The moral horror of America’s prisons

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is the final bit but not the main argument:

So what then to do? The first and most important step is for Americans to realize they have been creating and sanctioning a moral horror, and to treat it as a major political issue. Step No. 2 is to modify the career incentives for prosecutors to seek out ever tougher sentences. Step No. 3 is to experiment with more electronic monitoring of criminals, and to see if that can limit the number of people behind bars. Step No. 4 is to frame prison reform in more straightforward economic terms. It is not only about guaranteeing rights on paper. It’s also about designing the economic incentives for prisons to create secure and orderly environments. That has hardly been the focus of current systems. Finally — and this idea is broader in scope — the decriminalization of additional offenses should also be considered.

I realize these are complex issues, and potential remedies require far more consideration than I can give them here. But if you think America’s current penal system is the very best we can do, that is about the most pessimistic verdict on this country I have ever heard. Has anyone ever suggested that the American prison system is the world’s best? The can-do attitude is one of my favorite features of American life. We just need to apply it a little more broadly.

Can I simply say “I am right”?

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The biggest problem about reformists like yourself is that you pitch a rational solution to an emotionally rooted problem. I teach criminal procedure and even students who should know better are pretty nonchalant about locking up non-conformists. You might live in a nicer neighborhood next to the Judges where it doesn't matter if X the rapist gets out a bit earlier and $10,000 of counselling instead of accommodation. But the voters care. And they view articles like this as ivy tower grandstanding.

Instead of preaching from the lens of economics, I believe the way to achieving criminal justice reform is to drive home to voters that you have the same values as them. I believe Scott Alexander deals with this best in his values series, the first post is here: http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/07/18/the-whole-city-is-center/

PS change the html for the 'email' field in the comments to 'type="email"' so the @ symbol appears on the ios keyboard.

The Establishment switched over a few years ago to believing that crime was no longer a problem, and then immediately the number of homicides went up over 22% from 2014 to 2016 due to the Ferguson/BLM Effect.

This Late Obama Age Collapse was due in part to the Establishment agreeing to racialize their criminal justice reform project. How much evidence is there that anybody has learned not to do that again?

Granted, the Democrats did a good job in the run up to the 2018 election turning off all the media oxygen to Black Lives Matter. Whatever happened to them anyway? It's almost as if George Soros must have realized they helped get Trump elected and cut their funding.

We'll see if that kind of restraint remains possible in the long run.

I think you are close, but wrong on what happened to Black Lives Matter, and more wrong on its political meaning.

I do think the massive funding available to liberal groups that tow the line is in fact what killed BLM, but it did it by making them abandon their core values and embrace the values of the liberal funders.

Black Lives Matter correctly identified a key problem in the US, that despite all the talk about "racism" and liberal sympathy for brown people, at the end of the day and for the last 70 years every other group got the benefits and black Americans were used as pawns.

But the BLM leadership, some of whom were already separately loyal to LBGT movements or Democratic Socialists, eagerly took money from donors in exchange for following the exact identify politics / intersectionality that BLM seemed to originally oppose.

So most BLM efforts now stress things like women's empowerment, queer right, gun control and other issues that rich white people like, and lost the interest of actual black people.

Black lives only mattered to them when they didn't have to choose between them and money.

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"The Establishment switched over a few years ago to believing that crime was no longer a problem, and then immediately the number of homicides went up over 22% from 2014 to 2016 due to the Ferguson/BLM Effect."

A recent NY Times article showed that preliminary data suggests the murder rate for 2018 will drop back down to 5 murders per 100,000. If that holds, how would you explain this drop?

I can't speak for Mr. Sailer, but if someone claims that the homicide rate went up because of misguided policies implemented during the Obama administration, and you respond that the homicide rate has gone back down since the departure of the Obama administration, I see a rather obvious explanation.

It was data mining bullshit, ignoring both the long-term trend and the historic variability.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/191219/reported-violent-crime-rate-in-the-usa-since-1990/

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Clinton must have been a genius at policy because homicides fell dramatically during his Presidency.

Tell Vince Foster that.

"VINCE FOSTER!!! CLINTON MUST HAVE BEEN A GENIUS AT POLICY DUE TO THE DECLINE IN THE HOMICIDE RATE DURING HIS PRESIDENCY!!!!"

Do you think that was loud enough? Or should I instead be telling him him the suicide rate declined under Clinton?

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Crime in a local phenomenon, and the laws under which the vast majority of crimes are prosecuted are state laws. Given that fact, its hard to see why anything the federal government (or a single president) does really matters at ground level.
So, can Steve Sailor or anyone show where large numbers of state legislatures have modified their laws concerning serious crimes like murder* or where local and/or state courts have changed their sentencing practices for those same crimes?

* No, I'm not talking about trivial stuff like pot decriminalization, so don't waste bandwidth on that.

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This nicely thumbnails how racial paranoia is tied to high incarceration.

Locking up the them.

There's also "good school districts," and "prices discriminate so we don't have to."

