).

Agreed. I've thought for a long time that it would be much simpler to just have fines for crimes that were a) non-violent, or b)didn't affect large quantities of people (ie. I suspect large-scale Enron style fraud probably shouldn't just have a financial disincentive). The way we handle parking tickets is relatively effective at disincentivizing forbidden parking choices, yes? It's not perfect at keeping people from doing it, but it is efficient and doesn't impede the person from continuing with their daily functional life, ie. working and contributing taxes.

Basically, jails should be reserved for people who actually hurt other people. Although, while it's easy to verbalize, I don't think that in practice it would be a simple policy change. On that level, I suppose a simple change might be to forbid jails from being privatized. I understand why it happened, but I think that the goal of a public jail (protect the public, possibly prepare the prisoners to be good citizens) will never be the same as a private jail (make money, don't get shut down by the government).

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