Prisons are terrible, and there’s finally a way to get rid of them (VOX)

By DYLAN MATTHEWS |  June 27, 2014

In any given year, 3.2 percent of those in jail, 4.0 percent of state and federal prisoners, and 9.5 percent of juvenile detainees report having been sexually abused. A 2005 study found that the rate of physical assault was over 18 times higher for male inmates and 27 times higher for females relative to the general population.

The system that sends people to these inhumane pens where they’re likely to get beaten and raped is baldly racist. For the same crimes, black men are typically sentenced to 20 percent longer prison stays than white men.

“Researchers have tested electronic monitoring as an alternative approach to criminal punishment — and it’s been a huge success.”

And taxpayers are paying through the nose for all this. About 2.2 millionAmericans were incarcerated in 2012, accounting for one in every 108 adults, a figure that has more than quadrupled since 1980, leading state spending on incarceration to rise nearly as fast. America imprisons more people than any other country, and has the highest incarceration rate. And this wrecks communities. Mass incarceration weakens the economy and increases teen pregnancy in areas where many residents are sent away, and harms the children of the incarcerated in ways that persist for decades, among many other damaging effects.

So why do prisons exist? In theory, because we need them. They keep bad guys off the street. They give people a reason to not commit crimes. They provide a place where violent or otherwise threatening people can be rehabilitated.

But prisons aren’t the only way to accomplish those goals. Technological advancements are, some observers say, making it possible to replace the current system of large-scale imprisonment, in large part, with alternatives that are not as expensive, inhumane, or socially destructive, and which at the same time do a better job of controlling crime. The most promising of these alternatives fits on an ankle.

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