The current trendy terms, “evidence-based sentencing” and “mass incarceration” are two of the propaganda tools used by progressive/liberal criminal justice advocates to abolish the wide-spread and very effective use of prisons.
That would be a huge mistake, something this post from the Crime & Consequences Blog notes.
We are frequently lectured that the country should adopt “evidence-based” sentencing. What that language always turns out to be is code for reduced prison terms (or, for many crimes, none at all, see, e.g., Prop 47).
Still, no sensible person can deny that sentencing should, in fact, be based on evidence — that is, we need to look honestly at what’s happening in the world and make our decisions in light of what we see.
If we do that, two facts stand out. First, since the evidence shows that increased incarceration has helped bring about a huge decrease in crime (crime rates are 50% lower than they were when “mass incarceration” took off 25 years ago), we should build upon that success rather than cash it in. You change what’s failing, not what’s working.
Second, the evidence about what criminals do after release must also inform our thinking, and it is far more depressing. As last week’s BJS report recounts (admittedly down in its seventh paragraph), slightly more than three-quarters of prisoners recidivate within five years of release, almost 30% for a violent crime.
In other words, our efforts to rehabilitate have been as much of a failure as our efforts to incapacitate have been a success. (Not that this is new).
What to do?
My answer, with apologies for “going soft” in my old age, is that we have to treat inmates much, much better than we do now.
Probably the first thing to come to terms with — as my libertarian friends (and adversaries) understand so well — is that there is a limit on what any government program can do. Prisons could provide educational opportunities on the level of Princeton and Stanford, and it wouldn’t do any good unless the inmate has decided on his own that he wants to change.
When he makes that decision, many things are possible. Until he does, nothing is. You can lead a horse to water, etc.
Retrieved September 28, 2015 from http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2015/09/what-evidence-based-reform-wou.html#more