The goal of the policy is to drastically reduce the recidivism rate, thereby dramatically reducing the prison population and associated costs as well as reducing the costs of crime, police, courts, parole etc.
I think it’s quite rare for anybody to want to go to prison, with the exception of some people who have become totally institutionalised by having been in prison for far too long already.
On the whole though, the prison population consists of people that we as a society have already failed in some way, typically starting during their childhood. A large proportion of them never finished school. Many are mentally ill. Many are drug/alcohol addicted. Something like 50% of children born with fetal alcohol syndrome end up in prison. Many others just have anger management problems and/or dysfunctional families.
This is why we propose the Social Impact Bond solution that would offer a widely diverse range of assistance to get released prisoners up to a socially functional state.
It’s really not possible to specifically separate the mentally ill from the sane-but-criminal individuals. There isn’t a nice clean dividing line. If they are acutely insane, with symptoms like severe psychosis, they will already be sent to somewhere like a mental asylum instead of prison, but what should we do with psychopaths for example (assuming we can identify them)? They mostly just don’t play well with others because of their total lack of empathy and consequent narcissism and manipulative behaviours.
What about the schizophrenics who can’t stay on their medications so they keep hearing voices that tell them to do bad things. If they commit a crime because a voice in their head told them to, but then they go back on their medication and the voices go away, can we just let them out now? I don’t think so. It’s kind of equivalent to forgiving the drunk driver for the road toll they caused because they’re back on the wagon again.
It won’t be possible to help everyone.
Some peoples problems are too hard, but many are not, and so we should do better.
There’s even a subgroup of the prison population who just end up there because they’re not smart enough to function in modern society. Nobody at all really likes to talk about their problems, but think about how they relate to the dictum that “Ignorance of the law is not a defence”.