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More Punishment, Less Prison

By Matthew Yglesias  

"More Punishment, Less Prison"

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Reader RR writes “Could Matt (or anyone) give some examples of ‘alternative forms of punishment’ that effectively keep criminals off the street and don’t violate the 8th amendment?” I suppose there’s always exile to Australia. But for keeping people off the street, there’s no serious alternative to prison. Even unconstitutional forms of corporal punishment leave people on the street. But nevertheless, we already make plenty of use of criminal sanctions other than prison—parole and probation. The problem is that while prison is costly and inhumane, parole and probation as currently practiced just don’t accomplish much. But prison is much more expensive. Investing resources in building better models of parole—coerced abstinence, for example—would let us get more bang for our sanctioning buck and free up resources for use in other areas.

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