July 10, 2011

Bill James's prison reform idea

The baseball statistics analyst Bill James writes in his new book Popular Crime:
Build smaller prisons. 
... Large prisons become "violentocracies" -- places ruled by violence and by the threat of violence. In a violentocracy, the most violent people rise to the top.  
In any prison of any size, the prisoners are going to be pushed toward the level of the most violent persons in the facility. ... In a prison 3,000 people, the entire prison is pushed toward the level of violence created by the five most violent people in the joint. The most violent person finds the second-most violent person and the third-most violent person, and they form an alliance to exploit the weak. Everyone else is compelled to avoid looking weak. ... 
Large prisons promote paranoia in the prisoners. You never know who in here is waiting for you with a homemade knife.  
... A prison of 20 people is, by its very nature, extremely different. You know who is in there with you; you know who you have to stay away from. ... Plus, if you have many small prisons, you can contain the violent people in a limited number of those prisons, the preventing their violent tendencies from infecting the rest of the prison population.  
... What you would do, with a network of small prisons, would be to place each prisoner in a facility that is appropriate to the threat that he represents. You grade the prisoners on the threat of violence that they represent, one through ten. You put the tens with the tens and the ones with the ones.  
Plus, when you move to a system in which some prisoners have more rights and live in more humane conditions, you create a powerful incentive to get into one of the less restrictive prisons..  
In a large and horrible prison, the new prisoner thinks "I've got to show everybody here how tough and vicious I really am, so that nobody will mess with me." But when you put a new prisoner in a 24-man prison with 23 other tought guys, and he knows that there are other prisons that are not like this, his natural thought is "I've got to get out of here. I've got to show these people that I am not a crazy, vicious sociopath, so they will move me to some other facility that is not populated by crazy, vicious sociopaths."

My vague impression is that some of the supersoft Norwegian prisons you read about are actually reward prisons for good behavior on the part of inmates at tougher prisons. Scandinavians aren't stupid, and there is a lot Americans should learn from them, but we have to grasp how their entire systems work, not just the parts they like to show off as evidence of their superior enlightenment.

114 comments:

Vichy said...

An alternative: stop having the Federal crime ring run prisons. In fact, prisons are generally stupid. Enslavement for the real baddies, the rest of them can just go back to work to pay off their victims.

This 'system' is unfixable, it was idiotic from the start.

Kudzu Bob said...

In such a scenario, the more violent, less humane "micro-prisons" would have disproportionately more black convicts.

Anonymous said...

I think James is absolutely right about what would work but he has the reasoning wrong. Having spent time in both big and small prisons the reason the small ones are less violent is the same reason small towns are less violent than cities: you're less likely to attack people you know in a local way. Also, guards care more about protecting inmates when they know them well, which is really why huge prisons are so scary: the guards think of you as a number. What I really wanted to do though was serve Cool Hand Luke's time, with guys who looked like me and sanctioned boxing matches on sundays.

Anonymous said...

How about sending prisoners out to foster jailers. Private citizens can chain up one or two prisoners in their basement and get a monthly support check to keep them alive. If prisoners do chores they get out early for good behavior.

Anonymous said...

1) Be more liberal with the death penalty, and to hell if it seems racist. Whitey is doing Blackie a big favor by replacing black thugs in gang colors with white thugs in police uniforms.

2) Smaller prisons maye help, just like smaller schools, and for the same reason.

3) Make the prisons soft but boring - especally to the violent superjocks and supertards. No TV, no internet, no smoking, no drugs. Lots of books, old 1980s pre-net computers, board games, card games, role-playing games, and the like.

4) Bring back IQ-based sterilization.

Anonymous said...

With that many prisoners and prisons, you get a huge population of prison guards. The research suggests that the guards get to be vicious sociopaths in order to show the inmates who's boss. Ultimately you'd get to the point where the prisoners in smaller, nonviolent units are actually nicer people than the guards because they are selected for nonaggression and cooperativeness while the guards at any level have to have a strong desire to push people around and be hypervigilant about losing face.

Anonymous said...

How about sending prisoners out to foster jailers. Private citizens can chain up one or two prisoners in their basement and get a monthly support check to keep them alive. If prisoners do chores they get out early for good behavior.
Personally, I would feel very uneasy with a violent psychopathic 860-pound gorilla in my basement, unless chained up very well - and I was given a machine gun or bazooka and legal permission to use it in active self-defence. (Or, if I may diverge into fantasy, a magic wand to shrink the prisoner to a tenth his size, or turn him into a border collie, or some other improvement.)

Anonymous said...

No weight rooms.

ray said...

1) american men stand up to american women

2) american women stop making anti-male "laws" through proxy males (politicians)

3) america withdraws from the big money/mucho jobs in criminal law/corrections -- as long as americas keep worshipping money/things, this is however moot

4) males in prison go from 2 million that females collectively want to the 20,000 that are actually v damaged and dangerous

5) fatherhood and masculinity are encouraged rather than outlawed and despised, and that even that20,000 drops quickly

6) or not, keep doing it the same way = chaos, mass violence

Anonymous said...

these "smaller prisons" don't need to be in separate buildings. You can just have couple of cells under one regime and couple other cells under different regime, and a wall between them to prevent inmates from coming into contact. Meanwhile the outer perimeter wall, the kitchen and other overheads are shared.

Maybe similar things are already done to an extent. But the problem seems to be that the prison guards are not diligent about running a tight, safe ship. Maybe because that would be "discrimination", maybe because they are evil bastards, maybe who knows why but the outcome of unrestrained evil is the same regardless.

Anonymous said...

This would be a stealth resegregation of the prison system so it would never fly.

