How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Have philosophical discussions about politics, law, and government.
Featured Article: Definition of Freedom - What Freedom Means to Me
User avatar
Frost
Posts: 510
Joined: January 20th, 2018, 2:44 pm

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Frost » January 22nd, 2018, 10:44 am

LuckyR wrote:
January 22nd, 2018, 3:57 am
Is the translation: more crimes committed than other countries?
Not necessarily. Other countries could have more crime but a less efficient justice system. But again, I am not claiming that, just trying to throw out possibilities.

Fooloso4
Moderator
Posts: 3276
Joined: February 28th, 2014, 4:50 pm

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Fooloso4 » January 22nd, 2018, 11:32 am

LuckyR:
Are you implying: 1- the war on drugs was criminalizing something (drug use) that shouldn't be a crime, ie that it was a mistake? Or 2- drug sales and use should be a crime and so the increased prison population is a good thing? Or 3- something else?
Something else. The war on drug was misguided, ineffectual, and in some cases caused more harm than the “crime” it was intended to prevent.Things are changing somewhat with decriminalization and for more and more states legalization of marijuana. With other drugs users should not be treated as criminals. Selling should be considered a criminal offense, but mandatory jail time is not the proper punishment or deterrent in all cases. I do not know what is, but it should be taken on a case by case basis and more needs to be done to find better solutions. The problem does not begin when someone is caught. Effective solutions must address the problem at a more basic, social, political, and economic level.

User avatar
Frost
Posts: 510
Joined: January 20th, 2018, 2:44 pm

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Frost » January 22nd, 2018, 1:05 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
January 22nd, 2018, 11:32 am
Something else. The war on drug was misguided, ineffectual, and in some cases caused more harm than the “crime” it was intended to prevent.Things are changing somewhat with decriminalization and for more and more states legalization of marijuana. With other drugs users should not be treated as criminals. Selling should be considered a criminal offense, but mandatory jail time is not the proper punishment or deterrent in all cases. I do not know what is, but it should be taken on a case by case basis and more needs to be done to find better solutions. The problem does not begin when someone is caught. Effective solutions must address the problem at a more basic, social, political, and economic level.
I think this is along what I was suggesting. Why is a guy on the corner selling drugs? He is obviously trying to survive, but why this choice of entrepreneurship? Could it have something to do with the break-up of families as a result of welfare benefits that didn't "solve" poverty in the first place as LBJ set as its aim? In other words, is the crime an unintended consequence of socioeconomic policy?

I think that monetary policy has enormous sociopolitical implications. It disparately impacts minorities, including many immigrants. A gold standard and 100% reserve legal requirement would go a long way toward greater equality and stop the robbing from the poor to give to the rich as with fraudulent and discriminatory fiat monetary policy. Other things such as minimum wage laws and enormous costs to start a business also disparately impact minorities and immigrants, and what options are they left with? Perhaps welfare, selling drugs, etc., but what are the long-term consequences to this? I would say that it certainly does not seem to be in the direction of controlling crime.

anonymous66
Posts: 155
Joined: January 12th, 2018, 4:01 pm

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by anonymous66 » January 22nd, 2018, 1:26 pm

Does anyone believe that Americans are committing more crimes per capita than other countries?

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 3022
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 23rd, 2018, 2:57 am

Frost wrote:
January 22nd, 2018, 10:44 am
LuckyR wrote:
January 22nd, 2018, 3:57 am
Is the translation: more crimes committed than other countries?
Not necessarily. Other countries could have more crime but a less efficient justice system. But again, I am not claiming that, just trying to throw out possibilities.
If you are correct, then the high prison population in the US is to be admired and other countries would do well to catch the criminals who are getting away with only to subject the populace to further crimes.
"As usual... it depends."

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 3022
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 23rd, 2018, 3:02 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
January 22nd, 2018, 11:32 am
LuckyR:
Are you implying: 1- the war on drugs was criminalizing something (drug use) that shouldn't be a crime, ie that it was a mistake? Or 2- drug sales and use should be a crime and so the increased prison population is a good thing? Or 3- something else?
Something else. The war on drug was misguided, ineffectual, and in some cases caused more harm than the “crime” it was intended to prevent.Things are changing somewhat with decriminalization and for more and more states legalization of marijuana. With other drugs users should not be treated as criminals. Selling should be considered a criminal offense, but mandatory jail time is not the proper punishment or deterrent in all cases. I do not know what is, but it should be taken on a case by case basis and more needs to be done to find better solutions. The problem does not begin when someone is caught. Effective solutions must address the problem at a more basic, social, political, and economic level.
I don't disagree with your commentary but even you can't easily come up with an alternative punishment for what you describe as a crime, so I guess you shouldn't be very critical of society for similarly not coming up with one.
"As usual... it depends."

