TED Conversations

Ryan Price

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How can we reform the prison system?

This talk demonstrates that many felons have much potential. So the question is really quite simple, but broad, how can we reform our prison system to take advantage of this potential?

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    Feb 18 2013: We need to focus on the combination of justice and mercy. But sometimes these things become difficult if offenders do not see themselves as deserving the discipline the society imposes on them. Prisons should be places of reformation.
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    Feb 18 2013: Andrew, I retired from the prison system. Yep .. your right there are some very bright and talented people in the system.

    Prisons must evaluate the threat and prepare and manage for that threat. Therefore it will always be the worst case scenerio. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It has nothing to do with the type prison (state or private) but everything to do with the threat level.

    I have proposed "designer prisons" as a management / reform system. Essentially it would divide prisons by crime, sentence ect .. as the housing criteria.

    5 / 5 being the most dangerous. The first number indicates the custody level institutional risk .. and the second number is the public risk factor. These are the worst felons such as murders, rapists, arsonists, etc ...

    1 / 1 being the lowest. they present the least risk to the institution or society.

    Designer prisons would house drug offenders in one area ... killers in another ... white crime, etc ... By doing this the institution could best address the security needs and the correct and trained specialist to address the prisoners needs. Having a drug specialist talking to a non-drug using killer is a waste of resources. The use of private prisons or half way houses could be the answer to your question. If the felon is sentenced to the least of the facilities and proves he is capable of change then his record could be set aside .. if he has a relapse then he would return and serve both the past and present sentences and his record would be published.

    The number of these "potential" contributors are really very few. People do not go to prison for missing sunday school. To become a felon there has to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of peers. In the past there was many mistakes. Today everyone who enters the system has a DNA sample taken and many crimes of the past have been solved by matching the DNA. Also some have been released by the same act.

    I wish you well. Bob
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    Gail . 50+

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    Feb 18 2013: I would begin by getting private prisons out of the marketplace. It has become a system of legalized slavery. It's a very profitable venture by private corporations who spend billions lobbying for harsher laws and longer prison sentences. Those laws impact the poor (mostly black) while allowing avenues of escape for the whites who can afford a lawyer.

    Then I would introduce meditation for all. Alabama tried it some years ago, and it was very successful - though only offered on a volunteer basis. But the State legislature thought that it was against all the Christianity stood for so it outlawed the practice. It took many years before it was reinstated, but it is not practiced in a way that research shows that it works - in increasing empathy. Other states are now looking into the matter.

    Then I would release the nearly 70% of American prisoners who are in prison for non-violent offenses by people who are not a danger to others. I would also expunge their prison records so that these people stand a better chance of getting jobs.

    Once the for-profit prison system is discarded, then those jobs that go to slave labor (whose labor is sold to major corporations, like Bank of America and Microsoft, and many defense industry companies) would go back into the private sector, where former prisoners (along with law-abiding people) could do the same jobs for pay.

    But first and foremost, to reform the prison system, we must reform our fiscal system. It literally and provably CREATES prisoners, who become the fodder.
  • Feb 18 2013: If, as Feyisayo said,

    justice and mercy are the answer, then get rid of the reasons for crime.
    If justice and mercy are not the answer, then get rid of the reasons for crime.

    If as Mr. Lockwood said, "America would need a population principally of Christians, Jews, and Moslems who practice what they preach. So it's not going to happen." ....then get rid of the reasons for crime.

    Whatever you do, get rid of the reasons for crime. Make any sense to anyone? I certainly hope so because if it doesn't, then you are never going to solve your problems. They are only going to worsen and roll right over the top of everyone. The reason? Money. Get off the monetary system. Make Human Needs into universal Human Rights. Take away the right (actually it's a wrong), to own or control resources from those individuals, corporations and countries who purport to "own parts of the earth". That is more than ludicrous. It is entirely immoral, wrong and evil.

    Louisiana imprisons more of its citizens than any other U.S. state and that also means the world. Their prisons are "for-profit" private businesses. For money, in case anyone misses that point. Inmates are traded like horses or tools that are needed by another prison who needs them for work because they are short-handed and have openings. They are literally "plantation-like" slaves who are used to make.....money.....in case anyone missed that point. They live in bare-bones conditions (cheaper cost) and they have no chance.

    But, YOU DO! With more laws being passed, more stresses applied to the working environment of the working slaves of American'ts, you now stand a much better chance of going to prison in your lifetime.

    You cannot reform your prison system. It isn't the problem. It is your very system of government that is at fault, is the cause and must be dismantled. Everything else will go with it.
    This new prison system must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or go broke. This means you.
    It is money. Got it?
  • Feb 18 2013: America would need a population principally of Christians, Jews, and Moslems who practice what they preach. So it's not going to happen.
  • Feb 26 2013: There are over 4000 offences, and that's just federal, that are felonies. Can you name them. Of course not. That is the beginning of the problem. Hundreds of thousands are in prison for nonviolent crimes. That is immoral. More freedom is the answer. The speaker said in the video that 95% of the convicts were drug dealers. Legalise drugs and the prison population will drop by 95%, freeing up millions of dollars for productive use. Government is the problem 99% of the time.
  • Feb 25 2013: The whole concept of (legal) justice is wrong. In our current legal system (what ever country you pick up), some one commits an offence and what we do? put'em in jail! or even worst: kill'em!, in other words: "punish them". but true justice has 2 goals. First: to repair the damage as soon and as far as possible, when ever possible or otherwise compensate the victim. And second, rehabilitate the offender and restore it to society as a productive member. So is not the prison system what you need to reform, but the whole judicial system, and not only to reform it, to rebuild it from the ground up. If you really seek justice, there must be a more intelligent, economically viable and fair way to deal with offenders, prisons should only exist for cases where there is no (psychological) hope for the offender to be restored to society as a productive decent citizen.

    I just recall, someone told me long ago, that in the Lacandon community southeast of Mexico, when a Lacandon Indian kills another Lacandon Indian, their law doesn't put him on jail, instead of that, he must work his field and feed his family and at the same time work the field of the dead man and feed the family of the dead man. I think this is more clever way to deal with offenders, and it achieves both goals, it compensates the victim by giving them security, and forces the offender to be a productive member of society.
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    Feb 24 2013: What if instead of ruining peoples lives when they make a mistake, we utilized the opportunity to lift them up and help them see the better choices they had and now have, than we supported them in their decisions?

    I ask this question, because as you see too, there are ways in which we can do our whole world better, we just have to find those ideas and turn them into action. I've been thinking about this video and what Jeff talked about, and honestly, I feel that at least 80% of the people who are arrested and end up doing more than 1 day of time in a correctional facility, were probably acting as creatures of their own circumstances, if that makes sense. I've been there too. Sometimes we make bad choices simply because we didn't realize there were other options, or because the stress of our situation made it feel like we didn't have the time to choose other options.

    So, if we pretend that my hypothesis is true, than 80% of the people who end up committing crimes, could essentially be given a better chance to succeed through certain programs that could be available to help them turn their skills into meaningful employment, resources or fulfillment.

    I know it may seem sort of backwards - like rewarding people for bad behaviors, though if enough of us got our heads together, I'm sure we could find a way to remove the stigma of being a prisoner, without taking away from "law and order" as it were...

    What do you think Andrew?