Volksverhetzer said...

You are correct about the Norwegian prisons. There are many small prisons spread all over the country, and if you behave nice, you get to serve close to where your family lives.

What most Norwegians and others don't know is that Norway uses solitary confinement as punishment for as long as it takes, until the prisoners chooses to behave civilized. Some prisoners stay there for years, and a lot go crazy.

What I personally like about the heavy use of solitary confinement, also as way to get you to talk before trial, is the disparage impact it has on various personality types and races.

For an introverted Norwegian, used to not really talking to people for days, isolation is something completely different than for an extroverted African Negro, who has been around people constantly for their whole life.

What I also suspects, is that both guards and prisoners is selected along the same pattern, so that the nice guards ends up working with the "nice" prisoners in nice prisons, where as the guards who enjoy degrading prisoners, ends up with the scum of the prison system.

This pattern of the nice ending up with the nice, and the bad with the bad, can be seen in any organization where employees can choose to change where they work. The nice, smart, idealistic teacher works at the schools that have the most inspiring children and where there are few social problems. The nicest policemen seek out small towns, etc.

Anonymous said...

You've got to get those prisoners good and tired to sap the violent tendencies. Breaking rocks and tilling fields by hand would do the trick.

Also, reward prisoners with overseer jobs. Create an insentive to collaborate with the MAN.

Anonymous said...

Based on what I've seen in prison documentaries, its obvious that there is no effort to keep real discipline in US prisons. The prisoners can basically talk to each other all day if they want to. Forcing them to be silent and to not interact with one another socially (on penalty of various types of punishments such as solitary confinement and caning) would probably get rid of most inter-prisoner violence, so why isn't this done? My theory is that disparate impact has a lot to do with this.

Anonymous said...

More and more people, especially younger people, spend a large proportion to most of their time each day online, via personal laptops.

They're often in a supine position, lying down with their laptops. The other common position is sitting still at a desk. They're doing various things - reading, writing, watching movies, listening to music, chatting, playing games, etc.

More immersive computing and online experiences are probably forthcoming. A lot of people are increasingly functionally incapacitated for long periods of time, online through their laptops, with current technology. You could have "virtual reality coffins" for prisoners where they'd be lost in some virtual world or experience but physically incapacitated. Many non-prisoners would probably want to spend lots of time virtual reality coffin type contraptions.

theslittyeye said...

This reminds me of that infamous Stanford "Prison Experiment" in 1971. The distress imposed on the "inmates" may not be as devastating as big prison, but definitely shows the powerful damage to one's mentality as well. the link is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment
I would support the segregation of convicts depending on their nature of crimes and ethnicity, but I doubt that would be a feasible solution in the States. Also I do think prison guards (as exerted in that experiment) pose much more mental stress to the inmates than other inmates. A smaller facility is unlikely to make the guards behave better.

Mitch said...

I've been trying to point out to edutopians that their push on charter schools for the motivated is exactly backwards. That solution will never scale. Better to have small schools for the disruptive kids who don't want to be in school. Make them small and miserable. Keep the bigger schools for the kids who want to be there, where you can educated efficiently on a larger scale (with tracking, ideally). Same principle.

dearieme said...

We seem to be happy to dope the mad in mental hospitals, and the old in care homes. Why not dope the bad in prisons? And, as anon proposed, no weights.

bjdbudds said...

If half the prisoners are black and half the prisoners non-black, is it really the case the black prisoners will be more violent? White defensive tackles probably weigh about the same as black defensive tackles. Prisoners are prisoners.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but then white men wouldn't be ungodly afraid of being raped which would be, uh, a problem, for the powers that be

Anonymous said...

Seems weird to me that no one points out the most obvious difference between American and Norwegian prisons: demographics. The same factors at work outside of prison are at work inside of prison.

SFG said...

"In such a scenario, the more violent, less humane "micro-prisons" would have disproportionately more black convicts."

Kudzu Bob's hit the nail on the head. That's why the Swedes can do it and we can't.

Thank you, diversity...

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I would feel very uneasy with a violent psychopathic 860-pound gorilla in my basement, unless chained up very well - and I was given a machine gun or bazooka and legal permission to use it in active self-defence."

Well, suppose government delivers the prisoner in a compact cage, like those storage pods you can park on your driveway.

Anonymous said...

Kinda/Sorta off-topic:

The disappearing black middle class
BY JESSE WASHINGTON
July 10, 2011 12:24AM
suntimes.com

...In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median net worth for black households had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the institute...

Kylie said...

"If half the prisoners are black and half the prisoners non-black, is it really the case the black prisoners will be more violent? White defensive tackles probably weigh about the same as black defensive tackles. Prisoners are prisoners."

Another winning entry in the "Political Correctness Makes You Stupid" category.

Brett Stevens said...

I think there's parallels to how we design our high schools.

A high school of 500 people is a community; a high school of 5,000 people is an internment camp.

Naturally, the more administrative/managerial the places become, the more focus goes to trying to rehabilitate the problems, and less focus is placed on the good people.

Saint Louis said...

A lot of people are skeptical about whether this would be considered constitutional by the courts (because of the different effects on races), but I think it might. If I remember correctly, the government has succeeded under strict scrutiny analysis in enforcing an explicit racial classification on a couple of occasions; one of them was segregation of prisoners in order to break up racial gang activities (the other was putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII). This isn't even an explicit racial clssification, just a classification that would likelyhavea disparate impact.

Anonymous said...

You're never gonna write a book that can be taken seriously, are you, Sailer?

