March 6, 2013

"The Conservative Case Against More Prisons."

"Higher incarceration rates aren't making us safer — and there are better, smaller-government alternatives."

85 comments:

Paul Zrimsek said...

Those 60% recidivism rates don't strike me as a real good argument for turning 'em loose.

Maguro said...

"Crime rates down, despite increasing prison population".

bagoh20 said...

The case diminishing the link between higher incarceration and the dropping crime rate seems to be a theory desperately digging for evidence, and throwing away the obvious. What other explanation can take it's place to explain the incredible plummet in crime rates. What else has changed?

I'm all for lowering the cost by not incarcerating nonviolent criminals, but the recidivism is so high that letting violent criminals out early is just unacceptably irresponsible.

My brother was murdered by a career criminal who was supposed to be in jail at the time, but was released to save money. He was convicted of the murder, but released on parole after about 15 years. He was only out for a week before he beat and robbed a woman. Back to jail and died there last year. At least two victims that we know of from one man's release, and knowing this guy, there were many more unreported.

St. George said...

Neural neutralizers...that's the ticket

Mitchell the Bat said...

Didn't Andrew Sullivan propose that about 10 years ago?

garage mahal said...

Private prisons have done more damage to this country than probably anything else.

Tina Trent said...

Bull.

These people are twisting themselves in know to try to explain away one cold, hard fact.

Mandatory minimums and other sentencing rules that required incarceration for crime lowered the crime rate in an unprecedented and unambiguous way.

I'm terribly sorry some guy from National Review and a conservative minister somewhere got popped once, and now they think they can join the liberal chorus and Al Sharpton in denouncing consequences for crimes.

Reality is that the vast majority of offenders serving any prison time (as opposed to jail) are prolific recidivists. We're still too soft on crime; there's just a lot of it. But there's less now that we did something about it.

Tina Trent said...

Bull.

These people are twisting themselves in know to try to explain away one cold, hard fact.

Mandatory minimums and other sentencing rules that required incarceration for crime lowered the crime rate in an unprecedented and unambiguous way.

I'm terribly sorry some guy from National Review and a conservative minister somewhere got popped once, and now they think they can join the liberal chorus and Al Sharpton in denouncing consequences for crimes.

Reality is that the vast majority of offenders serving any prison time (as opposed to jail) are prolific recidivists. We're still too soft on crime; there's just a lot of it. But there's less now that we did something about it.

Shouting Thomas said...

Yes, higher incarceration rates have made us safer.

Can't BS me on that one. I lived through the crack epidemic in NYC, and watched Rudi ride into town and throw all the bad guys in jail.

It worked.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Private prisons have done more damage to this country than probably anything else."

-- I hear that about whatever it is I happening to be talking about "Corporate greed" "The military-industrial complex" and "Banksters" are also things that have done more to damage this country than anything else, when those are the topic at hand. It's just a cliche now; sort of white noise in the background of actual discussion.

ricpic said...

Jail be racisss!

garage mahal said...

when those are the topic at hand. It's just a cliche now; sort of white noise in the background of actual discussion.

Just keep covering your ears, it will all go away.

Chip S. said...

Whatever the right level of incarceration may be, I'm convinced that we have too much weight lifting going on in prisons.

It'd be better to force them to take courses in Latin or carpentry or something, with parole depending on their grades.

EMD said...

Bagoh - I am so sorry for your loss.

Garage - yeah, I can't think of anything anything at all that has done more damage than private prisons.

Matthew Sablan said...

Well, OK. Give me a list of all the things damaging the country, in order of least to most, so that I can get an idea for what we're comparing it too.

Go on, give me an actual, well-thought out list so I can see where this actually falls on the damaging our country spectrum.

Shanna said...

Bagoh - I am so sorry for your loss.

Me too.

I think letting people who have committed violent crimes out on parole too soon is a mistake. And I would throw burglary in that, although I don't know who goes to jail for burglary anymore.

We have this local guy who listens to the police scanner and reports on it and you see the same people committing crimes over and over again and being let out to do it again.

phx said...

