Get Rid of Prisons...

IMHO, the prison system in the U.S. is not rehabilitating, helping or even punishing criminals. I think that the govt. should designate one state as a prison[sub] say W.Virginia[/sub], make a 50 foot electric fence surrounding the state, drop them off with one set of clothes and leave them there. They can survive on their own. Have guard posts every kilometer to insure the prisoners don’t find a way out.
This would allow the tax dollars wasted on their cable, weight-room, food, bed, and clothes to go to some more beneficial use.

What problems does anyone see?

BTW, this is meant for felons… not things like possesion of marijauna or some petty crime like that.

Off to Great Debates.

Well, the several million law-abiding citizens of West Virginia might have a problem with that.

Oh yeah… I meant to say that the designated state would be evacuated of all citizens who are not felons…

Yes, well, they still might have a problem with that, no?

Actually, Robert Heinlein wrote a short story, “Coventry”, about a future society in which a largish area of unspecified size has been set aside (and enclosed by some sort of forcefield) as a place of exile for those who refuse to accept society’s laws.

At any rate, at the very least you would probably want to start out with an area that is as thinly populated as possible, so as to minimize the number of people you’ll be “evacuating” (presumably exercising eminent domain and paying fair-market compensation for their property). One problem is that there’s usually a reason why thinly populated areas are so thinly populated. You might be able to carve out a large area of Alaska and displace very few people, but the reason there are so few inhabitants to begin with is because it’s a pretty inhospitable place. If the idea is to “liquidate” all felons by just dumping them in areas of harsh climate–I recall reading a story of some dissidents being eliminated in Stalinist Russia by just plunking them down in remote areas of Siberia or Arctic Russia and leaving them to die–I would say it would be kinder just to shoot all of them (not to mention it would be “cruel and unusual punishment” to sentence all felons to death by exposure and starvation, and an ex post facto law if you also retroactively sentenced already convicted felons to such a penalty, and in either event clearly unconstitutional).

[nitpicking myself]

Actually, “several million” is an overstatement. The current population of West Virginia is only 1.8 million; I was thinking it was more like 2 or 3 million. Shows what I know. Still a lot of people to “evacuate”.[/nitpicking myself]

West Virginia. Two million people. Six families.

Anyway, back to the OP. I recommend putting 'em all in North Dakota. But first you gotta march them all there, to the jeers and scorn of people who gather to watch the Prisoner Parade. Sell tickets to it. Call it Trail of Tears 2 or something.

Well, I’d say it’s certainly “unusual” punishment, if not “cruel.”

First of all, the current prison system has acknowledged that the State has a duty to reasonably protect prisoners from other violent prisoners. They also have a right to food, medical care and shelter. It would be pretty hard to furnish these things. Plus, the “law of the jungle” would rule. The most violent prisoners would rule, maybe even killing each other off for supplies. You’d be left with the worst of the worst.

Violent felons may be evil, horrible people, but they’re still people. Part of being American means respecting the basic human rights of the most reprehensible individuals, even if our hearts scream for vengence.

Secondly, how does one patrol the fence of such a large area? The idea of posting a guard every kilometer is impractical, not to mention easily escapable. You can’t use an electric fence. (Currently, an electric fence in our state has to be behind another fence to prevent people from being electrocuted by falling, or being pushed into it.) Maybe you could use an island. CBS could televise it as Survivor: Prison Island. The “Survivor” part could become quite literal.

Third, prison life is not as great as you think. It IS a punishment. . . . a bit moreso for those with friends and loved ones on the outside, but even for the most hardened con it’s no picnic. It’s a dirty, smelly, uncomfortable, dangerous and lonely place. You have to constantly watch your back. Having any valuable personal posession makes you a target, and in prison it can be as little as a pack of smokes. Your stuff is stolen, you’re approached by sometimes agressive homosexuals, and you’re told when you can eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. You have utterly NO privacy. Life is a constant struggle against hostile inmates.

People may bitch about inmates having recreational items such as cable, and weight rooms but these things are crucial in a prison environment. It keeps them busy and entertained, and while they’re busy and entertained, they’re not thinking up ways to slit the guard’s throat and escape. Prisoners need diverson, else they become more agressive and violent towards each other and staff members. A bored prisoner is an angry, dangerous prisoner. The idea is to keep them as calm and peaceful as possible.

So yes, the prisoners can watch cable . . . but even the cable sucks. The reason that they have cable in the first place is so the administration can restrict what they watch. The cable is crappy. They only get a few channels: news, educational and an institutional information channel. Occasionally, they’re shown movies, but only PG-13 or less. Nothing violent or sexual.

I would not call the life of a prisoner pampered by any means, except in comparison, to say, and Iraqi prisoner.

This almost seems a bit too implausible to be Great Debates worthy but I’ll jump in.

There will be a problem of having so many prisoners in close proximity to each other. The latest Bureau of Justice Statistics report says there’s 1.8 million adults behind bars. The OP makes it sound like they’ll be dumped in a big open land with just electric fences surrounding them. I’m sure that those 1.8 million criminals can think of a way to break out even with the guard posts.

And why only look at US areas? We should go to some third world impoverished country and dump all our criminals there. Chain them to a job in a factory and have them make our cheap Nike and GAP clothing. Oh wait, that seems almost like our current system.

If Air Force One crashes in West Virginia, we’re not going to send in Snake Pliskin. We wish George the best of luck.

The good news regarding your proposal is that we would probably only have a few thousand incarcerated folks in this country.

The bad news is that we would have over a million corpses to dispose of, and assorted bad check writers, Enron executives, former politicians, etc., whose families might miss them.

You are absoulutely right that the prison system is not working - and it is too expensive.

