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Study Finds Increased Incarceration Has Marginal-To-Zero Impact on Crime (eji.org)
325 points by mpweiher 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 182 comments



Smart, well-meaning people on boards such as this refuse to see the Prison Industrial Complex for what it really is...a jobs program for police, courts, judges, jails, prisons, and of course, lawyers and politicians.

One group "increased incarceration" definitely has a non-marginal positive impact on are all-of-the-above.

Can you show me any examples, anywhere in history, where a group that directly benefits from and controls the entry level and duration of access have ever decided to lower their wages and put at jeopardy their livelihoods?

Because at the heart of it, that's the real effect that decreasing incarceration will have...closing jails, firing police officers, lowering ridiculous attorney fees, and shutting down county court complexes.

And we are surprised when the very people whom benefit from the status quo don't see things the way we do?


This. One of the best comments I have ever read. In the south you also need to account for the lack of voting power of African Americans. %30 of African Americans can’t vote in Florida because of their dealings with the “justice” system.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/political-pulse...


"...%30 of African Americans can’t vote in Florida because of their dealings with the “justice” system..."

I'm not a southerner. I'm certainly no Floridian. But I strongly suspect that's not a "coincidence". I think the current system was likely set up as a political "gimme" meant to appease Southerners.


I would advise being careful about treating this as just a north/south thing. For example, the exact mechanisms by which it happens might not be quite the same, but the disenfranchisement rate among black voters in Wisconsin is about the same as what GP reports for Florida.


Oh it's the exact same mechanism.

The only difference is that here in Wisconsin we know that our government is corrupt, and because of the corruption here there is little we can do to combat that corruption. I mean we have everything from Walker, to little boys being used for sex at Lincoln Hills, to out and out DA's who are crime lords. (Literally, a few years back there was a DA who would take "donations" to "charity" from drug runners. They would actually divert shipments to go through his jurisdiction because if you get caught all you had to do was pay the "donation". It was really bad.)

I'm pretty sure if you were to ask the average Wisconsinite, they would openly admit much of the corruption up here. Not only with crime, or blacks, but with money, with land, with everything basically. Why do you think we have protests with hundreds of thousands of people showing up? It's not just Walker, at least in my opinion it's not. It's the system that people feel he represents and defends.

By contrast, in Florida, I get the sense that people think that's the way things are supposed to work. They believe they have a good system and that the system works the way God intended.


> By contrast, in Florida, I get the sense that people think that's the way things are supposed to work. They believe they have a good system and that the system works the way God intended.

It depends who you ask. I've only lived in Florida for 40 years but I find it split in thirds with 1/3 willing to tolerate Tallahassee corruption and crumbling infrastructure as the price of low taxation while the other 2/3 are appalled but don't or can't vote.


I think from an outside POV the sorts of divides are more in your face and more geographically dispersed in the south.

There also seems to be more political homogeneity.


It's a state-by-state system. Whatever is set up in the South wasn’t set up to appease Southerners, it was set up by Southerners to give effect to their desires.


I'm referring to Federal laws and Constitutional underpinnings.

For instance, the loophole in the 13th.

Which, but for it's existence, would not have allowed "...Southerners to give effect to their desires..."


Penal enforced labor was not a uniquely southern thing (or a uniquely “slave state” thing) before the Civil War, and not abolishing it along with chattel slavery was not a sop to the South.

The South really exploited that allowance as a replacement for chattel slavery, though, but they did that with every power state governments were not explicitly denied (and, because of the lack of substantive enforcement of much of the 14th Amendment for nearly a century after the Civil War, many which they were explicitly denied.)


???

Are you seriously proposing that the loophole in the 13th was not placed there as a consolation to Southerners? I mean let's be frank here, the entire issue of slavery in the Northwest Ordinance was a compromise to Southerners. It wouldn't have passed otherwise. Fast forward to the end of the Civil War, and they chose the compromise in the Northwest Ordinance instead of the Sumner Amendment for the same reasons. Sumner's Amendment didn't even make it out of committee.

I don't see how anyone can say that slave states have not had an outsized influence on the slavery question as it is practiced in the US. They've had that influence, in my opinion, since our inception. It, (slavery), really was almost one of the original questions we had to answer at the founding of our Republic.


Yes: the "loophole" you're referring to is no such thing. It's language directly aimed at enabling felons (white, black, or otherwise) to be put to useful work. That's what everyone, everywhere, was doing at the time the law was drafted.

Imagine if Britain had been the one drafting the 13th amendment, at the same point in history. Removing this language would have meant giving up on the penal labor colony known as Australia. America was—not as famously—doing exactly the same thing.


???

Why would we have cared what Britain was doing?

They were our cold enemy during the Civil War. (At least, they were the cold enemy if you were on the Union side.)

What the rest of the world was doing was irrelevant to how the 13th was drafted. The war would be won. Slaves would be freed. The only questions we were considering was how to put that all down on paper. And for that question, the only thing that mattered was domestic politics.


Uh? I think you misread. I was pointing out that every major nation-state was running—and relying on the productive output of!—penal labor colonies in the 1800s. I brought up Britain as a well known example: everyone knows that Britain ran penal labor colonies. But the US was also running—and depending on—penal labor colonies.

The "loophole" is, to put it in modern terms, a concession to the American penal-labor-colony industry lobby. (Well, not really, since we didn't have private prisons back then. All the work being done by US penal labor colonies was directly to the productive benefit of the US government.)


Only it wasn't. The Northwest Ordinance was written the way it was specifically to appease slave states. It was calibrated so that slave states would outnumber free states by three even in the worst case. Everything from the slavery question, to the question of conditions under which territories would enter the Union, was settled in a fashion meant not to anger slave states. (Except, of course, for a few questions settled for what we, today, suspect were generous sums of money. But those were things like education. ie-where and how a university would be established.)

In fact, even a review of the Congressional Record, which I had the misfortune of having to do on these very two questions for a Capstone project back in undergrad, makes that very clear. It's obviously been a very long time, and the material involved was voluminous, but I can't recall offhand any mention of the penal labor industry. The debate was dominated by appeals to interests and even feelings of slave states.


Penal labor was very common in the 1860s. The UK, and its colonies, didn't ban penal labor until about 1950s. France didn't ban it until 1987. The statement was added to the Northwest Ordinance and the 13th Amendment, not as a sop to the Southerners to reintroduce slavery by backdoor means, but to ensure that someone couldn't look at the text and decide that the customary practice of penal labor would be considered outlawed.


The 13th amendment only ended slavery in name.

> Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted[...]

The current system is absolutely a political gimme to appease the south, or at the very least the south of the past.


I continue to have a hard time seeing the difference between a US prison farm and any other (slave) labor camp.

The UN ILO should have IMO effectively abolished US labor camps in 1957 with resolution 105 [1]. It bans among other things its use "as a method of mobilizing and using labour for purposes of economic development." As such prisoners in the US can be loaned out to private enterprise, an argument should be made. Not to mention, forget immigrants, nothing undercuts wages payable to US workers quite like slave labor.

I actually can't see why the US system isn't in violation of resolution 29 in 1930 where forced labor is only permitted when under "supervision and control of a public authority and that the person carrying it out is not hired to or placed at the disposal of private individuals, companies or associations." [1]

When your system is "universally condemned" by the United Nations, maybe it's time for another look?

[1] http://www.ilo.org/global/standards/subjects-covered-by-inte...


I don't think anyone is arguing that these are not slave labor camps. These are slave labor camps. That fact is not in question.

The question we're debating is why they are legal in the US. My theory is that the government made them legal to appease Southerners after the Civil War. Some people disagree, but the evidence in terms of the Congressional record of the time definitely points to a deal to appease Southerners.


