Anyone who has raised children or pets or supervised others knows the importance of having incentives to reward good behavior (the carrot) and disincentives to discourage and mitigate poor behavior (the stick). Dealing with offenders in a correctional facility is no different.
The Old System
Avoyelles Correctional Center (AVC) is a state-operated, adult male, 1,564-bed medium-security facility located in Cottonport, La., that houses maximum-, medium-, and minimum-custody offenders. AVC received its first offenders in April 1989 and will soon be celebrating its 20-year anniversary. Almost from the beginning, AVC has had two or three dormitories designated for offenders with minimum-custody status, or trustees, as they are commonly known in Louisiana. These offenders have exceptional conduct records and have demonstrated an ability to conform to the rigid standards expected of offenders who receive minimal supervision. Trustee offenders perform much of the skilled or semi-skilled work that takes place outside the secure Perimeter of AVC because they do not require restraints or armed supervision. Two additional dormitories were designated as "honor dorms" and housed offenders with good conduct (generally six months without serious disciplinary activity) and work records but, for whatever reason, did not qualify for trustee status. Offenders in both trustee and honor dorms received some additional privileges related to canteen access, spending limits and television time, but little else. Offenders who wished to transfer into of the honor dorms were required to write to their classification officer, and eligible offenders would be placed on a backlog list for transfer as beds became available. Although there was always a backlog list for transfer, there were never enough offenders on it to justify opening another honor dorm. Because offenders in honor and trustee dorms always had excellent conduct records, some thought was given to increasing the type and amount of extra privileges in order to stimulate interest. To an extent, this was don, but there was no substantive increase in the number of offenders applying for transfer to the honor dorms.
This was somewhat puzzling to staff, and eligible offenders were questioned as to why they had not applied for a transfer. After talking to only a few offenders, it was determined quickly that, were interested in the extra privileges, they were not willing to leave their current...