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News How can we improve the efficiency of our penal system?

  1. Jul 13, 2011 #1
    I know people from countries where they just shoot the bad guys. Not much for trials & justice. We spend a lot on housing prisoners in the US.

    How can the efficiency be improved?

    Disclaimer: sorry for not creating yet another left-vs-right thread.
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  3. Jul 13, 2011 #2


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    It isn't that simple. Many things are a compromise between justice and freedoms. Something that is 100% legal somewhere might be considered inhumane somewhere else. That is one of the primary drives for the different methods of execution over the centuries.

    I'm all for reducing costs in prisons and such, but not without compromising prisoner security and safety. Although I'm sure there are areas that need improvement, I just don't know where.
  4. Jul 13, 2011 #3
    The most efficient way to run a prison is to have 1 man cells and keep everybody locked down all the time. But there are other problems.

    The immediate problem, and it directly affects the efficiency of the criminal justice system as well as the living conditions of inmates, is that there aren't enough prisons or enough space in county jails. Lots of people get released early.

    So, the first thing to do is to build more prisons and expand county jail space where needed.

    Anyway, given the current 'system' we can be assured that the general society will be populated at any given time by lots individuals who should probably be behind bars. (I think my new neighbors qualify. They've been here about ten days during which they've destroyed one of their window screens and a fence door to a common area in the back, as well as keeping a constantly yelping pit bull pup tied to a post outside. The good news is that they're getting evicted.)
  5. Jul 13, 2011 #4
    What isn't that simple? I didn't even propose any ideas. I wasn't saying that we should 'just shoot em'.
  6. Jul 13, 2011 #5


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    That wasn't what I got from your post. And even then, improving the efficiency of the prison system still isn't easy. Many of the improvements could contradict freedoms and rights of the prisoners even if it is more efficient. Also, what exactly do you mean by efficient? Doing more for less money? Increased security through efficient (but possibly costly) means? Or something else?
  7. Jul 13, 2011 #6


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    I think it would be efficient to first identify the sociopaths. They aren't capable of being rehabilitated, so we shouldn't spend money trying. (Withholding treatment because of a mental condition is probably illegal, btw.)

    Young offenders who aren't sociopaths - they are probably the best bang for the buck, WRT rehabilitation.

    All those in between the sociopaths and the young offenders...sigh. I just don't know.
  8. Jul 13, 2011 #7
    Well, nobody knows, as far as I know.
    I don't think we have the technology to identify sociopaths. Anyway, being a sociopath doesn't automatically lead to being a bad person, or being a person who does bad things. Stupid sociopaths are of course a big problem. In fact, stupid people in general are a big problem.

    Prisons aren't designed to, and don't, rehabilitate people. We don't have the technology to do that. All that can be done is to get serious offenders off the street for as long as possible given current laws. The bottom line is that once a person has done something to warrant imprisonment, then there's no objective criterion according to which he/she should ever be released, because, statistically, he/she is quite likely to offend, and get caught, again. This is the 'stupid factor' at work. And, as the saying goes, there's no cure for stupid.

    It's all just a big crap shoot, from the sentences handed down by judges to the decisions of parole and probation officers, etc., etc.

    Wrt the OP, maybe prisons can be run a bit more efficiently. But we're still faced with the problem that there is no clear cut extant technology to change people's attitudes. The simple fact is that as the population increases then so will the number of people qualifying for incarceration -- and once we put somebody away, we really can't ever tell if they're ok to be part of society's general population again.
  9. Jul 14, 2011 #8
    While I'm not in the 'legalize drugs!' crowd, I feel that there are far too many inherently non-dangerous offenders that get locked away (but I do understand drug trade = gangs, violence, etc so it's a fine line). I think one of our major issues is that we're using jail as a purely punative measure for some with a hope of rehabilitation rather than as a 'seperation' measure to keep dangerous folks out of society.

    I think there's better punative measures that can be employed - community service, humiliation rituals (breadboard corner-stands), etc.

    Do rapists, murderers and child abusers need to be locked away? Absolutely. In fact, I think we're too soft in some of these cases (esspecially with child abuse)
    Do small white-collar crimes, pot-smokers and jaywalkers need to be imprisioned? Likely not.
  10. Jul 14, 2011 #9

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    ..which result mainly because drugs are illegal in the first place. It is about the money, not the drugs.

    The war on the inner cities, our courts, our jails, and even our schools, are a direct result of drug laws. They have broken the system.
  11. Jul 14, 2011 #10
    I have to agree. So it seems that a comprehensive program dealing with improving the efficiency of our penal system should start with reforming/revamping the drug laws.

    At least, I'd like to see serious conversations about this in the major media. But most politicians are afraid to even talk about it.
  12. Jul 14, 2011 #11


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    That's because of the prevailing attitude of drugs = going to hell/gang member/terrible person or similar in the public. So the very thought of someone doing them and NOT going to prison makes the majority of people gasp.

    It's sad that many drug users probably aren't terrible people. Just addicts.
  13. Jul 14, 2011 #12


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    I would like to see a greater effort on reforming and socializing prisoners. When we send someone to prison, they should come out a better person instead of worse. The purpose of prison is to reform prisoners not simply punish.
  14. Jul 14, 2011 #13
    The purpose of prison is to warehouse offenders who've been sentenced to a term of imprisonment. We simply don't have the technology to reform people. How would you know if a person's attitudes have changed? People will say and do just about anything to get out of prison.
  15. Jul 14, 2011 #14
    well, we've been in afghanistan for about a decade now, and we haven't killed the poppies. and we occasionally catch the CIA running drugs. the executive branch loves this stuff.
  16. Jul 14, 2011 #15


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    No, the CIA isn't running the drugs. Individuals are the ones that are doing it, they just belong to the CIA. That's like saying the Military is allowing drug use just because there are always a few members doing it. Plenty get caught, but we have so many new people come in every year that someone will always be doing it somewhere.
  17. Jul 14, 2011 #16
    Outsource to (perhaps) Turkey for $5,000/year per inmate?
  18. Jul 14, 2011 #17
    and they just happen to fund the Contras and Mujaheddin.
  19. Jul 14, 2011 #18


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    And those are what?
  20. Jul 14, 2011 #19
    Oliver North comes to mind - Contras
    Soviet war in Afghanistan - Mujaheddin

    But back to penal system . . .
    Send them all to Australia like the British did.
    And give Alkatraz (spelling) a new paint job and open it up.
    Would that not be a deterence to commiiting a crime.

    Anyways a criminal is only someone who has been caught.
  21. Jul 14, 2011 #20
    Australia might not want them - I'd talk to Turkey offer $5,000 per head and they supply medical/dental and food.
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