The North was maybe a little more than an inch less racist than the South. It's just that the line of slavery being right or wrong went right through that inch. Institutional racism has come from everywhere, in particular by the power of the silent majority.

The Nixon Southern strategy was not to appease only Southerners. It was to appease the ignorant. Bigots with malice in mind.

It's worth listening to the Lee Atwater interview he didn't want released until he died. They had a vile plan, they put it into action, it was successful, and it's still happening. And such ideas and policies are far worse than just a word that begins with the letter n. https://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-inf...


> My theory is that the government made them legal to appease Southerners after the Civil War.

It didn't; this is indisputable, because they existed and were legal, both in and out of the South, before the Civil War.

You could argue that they were not outlawed at the time chattel slavery was in order to mitigate the imposition on the South being done by the Civil War amendments (13-15), but that's implausible for a number of reasons, but most notably that being punitive was major feature of th Civil War Amendments, the cooling to punitive measures and accommodationist approach to the South didn't take long to appear after they were imposed, but it was a later thing.

> the evidence in terms of the Congressional record of the time

Specific citations would be welcome.


Emancipation was a political decision that was made for practical purposes.

Race baiting incited draft riots in the north. Low wage labor was very much threatened by the prospect of freed slaves migrating.

Prison labor isn’t a uniquely American institution and IMO was less about appeasing southerners and more about practical management of prisons.


[flagged]


In fact, the US is listed on Wikipedia under the Labor Camp article alongside Russian gulags [1] and has a whole index of its forced-labor camps [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_camp

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_farm


> how many are there who didn't make a choice to do something knowingly illegal

Not that this is a valid point anyway, but not none.

https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/Exonerat...

> None of the prisons I have toured have anyone working who doesn't want too

Your anecdote is not data. Forced labor absolutely exists in US prisons.


[flagged]


Incarceration does not require penal servitude.


A popular theory is that mass incarceration was the replacement for segregation when it was outlawed.

Ahh yes the old Three Fifths Compromise is still in effect.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Fifths_Compromise


A webcached version of your article, since orlandosentinel.com blocks visits from European countries because of the GDPR: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:pI5zTYk...

A constituent group that removes rival constituents from the voter pool... wow, talk about a conflict of interest


You can't vote if you're in prison..?

[flagged]


Yeah. What's stopping them from decriminalizing their own criminal desires? Be it drugs, child rape, petty theft, etc.

I don't think it even needs to be controlled by the same people. Look at TurboTax. They built a company to make an insane tax code easy and they lobby against simplifying it.

Once it's big business there's a huge finical and employment incentive to keep the machine running no matter who's running it. Some might say that privatising prisons would even make it worse.

It's hard to stop a multi-billion dollar industry but what the prison system is doing to our population is not OK.


Not so easy.

In the US, the prison system is also used to deal with mental illness, unemployment and homelessness.

See NYC for how that works:

  1., Create a zero tolerance policy

  2., Invest in high police coverage

  3., Arrest people on small stuff, like public intoxication, urination, etc.

  4., Three strikes is a compounding factor, so three small things and boom, you're off the streets for years.
It did help clean up NYC, but rather going the social housing and mental health way, it simply put a lot of poor people in jail.

Now, is this for societies greater good? Is NYC overall a better, safer place for poor people? No easy answers there.


>Because at the heart of it, that's the real effect that decreasing incarceration will have...closing jails, firing police officers, lowering ridiculous attorney fees, and shutting down county court complexes.

I don't think reducing prison time would necessarily result in all of those. Closing jails perhaps, but it's possible such a thing would require more police and county court bandwidth, not fewer.

That said, I believe non-violent offenders should never be put in jail. Give them mountains of community service or some other more productive remedy. If it's financial crime, freeze their ability to access the financial system. But sending them to jail is more likely to make them more effective and more hardened criminals.


> I don't think reducing prison time would necessarily result in all of those. Closing jails perhaps, but it's possible such a thing would require more police and county court bandwidth, not fewer.

Not to mention the court systems and police work are already incredibly backed up in many jurisdictions.


> That said, I believe non-violent offenders should never be put in jail.

So how do we stop people from constantly stealing our stuff?


I read recently about Moloch ( http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/ ) regarding this very topic.

Ideally, lowering everything about the criminal system is a net good at all levels. Politicians and government are the ones who control expenditure levels along with what is defined as a crime.

Collectively, with would suit all levels of citizenry and government to raise threshold of what constitutes a "Crime", along with massive reduction of forces across all levels. However the first politician to 'defect' and recommend this gets lambasted as being "Weak On Crime". Unfortunately for the politician, it only takes a single person who was let out early and commit some assault/robbery/rape/murder to then show the 'evils and horribleness' of said politician.

Quote from the Slate Star Codex:

For example, ever-increasing prison terms are unfair to inmates and unfair to the society that has to pay for them. Politicans are unwilling to do anything about them because they don’t want to look “soft on crime”, and if a single inmate whom they helped release ever does anything bad (and statistically one of them will have to) it will be all over the airwaves as “Convict released by Congressman’s policies kills family of five, how can the Congressman even sleep at night let alone claim he deserves reelection?”. So even if decreasing prison populations would be good policy – and it is – it will be very difficult to implement.


Exactly...great comment and thanks for the link. I have not heard of Moloch but from what little you discuss it would seem we share insights, so I look forward to reading him.

Florida, for example (where I am from), is a retirement state mostly. You know what retirees reliably vote for? Fucking hard-ass law and order so they can drink their booze and eat their prescription dope without the fear of being robbed.

I see no chance that any politicians can ever win in Florida with a message of "soft on crime", so its depressing to think that this crap and injustice justice will ever be fixed.

And you know...it's hard to blame them for wanting that. They have worked their asses off their whole lives and now want to live the remaining years feeling safe.

And yes...the "one bad apple" metaphor always rears it's old ugly head when it comes to this topic. Hell, I've lived in the Florida DC and I personally saw inmates who would enjoy busting up any new "liberal" program as long as it got them an extra cigarette or a can of soda.

They literally couldn't give a fuck about anyone but themselves at that moment, and see any program that may be put in place to help inmates as security-bypass vectors that are to be exploited as soon as possible.


The "one bad apple" effect seems to drive most of our laws and regulations. One bad incident hits the news, and the "there outta be a law" folks go berserk in a rush to pass more laws to "fix" it, never mind the negative consequences of those laws.


Actually, given the way many private corporate prisons are operated, a lower occupancy rate directly results in profit. The state is obligated to maintain the prisons at something like a 90%+ fill rate. If they fall below that, the state has to pay multi-million-dollar dines. Arizona recently faced this, paying out $3 million for not providing enough prisoners to one of their private prisons. It provides a monetary disincentive toward granting parole or shorter sentences... probably not a great idea.


When in an ideal world, the justice system would be a tool to minimize the negative impact that the set of individuals and corporations that do not follow a set of agreed apon rules causes to the set of all individuals and corporations in a society.


You forget the other benefit, that incarcerating people makes the non-incarcerated feel better. People like to see other people locked away. It makes them feel safer. That feeling results in votes, votes for the people doing the locking up. It is unfair to blame the police or the courts, or even the legislatures. Blame all those voters who call for "tougher" laws.

Want to really reduce prison populations? Take a hard look at the drug and sex offender laws. That might mean not locking up the meth dealer or rapist, but that is what reducing the prison population means: living with the knowledge that such people will not be entombed far away. That fear is the real issue underpinning the problem.


In it's current form it's literally welfare for a certain class of people.


If you're talking about closing prisons, then yes, there are misaligned incentives.

However, a lot of prison reform policy suggestions would result in increased costs, while making the prison system more humane.

