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February 28, 2011

Washington Post editorial on "Repeat offenders" and best practices

This morning's Washington Post includes this interesting editorial headlined "Repeat offenders."  Here are excerpts:

The numbers are staggering.  Some 5.1 million individuals are out on probation or parole. If national trends hold up, roughly 40 percent of them will be returned to prison for a future offense.  Yet many of the approaches relied on by state and local corrections officials to keep prisoners from committing new offenses are not just ineffective but counterproductive.

Take, for instance, community supervision of inmates deemed at low risk of reoffending. When these parolees are sentenced to halfway houses and other relatively rigid forms of community supervision, their tendency to commit new offenses increases.  That is because they often are forced to spend a significant part of their day at the facility -- time that would be better spent with family, obtaining skills or seeking employment.  Forcing low-risk individuals to spend time in close quarters with more hardened offenders often works to undermine a smooth and crime-free reintegration into society at large.  Placing high-risk offenders in more structured residential programs, on the other hand, reduces their chances of recidivism.

Consider also that drug treatment programs in prison tend to be less effective than those conducted when the offender has been released.  And putting the onus on offenders to travel to often-distant corrections offices to check in with supervisors undermines compliance and positive reintegration, especially compared with success rates when parole and probation officers are stationed in neighborhoods with a high concentration of released offenders.

These observations are contained in a recently released report that grew out of congressional hearings led by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and then-Rep. Allan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.). Just as helpful as pointing out commonly made mistakes are the cutting-edge practices identified in the report....  Not every new approach will work throughout the country.  But there are plenty of good ideas, many of which could be tailored to the specific needs of jurisdictions.  The report, in other words, should be required reading.

February 28, 2011 at 04:50 PM | Permalink


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As I suspected, the real agenda turns out to be, not the curtailment of prison as punishment, but the curtailment of punishment at all.

And why not? If, as we are so often lectured by the Left, the criminal is the victim (of poor schooling, bad parents, brain lesions, twinkies, et al.) why SHOULD he be punished? It wasn't his fault; it was OUR fault.

So WE'RE the ones who should be punished.

And, as more and more of these characters are quietly put back on the street, we will be.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 28, 2011 5:38:07 PM

The apologists gained much currency when they labeled our prisons "universities of crime". Now halfway houses and "other rigid forms of community supervision" are the problem.

Still no mention of individual responsibility or the fact that most individuals reoffend because they are looking for their next score and not an entry-level 9-5 job. That's for chumps!

Posted by: mjs | Feb 28, 2011 8:07:06 PM

I would like to see the metrics that support these conclusions. Having read a few newspaper editorials over the years relating to criminal justice, I have come to the conclusion that they often fail to fact check themselves.

Posted by: David | Feb 28, 2011 8:56:54 PM

123D. Virtually no crime. Start the count at 14. No violent career criminal makes it to 18, and enters the period of greatest criminal activity.

Unfortunately, no criminal is left, no government sinecures. In order to get at the criminal, one must get at his sponsor and protector, the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession. Its hierarchy is itself the greatest criminal syndicate in history. Government operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of it. It has completely infiltrated our government, and makes 99% of policy decisions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 1, 2011 3:07:07 AM

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Posted by: rental elf | Mar 1, 2011 7:39:49 AM

Degrading, institutionalizing (with ridiculously long sentences) and permanently marginalizing lawbreakers on the scale we do it is a formula for perpetual crime waves...and/or budget-busting prison spending.

But it makes us look macho so who cares, right?

Posted by: John K | Mar 2, 2011 9:23:09 PM

John K --

"Degrading, institutionalizing (with ridiculously long sentences) and permanently marginalizing lawbreakers on the scale we do it is a formula for perpetual crime waves."

Do facts not count with you at all? The very practices you decry (with a bunch of florid terms, but we all know you're talking about incarceration and other forms of serious sentencing) have produced, not increased crime, but a massive (over 40%) DECREASE in crime.

That's a crime wave?

What a joke.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 2, 2011 10:42:36 PM

nope bill! a pretty good reason the crime rate is at a 40 year low is the fact that we are all GETTING OLD! if it wasn't for all the illegals god knows what the median age in this country would be now!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 4, 2011 1:56:10 PM

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