Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Meditations on prison.

I hate to say this, but prison isn't working.

Oh, if you're just looking to warehouse inmates, prison is probably doing a bang-up job.

Problem is that I keep seeing the same critters get caught over and over again. And, while this might be considered job security, I'm getting tired of seeing the same critters coming and going.

Also, there's that whole "paying the debt to society" thing. Try as I might, I just can't figure out how sitting on your bum, watching daytime TeeVee, eating honeybuns and doing calisthenics for two hours a day in the sunshine equals paying any kind of debt.

I'm just evil enough that I think that prison ought to require the inmates do something that is actually productive.

So. I have been pondering. Once my legions of flying monkeys complete my Quest for World Domination, how would I run the prisons?

Mwa-ha-haa!

First off, the current method of sentencing has to go. Frankly, due to Work Time credit, Good Time credit, Whatthehellelse Time credit and parole, I've never seen an inmate serve his actual complete sentence.

So. We shall do away with sentencing based on time, instead we shall base sentences upon monetary damages, court costs and fines owed.

For example, let us say that here is Joe T. Critter. Joe has defrauded ... somebody ... of, say, $100,000. That's a nice, round figure.

The jury that convicted Joe decides that he should also pay a fine -- twenty grand sounds good. And the trial cost the taxpayers another $20,000.

All told, Joe owes 140,000 dollars to the victim and to society. Off Joe goes the LawDog Penal System.

In my new system, Joe will be assigned a state bank account. And Joe is going to stay in the pen until such time as he has $140,000 in that bank account and can send a cashiers check totaling the full amount owed to his victim and another to the court.

Now, Joe will be fed three standard meals a day that he won't have to pay for, along with a bunk, one (1) blanket, one (1) sheet and one (1) uniform.

He better take good care of the sheet, blanket and uniform, because if he tears them up to make necklaces, do-rags, washcloths, or anything else, he's going to have to buy the replacement out of his state bank account.

If Joe wants honey-buns, cigarettes, playing cards or anything from the commissary -- the money used to purchase these goods is debited from this bank account.

If Joe wants to watch the football game on the TeeVee -- first he's going to have to buy the TeeVee -- and every program on that TeeVee is Pay-Per-View.

If Joe wants something that isn't his three square meals, or his original issued uniform and bed-clothes, but Joe doesn't have enough money in his account to buy this stuff -- then Joe doesn't get this stuff.

Joe's day will be divided into three parts. He will sleep the first eight hours. Then he will be awakened for a meal and spend the next eight hours working around the prison -- cleaning, serving food, working in the prison farm, doing the chores necessary for the proper health and welfare of a prison. If he participates and pulls his weight in these needful tasks, Joe will receive ten dollars ($10) for that eight hours.

If he doesn't want to get his butt out of bed, or if he slacks off --well, he didn't earn his keep -- no dollars in his account for that day.

He then gets another meal. The third eight hours -- if he has kept his nose clean -- Joe gets to make stuff.

Let us postulate that Joe has learned some leatherwork. Assuming that Joe has been an upstanding inmate, he may draw some material (leather, in this case), tools and let us say that he makes a gunbelt.

Each prison will have an e-bay-type Internet auction. Once Joe has finished the belt, it goes onto the auction site where it will stay for one week. At the end of the week, the belt goes to the highest bidder. If no one bids on it, it will stay on the site for one-week intervals until someone buys it.

The buyer sends a cashiers check to the State (not the prison), the State deducts the cost of the materials Joe used to make the belt and sends that amount to the prison. The remainder is placed in Joe's account.

If Joe has no manufacturing skills, then my prison will offer classes. Standard tuition will, of course, be deducted from his account.

Joe will end his day with another meal, and then he will be locked down for sleep time.

This gives my inmates a choice: they can work hard and actually pay their debt, or they can futz around like they do now -- in which case the only way they'll leave prison is when they're carried out and buried in the prison cemetery. And the inmates doing the carrying and the digging will earn money towards their sentences.

Under this system the victims will actually get reimbursed, the courts will actually see fines and costs being paid and the inmates will actually learn to work.