Ever considered not playing around with Once-weres, Never-beens and Wanabes and writing your versions of Popular Crime and Freakanomics. Your friends are bad influences, Sailer. I suspect your attention span is getting shorter by the year as your muscles grow ever more flaccid because of the time you spend with them.

Anonymous said...

Scandinavians never understand American social problems because they don't have the same problems--yet. Scandinavian solutions may work in predominantly white areas, but Scandinavia offers no solutions to black or hispanic problems.

And from my experience, I prefer traditional white American society over any of the Scandinavian societies that I have experienced.

Anonymous said...

About the weight rooms - prisoners are going to get big no matter what unless you feed them starvation rations of tofu or something. If they can't use a bench press they'll just do a couple hundred push ups.

Snowball in Hell said...

Non starter - Disparate impact.

The US Supreme Court forbids even a temporary segregation of California prisoners to promote the theory of "integration" over the facts of race-based violence in prison.

The elite institutional priority in the US is on diversity at the very real cost of making life worse for prisoners, students, homeowners, citizens, the economy, or anything else regardless of their color.

SnowbaLL In Hell said...

The Movie Office Space captures middle class white fears of prison life:

* Michael Bolton asks a lawyer about life in prison. Rob Newhouse give this advice:
Conjugal visits? Mmmm. Not that I know of. Y'know, minimum-security prison is no picnic. I have a client in there right now. He says the trick is: kick someone's ass the first day, or become someone's bitch. Then everything will be all right. W-Why do you ask, anyway?

* Michael Bolton expresses reservations about the risks of embezzling money (money laundering is misused here).

* As Peter leaves to turn himself in for embezzling, his roommate givesadvise for life in prison

ATBOTL said...

They already do this. Modern prisons are divided in smaller "pods" with as few as 50 inmates.

The California prison system that gets so much media coverage is probably the most old fashioned of all the fifty states.

Truth said...

"but we have to grasp how their entire systems work, not just the parts they like to show off as evidence of their superior enlightenment."

So what are you truing to imply, Steve-O?

Baaaw haaw haaw haaw haww! Some times I slay myself.

"In such a scenario, the more violent, less humane "micro-prisons" would have disproportionately more black convicts."

I'll defer to you here, Bobby, I've never been to prison. Hey, you never told me how the book was coming.9

Witchfinder General said...

To take a life it is a shame
They've only got themselves to blame
Death should be the penalty
Quick and cold and finally
Give them food and beds they say
The people they will pay
Treat them good and talk to them
Teach them how to pray
Does it work, of course not
We'll end it all today
As I said let's have a vote
Let them know our way

Let them know our way
We'll execute today
The power's all we'll pay

Anonymous said...

This system is more or less in use in current prisons - you can "graduate" to more confortable tiers with hiigher leverls of privilages. Conversely, you can get sent to harsher prisons for creating difficulties.

Kylie said...

If you want small prisons, why not bring back the oubliette?

Anonymous said...

"Many non-prisoners would probably want to spend lots of time virtual reality coffin type contraptions."

How about putting prisoners into World of Warcraft simulations with nerve stimulating probes that can induce real somatic agony. Then just let them go apeshit. And make sure the race of a prisoner is clearly recognizable from his avatar.

By the way, Amren briefly put up this up,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhxqIITtTtU&feature=topvideos_mf,

then took it down I presume because they thought it might be a hoax. Sure looks authentic to me.

Anonymous said...

Japanese prisons, IIRC, are fairly soft, incredibly boring, and seem to work - at least with the Japanese population.

Dr.D said...

I think there needs to be one exception to the "no weights" policy. Many, perhaps most, of the prisoners need a 300 lb ball on a 2 foot chain attached to one ankle at all times. This could be used for weight lifting, if so desired.

One Radical said...

I'm thinking go more towards the Arpaio route.

I'm not sure about this idea, or that it would work. Smaller prisons may make some feel better, but who cares if it doesn't deter crime? It's kind of like how smaller classrooms are supposed to help "urban" youths perform better.

There's always going to be some hierarchy in prisons, no matter the size.

jerry said...

"Yes, but then white men wouldn't be ungodly afraid of being raped which would be, uh, a problem, for the powers that be"

Bingo, someone here miraculously gets it. Prison violence rose with black political militancy. Prison violence, and prison rape, are purposely maintained by the system as a method of controlling the white population. Liberal rule rests on violence and intimidation that can only flourish with official support, or at least official indifference. This is the same system that is right now studiously ignoring the racial violence of black "flash mobs", that ignores the phenomenon of the racist rape of white women on the street, and that puts out a bogus "hate crimes" report every year that is virtually devoid of white victims. It's all part of the same hatred of whites and system of political control through terrorism. Black thugs are the brownshirts of the political left.

Bob Hurt said...

Reward good behavior of prisoners and guards, including the cultivation of wisdom, with what one must have to live (1st) and flourish (2nd). Make small communities of prisoners, no more than 50. Balance communities by IQ to typify the Gaussian distribution outside prison. Reward all members of a community for ideal community performance. Show performance graphs for each individual and group publicly in and out of the prison. Good behavior includes demonstrations of unselfish, loving service to others. Apportion prisoner time 6 hours helping others, 2 hours self-improvement, 4 hours self maintenance, the balance in sleeping, eating, play. All work projects must have meaning and value apparent to prisoners. Eliminate punishment. The destructive and violent will exterminate themselves by depriving themselves of rewards necessary for survival. Include sex with idealized partners in the reward system. Let communities compete against one another in beneficial games.

We have a problem in society that comes from throwing the stupid onto the mercy of the smart, and protecting the stupid so they can victimize the smart. We need to fix this by putting the stupid into protective communities that operate like the prison model above. Employers build workplaces at the periphery of the communities. The stupid don't mingle in the outside world except by supervision from the smarter people hired to administer and minister to them. They do not have procreation prerogatives.