These higher cost prison reform policies haven't been put into place, which sort of discredits the assertion that lack of prison reform is primarily driven by misaligned incentives.


> Smart, well-meaning people on boards such as this refuse to see the Prison Industrial Complex for what it really is

Random. When your recidivism rate exceeds 50%, you might as well flip a coin at sentencing to decide whether they go to jail or not; will likely be just as effective as the current system.


>closing jails, firing police officers, lowering ridiculous attorney fees, and shutting down county court complexes

How will it so any of these things? People will still be arrested and prosecuted for committing crimes. Its the incarceration vs alternative actions and programs that is being discussed here. Prisons would certainly be affected, but they aren't even in your list.

While it's true that prisons could be shut. Its also true that a whole new rehabilitation industry could spring up if alternatives to long term incarceration were enacted.


'who' benefit, not 'whom'


Thanks for the correction.


It's also a new form of slavery.


US 13th Amendment keeps slavery legal for punishment of a crime.


It's always interesting telling americans that there is still slavery in their country and it is completely legal.


That depends entirely on your definition of slavery. I don't believe that the average person considers a murderer making postbags for 25 cents a day is a "slave". Nor do I think it helps the argument for a focus on rehabilitation to suggest it is so.

Obviously as you change the crime and the task and the wages, peoples perceptions change. Which is fun, non?


It sounds like you’re missing some things.

Of course, substance possession and other victimless crimes are the useful place to begin.

And it’s crucial to differentiate between privatized prison labor and state prison labor. Privatizing human rights raises a major moral discrepancy as it stands. Profiteering of human rights with forced labor is a fair definition of slavery in my view.

Your argument concerns justice, though. Following emancipation, no time was lost in instituting the strong prison labor system the South known for. When there’s a profit motive, the entire system of justice becomes contentious. If seeking to get murderers off the streets (something I support) it’s critical we not conflate that civic duty with profiteering motives, lest we become the demon, or at least hypocrites. Of course, we popularly criticize the Soviet Gulag system on these same terms, among others.

There’s more, too. Getting a murderer off the streets is a categorically different goal from inflicting punishment or vengance. Getting a murderer off the streets is an easy decision. Punishing them is also widely supported, but still categorically different. If we intend a moral system, we must differentiate and actively acknowledge the difference.


There's yet a further subdivision to be made too, as there's getting a murder off the street (justice), punishing the murderer (vengeance/retribution) and stopping more murders (prevention).

After the Rwandan genocide and even in reaction to the residential school system in Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions were set up to focus on the justice and prevention elements of the triangle and explicitly pass on retribution. [1]

The US system focuses, IMO, almost solely on vengeance to the detriment of prevention. The US has one of the highest recidivism rates in the entirely world at 75%, so if your goal is to stop people from doing it again, the US system is an abject failure. If you want to enslave and torture, it works great. Norway focuses on justice and prevention, and as a result, has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world, at 20% [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restorative_justice

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/why-norways-prison-system-is...


> There's yet a further subdivision to be made too, as there's getting a murder off the street (justice),

The standard term for that is “incapacitation”; “justice” is more ambiguous.

> stopping more murders (prevention).

“prevention” is usually broken down into “incapacitation” and “deterrence”.


Thanks! I do like those terms more.


You could say the same to any country with forced conscription.


I guess the discussion here would be what rights they have and don't have because of that societal imposition.


Because incarceration is penitentiary, which means criminals are made to pay for their crimes - not to be rehabilitated. There other countries where incarceration works, for example Norway [1] - primary because they focus in rehabilitation. Incarceration is not the problem, the typical opinion of the purpose of incarceration is (justice through revenge).

Incarceration is 100% effective for what America wants it to achieve: penance.

[1]: https://m.phys.org/news/2016-08-norwegian-prisons-criminal.h...


> There other countries where incarceration works, for example Norway [1]

The Nordic model works in Norway because of Norway's society and culture. It wouldn't work in US, or South Africa or El Salvador because of what level of violence is deemed acceptable in those countries.

You can try to transpose the Nordic model in US all you want it is not going to work because these are different societies bound by different civil contracts and cultures.

Plenty of societies and countries have a prison system that doesn't focus on rehabilitation,at all, yet the level of violence is still inferior to US by a long shot.


The US prison system is fantastic at one thing: teaching anyone who goes in how to be a criminal. You dehumanize people, pack them in tight, 2-to-a-cell in solitary confinement, and force them to fight each other to survive. They gang up for self defense, fall into negative paths and those follow them outside. They can't get jobs outside because nobody in the US will hire a criminal. Now they have no money, nowhere to live, no support system, no healthcare (because God forbid) and no way to make a living. They didn't learn to survive outside, they commit crimes and they're back in. 75% recidivism [1] seems almost low for such a process doesn't it? At least inside they get food, housing, healthcare and work - talk about socialism.

Which other societies can you point to that don't have prison systems that focus on rehabilitation? Do you have data that shows their recidivism rates are lower?

People don't want to be criminals, they want to live, but they don't all know how.

Clearly the system you advocate is an abject failure at preventing crime, maybe it's time to open yourself up to new processes? It literally can't get much worse.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/why-norways-prison-system-is...


> Clearly the system you advocate is an abject failure at preventing crime, maybe it's time to open yourself up to new processes? It literally can't get much worse.

I advocated for nothing, if you read my message I'm not saying one system is better than the other. I'm just saying adopting the nordic model isn't going to work with a society with such a level of violence like the USA.

> People don't want to be criminals, they want to live, but they don't all know how.

Plenty of people want to make money the easiest way possible, and if it involves committing crimes like murdering people they'll do that. You are assuming everybody is like you and follow basic humanism. Well some don't.


How do you know the Nordic model won't work if you don't try it? Do you have data to indicate that Nordic model prisons don't work if there's violence? Citation needed or it's not a helpful anecdote. Did you know they're trying it in North Dakota? [1] By making this kind of unsubstantiated claim in support of the system as-is without making any suggestions of your own you're implicitly advocating for the status quo.

And of course some people have severe criminality issues but IMO those should be treated. Even treated as mental health issues.

[1] https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2017/07/north-dako...


Aren't you ignoring low crime countries with brutal criminal justice systems such as Thailand? It is far more likely the culture of a country that predisposes it to higher or lower crime rates (and the types of crimes). For example, the deeper the black community becomes entrenched in the hip hop culture, the more crime they commit. You see a black person from any financial class adopt white culture, you will find that they succeed. The more they adopt hip hop culture, the more they are failures, criminals ETC.

[citation needed] you won't know if it works until you try, has there been any experimental applications of the nordic model in the US that show it to be uneffective? there has been at least one in canada that I'm aware of,(admittedly only targeting youth offenders, so not conclusive, but at least an indication I guess) and the results were pretty good: https://theconversation.com/judges-sentence-youth-offenders-...

edit to add, I'm not sure you can call the Canadian trail a copy of "the nordic system" but it is similar to it in that it focuses on rehab rather than punishment. I like to think you could adapt from "the nordic system" to make it work in the us.


This was the point of halfway houses. They were intended to be an alternative, or supplement, to incarceration to help genuinely rehabilitate convicts and help prepare them for release back into general society. They include therapy, drug treatment, job training, and so on. The NYT ran a report [1] on these institutions some time back. Recidivism rates were actually higher than those who just were sent to prison with a 67% recidivism rate for halfway house residents compared to 60% for prison-only convicts.

And of course those rates are just within 3 years. They get much higher over time. The US is relatively unique in that we have a relatively large population of individuals that seem to resist all efforts at stopping them from engaging in crime. This is not really a problem in places like Scandinavia. The absolute and utter failure of rehabilitation driven systems further emphasizes the difference. For further statistics and information on various sorts of data related to prison, prisoners, recidivism, and so on you check out the Bureau of Justice Statistics [2]. Their page is loaded with all the information you could ever want.

