An Alternative to Prison in the Great State of Texas (or anywhere else)

I just had a crazy idea that might solve prison crowding a bit. Instead of putting people in prison for first offenses, or even on probation, we should exile them. This is what people did in ancient times and it worked very well.

Imagine you are the judge and you are going to give someone a 3 years sentence. Instead you can give the offender a choice: 3 years in prison in Texas, or 3 years of exile outside of Texas. If after 3 years he can prove he stayed outside of Texas and stayed out of trouble, he can come back and have the case closed. If he comes back before and is caught he does the time. And if he gets into trouble outside of Texas, then if he ever comes back again he will have to do the time.

I think it would empty the jails, and probably teach the criminals a more valuable lesson than what they are learning being locked up. It is not just to save money and get rid of them. There is a psychological aspect as well. Most people who are convicted and put on probation end up back in the system. That is because probation really doesn’t work to change people’s behavior, attitudes, and associations. Removing them from the state and all their good-for-nothing friends would give them a chance to start over. There is something magical about being dropped in a strange place with little notice or preparation. Its changes your thinking profoundly.

We could even pay for their bus tickets, and give them a little budget, say 1/3rd of what the average costs would have been to imprison them. If they stay out of trouble where they go the money can go to travel expenses, a month or so of rent, vocational training, etc. It would be a huge win-win for everyone. Of course some would end up back in trouble within weeks, but then they will not be our problem anymore. Our jails will be almost empty, and if they show back up in Texas they will spend 100% of their sentence in prison.

I would even favor closing the files to outside sources if they show no risk of violence. That way they can start clean in a new state with no record hanging over their head.

The only problem is that all these private prisons may become obsolete. Why it would be downright un-American to set up crony deals with big business to set up prisons for a big portion of the population, and then not send people to prison!

Alexander Hay is a US lawyer now living in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Some have accused him of being a curmudgeon, but what do they know???? Noisy kids!

Alexander Hay is a US lawyer now living in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Some have accused him of being a curmudgeon, but what do they know???? Noisy kids!