The ability to think outside the box is a valuable skill that tends to bring its possessor fame and fortune. But there's a fine line to be balanced -- if you think too far outside the box, the best you can hope for is that your padded cell is somewhat clean.
Yet sometimes, the most far-fetched, cartoonish ideas are the ones that work best. All it takes is the right idea and the ability to convince somebody to spend lots of money trying it.
#5. Tokyo Decides to Prevent Crime With Mood Lighting
Nearly every city in the world wishes it could flip a magic switch that would cut down on crime, and only one city has a switch that turns on the Bat Signal. The city of Tokyo, however, had heard a rumor that you could cut down on crime with a little bit of mood lighting -- specifically, by turning the street lights blue.
That's the sign for robot prostitutes.
Yeah, right. As if the sight of the color blue is going to make some guy who's about to mug an old lady suddenly change his mind ...
How It Worked:
Oh, wait, it totally did. The Tokyo prefectures where the blue lights were installed saw a 9 percent decrease in crime. You can write that off to a statistical anomaly if you want (maybe that was the same month they also brought on the RoboCops), but Glasgow, Scotland, saw the exact same result. Glasgow wasn't trying to bring down crime when they installed theirs, they just thought it would make the city look better. Then somebody noticed that crime had gone down right after, and the only thing they had changed was the stupid blue lights.
And piped in some smooth jazz.
Next, the Tokyo railroad decided to get in on the blue-light action, though the problem they wanted to solve wasn't so much the crime. Their main concern was the train-assisted suicides that were taking place in their stations. The result after the blue lights were installed? Suicides dropped down to zero.
Seriously? What the hell?
"I just can't leave a world that invented The Smurfs."
There are several theories. First, there's the fact that science has observed for decades that blue is a calming color, as opposed to such "Let's raid shit!" colors such as yellow or red. But there's also another theory, which is that blue is the universal color of "Holy shit! Cops!" and the blanket of blue keeps people on their best behavior because they subconsciously feel that they might be busted by the cheese at any time. Others say just the fact that there was a change at all may have made criminals uneasy -- the fact that the lights had been installed implied that somebody was paying attention.
Either way, it appears that the illusion that Big Blue Brother is watching you at all times is subconsciously enough to keep you honest and law-abiding. And all because of Officer Light Bulb.
You'll make sergeant for this!
And while we're on the subject of seemingly insane law enforcement strategies ...
#4. Georgia (the Country) Fires All Its Cops
There is nothing worse than a corrupt police officer -- just look at the comment section under any taser video on YouTube. Unfortunately for the citizens of the country of Georgia, that was pretty much the only flavor their traffic cops came in. In 2004, things had gotten so bad that the newly elected President Mikheil Saakashvili made it his mission to stop the police from harassing his people.
Saakashvili didn't mess around, either. He fired all the heads of law enforcement and threatened that any traffic cop caught harassing civilians, taking bribes or generally behaving all uppity would be fired or arrested. The police force scoffed at the attempts of this puny "president" person and behaved exactly like they always had, confident that Saakashvili wouldn't touch them. So, the very next day after this announcement, when a whopping 15,000 cops were caught taking bribes, Saakashvili fired every single one of them.
Next he mooned Putin, because with 96 percent of the vote, he could get away with anything.
Then, a couple of weeks later, another 15,000 police officers were caught participating in shenanigans. So he fired them, too. With 30,000 corrupt officers freshly in the unemployment line, Saakashvili had finally succeeded. The police department was finally clean! Huzzah! Only, there was one little problem. There were no traffic cops left.
People just threw all their bribe money at postmen in a confused panic.
Oh, and the firings took place around the holidays, when drinking and driving tends to be an even worse problem than during the rest of the year. It had the makings of Worst Idea Ever.
How It Worked:
The whole country of Georgia promptly fell into a drunken reenactment of Mad Max that is still going on today. Ha, just kidding! Instead of indulging in a nationwide game of bumper cars, everything went just fine -- in fact, even better than normal. And we don't mean that the citizens held themselves together for a couple of days until new cops could be hired. They were without police for three freaking months. And it was fine.
"Don't worry, boys, any day now the dope addicts and double parkers will turn this country into a charnel house."
Saakashvili's administration quickly realized this was because it had been the cops causing most of the trouble all along. A remnant from the Soviet era, they'd treated the roads as their personal piggy bank, administering their very own brand of expensive justice at will and causing mob-style chaos as they did. When they were taken out of the equation, not even a hint of disorder was left because they had been the disorder.
It took three whole months to find enough reliable replacements, but with some help from the United States in recruiting and training the new police force, Georgia got back to normal.
Seems about right.
#3. Norway Reforms Convicts by Giving Them Insane Amounts of Freedom
Our prison system is far from perfect, but it's not like we have better options. Plus, the criminals totally deserve to rot in jail, with all the punishments and confinement and horrible food the judicial system can throw at them. The criminal element has to be punished somehow, and every country in the civilized world agrees that criminals should be dealt with in this way.
Apart from every spring, when they're set loose into the countryside.
Except, that is, for Norway. They have come up with a prison system that actually treats the vast majority of its population nicely -- to the point that it seems like inmates might as well be in summer camps rather than correctional facilities. In Bastoy Prison, for example, residents (don't call them "prisoners" -- that's not sensitive) sentenced there actually seem to live the good life. Convicted pedophiles, drug dealers and even serial killers have access to a movie theater, tanning beds and even an occasional game of football with the guards. Also, their cells look like this:
Meanwhile, we are planning to build a west wing to our cardboard box out of a smaller cardboard box.
During the summer, Norwegian prisoners go horseback riding and have barbecues. In winter, they freaking ski jump. And if they don't like the food the prison offers them, they're allowed to cook for themselves -- they're even issued knives.
And then there's Halden Prison. It's the second-largest prison in Norway, yet overcrowded cells that smell of feces and man-rape are nowhere to be found. Instead, the prison smells like orange sherbet of all things, and has a sound studio, jogging trails and a two-bedroom house where prisoners' families can spend time visiting.
And spend time scaling walls, which obviously has no real-world application.
See? This is what you get when you put a bunch of bleeding hearts in charge. With no deterrent in place, crime is probably through the roof!
How It Worked:
Extremely well, actually.
Norway has an incredibly low recidivism rate -- within two years of being released from jail, a Norwegian offender is only a third as likely to commit another crime as criminals from, say, the United States.
We'd say this reminds us of college, but no one here can ever remember seeing the original color of a dorm wall.
This is because unlike the U.S. justice system, which relies heavily on retribution, the Norwegian system believes in rehabilitation. The whole point of their prison system is to fix the criminal and turn him into a productive member of society. And, when you look at the statistics, it's working like there is no tomorrow. It's weird, it's almost like the shankings and man-rape in American prisons aren't teaching criminals to walk the straight and narrow.
But a place that allows rampant vandalism of ugly blank walls is a slippery slope into liberalism.
And although teaching criminals how to behave in society by allowing them to live in relative comfort might insult our sense of justice, think which one you'd rather face on a dark alley: a person who served his sentence in a Norwegian prison, or one who rotted his term in the piss-soaked hellhole that is a U.S. prison and was then thrown back into the bright, normal world, wary and blinking?