---

In my opinion the major problem is once a culture develops around criminality it becomes practically impossible to detach the criminality from the culture, as resisting reform becomes part of the culture. I grew up in this very culture and it's quite clear that people talking about reformation just have not been around this very much at all. Prison is not seen as game over. It's just another part of the game, and prison time is worn as a badge of honor once people are out, as it shows how 'hard' they are, and gains instant respect.

For instance have you ever thought about how completely idiotic resisting arrest is? You're not going to do anything except add years to your sentence, and get either beat down or killed in the process of it. But the reason people do this is again because it shows how 'hard' they are. You or I might be thinking 'Well how can I minimize my prison time and get back to real life?' so we would never behave this way, and then engage in all sorts of mental gymnastics to try to explain why somebody else would. But the issue is that we're not part of this culture, and to understand why things the way they are you really have to live through it. In that culture prison is just a regular part of what we'd call 'real life' so this sort of loss minimization calculus simply does not exist.

The more important question then is where did this culture come from, how did it emerge and spread, and how could that be stopped in the future? But that's an entirely different topic.

[1] - https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/nyregion/pennsylvania-stu...

[2] - https://bjs.gov/


> For instance have you ever thought about how completely idiotic resisting arrest is?

If someone grabs your wrist and yanks you off balance - guess what, you're probably going to try to resist them if only to not fall over. Likewise humans are not perfectly rational beings - if someone runs towards you and you're already scared, you're going to start to run. This isn't because you somehow played out a competent mental calculus on your chances of escaping, it's because you're an animal with instincts.

Hell, this effect is counted on in martial arts - if you want someone to move, push them the opposite way.

The issue is that "resisting arrest" has grown to be a vague charge that encapsulates everything from people outright fighting police officers to people who are scared and trying to not get knocked off balance.


This is the day and age of cameras on police, cameras on bystanders, cameras on the streets, and cameras pretty much everywhere. Hypotheticals are not only unnecessary but counter productive. You can view practically endless footage at your leisure.

And these hypotheticals are part of the mental gymnastics I mentioned. This isn't to say that your hypotheticals have not happened, but if they do happen they represent an incredibly tiny fraction of all incidents - whereas you are implicitly suggesting they make up some meaningful percent of incidents. It's like somebody charged with breaking and entering who somehow genuinely thought he was getting into his own house after having forgot his keys. I'm sure that's probably happened, but that says absolutely nothing about the very near 100% of cases where this is not what happened.


> Recidivism rates were actually higher than those who just were sent to prison with a 67% recidivism rate for halfway house residents compared to 60% for prison-only convicts.

In this comparison, the virtue of each institution has been blindly discarded in favor of highlighting the substantial failures of both. That is -- "Because both institutions have failed at achieving their intent, neither institution appears to be capable of achieving a good result."

If we were to include the virtue designated by each approach then it should be clear to see the short term & long term differences between incarceration and rehabilitation.

> And of course those rates are just within 3 years. They get much higher over time.

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

---

In response to the opinion you've stated:

> In my opinion the major problem is once a culture develops around criminality it becomes practically impossible to detach the criminality from the culture, as resisting reform becomes part of the culture.

In response to the assertion you've made:

> Prison is not seen as game over. It's just another part of the game, and prison time is worn as a badge of honor once people are out, as it shows how 'hard' they are, and gains instant respect.

And in response to the questions you've raised:

> The more important question then is where did this culture come from, how did it emerge and spread, and how could that be stopped in the future?

Reformation as an act is a change of system and not a change in culture. Reformation will lead to a favorable cultural shift if and only if the system effectively addresses the needs of the individuals within the culture.

1. Anything less than reformation is utter neglect. 2. Accompanying neglect is malnutrition. 3. Cultures don't develop with criminality as an end all be all. Cultures develop with nutrition as an end all be all.


Please be more specific.

> The US is relatively unique in that we have a relatively large population of individuals that seem to resist all efforts at stopping them from engaging in crime.

What "population of individuals" are you talking about?

> This is not really a problem in places like Scandinavia.

Why do you think this isn't a problem in places like Scandinavia? What is different about Scandinavia?

> In my opinion the major problem is once a culture develops around criminality it becomes practically impossible to detach the criminality from the culture, as resisting reform becomes part of the culture.

What is an example of a culture which is attached to criminality?

> But the issue is that we're not part of this culture, and to understand why things the way they are you really have to live through it. In that culture prison is just a regular part of what we'd call 'real life' so this sort of loss minimization calculus simply does not exist.

What culture are you talking about? Which people are part of this culture?

Your comment clearly has a point of view which stated plainly would make it hard to defend. Dog-whistling.


You should consider your own prejudices. I've described the culture, and it's not unique to any particular group. A precise example is gangs, though gangs are a subset of all 'actors' who behave in this way. Though even there in the US we have some 1.4 million gang members already. Grow up in this and you see people of all sorts fall into it.

which is precisely why it's so important that them judicial system does everything in it's might to get the out of "it".

currently, the american judicial/penal system seems to have the opposite effect. I dare say a underlying factor has to do with prisons being profit-driven, which is essentially a incentive for them to not rehabilitate inmates (cause then they wouldn't have repeat "customers"!)

you say yourself that it's different in Scandinavia. Why is it so? the culture is different, sure, but not THAT different. We do have criminal gangs here, though to a lesser extent to be sure. how come?

I suggest the reason to be that rehabilitation of criminal works, whereas incarceration does not. There is some data to support this idea, albeit not enough to be conclusive. it would certainly be very interesting to see such trails carried out with american inmates in any scale.


Well again halfway houses were designed precisely as an experiment in rehabilitation. It helps resocialize the convicts, helps them get a job, get over an issues (such as drugs) they have, all within the framework of a positive and supportive social network at a shared home. I'm not really sure what people are proposing beyond this. They've carried these experiments out at large scale (and continue to do so - halfway houses are still very much a thing) but they just don't seem to work, at all, in the US.

And so I think what is the difference there is the million dollar question. And the worst part is that it's not even consistent with nations themselves. For instance in checking out some recidivism rate data [1] it turns out that we have things like a recidivism rate of 23% in Oregon while it's 61% in Minnesota. That datum runs also runs in stark contrast to the person who responded while projecting his prejudiced views. Minnesota demographics [2]. Oregon demographics [3]. On the gang issue, to reemphasize I think that's a product of this sort of culture rather than this sort of culture being a product of gangs. So gangs are a subset but not the issue in and of themselves.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4472929/

[2] https://suburbanstats.org/population/how-many-people-live-in...

[3] https://suburbanstats.org/population/how-many-people-live-in...


>they just don't seem to work, at all, in the US.

A huge issue in this realm is halfway houses largely operate without much oversight and often fail to actually provide structure and support for inmates and end up being just a place to dump them. I recall one researcher who visited many saying "we are paying for them to watch Jerry Springer."

Halfway houses cost less and have similar recidivism rates.


> [citation needed]

Norway doesn't have a network of violent gangs sitting in their prisons.

> I'm not sure you can call the Canadian

Canada is mostly on the path to copy US when it comes to gang violence.


Canada is not on path to copy the US when it comes to gang violence, unless you have some numbers to back that up. Yes, it's gone up lately, back to levels 10 years ago, while overall criminality and especially gun crimes have gone down. Please find some evidence to compare rate changes between the US and Canada. [1]

You should really look at the numbers. The rape rate in the US is 17X Canada. Murders 3X. And the US age of criminal responsibility is SIX?! [2] It's pretty clear whatever system you advocate for isn't working.

