Does it make TOO much sense?
I think that a LOT of people think our prisons are failing miserably at many levels. And, a LOT of people think that our tax dollars could be better spent in the American penal system. I can't say "most of the people" because I didn't conduct a poll. But, I can safely say that a lot of people think that we can do a better job when "punishing" citizens who break our laws.
Nationwide, departments of corrections are supposed to be performing certain functions. Besides the obvious things like feeding, housing and clothing the prisoners, prisons should perform 4 main functions...punishment for crimes, segregation from law abiding citizens, deterrence from repeating the crime and rehabilitation.
I guess prison punishes although Richard Speck seemed to have a good time. But, more people try to escape so I guess not all prisoners are having as much fun as Speck. Nevertheless, there must be a price to pay for breaking the laws meant to allow us to live alongside each other in peace. So, in that aspect, prisons do punish to a large extent.
Prisons certainly do segregate criminals from the rest of us...except for the aforementioned escapees. But if you aren't going to work harder to prevent recidivism, you lose a lot of points in the segregation area.
Prisons absolutely deter...ME. For some, it's a merit badge in their little guilds. Does prison deter? Certainly. All law abiding citizens are deterred by prison. We are also deterred by a sense of decency, our civilized nature and our concern for our fellow man. Once again, considering the recidivism rates, prisons lose the points they earned simply by the fact that honest people are "deterred" by prison.
That leaves rehabilitation. First of all, prisons would need as much in the way of rehab programs if they weren't rehabilitating the same prisoners over and over again. That said, I'm sure that somewhere in America there are a few relatively successful programs...in far too few prisons. But overall, I think that the current state of rehabilitation in our prisons is miserable.
There has to be a better way to accomplish all 4 of the main purposes of our penal system. It would be easy if prison was forever, very little else would matter if you planned on keeping prisoners until they die. But if you plan on letting them out at all, you should do so with a little open-minded creativity.
How about a system where prisoners could earn their way up the prison ladder? Every rung would be a higher level with more privileges and opportunities for advancement. Prisoners would all start where they are now but following certain guidelines, following prison rules and showing motivation could earn them a step up the ladder which might simply be another prison with better opportunities for education, training and further advancement up the ladder and so on.
Naturally, those who commit certain crimes would be banned from unlimited advancement, but if there was a chance to live in a less violent prison with just as many restrictions, that should be an option...as should the potential for demotion.
For certain motivated drug offenders, the option of a prison specialized in treating addiction should be an option.
For certain prisoners, the highest level could maintain a lower level of security, the highest level of education and the only level where prisoners are specifically assisted with the transition back into society with a very low level of re-offending.
I have this all planned out in my mind and if I were the boss of prisons, I would make sure that American prisons were operated in this way because it would save billions of dollars an untold human lives. Also, the potential for the betterment of society, in countless ways would accompany such a penal system. My system of Magnet prisons is the only one that makes sense. For goodness sakes...the prisoners could build it themselves! Why isn't it being done?