These communities of unintelligent people should exist in and around every city and town. They will reduce actual prison populations because most prisoners belong in those communities rather than in prisons. Community members receive free room and board and reasonable comforts EXCEPT for television programming which is limited to encouraging COMMUNITY life ideals, and doesn't show life outside the community.

Within three generations these communities will become mostly vacant and may be tailored to a more intelligent populace still at the bottom of the gene pool.

The average IQ of the nation will rise a dozen points within a hundred years IF the US eliminates immigration of people with IQ below 115 and procreation of people with IQ below 90, while encouraging accelerated procreation of people with IQ of 115 and higher. Government should assist smart people in finding smart mates, and should reward smart parents for procreating large families of over half a dozen offspring.

It should go without being said that society should sterilize the violent and the destructive, but only if society itself isn't psychotic.

My point: every citizen should combat crime in government in the same way as dealing with a poisonous snake inside the house. Whoever is closest to the snake grab a stick and hit it. To do this, citizens need to know the ideals of good government, basics of law, legal procedure, and evidence rules, and the fundamental imperatives of benign political action. Unfortunately, most government perpetrators of crime (gerps) run free, protected by the good old boys network. The success of any prison system depends on a moral, ethical, responsible society and constitutional, lawful government employees. An ignorant, stupid, immoral, unethical electorate cannot help but produce a similar government. And society must devolve to the days of people knowing their neighbors, caring about their welfare, and working together to make moral, ethical, responsible communities.

Anonymous said...

I think greatly increased segregation explicitly on the grounds of relative violence could create a great incentive scheme.

You don't need actual small prisons you just need more segregation so you could do the same thing with separate small wings or floors in a mega-prison.

Not only is putting a young car thief in a block full of animals a state-crime in itself, there's a whole cohort of men in the middle who are naturally violent but capable of restraint if there was a benefit to it.

Anonymous said...

bjbbudds

"If half the prisoners are black and half the prisoners non-black, is it really the case the black prisoners will be more violent?"

If 10% of the non-black prisoners are in for violent crimes and 40% of the black prisoners are in for violent crimes then yes.

A lot of it is simply impulse control. The above two populations might have the same 40% with extremely violent urges but the black group has a much higher frequency of low impulse control.

Pump4lights said...

What is the rationale for allowing weights in a prison anyway? I've heard it's so the inmates burn off steam. True, prisons are so calm now because the prisoners pump iron all day.

If I missed an amendment to the Constitution and they are legally entitled to pump iron, hook up generators with attached weights as the sole source of power for the prison. If they want TV and lights, hit the weight room. At least all the pumping will save the taxpayers some bucks.

Paul said...

The research suggests that the guards get to be vicious sociopaths in order to show the inmates who's boss.

I knew a guy in college who was an eccentric artist, but also very big & strong. After graduation, he took a prison guard job because it was good pay and would leave him plenty of time for his art.

Within just a few years he was an alcoholic psycho.

Whiskey said...

Beyond just the racial angle, and ethnic based prison gangs, the Scandinavians have an enormous amount of social control over every aspect of daily life. That extends yes to prisons. In ways unthinkable here.

Read anything by Ibsen, it's like from another planet. Americans have so much mobility and anonymity that we crave recognition and just notice, for anything. Hence ... Facebook and crummy reality shows. Scandinavians like Japanese wish above all not to be noticed, hence inward-directed behavior. The huge social controls allows lots of capital to be used in things other than prisons and such -- but like everything else has a downside. Social rigidity is such that it is shocking to most Westerners.

Evan said...

The most violent person finds the second-most violent person and the third-most violent person, and they form an alliance to exploit the weak. Everyone else is compelled to avoid looking weak. ...

Love it. How do you know, Bill? Did a dime in the joint somewhere?

Dave R. said...

It occurs to me the same logic applies to K-12 schooling. Once you admit universal compulsory attendance then you're including a number of kids who don't want to or shouldn't be there, especially as they increase in age. And even in the better schools, you get a Lord of the Flies effect where the culture among several hundred or thousand students is abnormally different from what it would be among several dozen.

Anonymous said...

We imprisoned millions of German and Japenesse POWs in WWII with barracks, a barbed wire fence and a "line of death" if they dared cross it. Why not something similar for the less violent offenders and keep the most violent in the expensive concrete and bars facilities?

Anonymous said...

Zoning and building micro prisons sounds like a logistical nightmare.

Gene Berman said...

All other things being equal, the smaller prisons would prove more expensive to build and operate whenm considered on either a gross or "per prisoner accommodated" basis (based on diseconomies of scale). As I understand, the expense of prisons already weighs heavily on both state and federal budgets.

The most promising expense-reducing tech seems (at least to me) to devise effective non-prison alternatives for non-violent (and other non-egregiously antisocial) crime; in some cases, this might coincide with some effort toward restitution.

The real threat posed by prison expense is a tendency toward freeing violent criminals ever earlier, whether thru more lenient sentencing, parole, etc. I'd also hazard a guess (pure supposition, no actual evidence) that a violent criminal locked up for a great number of years for a single offense is a far lesser expense to society as a whole than the same criminal serving several shorter sentences during the same span of time.

Anonymous said...

Racial segregation of prisons would help a lot.

Gene Berman said...

Vichy:

Regardless of the pros and cons of your basic idea, you've got a real problem with the real-world fact that the offender is liable to have lost whatever job or income source they might've had "before" and be unlikely to replace easily
(increasing the likelihood of a turn or return to some illegal means of support, let alone to pay restitution and/or fines).

