An excellent and quick read summary from the Crime & Consequences Blog, of why we need to keep criminals in prison for their court determined time, rather than seeking ways to reduce prison time, as is currently happening in all too many state and federal prison systems.
A number of people have asked me to post the script of my remarks at the Federalist Society’s National Convention last week. I am happy to do so below:
Two facts about crime and sentencing dwarf everything else we have learned over the past 50 years: When we have more prison we have less crime, and when we have less prison, we have more crime.
Two generations ago, in the Sixties and Seventies, we made much less use of prison. We had a sentencing system with no guidelines and few mandatory minimum terms. We convinced ourselves that rehabilitation works, and that we could trust judges with nearly unlimited discretion.
We got something for our trouble — a national crime wave. In the two decades after 1960, crime increased by over 300%. Whole neighborhoods in our major cities became free-fire zones, largely because of the gunplay associated with drug dealing. There were nearly 450 murders a week.
Under Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department, all this changed. We embraced stern, determinate sentencing. For some serious offenses — firearms trafficking, and drugs including heroin and meth — Congress adopted mandatory minimums below which even the most willful or naive judge could not go. States followed suit, and the prison population swelled.
But the country got something in exchange for the reforms that made sentencing serious and honest. From the early Nineties to the present day, we have enjoyed a reduction in crime to levels not seen since the Baby Boomers were in grade school.
Crime has dropped fifty percent.
There are more than 4,000,000 fewer serious crimes per year in America now than there were a generation ago. Not all this is because of the increased use of prison. James Q. Wilson and others found that about a quarter of it is. Other measures, such as more police, more targeted policing, and improved private security have also contributed, but increased incarceration is a major factor. A fortune in costs to potential crime victims has been saved, and enormous human suffering averted, because of the tens of thousands of crimes incarcerated criminals did not have the chance commit.
Retrieved November 19, 2014 from http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2014/11/the-conversation-among-conserv.html#more