Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why Prisons Always Win

Newsweek has an amazingly good article for them up on the psychology and politics of fear which, while not directed explicitly at corrections sentencing policy (it does invoke Willie Horton), explains greatly why all the data and research and appeals to reason in the world can’t overcome the base emotions at play when politicians and media sell fear to get votes or profit. And absent successful efforts to convince that the actual evidence shows prisons don’t do as well as other options for most offenders most of the time and may really add on to crime for some, prisons will be the default position since people believe the scary guy is away at least for a while and not in the community. That’s again why I believe TECHNOCORRECTIONS, especially the behavior-altering type promised by pharmaceuticals and bioengineering that actually seems to be doing something that “normal” folks might see as punishment, will be the ultimate alternative. People have to have reason to believe that these fearsome folks in the community are actually under effective control, not just occasional supervision. Willie Horton on supervised release is scary. Willie Horton with altered genes or an implanted drug patch might pass muster. Anyway, the article is good so check it out if you get time.

1 comment:

bubkis said...

The article addresses society's knee-jerk reaction to violent offenders like Horton. However, it gives no clue as to why we tolerate long sentences for non-violent offenders. White collar criminals, many of whom are talented individuals capable of extraordinary work, are locked away for decades mopping floors or cutting grass for twelve cents per hour. If these offenders were in home confinement or work release programs they could produce significant income to be used as restitution for their victims and contribute to the tax base. It is a tragedy that the American voters allow politicians to lump all felons into a one-size-fits-all mentality and deprive crime victims of the restitution they deserve.