From the NY Times:
The nation’s prison and jail population rose again last year, to 2,166,260, a record. The increase comes at a time when crime is falling and state and local governments are struggling to close budget deficits. The price of imprisoning so many Americans is too high, in scarce tax dollars and in wasted lives. Congress and state legislatures should find ways to reduce the number of people behind bars.
All together now:
Sensible Drug Laws (decriminalization and rehabilitation instead of prison time)
End Mandatory Minimums (Let judges do their damned jobs)
Quit gimmicks like the “Three Strikes” nonsense
And most of all, how bout trying a little rehabilitation with our punitive measures. A semi-literate, high-school drop-out felon who has been anal-raped for five years in Sing Sing is not a better job candidate AFTER his jail term than he was before. I wonder why?
John, I’m not really sure I’d support decriminalization outright, though I’m open to studies (perhaps by DARPA!) on the subject. In the interim I would like to see users given mandatory treatment rather than prison time and see some of the dealing penalties lessened.
I favor a more radical rethinking of crime and punishment, where crimes against self or property receive fiscal penalties and only crimes against persons (physical assault and so on) get jail time.
Heh… gee, think the lower crime rates have anything to do with the higher prison population?
Drugs: Decriminalize, set an age limit, tax, and quality control.
“Victemless” crimes arn’t. Incarceration works. That being said, reforms are necessary, but I’m not sure judges (or the legal profession) are the solution (and I’m a stinking lawyer). The reason mandatory minimums were instituted was because judges put too many violent criminals back on the streets (at least that was the perception – valid IMHO). Rationalize punishments, revisit decriminalization, reform prison, yes, do it legislatively and keep judges out of it. Judges have enough power over what evidence is considered by a jury to effect outcomes, do not make them god over how the convicted are punished – that is a community decision which is the province of the legislature.
Mason beat me to it…
Why is it so hard to see that the falling crime rate is likely because the criminals are in jail…which accounts for the rising prison population.
Is this so hard to see?
And yes, legalise drugs. Addiction rates will soar, but only for a while. Think of it as evolution in action.
jack, are you an asbestos lawyer looking for a new product liability to sue on? I can’t wait for the first wrongful death lawsuit against a legal pusher; wait, that’s tobacco. Ok, I can’t wait for the courts to be innundated by the lawsuits to follow legalization of drugs for the real consequences of crack/pcp/heroin/speed/marijuana/extasy.
Mac the Drunken Blogger
Decriminalization is where it’s at. Just think of the marketing aspects and job security of substance abuse specialsits! And taxes, whee!There’s money to be made there!
Seriously though, humans are going to do what they want to do (substance wise) whether it is legal or not. I see no need for over crowding jails with drug users/purveyors.
Some people can use substances responsibly. Meaning, at no risk to those around them. Some people can’t. If someone chooses to screw up their own bodies, so be it. If harm comes to others because of their use, (which happens anyway)then they should be held accountable but not before.
I have so many thoughts running through my bean on this topic and I should really take the time to think it through and make a concise and compelling post but my morning bloody needs a refresher…
Seems like there’s a direct correlation between a rising jail population and a falling crime rate. More folks who were committing crimes are now in the slammer.
As for sensible drug laws and revisiting mandatory minimums, fine. But the three-strikes law is working damn well in the state of Washington. That, and the Hard Time for Armed Crime initiative.
Francis W. Porretto
The demographics of the crime curve also deserve some attention. America is aging. Crime serious enough to get your ass tossed in prison is a young man’s pastime.
That having been said, there are nevertheless far too many laws on the books, including quite a few intended to protect us… from ourselves! This is antithetical to the principles of a free society. If freedom doesn’t include the freedom to be a horse’s ass, so long as it endangers no one but oneself, it is meaningless.
Hey, anyone want to talk about “insider trading” laws? If there’s a specimen of legal insanity more egregious than that, I have yet to learn about it.
Since the government doesn’t need any more tax money–it will just spend even more–legalize pot but skip the taxing. Let’s see if such an experiment should be expanded to harder drugs.
Bird Dog says: “Seems like there’s a direct correlation between a rising jail population and a falling crime rate. More folks who were committing crimes are now in the slammer.”
Exactly, and his point matches something I recently blogged on my own site. Since committing the crime necessarily comes before going to jail, the crime rate is a “leading indicator” and the incarceration rate a “trailing indicator”. Unlike the New York Times, I would therefore expect (all other things being equal) more crime last year to mean more prisoners this year. To put it another way, the criminal justice system takes months to process people, so a high percentage of the people who committed crimes last year didn’t even go to jail until this year.
Your three points are good ideas.
Little Miss Attila
I still believe in sentence minimums. Judges should be given latitude, but not license.
Crime is down because more criminals are behind bars–no doubt about it.
But the idea of all those people in prison just for using/selling drugs is heartbreaking. If we legalize, we can get this all out in the daylight where it belongs. We can regulate drug dealing, and attack *directly* all the crime that thrives alongside it because of its illegality.
Remember prohibition?–Outlawing drugs just helps facilitate organized crime.
Ditto prostitution, BTW. Legalize it, regulate it, and thereby make it safer for everyone involved.