Do prisons need to be hellholes?
Moreover, we have very little evidence that longer sentences themselves do much to deter serious crimes. Monthly readers may be familiar with the late, great Mark Kleiman’s work in this area, summarized in his classic work, When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment. As the title of Kleiman’s book suggests, brutal and inhumane retribution isn’t effective or necessary in deterring violent crime. Rather, most of the data suggests that a justice system that metes out punishment swiftly, fairly, and predictably has the greatest behavioral impact on potential offenders. Keller recounts conversations with many people incarcerated during the early 1990s. These men and women committed murder or other serious crimes. They’re also not the same people they were 30 years ago.