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

1. Jul 13, 2011

### KingNothing

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.

2. Jul 13, 2011

### Staff: Mentor

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.

3. Jul 13, 2011

### ThomasT

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.)

4. Jul 13, 2011

### KingNothing

What isn't that simple? I didn't even propose any ideas. I wasn't saying that we should 'just shoot em'.

5. Jul 13, 2011

### Staff: Mentor

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?

6. Jul 13, 2011

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
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.

7. Jul 13, 2011

### ThomasT

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.

8. Jul 14, 2011

### mege

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.

9. Jul 14, 2011

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
..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.

10. Jul 14, 2011

### ThomasT

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.

11. Jul 14, 2011

### Staff: Mentor

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.

12. Jul 14, 2011

### SixNein

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.

13. Jul 14, 2011

### ThomasT

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.

14. Jul 14, 2011

### Proton Soup

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.

15. Jul 14, 2011

### Staff: Mentor

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.

16. Jul 14, 2011

Outsource to (perhaps) Turkey for $5,000/year per inmate? 17. Jul 14, 2011 ### Proton Soup and they just happen to fund the Contras and Mujaheddin. 18. Jul 14, 2011 ### Drakkith ### Staff: Mentor And those are what? 19. Jul 14, 2011 ### 256bits 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. 20. Jul 14, 2011 ### WhoWee Australia might not want them - I'd talk to Turkey offer$5,000 per head and they supply medical/dental and food.

21. Jul 14, 2011

### Staff: Mentor

Thanks 256bits.

Proton, I'm not really seeing the correlation between drug running and this. Funding guerrillas to oppose a government is not the same thing as drug running. But I will admit I don't really know enough to argue the issue, so I say we drop it for now.

22. Jul 15, 2011

### TheStatutoryApe

Legalize marijuana. I don't think many harder drugs should be legalized if any but if we drop it as a crime to do them and only go after the dealers and suppliers there will likely be fewer people in jail. Most people who do drugs have a hard time as it is getting employment. After doing time in jail it probably becomes next to impossible. If they come out of jail with no job and no money they are that much more likely to go back to doing drugs and highly likely to commit crimes in order to make money and get more drugs.

Legalize prostitution. Drugs and prostitution tend to be rather closely linked. If you make the job legal, give them a safe environment, and check them for needle use at the least then you could probably nearly extinguish a whole class of offenders as well as reduce the drug problem to some degree. I understand drugs tend to go with the sex trade legal or otherwise so I am not so optimistic about that end but it could vary well help.

Better education. The vast majority of criminals little to no education which likely contributes in many ways to their becoming criminals and staying criminals. More educational opportunities for people in prison as well and (since I am sure the opportunities do already exist in many prisons) more incentive to take up those opportunities.

Lastly, stop treating policing and prosecution as a business. With our overcrowded prisons here in California it never ceases to amaze me the degree to which officers seem to feel they need to make busts and send people to jail. I am sure that the prosecution has pressure on them to get convictions as well. The necessity for officers and the justification for spending on the police should not be measured by how many people they send to jail. One way or another we need them and they need the money to do their jobs so just give it to them.

23. Jul 15, 2011

### mege

I wonder if there's any data comparing the overall crime rate in states/localities where prostitution is legal and not in the US.

Re: Education. I'm reminded of an episode of House, MD where their patient is a Deathrow inmate (multiple violent murders) whom has some health issues before being put to death. They find that he has a condition which causes adrenaline to increase significantly when his heart rate reaches a certain threshold. The inmate always comments on his murders 'I just don't remember doing it' indicating that he's raging. They're able to repair the condition and then question if it's any worth to make an appeals case for him to not be on death row any more as they may have 'solved' his agressive behavior. Dr. House then responds, "What about every other person with this condition that learned to live with it and not kill people?" Point being: how much can you give someone the benefit of the doubt for their 'condition' (social, health, racial, whatever it may be) when there's lots of examples of others overcoming those same hurdles and living productive, non-criminal lives?

24. Jul 15, 2011

### WhoWee

There are always unintended consequences. The one I predict would be everyone smoking pot on a daily basis would then be eligible for Social Security Disability because they smoke too much - thereby shifting the cost of prisons to the welfare state.

25. Jul 15, 2011

### chiro

Haha guys, we don't live back in 1700/1800's.

As for over population, decriminalization of drugs would be a start.

Make the drugs legal, place restrictions on quality and who can sell them like they do in other countries (the Netherlands is a good example).

Also make sure things like no driving under the influence, no minors, and so on (exactly the same sort of rules in place for alcohol and nicotine and other legal drugs) just for the people that are wondering about that kind of thing.

Cheap, good quality, regulated drugs IMO are a lot better than the crap many countries have now. If people want to take drugs, let them do at their own expense and reduce crap like crime and drug money going into organized crime.

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