Many problems simply defy easy solution. Many countries used to have penal colonies and the USSR had the "gulag archipelago" but not so many places available nowadays. I'd suggest the central
plains of the Dakotas but even these have some residents who'd object, I'm sure. Younger (and not too serious) offenders used to get sent to the Army or the Marines but even that's not available as much--admissions tests, etc.

And, to top it off, we've given up on finding space in outer space.

Polistra said...

Decentralizing always improves things to some extent, but you can still have big riots in small joints.

James is completely wrong in his theory about a pyramid of violence. The inmate power structure is much more like a Mafia or the Senate. Power comes from seniority and shrewdness, not raw violence.

When I was in Mansfield, the top dog above all prisoners and wardens was a squatty little black guy named Beasley. Almost a dwarf. About 5'0", 110 lbs. He was probably a good scrapper, but 80% of the inmates could have knocked him down in an instant.

He stayed on top because he knew how to use blackmail, how to move money (Kools) around, and how to keep the right people on his side.
Smoooooooth operator.

Anonymous said...

How about sending prisoners out to foster jailers. Private citizens can chain up one or two prisoners in their basement and get a monthly support check to keep them alive. If prisoners do chores they get out early for good behavior.

Clearly that would be racist. But freeing prisoners and settling them within middle class suburban areas would be just the thing. Those nasty old prisons - we've got to break up those concentrations of imprisonment.

Svigor

jody said...

this idea might work, if you had billions and billions of dollars to throw away on constructing thousands of new prisons. like most structures, the bigger a prison is, the more efficient it is. the cost per prisoner to house and feed them goes down as the size goes up.

why does bill james think most prisons are designed like college dormitories, with each room designed for 2 or 3 people instead of only 1? it's very dangerous to force several criminals to live in the same cell. they can assault each other, rape each, or conspire with each other on prison hits, prison riots, or prison escapes.

but it costs less money. and as we can clearly see, spending less money on housing the prisoners is far more important than the much improved safety of keeping them separate. almost every prison employs the multiple prisoner cell.

california cannot even afford to incarcerate all the current prisoners it has, with the existing non-bill james style prisons. now a broke state is supposed to spend a billion dollars to build a hundred new prisons?

jody said...

i still think the best idea is to sentence criminals to kilowatts instead of years.

that is to say, the amount of time they spend in prison is dependent solely on how much electricity they are required to generate by riding on a bicycle connected to the local city's power grid. don't want the bike? try rowing with the other prisoners who prefer that instead. run on a geared treadmill. et cetera.

it would be up to the prisoners how fast they get out of prison. whatever method and speed they choose to work off their "watts sentence" is up to them, but they don't get to sit there in a cell all day doing nothing while the state pays for them to live. they don't get to lift weights and become bigger stronger threats, and they'll mostly be too tired to kill each other or riot.

Anonymous said...

I am not a softie, but it does seem reasonable to try to reach prisoners if possible with incentives and punishments.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=956_1246041096

Anonymous said...

OT

Looks like interesting reading.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0674045971/ref=nosim/nationalreviewon

His book NEGOTIATING WITH IMPERIALISM is an absolute classic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Auslin

I had a passing acquaintance with Auslin at Bloomington. Interesting guy but total neocon.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/271391/final-frontier-michael-auslin

Anonymous said...

I have a prison reform idea: place a video camera in every call and every communial area of the prison, always recording to hard disk arrays kept for 30 days.

Whenever one prisoner accuses another of violence get the time and location and review the tape.

If some prisoner is shown on video to have initiated violence against another put him on bread and water for 30 days, plus the normal criminal punishment for the offense (assault or battry or attempted murder, whatever is shown by the video recording)

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

Let prisoners grow and smoke weed.

Anonymous said...

"Scandinavians aren't stupid..."

But they're extremely naive. Which makes them behave in ways that are unwise in many situations.

Anonymous said...

"Enslavement for the real baddies, the rest of them can just go back to work to pay off their victims."

In the past enslavement was for losers in wars, not for criminals. To the extent that early man built fewer prisons, he simply executed more people.

Anonymous said...

"And even in the better schools, you get a Lord of the Flies effect where the culture among several hundred or thousand students is abnormally different from what it would be among several dozen."

I'd suggest the opposite. A small school can be like a small town. If the alphas are vicious, the whole student body can be affected. With almost a city of students, on the other hand, it's impossible to know many of the other students. It might be harder to find out about dysfunction in small groups of students but everyone else will remain relatively unaffected.

Anonymous said...

Dearieme wrote: "We seem to be happy to dope the mad in mental hospitals, and the old in care homes. Why not dope the bad in prisons?"

They already are doped. Drugs are easy to get in prison.

Anonymous said...

First things first. Just as we separate males and females, male prisoners should be separated by either race or body-size/muscle-tone. If most inmates are of around equal size and strength, there will be less bullying.

The idea of small prisons sounds nice but what if you're locked up with 20 rough thugs? Is that any better?

Besides, instead of weeding the non-violent from the big prison to small prison, why not weed out the most violent? It might be better to isolate the troublemakers into smaller special prisons.

Anonymous said...

OT

http://takimag.com/article/wont_get_schooled_again/print

THE AUDACITY OF HYPE.
THE AUDACITY OF HOAX.

Anonymous said...

Charter Prisons?
And then maybe Home Prisoning?

Anonymous said...

"I have a prison reform idea: place a video camera in every call and every communial area of the prison, always recording to hard disk arrays kept for 30 days."

This will be an invasion of privacy.

Anonymous said...

"i still think the best idea is to sentence criminals to kilowatts instead of years."

