Please Lock Me Away

 

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!

Hellooooo?

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.

There are 112 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Among other things, we have the technological capability to do a whole lot more “intensive probation” (with and without ankle bracelets) for non-violent offenders. I’m a big fan, since it allows offenders to continue to make a living, take care of their children and dwell among non-criminals who might exert at least a bit of positive peer-pressure (e.g. shame, but also recognition of improvement). 

    I have a young friend whose life was saved by intensive probation. The threat of prison is, obviously, the backdrop—if you can’t handle intensive probation, then you’re off to the hoosegow. 

    As far as both punishment/deterrence and rehabilitation goes, I recommend reading Sheriff David Clark’s account of a program he put in place in his own jails. His impression was that the job training and whatnot on offer to inmates were make-work for social workers and do-gooder bureaucrats because what inmates lacked was the most basic job skill of all: the ability to get up in the morning and show up at the job site ready and willing to work. So his program emphasized self-discipline, keeping to a schedule, neatness of appearance, refraining from using profanity…all the essentials that too many impoverished young men lack. 

    And of course, the young men in question found it onerous (if, eventually, liberating). 

    • #1
  2. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Those that are in jail have a harder time of committing crimes against the rest of us.  I have no problem with exiling hardened criminals to protect society.  

    • #2
  3. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Perhaps we have shamefully incarceration rates because we have shamefully high crime rates.    Many of those incarcerated only see the inside of a prison after multiple offenses for which they received counseling, suspended sentences, community service, probation etc.   

    • #3
  4. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    There is s whole culture out there telling people that the working hard, 9-5 thing,  is for chumps.     The regular, bourgeoise capitalist system is rigged against you.     You got’sta get rich quick or die tryin’.     And, not surprisingly, some people take that to heart with predictable results.

    • #4
  5. Hypatia Inactive
    Hypatia
    @Hypatia

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Those that are in jail have a harder time of committing crimes against the rest of us. I have no problem with exiling hardened criminals to protect society.

    Yuh, see: incarceration doesn’t work, which is my point about the DOJ study….oh, never mind. 

    • #5
  6. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Those that are in jail have a harder time of committing crimes against the rest of us. I have no problem with exiling hardened criminals to protect society.

    Yuh, see: incarceration doesn’t work, which is my point about the DOJ study….oh, never mind.

    It’s not a one size fits all solution.    

    Ok.   Incarceration doesn’t work.   Why?    For some? many?most?  its because they are bad, bad people and whether it’s nature or nurture they aren’t going to change.    For others many? most? a change in the penal system might help.

    But I just watched the morning news with a fresh dose of elderly people beaten and robbed. What kind of person beats up a 70 year old lady and steals her purse?    I’m not inclined to give them a second chance.

     

    • #6
  7. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    I think I agree with this piece but I’m not sure. 

    What is your proposed solution for criminals?

    • #7
  8. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Hypatia: 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!

    You do the crime, you do the time – period.

    We should focus on the people who do not turn back to crime, and find out what they’re doing right.  Maybe we could learn something which we could apply to reduce rates of recidivism across the board.

    • #8
  9. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Those that are in jail have a harder time of committing crimes against the rest of us. I have no problem with exiling hardened criminals to protect society.

    Yuh, see: incarceration doesn’t work, which is my point about the DOJ study….oh, never mind.

    It’s not a one size fits all solution.

    Ok. Incarceration doesn’t work. Why? For some? many?most? its because they are bad, bad people and whether it’s nature or nurture they aren’t going to change. For others many? most? a change in the penal system might help.

    But I just watched the morning news with a fresh dose of elderly people beaten and robbed. What kind of person beats up a 70 year old lady and steals her purse? I’m not inclined to give them a second chance.

     

    There was a guy in atlanta who shot a baby in the face on purpose to just be mean.

    • #9
  10. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Stad (View Comment):

    Hypatia: 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!

    You do the crime, you do the time – period.

    We should focus on the people who do not turn back to crime, and find out what they’re doing right. Maybe we could learn something which we could apply to reduce rates of recidivism across the board.

    I agree look for the brightspots.

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Hypatia: What is the goal of the criminal justice system? Some say punishment. Some say deterrence. 

    In a democratic society, the “goal” of the criminal justice system is whatever the voters want it to be.

     

    • #11
  12. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    I think I agree with this piece but I’m not sure.

    What is your proposed solution for criminals?

    Corporal punishment. It really solves a lot of problem for petty crimes, providing disincentive, and punishment but at a far cheaper price point. 

    I think the main problem that we have with prison reforms is that the issue is easy to demagogue, especially by populist nationalists like Trump. Who will go around saying why aren’t we being harder on criminals they are “animals” after all. People hate to see criminal not suffer directly for their actions. Probation even if more efficacious for society seems soft on criminals. I think in general people prefer to hurt their enemies rather than see themselves gain slightly. 

