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July 16, 2011

"The Causes of Growth in Prison Admissions and Populations"

The title of this post is the title of this important new empirical paper by Professor John Pfaff now available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The explosive growth in the US prison population is well documented, but its causes are poorly understood.  In this paper I exploit previously-unused data to define precisely where the growth is occurring.  In short, the growth in prison populations has been driven almost entirely by increases in felony filings per arrest.  All other possible sites of growth -- arrests, admissions per filing, convictions per filings and admissions per conviction, and even (perhaps most surprisingly) time served per admission -- have barely changed over the past four decades.  But the growth in filings tracks that of admissions almost perfectly.  This paper demonstrates the importance of felony filings and considers some of the possible explanations for their growth.

July 16, 2011 at 06:21 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"Prosecutors’ offices are to a large extent empirical black boxes."
No kidding. They want to keep it that way too. And there is nobody in the DOJ, congress, any government office who is willing to change that.

Posted by: anon2 | Jul 16, 2011 9:40:30 PM

The impact of technology on the CJ system was very large during the time interval studied so I guess one might claim that an increase in the felony case filing per arrest ratio was caused in part by better evidence. OTOH increased felony filing could be caused by change in plea bargaining tactics.

I have often wondered if improved technology and the creation of large data bases has resulted in our cycling our criminals through the CJ system at a faster rate,

Posted by: John Neff | Jul 16, 2011 10:14:45 PM

By a vast measure, the most important thing to note about the increase in imprisonment is that it has contributed significantly to the decrease in crime and, comcomitantly, to the decrease in the number of people who have suffered from crime. The point is made is this earlier entry Doug put up:

http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2011/05/james-q-wilsons-take-on-what-is-behind-falling-crime-rates.html

As Prof. Wilson notes (emphasis added):

"[W]e have little reason to ascribe the recent crime decline to jobs, the labor market or consumer sentiment. The question remains: Why is the crime rate falling?

"One obvious answer is that many more people are in prison than in the past. Experts differ on the size of the effect, but I think that William Spelman and Steven Levitt have it about right in believing that GREATER INCARCERATION CAN EXPLAIN ABOUT ONE-QUARTER OR MORE OF THE CRIME DECLINE. Yes, many thoughtful observers think that we put too many offenders in prison for too long. For some criminals, such as low-level drug dealers and former inmates returned to prison for parole violations, that may be so. But it's true nevertheless that when prisoners are kept off the street, they can attack only one another, not you or your family."

Serious people cannot dismiss the significant improvement in the public's well-being that has come about as a result of keeping criminals off the street.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2011 7:48:02 AM

"The Causes of Growth in Prison Admissions and Populations"

Might the near-constant legislative additions of more and more felony offenses to the law have effect?

Unless one is bedridden, it is unlikely to get through a day without violating at least some obscure felony provision.

Posted by: smitty | Jul 17, 2011 7:58:36 AM

smitty --

"Unless one is bedridden, it is unlikely to get through a day without violating at least some obscure felony provision."

I believe that's called "ipse dixit."

Actually, smitty, I've managed to go for about 22,000 days or so without committing a felony (or a misdemeanor for that matter).

Is this because I'm a saint?

No way. Not hardly!

It's because I behave like a normal person. Meaning: I don't steal stuff, I control my temper, don't try to hoodwink people out of their money, don't drive when I'm plastered, don't do drugs, have no sexual interest in four year-old's, don't lie to the cops, and pay all my taxes whether I like it or not, which I certainly don't.

It's really not hard. Just follow the Golden Rule, be honest and behave like your parents taught you. Not a whole lot more to it than that.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2011 8:57:08 AM

lol bill

"It's really not hard. Just follow the Golden Rule, be honest and behave like your parents taught you. Not a whole lot more to it than that."

tell that to the 1000+ people who have been declared INNOCENT thanks to DNA!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 17, 2011 11:35:59 AM

While the causes of prison growth are many, and probably will never be attributed to any one cause, the correlative relationship between prison population and crime rate decline is not absolute or direct.

