James Joyner gathers up a series of seemingly conflicting stories about reductions in military force in some branches and shortages of reservists in others.
I heard an interesting idea today; one that I’m sure has been floated from time to time, but still a novel social engineering concept.
A vast untapped resource for military service is the nations prison population, or more specifically those about to enter the system. The prison system is (by any measure) an abject failure at reform and rehabilitation – so much so that those missions are hardly ever discussed anymore. In contrast, the military has a storied reputation for taking juvenile delinquents and others heading down the wrong path in life, and making productive, respectful citizens out of them.
If defendants were given an option of serving military time instead of prison time (assuming they met all of the other enlistment requirements) we would be solving two problems at the same time. Not only would a the criminal become a productive member of society, they would also have a future (via continued service) once their sentence was up. The motivation to stay on the straight and narrow would be pretty powerful – a return trip to prison.
Considering the money we spend per year, per prisoner with no return and no likelihood of decreased recidivism I’d be willing to let the military have a crack at the job.
Update: Here’s an interesting article from 2000. The military was having a hard time meeting quotas in the tech boom days, so they loosened their standards and started accepting more felons (actually it’s more like accused felons), so it’s not like this is an unprecedented move. You could craft a criteria similar to the recruiting standards they followed in 2000 for use now. The pool of potential conscripts would be smaller, but still sufficient for the needs of the various services.