Legalize it.

Leland said...

Private prisons have done more damage to this country than probably anything else.

Certainly true in Pennsylvania.

AllenS said...

bagoh20's brother is murdered, and garage thinks that private prisons have done more damage to this country than probably anything else.

That about sums up everything right there. It's all a big laugh, right?

AllenS said...

I'm sorry for your loss, bagoh20.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

I'd like to see a study on how much petty crime against innocents is committed in a known Mafia area.

wyo sis said...

Maybe we should consider spending less per prisoner. I wonder what the cost of housing a prisoner in Joe Arpaio"s tent prison is?
Prisoners could pay for their room and board by working instead of lifting weights.
If prisoners are like kids and pets a tired prisoner is easier to handle.

Now I'm probably a hater.

Freder Frederson said...

I'd like to see a study on how much petty crime against innocents is committed in a known Mafia area.

You mean other than by Mafia members?

Pettifogger said...

garage mahal said: "Private prisons have done more damage to this country than probably anything else."

An extremely dubious proposition. But that said, I'm OK with creative alternatives to prison. I have long believed that we lost something when we strayed from public shaming as a form of punishment. For example, I favor using a henna-tatoo-technique to write "vandal" on the foreheads of graffiti artists. And while we need not put people in stocks, there has got to be another way to put minor offenders on display (in a cage at a shopping mall?) to deter them from offending again.

Andy Freeman said...

>> I'd like to see a study on how much petty crime against innocents is committed in a known Mafia area.

> You mean other than by Mafia members?

Nope - including the crime committed by Mafia members.

We might find that the mafia does a better job keeping the peace.

traditionalguy said...

Prison time certainly reduces crime quickly. And the ones who get out will try hard to keep out of trouble.

The statistics that don't lie are being used here by liars.

mccullough said...

Career criminals belong in prison.

rcommal said...

Interesting piece. Some good stuff in there to consider.

I think what TYPE of crime and perpetrator has bearing. We don't have any business letting out the kind of violent criminal that murdered Bagoh's brother, a terrible, terrible thing. OTOH, there are other types of crime and perpetrators. One size doesn't fit all. I thought the part of the article referring to some drug crimes was interesting--especially the Hawaii program involving drug violations. The part about Texas was interesting, too.

SJ said...

@garage,
Private prisons have done more damage to this country than probably anything else.

@Matthew
-- I hear that about whatever it is I happening to be talking about "Corporate greed" "The military-industrial complex" and "Banksters" are also things that have done more to damage this country than anything else, when those are the topic at hand. It's just a cliche now; sort of white noise in the background of actual discussion.

It is elementary that one item on that list is actually causing more damage to the country than the other items on that list.

The trick is:
1. Measuring the damage done to the economy, and the just-ness of society, and the structure of the justice system, and the trust that society has in the justice system, and...
2. Balancing the outcome of each measure found in the list above, to produce a single value that can be called "Damage to the Country"
3. Finding the maximum of the numbers from step 2.

Or, people could focus on one type of damage and complain that Cause of the Moment damages the country the most.

They might actually be right, for one or two of the values measured in step 1 above.

Makes debate interesting.

And produces cynical responses like the one Matthew gave.

garage mahal said...

Jury nullification. The real Power of the People. It's picking up steam on many marijuana possession cases around the country. I endorse!

SGT Ted said...

The problem with our prisons is that organized racist criminal gangs have enough civil rights that they can conduct business on the outside and terrorize the prison population inside with intimidation, rape and murder, all the while residing in a cell.

We could save a ton of money if we instituted Arizona style tent prisons in the desert, or other suitable hostile terrain. Good enough living conditions for the US Military, good enough for prisoners, IMO. Baloney sandwiches too. The pink undies can be negotiable.

SGT Ted said...

A lot of prisoner advocates really don't get that the career criminals really do think that the law abiding are just chumps, ripe for the picking if they should get the opportunity.

People they don't know are just targets to the career criminal. The lack of understanding this really endangers people.

Nonapod said...

