Remodeling the prison system

An interview I heard last night was really though provoking. The interviewee has a very interesting perspective on getting prison costs down. As you probably know, we have an overcrowding problem in most states and we spend a huge amount of money per year per prisoner. This person was an expert in brain tumors and mental health. He told a story about one guy who was totally normal and then all of a sudden became a pedophile. It turned out, he had a brain tumor pushing against his amygdala. Once they removed it, his pedophilia went away and he was back to normal. The problem was that he was convicted of a pedophilia-related crime in between. So what do you do with such a person? 20 years in jail would be a waste of resources once he was cured, but you don’t want him to get off totally scott free either. The interviewee suggested three categories:

  1. People who don’t have a mental cause or have an untreatable cause for their crime go to regular jail like we do now.
  2. People who have a chronic but treatable mental cause for their crime go to a mental facility where they are required to take their meds. If their criminal tendencies go away when on the meds, this can be a relatively low security, low stress type of place.
  3. People who have a surgically treatable or otherwise curable mental cause (like a removable tumor) get the surgery and then get more of a community service type punishment. It would compensate society for his criminal act but would also not ruin the life of someone who, if not for a medical condition, wouldn’t have committed the crime in the first place.

Thoughts? It makes a lot of sense to me.  It has a nice balance of efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness.