The prison of the future

In 2010, Malaysian designers won first prize in a skyscraper design competition with a vertical prison meant to address the problem of excessive post-release offenses. This is done through inmate rehabilitation, a feature largely missing in current...

While conceding that alternatives are needed, Moskos wishes reformers the best of luck. He says there are prison reforms that can be made and should be made, but on a more fundamental level reform is just tinkering with an institution that has failed miserably.

Moskos says house arrest is one solution. He believes the use of electronic home monitoring and surveillance technologies could dramatically reduce taxpayer burden by confining non-violent offenders in their own homes, where they would pay their own rent, buy their own food, and arrange their own health care, thereby relieving taxpayers of the cost of imprisonment. California, which has more prisoners than Germany and the UK combined, spends an average of about $47,000 per inmate per year—two-thirds of which is spent on security and inmate health care.

But, if house arrest for qualifying inmates isn’t considered punishment enough, Moskos favors just about anything that keeps people out of prison. Even flogging. In fact, he recently published a book on the subject, appropriately titled “In Defense of Flogging.” In his view, prisons have simply become mass institutions of punishment and are doomed to continued failure.

Moskos adds: “We need to think of better and cheaper ways to punish that does less harm.”


Douglas Page writes about technology from Pine Mountain, Calif. Reach him at

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