We’re big advocates of the gunsmithing approach to crime: if you have a loose nut behind the trigger, apply some Loc-tite. In our experience, societies that do this (think Singapore) have a completely different set of crime issues than societies that do not (think Mexico, or Chicago).
And we’re an even bigger fan of whacking those that need whacking. But the death penalty has its problems, as the release of 11 Illinois Death Row inmates who were cleared by DNA evidence a few years ago tells us; the courts have their problems, as reading the blogs of defense attorneys like Ken White or Jeralyn Merritt tells us; and, while we’re having an outbreak of transpartisan honesty around here, prisons have their problems.
Recently PBS aired this horrifying view of the solitary wing of a state prison in Maine. Mostly young, impulsive, amoral and not-too-bright men turn out to be psychologically worsened by isolation.
They call their Frontline segment Solitary Nation and it’s worth a look, although, despite the fact they’re trying to send a message with it, it raises more questions than it can really answer. You can watch the whole segment — 53 minutes and change — at the link.
In a place with reasonable institutions, a lot of these guys would be underground (one of them boasts of murdering two corrections officers since going inside). But Maine’s institutions are in the tight grip of coastal liberals, who think their jails are rehabilitating these guys.
Most of the prisoners you see in this video will be released, and some of them will be released soon. It’s hard to imagine any circumstances in which they fit back into society, unless we give some credit for the same human adaptability that has turned them into savage animals in the state lockup.
The end of solitary and the end of life imprisonment are new goals of the same activists who have essentially eliminated the death penalty in the USA, first in a series of militantly activist court decisions in the 1960s, and subsequently with endless legal red tape.