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 3022
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 23rd, 2018, 3:05 am

anonymous66 wrote:
January 22nd, 2018, 1:26 pm
Does anyone believe that Americans are committing more crimes per capita than other countries?
Personally I don't, but I believe that mandatory minimums and putting low level drug sellers in prison is very expensive and doesn't do much to improve public safety.
"As usual... it depends."

anonymous66
Posts: 155
Joined: January 12th, 2018, 4:01 pm

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by anonymous66 » January 23rd, 2018, 11:30 am

I did a google search for "why are there so many people in U.S. prisons?" and started reading the articles.
The first one I read is by Leon Neyfakh of Slate magazine. Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? A provocative new theory.
From the article:
What can be done to make the population drop faster? Many reformers, operating under the assumption that mass incarceration is first and foremost the result of the war on drugs, have focused on making drug laws less punitive and getting rid of draconian sentencing laws that require judges to impose impossibly harsh punishments on people who have committed relatively minor crimes. But according to John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham Law School, neither of those efforts will make a significant dent in the problem, because they are based on a false understanding of why the prison boom happened in the first place.*
Pfaff comes to the conclusion that much of the increase in prison populations is due to the actions and attitudes of District Attorneys.
What makes it very hard is that the person we really need to target now—whose behavior we need to regulate—is the district attorney, and the district attorney is a very politically independent figure. He’s directly elected, and he’s directly elected at the county level. So there’s no big centralized fix. You can’t necessarily go to Washington and say, ‘Here’s the law that’s going to control what the DAs do,’ because they don’t have to listen to the federal government at all. So you have to figure out how to go county by county and either elect DAs who have less punitive attitudes, or you can try to sort of change the incentives DAs face at the state level. But it’s very tricky.

GE Morton
Posts: 304
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by GE Morton » January 23rd, 2018, 1:54 pm

LuckyR wrote:
January 19th, 2018, 3:26 pm

Well it depends why you think that statistical issue exists. Here are some possibilities:

1- We have average crime but catch way more of the bad guys than other countries

2- We have way more crime than other countries

3- We have average crime but choose incarceration way more than others (as opposed to other punishments)

4- We have average crime but have way longer sentences than others

5- We catch the same number of bad guys, but convict way more of them than others

6- I am sure you can dream up others possibilities
The answers to those statistical questions are readily available. The US has more crime than other "first world" countries (but far less than most "third world" countries). The homicide rates (per 100,000), for example, are: France, 1.05; Canada, 1.6; Germany, 0.8; UK, 1.2; Australia, 1.0; Japan, 0.4, US, 4.2.

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-inf ... ion-people

The US rate varies greatly from state to state, however --- from 1.1 in New Hampshire to 10.8 in Louisiana and 13.9 in DC. (Those figures are from the Wikipedia list, to which this site will not allow links).

Rates for other violent crimes are comparable.

Part of the reason for the high incarceration rate in the US is its handling of "drug crimes," which are treated more harshly than in most other Western countries. On the other hand, crimes with actual victims are not treated harshly enough --- the 5 year recidivism rate in the US is 75%, i.e., 75% of inmates released from state prisons are re-arrested for new crimes within 5 years.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/christop ... 42312.html

Keep in mind the clearance rate for various crimes here --- most crimes are never cleared by arrest. For example, only 13% of burglaries, 30% of robberies, and 37% of rapes are cleared by arrest. So many of the 25% of released inmates who are not re-arrested within 5 years are still committing crimes. They just haven't been caught.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/194 ... in-the-us/

GE Morton
Posts: 304
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by GE Morton » January 23rd, 2018, 3:22 pm

LuckyR wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 3:05 am

Personally I don't, but I believe that mandatory minimums and putting low level drug sellers in prison is very expensive and doesn't do much to improve public safety.
No, it doesn't. But neither do revolving-door prisons. In my city the other day a convenience store clerk was raped and badly beaten by a thug with 10 previous felony convictions, including assault. burglary, and a previous rape. He was a Level 3 sex offender. Yet he was still loose on the streets.

About 75% of the violent crimes and property crimes committed every day in the US are committed by thugs with prior felony convictions.

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 3022
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 24th, 2018, 3:10 am

GE Morton wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 1:54 pm
LuckyR wrote:
January 19th, 2018, 3:26 pm

Well it depends why you think that statistical issue exists. Here are some possibilities:

1- We have average crime but catch way more of the bad guys than other countries

2- We have way more crime than other countries

3- We have average crime but choose incarceration way more than others (as opposed to other punishments)

4- We have average crime but have way longer sentences than others

5- We catch the same number of bad guys, but convict way more of them than others

6- I am sure you can dream up others possibilities
The answers to those statistical questions are readily available. The US has more crime than other "first world" countries (but far less than most "third world" countries). The homicide rates (per 100,000), for example, are: France, 1.05; Canada, 1.6; Germany, 0.8; UK, 1.2; Australia, 1.0; Japan, 0.4, US, 4.2.

