As it Turns Out, People In Jail Commit Real Crimes

McArdle on not being stupid about de-incarceration:

We’re hampered by the rampant perception that all we need is to wise up and stop incarcerating people for simply possessing drugs, something many of us feel shouldn’t be a crime at all and certainly shouldn’t merit prison time. At the event I attended, someone who has actually studied the matter closely pointed out what experts know and most journalists apparently don’t: Relatively few people are in prison for simple possession or for other minor crimes. The shock in the room was palpable.

Yup. As it turns out, the U.S. has a violence problem, and that violence problem drives the desire to build prisons, as anyone who was paying attention during the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the three-strikes, mandatory-sentencing laws were put in place, should remember.

So what is to be done?

We have the tools to incarcerate less — maybe not down to western European levels, but much less than we do. Those tools include “swift and certain” programs such as HOPE and 24/7 Sobriety, which use monitoring and small but immediate punishments to reduce the rate of reoffense. They also include GPS ankle monitors, which enable law enforcement to keep offenders off the streets during high-crime hours while still enabling them to be home with their families or commuting to a job.

This has a level of creepiness to it, in a Big Brother/Minority Report kind of way. But it’s still not as bad as prison. And if it works, we should take a shot at it. Otherwise, we should expect more of the same.

One thought on “As it Turns Out, People In Jail Commit Real Crimes

  1. I propose that one’s debt to society for the crimes one commits should not be exhonerated until retribution has been paid to the victim of one’s crimes. Incarceration would be a last resort before a death penalty. Gone are the Dickensonian Days of transportation for stealing bread for orphans. Lets look at crime for what it is. Evil. Human beings have enslaved each other forever for debts, for bad behavior or for just being the victims of a larger army.It became Evil when the debt being paid was visited upon the unborn. ( of course we kill the unborn now). Give me an argument that it would be less a problem to require criminals to work and pay back monetarily the families of those they harmed than enslaving them in prison.  It corrects nothing. Redemption is not achieved and society becomes more polarized.  It is a false argument that there are those who should not be eliminated for crimes against others. Why should a society preserve the murderer or pedifile? Why do we not use able bodied people for labor who should have to give real retribution to their victims instead of providing them with cable?  Its time for a rethink and a new solution to criminals 


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