Steven Levitt did attribute about a quarter of the crime rate decline across the board since the 1990's to the rise in prison population. However, that was not his statistical theory behind the decline. He actually attributed the crime rate drop largely to the legalization of abortions by Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113, nearly two decades before the crime rates began to drop (thus making the average age of the legally aborted 18+).

Prison populations have more than doubled since the decline began in 1991 (Justice Policy Institute Report & BJS Bulletin NCJ 219416), but such incarceration rates only account for, at most, a 25% decrease in crime rates. Explosive prison growth percentages that far outweigh crime decrease percentages make the safety of the free population a Pyrrhic victory for the country as a whole. A 100% input increase v. 25% ROI would be a poor capital placement investment in the eyes of an economist or statistician.

Obviously if we incarcerated everybody, the crime rate would drop to nothing. The answer lies somewhere in between over-criminalization and rampant crime.

To engage Mr. Otis for a moment, I cannot attest that you have or have not ever committed a felony or misdemeanor because we've never met. IMHO, however, a lack of criminal record only shows that you have never been convicted of a felony/misdemeanor. Harvey Silvergate, lawyer and author of Three Felonies A Day, would probably disagree with you.

Posted by: Eric Matthews | Jul 17, 2011 12:35:16 PM

rodsmith --

No system ever devised has been or will be error-free. Ain't gonna happen. Some innocent people go to jail and some guilty ones walk.

There is a way to avoid all error in imprisonment, however, and that is to abolish imprisonment. If we send no one to prison, no one will be erroneously sent to prison.

Of course no sane person entertains this idea.

We accept the negatives of imprisonment because the positives are deemed to outweigh them. And I can tell you, after years and years in a USAO, it's really hard to get sent to federal prison. We had plenty of prosecutable cases left on the editing room floor because the resources weren't there.

When you're flooded with guilty people, you have no need to go after innocent ones.

Finally, when you live in the way I suggested, it's true that your chances of going to prison are not zero. They are, however, asymptotic to zero. In a world where fallibility is a fact of life, that's pretty darn good.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2011 1:43:52 PM

Isn't the exploding population of the federal BOP tied the imposition of the U.S.S.G. and the growth industry of mandatory minimums? I think the numbers go something like this, and no Bill, I did not look them up ...this is from a fading memory. In the 20 year period prior to the implementation of the Guidelines the BOP population never varied more than between 30 and 34 thousand. It now exceeds 200, 000. Is this more than a correlation? Is there some causation between the passage of the Guidelines and the mandatory minimums and the population of the BOP. I would be interested in others thoughts , including my new pal, Bill Otis:) Or maybe it is related to criminal defense lawyers attending the ABA meetings - the unintended consequences of this conspiracy:)

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 17, 2011 3:59:04 PM

"When you're flooded with guilty people, you have no need to go after innocent ones." -- Bill Otis Bill, then how do you explain the DNA and other exonerations?

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 17, 2011 4:01:18 PM

Great neW book out : HOW TO AVOID PRISON BY LIVING LIKE I DO - DRINK THE BILL OTIS SECRET KOOLAIDE

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 17, 2011 4:05:42 PM

It appears this message board has become flooded with my former inmate students, all of whom were innocent.

This is a ridiculous argument. Wow, "1000+" DNA exonerations out of how many convictions? Multiply that number by 10, assume that they were all actually "innocent" rather than just enough reasonable doubt added to the equation to have the conviction overturned, and you are STILL more likely to get hit by lightning. Twice.

And the rest of you, like my inmates, are talking like not getting convicted of a felony is some type of crapshoot. What a joke. This is what passes for "innocent" these days. You get into a $50,000 Escalade with your best friend who has been to prison twice and never had a job in his life. You notice he is packing and say nothing. He decides to stop at a liquor store, comes running out with a bag full of money and you get stopped 3 blocks away and "wrongly convicted" of robbing a liquor store with your buddy. Sure, this person is "innocent."

Here is an alternate scenario. You get up, go to work every morning, and go home to your family after. That is what I do and, miraculously, I have never once been accused of a crime in my 40 years.