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-inf ... ion-people

The US rate varies greatly from state to state, however --- from 1.1 in New Hampshire to 10.8 in Louisiana and 13.9 in DC. (Those figures are from the Wikipedia list, to which this site will not allow links).

Rates for other violent crimes are comparable.

Part of the reason for the high incarceration rate in the US is its handling of "drug crimes," which are treated more harshly than in most other Western countries. On the other hand, crimes with actual victims are not treated harshly enough --- the 5 year recidivism rate in the US is 75%, i.e., 75% of inmates released from state prisons are re-arrested for new crimes within 5 years.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/christop ... 42312.html

Keep in mind the clearance rate for various crimes here --- most crimes are never cleared by arrest. For example, only 13% of burglaries, 30% of robberies, and 37% of rapes are cleared by arrest. So many of the 25% of released inmates who are not re-arrested within 5 years are still committing crimes. They just haven't been caught.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/194 ... in-the-us/
Thanks for looking up some interesting, yet not definitive factoids that dance around the question I asked. For example, sure most US crimes aren't solved, but is it higher than other countries? I don't know. Sure the US recidivism rate seems high to the untrained eye, but is it notable worldwide? Similarly, violent crime is a minority of all crime so their stats can paint a misleading picture.

Sounds like after your research you are supposing that a combination of more overall crime and more prosecution of drug offenders is the cause. Sounds reasonable to me.
"As usual... it depends."

User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 3022
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 24th, 2018, 3:23 am

GE Morton wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 3:22 pm
LuckyR wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 3:05 am

Personally I don't, but I believe that mandatory minimums and putting low level drug sellers in prison is very expensive and doesn't do much to improve public safety.
No, it doesn't. But neither do revolving-door prisons. In my city the other day a convenience store clerk was raped and badly beaten by a thug with 10 previous felony convictions, including assault. burglary, and a previous rape. He was a Level 3 sex offender. Yet he was still loose on the streets.

About 75% of the violent crimes and property crimes committed every day in the US are committed by thugs with prior felony convictions.
Anecdotes aside, sounds like your state doesn't have three strikes, nor mandatory minimums. Considering that crimes are dramatically lower than they were in the 80s and dropping, some would ask "who cares? This problem is solving itself".
"As usual... it depends."

anonymous66
Posts: 155
Joined: January 12th, 2018, 4:01 pm

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by anonymous66 » January 24th, 2018, 8:41 am

GE Morton wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 3:22 pm
About 75% of the violent crimes and property crimes committed every day in the US are committed by thugs with prior felony convictions.
Do you have a reference to back this up?

GE Morton
Posts: 304
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by GE Morton » January 24th, 2018, 8:07 pm

LuckyR wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 3:10 am

Thanks for looking up some interesting, yet not definitive factoids that dance around the question I asked. For example, sure most US crimes aren't solved, but is it higher than other countries?
Those stats weren't given for comparison to other countries, which is irrelevant, but to put the recidivism rate in perspective --- as evidence that it is higher than mere arrest rates indicate.
Sure the US recidivism rate seems high to the untrained eye, but is it notable worldwide? Similarly, violent crime is a minority of all crime so their stats can paint a misleading picture.
The recidivism rate given (I gave 75%; it's actually 77% per latest Justice Dept stats) is for all crimes resulting in sentencing to state or federal prisons. About 49% of federal inmates are imprisoned for drug crimes; but the figure is only 16% for state inmates. Releasing all those inmates would still leave the US with incarceration rates higher than any other "first world" country. That excess is due to the higher crime rate (with drug crimes excluded).

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/re ... arceration

Recidivism rates are hard to compare internationally, because countries use different criteria. Some report 2 or 3 year rates; the US reports 5 year rates.

GE Morton
Posts: 304
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by GE Morton » January 24th, 2018, 9:07 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
January 24th, 2018, 8:41 am
GE Morton wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 3:22 pm
About 75% of the violent crimes and property crimes committed every day in the US are committed by thugs with prior felony convictions.
Do you have a reference to back this up?
That figure is approximately deducible from the recidivism stats. But here are a couple of explicit statements:

"Almost 84 percent of arriving inmates at state prisons around the country in 1979 were repeat offenders, according to a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and made public today."

I.e., 84% of persons convicted of a current crime had prior records.

http://www.nytimes.com/1985/03/04/us/84 ... mined.html

A newer one (1990-2002):

"Seventy percent of violent felons had a prior arrest record, and 57% had at least one prior arrest for a felony. Sixty-seven percent of murderers and 73% of those convicted of robbery or assault had an arrest record."

https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/ascii/vfluc.txt

Post Reply