What if prisoners, when sentenced, were given a voucher and could choose what prison they went to? As long as the state ensures prisons with escapees are heavily fined and prisons have minimum capacities, a voucher plan could do wonders for our overtaxed prison system. Heck, prisoners could even put up money to go to a better institution! Prisons would have to compete for money from prisoners, and prisons with the worst reputations would disappear.
This would never get past Congress but I like it.
I have to flush this idea out more.