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August 15, 2017

Two notable new commentaries on how we define violent offenders and what to do with them

My twitter feed yesterday was filled with links to these two notable new commentaries about violent offenders that are both worth the time to read in full:

Here is how Balko's piece wraps up:

[P]aroling more people convicted of violent crimes will inevitably, at some point, somewhere down the line, produce a repeat offender.  The data overwhelmingly suggest that such incidents will be rare enough to be drastically overwhelmed by the benefits of a more generous and forgiving parole policy.  But those rare incidents will be easy to exploit. Advocates should be prepared for them.

In the end, this is a question of what sort of society we want to be. We can be a punitive society that believes in retribution, no matter the costs.  We can be a society that believes in redemption, regardless of cost.  Or we can be a society of people who strive for a rational, data-driven system that will never be perfect, but that will strive to protect us from truly dangerous people while also recognizing that, as the attorney and activist Bryan Stevenson puts it, “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

August 15, 2017 at 10:59 AM | Permalink


How does the slate author possibly think that using pepper spray to effectuate a robbery is not a violent offense?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 15, 2017 12:39:26 PM

Free speech will in some cases directly lead to violence. Over the years, we saw this in public protests, not just involving white supremacists. In more cases, the promotion of some ugly messages that have very bad consequences. But, overall, I'm fairly absolutist about protecting free expression.

Singling out the few over the many regarding punishment is a bad policy. A too strict and punitive system leads to various problems, if at times harder to "exploit." On some level, since we aren't going to warehouse all violent offenders for life or kill them, violent offenders are going to be released from prison eventually. Ultimately, it's line drawing.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 15, 2017 12:44:32 PM

“each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

I don't buy into this logic. I think it really depends on the worst thing we have ever done. I do think there are some acts so heinous that they define the totality of a person's life (whether it marks their soul for eternity is a separate question). Now, I consider the subset of human behavior that qualifies as heinous acts to be very small, even tiny. It is on this point where I disagree with most conservatives, who as I see it want to expand the definition of violent acts so far as to include jay walking. So while I take Balko's point the quote that he uses really doesn't do his position merit. If we really are trying to protect ourselves from truly dangerous people then the quote should read "most of us are more than the worst thing we've ever done." Most of us. The vast majority. But every single one? No.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 15, 2017 12:56:13 PM

A person who rapes a woman at 20 has to hold that as part of themselves all their life but don't think it is the "totality" of said person. The person might later have a family and be a good member of society. But, that isn't really the end of it. A dangerous murderer might not warrant the death penalty, but might warrant a sentence that leads them to die in prison. Slogans generally only take us so far.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 15, 2017 1:06:31 PM

We can be a society that believes in moving all released violent repeat offenders into the houses surrounding the family homes of the pro-criminal advocates.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 15, 2017 1:52:36 PM

"Slogans generally only take us so far."

In the case of "each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done"--the slogan actually spreads ignorance because it doesn't remotely support the proposition for which it is cited. It sounds good, but it's really triteness masquerading as insight.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 15, 2017 4:32:11 PM

Look what Hickenlooper did:


What 'rat scum.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 15, 2017 8:04:51 PM

Good Lord, federalist. That's the guy that lived productively for 6 years after "escaping custody."

And, as a fellow conservative, if not as conservative as yourself, I wish more people would attempt to elevate, or at least not lower, the level of discourse by using terms like 'rat scum. Or cuck. Or nazi.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Aug 16, 2017 3:30:48 PM

Fat. Deniers do not argue in good faith. Most are anti-Semites, as well. There is no point in making arguments of fact or of logic. They have a hate agenda, or a rent seeking agenda. There is no argument that can induce a criminal cult enterprise to give up the $trillion it rakes in for no value in return, each year.

The lawyer term, civility, I have learned after some legal training, has a very specific meaning. It means, get fucked in the ass by the lawyer profession, but, do not make any noise. Certainly do not use lethal force to prevent your being sexually abused by the lawyer profession.

They take our $trillion. They are the proximate cause of all social pathologies. They return zero value for their $trillion a year. They have some nerve asking for civility.

Posted by: David Behar | Aug 17, 2017 12:41:30 AM

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