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My main problem with your suggestions and your framing of the issue is that I think you are just mistaken about the importance of people you are describing as animals, shot-callers, worst-of-the-worst violent people, etc. There isn’t any evidence to suggest that prison violence is caused exclusively or even primarily by a small group of hyper-violent people. It is a systemic problem which is exacerbated by prison conditions and the way prisoners are treated. It’s not the case (as the studies I cited to in a previous post prove) that if you remove a few violent individuals from general population the problem goes away. It is tempting to blame violence both in and out of prison on the mythical “super-predators,” but there is just no reason to think they exist, much less that they are the root cause of the problem.

As to what I would suggest. First, solitary confinement needs to be ended immediately, because it does no good and immense amounts of harm.

Second, there actually is an approach to ending prison violence that has been immensely successful — intensive group therapy and education. In a program created by psychiatrist James Gilligan, prisoners incarcerated for violent offenses were required to attend several hours a day of group therapy, and ultimately lead such therapy sessions themselves. Prison violence dropped to zero, and recidivism was reduced by 83%. Gilligan also found that helping inmates get a college degree while in prison drastically reduced recidivism, to less than 1%.

If we’re looking for an actual solution, and not just something that lets us feel like we are punishing the bad apples, that’s it.

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