Medicare has adopted a system where hospitals that have large number of unplanned readmissions are penalized through lower compensation. Previously, hospitals made more money when patients were re-admitted; now, these incentives are reduced although not completely eliminated. Stuart Butler at The Health Care Blog has an interesting idea: apply a similar approach to prisons.
Imagine if prisons faced a readmissions penalty. Let’s say that if an unusually high number of released inmates from a particular prison were convicted and sent back to prison within three years then the prison’s budget would be cut and the bonuses and salary increases of senior prison staff trimmed back. Just as with hospitals, the first reaction would be to complain at the “unfairness” of being held liable for a released inmate’s return to crime. But after that the prison management would start to do a much better job than today in preparing inmates for re-entry into the community.
Could it work? It certainly would provide some incentive to refocus prison from a place of punishment to a place of rehabilitation. It may be worth a try.