thing any more.” This argument seems to imply that we arenmore “civilized” today in our punishments than were ournancestors. Yet it is easy to demolish. The death penalty (anfavorite punishment of our ancestors) is again on the increasenin this country. Some 70 percent of the people support it. Thenviolent and crowded conditions in many prisons are difficultnto hold up as standards of refined and civilized sensibilities.nIn fact the claim that our sensibilities are more refinednappears absurd when we look at the enormous excesses todaynin the use of prison as a punishment.nBut I am humbled by the fact that hardly anyone takes mynsolution to the punishment problem seriously, especially sincenthings have become much worse since 1983. Today there arenover 600,000 persons in prison plus some 405,000 in jails. Thenannual cost is somewhere in the vicinity of $40,000 per inmate,nand to build a new cell costs approximately $100,000. Whynhas the situation become so much worse? Why has no crediblenalternative to prison arisen?nThis disjunction between the demandnfor punishment and the acknowledgmentnof its nastier side is at the bottom of ournproblem. The public demands morenpunishment, but does not want to see itsnactual effects. Prison does a wonderful job ofnburying the seamier side of punishmentnand hiding it from the masses.nThere are three main reasons why the numbers in our prisonsnhave increased so drastically over the last decade. First,nthe draconian drug laws that were passed by many state legislaturesnmandated prison terms for possession of variousnamounts of dmgs. The basic motive for this legislation was thatnpopular ethic of governments: deterrence. The idea is that thenmore severe you make the punishments, the greater will be thenreduction in crime. Unfortunately, there is scant research tonback up this claim. It is a faith, and nothing more. Second,nthere is the failure to distinguish between tmly serious offendersnfrom other persistent but nonthreatening offenders. TTienpredicate felon statutes of many states reflect this foolishness.nThe celebrated case of Rummel v. Estelle in which Rummelnreceived a mandatory life term as a predicate felon, having beennconvicted of his third felony offense, is a good example. Allnthree of his offenses were property crimes, the sum total of thenproperty stolen amounting to $229.11. The U.S. Supreme Courtndid not find his sentence to be “cruel and unusual.” Clearly,nthe definitions of “felon” and “felony” require radical revision,nso that we end up incarcerating only those who are serious, violentnoffenders (hopefully before they have committed their secondnor third offense).nThird, the advocacy of the “just deserts” principle of sentencingnin the 1970’s resulted in the abolition of parole in manynstates and the subsequent legislation of mandatory prison termsnimplemented in the 1980’s. The just deserts advocates of then1970’s argued that indeterminate sentences (i.e., sentences ofnincarceration that could be as long as necessary until then20/CHRONICLESnnnoffender was rehabilitated) resulted in unequal punishmentsnfor the same crime, since some individuals “recovered” at differentnrates from others, thus getting shorter or longer punishmentsn(sometimes by many years). The finger was also pointednat the supposed abuse of judicial discretion, and at the abusenof the discretion of parole boards (who get to second-guess thenpunishments by allowing the offender to be released from prisonnearlier, depending on his record). The deserts advocates (thennow-celebrated Alan Dershowitz was among them) argued that,nbecause rehabilitation had been shown not to work (which isngenerally tme), there was no justification for applying differentnprison terms to different offenders for the same crimes. ITiisnseems straightforward enough. Unfortunately, while appearingnmorally correct, it ignored the practical outcomes of thisn”deserts model,” which required mandatory sentencing (i.e.,nsame punishment for same crime) and a strict grid of sentencesnand punishments. Further, it failed to address adequately whatnto do with repeat offenders (since in theory according tonthe deserts model, one matches the punishment only to thenparticular offense, and is not justified in repunishing for priornoffenses that presumably have already been punished).nWorst of all, the just deserts advocates failed to address thenreal issue: the obsessive use of prison. Because they were lockedninto this type of punishment, the morally defensible (and innmy view superior) ethic they espoused produced what they considerednto be unanticipated outcomes, especially the compoundingnof prison terms by legislatures and the resulting massivenincreases in prison population. What they had failed tonunderstand was that legislatures are strongly disposed towardsna deterrence view of the worid. They simply adopted the moralnverbiage of the deserts advocates and used this for deterrentnaims, thus compounding punishments to hitherto unheardnof lengths, kidding themselves that this would reduce the crimenrate. (The relationship between crime rates and prison rates,nby the way, is especially difficult to determine. Research in thenUnited States and in other countries generally suggests thatncrime rates and prison rates vary independently. Even if we grantnto the deterrence advocates that crime rates have shown a slowernincrease in this country since the more drastic punishmentsnwere introduced in the early 80’s, it is still reasonablento ask whether the small size of the decrease is worth thenmassive expenditure and human suffering caused by the systemnused to reduce crime.)nThere have, of course, been alternatives to prison, but thesenattempts themselves demonstrate the very failure to understandnthe profound centrality of punishment to social life. The mostnwell-known “alternative” was, of course, probation, introducednon a large scale in the United States early this century. It turnednout to be largely an add-on “punishment” simply findingnadditional offenders. Worse, probation failed to convince thengeneral public that it was in fact punitive enough. Tlie greatnsolution of the 1980’s was supposed to be “community service,”nbut unless its punitive element is sharpened, it will go the waynof probation: people will see it, justifiably, as yet anothernattempt to subvert the punishment process. It turns “punishment”ninto “service” and “service” into “punishment” byntaking away the intrinsic merit of service from those whonwould normally volunteer for it.nYet the idea embedded in community service is morallynattractive: it tries to draw out of the punishment processnsomething “good”—service to the community. This is an importantnidea that, unfortunately in the way it is currently imple-n