Yes, I know there are some problems with this system. How do you place a monetary value on the suffering of a rape victim or a murder victim is the biggest so far -- but I'm pretty sure that something can be worked out.

And it's got to be better than what we have now.

LawDog

37 comments:

Kaylee said...

I was thinking much the same the other day -- 'dog for Emperor! :)

(and as for the murderers and such well 'dog... the [i]other[/i] prisoners can earn their daily bread building the gallows... unless say the extenuating circumstances are such the jury feels a weregeld is appropriate I reckon.

Citizen H said...

Speaking of a broken Prison system, LD...

You remember poser extraordinaire Jesse Macbeth? He's been busted. But on the 4th degree assault rap in WA, which prolly means a slap on the wrist come trial time. I just hope the Feds get a hold of him before he disappears again. Rundown with links at my place...

Anonymous said...

Some prisons do have programs where the prisoners produce things and fix cars and such but I don't think the victims see a dime.

I would like to see your plan put into place. Let's send it up to Austin!

Anonymous said...

I LIKE it! But what about the drug smugglers/dealers? Other than forfeiture, they just serve their time working off their fines? Or are they going to be fined for the lives they destroyed with their "merchandise"?
And pedophiles and child abusers, can we just lock them up for life and use them for medical experimentation?, Huh, can we, huh?PLease, Please, ohPLease?

Anonymous said...

I concur with your views, Sir. However, I might add "behavior modification" (Read forms of torture) for certain offenders that would make them think twice before using various parts of their anatomy in commission of a crime.
You know where I'm coming from!

Papa Ray said...

Your right about it not working.

At the rate we are going, we are going to be spending more for the court systems, housing, care and custody of prisoners than we do on our military.

That ain't right.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

Phoenix Ravenflame said...

Your ideas sound pretty good, LawDog. My biggest complaint with the system as it exists is that it focuses on punishing people, but then fails at even doing that. I think it should focus on protecting society as a whole. If someone can be rehabilitated so that they are productive to society (or at least not a threat, with perhaps family to care for them) then they should be rehabilitated in prison... not just given free meals and a bed. If they have shown themselves to be an extreme threat, such as rapists and child molesters, I believe that's reason enough to execute them. The death penalty should be used to remove threats that society cannot afford.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Phoenix Ravenflame: the solution to rape/kidnapping/murder is readily available in the form of Madame Guillotine.

The implementation of your idea would require a long look at the 'war on drugs.' Few would argue that the possessors of recreational pharmaceuticals should be executed, but how does one rationally assign a monetary value to 'X' amount of 'Y?' Should it be a crime at all? The implications of your plan reach far deeper than run-of-the-mill sentencing and prison SOP.

Ross said...

Now, under your system, LD, what happens to folks who, for example, go 11 MPH over the speed limit on the interstate? Do you do away with the fines, since, after all, unless they actually hit someone or run someone off the road, there has been no monetary damage incurred?

wolfwalker said...

Very interesting, LawDog. That's the first genuinely new idea on prison reform I've seen in a very long time. On the whole, I like it.

However, since part of my skillset includes asking "what can go wrong?", I see a couple of pretty serious questions-to-be-answered:

1) what do we do if Mr. or Ms. Critter sees this simply as a ticket to food-and-a-flop, and doesn't care about earning enough money to pay off its debt? After all, part of what makes a critter a critter, as opposed to a mere one-time offender, is that it has a defective soul, with no empathy or sense of social karma.

2) what do we do if Mr. or Ms. Critter just can't develop any marketable skills at all? Some of them can't -- that's why they turned into critters in the first place. Or what if its skills lie in services rather than objects that can be sold? Perhaps Mr. Critter is a skilled bulldozer driver -- do you let him leave prison for the day to work on a construction job? How do you ensure he'll come back?

Firethorn said...

It's like you read my mind(or I yours). Great Idea!

Oh, and Hollyb, as a libertarian I'd prefer to see the drug dealers become upstanding merchants, but oh well...

Oh, and Ross, he did list fines in the mix ($20k for the fraud).

Oh, and the 100k fraudster would be in for about 40 years, if he does the 10 dollars/day work. I'd be learning a trade.

Anonymous said...

