In some ways, only socialists could love the traditional prison system. Not only is there “free” food and health care for everyone, there is no stratification. Inmates get similar treatment, privileges, and restrictions. For example, inmates earn nothing, go to bed at the same time, and can go to the canteen once a week.

Unlike in the real world, a person’s productivity has no impact on their quality of life. No wonder laziness and riots are commonplace.

Thankfully, Arizona’s four-year-old Get Ready program changes that. As recently highlighted in the Christian Science Monitor, nearly every part of an inmate’s existence — from the quality of the food they receive to how late they can stay up to trips to the canteen — are adjusted based on their performance.

All inmates in the program must work; the type of prison job they can apply for depends on whether they have completed their GED. Inmates are empowered to make choices and then bear the consequences, just like in the real world. Due to the uniformity of traditional prisons, Catherine Rohr, who runs the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, says former inmates struggle with ordering from a menu, as they have become automatons behind bars.

Sure enough, the recidivism rate of inmates completing the Get Ready program is 2 percent and inmate violence has plummeted. Moreover, no new funds were used to implement Get Ready.

Texas offers good time credit (except for state jail felons) and bad behavior lands 11,000 inmates in solitary confinement, but more subtle daily adjustments and the availability of earned privileges are lacking compared to the Arizona program. Texas policymakers and corrections officials should be ready to learn from Arizona’s success.

– Marc Levin