[1] https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/7-charts-that-tell-the-s...

[2] http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Canada/Unit...


The "age of criminal responsibility" is extremely misleading. There is no uniform "age of criminal responsibility" in the US, each state is different and each law is different, and the site you posted fully acknowledges that[1]. Prosecutors also have a very heavy amount of leeway in this realm.

[1] DEFINITION: The age at which a person is no longer excluded from criminal liability. The lowest age is indicated for countries where there isn’t a single age limit, for example where different states have different regulations (such as the USA) or there is different limits for boy and girls (such as in Iran). The spectrum is specifically wide for the USA and Mexico (both 6-12 years). Several US states do not stipulate any minimal age for criminal responsibility at all.


At no point whatsoever is a 6 year old criminally responsible for anything - and you can tell, because they're 6. This is what a 6 year old look like? [1] This feels apologist - prosecutors should have zero leeway in this matter. States where there isn't one are even worse IMO.

[1] https://www.momjunction.com/articles/gift-ideas-for-6-year-o...

Editing since I can't reply: I may have misread your reply to mine, I reacted because in my mind, that there's a range or discretion is irrelevant because it's so far out there in the first place. Cleaned it up to be less pointed, to better line up with my intent and hopefully yours.


Excuse me? Please read the comment you are replying to; I did not say a six year old should be criminally responsible for anything or anything of the sort.

> Norway doesn't have a network of violent gangs sitting in their prisons.

Is this something that allows them to have a rehabilitative prison system, or something that is caused by having a rehabilitative prison system?


Its something that is caused by the vast majority of people in the country being white Norwegian citizens. They have very few people (comparatively) who are social outcasts on the basis of being from somewhere else or not speaking the language or being a different color or all three. There is much less need for gangs as an alternative path to acceptance by a group.


There are lots and lots of very violent criminal gangs made up of white people from the US who speak English. Many of them are, in fact, white supremacist gangs.

I do not see any evidence that gangs have anything to do with being immigrants. I think gangs have something to do with a culture having an underclass.


There's less reason for racist white gangs to form in Norway when the country is largely homogeneous.


Dudes, I am not engaging with you any further.

Obviously, you have this idea that when black people form a gang, they are bad, but when white people form a gang, well, it’s because of the black people forcing them to form a gang.

Sorry, but further refuting of this kind of reasoning is beneath me. I see you very clearly for what you are and for the propaganda and disinformation you are trying to spread.


I'm not even the same person as OP so your last sentence doesn't make any sense. I was only pointing out that white supremacist gangs forming in the US has nothing to do with Norway. I also don't think white gangs are only in reaction to other gangs and I also don't think black gangs can all be simply labeled as "bad" or that white gangs are "good."

.... okay but you haven't established why "[having] a network of violent gangs sitting in prisons" causes rehabilitation programs to fail.

I'm not saying your wrong or anything, I don't know, just you don't have a an argument that's even a tiny bit convincing.

You're also getting into "chicken or egg" territory.


For an interesting discussion of this, I recommend this discussion of Glenn Loury with Adaner Usmani.

https://bloggingheads.tv/videos/53070

Usmani believes that something like the Nordic model would work in the US. I don't think Loury is buying any of it (and he knows quite a bit about this topic, quantitatively too) but is a model of polite, serious, engagement.


Do you think a not-for-profit company could start a prison, modeled after a nordic 'open' prison, as a sort of 'trial' and get support in a state to try it out?

I think the only way to make inroads might be to somewhat circumvent the government. Build something that has a track record of true reform, and maybe eventually hold a monopoly on prisons that actually work and serve the purpose of reform over 'penance'.


This is an interesting thought. If the US is going to contract out its prison-keeping (as it does, and at spectacularly high costs) then it would be great if this could allow for a wide variety of experiments. Charter Prisons, perhaps.

I don't know exactly how you'd organise this, I guess you want to score them by recidivism rates (and high-school diplomas?) with massive penalties for escapes / deaths etc? Unlike charter schools you could assign prisoners truly randomly, statewide, for good statistics.

No doubt there are lessons to be learned from many countries' systems. Maybe we should encourage foreign companies to enter this market. I'm personally dubious that the Nordics have some secret sauce (to adapt Milton Friedman's quip, have you heard about the Swedish-American prison gangs?) but would love to be proven wrong.


I like the idea of a more-ethical not-for-profit, that is required to spend or lose all money at end of year, and has a CEO cap of say 150x employee average. Could have some sort of investment scheme setup too, that inmates can buy into, and some of the 'left-over' could go into that giving them a little nest egg when they get out to cushion themselves and prevent recidivism.

The 'bonus' could be tied to performance/behavior/etc... and it could be 'will-able'.. in case you're a lifer, or die in prison, your family will have some benefit. A lot of poverty is because the breadwinner is in prison...if the breadwinner could still win bread while in prison it might positively effect poverty quite a bit.


Without commenting on the rest of your ideas, requiring a not-for-profit to spend all its money each and every fiscal year strikes me as a ideal that feels great but is perhaps impractical. There is already a sizable number of non-profits that devote much of their energy and resources to fundraising, generally at the expense of their core mission. One that has to re-raise its entire operating budget every year is likely to struggle to do anything to advance its core mission.

> It wouldn't work in US, or South Africa or El Salvador because of what level of violence is deemed acceptable in those countries.

The US prison system and the harsh police also contribute to violence, people are more violent because you are violent with them, it works as a feedback loop.


> The US prison system and the harsh police also contribute to violence, people are more violent because you are violent with them, it works as a feedback loop.

chicken and egg problem. I don't think US society was ever "not violent". It isn't more violent today than it was in the 80's at least.


Great, so let's call it a day then, no need to try. This is fine.


I'm not sure this hypothesis holds up. For instance consider places like Singapore. It is relentlessly brutal against criminals. Even relatively petty crime like vandalism is subject to corporal punishment - caning. Yet there is no feedback loop - the country has practically no crime, and I think this is in large part thanks to the people and culture of the area.

Or consider Japan. They have a 99% conviction rate, and a big part of that is because it's an open secret that police will torture confessions out of people they arrest. But once again a different people with a different culture and we see an incredibly low crime rate.

For this matter we can perhaps even look at the US! Violent crime rates have been plummeting since the early 90s even though that has been paired with a sharp increase in the public perception of police violence. If there was a feedback loop then we would expect it to have been going sharply in the other direction!


Police in Japan deliberately ignore many crimes, to make the numbers look good.

Also, torturing people into confessions is a great idea, until you nab the wrong person. But it sure drives the conviction statistics up!

This isn't a question of culture, this is simply a case of the police fudging the numbers to make themselves look good. The Soviet Union also had "zero crime", and a 99% conviction rate, but unlike Japan, nobody took those bullshit claims seriously.


The 99% obviously means that (at best!) that they don't bring cases they may lose to trial, and isn't really an achievement.

But GGP realusername's claim was that brutal policing drives crime. Places which have brutal policing and genuinely low crime are some evidence against this, even if you don't wish to emulate the brutality.

(Whether the USSR had low levels of street crime I actually don't know -- is this known? But few deny that Japan and Singapore are pretty damn safe.)


I was not stating it was a good thing. It means that Japan is treating people they suspect of crimes absolutely awfully. The hypothesis I was responding to is that harsh treatment of suspects is reciprocated with harsh treatment towards police from future suspects. I'm not sure this is substantiated.


So does China! 99.93% conviction rate last year. That's 3 nines! Stellar, those police get it right basically all the time! [1] Hong Kong OTOH is between 53.9% and 79% [2]. Sad.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/03/1...

