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Not all of those people convicted of a serious crime should go to prison. Some need rehab, especially those heavy into drugs and alcohol and those who have serious mental problems. There is still a debt to be paid to society, but instead of spending time in prison perhaps those in rehab can volunteer to feed the hungry or help build houses for the homeless.
I do not believe the prison system is for everyone, especially not the insane nor children because there should be other systems in place for them. I also believe that we have too many people in prisons that do drugs when that really is not the place for them. The place for people on drugs should be a half-way house or health service place. The insane should be in hospitals designed for them and children should be in orphanages. Different needs in different places.