So far we’ve focused primarily on kids, and already it seems to lead to a misalignment with how we live our lives. But what about incarceration? Punishment is vital to society. Our global system thrives on the ability of as many of us as possible to follow a set of common ground parameters, or morals, to function. If people act outside of those parameters we need to have a system that ensures they are either removed from society or realigned with the common ground.
The US criminal justice system is apparently incredibly good at removing those individuals because the conservative method of locking up those who do incredibly counter- common ground things actually does lower rates of violence (Pinker). However not every incarcerated individual is sentenced to life. What happens to those we let go?
In this country recidivism rates are abnormally high. In 2005 about 56% of criminals were released from prison within a year prior to getting arrested- after five years of release that rate increased to about 76% (NIJ). This suggests that we as a nation aren’t learning the lessons of our psychological research.
With rates like that, the criminal justice system seems to be geared towards higher rates of recidivism than it does towards rehabilitation. And from here I could go on about the race disproportionality involved and the privatization of prisons- but those are topics for another day (and frankly a non-psychological blog).
Knowing these things has left me puzzled about the state of punishment and its use. It makes sense to me that a parent should be creative with her punishments, and that a judge should too. A great example is this guy:
With an only 10% recidivism rate in his jurisdiction, Judge Cicconetti’s unorthodox approach to punishment fulfills the original criteria mentioned above despite there being considerable amounts of time between the behavior that needs correction and the punishment.
The trick is a loophole he seems to have found in the criteria for punishment effectiveness: He first establishes a reasonable punishment for the subject that matches the behavior. You are too chicken to ask a person to date you- so you have to solicit a prostitute? Alright we’ll have you dress up like a chicken. It isn’t reasonable by normal standards- but it’s within reason of the behavior- the embarrassing nature of the punishment easily makes it severe and unpleasant. But what about the immediacy?