While your system would certainly be an improvement over what we have now, how about we pretty much do away with long term incarceration and adopt what I call "Fingers, Hands, Brains.."

First Offense - a finger and a $10,000 check to the offender. He can get job training, treatment, or blow it on dope. His choice.

Second Offense - a hand and another $10,000 check. See above.

Third Offense - a .45 slug. No check, no more cost to society, no more harm to society.

Pedro the Ignorant said...

It has been a long time since I saw such down to earth common sense about the treatment of criminals.
Well said, LawDog
Not going to happen of course, the Perpetually Outraged and the Race Pimps will ensure that such a system never makes it past the wish list.

There is a very old maxim that says that those who cause pain and humiliation to their victims should be repaid in kind. It was written down once as an "eye for an eye", in a book, but that book is now regarded as offensive to the new muticultural world, and must never be quoted lest it offend some minority.

Sailorcurt said...

Third Offense - a .45 slug. No check, no more cost to society, no more harm to society.

.45 slugs cost too much. Rope is reusable.

Seriously though, for serious violent offenders, they have demonstrated that they are unfit and unsafe to coexist in society. There should be one (1) appeal strictly to determine that the technical aspects of the trial were correct and that the convicted's rights were upheld. Then they should be executed within the week(preferably by hanging... inexpensive, technically simple and effective).

By the way...forcible rape and sexual molestation of children constitute violent crimes.

As far as "drug crimes"...what is the crime committed? Who's rights are violated by one person freely engaging in an exchange of goods for money? Who's rights are violated by someone consuming substances that stimulate a chemical imbalance in their brain?

If someone commits violations of other's rights while under the influence of intoxicating substances, or in an effort to obtain intoxicating substances, they should be held accountable for those violations of rights...but if someone chooses to poison themselves at no expense to others, in the privacy of their own homes (or perhaps bars, opium dens, or crack houses) what business is it of ours?

We could solve all the prison overcrowding problems by discontinuing the enforcement of "morality" laws and victimless "crimes".

Then we can focus on the punishment/rehabilitation/removal from society of real criminals...Like, say, Ted Kennedy.

jon said...

It's a good thought, except your system already is in place outside of prison. It even pays better. I'm afraid the leap in logic is beyond most critters.

Anonymous said...

In an ideal world your proposition would make a great deal of sense. In the real world it makes me uneasy.

I don't trust the State. Governments are venal. Turn a prison into a potentially moneymaking industry, and I can see all kinds of possibilities....most of them bad.

We have a term for this when China does it. We call it Slave Labor. It is disreputable because we do not believe that China imprisons only those guilty of doing actual harm to society. We suspect that the potential for profiting off of slave labor drives a search for slave laborers.

I see no reason to trust our government with that temptation. Our government is better than China's, but not THAT much better.

I think that the most we can hope for is to keep Critters away from society for varying lengths of time, depending on how annoying they have been. Possibly we should consider terminating more of the violent ones, but that, also, is a power I am reluctant to trust the State with.

Anonymous said...

That is not a bad idea, although I'd also allow well behaved inmates to participate in work crews for roadside garbage cleanup or landscaping or road repair, etc.

BryanP said...

Your monetary value and auction system has one major flaw to it. The more affluent could put something up for auction and then have someone buy it out for the full cost of their sentence. Instant parole. With that system a John Gotti or Ken Lay type would be out in weeks.

An interesting idea, nonetheless. The current system is certainly broken.

markm said...

"Perhaps Mr. Critter is a skilled bulldozer driver -- do you let him leave prison for the day to work on a construction job? How do you ensure he'll come back?"

If he's nonviolent, use an electronic tether. (This is like an ankle bracelet that phones home.) Heck, dispense with the prison for all nonviolent criminals who comply with the system - use electronic tethers to see that they go just to work and back home (with a phone # they can call to get a pass to stop at the grocery store, etc.), and reserve the threat of locking them in a cage with the violent criminals for those who won't follow the rules.

Maybe the tether system could be improved enough to make it possible to release some violent criminals on it. That is, the tether continually reports back in real-time to a screen somewhere, someone (paid for by deductions from the offenders' earnings) is watching a couple dozen of the screens at all times, the tether goes around the neck instead of the ankle, and the watcher can push a button and tighten it up as needed...

