Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Prisoner Channel

It seems like a good idea on the surface: instead of housing prisoners in expensive jail cells, release them into society but track them using GPS devices clamped around their ankles. Sounds like a kinder and gentler prison system that even John Kerry could live with. That is, until you realize these GPS tags are not being monitored in real-time—or anything even close to real-time. The prison system is only checking on these violent sex offenders’s location once a day.

Are we mad? Does anyone see a little problem here? Do you know what kind of damage an unsupervised two-year-old could do in a day, never mind violent sex offenders who’ve been in prison at least six months? The article says that real-time tracking is expensive, costing $290 per month per felon. Well, half-baked technology calls for half-baked financing…Reality TV to the rescue.

That’s right, no one can appreciate real-time felon monitoring more than Reality TV producers. The concept is similar to The Amazing Race, but we’d call it ‘The Amazing Race to Attempted Rape’. You let about 600 prisoners loose at the same time, tell them they’re only being monitored once a day, and watch the ratings soar!

Imagine the efficiency of having the viewing public watching the At-Home Prison Channel 24/7 rather than all those state-employed guards. At 5pm each day, monitoring time, the prisoners would have to give a video summary of where they’d been hangin’ that day. Of course, they’ll claim they were home all day working on needle point or lifting weights, but we (the audience) will know better, having tracked them all over town as they cased school yards and mall parking lots.

Of course, we don’t want any real people getting hurt, so we’d surround the ex-cons with actors whose mission is to make them angry (angrier?), like Boiling Points. If the prisoners can go ten seconds without shanking the antagonist, they get $100—otherwise, they get 2 years tacked onto their sentence.

It might be interesting to try a few convicts on The Ultimate Love Test, but the episodes would probably be too short—sex offenders aren’t known for being very patient lovers. A show along the lines of Punked could be funny, especially if it involved prison shower scenes. I’m sure the parolees could get into the spirit of Pimp My Ride, once they understand ‘ride’ refers to ‘car’, not The Girl Next Door. There could be a great tie-in between Trading Ex-Con Spouses and CSI-Crime Scene Inevitable. Women who love men in orange jumpsuits will have their hearts aflutter for the new love contest Average Joe Seeks Desparate Ho.

To keep up interest between broadcasts, viewers can use the Jail-Bird Locator page on MapQuest to track the convicts’ current positions and browse fun personal history using the Sexual Predator/Offender Database.

Prisoner Reality-TV could also open up some non-traditional markets for advertising revenue. Consider this ad concept from Rapala, maker of the wonderful Fish’n Fillet knife:

“Having problems with sex offenders in your neighborhood? Want to solve the problem but don’t have a lot of money for fancy GPS monitoring equipment? Try our $15 Fish’n Fillet knife. As Hammurabi was fond of saying, ‘An eye for an eye, and a nut job for a nut job.’ Get your’s today!”