There's some reasonable ways to reduce prison populations significantly. Other than legalizing all or most drugs, I guess you could change the typical sentencing for possession so that there's never any prison time (just things like fines and community service) and minimal prison time for distribution or other "non-violent" offenses for that matter. That in conjunction with greatly lengthening prison sentences and first parole opportunities for repeat violent offenders (to the point where they don't get out until they're ancient).


chickelit said...

Garage, phx, et al.:

You guys need to be more honest to defend your case. You are seeking the release of marijuana traffickers--some of them major--not small time users. Many of the cases appear more complex than you make them out to be.

garage mahal said...

Following the adoption of a new state law on jury nullification in June, a New Hampshire jury nullified its first major felony marijuana case on September 14 when jurors decided to free Doug Darrell, a 59-year-old father of four grown children who was growing illegal plants in his backyard. Activists hailed the decision as a significant victory for the jury nullification movement, which aims to revive awareness about the power inherent in juries to protect citizens from overzealous prosecutors and bad laws by nullifying cases.

Darrell, a Rastafarian piano tuner and woodworker who has been married for almost four decades, was arrested after a National Guard helicopter spotted some marijuana plants on his property in Barnstead. State prosecutors charged him with cultivation, a felony that could have carried up to seven years in prison.


Power to the People.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

garage mahal,

Private prisons have done more damage to this country than probably anything else.

I can only assume that you are defining "private prisons" so as to include the whole system of slavery, because otherwise the statement makes no sense.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

It's not guns that kill people. It's criminal using guns, scalpels, vacuums, hired assassins, etc. that kill people.

With gun control laws the criminal is empowered. With relaxed penalties the criminal is empowered. The issue under consideration is not only individuals rights, but management of known risk (i.e. precedent). The resolution is mitigation measures, including, among other things, incarceration.

In this context, the quantity and quality of criminal activity must be considered before granting amnesty to violators of the law. It is not in the best interest of society to offer incentive to criminal activity, which means that opportunity costs must be high.

Calypso Facto said...

was arrested after a National Guard helicopter spotted some marijuana plants on his property

Soon the Feds will just be drone striking a guy like this. Observation platform and missile delivery all in one tidy discreet package, with none of the cost, civil rights, or jury nullification concerns of an arrest, trial, and incarceration.

Calypso Facto said...

Look how well drones have eliminated the muss and fuss over prisoners of war.

tiger said...

Too bad this argument - such as it is - flys in the face of the fact that the higher the prison rate the lower the crime rate.

phx said...

@chickelit you can line up all the big-time dealers and send them to Siberia or Darfur for all I care.

I'm saying legalize personal use of marijuana. It's time. It's past time. It's idiotic to throw people in prison or to give them arrest records for something less harmless than alcohol.

Freder Frederson said...

Nope - including the crime committed by Mafia members.

You seem to be confusing neighborhood watches with the Mafia. The Mafia, in this country, did indeed keep neighborhoods safe from street crime by outsiders. In return they ran extortion rackets ("protection money" that protected you from the thugs collecting the money), illegal gambling, loansharking. Mafia members were also above the "law" that they enforced.

DADvocate said...

Is there a liberal case against more prisons? It was Bill Clinton that signed the 3 strike your out bill. Liberals want to criminalize everything from drinking sodas to practicing yor constitutional rights.

garage mahal said...

Soon the Feds will just be drone striking a guy like this.

Just a few things you would have hoped Obama would have been good on, civil liberties and war making. And look what we got instead: flying death robots.

And he's pardoned like what, a handful of people? There should be 10s of thousands of non-violent people freed from jails if we lived in a just society.

edutcher said...

Rape, kidnapping, and murder one got you the chair back in the old days.

And none of the 40 years on death row.

Throw in a few more heinous crimes - arson, ADW and the other more dastardly assaults on the second or third fall, armed robbery on the second or third fall, and drug pushing - and you'll depopulate those prisons real fast.

Freder Frederson said...

I'd like to see a study on how much petty crime against innocents is committed in a known Mafia area.

You mean other than by Mafia members?