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This nicely thumbnails how racial paranoia is tied to high incarceration.

Locking up the them.

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If you send more career criminals to prison then crime rates go down. Let more career criminals out of prison and crime rates go up. So who pays for lower incarceration rates? The poor and middle class who are the victims of career criminals. Your choice!! Punsih the criminal or punish the innocent.

What is a career criminal?

I hope it is not anyone who gets one felony, and then is shut out of all legal jobs, and then has one choice.

What would you feel about a federal program with jobs for single (or low) count felons?

Because if you want to keep on punishing them, you aren't really helping.

Commit a felony, get a job provided by the government!

What could possibly go wrong?

I heard a story that prisoner-firemen fight wildfires, but then upon discharge are ineligible for national forest fire crews. Optimal?

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I am opposed to a tax payer funded jobs program for ex-felons. I am in favor of NGOs and other available resources providing or finding jobs for ex-felons. The problem is that in about 80% of the cases felons go to jail as a result of their drug addiction. They burgle, rob, steal, commit assault and even murder because of their drug/alcohol habits. If they cannot control that no "job" is going to save them. I am in favor of saving the innocent civilians/citizens who do not commit crimes from felons, ex-felons and assorted addicts and crazy people. Anything that puts the honest citizen 2nd in this equation is wrong.

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Re: You might live in a nicer neighborhood next to the Judges where it doesn't matter

While most of us do not have judges for neighbors, most people do live in safe neighborhoods where "crime" is mostly a matter of minor vandalism, theft from vehicles and the like. The "scary" stuff people fear (murder, are etc.) is mainly limited to a handful of low income urban and some remote rural neighborhoods.

RE: believe the way to achieving criminal justice reform is to drive home to voters that you have the same values as them.

Doe anyone really think there are people out there in authority who are on board with murder and mayhem?

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Can I simply say “I am right”?

Yes

You are.

Agreed. I especially like the idea of using tech to automatically monitor instead of initially incarcerating.

Ankle monitors are a helpful law-enforcement tool!

https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Suspects-Caught-With-Help-of-GPS-Ankle-Bracelets-198865031.html

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I have personal knowledge of two cases where persons under electronic monitoring shot and killed other individuals. One was just a thug shooting another thug, but the other was an armed robbery of an elderly storeowner. Violent people just need to be locked up if we're not going to execute them or send them to a penal colony. Non-violent offenders shouldn't be in prison though, I agree.

On the other hand, if you put drug dealers in prison, there's a very good argument you're locking them up for the violence that you didn't catch them doing. That's probably a better explanation than the 'Freakanomics' abortion thesis.

Non-violent offenders shouldn't be in prison though, I agree.

Oh, yes they should. House them in dedicated facilities which do not include people with a history of aggravated assault, forcible rape, forcible sodomy, robbery, murder, or aggressive manslaughter unless that history is decades in the past.

Embezzlers, sexual perverts, drug dealers, fraudsters, and burglars merit a loss of liberty as well, unless you're going to beat them with rattan canes in the public square.

I have no idea what you mean by "sexual perverts" but if you're referring to pedophiles most of us would not classify them as a "non-violent" criminals.

most of us would not classify them as a "non-violent" criminals.

Don't give a rip, Mr. Mostofus.

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From where I sit, the system is stacked against law-abiding citizens who see repeat criminals released time after time or released with easily removed ankle bracelets and continue to be terrorized by the criminal class.

Since I can't edit the text of your article like on Wikipedia:

First, because of DNA testing, there is increasing evidence of numerous false convictions, including for murder [how numerous/?percentages?].

Most [what percentage] criminal court systems are overloaded [citation needed], and too many [how many/what percentage] defendants are encouraged to make a plea — and those that do not are often [how often?] accompanied by a presumption of guilt (and often, if found guilty, a harsher sentence) [how many/what percentage were actually innocent?].

Too many [how many?] parts of the U.S. court system have ceased to be venues for the accurate, factual examination of innocence and guilt [citation needed]. Instead, they are dominated by a series of procedural kludges designed mostly to keep the process orderly but certainly not fair [define fair].

Hey Armin -- check below for some good primer reading. The justice systems across the USA are diverse. You've got your private for profit situations, your woefully underfunded areas, your borderland scenes in Chicago, Baltimore, and others...then you've got your redneck situations, that poor-on-poor violence. Anyway - the stats to support this article are deep and wide, the heart of the article may have been about our becoming desensitized to it all. Start here and think about these statistics in the land of the free... http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/uk/06/prisons/html/nn2page1.stm

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2014/04/28/how-many-people-are-wrongly-convicted-researchers-do-the-math/

“Some 95 percent of felony convictions are the result of plea bargains”

“Gross and his colleagues calculated a 4.1 percent error rate among people who are sentenced to death. This is a small subset (less than 0.1 percent) “

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/07/public-defender-us-criminal-justice-system —

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/181160.pdf

Thanks for the condescending tone. Really helps get your point across: This isn't about crime or reducing the criminal class' reign of terror on normal people. It's about you and your progressive buddies feeling superior to us dumb people who refuse to put aside what we see in front of our eyes every day.

