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July 24, 2017

"Nine Lessons About Criminal Justice Reform: What Washington can learn from the states"

The title of this post is the headline of this extended essay by Bill Keller published last week at The Marshall Project. I recommend the piece in full, and here are excerpts focused on some of Bill's most sentencing-specific lessons:

“Reform” is one of those ambiguous words that mean different things to different people.  I think of reform as something that aims to reduce the numbers of Americans who are removed from society and deprived of their freedom, and to do it without making us less safe.  In 1972, when I was starting my newspaper life at The Oregonian, 93 out of 100,000 Americans were in state or federal prisons.  By 2008 the incarceration rate had grown nearly six-fold, to 536 per 100,000, and it has hovered in that vicinity ever since. That’s not counting the hundreds of thousands held in county jails on any given day or those confined in the juvenile justice system or immigrant detention.

Every year about 650,000 of those prisoners are released back into the world.  We know that most of them will be unemployed a year later, and that two-thirds of them will be rearrested within three years.  We have a corrections system that fails to correct.

Here are a few lessons Washington can learn from the states.

Lesson 1: It is possible to reduce incarceration and crime at the same time. ...

Lesson 3: Probably the most effective way to reduce incarceration is not to lock people up in the first place — at least not so many, and not for so long....

Lesson 4: While the front end is important, don’t neglect the back end....

Lesson 5: Be wary of reformers who suggest you can cut incarceration drastically by releasing low-level, nonviolent offenders. ...

Lesson 6: Prison reform doesn’t necessarily mean a huge windfall for taxpayers. ...

Lesson 8: Many states are finding that incentives work better than mandates.

July 24, 2017 at 03:53 AM | Permalink


Lesson 10: You have excellent blood glucose control on your insulin dose. Do not decrease it.

Lesson 11: We do not have a low crime rate. We have an uncounted and intentionally hidden crime rate. We have 15 million internet crimes not being counted. Each nets $1000 more than a bank robbery.

Lesson 12: Read about the rent seeking theory to understand why people on the left want to loose the criminals.

Lesson 13: Blacks should believe their experiences, and stop automatically voting for the Democratic Party. The modern Democratic government official has been 100 times more deadly to blacks as the KKK.

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 24, 2017 8:43:49 AM

Lesson 1--yes, possibly---punishment has to be swift and sure . . . . deterrence does work.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 24, 2017 9:47:37 AM

I think the biggest mistake is calling it a "corrections" system to begin with. I much prefer "internal exile", and would even more prefer to make that removal permanent in the vast majority of cases.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 24, 2017 11:00:10 AM

Baltimore arrests are one third lower. Thank Harvard Law uber asshole, Rod Rosenstein. Fewer arrests, fewer prosecutions of the arrested, shorter sentences, earlier releases. Baltimore is decarceration heaven.

Result? Record setting surge in murders of 20%, higher than Chicago, per population.

The families of the hundreds of the unnecessarily murdered should seek out uber Harvard Law asshole, Rosenstein, and express their feelings.

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 24, 2017 2:52:09 PM

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