Solly and da boys eschewed civilian involvement.

Bad for business.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

Thanks for the condolences guys. It happened along time ago, but it did a lot to form my opinion on some issues.

This asshole had just gotten released from prison and came into a bar my mother managed, and where my brother was just finishing his shift bar tending. The guy was heard telling people he was "going to kill someone tonight". He was being an obnoxious ass, so my brother asked him to leave before our mother got there, since she was on the way. The guy gets belligerent and tells my brother to come outside and settle it. My brother, a 6'4" former U.S. Marine followed him out the door. As soon as he walked out the door the guy turned and shot him in the chest. My mother pulled up right then and my brother died in her arms without saying a word. He had a wife and a 2 year old son.

The murderer was apprehended quickly, but continued to harass and threaten my mother by mail and rumor for no reason. None of us had ever heard of him before. She was terrorized every time he came up for parole, and eventually she moved out of state in her 60s. As I said, he was eventually released on parole, but went back prison immediately. When Mom eventually got the call telling her he had died in prison she broke into tears of joy. I can't remember ever seeing her that happy. It was such a long fought for relief. People underestimate the value of the death penalty to the murder victim's families, not to mention the victims avoided by it.

Anthony said...

We should bring back the whipping post for minor offenses. Give the convicted a choice - 30 lashes or 30 days. No medical care afterwards - we'll hose off the blood, and give you a red cotton shirt to wear when you're done. That's got to be cheaper than prison, and I'd bet a lot of small-time drug dealers, drunk drivers, petty thieves, etc., would take it. It would probably reduce recidivism, too.

edutcher said...

A couple of other felonies that ought to rate a long drop on a short rope - murder 2, manslaughter.

And, yes, bag, I hear you.

A good friend when I was a kid was murdered on a whim.

bagoh20 said...

There certainly are a lot of other options than incarceration, especially with today's technology. The problem is that whatever the punishment is, it tends to get watered down. Even public whippings would eventually soften into velvet lashings, then spitballs, then "your mother" jokes.

Freeman Hunt said...

Let the non-violent drug people out. Along with that, stop harassing everyone for the sake of catching non-violent drug people. People should be able to buy Sudafed with ease. If they're in the hospital, they should be able to take their pain medications when they wish, not told, "I have to watch you take it." All these little, needling encroachments.

ken in sc said...

Many so-called nonviolent prisoners are not really nonviolent. They are guilty of violent crimes but got a plea bargain deal to expedite the system. The charge they are in for is almost never what they really did.

Freeman Hunt said...

One promising practice is the Hawaii HOPE Court which uses swift, sure, and commensurate sanctions to promote compliance with drug tests and the terms of probation. In the HOPE Court, the judge informs a drug offender that he will be assigned a color and that he must call the court daily to see whether the color has been randomly selected. If so, the offender must report to the court and pass a drug test. Should he fail the test, he spends a short, but immediate, stint in jail—often just a weekend.

Call the court daily to see if your assigned color is up for a drug test? What hall monitor came up with that one?

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm sick of the whole drug war apparatus. If some idiot wants to spend the rest of his life high, I don't see why my tax dollars should be used to forcibly stop him.

Freeman Hunt said...

They should focus on coming down like a hammer on violent crime and large thefts.

Andy Freeman said...

>> Nope - including the crime committed by Mafia members.

> You seem to be confusing neighborhood watches with the Mafia.

Not at all.

> The Mafia, in this country, did indeed keep neighborhoods safe from street crime by outsiders.

Hold that thought.

> In return they ran extortion rackets ("protection money" that protected you from the thugs collecting the money),

Just like taxes. Don't pay and men with guns take your stuff and maybe throw you in jail.

> illegal gambling,

It's unclear why legal gambling is different.

> Mafia members were also above the "law" that they enforced.

Just like govt officials, including the police.

Which takes us back to "The Mafia, in this country, did indeed keep neighborhoods safe from street crime by outsiders."

Ordinary govt, not so much.

If govt can't do a better job than the Mafia....


bagoh20 said...

