Phantom Bias and The Incarceration Myth

The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald joins John and Steve to discuss her poltically incorrect (and therefore quite thought provoking) new piece in City Journal titled, “The Decriminalization Delusion.” Heather describes the “phantom bias” that the press and academics are trying to root out, because, as she notes in her article,

“At the state and city levels, hardly a single criminal-justice practice exists that is not under fire for oppressing blacks. Traffic monitoring, antitheft statutes, drug patrols, public-order policing, trespass arrests, pedestrian stops, bail, warrant enforcement, fines for absconding from court, parole revocations, probation oversight, sentences for repeat felony offenders—all have been criticized as part of a de facto system for locking away black men and destroying black communities.”

To her point, America doesn’t actually have an incarceration problem, it has a crime problem. And find out whether Americans spend more money Halloween or prisons.

Steve and John then finished out the podcast with commentary on this week’s presidential debate, including the RNC’s late-breaking letter to NBC, and on passage of the spending/debt limit bill and Paul Ryan’s accession to the Speakership.

 

Graphic Credit: Manhattan Institute, Alberto Mena

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There are 4 comments.

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  1. John Penfold Member
    John Penfold
    @IWalton

    Indeed the problem is crime and crime is a very rational product of risk reward.  The higher the crime rate the lower the probability of getting caught and paying a price and leads to more crime.   This is what the war on drugs has done to us.  We’ve made a major consumer good a crime, driven the price up by 20000 percent, and profits by some multiple of that.  The more crime becomes peer acceptable, part of the culture the lower the costs as well, and the harder to deal with.  It gives prestige as well as income.  This all sounds  like economist abstractions.  And it is, but 40 years ago I used statistics on the probability of being  prosecuted and the growth of violent crime  and measures of illegal foreign exchange earnings, to predict the disintegration of the Colombian judicial system the break down of law and order and the spread of violence.  It was related to the beginning of the drug export business.  It took Colombia most of those forty years to get on top of it and even that  relied on brutal vigilante justice.  We have to address the war on drugs, but we can’t do it by not prosecuting the drug thugs.  One doesn’t get perch in this business without being a very dangerous threat to everyone within reach.  The whole thrust the left is bringing to this crisis, like its approach to foreign and economic policy seems designed to destroy this country.

    • #1
  2. Commodore BTC Inactive
    Commodore BTC
    @CommodoreBTC

    There is absolutely a need for criminal justice reform, but not around sentencing.

    The problem is the criminalization of too much of human activity.

    Hundreds of thousands of pages in the federal code telling us what we can and can’t do.

    Any attempt to criminalize behavior not related to violence/theft of persons/property should be met with extreme skepticism. Certainly at the federal level.

    Also, I would contend to Heather that while it’s true that most people are not imprisoned for nonviolent drug offences, it is drug prohibition that makes violent crime more profitable and incentivizes it.

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Commodore BTC: Also, I would contend to Heather that while it’s true that most people are not imprisoned for nonviolent drug offences, it is drug prohibition that makes violent crime more profitable and incentivizes it.

    Yes, but taking drugs, that is, being on drugs (and alcohol too to some extent), is a factor in a lot of violent crime. And many drug users become mentally ill because of it, which is another factor in the high incarceration rates. I have friend who is our county sheriff and runs our local house of correction who said to the press one day, “I wish 80 percent of our inmates would stop taking the drugs they are taking and that the other 20 percent would take the drugs they have been prescribed.” Judges often go with incarceration because of the drug treatment that will happen inside. Our state prisons work hard on treatment and rehabilitation for drug addiction.

    There are two sides to this coin.

    • #3
  4. SteveSc Member
    SteveSc
    @SteveSc

    Heather was a great guest.

    • #4
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