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Have you read about the DOJ study on recidivism, which shows that close to half of persons who have been incarcerated commit another crime within one year? By six years, it’s 68 percent. By nine years, 79 percent.
But here’s the amazing thing to me: “our” side seems largely to be taking the position that this is a reason to keep on incarcerating people! Down with “leniency!” Any senator who votes for First Step, a bill currently being proposed to reduce our shamefully high incarceration rates, is voting to increase crime!
What is the goal of the criminal justice system? Some say punishment. Some say deterrence.
Well, if incarceration is supposed to be just punishment for its own sake, to show that our society won’t tolerate certain behaviors, these stats show it’s not working. People who have been inside clearly don’t dread a repeat experience.
And if prison is supposed to be a deterrent? These stats show it isn’t one! Former inmates know what prison is like, and it manifestly doesn’t make them think twice about another transgression.
Of course, law-abiding people who get caught on the gears of the system are terrified by the prospect of prison and will enter guilty pleas to nonexistent transgressions just to avoid it, although completely uninformed about the civil consequences of their “bargain.”
Now, those “collateral civil consequences” probably have a lot to do with recidivism. If ya can’t vote, can’t get an entire vast array of jobs, can’t ever set up shop to engage in any of the pink- or blue-collar occupations which the various states have decided to license, can’t even find a place to live if whatever you’re accused of falls within the ever-spreading penumbra of “sexual” offenses. Well, maybe you don’t have that much to lose. Maybe prison provides you with a lot of things a convict can’t get anywhere else in America.
Okay, so maybe the “First Step” ought to roll back all those civil disabilities. When that’s accomplished, then yes: let’s do everything we can to let more people out!
Incarceration isn’t hurting them, okay? (At least not till they get out.) Nor making them less inclined to attack the rest of us when the sentence is up.
So why, exactly, would conservatives, or anyone else, want to go on paying state taxes to house, feed and clothe these transgressors, and oppose any measure designed to reduce the prison population? It is a waste of our treasure.
It’s gonna take some Convict Cicero, his or her sword forged in the prison’s legal library, to bring the case which will work its way to the Supreme Court, on the theory that the “collateral civil consequences” violate the constitutional prohibition against, I don’t know, maybe cruel and unusual punishment? The vast majority of prisoners in the US are in state prisons, and the convicts’ disabilities are imposed by state laws. Federal legislation can’t really comprehensively address these issues.
But in any event, please let us on the Right not just reflexively double-down on longer and more numerous prison sentences. They aren’t helping anybody, inside or out.