"Since at least 1950, all but two of the public shootings in America with more than three deaths have taken place where guns were banned. Take the Aurora shooting last summer. Within 20 minutes of the murderer’s apartment there were seven movie theaters premiering the Batman movie. The shooter didn’t go to the one that was closest to his apartment. And he didn’t choose the one with the largest audience. Instead, he went to the only one where guns were banned."
~ John Lott

Shanna said...

People should be able to buy Sudafed with ease.

Should they ever! Did you know that in Arkansas you cannot buy that stuff at a pharmacy unless you have a 'relationship' with the pharmacist. So if you got your last prescription at Kroger, you can't pick up sudafed at walgreens. As I learned day before thanksgiving this year, when I was told it would be 'easier' to just get a prescription. Sheesh.

Stop harassing everyone about stupid stuff like this and redirect all the cops time to actually catching burglars, rapists, and murderers. If you happen to trip over someone smoking weed, maybe you can give them a citation, but lets not waste valuable resources on this. And I wish the cops cared more about protecting us from criminals than they do making sure we're wearing a stupid seatbelt.

James Pawlak said...

I worked for Wisconsin's Department of Corrections for 34-years. As to violent criminals (Which includes drug dealers) the best solution is: "Two to the chest and one to the head".

For the other offenders. physical slavery "at hard labor".

Howard said...

Freeman is correct.

It can only happen if the republicans do it. It's political suicide for the democrats.

Howard said...

Freeman is correct.

It can only happen if the republicans do it. It's political suicide for the democrats.

DADvocate said...

Chances are, if he's spending his life high, your/our tax dollars are already supporting him and his habit...

This guy gets government help to support his family -- I'd bet my money on it.


Quite possibly, but still cheaper than prison.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm guessing that letting him pick my pocket via public assistance is a lot cheaper than paying for the whole drug enforcement apparatus plus prison. I could be wrong though. I'd be interested in seeing the numbers.

Revenant said...

Many so-called nonviolent prisoners are not really nonviolent. They are guilty of violent crimes but got a plea bargain deal to expedite the system. The charge they are in for is almost never what they really did.

Do you have any actual evidence for that claim? I've seen many people make it over the years, but none have ever been able to back it up with actual FBI statistics or something similar.

Revenant said...

Rape, kidnapping, and murder one got you the chair back in the old days.

Oddly enough, though, the actual rates of rape, kidnapping, and (especially) murder were higher "back in the old days" than they are today.

edutcher said...

Citation?

(and I don't mean race horse)

Revenant said...

These people are twisting themselves in know to try to explain away one cold, hard fact. Mandatory minimums and other sentencing rules that required incarceration for crime lowered the crime rate in an unprecedented and unambiguous way.

If you had actually read the article, you would know that the conservatives in question acknowledge that some of the drop in crime was due to the increase in incarceration. Their argument is that we are past the point of diminishing returns and are probably doing more harm than good.

Prison trains inmates to be criminals while simultaneously making it much harder to hold down a legal job. If you are thinking of sending someone to prison, you need to think long and hard about whether you are making it MORE likely he'll become a career criminal.

Revenant said...

Citation?

I assume that's directed at me?

This article at Breitbart's site has a good overview of the decline in murder rate, including a link to this paper discussing the centuries-old downward trend in homicide rates.

Freeman Hunt said...

If I were making a guess, I would guess that the modern drop in crime is almost fully attributable to video games. We've taken our most violent population, young males, and gotten them hooked on screens. Now they play in virtual worlds for hours instead of idling wondering what to do and getting into trouble.

Freeman Hunt said...

Oh, so it's those crazy Boomers again. When are Boomers not causing trouble? Heh.

Revenant said...

Yay, a fellow fan of the "video games reduce crime" theory. :)

edutcher said...

Revenant said...

Citation?

I assume that's directed at me?


No, the New York State Racing Commission.

This article at Breitbart's site has a good overview of the decline in murder rate, including a link to this paper discussing the centuries-old downward trend in homicide rates.