    But this is the beauty of corporal punishment. It is raw and viceral so I think it will satisfy our more blood lusty impulses, but it doesn’t force one time criminals into a situation where they are forced to socialize with other more hardened criminals. Which is what jail does. Especially to younger people. A guy goes in for a year for vandalism and in that time comes out a member of a prison gang with obligations to them. But you cane him and it is done in a few minutes and he can go back to being a regular person, with maybe a week of medical recovery. No need to lose any legitimate job he had or drop out of school. 

    • #12
  13. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    Hypatia: What is the goal of the criminal justice system? Some say punishment. Some say deterrence.

    In a democratic society, the “goal” of the criminal justice system is whatever the voters want it to be.

     

    That’s not true in ours. We’re at a minimum bound by constitutional protections. So the voters couldn’t decide that the goal is ethnic cleansing for instance. 

    • #13
  14. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Does somebody have an actual link to the study?

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Hypatia: close to half of persons who have been incarcerated commit another crime within 1 year,. By 6 years, it’s 68%. By 9 years, 79%.

    That should be rephrased.  Everybody commits crimes, not just former convicts.  Arguably, what’s really happening is that former convicts are more likely to get caught since they’re already on the radar of law enforcement.

    I’d like to know if these former convicts are getting caught for worse crimes than the ones for which they were originally incarcerated.

    Is this a case of shoplifters getting caught shoplifting?  In that case, it’s arguable it is better to lock ’em up to prevent them from shoplifting, since they’ve arguably demonstrated that they just really enjoy shoplifting.  During the period the shoplifter is behind bars, shoplifting becomes impossible.

    However, if that shoplifter is graduating to, say, murder, then it’s arguable that incarceration might be a causal factor for the recidivist’s escalation in criminal severity.

    Furthermore, if that shoplifter goes back to prison for a lesser crime, like say violating a condition of their parole, it could be evidence that the po-lice are just looking for an excuse to send ’em back to prison.

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    Hypatia: What is the goal of the criminal justice system? Some say punishment. Some say deterrence.

    In a democratic society, the “goal” of the criminal justice system is whatever the voters want it to be.

    That’s not true in ours. We’re at a minimum bound by constitutional protections. So the voters couldn’t decide that the goal is ethnic cleansing for instance.

    Voters often vote for candidates because they want those candidates to do things that are unconstitutional.  The fact that voters’ goals are sometimes stymied by the constitution does not mean those goals do not exist.

    • #16
  17. Hypatia Inactive
    Hypatia
    @Hypatia

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    I think I agree with this piece but I’m not sure.

    What is your proposed solution for criminals?

    See @valiuth comment # 12.  Unless he’s being sarcastic, I have thought the  same thing.  People have this ridiculous attitude like , now, we’re not gonna hurt  them ,we’re just gonna lock them up (as if that isn’t a physical punishment.). Some discomfort or disfigurement might very well be more of a deterrent, and could also function to disable violent tendencies.  And  it would be cheaper, as well as just as, or more, effective. It could hardly be less effective.  Don’t have a fit!  I mean, really, think about it.

    Alternatively or additionally, let’s use electronic manacles to enforce  work attendance and enable required payments of restitution to the victims.  

    And then–once you’ve undergone the consequences, you get all civil rights restored.

    • #17
  18. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Does somebody have an actual link to the study?

    So is that a no?

    • #18
  19. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Stad (View Comment):

    Hypatia: 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!

    You do the crime, you do the time – period.

    We should focus on the people who do not turn back to crime, and find out what they’re doing right. Maybe we could learn something which we could apply to reduce rates of recidivism across the board.

    Maybe the persons that do not turn back to crime did not really commit a crime in the first place but took the plea because they had no other choice.  

    • #19
  20. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    See @valiuth comment # 12. Unless he’s being sarcastic, I have thought the same thing.

    Not sarcastic at all. I’ve advocated Corporal Punishment as a solution to crime reform for many years now. It doesn’t come up too often though. 

    The thing is I also think no one will go for it politically. Because I think the practice will seem too unusual and will be easily demagogued by Democrats. 

    • #20
  21. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Hypatia: 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!

    You do the crime, you do the time – period.

    We should focus on the people who do not turn back to crime, and find out what they’re doing right. Maybe we could learn something which we could apply to reduce rates of recidivism across the board.

    Maybe the persons that do not turn back to crime did not really commit a crime in the first place but took the plea because they had no other choice.

    I thought the biggest factor is age. Once you get old enough and go to jail you are less likely to want to continue doing crimes after you get out. But many criminals are young and get out while still young (under 30) and so still have enough stupid and testosterone in them to go in deeper. 

