I would like to propose what I believe would be the best rehabilitation / recidivism reduction method for most criminals. Prisoners should be made to work for real businesses and be allowed to save the money they earn there. This would allow them to learn real skills that will give them hope after they are released and reduce the risk of them reoffending. Further, it will give them a bank account with money they can use to help in their transition after release. They will also have a resume with years of useful work experience to point to when they try to get jobs when they get out.
How it would work:
- A criminal commits a crime and is tried and sentenced (this system would apply for anyone with a sentence over 3 months, shorter than that would just be in a cell).
- The prisoner has the option of either sitting in a cell with no privileges (no books, TV, gym equipment, entertainment of any kind) or they can enter the work system.
- The prisoner would register in the work system and list off any education, skills, and work experience they have. This would be a public online auction system. Any company could bid an hourly rate for that prisoner’s work. Rebidding would happen every 3 months for each prisoner. There could be an option for the prisoner to select from any of the top bidding companies for the type of work he would most prefer.
- The winning company would then have the prisoner transferred to a jail near the work site.
- Each day (up to 5 days a week, 8 hours a day) the prisoner would work for the company. That might be doing anything from gardening to fast food service to accounting depending on the prisoner’s skills. All other time would be spent in the jail facility. The prisoner would have access to a free online education, gym, group TV room and other privileges like that.
- All funds earned by the prisoner would be paid into a bank account. Up to 50% of the earnings could be used for victim restitution, the rest would be the prisoner’s savings for when they get out. Prisoner’s would not be allowed access to funds until release. Prisoner funds would be kept in a inflation protected, FDIC insured bank account. VERY IMPORTANT: The state would never be able to take any amount of this money as reimbursement for court or jail expenses. If this happened the system would just turn into slavery. Better to shut down this system then allow the state to take any money at all.
- If the prisoner attempted to escape, he would lose the right to work and lose the right to any privileges for a period of time (maybe 3, 6, or 12 months?). He would sit alone in a cell with nothing to do all day except eat meals. The same penalty would apply for any prisoner who used drugs or alcohol. For this reason, most prisoners could be allowed to go to work without restraints or guard supervision. For example, a bus could pick up prisoners and take them to work at a McDonald’s each day and the state would not need to pay for a guard or for restraints.
- Companies would write a monthly review of the prisoner’s work performance. A company that was found to be dishonest or even inaccurate would have to pay triple for prisoner services in future bidding for one year. This work record would be public for other companies to review in the bidding process, and for the prisoner to use as his resume after release.
The benefit to this system is that everyone wins:
- The victim gets MUCH more reimbursement than most victim’s do currently. Say a criminal was convicted of armed robbery and stole $20,000 and spent it. That prisoner would eventually fully repay this amount through their work during the 10 year prison sentence. Even the families of a murder victim would approve this, as the judge could put a reimbursement value for the family – probably something like $2,500,000. During the prisoner’s 25 year murder sentence, that prisoner would be repaying the victim’s family while rehabilitating themselves and learning real skills.
- The state would save a ton of money in guarding prisoners, mental health costs from prisoners being locked up with nothing to do but fight or do drugs, education costs in trying to train prisoners, and in future court costs for repeat offenders.
- The prisoner would learn valuable real-life work skills in a protected environment. The prisoner would also build up a bank account so that he could get his life restarted after release. The prisoner could also just continue doing the job they had been doing in prison while they transition back to real life.