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Most of Sweden's 90 prisons contain no more than 120 inmates; one-third of all inmates live in open institutions without bars or walls. Guns are unheard of, some wardens are women, and inmates often carry keys to their own rooms. The escape rate is high (8%), but fugitives are rapidly caught, and Swedes are more interested in the statistic that really counts: in a country where the average prison sentence is only five months, the repeater rate is a mere 15%.
With its small, homogeneous population, Sweden has advantages that cannot be duplicated in urban, congested, racially tense America. Even so, the U.S. is groping in the Swedish direction —slowly:
> In New York City, a pioneering program started by the Vera Foundation waives money bail for offenders who can show job stability or family ties pending trial. Results suggest that perhaps 50% of jail inmates could be freed in this way, cutting the U.S. jail bill ($324 million per year) by half.
>Kansas has heeded Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, a searing prison critic (The Crime of Punishment), and set up a felon's "diagnostic center" near the Menninger Clinic in Topeka. The state now sends all prison-bound felons to the center for exhaustive tests by four full-time psychiatrists and numerous other experts. Result: half these men get probation. Among all such Kansas probationers, the failure rate has dropped to 25%, much less than in other states. Congress has approved a similar $15 million center in New York City to screen federal defendants after arrest.
> North Carolina's innovating work-release" program (also common in federal prisons) sends 1,000 promising inmates into the free world each day to function normally as factory workers, hospital attendants, truck drivers. Another 45 prisoners are day students at nearby colleges; one did so well that he got a faculty job offer.
> Senator Mike Mansfield has introduced a bill that would pay up to $25,000 apiece to victims of federal crimes, then empower the Justice Department to sue convicted offenders to recover the money. States would get federal grants to copy the plan. Of all U.S. offenses, 87% are property crimes, and restitution as the entire punishment makes sense in many cases unless violence is involved. Variations include Sociologist Charles Tittle's idea: the state would repay victims immediately, then confine and employ property offenders at union wages, keeping half their pay and putting the rest in trust for their use upon release.
The big trouble is that penology (from the Latin poena, meaning penalty) is still an infant art given to fads and guesswork, like the 1920s reformers who yanked tens of thousands of teeth from hapless inmates on the theory that bad teeth induced criminality. Even now, penology has not begun to exploit the findings of behavioral scientists who believe that criminal behavior is learned, and can be unlearned with the proper scientific methods.
They know that misbehavior can be changed by "punishment" if a a reward for good behavior follows very swiftly. If a reward (like parole) is delayed too long, they say, the subject forgets what he is being punished for, becomes aggressive and may go insane. In this sense, the Puritan use of stocks followed by