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crime wave
The Criminal Justice Tradeoff
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  • Andrew Allison

    Unstated in the original article and this post is the fact that the over-50,000 reduction in state inmates includes parole and low-level offenders transferred to county jails. The knock-on effect has been a surge in early release from county jails in relatively high crime counties like Los Angeles and San Francisco (http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-ff-early-release-20140817-story.html) due to lack of capacity. A more nuanced evaluation of the state prison early release would be based on state-wide crime levels, and might suggest that an obvious first step would be to move prisoners who should be incarcerated, e.g., the repeat offenders, to less crowded jails rather than release them.

  • rheddles

    Bring back branding.

  • FriendlyGoat

    “On the other hand, it’s not enough for opponents of sentencing reform to simply state that releasing convicts earlier could cause the crime rate to spike. For their part, they need to explain why it is worth it for the government to contain that risk at the cost of tens of billions of dollars from state and federal coffers, decimated communities, and many ruined lives.

    We need to remember that the “cost of tens of billions of dollars from state and federal coffers” is actually going somewhere. It is going to every corporation serving courts or incarceration in any way. It is going to attorneys who “put them in” and attorneys who try to “keep them out”. It is going to a ton of public employees, many (but certainly not all ) of whom are working in the uniform-wearing hierarchy of law enforcement, local jail keeping and state “corrections departments”. Taken together, this is huge business and a very large number of jobs. The “business side” of this is not so unlike the ballooning of the “business side” of public schools, higher education and the whole health care industry. Because there are public demands, all of these things tend to get bloated “because they can” and with everybody and their dog pursing them for general lack of some better profit-making opportunities (than education, health care and crime fighting).

    So, the point is that we need to realize that there are people and corporations not wanting to “lose business” with lower incarceration rates. I sorta think this is a bigger factor in the debates than anybody admits. Their only argument may be peddling the fear of a spike in crime, but it will likely be repeated loudly and often with anecdotes and testimonials.

    • Anthony

      FG, corporations not only invest in prison building and growth but also benefit via mass incarceration (i.e., criminalization) that feeds an entire service industry – Judges, Lawyers (prosecutors/defense attorneys), administrators, builders, law and order politicos, suppliers, jail staffs, gun manufacturers, phone companies, officers, and on and on and on. Essentially you’re on point criminalization is economically prosperous for all but the criminal – many vested interests disguised as interested in public safety. This is a sector hard to disrupt.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Eisenhower thought that the business side of defense was a “military-industrial complex”. I think law enforcement, criminal justice and incarceration are probably similar.

        • Anthony

          The last data I read (some time ago on another topic) underscored your point – the justice system employed over 2,400,000 people in last decade aside from those indirectly benefiting. It may indeed be akin to Eisenhower’s military-industrial-complex (whole range of private profiteers behind law and order).

          • Fred

            See my reply to FG. Your “me too-ism” isn’t worth responding to.

          • Anthony

            You just won’t go away despite both Dan Greene and life form (service in USN) cuing you on sensible direction. I don’t read your… since my Oct 23, 2014 reply. FG, can more than….

          • Tom

            That you consider Dan Greene’s advice worth following says much, much more about you than you would want revealed.

          • Anthony

            Dan Greene contributes; personal concerns about his deduced beliefs do not distract from intellectual offerings. I will not examine depths of your cursory cognitive analysis as you perceive my revelation.

          • Tom

            Dan Greene contributes [wild conspiracy theories about AIPAC and neocons].

          • Anthony

            Among other ideas Tom; but again we can agree to disagree since Mr. Greene is not my focus though I may quote his material.

          • JR

            Dan Greene is back!!! Where??? That is awesome!

          • Tom

            No, JR. This convo was from a month ago.
            I am surprised to see him gone so long, perhaps someone recognized his genius and locked him away to make plans?

          • JR

            One can only hope. Can’t you just see two people like Dan Greene. It would be like this.

          • Fred

            Fascinating how you can respond so specifically to a comment you didn’t read. Does that ability come from the supernatural qualities that allow you to transcend all bias, or is it your extensive training in “cognitive” pseudo-science?

          • Anthony

            Oct. 23, 2014 see reply. And I reiterate to prevent further misapplication: I don’t read your….

          • Fred

            Holy cow! You did it again! You responded to specifics in a comment from someone whose comments you haven’t read since 23 October 2014. You’re amazing. Have you ever considered going on America’s Got Talent? Btw, where did you get your training in “cognitive” pseudo-science? I want to be able to know details of stuff I haven’t read too. Or if it’s the supernatural power to transcend bias that does it, is that learnable or are you just born with it?

          • Anthony

            A misapplication of my brief retort (take “sober” insight of both Dan Greene and life form’s directives as well as “Oct. 23, 2014 ).

          • Fred

            I knew it. You just want to keep your magical knowing-details-without-reading powers to yourself. Well, I can’t blame you. If I had those kinds of powers I probably wouldn’t share them either.

          • Anthony

            A staunch Christian interpretation sans magical adjective; still, see Oct.23, 2014 reply!