[2] http://www.hk-lawyer.org/content/conviction-rates


> You can try to transpose the Nordic model in US all you want it is not going to work because these are different societies bound by different civil contracts and cultures.

The point isn't we should perfectly copy the "Nordic model" -- the point is criminals in the US would be better rehabilitated if we tried to rehabilitate them.


Penitentiary means a place to become penitent, which means to repent for your sins. It was not meant to simply have people pay for their crimes (retribution) but instead to reform the offender by making them see the error of their ways and getting them to ask for forgiveness.

Prison reform movements began to push for both deterrence and rehabilitation over simple punishment in the 17th century. This started with British houses of correction, where people were taught how to make a living for themselves rather than beg or steal. The Penitentiary Act introduced solitary confinement, religious instruction, a labor regime, proposed two state penitentiaries, and abandoned gaolers' fees. (These were never built, though) At the same time, capital punishment for minor crimes no longer seemed palatable, so simply being detained also became part of the punishment itself.

In America in the 19th century, states began to implement plans for prisons to be places of reform and penitence, such as the New York system, and the Pennsylvania system, which placed offenders into solitary cells with nothing other than religious literature, and forced them to be completely silent to reflect on their wrongs. Eastern State Penitentiary is one of those, and still stands in Philadelphia as a tourist attraction. It's a building that in some ways even feels like a church or cloister.

Current American prisons are not designed for penance or penitence.


At least in Finland (Nordic country) almost all people in prisons have reduced impulse control in one way or another. Severe alcohol dependency or drug addiction, personality disorders, often combined, attention deficit disorders or other neurological abnormalities.

People get into trouble with law mainly because they have reduced judgment. Idea that longer sentence makes them think twice simply can't work with them. It might work for white collar crime, but that's not usually what is suggested.


> Incarceration is 100% effective for what America wants it to achieve: penance.

“Punishment”, perhaps. It's far less than 100% effective for penance, which is voluntary, self-imposed, and done as an outward sign of genuine acceptance of responsibility and desire to make amends.


This, a thousand times! Our criminal justice system is in fact based on penance, but forced penance is a flawed concept. In order to get a lighter sentence (or later parole) perpetrators are expected to show penance for what they did, but they are coached in what to say so it is usually a lie which causes a rift between society and the offender which is almost irreparable.

This follows a line of "counter-culture" mentality, an us-vs-them mind-set which is divisive and self-reinforcing. The same problem comes with the war on drugs, if someone experiments with drugs at a young age and consequentially finds that they like drugs then they are forced into a counter-culture where escape is difficult at best.

Edit: removed some superfluous words for readability.


Wrong choice of words, you're right.


"Expiation" might be the word you're looking for.


I would say that "expiation" is not a suitable word. Incarceration neither compensates those who are wronged, nor does it atone / redeem -- the incarcerated person is still typically regarded a criminal / felon upon release.


This may have been true in the past, but times are changing, at least in Texas.

In fact, I teach a class every week to 33 prisoners, inside the prison itself. Rehabilitation is absolutely the goal.


Are the "for profit" prisons posting losses each quarter yet?


That's amazing. Have you seen any positive results yet?


Hard to say at this point. We talk a lot about controlling anger, conquering addictive tendencies, etc. but the real test is when they get out.

Drugs are everything. I'd say 90% of these guys are in prison because they were addicted to drugs of various kinds, and it wrecked their lives as they grew desperate to support their habit. Master the drugs, you master the crime.


How much of the drug taking was due to some other ill that isn't being addressed? Eg, were they draw to drugs because of high unemployment, poverty, loss of hope?


Because incarceration is penitentiary, which means criminals are made to pay for their crimes - not to be rehabilitated.

It's a pretty stupid form of payment, I should say. They lose time and opportunity and so on, so they definitely paid something. The state paid a fortune for their incarceration, so the state is also out of pocket. The criminals are paying for their crimes, but they're not paying society. They're not paying the victim. Society actually pays as well! This is so ridiculous. The criminal AND the state are paying for the crimes.


Exactly.

There are obviously situations that call for incarceration because there are individuals who have to be kept away from society (diagnosed psychopaths).

However, simple incarceration is a dreadful solution so far as raw justice goes. If the criminal were instead rehabilitated, they would have to live the remainder of their life under the weight of their own guilt. Revenge is the quick or easy way out, for everyone.


Correct. The primary purpose of incarceration is retributive justice, not rehabilitation; and although the punishment will often lead the perpetrator to see the error of his ways, that is not the goal. In that sense, a prison sentence is always effective.


This makes no sense. As far as I can tell they pulled property crime out of their definition of public safety, but left in the cost. This also flies in the face of the fact that the current era is one of the safest in history.

I think many people are sympathetic to reform in the criminal justice system. It would be a good thing to do. Particularly laws around drugs and illegal substances. It also gets to the root of many of these problems. I think that’s a much better way to move the needle, rather than just looking at the money spent and deciding “well, this isn’t working based on my definition, so we might as well not do it”.


>This also flies in the face of the fact that the current era is one of the safest in history.

Is it also one of the safest in history in other nations that have not increased their incarceration rates?


>Is it also one of the safest in history in other nations that have not increased their incarceration rates?

Yes[1]

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_drop


Interesting that there is no link between that page and the lead hypothesis, which seems to be gaining more credibility these days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead-crime_hypothesis https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/02/an-updated-le...


> This also flies in the face of the fact that the current era is one of the safest in history.

If this were solely limited to incarceration rates the United States would have the lowest crime rate in the world.


Apparently the author(s) think that you're safe if people are breaking into your house and stealing your things as long as you're not getting bashed over the head. Such an odd way to look at it. I don't think a lot of people who have had their house broken into feel just as safe afterwards. I do agree with their premise that prison for drug offenses is a terrible idea, but I hate that they lump drugs in with property crime. Property crime is definitely not victimless.


This is a nice data point in how crazy a "study" can be in how it abuses statistics to detach itself from reality. With a billion variables to control for, you can find many that seemingly account for trends in crime. Basically, locking people up prevents them from committing crimes for that duration. For anything besides organized crime, that's going to reduce crime by removing whatever crimes they'd commit.


> Basically, locking people up prevents them from committing crimes for that duration. [...] that's going to reduce crime by removing whatever crimes they'd commit.

You're making a lot of assumptions here. 1) There is no crime in prison. 2) The imprisoned would have kept on committing crime for their total sentence if they were not in jail. 3) Prisoners 'return' to the world committing the same type/volume of crimes that they were committing when they went in.

For #1: There is crime in prison, a whole lot of it, and (even if you don't have sympathy for criminals) it's bad for society; people may come out worse off than they went in, driving crime up further. Jail is an intense experience, and it seems like the skills that you develop while 'surviving' in jail may not be so constructive for society when you're released.

For #2: As a kid my friends and I made a lot of stupid mistakes and some pretty bad decisions. Purely arbitrary factors (race, affluence, geography, etc) meant that none of us were ever locked up for them. We had the opportunity to correct our behavior, grow out of it. Had we have been punished harshly, it's likely that that our bad behavior would have continued. This is due to #1 (exposure to crime/criminals in prison, and contact with the justice system), but also loss of opportunities, and probably a different exposure or experience with drugs.

For #3: The above two points lead to the possibility that people who come out of jail are more likely to engage in more or worse criminal activity when they're released than when they went in.

So while there need to be consequences for crime, it's not at all evident that increased incarceration, certainly the way we are doing it, would lead to reduced criminal activity.


Well for my family member who was/is a heroin addict, 6 months in jail meant 6 months of not stealing from her family. 6 months of not neglecting her kid. 6 months of sobriety to reflect on where her life was going.

