A Broken System
The prison system is a broken system for several reasons. The first reason is that for profit companies have gotten involved without real competition as they are picked by beurocrats and given contracts; contracts that promise a specific level of convicts at all time. This is a problem as the government then has a incentive to make more convictions and longer convictions which means they are going to go after pettier and pettier crime and punish it that much harder. This system is called corporatism or in other words fascism where the state and corporations basically merge and those engaged in this crony system make tremendous profits.
Another reason it is broken is because those that are not owned privately are run publicly. Public prisons have very little incentive to be well kept or maintained and are going to have oversight over the wrong sectors. We send petty criminals and young men to prison knowing they are going to be taught how to be hardened and violated and abused adults. The state should also not be involved in state prisons or federal penitentiaries; county jails are a different subject but are typically not used for long term housing.
A Proposal Using Economics
In order to bring competition into the world of prisons, all prisons should be made private with little to no oversight from the state just a uniform set of laws all prisons must abide by equally. Next, a uniform voucher should be presented to each prisoner for a predetermined amount of lets say $5,000 a year to be paid by the state to the prison that accepts the prisoner. Then, those convicted to a prison sentence should be required to submit their 1-5 choices for the prison they would like to go to where they will serve out their sentence. If their 1st choice has no vacancy and there 2nd choice does, then they would begin their prison term at their second choice until an opening arises at their first choice at which point they will be allowed to transfer to the higher choice prison. The catch is that all prisons would be allowed to have veto power for prisoners suggested to go to their prison. If a prison veto’s a prisoner, that prisoner would not be eligible to serve their sentence out at that prison.
In order to prevent prisons from having lax containment protocols, each prison would be fully liable for the containment of their prisoners being fined a predetermined amount per day up to a predetermined maximum. This would free prisons to innovate completely in terms of both ways to keep prisoners in their prison as well as ways to maximize appeal while minimizing the cost. Prisons would become much more clean, efficient, friendly and safe.
Next, the warden of each prisoner would be subject to the law same as all other citizens of society and would be subject to investigation for felony’s that are knowingly committed in their prison.
Lastly, a public forum or register should be established that allows all prisoners to rate their prison, talk about the good and the bad, talk about complaints and violations and where all future convicts get a chance to review those ratings before submitting their choices. This would also allow for newspapers and such to monitor the prisons for crazy stories.
A Common Law
The second thing that needs to happen is sentencing needs to be fixed. Violent crimes should be ranked from the more minor to the most severe and all thoughts of mandatory minimal sentences should be dropped and maximal sentences should be re-calibrated. There is no excuse for anyone ever serving more time for a petty crime than a person serving time for a violent crime. This happens often with the war on drugs, with those convicted of dealing serving more time often than those convicted of 2nd degree murder. A societal cap needs to be placed on the number of years a non life crime should be served like lets say 5 years maximum.
Education and Development
In this new world of prisons, prisons could become places where the directors could make them into colleges, high schools, trade schools, or even businesses. One thing that has got to stop is the use of prison convicts to work at slave wages. If the rest of the country has a minimum wage of lets say $10 then all employment of the prison system must by law be paid that same amount of money per hour. It is a huge crime of society to allow those who are in chains to work hard for almost no money especially since most of the time they do not have a choice of their occupation.
There is a stigma that if they are a con, then they are bad, that prison should be hell and that all who go to prison deserve that hell. This needs to end. Prison, in and of itself is hell and damnation. Literally you are in a cage with people you probably hate isolated from those you love forced to go through a horrible routine. This by no means is a rehabilitation but a major breakdown. Yes there are some very scary violent people out there but let us always hate the sin and not the sinner. Lets seek out a way to improve the whole system especially since at the rate that things are going, even you might find yourself locked up someday!