Yeah, but if the technology to program and experience years of memory without losing actual life existed, the demand would be so high that the tech would be perceived as wasted on fake jail.
I'm not sure it would be "wasted" on fake jail. Let's say a prisoner costs $40,000
per year, 20 years would be, not including inflation, $800,000 - so as long as the "treatment" was less than $800,000 per person
(OR) with an estimated 1,506,800
federal inmates that would be $60,272,000,000 dollars per year
- so as long as the "treatment" was less expensive than that, in toto, then it would seem to be worth the trouble. Plus, the land that is currently occupied by prisons could be re-purposed for housing or shopping or offices or any number of other tax revenue boosting schemes.
If the tech is expensive, than education, training, therapy, and especially warfare would be prioritized. If the tech is cheap, then entertainment would absorb demand so entirely that it would be hard to get anybody to do much of anything. If people wanted to do crime, they could do it in memory without actual harm.
I think you'd like this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DnLmuCcKRk
There would have to be some constraints on the recording mechanism.
In "Strange Days" the recordings can only be made while a special rig is worn on your head, while the activity is actually being experienced (AND) the tapes cannot be copied or edited. These restrictions seem to make the experiences more precious.
However, in "Total Recall" and "Blade Runner", the memories can be fabricated and seem to be a proprietary technology controlled by a single corporation.
In "Ghost in the Shell", the government (or a skilled hacker) seems to have the ability to selectively erase and fabricate memories, but they can't restore original memories (without some sort of backup, presumably).
All of that aside, my main point here is that, if it was easy to give convicted criminals a very authentic 20 year long prison experience instantaneously, would we want to make it "more humane" (splice out all the stabbings) than it currently is, or "more horrific" (splice in extra stabbings) than it currently is? Would you mix multiple experiences to increase the length of stay (so you wouldn't have to wait 20 years to implement your new system)? Would you record one year from 20 different people of different races (one for first year and one for second year and one for third year up to year twenty) and then splice them all together?
I'm sure the psychological impact would be pretty serious, but would it be better or worse than an actual 20 year prison sentence?