But they're talking only tenths of a percent. Hardly, that major. Besides, if the article excludes combat deaths in the Civil War, what constitutes their definition of murder?

In any case, I pointed out that we should be executing for rape, kidnapping, multiple offenses for heinous felonies, etc.

Revenant said...

But they're talking only tenths of a percent.

Um, no. :)

You obvious didn't read the linked materials. Go ahead and do so; I can wait.

edutcher said...

Sorry, apples and asparagus IMHO.

Comparing an aristocratic society with no law but the seigneur's to the US, even before the Revolution, doesn't fly.

An armed society is a polite society, as they say, and people over here didn't have the frustrations they had there.

Just not buying it.

rcommal said...

Freeman Hunt:

I agree that the " 'war' on drugs" is long past due to be over. But so long as it is *not* over, such implementations as that Hawaii approach strikes me as more both reasonable and more likely effective than so many others.

For crying out loud.

rcommal said...

Call the court daily to see if your assigned color is up for a drug test? What hall monitor came up with that one?

Freeman Hunt: Given context, that is not a bad plan at all. It might even be a good one, given the alternatives.

Why the toss-off "hall-monitor" reaction?

rcommal said...

Call the court daily to see if your assigned color is up for a drug test? What hall monitor came up with that one?

Freeman Hunt: Given context, that is not a bad plan at all. It might even be a good one, given the alternatives.

Why the toss-off "hall-monitor" reaction?

rcommal said...

If I were making a guess, I would guess that the modern drop in crime is almost fully attributable to video games. We've taken our most violent population, young males, and gotten them hooked on screens. Now they play in virtual worlds for hours instead of idling wondering what to do and getting into trouble.

Never mind. Forget it.

Freeman Hunt said...

Why the toss-off "hall-monitor" reaction?

I'm annoyed at the idea of making adults call the court every single day to ask if their assigned colors have come up. Every day. And that for drug testing. I can't imagine.

It seems overly bureaucratic and controlling. The whole idea of "We wanna know if you put any of this in your body, so we're going to assign you a color like a little child in an elementary school reading group and make you call every day to see if we want to give you a test." It sounds demoralizing.

Freeman Hunt said...

Why would the video game guess bother you?

chickelit said...

Freeman Hunt wrote: If I were making a guess, I would guess that the modern drop in crime is almost fully attributable to video games. We've taken our most violent population, young males, and gotten them hooked on screens. Now they play in virtual worlds for hours instead of idling wondering what to do and getting into trouble.

I'd say that depends on which cohort you're talking about. How about urban Chicago? Is violent crime really down there? I don't know, but I suspect it's not. And do those kids have access to video games like suburban kids do? I don't know. Maybe they need massive sedation with some violent video games.

As for pervasive videos...I'd venture to guess that the widespread availability of porn hasn't exactly fostered male dating skills and expectations, nor has it encouraged males to actually approach and commit to females. This may be reflected in lower teen pregnancy rates. It may also have enabled more and more females to actually engage in making porn--first as DIY and then later for money.

Just guesses though.

Eric said...

The Mafia, in this country, did indeed keep neighborhoods safe from street crime by outsiders. In return they ran extortion rackets ("protection money" that protected you from the thugs collecting the money), illegal gambling, loansharking.

Yeah, I'd have to agree with Freder here. Organized crime got so famously rapacious in Hoboken they drove nearly every business out of town and turned the place into a big slum. If we're gonna have laws let's not farm enforcement out to criminals.

Andy Freeman said...

> I would guess that the modern drop in crime is almost fully attributable to video games

What about abortion?

Andy Freeman said...

> Organized crime got so famously rapacious in Hoboken they drove nearly every business out of town and turned the place into a big slum. If we're gonna have laws let's not farm enforcement out to criminals.

You mean success stories like Detroit?

I'm not suggesting that we let the mafia keep the peace in all cases. I'm pointing out that they do a better job, in some cases, than the "civilian" approach.

Govt legitimacy is affected by its effectiveness. If you want govt, you must make it work. You can blame others all you want, but if it doesn't work, it will be eliminated.