As for murderers, our English, German, and Norse ancestors got along for thousands of years with the default penalty being a large fine paid to compensate the victim's family. Weregild was generally high enough that a man couldn't pay it without getting his kinfolk to chip in some seriously large donations. If the kinfolk didn't think it worthwhile to buy him out of trouble, or if a killer tried to avoid taking responsibility for the act, then he was outlawed - meaning, anyone could kill him for any reason. (We might want to rework that part a bit, to avoid heavily armed hunting parties chasing men through the city. Bystanders were safer when "heavily armed" meant swords and spears.)

Anonymous said...

LawDog,

I have a question for you, regarding your Prison Management Plan. I am a former felon. for more then 20 years, I have kept myself out of any other trouble. I made an error in judgement as a young adult. However, after 20 years, I have paid the debt I was ordered to pay, all fines and time served. however, I have not been returned to a position of full citizen, in this country. For example, I am no longer permitted to posses or own a firearm, even for hunting (from my understanding). I am not welcome to return to serving my country. I can no longer get security clearances that would permit me to continue in my career (IT Manager). Since the IT bubble burst in 2000, and then the 9/11 incident, most good IT jobs have gotten to the point of needing security clearances. These are jobs for which I have the skills and experience to do, but no longer qualify for.

How would you handle this type of issue in your ultimate prison management program? There are people who regret and reform or just make a stupid mistake. In my case it was Unauthorized Use and Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle. Joyriding upgraded into a felony.

Thanks for your opinion.

The pagan Blacksmith

Justin said...

What about high-profile cases like the Dahmer murders?

If a criminal is able to profit by writing a book, selling film rights, image rights for collectible cards, or his own paintings, would that be a problem, so long as the profits go into this account?

Personally, I don't have a problem with this.

Anonymous said...

Kinda related
http://www.teambio.org/2006/11/use-them-up-and-throw-them-away-%e2%80%93-catch-22-2006-style/

This is about how the USMC is cheating vets with PTSD by making them criminals ineligible for VA benefits. Read it, then call you congress-critter!

Kristopher said...

My opinion:

If the perp did something that no amount of restitution can fix, the victim ( or the victim's family if the victim did not survive the crime ) can opt to have the perp executed instead of paying restitution. The victim or victim's family ( or someone they pay ) should perform the execution.


The state should not be able to mandate execution ... they should, however, get the hell out of the way when the perp does something and now just needs killin'.

In response to the question about felons' gun rights ... if your debts are paid, you are done.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine came up with the idea that there should not be any prisons. The criminal should compensate the victim, to the best of their ability and then they have "paid their debt" and done. Of course "best of their ability" included auctioning off all their body parts including eyes, heart, lungs, liver, and the remainder for fish food or fertilizer.

Anonymous said...

My opinion, for what it's worth... I pretty much like the idea of LawDog's prison system in the context of dealing with felons. In the case of capital punishment, dealing with murderers and rapists and child molesters, I'm for hanging them, preferably in public, thereby removing their threat from society. However, I don't consider rope to be re-usable because it stretches so instead of just breaking the 1st/2nd cervicals, it also cuts the throat and that gets real nasty real quick. I'm also for using the firing squad and as I understand it, the state of Utah uses a firing squad of volunteers from the victim's home area and issues Winchester .30-30's. I may be wrong about parts of that, but that's what I've heard.

Oh, and the "he needed killin'"... I thought that was the deal in a nutshell concerning perps who were killed in the act of the crime when their victim fought back with deadly force.

As far as non-violent felons, I agree with another poster who said when they've served their time, they're done and they should have all the their rights as citizens restored.

mustanger98 on THR

Punditarian said...

LawDog, I thought your idea was excellent until my brother discovered a fatal flaw.

The average critter wouldn't get out for years.

But a truly notorious perp could sell his first souvenirs to some whack-o liberal "collector" for the entire amount.

How'd you propose to close that loophole?

Brian - SoCal said...

So saith LawDog: "How do you place a monetary value on the suffering of a rape victim or a murder victim is the biggest so far -- but I'm pretty sure that something can be worked out."

