Lexington Green on prison reform

Read Lexington Green's post on prison reform at ChicagoBoyz.net (I hope especially that my fellow conservatives will do so). Here is a comment by Lex aimed at someone who suggested that prisoners brutalized by other inmates while in jail got what they deserved:

"they are getting what they deserve"

"240,000 brutal rapes occur in our prison system each year"


No. They are getting an anarchic, violent, dysfunctional environment which destroys the lives of the least dangerous and most vulnerable inmates.

Conservatives and libertarians need to see the prison system as what it is -- probably the most expensive, destructive, wasteful and counterproductive government agency we have. Prisons are factories which turn moderately dysfunctional people into violent, irreparable sociopaths.

And you are paying for it out of your own pocket. [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

Are you getting your money's worth?

Now, read this City Journal article on Michael Jacobson and Bernard Kerik's prison reform in New York City. Here's the gist, linked to from the blog posting:

Under their regime, inmate violence fell 90 percent in four years. Only 229 violent incidents occurred during the last fiscal year, and just 54 during the first six months of fiscal 1999, even though the number of inmates passing through the DOC continues to rise. Morale has shot up. Overtime costs have shrunk by half, and sick leave is down 25 percent as employee enthusiasm strengthens.

Being tough on crime does not entail regarding convicts as human refuse who deserve whatever comes to them within violent, dysfunctional, ill-managed prisons. It looks to me as if we are spending a lot more money than we need to only to create more efficient factories for producing better, more dedicated criminals. As Lex says in a further comment:

Prisons should be hard, unpleasant places which are still safe and orderly. That is difficult to do but it is achievable.

Let me also suggest that prisons that are safer for the inmates (at least for the non-violent ones) are also safer for the guards and other staff.


I'm sick and tired of my tax money going to coddle violent criminals who get cable TV, libraries,gyms, etc., in short all the time and resources in the world to become, in most cases, better, stronger fighters. These criminals have taken something from society to end up in prison, and then the system does the same thing.

I say, enslave them. Put them to work. Have them dig ditches, collect garbage, lay pavement, etc. Make them guinea pigs on whom to experiment with vaccines -- there are enough sick ones among them. This is how they can give back to society, or more accurately, how society can take back something from them.

Slaves throughout history have said that slavery is death. Well, that's what a lot of these people deserve, at least temporarily for offenses less than murder. And it will keep them away from weight rooms and fighting rings.

Chuck,Thanks for this post. I'm on break, so I only had time to read the first part of the ChicagoBoyz post, but it seems spot on. He's NOT suggesting that prisoner's be coddled, just given basic security and dignity.And who can argue with segregating the nonviolent from the violent so the nonviolent don't learn new lessons?Great work finding these gems. Reminds me of the RAND study a few years back that showed that dollars spent drug abuse prevention was three times more effective than dollars spent on incarcerating drug offenders in reducing drug use.

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