But I am sure you are all right and it has nothing to do with choices, just luck.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 17, 2011 4:38:10 PM

Steve Prof --

"Bill, then how do you explain the DNA and other exonerations?"

By the fact of human fallibility, as I noted at Jul 17, 2011 1:43:52 PM.

And how do you explain erroneous acquittals?

Hint: Same deal.

In a world where every adult knows error is inevitable, it's silly to expect none. It's also silly to talk about the number, or alleged number, of erroneous convictions without talking about the total number of convictions, which, according to this very pro-defendant source
http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/huff.htm

is approximately 2,000,000 per year. And that was 14 years ago.

You are free to differ, but to my way of thinking, the problem for ordinary people is not the number of inmates. It's the number of criminals.

In the view of Wilson, Levitt and other experts, increased incarceration accounts for 25% of the very significant reduction in crime over the last two decades. This translates to tens of thousands fewer crime victims -- that is, thousands fewer people being beaten, hooked on meth, robbed, swindled, bullied, sexually abused and on and on. Others may be willing to pooh-pooh that. Believing that those who play by the rules deserve the protection of the law at least as much as those who don't, I won't be joining the pooh-poohers.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2011 5:27:27 PM

TarlsQtr --

Devastating.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2011 5:31:36 PM

Steve Prof --

"Great neW book out : HOW TO AVOID PRISON BY LIVING LIKE I DO - DRINK THE BILL OTIS SECRET KOOLAIDE"

Steve makes another sober, thoughtful contribution to the discussion. Still, I have to admit it's in character for a certain segment of commenters to riducule the idea of living a normal, honest life. Honesty is for suckers. Stealing and drugs are so hip.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2011 5:43:16 PM

Bill, respectfully, you miss the point. Your self-proclaimed lifestyle is commendable, it truly is!!! But a little self-rightous, don't ya think...just a tiny???? I would think that virtually every lawyer that posts here could but doesn't feel the need to boast about their lack of criminal record. But I do love your sarcasm:) Touche !!!

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 17, 2011 7:26:47 PM

Bill ..what do you think about my suggestion as to the twin causes of the dramatic increase in the population of the BOP? What is your explanation?

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 17, 2011 7:29:36 PM

Bill, unless you are God there is virtually no such thing as a erroneous acquittal ...if the jury does not believe that he government has proved it's case beyond a reasonable doubt, even though you do as a arm chair quarterback who has neither read the transcript nor heard all the evidence , or public opinion thinks so (O.J. & Anthony) that does not make it erroneous.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 17, 2011 7:36:02 PM

Steve Prof stated: "I would think that virtually every lawyer that posts here could but doesn't feel the need to boast about their lack of criminal record."

I see that you got an "A" in twisting other people's words when you took that class in law school. Bill did not boast. He said that he was not a saint and said he was no better than a "normal person." You do know what normal means, correct? Average, not out of the ordinary. Since when is calling oneself "average" a boast? It is not but that does not fit your narrative, so you just change the narrative, like all good, dishonest, lawyers.

And, you cannot have it both ways. Just read this thread. If someone read it and had NO idea about the US justice system, they would believe the police are just picking up random people off the streets and getting convictions by the thousands. At his advanced age, Bill would have every reason to boast for not getting convicted of a felony yet.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 17, 2011 7:44:46 PM

TarlsQtr,
"I've managed to go for about 22,000 days or so without committing a felony (or a misdemeanor for that matter)." That's a boast .. he didn't say he didn't get caught ....said not even committed a misdemeanor - average folks don't make that claim ...bet most folks on here including myself cannot claim that ....I took a candy bar from a store when I was 7 and my father made me go back and apologize and pay for it........but "dishonest", dude, that's a tiny bit harsh

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 17, 2011 8:04:09 PM

TQ: "Here is an alternate scenario. You get up, go to work every morning, and go home to your family after. That is what I do and, miraculously, I have never once been accused of a crime in my 40 years."