So, if Lance Armstrong commits a felony, he'll be out in a few weeks?

Anonymous said...

"I knew a guy in college who was an eccentric artist, but also very big & strong. After graduation, he took a prison guard job because it was good pay and would leave him plenty of time for his art.
Within just a few years he was an alcoholic psycho."

It could have been the art than the job that done it.
Look at Van Gogh.

Anonymous said...

I read an article a few weeks back that stated the US had the highest percentage of prisoners of any nation and that roughly half of those incarcerated where there because of the war on drugs. I'm surprised Sailer never discusses this issue since he sometimes delves into libertarian topics.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"Scandinavians aren't stupid..."

But they're extremely naive.


They are extremely naive about other nations and races.

Anonymous said...

Evan said...
Bill said...

The most violent person finds the second-most violent person and the third-most violent person, and they form an alliance to exploit the weak. Everyone else is compelled to avoid looking weak. ...

Love it. How do you know, Bill? Did a dime in the joint somewhere?


More likely did twelve cents in public school.

Anonymous said...

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...
Let prisoners grow and smoke weed.

Anonymous said...

Dearieme wrote: "We seem to be happy to dope the mad in mental hospitals, and the old in care homes. Why not dope the bad in prisons?"

They already are doped. Drugs are easy to get in prison.


If crims must be drugged, why not drug then with opium or morphine rather than the "high" stuff? That way, they would too tranquilized to be violent, and powerfully disinclined to escape.

ben tillman said...

I think James is absolutely right about what would work but he has the reasoning wrong. Having spent time in both big and small prisons the reason the small ones are less violent is the same reason small towns are less violent than cities: you're less likely to attack people you know in a local way. Also, guards care more about protecting inmates when they know them well, which is really why huge prisons are so scary: the guards think of you as a number. What I really wanted to do though was serve Cool Hand Luke's time, with guys who looked like me and sanctioned boxing matches on sundays.

Great comment.

ben tillman said...

Any discussion of prison reform needs to discuss the Texas prison system that was dismantled by the federal judiciary about 30 years ago. You're a fan of James Q. Wilson, and the Texas prison system is a centerpiece of his Bureaucracy.

Gene said...

I talked to a prison warden in Iceland once. He had one prisoner, a man who had committed murder. During the day he was let out to work but had to be back by 6 pm. I asked the warden what would happen if the prisoner wasn't back by that time.

"He knows what time we close," the warden said. "If he's not back before then he'll just have to find another place to sleep."

Some laid-back prison system they got up there.

Kudzu Bob said...

I'll defer to you here, Bobby, I've never been to prison.

Neither have I, but my co-author (and best friend) is a convicted felon.

Which brings me to...

Hey, you never told me how the book was coming.

Very well, thanks in large measure to his first-hand experience with what we're talking about here. I'm glad you asked.

elvisd said...

I'll post this again. Recommended to the parents of wayward teenagers. Narrated by Danny Trejo. Guaranteed to make anybody really uncomfortable.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4_uvvcaDqw

Volksverhetzer said...

"Anonymous said...
"Scandinavians aren't stupid..."

But they're extremely naive.

They are extremely naive about other nations and races"

People who live around only their own race, are very susceptible to misinformation about other races, especially when academia and the newspapers refuse to speak the truth.

OTOH since we Scandinavians live in systems created for Scandinavians, almost all non-European foreigners turns into parasites in some way, a phenomena our elites have tried to hide as good as they can.

Let's say we had been less naive with the immigrants, and had different rules for natives and immigrants. Would this not only have resulted in a larger immigrant population before the elites had to agree that immigration is bad?

Latest polls in Norway showed 54% being in favor of closing the borders completely, and both Norway and Denmark have started policing their borders again.

Also for the ones that say small prisons are expensive, it is bullshit. Supermax prisons are expensive. A small town prison with just a few unarmed guards is not very expensive at all. Real savings also comes from the prisoners using the civilian infrastructure like doctors, dentists, library etc, instead of having separate rooms and equipment in each prison.

If the prisoner don't come straight back after a visit, or breaks any of the other privileges he has, he is off to a supermax.

JSM said...

"then took it down I presume because they thought it might be a hoax. Sure looks authentic to me."

It's GOT to be a hoax, because
WHO'S running the camera?

Who could possibly be both smart enough to aim a camera and dumb enough to hang around filming when a chimpanzee is firing a machine gun?!?!

Anonymous said...

"Scandinavians like Japanese wish above all not to be noticed, hence inward-directed behavior."


I'm mostly English, but part Scandinavian and this definitely describes me.

Anonymous said...

"Who could possibly be both smart enough to aim a camera and dumb enough to hang around filming when a chimpanzee is firing a machine gun?!?!"

A Dutch war correspondent.

Anonymous said...

Charter Prisons?
And then maybe Home Prisoning?


Good heavens, that's elitist. Think of all the socialization those poor inmates will miss.

Truth said...

Awwwwww, elvisd, I had no idea you were such a foolish romantic.

jody said...

"Also for the ones that say small prisons are expensive, it is bullshit."

back on planet earth, building and maintaining new prisons for several MILLION inmates is expensive.

if they want to though, the norwegians are free to use their oil money to pay for the construction of a few hundred new prisons in the united states. they can start with, say, a 2 billion dollar grant to the state of california? how does that sound my fine scandinavian friend? wonder how long it will take mexico to fill those cells.

Anonymous said...

This article is based on the absurd premise that violence and rape in our prisons is undesired. How is that even plausible?

Anonymous said...

"If most inmates are of around equal size and strength, there will be less bullying."

Size isn't the issue.