    • Fred

      In the spirit of Occam’s razor, you don’t need to posit a conspiracy to explain harsh penalties for crimes, the explosion in prison population, or the continuation of both. Just look at crime statistics between 1969 and 1991. A period in which the US population increased 25% saw murders increase 67%, property crime 92%, rape 187%, and robbery 130% (calculated from information here). In some places people were literally living behind bars in their own homes, owned their own property at the whim of thieves and vandals, couldn’t go out in their own neighborhoods at night, and lived in constant fear. And that situation was spreading across the country. That’s why movies like the Death Wish and Dirty Harry series were so popular. And that’s what accounts for the harshness of penalties for crime and the explosion of the prison population. The populace got sick of the crime and elected officials who would do something about it. From 1991 to 2013, after the crackdown, the US population again increased 25%, but in that period murder decreased 43%, property crime 32%, rape 25%, and robbery 50% (calculated from information from the above link). I for one, do not wish to see a return to the 1969-91 crime statistics. If companies make money and people make a living preventing that return, then so much the better.

      • FriendlyGoat

        It’s not a “conspiracy” to recognize that a lot of people earn a living from incarceration. It is a significant reason why there is not going to be much pull-back from the current levels, even though Republicans are the ones now making the most new noise about the COSTS involved with the “criminal justice” business. Consider this particular article and why it would be appearing at TAI.

        • Fred

          “There was and is no real need for harsher penalties and more and longer incarceration. It’s all a plot by ‘Big Criminal Justice,’ which employs so many people and makes so many companies so much money that it will incarcerate people regardless of need or its affect on crime rates.” If that’s what you believe, and your references to Willie Horton, the “military industrial complex,” and corporations not wanting to lose business with lower incarceration rates clearly suggest that it is, that certainly seems like conspiracy thinking to me. Apparently, you have a rather esoteric definition of “conspiracy.” TAI has its position, for which it has its arguments. I disagree with that position and find those arguments unconvincing. As a conservative, I believe government should be limited to its proper functions, but one of its most basic and most important functions is to “provide for the common defense,” whether from external enemies or internal criminals. The costs of criminal justice are indeed high, but the human and economic costs of returning to the 1969-91 crime rates is higher still.Blithely dismissing concern about crime by crying “Willie Horton” in no way changes the numbers in my previous comment or the human tragedies and financial costs they represent.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I don’t even believe Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” was a conspiracy. I believe it was/is something with a large mass in motion and therefore remaining in motion. There are justifications for nearly any weapons system or troop levels. There are people employed in making those things happen. It just keeps rolling along costing a LOT of money.

            With incarceration, the same thing is happening. There are always reasons to be found for putting a lot of people in jail. There are a lot of other people making a living from that. It is going to be very hard to slow this “large mass in motion” too. A tragic difference, though, is that people’s lives go downhill from the incarceration experience, and so do those of their families. While we’re doing “law and order” to the hilt, we have unsupported children outside and thugs becoming worse thugs as a result of being inside.

          • Fred

            I don’t have a “side.” The numbers in my first comment clearly indicate crime has been trending down since 1991. The initial crime wave was in part the result of demographics. In the late 1960s the baby boomers were reaching the age at which those who will commit crimes generally start. But when you add to that liberal attitudes toward crime (blaming it on “root causes” like poverty or racism rather than holding individuals accountable), light sentences handed down by liberal judges, quantum increases in drug abuse and addiction, quantum increases in single family households headed by women, and a general breakdown of traditional morality exacerbated, if not caused, by the counterculture and its glorification in the media, you had a perfect storm for a crime wave. And that’s exactly what happened. Since 1991, the deterioration of the family has continued apace. After a slight downturn in the 1980s and 90s, drug abuse and addiction is on the uptick. The media and education establishment still sneer at conventional morality. In other words, the social milieu has not changed significantly since 1991. What has changed is the eclipse of the liberal view of crime and criminals, better methods of tracking crime trends, “broken window” policing, harsher sentences for crimes, SCOTUS decisions relaxing rules on search and seizure, and keeping recidivists locked up until they are harmless (e.g. “three strikes” laws). Until the social milieu returns to something approximating its pre-1970s form (and don’t hold your breath on that when even people as intelligent and well-informed as wigwag consider social issues “distractions” from “real” issues) the harsher methods are all we’ve got. Are they occasionally inhumane? Maybe, but allowing crime to rise to 1991 levels is far more inhumane. That some conservatives disagree with that assessment is thoroughly irrelevant.

          • FriendlyGoat

            In the last post, I said that “there are always reasons to be found for putting a lot of people in jail”.

            You have named a lot of them. Meanwhile, liberals are going to keep asking whether we are over-doing incarceration to the detriment of too many people and conservatives are going to keep talking about costs. I predict that, even though this is one of a few issues for actual bi-partisanship, the total number of people incarcerated will not go down much and neither will the costs.

          • Fred

            Well, I hope you are right, at least about the incarceration. The costs, while unfortunate, are a necessary evil. Frankly, I would prefer to see a return to a social milieu that discourages misbehavior and reifies self-discipline and self-control, making incarceration unnecessary. But as long as the unholy alliance of liberals and libertarians controls the media, education, entertainment, and, since 2008, the levers of political power, such a return is unlikely to put it mildly. That being the case, we can only do what we can do to protect the remaining law abiding citizens from those who take the dominant moral nihilism seriously, or at least use it as a rationalization for doing whatever they desire to do.

  • JR

    I know people who have been robbed at gun point and all of them (well, both of them) state that there is nothing quiet like staring at a business end of a pistol being pointed at your face to make you favor really harsh sentencing laws.

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