Rethinking Crime—Again

Although violent crimes rates may have decreased prison growth is at an all time high. The six steps to zero prison growth are discussed. It is a must read.

John Di Iulio writes:

Six Steps to Zero Prison Growth

First of all, empanel a bipartisan presidential crime commission like the one that President Lyndon Johnson empanelled some four decades ago to devise better crime measures; study crime trends; conduct field hearings from New York to New Orleans; debate new crime-fighting technologies (like, in our day, the use of DNA databases); and weigh the wisdom of having an advisory staff on crime within the West Wing, a sort of crime-focused National Security Council.

Second, legislate age 18 as a compulsory national school attendance requirement, or amend all relevant federal education legislation so that states, on penalty of losing federal funding, must comply with their own respective compulsory school age requirements (many are age 16) and offer best-practices anti-truancy programs. In several recent co-authored reports sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and issued by Civic Enterprises, I have documented the high school dropout crisis and the associated truancy epidemic. Several studies by others have confirmed that low graduation rates are strongly linked to high crime rates and high incarceration rates, especially for low-income minority males. By increasing inner-city graduation rates, even by single digits, we might well lower juvenile crime rates by double digits.

Third, mandate that juvenile probation agencies emulate or replicate programs like Philadelphia’s Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP). I helped devise the YVRP in 1998. The program targets local adjudicated youth and young adults aged 14 to 24, most of whom have committed one or more violent felonies. The YVRP assigns these “youth partners” to “street workers” with whom they meet almost daily, and it assures that they get whatever drug treatment or other supports they need. A just-released impact study by Public/Private Ventures finds that YVRP participation reduces juvenile violent crime by 10 percent.

Fourth, each year through 2020, double the 2009 levels of federal aid to state and local parole agencies for programs that find ex-prisoners jobs, and to faith-based and neighborhood partnerships that mobilize adult mentors for some of the over two million children in America who have a parent in prison. The empirical research is clear: Getting jobs for ex-prisoners is a necessary but insufficient condition for reducing recidivism rates that typically run around two-thirds after three years out. Since 2000, the federal government has invested slightly more in job-mentoring programs for ex-prisoners and, in recent years, it has helped fund mentoring for more than 100,000 children of prisoners. But the investment remains paltry.

Fifth, repeal all federal mandatory-minimum drug sentencing policies and rewrite federal laws to give states new financial incentives to use scarce prison space for violent adult offenders while speeding parole for drug-only offenders. I do not make this suggestion lightly. BJS data indicate that eight in ten prisoners confined in state and federal prisons have a prior conviction history and about two in three prisoners have a history of convictions for violence; that the average released prisoner has more than 15 prior arrests for serious offenses; and that a single year’s worth of prison releases accounts for about 8 percent of all murder arrests and 9 percent of all arrests for robbery. However, based on both BJS data and prisoner self-report surveys, it seems clear that most of the roughly 400,000 persons incarcerated as drug felons in state or federal prisons today are “drug-only felons” whose sole felony crimes (including ones for which they were never arrested) have been drug crimes involving no use or threat of violence and no major role as illegal drug manufacturers or distributors. At least 100,000 of these could be placed under intensive parole supervision (complete with mandated drug treatment where necessary) tomorrow with little or no adverse impact on crime rates. The financial savings would be more than sufficient to fund all of the foregoing proposals.

Sixth, legalize marijuana for medically prescribed uses, and seriously consider decriminalizing it altogether. Last year there were more than 800,000 marijuana-related arrests. The impact of these arrests on crime rates was likely close to zero. There is almost no scientific evidence showing that pot is more harmful to its users’ health, more of a “gateway drug,” or more crime-causing in its effects than alcohol or other legal narcotic or mind-altering substances. Our post-2000 legal drug culture has untold millions of Americans, from the very young to the very old, consuming drugs in unprecedented and untested combinations and quantities. Prime-time commercial television is now a virtual medicine cabinet (“just ask your doctor if this drug is right for you”). Big pharmaceutical companies function as all-purpose drug pushers. And yet we expend scarce federal, state, and local law enforcement resources waging “war” against pot users. That is insane.

Full article.

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Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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