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.