Among high impulse control men age is more important and you want to protect the younger from the older.

Among low impulse control men the younger ones are the most dangerous and the small ones are worse because they're more likely to use a weapon.

I imagine most people have some experience of *drunk* white blue-collar guys. If you imagine that lack of restraint then the gangsta yout are like that all the time.

Anonymous said...

I have a prison reform idea: place a video camera in every call and every communial area of the prison, always recording to hard disk arrays kept for 30 days.

And when the recordings consistently show a close-up of a smear of feces right around the time of an attack, put the guy intimidated into smearing it there in the hole for 30 days.

Svigor

Anonymous said...

Most US prisons are split up into 'pods.' The inmates in the pods don't have much communication outside their pod. Pod assignments are made on the basis of violence levels, etc.

There is still some interpod contact, of course, but then there is a significant amount of interprison contact too. Having lots of little prisons wouldn't make much difference. At least, that is my gut call.

The crude segregation we do into min, medium, and max security prisons actually works pretty well. "Club Fed," for example, is the way it is because those guys aren't going anywhere, aren't going to cut each other up, and aren't going to trash the facilities that you give them. So maybe what the situation calls for is more centralization of our prison system across county and state lines, so we can have more gradation. 10 classes instead of 3.

The commenters who say that working as a prison guard screws you up are mostly right. It doesn't usually make you a psychopath, but it wears on you in one way or another.

-osvaldo m.

Anonymous said...

"Prison violence, and prison rape, are purposely maintained by the system as a method of controlling the white population. Liberal rule rests on violence and intimidation that can only flourish with official support, or at least official indifference."

I don't doubt that at all. If I recall correctly, there was a lawsuit a few years back by an inmate who claimed that the prison staff refused to protect him, and actually punished him for coming forward to ask for protection against rape. I don't know the outcome, but I think it was in Louisiana. The warden supposedly told him to "toughen up."

I heard an NPR report on the California prison system that went on and on about the deterioration of the system over the last 40 years, without mentioning one time that the demographics of the state and the system have changed drastically. They bemoaned the sharp increase in violence, the fact that the system is no longer a model of reform where prisoners were able to receive an education or learn a trade, and the fact that the system is now a financial mess, as opposed to forty years ago. Yet they refused to mention the obvious.

Anonymous said...

I read an article a few weeks back that stated the US had the highest percentage of prisoners of any nation and that roughly half of those incarcerated where there because of the war on drugs. I'm surprised Sailer never discusses this issue since he sometimes delves into libertarian topics.

Kinda old hat. G**gle "broken windows policy" or similar. Basically, it's easier and more straightforward to catch crooks with their illegal substances than it is to catch them murdering the competition or intimidating the citizenry.

Then there's the fact that gov't loves the war on drugs. They love insoluble problems they can turn into crusades (drugs, poverty, racial gaps, foreign basketcases, etc). Actually they love the (permanent) funding and power they get from them.

Svigor

Anonymous said...

Jodie's idea is original and sounds plausible.

Problems:

prisoners who are disabled, fat schmos, have diabetes or whatever would not be able to generate kilowatts on equal footing with healthy prisoners. The Supreme Court wouldn't allow a system of imprisonment that discriminated against the unfit. So you'd have to classify prisoners and only make the healthy generate the kilowatts. The others would do time. Which would allow for manipulation and leave the unfit population needing a solution--the prison population is significantly unhealthy and a lot of physically or psychologically damaged guys are just as violent as their healthy peers, perhaps more so.

The kilowatt solution would cost. Got to install all that equipment, and pay the medical bills when guys get joint problems or whatever.

The kilowatt solution relies on prisoners being forward thinkers who are able to make sacrifices now for the long term goal of getting out earlier. Need to tweak the incentives to also have lots of short term stuff.

What about going the other way? Instead of having them fatigue themselves into good behavior, what if you fatted them into good behavior? Lots and lots of junk food. Milk shake machines in every cell (not really, but that's the idea).

Actually the real solution is probably just the old-fashioned one of beating the shit out of criminals instead of sending them to jail.

-osvaldo M.

Howard Hughes said...

"Beyond just the racial angle, and ethnic based prison gangs, the Scandinavians have an enormous amount of social control over every aspect of daily life. That extends yes to prisons. In ways unthinkable here.

Read anything by Ibsen, it's like from another planet. Americans have so much mobility and anonymity that we crave recognition and just notice, for anything. Hence ... Facebook and crummy reality shows. Scandinavians like Japanese wish above all not to be noticed, hence inward-directed behavior. The huge social controls allows lots of capital to be used in things other than prisons and such -- but like everything else has a downside. Social rigidity is such that it is shocking to most Westerners."
While it's certainly possibly that Scandinavia is a more controlled society, I would like to see som evidence for your theory.

By the way, I'm very confident a far greater part of the Swedish population have Facebook than the Americans. Reality shows have been quite big in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, too - we're talking about very Americanized socities.

Norway and Sweden are nations with a powerful state. One the other hand, they do not have the same degree of cultural/religious pressure as, say, rural Alabama.

I'm personally very critical of Swedish society in many ways, but your way of describing it is more based on right wing clich├ęs than real observations.

Anonymous said...

"OTOH since we Scandinavians live in systems created for Scandinavians, almost all non-European foreigners turns into parasites in some way, a phenomena our elites have tried to hide as good as they can."

I know Finns who will tell you with a straight face that Finland needs more immigration to make the country less homogenic, when the negative impact of importing large numbers of Somalians and other Africans and Muslims is obvious.