So, how do you pay for something that has value beyond all measure? With your life. In my plan, anyone convicted of child molestation, forcible rape, and murder (among other offenses) would pay the ultimate price.

But first, the convict would work to pay for the cost of the bullet, as well as dig his own grave.

Wulf said...

Maybe the rapists and what not could be in a special program where instead of doing leather crafts or something like that, they could enguage in the "oldest profession" as a service to their fellow prisoners for $1.00 a go. I'm thinking it would really help a rape victim heal if they got a check every other week for a hundred bucks or so.

Anonymous said...

"they could enguage in the "oldest profession" as a service to their fellow prisoners for $1.00 a go. I'm thinking it would really help a rape victim heal if they got a check every other week for a hundred bucks or so."

So, a rapist or child molester, instead of entering prison and being "somebody's bitch" (if they weren't knocked off), they'd be "everybody's bitch". I'm not so sure it'd heal them though. No, I still favor hangin' for that.

Here's a question on that though... if the low level offenders really are working to get out of there, how many of them are going to pay for that? And if prostitution's not legal on the outside, why should it go on on the inside (as if it didn't already)?

mustanger98 (again)

Anonymous said...

wulf, I just realized you weren't talking about the offender healing.

Melissa in Texas said...

LD, you going to run for office?
I do believe I would vote for you. Better yet, how do you get in with the TDC (not in prison mind you.)These revolving doors in our prisons have just got to stop spinning.

Too Much To Say said...

I like the guy down south who makes the inmates wear pink boxers and live outside in tents. More prisons should be like that one.

kyrakai said...

Goodness! I couldn't agree with you more.

I am a correctional nurse (soon to be an ex-correctional nurse), and I have seen the revolving door of the prison system.

Sometimes I have seen them return the day after they are released.

Arizona does have a program where the inmate is made aware of how his crime has affected his victim and does have to deal with the monitary consiquences.

They do have to work, go to school and receive training that may contribute to making them a productive citizen, and most of their funds go to recompense before they can buy things for themselves.

Is it working. No. Last month we ran out of prison beds. Between the returning inmates and all of the new ones, Arizona has run out of space.

Many of the little dears have been in Prison for so long that they have no coping skills for the outside and violate just to come back in for their "three hots and a cot". They function better with someone telling them what to do every hour of the day.

I won't even go into how many are actually seriously mentally ill.

Mikael Hallin said...

"Many of the little dears have been in Prison for so long that they have no coping skills for the outside and violate just to come back in for their "three hots and a cot". They function better with someone telling them what to do every hour of the day."

Send them to the military. If they can't function without taking orders, that's as good a place as any. Not necessarily armed service(in fact probably not), but there's plenty of other things to send them to do. Latrine digging, mine sweeping, etc. If they're too old for manual labor, I'm sure there are possible deskjob positions(equivalent of the prison librarian.)

Anonymous said...

The response to crime must be both punishment and restitution, to provide both deterrence and justice. Prison best serves those ends if the incarceration is short and intensely unpleasant, followed by a restitution-rehabilitation phase once the punishment is deemed sufficient.
If rehab is sucessful as well,then society must be ready to reincorporate without continued prejudice the ex-inmate.

Black Ice said...

Simple solution to those loose ends...the punishment for rape or murder will be decided by the victim(if alive), or the victim's family(if not).

If you rape or murder someone, and they or their survivors decide that your punishment involves a Dremel tool, a blowtorch, and a Mr. Destroyer dildo embedded with broken glass and rusty nails--tough luck, sucker.

Murder victims without families? That's a tough one. (headscratch)

Anonymous said...

Problem with prison labor is... What if I as my chosen profession do something that directly competes with prison labor (Leatherwork in your example). With prison made hand tooled leather gunbelts for sale I would have a hard time selling mine at a price that would justify my materials and time. If I drive a bulldozer, how am I to earn a living when the construction companies can just turn to ye local prision for someone who works much cheaper than my wages?

Personally, I am for bringing back corporal punishment. 5 days in the stocks of 5 lashes (with a whip) should be PLENTY of punishment for a first time DWI. 30 lashes (with a scourge) for Violent crime.

The voice of reason.