We’ve all heard it before. The U.S. incarcerates at the highest rate of any nation on earth. Prisons and jails are full. Mass incarceration is endemic to a rotten system.

There are many programs underway that are rethinking our approach to punishment, in ways that emphasize accountability and pro-social behavior: quit drug habits, learn a skill, get a job, be reliable, be punctual, support your family, and pay your debts to your victims.

But few have given much thought to how our current design of correctional institutions undermines these enlightened approaches.

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