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Design thinking purports to take the methods of industrial and product design and apply them to social and political problems. One particularly intractable problem in California is its bloated penal code, which has expanded almost continuously over the past forty years. Since 1983, more than a dozen bills have been introduced in the CaliforniaLegislature to establish a sentencing commission. All have failed. In this paper I explore how design thinking might help frame our discussion of mass incarceration in general and sentencing commissions in particular:what kinds of changes are possible within the foreseeable future, how wecan make any changes sustainable, and how we can make them appeal toa wider audience. I conclude that, without a broader base of supportamong policymakers, criminal justice officials, and the population at large, any sentencing commission, no matter how well it is designed, will fail. To build that support, then, I propose that California create a separate "prison tax" line item on state tax returns indicating the proportional amount a taxpayer must contribute to support the state prison system. Putting the cost of prisons in front of taxpayers right before they write their checks would distribute valuable information about the expense and overcrowding of prisons, as well as generate some fiscal impetus to control or reduce them.

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