Drugs should be legalized. This is the only necessary social reform that has a chance of coming about someday, because there's money in it. Government-controlled drug production would also make drugs safer, bring the cost of drugs way down, break the back of the illegal drug industry, and cut violent crime in half. Money now spent on drug wars could be used to set up drug education and rehabilitation programs to help people deal with drug abuse.
Prisons should be phased out, except some for the most unresponsive, dangerous criminals. In fact, the only good reason to have prisons at all is to protect society from dangerous criminals. Funny thing is, the vast majority of prisoners aren't dangerous. And with a progressively healthier society, fewer and fewer dangerous criminals would be produced, so that almost all prisons could be abolished eventually. As a substitute for prison, increased use should be made of alternative sentencing, such as community work, victim restitution, compulsory education, employment programs, and transition housing.
But in the meantime, shorter jail sentences would go a long way to keep our prisoners human. Except for the most dangerous, hardened offenders, no-one should ever spend more than five consecutive years in prison, regardless of the crime.
Existing prisons should be run like co-operatives. Prisoners should have a say in the process and should eventually be given the means to run the prison system itself, with most prison staff acting the part of consultants, counsellors, and mediators instead of authority figures (a few security staff would still be required, of course). Facilities should provide a reasonable standard of physical care, and provide for the inmates' need for safety, privacy, dignity, autonomy, incentive, education, and counselling. Local communities should be closely involved with the rehabilitation of prisoners, because isolation from...