From a emailed conversation..

TL;DR=We should use prisons as a experimental ground to find out what media help broken people heal

I emailed this, and then – while I think it needs rework and expanding on, which I will probably do later – I thought I should paste it into my blog now just to get it out there. It’s a idea that I’ve discussed with various people over the years, that’s slowly grown..

From email:

This actually reminds me of a experiment I want to do. I will never,ever,ever be allowed to do it, but I think it would be truly awesome.

I want to retrofit a bunch of the country’s jails. I want to equip every cell with a very hardened computer console [as in virtually indestructable and also virtually impossible to break into from a hacking point of view]. Then, I want to try a number of different permutations of libraries of videos and books in each jail, and try different amounts of freedom to roam the net / free phone calls / things of that nature. I’d even want to try in some of the jails letting the employees work doing data entry or other remote-control things and potentailly also try having their income partially go to pay back their victims. I’d try anything in the initial seed set – porn, religious texts, movies from the 20s, childrens movies..

The purpose is to see what set of media, what set of communications options, and what set of employment options

a) Reduce recividism the most
b) Result in the happiest population

If we really think about it, what we really want our jails to do is help the people inside become better citizens. Since we don’t execute very many criminals and we don’t keep very many inside forever, we really want to figure out what to do for them that will turn them into people who don’t commit crimes. Ultimately it’s in the best interest of everyone who has to live here for our jails, rather than “punishing” people – often for crimes they committed because of mental illnesses they have – to heal them. And if a particular set of books or movies or whatever encourages that process, let’s give it to ’em free of charge, maybe even find ways beyond that to encourage them to watch & read! I know from my parking meter days that I could make a terminal that would survive anything a inmate could do to it. It wouldn’t be pretty, and it wouldn’t be possible to touch type on it that easily, but it probably wouldn’t cost *that* much either – and utlimately, if one is measuring using value rather than money, it would potentially pay for itself many, many times over. Plus, the value of knowing which, out of the milions of books and movies we have really heal people is almost beyond putting a dollar amount on.

I also talk about commercial prisons and the profit motive encouraging recidivism here and suggest a fix

I also make another suggestion here – that if we must have commercial prisons we only pay them for the prisoners that do not re-offend.

3 Responses to “From a emailed conversation..”

  1. sheer_panic Says:

    The really neat thing about this is that you can do it in hundreds of jails, each with a slightly different seed. Then study the recividism rates. Then make alterations based on them. Keep going until you suddenly find you no longer have any need for jails. 😉

  2. sheer_panic Says:

    You might even go further and try offering different inmates different content based on their crimes. It might turn out one set of media helps with addiction, while another helps with theft, while another helps with violence and anger..

  3. Swipes Says:

    I’m not sure experimenting on prisoners is ethical, but we can certainly look at what works in other countries that have low recidivism and crime rates to make ours infinitely better.

Leave a Reply