Electronic location monitoring using GPS is potentially more effective and humane than prison.
The US should:
- Move those imprisoned for offenses short of homicide or sexual assault to GPS-supervised house arrest as soon as is practicable, with a guaranteed, immediate prison stay for those who violate its terms.
Reserve prisons for repeat offenders and those who’ve committed truly heinous crimes.
There are obviously other details to be worked out. You wouldn’t want people convicted of domestic violence to be sentenced to home confinement with their victims, for instance; in those cases, some kind of alternate housing would have to be offered to ensure separation.
But if successful, this plan could reduce admissions by at least half, probably much more. Hopefully, this will just be a temporary measure. In principle, it could get to the point technologically where house arrest becomes as hard to escape as prison is. At that point, abolishing prison outright starts to become imaginable. UK home secretary David Blunkett spoke too soon when he referred to electronic monitoring as “prison without bars,” but that dream is attainable.
This could be a tough sell in the US. There’s an awful lot of money in the prison-industrial complex. And the American character has a brutal oppressive streak. We like to see people suffer.