Lenell Jeter, for one, tried that and he was sentenced to life in prison for a robbery he did not commit. But I imagine it would be comforting to think that what you say is true.

Source: http://larryvancefamily.blogspot.com/2008/07/jenell-jeter.html

Bill Otis: "In a world where every adult knows error is inevitable, it's silly to expect none."

True enough, but more importantly, in a world where every adult knows error is inevitable, it is obscene to pretend that errors do not occur, or to deny that errors can be corrected with the damage caused by them being minimized as much as possible. You'll never improve or do better if you just throw up your hands and say, "error is inevitable." Recognizing this is the beginning of our work, not the end.

Posted by: C | Jul 17, 2011 10:40:15 PM

sorry bill!

"No system ever devised has been or will be error-free. Ain't gonna happen. Some innocent people go to jail and some guilty ones walk."

I have never said any sytem will be perfect. But when you have a system where the HIGHEST court in the country can with a STRAIGHT FACE accounce that ACTUAL INNOCENCE is NO REASON TO DISREGARD A JURY VERDICT we got one HELL OF A PROBLEM!

our sytem put's FAR FAR FAR too many roadblocks in for those who claim they are innocent upto and including deliberate withholding and or DESTRUCTION of evidence that might prove it!

sorry i my book ACTUAL INNOCENCE trumps IT ALL!

MIGHT also help a lot with people's willingness to think the sytem know's what the heck it's doing IF it actualy PUNISHED those who work IN IT who VIOLATE THE LAW.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 18, 2011 1:21:41 AM

LOL good one prof!

"TarlsQtr,
"I've managed to go for about 22,000 days or so without committing a felony (or a misdemeanor for that matter)." That's a boast .. he didn't say he didn't get caught ....said not even committed a misdemeanor - average folks don't make that claim ...bet most folks on here including myself cannot claim that ....I took a candy bar from a store when I was 7 and my father made me go back and apologize and pay for it........but "dishonest", dude, that's a tiny bit harsh

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 17, 2011 8:04:09 PM"


Couldnt' agree more. if i'm not mistaken last person to claim a perfect life would have been Jesus Christ and if i'm also not mistaken about him. He ALSO was FRAMED, TRIED, CONVICTED AND KILLED!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 18, 2011 1:23:44 AM

Steve Prof stated: "I've managed to go for about 22,000 days or so without committing a felony (or a misdemeanor for that matter)." That's a boast .. he didn't say he didn't get caught ....said not even committed a misdemeanor - average folks don't make that claim ...bet most folks on here including myself cannot claim that ....I took a candy bar from a store when I was 7 and my father made me go back and apologize and pay for it........but "dishonest", dude, that's a tiny bit harsh"

Not too harsh at all. Bill was relating the same experience that most Americans have, that of not committing serious crimes. If you think the average American is going around committing felonies (or even misdemeanors), then you have been an attorney too long. It is the same syndrome that some police get, where they see two kinds of people: criminals in jail and criminals out of jail.

And your "7 year old stealing a candy bar story" is disingenuous. The topic for this thread is the cause of growth in prison admissions and populations and Bill's comment needs to be read in that context. Personally, I have never heard of a 7 year old going to prison for stealing a candy bar. In fact, many times it takes MULTIPLE felonies to get into prison. Bill's intended point still stands. Despite what you and the the ABA would like us to believe, it is actually very DIFFICULT to be sentenced to prison and if you behave like a "normal" American, you are almost guaranteed of never seeing the inside of one.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 9:30:34 AM

C posted: "Lenell Jeter, for one, tried that and he was sentenced to life in prison for a robbery he did not commit. But I imagine it would be comforting to think that what you say is true."

Thanks for one 30 year old example. Like I said, it is like being struck by lightning, twice.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 9:34:40 AM

rodsmith stated: "if i'm not mistaken last person to claim a perfect life would have been Jesus Christ and if i'm also not mistaken about him."

Straw man. Since when is claiming not to have committed a serious crime equal to claiming a "perfect life?"

rodsmith stated: "He ALSO was FRAMED, TRIED, CONVICTED AND KILLED!"

