Steve3007 wrote: ↑
August 20th, 2019, 5:03 am
So, given the high rates of recidivism that you have cited earlier, one way to dramatically reduce the incidence of crime generally would simply be to punish any crime at all, of any severity, with life imprisonment. Should we do that?
Not "any crime at all," only certain felonies. Until 1984 my state (Washington) had a habitual criminal law. Upon conviction for a second offense for any felony the defendant must serve a minimum of 10 years in prison. For a third offense he would be sentenced for life.
That law should be resurrected, but non-violent drug offenses excluded as qualifying felonies.
If not, how should we decide the lengths of sentences appropriate to any given type of crime?
Good question. The "restitution model" provides an answer. Per that model, following conviction a restitution hearing is held, in which the losses or damages inflicted upon all victims (computed per ordinary civil court rules), plus the costs to the state to investigate, apprehend, and try the defendant are calculated. The defendant is then sentenced, not to a conventional prison, but to a work center, where he will be compelled to work at some task for which he is qualified and paid at market rates, with most of his wages withheld to pay for his room and board and to satisfy the restitution obligation determined at the hearing. He is confined until that obligation has been paid in full.
The seminal paper on this concept is here:
https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/ ... ext=facpub
The US already imprisons, at any given moment, a very large proportion of its population compared to many other countries. But your view appears to be that although this is true it is not the number of people imprisoned that is the issue but the lengths of the sentences - "the revolving door". Could you envisage an increase in the lengths of sentences but actually a decrease in the number of people in prison at any given moment? Or would an increase in sentence lengths inevitably result (as one would intuitively expect) in an even larger proportion of the population behind bars?
Theoretically longer prison sentences will have a stronger deterrent effect than shorter ones, and crime rates (and thus incarceration rates) will fall. But the deterrent effects of criminal sentencing are controversial. No prescribed punishment (the argument goes) will deter a person who "lives in the moment" and is not in the habit, or is not capable, of assessing the risks of his acts. So what deterrent effect such a change might have remains to be seen. But we know longer sentences will reduce the crime rate, simply because there will be fewer criminals on the streets.