Twenty years ago Finland had no visible immigrant community, and there was very little social friction, other than drunks fighting or the occasional hassle with gypsies. That's not the case now. Finland is starting to have the same dysfunction in schools, neighborhoods and everywhere else that third-world and non-Western immigrants bring wherever they go.

Anonymous said...

Any discussion of prison reform needs to discuss the Texas prison system that was dismantled by the federal judiciary about 30 years ago. You're a fan of James Q. Wilson, and the Texas prison system is a centerpiece of his Bureaucracy.

Good call, I remember skimming that book sometime in mid-90's, and remembering how successful that system was when he compared it to the California and Michigan state prisons if memory serves. The federal judges blew up a successful prison system, what a shocker!

C. Van Carter said...

I'm an advocate of Squirrel Cage jails.

Frend o'Frenz said...

I like Bob Whitaker's idea. Put the "unbreakable" ones in the desert and restrict water very carefully. Regular water delivery depends on progressively more compliant behavior.

In less constitutional societies, the "unbreakables" are simply shot.

Truth said...

"I have a prison reform idea: place a video camera in every call and every communial area of the prison, always recording to hard disk arrays kept for 30 days."

Excellent!, and hire 10,000,000 government employees to watch all of that video.

Problem solved, Barack.

Frend o'Frenz said...

"You've got to get those prisoners good and tired to sap the violent tendencies. Breaking rocks and tilling fields by hand would do the trick."

Southern jails did just that until the liberal courts gutted their ability to enforce the work requirements.

elvisd said...

"Awwwwww, elvisd, I had no idea you were such a foolish romantic."

Takes one to know one, sugar.

Truth said...

"I like Bob Whitaker's idea. Put the "unbreakable" ones in the desert and restrict water very carefully. Regular water delivery depends on progressively more compliant behavior."

Well, Barack (II), we've got this thing called "The Constitution..."

Anonymous said...

"Japanese prisons, IIRC, are fairly soft, incredibly boring, and seem to work - at least with the Japanese population."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_east/3096844.stm

A man who spent four years in a Japanese prison for a crime he says he did not commit feared he would not survive his ordeal.

Patrick Loughlin, from Penley, near Wrexham, spoke out on Wednesday following his release last week from Nagoya Prison, in Osaka after serving his four-year sentence.

On the same day it was revealed that the deputy chief warden at the prison has been indicted on charges of fatally assaulting another prisoner.

It was also reported in the Japanese media that this is the third time prosecutors have charged prison staff over allegations of fatal violence against inmates, with six wardens facing charges over two other inmates' deaths.

Anonymous said...

Based on what I've seen in prison documentaries, its obvious that there is no effort to keep real discipline in US prisons. The prisoners can basically talk to each other all day if they want to. Forcing them to be silent and to not interact with one another socially (on penalty of various types of punishments such as solitary confinement and caning) would probably get rid of most inter-prisoner violence, so why isn't this done?

A middle-aged white ex-con I interviewed about 25 years ago said he really missed the old "rule of silence." He said the constant noise the blacks convicts made drove him crazy when he was last in prison.

Anonymous said...

Prisons in the old, weird WASP-run America:
http://www.correctionhistory.org/html/chronicl/state/html/nyprisons.html
"Discipline was regarded as the key to success of the congregate prison, and one rule soon emerged as the key to discipline. That rule was silence, a silence so profound and so pervasive that it became the most awesome and striking feature of the fortress-like prisons of America. From their tour through Auburn, de Beaumont and de Tocqueville wrote:"

"We felt as if we traversed catacombs; there were a thousand living beings, and yet it was a desert solitude."[7]

nesbit said...

I would not want to be a ward of a Japanese prison. I would refer you to Unit 731 (I think that's the ticket) during WWII in Harbin, China (and elsewhere). The film, "The Men Behind the Sun" is quite informative on this point.

Anonymous said...

Was Bill James book good or not? Has a schizo reaction from the Amazon reviewers. What say Sailer?

Anonymous said...

A middle-aged white ex-con I interviewed about 25 years ago said he really missed the old "rule of silence." He said the constant noise the blacks convicts made drove him crazy when he was last in prison.

Not to mention all the Mafiosi singing in Italian....

Anonymous said...

I would not want to be a ward of a Japanese prison. I would refer you to Unit 731 (I think that's the ticket) during WWII in Harbin, China (and elsewhere).

And, knowing of Auschwitz, Dachau, and Buchenwald, I would not want to be in a modern German prison either.

Sword said...

My idea:

All doors inside a jail, except those to individual cells, should be of the revolving-door type.

Above each floor to which inmates have access, there should be a big open floor to which only prison wards have access, and the wards should stay there almost all the time. On this open floor, there should be motors powering the devolving doors, which can be stopped by remote control. Each ward should have a remote that can stop all revolving doors dead in their tracks. All other movement should be controlled by the wards by stopping/starting revolving doors on an individual basis.

The prison floors should be so high so that prisoners can not throw stuff to the roof. The roof should be equipped by a lot of small holes, through which the wards can look, and throw down flashbangs if necessary.

All prisoners should be housed in individual cells.

Prisoners should not see the wardens if at all possible, and in the cases when wardens have to go down into the prison floor, the should wear face-covering masks (think motorcycle helmet) so that the prisoners can not identify them. Thus, the wardens do not have to worry about losing face. To the prisoners, the wardens should ideally be unseen, but all-powerful, entities.

The solitary confinement should be used liberally, but many of the prisoners subjected to it should have access to TV, books, and other stuff to pass the time so as to limit the number of prisoners that have to be treated by shrinks.

neil craig said...

Presumably the idea of taking the 5 worst from upopular prisons (?) and putting them in Alcatraz hasn't occurred to Mr James.