Seriously? I hope this is a case of "tongue and cheek," which does not always come off that well on a message board. Because if you are comparing trials by the Pharisees and a Roman Provincial Governor of 2000 years ago with the US justice system of today, then you have eaten too many froot loops.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 9:41:34 AM

Steve Prof --

As usual, you divert attention from the issue to the person. The question before us is not about me or any given commenter.

If I were an axe murderer, it would STILL be the case that the easy and virtually certain way to avoid prison is to lead a normal life. Leading a normal life means you don't steal stuff, control your temper, don't try to hoodwink people out of their money, don't drive when you're plastered, don't do drugs, take no sexual interest in four year-old's, don't lie to the cops, and pay your taxes whether you like it or not.

This is not the picture of a saint. It is, as TarlsQtr notes, the picture of normal life. And that IS relevant here, because the answer to increased incarceration is for people to lead normal lives. It's just not that hard.

P.S. That you took a candy bar at age 7 is irrelevant to to the issue, which, again, is not whether you and I are virtuous. You and I are not the topics here. And if a point be made of it anyway, seven year-old's are incapable of forming criminal intent. So you can breath a sigh of relief after all these years: You didn't commit a crime after all.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2011 10:01:55 AM

With respect, I disagree TarisQtr. Talk about changing the arriviste to fit you liking .....I never said the average American committed serious crime and that wasn't Bill's claim. He claimed to be a "normal" person -- you morphed that into average ...either way I seriously doubt that average or normal person in this country has never, ever, committed a misdemeanor. They may not have been caught nor prosecuted. Drank a beer in college while underage, been intoxicated in a public place, urinated in public at 3:00 a.m., trespassed by walking across yard without permission, give me a break yea self-righteous ones. Disingenuous -- look in the mirror pal.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 10:10:02 AM

Steve Prof --

"Bill, unless you are God there is virtually no such thing as a erroneous acquittal."

How odd. The jury can make a mistake when it renders a conviction, but not when it renders an acquittal!

Far out. The ONE AND ONLY area of human life in which infallibility exists is in the handing down of acquittals!

Why didn't I think of that? The way to make myself over from the flawed creature I am not into A Guy Who Never Errs is to get on a jury and send in those acquittals!!!

Of course this is just a defense lawyer fantasy. Even in the arid sense, it's utterly false. If jurors can slip up in believing that the government DID meet its burden, it's too obvious for argument that they can likewise slip up in believing that the government DID NOT meet its burden.

So even if the technical sense, the claim of the infallibility of acquittals is baloney.

In the sense that non-lawyers employ, it's not merely wrong but laughable to say that there's no such thing aa an erroneous acquittal. There's an erroneous acqutittal -- not to mention a miscarriage of justice -- when a factually guilty person beats the rap. OJ is the classic example, now (in all likelihood) to be joined by the lovely Ms. Anthony.

"ACQUITTALS ARE INFALLIBLE." Really, the pluperfect defense bar mind-bender. And then you people wonder why the public has the opinion it does of criminal lawyers.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2011 10:32:25 AM

I wrote that about acquittals totally tongue-in-check- but you swallowed the bait - that is hilarious, Bill. Of course there can be erroneous acquittals just like convictions. Perhaps part, and only part, of the lack of public confidence in criminal lawyers are the constitutional violations of AUSA's that seem to pop up quite often. 94,000 hits on Google with "prosecutorial misconduct by doj"

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 10:49:42 AM

Bill Otis --"You and I are not the topics here." Bill, I hope you recover quickly from your amnesia. You made yourself the topic by injecting your allegedly never committed a misdemeanor statement.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 10:56:20 AM

Steve Prof --

"Drank a beer in college while underage, been intoxicated in a public place, urinated in public at 3:00 a.m., trespassed by walking across yard without permission, give me a break yea self-righteous ones."

And how much time in prison did you spend for any of that?

Right.

The question posed by this thread is not about the supposed self-righteousness of commenters. It's about what accounts for the fact that the prison population has grown so substantially.

