With noble intentions, as had Don Quixote, a Harvard professor who doesn’t understand that the broken windows policing and three strikes sentencing which led to very full prisons also led to the dramatic drop in crime over the same period, is conducting research in the mistaken belief that it is social and family conditions that cause crime and that prisons should be rarely used.

And, sexual predators are often charming, it is part of their method of attracting victims, called “grooming”.

“An excerpt from the Harvard Magazine article.

“When Jerry enters the pizza place next to Boston’s Government Center, he shakes Bruce Western’s hand heartily. Jerry, who has served 25 years for armed robbery and aggravated rape, was released two months ago. Western is studying what happens to prisoners after their release and has come to interview Jerry about his experience.

“After ordering them coffees, Western, a sociology professor and faculty chair of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, turns on his tape recorder. “Today is the sixth of November,” he says, setting the recorder down on the table. “My ex-wife’s birthday,” Jerry (not his real name) notes wryly. Western reads out the four-digit number that identifies Jerry for the purposes of the study. “I should play that number in the lottery tonight,” Jerry says.

“Jerry is quick with a joke, charismatic and likable—not what comes to mind when one hears “convicted rapist.” For Western, this has been one of the study’s chief lessons. Although he is one of the foremost experts on incarceration in America, in the past he primarily studied prisoners through datasets and equations. Meeting his subjects in person put a human face on the statistics and dashed preconceived notions in the process.

“Western has come to believe that just as offenders’ crimes carry a cost to society, so too does the shortage of social supports and rehabilitative services for offenders. A crime-control strategy of locking up more people, and keeping them locked up longer, isn’t working, he says. He is determined to help the American public understand how crime is shaped by poverty, addiction, and histories of family violence, in an effort to promote a more humane—and more effective—prison policy.

“Luck, Not a Plan”

“More than 2.2 million Americans are incarcerated. This population is dynamic: hundreds of thousands of people (mostly men) are released from U.S. prisons each year to try to make a go of it in a world where they have failed before—with the added disadvantage of a prison record. More than two-thirds will be rearrested within three years; half will go back in prison.

“Those released from prison are, as a group, little studied, partly because maintaining contact with them is so difficult. The men tend to be “very loosely attached to families and jobs,” Western explains. Prison time strains relationships with partners and children, and the men often live separately after their release. They may move frequently, sleeping on the couches of friends and relatives or even becoming homeless as difficulty in finding employment begets financial trouble.

“Tracking this group, though complicated, is essential to Western’s goal of understanding what challenges prisoners encounter in reintegrating into communities. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, he is tracking a sample of inmates released from the Massachusetts prison system who return to Boston-area addresses during the course of a year. The researchers collect friends’ and relatives’ information (to maintain contact when, for example, a subject’s phone is disconnected for nonpayment) and work with community street-workers and the Boston police, who may have information on the former prisoners’ whereabouts. Ultimately, Western hopes to learn what services might most effectively help the formerly incarcerated lead productive lives and what alternatives to prison might better improve public safety.”