She did not stay clean, and I'm sure we can do better as a society to rehab our people, but for 6 months she was limited in the damage she could do to those around her.

I'm pretty conflicted on the topic


How could one possibly not neglect one's kid while in jail?

Presumably someone or some institution stepped in, probably the family. How much was the jailing necessary for the kid to get this help?


She was not going to willingly give up the kid, even to family. I worded that poorly, but what i meant is that the child was no longer being neglected


By screaming at the child, hitting the child, taking drugs around the child....

Keep the easy questions coming.


That's abuse, not neglect.


A distinction without a meaningful difference.


I believe that the difference is meaningful. Neglect is a very specific type of abuse.

Physical, emotional and sexual abuse are all very different from neglect. All forms of abuse are different in terms of the psychological effects on the abused, societal reactions to both parties, motivation on the part of the abuser and much more.


I'm confident she did drugs in prison. Because opiates are a way to escape, and prison sucks, and prison has drugs. [1]

If you want to help people get off drugs, don't criminalize them, send them to rehab, end of story. Portugal decriminalized all drugs and started sending people to mandatory rehab if they had problems and the rate of drug harm went from one of the highest in the EU to one of the lowest in just 15 years. Portugal has 3 overdose deaths per million citizens, compared to the EU average of 17.3 [2, 3] The US is 213 per million, accounting for 1 in every 4 worldwide. [4] Clearly the US system does not work.

It's crazy, right, that a country where all drugs are legal has a 100x lower overdose rate than one where drugs crimes are enforced as strictly as humanly possible.

[1] https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/13/17020002/p...

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radic...

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/portugal-dec...

[4] https://www.overdoseday.com/resources/facts-stats/


She came out clean and relapsed several months later, but who am i to argue with your links


Let me start off by saying I feel for you and your family.

It's important to remember a single data point (an anecdote) is no substitute for large-scale studies (country-wide in the case of Portugal). The data I gave you covers millions and millions of individuals, and in my opinion, and should be weighed accordingly. I'd love for you to read them and provide your own thoughts rather than just saying "no, I have one data point close to me and advocate policy based on it."

Drug addictions are truly complicated things. In regards to the relapse after release, there's some evidence that addictions are in part situational. By the end of the Vietnam war, some 20% of service members where addicted to heroin. 95% of them were no longer addicted to heroin as soon as they returned home. Whereas people with additions in the US had a 90% chase of relapse after they returned home to the environment in which they used to be addicted. [1] I even notice this to a smaller degree myself, I drink more in SF - when I'm there, I drink more, when I travel, I drink less even controlling for everything else to the best of my abilities (again, an anecdote not a study).

Prison is a hammer, we need a scalpel, and it's important we use data dispassionately to solve this problem. What we have so far is clearly not working, and it's time to look outside and adopt things that have worked elsewhere even if they fly in the face of the status quo. I would argue especially if they fly in the face of the status quo.

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/01/02/1444317...


I'm not disputing the stats you linked, and i agree prison is no where close to a good solution. My follow up comment was regarding:

"I'm confident she did drugs in prison"

where you disputed this single data point. I did not mean it was representative of the majority.

Prison was mainly only good for the lives she was destroying in her downward spiral.

But don't be fooled thinking rehab will be that scalpal. Many rehab facilities are privately owned and corrupt.

Her mother is now completely broke from trying to pay for rehab & she was still able to use there & make more addict friends (new roomates after rehab)


I hope you agree that sending that person to jail is only a short term solution. As far as I know prison is quite expensive. Wouldn't it be more effective to send her to rehab instead?

It seems the US is using prison as the catch all for people who have trouble living in society. Be it for mental health reasons or drug addiction.


She has been to rehab, and she was able to get drugs & pregnant while there.

I think you are underestimating the power of a heroin addiction and overestimating the effectiveness of rehab in the US, especially for unwilling participants


I have dealt with (alcohol) addicts myself. I still prefer them going to rehab repeatedly instead of going to jail. Rehab is probably cheaper and there is at least some chance that things will improve. Sending addicts to jail just makes things worse.

Improving the quality of rehab is certainly worth a discussion. But there the US mindset gets in the way that doesn't want to spend money on welfare but instead prefers to spend more money on prisons. The only problem is that prisons don't know that their role now is not only to hold criminals but also people with mental health issues or addiction.


> 6 months of sobriety to reflect on where her life was going.

https://anaheimlighthouse.com/blog/drug-use-in-us-prisons/


She came out clean, it just only lasted a few months.


All of those things would be even easier if the system was rehabilitative!


You've overlooked the "incarceration increasing crime" factors:

> "Incarceration is not only "an expensive way to achieve less public safety," but it may actually increase crime by breaking down the social and family bonds that guide individuals away from crime, removing adults who would otherwise nurture children, depriving communities of income, reducing future income potential, and engendering a deep resentment toward the legal system."


Imprisonment doesn't always rehabilitate and is perhaps linked to not properly weighting the reactions of others and long-term consequences that are in response to one's own actions. I wonder what the effects would be of requiring inmates to handwrite or type a 400 word essay (i.e., just over a page, written from scratch, no cut and paste, each inmate has to write their own) every day responding to the stimulus of "What did you do today to improve your life and the lives of those around you?". Any response is sufficient, even if it is off topic or similar to prior responses. I'd be curious to learn if the inmates would begin to more properly weight others' reactions and long term consequences.


Right.

Put crudely: Put someone in jail and he's not going to be around to rob anyone. But he's also not going to be around to talk sense into his kid brother.


Nor is he around his grandma for her to talk sense into him; instead he is around a bunch of career criminals.

Nor is he around his children, making a stable household for them to grow up focusing on school and building their own futures.


> For anything besides organized crime, that's going to reduce crime by removing whatever crimes they'd commit.

That doesn't automatically follow.

First, it ignores crimes committed while in jail, which is totally a thing - but at least hopefully the impact of those on "innocents" is reduced.

Second, if punishment reduces honest opportunities and increases criminal opportunities (networking?), enough new criminal acts may follow to make up for the lost time.


I think punishment can reduce honest opportunities when you go from zero jail to some jail, but once you're in prison for a year, my guess is the additional effect of having a record and disrupting your career is lower, with basic ways you'd expect like being out of contact with people you know, or being behind on technical training.

Likewise, I think networking also doesn't account for much when your prison sentence is five or ten years instead of three. There's a big jump from zero to one, and a much smaller jump after. (Regardless, that's one reason why I explicitly excluded organized crime.)

These are a few reasons why I think corporal punishment might be a good idea.


Why go straight to corporal punishment rather than any of the other non-custodial solutions like electronic tagging? Or is the brutality part of the point?


Because with corporal punishment once it's over you're done. You don't drop off the face of the earth for weeks to years like you do with prison. I'd totally take lashes in exchange for a reduced sentence.


Fines also have this quality.


Only if you can afford to pay them. Otherwise they linger for quite some time.

Even in the case where a fine takes some time to pay, it doesn't exclude the offender from society while they're paying it.

The biggest problem I have with corporal punishment is the same with capital punishment; I could never live knowing a not 100% effective justice system harms or kills innocent people, and I'm supporting it by electing the leaders and paying the money to implement it.

An incarceration focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment is something i think would work a lot better, I could at least stand sending innocent people to such a place.


In some ways, I do think corporal punishment is more humane. Given the option of twenty lashes or a year in jail, sign me up for the cat-o-nines. Time is precious, and pain is fleeting.


Depending on the methods employed, one's convalescence from twenty lashes could last longer than a year.


I'd too take the lash, these days. But keep in mind that back when that was popular, they didn't have antibiotics nor germ theory, and being unable to do physical labor for any length of time was a lot more problematic. Death was a common consequence.