And the answer to that, as you could not help knowing, has absolutely nothing to do with drinking a beer in college while underage, being intoxicated in a public place, urinating in public at 3:00 a.m., or trespassing by walking across yard without permission.

What it has to do with is using violence and especially guns, peddling dangerous drugs, stealing, and fleecing people out of major money. In the huge majority of cases, that's why people are actually in prison. You really don't know this?

Harvey Silvergate to the contrary, we are not a nation of criminals who commit "three felonies a day." That's just a defense bar rant, undertaken in a shake-and-jive attempt to blur the line between criminals and people who lead everyday, honest lives. Because most people lead such lives, it' the case that, except in very rare instances, our citizens do not go to prison for trifles and technical offenses. And I strongly suspect you know this, too.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2011 10:57:06 AM

"Harvey Silvergate to the contrary, we are not a nation of criminals who commit "three felonies a day." That's just a defense bar rant, undertaken in a shake-and-jive attempt to blur the line between criminals and people who lead everyday, honest lives. Because most people lead such lives, it' the case that, except in very rare instances, our citizens do not go to prison for trifles and technical offenses. And I strongly suspect you know this, too." BIll Otis


Bill, I am in total agreement but why your need to raise the Bill Otis never committed a misdemeanor line?

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 11:01:23 AM

Bill, you never responded to my opinion that the USSG and the MM are the main driver behind the rapid increase in BOP population? Your thoughts please? Thank you

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 11:10:05 AM

Steve Prof --

If you want to know what the topic is here, it's not that hard to find out: "The Causes of Growth in Prison Admissions and Populations." The topic is not TarlsQtr and it's not me. The reason you concentrate on me is simply that you're addicted to ad hominem, as at least a dozen of your prior posts vividly demonstrate.

As to your claim that you were just being tongue-in-cheek when you claimed that there's no such thing as an erroneous acquittal, I'll repeat word-for-word what your argument was:

"Bill, unless you are God there is virtually no such thing as a erroneous acquittal ...if the jury does not believe that he government has proved it's case beyond a reasonable doubt, even though you do as a arm chair quarterback who has neither read the transcript nor heard all the evidence , or public opinion thinks so (O.J. & Anthony) that does not make it erroneous."

You now claim, after I deconstructed this argument, that you didn't really mean it. The problem is (1) there is no contemporaneous supporting evidence for this claim; (2) on its face, the argument appears perfectly straightforward; and (3) it's exactly the argument I hear time and again from other defense lawyers.

Thus the evidence is that you full well meant it.

But even assuming arguendo the dubious proposition that you didn't mean it, what you're doing is taking refuge in the disreputable port of casual insincerity. Is that the way you wish to portray yourself here? And if it is, why should commenters take seriously ANY argument you make? For all any of us knows, you could tell us at any time, oh, haha, you "took the bait," I didn't mean a word I said.

No worthwhile discussion can be had if one of the participants is holding onto that as a legitimate response. It would just be a waste of time.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2011 11:22:44 AM

Steve Prof --

"Bill, you never responded to my opinion that the USSG and the MM are the main driver behind the rapid increase in BOP population? Your thoughts please? Thank you"

Is this a "haha, you took the bait" line?

You see what I mean about the perils of casual insincerity.

I'll assume you're serious, and the question concerns the actual topic here, so I'll answer.

My view is that the reason for the increase in imprisonment is that, after at least 15 years of exploding crime and the tremendous human and economic toll that exacted, the country became alarmed, serious and determined. It responded with tougher sentencing and more prisons. MM and mandatory guidelines were part of that (although only a part).

Our citizens discovered that when you put in jail the people who commit crime, you get less crime. And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. The crime rate has fallen by over 40%, to levels not seen in more than half a century.

I have previously cited the studies showing that increased imprisonment contributed significantly to the very welcome and very big fall-off in crime.

