In my article Prison Vouchers, I speculated on information problems for prisoners choosing prisons (and the analogous problems for school choice) and how those might be resolved (some paragraph breaks added):
Convicted defendants may not know the actual quality of prisons, just as parents may not know the actual quality of schools. Does this argument apply with more or less force in prisons than in schools?
Someone sentenced to prison for the first time may not know much about different prisons. Even repeat offenders might have little direct experience with prisons if they’ve mostly spent time in jails rather than prisons; even someone who’s been in one prison may know nothing about others.
But information is available about prisons from several sources. First, information can spread by word of mouth from friends or neighbors who have been in prison.
Second, prisons can advertise, and (possibly anonymous) reviews of prisons by current or former inmates may be available on the Internet.
Third, there are already ways to evaluate prisons, such as reports from monitoring agencies or the Logan quality of confinement index. Prisons could even be required to publish such information as part of their advertising, as well as other information that would result from the voucher program such as the length of the wait list and the rate of transfer out of the prison. The Federal Prison Guidebook already describes facility characteristics in detail for the benefit of criminal defense lawyers. Another possible model would be the federal government’s “Nursing Home Compare” site, which conveniently pulls together government-collected information about nursing homes.
Fourth, if the voucher program allows an inmate to transfer out after a certain amount of time, that inmate will at least have some direct experience of his or her own prison. If that experience is bad