However, your solution does not address the (tens of)thousands of innocent people that are in prison.

Current prisons are a training school for prisoners to learn how to do other crimes.

We have too many people in prison, no other country in the history of the world put so many of its own people in prison. There are 2 million people in jail or prison right now. The prison population has exploded over the past 30 years.

We have too many non-violent people in prison - nearly half of all people in prison were convicted of non-violent crimes. Our police spend too much time going after non-violent people, while the police are arresting 750,000 marijuanna smokers each year, thousands of rapists drive by while they are searching, arresting, driving to the station, and testifying at the trials of these non-violent people.

Prisons should be reserved only for violent criminals who are a danger to be out in society.

We have too many minorities in prison, over half the people in prison are either minorities or are too poor to get a good lawyer. Prison is just another form of racism.

We let robbers, rapists, murderers go free early, to make room for people who smoke marijuanna, or misuse drugs. We give life sentences to druggies, while the average time served in prison for murder is 96 months, manslaughter is 55 months, rape 73 months, robbery 48 months, and assault 33 months. (USA Today, page 1, October 24, 2001)

It is inconsistent, illogical, and and it makes no sense to imprison a marijuana smoker or cocain user while letting alcoholics and those addicted to tobacco or caffine go free.

Instead of putting people in prison for stealing, do what the Bible says to do: make the the thieves and robbers pay back what they stole, several times over. That way, the victim gets repaid, and I dont have to pay $20,000 a year to give the robber free room and board.

Hey!!! I take offense to that!! 6 families? You see, this is what’s wrong with America today. Too many stereotypes and to much ignorance. 6 families indeed. I’m sure you are going to say something about “inbreeding” to. You are putting down an entire state of people!! Do you realize how ignorant you sound?

God, I swear. For your information, there are seven families.:smiley:

I agree with much of what Susanann said. End the war on (some) drugs, the war on (a few forms of) gambling, and the war on (a small fraction of) sex acts, and we’d have enough room in the prisons to be able to keep the real criminals inside for their whole sentences. (Real criminals = those who do actual harm to someone, such as murder, rape, assualt, robbery, confidence trickery, embezzlement. Also, those who act with reckless disregard of the probability of harm to others, such as driving while impaired.) Plus the police, courts, etc. would be better able to deal with the real criminals if they were not spending so much time and effort on people who are harming only themselves (and in some cases, not even themselves).

Oh, re the Heinlein story. The story and the prision area were both called Coventry. The deal was, if you were unwilling to live according to society’s rules, you went there voluntarily. If you stayed in society, but refused to follow the rules, you got sent there. So some of the people in Coventry were ordinary criminals, and others were people seeking more personal freedom. Any time you decided you were ready to join civilizationa and live according to the rules, you were free to leave Coventry.

The story was set in a future he’d written other stories about (future history series). Prior to this story, America had fallen under the sway of a religious dictatorship, then rebelled vs. said dictatorship. After the rebellion (the 2nd American Revolution), a Covenent was drawn up, and people signed it. Those unwilling to sign went to conventry.

I don’t think Heinlein ever said much about what exactly the Covenent said. But there was an implication that many who rejected it did so from a desire to live a life less regulated, and less safe and cozy. No govenment to tax and regulate, but also no government -provided social services.

Heinlein had a character named Andy Libby – first seen the short story Misfit; later apears in several other stories. In Misfit, it’s established that young Andy grew up in Conventry, because his family wouldn’t sign the Covenent, “until Pappy died and we had to” (or words to that effect). When his boss or supervisor or whatever learns that his full name is Andrew Jackson Libby, he says, “no, your father wouldn’t have signed the Covenent.” The implication being that a frontiersman type rugged individualist wouldn’t go along with the Covenent.

One reason not to follow through with the OP plan comes from a Supreme Court Justice:

“Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached”. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

The idea expressed in the OP would be a virtual death sentence for many.

When prisoners are given college educations, only 15% return to prison as opposed to the usual 60% rate. I wonder if that would be more cost effective.

The worst prisoners would end up killing/hurting/controlling the others. There would be lawsuits. Also, without being able to keep track of the prisoners, what would you do when it was time for them to be released? When they did something similar in Australia, at least there was an island, surrounded by water, instead of a piece of land surrounded by states.

Good point.

And do we really want all of our sons and daughters put there at the mercy of the worst hardened criminals if they are caught DUI? Do we really want our husbands put there if they are caught falsifying, unreporting income, or over reporting deductions on their income tax forms? or if they got caught betting on the Super Bowl(in my state, illegal gambling is a felony)?

Ok then… new proposal… Make the prisons a punishment instead of a free home. Why can’t we go back to throwing a criminal in a cell, give them one meal a day to survive on until their sentance is up. I know if that were the case and I went to prison, I would never go back. But with the way they are being treated now, it doesn’t sound like a punishment. I heard from a police man about a guy who got out of prison, found he had a bad toothache, so he threw a brick through a store window and waited for the police to get him because he knew his medical bill would be paid for.

How about this: we reserve prison for violent offenders with a possibility of repeat offenses. We make some sort of a recieveing tag that would let the police keep an eye on the rest of the offenders. Plus, it would tip off anyone that the guy with the black bracelet had been convicted of a crime of some sort. If you’re caught tampering with your tag, into prison you go.
Would this be an invasion of civil liberties? Moreso than just locking someone up?

Soup, I suspect that cop made the story up, or was repeating a made up story. Alternatively, maybe there was a guy who threw a brick through a window in order to get sent back to prision – but it had nothing to do with a toothace and everything to do with not being able to cope with life on the outside.

Hmm, this reminds me of a Denis Leary stand up…