Crime, not incarceration, is the problem

Crime Scene at Residential Home
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Crime, not incarceration, is the problem

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors floated a “decarceration” plan this week that involved adopting a zero-bail policy for most offenses and turning loose inmates in county jails who have a combined bail of less than $50,000 for all their outstanding offenses.

Fortunately, the backlash from this plan was so great that it was quickly shelved. But neither Los Angeles nor the rest of the country will be safe for long because it is only a matter of time before the supervisors or leaders in some other jurisdiction sneak through similar measures. Bad ideas like this one are percolating all over the country because of a deeply misguided conception of criminal justice reform that was popularized during the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020.

LOS ANGELES DROPS ‘DECARCERATION’ POLICY PROPOSAL AFTER CRITICISM

Mass incarceration is a serious problem. For many nonviolent and first-time offenders, it makes sense to mete out punishments other than lengthy prison sentences. There exists bipartisan agreement on this idea, and it was the premise of former President Donald Trump’s First Step Act.

Crime, not incarceration, is the real enemy of public safety and human flourishing. It is true that incarceration is not appropriate for everyone who breaks the law. But for violent and repeat criminals, it is the only tried and true method of preventing all types of crime, ranging from burglary to mass shootings.

But the enemy of real reform, and of public safety, is the separate idea that incarceration is an evil in and of itself, to be avoided even at the expense of public safety and order.

This line of thinking begins with the question-begging fallacy that incarceration itself is an example of “systemic racism.” It has led to such bad ideas as no-cash bail, even for violent offenders, the disastrous effects of which are already manifest in New York City. The willingness of certain prosecutors and judges to put criminals back on the streets moments after they are charged with serious offenses has caused public safety to deteriorate dramatically.

Even worse, several heinous crimes can be traced directly to woke “let them out of jail” prosecutors and judges. This includes the shooting of homeless men in various East Coast cities and a recent shooting at Michigan State University, in addition to the recent killing of Christy Bautista. Every time a prosecutor or judge lets a violent or career criminal off lightly, despite having enough evidence to convict, he or she risks public safety and deserves to be blamed when calamity follows.

D.C. police Chief Robert Contee recently observed that the average murder suspect in his jurisdiction has 11 prior arrests. This is evidence that the failure to impose salutary consequences on habitual offenders emboldens them and helps them graduate to worse and more violent crimes.

Crime, not incarceration, is the real enemy of public safety and human flourishing. It is true that incarceration is not appropriate for everyone who breaks the law. But for violent and repeat criminals, it is the only tried and true method of preventing all types of crime, ranging from burglary to mass shootings.

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As we noted recently, incarceration is working wonders in El Salvador, where the abrupt mass arrest of more than 60,000 gang members and allies has made the world’s most violent country safer than most U.S. cities. The United States doesn’t need such a drastic measure, but it does need prosecutors and judges to put more violent and repeat criminals away for long periods of time. Prison systems are not good at rehabilitating people, but they are very good at protecting the public from the vicious behavior of their inmates. In the meantime, by imposing serious consequences, not necessarily incarceration, for less serious crimes, local jurisdictions can break the cycle, curbing the creation and emboldening of the next generation of long-term prison inmates.

That is what real reform looks like. It is as far as possible from the idea of letting more criminal predators loose on the larger population.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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