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February 12, 2010

Notable comments by AG Holder about incarceration in speech to National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives

For those like me concerned about the economic costs and potenital criminogenic consequences of mass incarceration, another speech delivered today from Attorney General Eric Holder suggests that his Department of Justice understands the problems with using incarceration to address all crime issues.  Specifically, in this speech given to a law enforcement group, AG Holder had this to say about incarceration:

I know there are two specific problems many of you are struggling to tackle, and I’d like to address them. First, the growing number of Americans – and disproportionate number of African Americans – currently incarcerated in prisons across our country. Second, the division and tension that sometimes exists between law enforcement officers and the communities they work to protect.

As you all know, our nation now has the world’s highest incarceration rate. In the last 40 years, the number of inmates in American prisons has increased seven-fold. Today, one out of every 100 adults in America is behind bars.

Most of these prisoners are poor and uneducated.  Twenty percent of them are Hispanic. Forty percent are black. In too many black families and neighborhoods, a “cradle-to-prison” life path has become the norm for young men. African Americans are now eight times more likely to be incarcerated as whites. And, if current trends continue, nearly 1 in 3 of our young black men will spend time behind bars.

Let me be clear, we enhance public safety by incarcerating those who harm our neighbors and our communities. This is a fact. But in our work to protect the American people, incarceration cannot be our only law enforcement strategy. We’ve learned that simply building more prisons and jails will not solve all our problems.

It’s time to face facts about our current approach to incarceration. It’s not sustainable. It’s not affordable. And we’ve seen that it isn’t always as effective as we think in reducing crime and keeping Americans safe.

Over the last few decades, state spending on corrections has risen faster than nearly any other budget item. Yet our best research suggests that there are other, more effective ways to invest taxpayer dollars and ensure public safety.

At a cost of $60 billion a year, our prisons and jails do very little to prepare prisoners to get jobs and “go straight” after they're released.  Former offenders are often barred from housing, shunned by potential employers, and surrounded by other ex-offenders in their neighborhoods. This is a recipe for high recidivism. And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years.

It’s time for a new approach.  If we are going to achieve positive outcomes for public safety, for state and local government budgets, for our communities, and for people who have been incarcerated and their families, we must begin to acknowledge that easy short-term solutions sometimes cause long-term negative consequences.

The truth is that any real effort to contain spending on corrections, while ensuring public safety, must include a strong focus on preparing for reentry so we can reduce recidivism. Effective reentry programs can transform lives. They can ease difficult transitions. And they can provide our best chance for safeguarding our neighborhoods and supporting offenders who have served their time and who are also resolved to improve their lives.

I’m proud that, last year, the Justice Department distributed $28 million in reentry awards under the Second Chance Act. And I’m pleased to tell you that we will have another $100 million available for reentry programs this year. But we must complement reentry programs with smart and sound policy changes at every level of government.

At the federal level, I have established a Sentencing and Corrections Working Group to take a fresh look at federal sentencing practices and determine how we can better prepare federal prisoners to transition back into their communities. Likewise, we must analyze the distinct crime trends and corrections policies of our states and counties by focusing on the neighborhoods where large numbers of offenders return. This will allow us to provide state and local officials with targeted, data-driven options for improving public safety and reducing spending.

I am pleased to see that AG Holder is continuing to talk a good game about the fact that there are alternative is incarceration that can provide "more effective ways to invest taxpayer dollars and ensure public safety."  But I continue to hope that al this good talk soon turns into some more tangible action in the form of more aggressive advocacy from the Department of Justice for the braider use of alternatives to incarceration at the state and federal level for all non-violent types of offenses.

February 12, 2010 at 06:11 PM | Permalink

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There is no shortage of training opportunities in the ghetto. Show up, don't bust up the place, and you can graduate from Vo Tech. Most subjects of VoTech will get you $50K a year, and a bunch of bosses chasing you, waving $5K bonuses for coming with them and not the other guys chasing you. Pretty good at age 19. By age thirty they have made $500k if they had no ambition and stayed employees. Meanwhile the lawyer is $250K in debt. These ghetto residents can be $750K ahead of the dumbass law school grad. And they are productive and appreciated, not destructive and intensely hated as the lawyer.

So who is Holder talking about? These are amoral, full time Roman Orgy, ultra-violent predators, destroying everything in the paths between them and their selfish immediate pleasures. Most of their victims are poor black folks, especially females and kids, markedly undervalued by the lawyer traitor.

Holder can talk big because he likely lives in a neighborhood with a lower crime rate than Japan or Switzerland. Why is it that low? The police kills those black kids at the scene of any crime. Those that are quick enough to surrender get an asskicking right there whether they need on or not.

This lawyer. criminal lover hypocrite needs to be forced to live where he wants these predators released. Better yet, seize the surrounding homes in his neighborhood, under Kelo, and move the prisoners into halfway houses. They can wave to his kids, sitting and staring on their porches, as the kids make their way to school every morning.

Holder proposes dumping these toxic criminals on areas that do not have political influence.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 12, 2010 7:23:26 PM

I think it is too bad that the Attorney General's "new approach" seems to be focused exclusively on prisoner reentry, and does not mention ways to avoid sending people to prison in the first place. Texas has recently managed to reduce both crime and prison populations by investing in community-based alternatives to incarceration. By contrast, in the federal system, 93% of those convicted now go to prison, as opposed to 60% twenty-five years ago, and the average federal prison sentence has tripled.

Posted by: margy | Feb 12, 2010 8:17:04 PM

I was disappointed that the AG mentioned the cradle-to-prison process but he did not talk about what he thought could be done to reduce the transition rate from the juvenile to the adult criminal justice system. The juvenile justice system is one of the most import sources of adult recidivists.

Posted by: John Neff | Feb 12, 2010 8:47:22 PM

Margy: Here is a nice way to prevent both crime victimization and commissions. Suspend the lawyer war on the family, and reduce bastardy. If you do that, you bust a lot of lawyer business. That will never happen.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 12, 2010 9:57:46 PM

yep i loved it to. especialy when you consider the u.s crime rate is at what a 60 year LOW!

AND this was really really funny!

"And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years."

Maybe if you stoped persecuting people comitting sex crimes you'd be in better shape too since almost 20 years of studies say they aren't in this group getting reconvicted in the first 3 years.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Feb 13, 2010 3:35:16 AM

Again Holder avoids a frank discussion of the seminal reason for the "cradle to prison" life path he acknowledges has become the norm in certain black neighborhoods. A non-marital birthrate of 70% in those communities leads inexorably to the social pathology responsible for the incarceration rates he laments.

Posted by: mjs | Feb 13, 2010 7:20:21 PM

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