To my way of thinking, having so much less crime is a really, really good thing, and I am going to work to keep it that way rather than become complacent and slide back to the failed policies of the past.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2011 11:36:31 AM

Bill, thanks for your thoughful answer which I happen to agree with in part. While I have no proof I would think the country as a whole was less alarmed than you advance and the it was and is politically popular for Congreee folks to be tough on crime -- unless it is them or family going to prison.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 11:49:21 AM

Steve Prof stated: "They may not have been caught nor prosecuted. Drank a beer in college while underage, been intoxicated in a public place, urinated in public at 3:00 a.m., trespassed by walking across yard without permission, give me a break yea self-righteous ones. Disingenuous -- look in the mirror pal."

You are hiding behind a red herring, Steve. Sure, let's say for the sake of argument, Bill, myself, and the normal American have all committed misdemeanors. What is your point? It does nothing to buttress the premise that it is easy to be thrown in prison or that there is this great army of factually innocent inmates. None of those actions you mentioned will get you in prison. Do every SINGLE one of them in one night and you will not end up in prison. You may not even do a night in lockup.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 11:51:43 AM

TarisQtr,
You are absolutely right. I was responding to the dubious claimthe Bill Otis injected into the discussion that he had never committed a petty crime. Remeber-- he injected it not me. So you ask the wrong question-- what was Bill's point? Other than piety.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 11:57:05 AM

Steve Prof stated: "So you ask the wrong question-- what was Bill's point?"

That's easy. It is very hard work to get oneself thrown into prison.

Excuse me, however, if I look for a different attorney when I commit my myriad of misdemeanors. You have essentially conceded the main issue in order to go "all in" on an irrelevant issue and you STILL four flushed.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 12:33:24 PM

TarlsQtr --

It's all true. It WAS just "piety," and phony piety at that. I'm actually an international jewel thief. And, since it's time to come clean, I also, as Steve implicityly suggests, drank a lot of underage beer. Indeed, I started when I was six and never let up. In addition, I urinated on every lawn in town when I went to college, not to mention law school. It was so toxic from all the beer I'd been drinking that there are STILL multitudinous brown spots in lawns all over Palo Alto -- indeed, from Palo Alto to Atherton.

I have now graduated from this minor stuff to brewing meth in my bathtub. Personally, I see nothing wrong with any of this, since, as we have been assured, this is the way normal people live, and it's just the fascist cops who think there's something amiss with it.

A bunch of Puritans and Nazis, I tell you.

Anyway, I did get caught one time. I had some of my fellow meth gang members bribe the jury, so I got an acquittal. Since, as we have been assured, acquittals are infallible, I didn't really do it. And as a result of this finding of my "innocence," I got the chance to play a lot of golf with OJ.

Life is great, and thanks for asking!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2011 12:35:25 PM

If it's so hard how come so many are there?

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 12:35:45 PM

TarisQtr,
Good poker metaphors. I suspect both you and Bill have many tells :)

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 2:17:31 PM

Steve Prof: "If it's so hard [getting put in prison] how come so many are there?"

I think your theory would be much more enlightening than mine.

That said, I'll still answer. In a nutshell, an entire generation of selfish, narcissistic, and self-indulgent fools raised additional generations of selfish, narcissistic, self-indulgent fools who believe that the world owes them success and expect to be on mommy's insurance until the age of 26. Behavioral standards are all but extinct, traditional values and social mores gone. As a result, the government is now the de facto "father" of tens of millions of children, many of who eventually end up behind the walls.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 3:28:12 PM

Bill,

All that and you are not in prison? I thought everyone, guilty or not, went there considering how difficult it is to escape the oppressive prosecutors.

For a really good (and illegal) time, come my way and we will turn you into a "pillbilly" or better yet, get you snorting bath salts (yes, people do it and it is the next big thing).

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 3:37:25 PM

Steve,

I can't speak for Bill but that loud yell when I hit the river is mine. :-)

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 3:38:29 PM

TarisQtr,

Is it the world owes them success or that they grew up in an atmosphere with no respect for law and , indeed, little for human life?

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jul 18, 2011 3:40:35 PM

Can I answer, "All of the above"?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 18, 2011 3:53:59 PM

i'm going to have to give you this one TalsQtr!