     

    • #21
  22. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Okay, so if anyone is interested in the actual report, it can be found here:

    https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/18upr9yfup0514.pdf

    And here is a one page summary:

    https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/18upr9yfup0514_sum.pdf

    • #22
  23. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Hypatia

    Have you read bout the DOJ study on recidivism, which shows that close to half of persons who have been incarcerated commit another crime within 1 year,. By 6 years, it’s 68%. By 9 years, 79%. 

    Do you think most criminals get caught and imprisoned for committing their first crime?

    Hypatia:

    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 workin’. 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 ’em think twice about another transgression. 

    Here’s a shocker. criminals continue to commit crimes!  I have a deterrent.

    Lock them up for longer periods.   Most criminals give it up by the time they hit their late 40’s.

    Hypatia: If ya can’t vote,

    How does not being able to vote increase their propensity for crime?  How many voted before they were imprisoned?

    Hypatia: 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. 

    Criminals in prison don’t commit crimes against the rest of us.

    Hypatia:

    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. 

     

    You are right. we should execute more of them.  I mean, they don’t seem able to learn a lesson by being imprisoned, they will get out and re offend, so if we can’t jail em because of costs ….

    • #23
  24. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Okay, so I have some problems with the premise here: that recidivism is high.  It may well be, but there’s some problems.

    First, it includes drug offenses (I don’t want to call them “crimes”).  That automatically skews the numbers.

    Characteristics of prisoners released in 30 states in 2005

    Most serious commitment offense
    Violent 25.7%
    Property 29.7
    Drug 31.9
    Public order 12.7

    So already, nearly a third of these people went to jail for drug offenses.  And these aren’t violent people:

    Throughout the 9-year follow-up period, prisoners released for a drug offense were less likely to be arrested for a violent crime than prisoners released for a violent offense

    The percentage of those arrested for a violent crime after release was in single digits every year (table 6).

    Also, this includes people who were arrested for public order offenses.  What is a public order offense?

    Public order offenses include violations of the peace or order of the community or threats to the public health or safety through unacceptable conduct, interference with a governmental authority, or the violation of civil rights or liberties. This category includes weapons offenses, driving under the influence, probation and parole violation, obstruction of justice, commercialized vice, disorderly conduct, and other miscellaneous or unspecified offenses. [Emphasis added.]

    It includes anybody who got popped for any parole or probation violation, peeing in public, or fishing without a license.

    According to the authors of the report, parole violations only account for like one percent of the recidivism rates.  Fine, but the rest of these public order offenses are non-violent, non-property, non-drug offenses.  In other words, they’re not stickup artists.

    If what you’re concerned about is violent and property crimes (in other words, actual crimes), this report wildly exaggerates both recidivism the danger to the public from it. 

     

     

    • #24
  25. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Does somebody have an actual link to the study?

    So is that a no?

    G-o-o-g-l-e

    • #25
  26. Theodoric of Freiberg Member
    Theodoric of Freiberg
    @TheodoricofFreiberg

    Fred Cole (View Comment):
    If what you’re concerned about is violent and property crimes (in other words, actual crimes), this report wildly exaggerates both recidivism the danger to the public from it.

    Thank you for shedding light on this.

    • #26
  27. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Does somebody have an actual link to the study?

    So is that a no?

    G-o-o-g-l-e

    Yeah, that’s the kind of thing one would usually include in an OP, since looking at the study would be part of having a rational discussion about it.

    • #27
  28. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Stad (View Comment):

    Hypatia: 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!

    You do the crime, you do the time – period.

    We should focus on the people who do not turn back to crime, and find out what they’re doing right. Maybe we could learn something which we could apply to reduce rates of recidivism across the board.

    We should also be looking at recidivism rates between the states.  If some states are much better than others, the states who are doing poorly can maybe learn something from the states with low recidivism rates.

    • #28
  29. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    There was a guy in atlanta who shot a baby in the face on purpose to just be mean.

    And he was a teenager.

    • #29
  30. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Hypatia: 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!

    You do the crime, you do the time – period.

    We should focus on the people who do not turn back to crime, and find out what they’re doing right. Maybe we could learn something which we could apply to reduce rates of recidivism across the board.

    We should also be looking at recidivism rates between the states. If some states are much better than others, the states who are doing poorly can maybe learn something from the states with low recidivism rates.

    Yes.  We should also look at what those states are doing right.  There’s also a comparison to be made with other countries, especially in Europe, and their recidivism rates.

    I suspect a large part of the difficulty in reintegrating excons into society in the last couple of decades has to do with the proliferation of occupational licensing.

    If you need a license to get a job and you can’t get that license because its expensive, has odious training requirements, and requires a clean record, then you’re more likely to turn back to crime than to go straight.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.