Correctional Evolution
September 3, 2004 3:13 AM   Subscribe

New Behaviour Correction - The North American penal systems are outdated. If we look to the UK, evidence of specific punishment points to a new method of behavior correction. The current NA system seems incredibly unspecific when we punish a host of crimes by sending people to the same cage.
posted by lightweight (11 comments total)
Whatever one may think of this particular idea, any innovation in punishment in the US is by definition unusual, hence runs smack into the constitutional bar against cruel or unusual punishment. Heah come de ACLU.

(PS, excuse my immediately posting a US-centric reply, miguel. It's what I know. If I knew Matabeleland I'd post about Matabeleland.)
posted by jfuller at 4:08 AM on September 3, 2004

The idea of prisons was pioneered by the Catholic Church during the medieval inquisition. Holding someone for years on end as a form of punishment was at one time a novel concept. Perhaps it is time to re-examine this medieval form of punishment.
posted by stbalbach at 4:25 AM on September 3, 2004

Actually, the idea of holding people in a prison to punish them (as opposed to keeping them there to await their trial and "real" punishment) is more recent than that and originates somewhere in the 18th century. Read Michel Foucaults "Crime, Discipline and Punishment. The Birth of the Prison" for an enlightening insight into prisons, their architecture and their place in the penal system. Very well researched, if a bit hard to read sometimes.
posted by NekulturnY at 5:11 AM on September 3, 2004

It certainly makes sense to think creatively about sentencing, as long as it is motivated by being more effective at what punishment does (incapacitation, retribution, rehabilitation) rather than seeking to actually reduce the functional performance of the punishment.

In my view, the source problem with crime is not sentence which are too harsh (or insufficiently harsh), or courts which acquit or convict at an incorrect rate, but the fact that too few people are arrested in the first place, particularly in the zone of money making crimes, where conviction ratios are in the low single percent range of offenses. (Crimes of passion we probably can't do anything about).

We need solutions to make it possible to put more cops, and more monitoring devices linked to cops, on the street. One important idea to explore is using security-guard level personnel (far less expensive than sworn cops) as a supplement to mainline cops -- police departments already use them for traffic and parking enforcement, and the Army has long worked well with a ratio of at least 4 quickly trained and (mostly) temporary junior enlisted for every officer and senior NCO.

If we could up the conviction rate on (say, car thievery) to 50% of reported car thefts, the sentence would hardly even matter -- there'd soon be no one stupid enough left to steal cars, so there'd be zero crimes (and zero criminals).
posted by MattD at 5:43 AM on September 3, 2004

From his Mum -- "He seems to be getting the blame for a lot of things. People are bound to have caused him to be like he is and at the end of the day if he turns on people after the end of the ASBO, who's fault will that be? Not mine."

That seems to be the problem right there, wotsits a good kid, it's those other kids, and it's not my fault even if it is wotsit.
posted by zeoslap at 6:15 AM on September 3, 2004

jfuller - The eighth amendment specifies protection from cruel and unusual punishment. I'm sure from their excessive use of the word "nor" that the framers had binary logic in mind when writing the constitution. Normal, cruel punishment xor unusual, non-cruel punishment both kosher as long as they don't mix. Kind of like milk and meat.
posted by revgeorge at 6:28 AM on September 3, 2004

One important idea to explore is using security-guard level personnel (far less expensive than sworn cops) as a supplement to mainline cops

Yeah, that's a great idea. Have people face the same danger for far less money and benefits. That'll get you a great class of recruit.
posted by jonmc at 6:48 AM on September 3, 2004

I can't find it archived online, but the CBC program Ideas reported on Canadian use of private security as a supplement to police officers, and while it is still a controversial idea, they have had some success. And just to note, the private security personnel do not face "the same danger" as police officers, as they don't perform all the duties of police work, especially the more dangerous components, such as serving warrants and performing traffic stops.
posted by Doug at 7:53 AM on September 3, 2004

In London they've been using Police Community Support Officers to provide additional street patrols whilst keeping personnel within the police structure. Don't know enough about it to know how successful it's been.
posted by biffa at 8:43 AM on September 3, 2004

I've been forced to conclude that too many Americans don't care about punishment, justice, or rehabilitation. They're just interested in revenge.
posted by callmejay at 9:20 AM on September 3, 2004

callmejay: I would agree. But I would also argue attention aversion to prisons. That is, most people would prefer not to think about such things as insane asylums and prisons. This makes it much easier for the vengeful and those who find the insane and the criminal to be repulsive to set policy.
posted by kablam at 11:11 AM on September 3, 2004

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