"That said, I'll still answer. In a nutshell, an entire generation of selfish, narcissistic, and self-indulgent fools raised additional generations of selfish, narcissistic, self-indulgent fools who believe that the world owes them success and expect to be on mommy's insurance until the age of 26. Behavioral standards are all but extinct, traditional values and social mores gone. As a result, the government is now the de facto "father" of tens of millions of children, many of who eventually end up behind the walls."

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 18, 2011 5:08:33 PM

For information about why the prison population has exploded read about the case of John and Michael Arena. Apparently it doesn't take too much to get yourself in prison.

Posted by: anon2 | Jul 18, 2011 5:19:44 PM

anon2:

how right you are....

and too many people on this particular posting with horse a$$ attitudes too.

Posted by: james | Jul 18, 2011 6:25:10 PM

TarlsQtr --

Those bath salts sound wonderfully enticing. Make sure to save enough for me so that I'll have some to take home for my meth-mixing bathtub. I've got to spice things up to beat the competition.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2011 7:29:33 PM

TQ - If you are able to believe that Lenell Jeter is the only person falsely accused, tried and convicted in the last 30 years, I can only applaud you capacity for self-delusion.

Posted by: C | Jul 18, 2011 8:06:06 PM

C-If you are able to believe that I STATED Lenell Jeter is the only person falsely accused, tried and convicted in the last 30 years, I can only applaud you capacity for self-delusion.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 19, 2011 12:12:50 PM

Anon2: "For information about why the prison population has exploded read about the case of John and Michael Arena. Apparently it doesn't take too much to get yourself in prison."

Some important points.

1. Whenever a DP advocate throws a name of a savage who killed again because the system was too lenient, the first thing we hear is "anecdotal." Well, excuse me, but "anecdotal" right back at you. Cherry picking a single case is no more an accurate depiction of the entire criminal justice system than judging the upcoming football season and proclaiming the Detroit Lions world champs based on the result of one pre-season game.

2. You claim that convictions of innocent people have caused the prison population boom. Please explain. If it did cause it, something must have happened to the CJS before the boom that created so many more millions of innocent inmates that became the population boom. What was it?

3. You claim that the Arenas brothers prove that it is not easy to stay out of prison. Anecdotal information aside, there is a SIGNED CONFESSION. OK, so in addition to going to work, going home after, abiding by the Golden Rule, etc., let's add not signing a confession to a crime you did not commit to the list. Do all those things, and you can reasonably expect not to spend time in the slammer. Jeesh!

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 19, 2011 12:43:29 PM

Look at the first post in this thread.
Jeesh right back at ya!

Posted by: anon2 | Jul 19, 2011 2:12:40 PM

Anon2,

Felony filings per arrest MAY explain PART of the inmate population boom, but that was not my question. You claimed that the prosecution of INNOCENTS was the cause of the boom, not that when the police make an arrest the prosecutor heaps on the charges. On what basis do you claim that more INNOCENTS are being arrested, convicted, sent to prison, and are mainly responsible for the population increase?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 19, 2011 2:38:47 PM

You question can not be answered with emperical evidence. I would like to be able to answer with cold hard facts to support my theory but not enough evidence is gathered by the Criminal Justice System.
I think that is a problem.

Posted by: anon2 | Jul 19, 2011 9:04:44 PM

OK, I got it. Although there is not enough empirical evidence to PROVE that the population boom in prisons is the result of additional innocents being convicted and sent there, there IS enough to make the claim.

In some universe, that probably makes sense.

Now let's revisit your original statement: "For information about why the prison population has exploded read about the case of John and Michael Arena. Apparently it doesn't take too much to get yourself in prison."

Again, it is stating that the prison population "exploded" because of innocents being convicted. In 1980, the incarcerated population was roughly 500,000. Today, it is roughly 2.5 million. If innocents being convicted is the actual reason for this population explosion (like you claim), that would mean there are 2 million wrongly convicted individuals behind the walls.

Gee, I wonder why you cannot find data to back THAT claim...

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 20, 2011 9:41:56 AM

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