Within a few years, "tough on crime" US politicians will lead to people being routinely maimed or beaten to death. Soundbites, "accidents happen", etc etc, next back-door execution please.


> With a billion variables to control for,

What if I told you that to imprison citizens for small crimes causes them to commit a more serious crime in the future? Does that changes your conclusion?

Your over-simplification does not make sense. And assuming that the people that did the study are just blatantly incompetent without any information is very presumptuous.


Controlling for confounding factors is required when such factors exist. To use it as an argument to attack the study is rather bold, considering not correcting would actually be statistical malpractice.

If you believe confounding factors make it impossible to use empirical methods to study the subject you're just giving up on scientific method.

Because your alternative seems to be a few slogans that claim to be "common sense", but are really just a projection of your moral preferences into a causal model.

Fortunately, policy professionals are not giving up on evidence-based decision-making quite as quickly.


How could the opposite ever be true, most incarcerated are not there for life and when they get out they get shit on by the rest of us. Post incarceration opportunities that lead to yearly incomes above the poverty line are reduced 10x probably more. I'm not saying we shouldn't jail people but jail should be like forced education unless your jail term is for life.


We start with "paying your debt to society" as justification, then society remembers the debt forever.


What good is forcing someone to get an "education" when corporations refuse to give decent paying jobs with benefits to ex-cons?


They don't offer decent paying jobs because the odds are that if you are a con you don't have the skills to hold the job and/or can't be trusted.

I wonder how many people actually understood what the article is referring to when it says "increased incarceration". It's not referring to increased jail sentences for those who commit violent times. It's referring to the imprisoning of non-violent "criminals" such as marijuana dealers.

> "Higher incarceration rates are not associated with lower violent crime rates, because expanding incarceration primarily means that more people convicted of nonviolent, "marginal" offenses (like drug offenses and low-level property offenses) and "infrequent" offenses are imprisoned."

I'm all for legalizing marijuana and other soft drugs, but not for going easy on rapists and murderers. Do increased jail sentences have a deterrent effect? A quick Google search shows that the answer is yes, up to a certain point, and this makes perfect logical sense. If the punishment for committing armed robbery consisted solely of one day in prison, so many more people would give it a go. As you increase the sentence from one day to multiple years, you would weed out the less hardcore would-be criminals.

We can debate the inflection point where the effects start to taper off. But there is no doubt that having some threat of jail time, has a extremely significant impact on crime.

https://www.economist.com/free-exchange/2016/03/29/longer-ja...


The data show that areas with high incarceration rates generally have higher crime rates; and areas with lower incarceration rates generally have lower crime rates.

The article then deduces that high incarceration rates CAUSE high crime rates when it seems blatantly obvious to me that the causation runs in the OPPOSITE direction.

Areas with high crime rate cause high incarceration rates because as crime rate goes up, more people must be put in prison.

I don't necessarily disagree with the article's agenda (to support prison reform) but the reasoning seems shockingly lacking.

Also, the article mentions that the incarceration budget went up by 340% with no meaningful change to public safety, but fails to mention that inflation during the same time period was 240%....so the budget didn't really increase all that much.


This is just a correlation study, showing that states where incarceration went up did not simultaneously have decreasing crime rates.

The study can't tell you what would have happened if that state had reduced incarceration rates.

People who get cancer treatment are far more likely to have cancer than the general population. This does not mean that reducing cancer treatment reducing cancer treatment will reduce cancer incidence!


Why can't the focus ever be on the prevention of crime in the first place? These discussions always dissolve into the same cesspool of blaming prisoners and politicians. The government can never be relied on to fix things. The single biggest predictor of living in poverty or doing time in prison is growing up with no father around. 80% of prisoners today had no father in their life.

Seems like we should be looking at things like that. I never shook those conversations here though. W have to empower single motherhood (heroism) and not discourage it here... Well look at where that has led us.


While I'm sympathetic to this point of view, it's really hard to take seriously a conclusion like "no impact".

California's murder rate peaked around 1994. Three-strikes sentencing was enacted that same year in CA and about a dozen other states. Are we to believe that the 50% decline in murders since then is not, at least in part, a result of the incarceration of repeat criminals?

I guess we'll find out soon enough now that 3-strikes is being considerably softened.


Property and violent crime rates started dropping in California in the early 90s[1], along with the rest of the country, before three-strikes was enacted. Crime in California has also declined at rates similar to states without three-strikes policies (e.g. Illinois).

[1] http://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/crime-trends-1.png


Using the same site you referenced, violent crime peaked around 1993, the year before three strikes.

http://www.ppic.org/publication/crime-trends-in-california/

Also, the number of homicides specifically peaked in 1993 at 4,096 and dropped almost every year for the next 25 years. It looks like it bottomed out in 2014 and started climbing again.

http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/cacrime.htm

It's true that rates in other states dropped also. You mentioned Illinois who did not enact a three strikes law (but its neighbors did, as did the federal government). Note that it didn't see improvement on the same scale as California - and now Chicago's murder rate is so bad that it makes the national news almost every week.

I really don't know that the halving of the murder rate should be credited to tougher sentencing, but it coincides pretty well - so well that when I see claims that they have zero effect I can't help but assume that the findings are agenda-driven.

But tough sentencing laws are falling out of favor and being reversed - or partially reversed. Maybe the homicide rate will stay low and 3-strikes laws will be completely discredited.


Leaded fuel was banned in the 70s so the people that were of criminal age and exposed to lead were aging out of the criminal pool.

There is a theory from Freakonomics author Steven Levvit that the crime rate drop had much more to do with legalized abortion than the 3 strikes rule.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk6gOeggViw

Primary evidence being that the crime rate started dropping everywhere in a similar proportion around that time, even in states without a 3 Strikes rule.


This is just a correlation study, showing that states where incarceration went up did not simultaneously have decreasing crime rates.

The study can't tell you what would have happened if that state had reduced incarceration rates.

People who get cancer treatment are far more likely to have cancer than the general population. This does not mean that reducing cancer treatment rates will reduce cancer rates!


Whenever this topic comes up, I like to link to this [1] study done by the ACLU. It is a study on people that have received life without parole for nonviolent offenses. It is truly shocking that US lawmakers have allowed even one of these sentences to happen. The "land of the free" is anything but. Here's one of the more salient quotes:

"...thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes as petty as siphoning gasoline from an 18-wheeler, shoplifting three belts, breaking into a parked car and stealing a woman’s bagged lunch, or possessing a bottle cap smeared with heroin residue."

[1] https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/111813-lwop-complete-repor...


Too many politicians and voters are in the habit of ignoring facts and instead going with their gut feelings, even when the facts directly contradict their "feelings". And unfortunately fear mongering for votes can be very effective.

Here's Newt Gingrich's classic "debate" between FBI crime statistics and his own "feelings". Notice particularly the language he uses to frame actual facts that don't agree with his ideology:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnhJWusyj4I


I thought it had positive impact on crime - that is, prison teaches petty thieves to become hardened criminals.

Not surprised at all. Born and raised in a country with criminal punishments a lot harsher than here in Canada yet the crime rate is 5-10 times higher.

This is making a good case for death penalty.


4%+ of people who receieve the death penalty are innocent. This is unacceptable.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/28/death-penalty-...


100% of people who receive the death penalty are murdered. This is unacceptable.


murder: the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.

If a legal system grants the death penalty, it isn't murder under that legal system.


That same 4%+ would exist with or without the death penalty so the death penalty isn't the problem. It should be unacceptable that any innocent people suffer under false judgement.


Ah yes, the old "beatings aren't working, BEAT HARDER." Easier than a systemic rethink anyways.




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