Link 1: We have a high prison population. Is that because we are horrible people who lock up innocents or is it because we have lots of horrible people who need locking up? No answer.

Link 2: Rate of false convictions in death penalty cases. 4% is pretty awesomely low. If you had a medical test with that error rate, we'd be giving you a Nobel prize. Even if those 4% are not have been guilty of the specific crimes they were convicted of, they are not good people. I shed no tears for the justice finally catching up to them, even if not for the right crime.

Link 3: Doesn't work. Thanks for trying.

Link 4: "CONTRACTING FOR INDIGENT DEFENSE SERVICES." Some places that contract out indigent defense services to low-bid contractors don't have good results and the report lays out ways of improving that. Looks like the system is working to improve itself.

The best your side can do is 1) point to horrible people who may not be guilty of the specific crime they are convicted of (or have pleaded to), but who surely belong outside of society forever for a range of other horrible crimes, and 2) bemoan the fact that those people don't have access to lawyers who can get them off by playing legal tricks and stretching the Bill of Rights past its intended uses.

Meanwhile in the real world: We have repeat offenders released time and time again due to over-crowded prisons and people intent on giving criminals second, third, fourth etc. chances. We have people cutting off ankle bracelets to commit more crimes. We have people wasting money on security and housing in nice neighborhoods to get themselves and their children away from crime. The fact that a burglary or car smash and grab is technically non-violent doesn't win you any points from people who have had their lives ruined by these criminals.

Fix the rape issue in prison. Fine. But keep criminals (violent and non-violent) locked up. Ramp up the use of the death penalty for more than just the worst cases. A 4% error rate by a government organization is an awesome achievement, especially when you consider the fact that those 4% are 100% likely to have committed other crimes that qualify for the death penalty.

Hey Armin,
Your first comments about citing sources and supporting the argument was specious at best, and by my reckoning you still don't see the point of the original article. There is taking away someone's freedom of movement, their income, their choice of sleeping arrangements - and then there is taking away someone's dignity. If we are going to be as full throated about locking up criminals, we do our society a huge disservice by not funding the incarceration side of the equation. We're not horrible people locking up horrible people - we are mostly misguided people locking up mostly poor, black, and brown people. I tried sending you the pop culture data, hoping that you might actually read and think instead of just reacting. Oh well, off with your head.

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'The first and most important step is for Americans to realize they have been creating and sanctioning a moral horror, and to treat it as a major political issue.'

As if a significant number of Americans aren't actually proud of creating and sanctioning a moral horror. The recent expansion of imprisonment to include putting children in cages is a clear demonstration of that political reality.

Of course, one can hope that the belated public response (as information became available) rejecting such an expansion as being immoral is a sign that not all common decency in American society has been lost, but that is an admittedly extremely low bar.

'Step No. 3 is to experiment with more electronic monitoring of criminals, and to see if that can limit the number of people behind bars.'

That sounds far sighted, at least if a certain class of people ends up facing imprisonment. Political consultants, for example. Or those who defraud financial institutions. Or people who file fraudulent tax returns regarding foreign payments for political consulting - the combinations are so easy to create, without needing to talk about them being hypothetical.

For example, these people - 'On Wednesday, internet billionaire Reid Hoffman apologized for giving money to a group, American Engagement Technologies, that allegedly had ties to Project Birmingham. The donation was $750,000, according to a person close to Hoffman. Hoffman said that he did not intend for the organization or its leader, a former aide to President Barack Obama, to put the money to use in spreading disinformation. Hoffman also pledged a full review of his portfolio of political investments, two years after he began spending millions of dollars to help elect more Democrats to office.

“I want to be unequivocal: there is absolutely no place in our democracy for manipulating facts or using falsehoods to gain political advantage," said Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn.' https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/27/disinformation-campaign-targeting-roy-moores-senate-bid-may-have-violated-law-alabama-attorney-general-says/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2dc85245c65a

'that is about the most pessimistic verdict on this country I have ever heard'

Being in the ivory tower is not the best place to make such pronouncements. Especially less than a year after it was U.S. policy to put children in cages, separated from their parents.

'The can-do attitude is one of my favorite features of American life. We just need to apply it a little more broadly.'

Not according to Charles Murray - we applied it just broadly enough.

>The recent expansion of imprisonment to include putting children in cages

Thank you for bringing up that iconic 2014 photo of the Obama Administration's work on the southern border.

Actually, I prefer linking to the pictures officially released by United States Customs and Border Protection agency in 2018, but in case you missed them, here is a link - https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/national-international/Children-Border-Patrol-Facility-South-Texas-485804601.html

Why bother with fake news when you can trust the government to show you how well it is treating those it has placed in cages?

They're sure not making children as small as they used to.

Especially those in a group right of center of the linked pictures, featuring the child in the red and black striped shirt, along with several other children around him - https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/987*657/mcallen-facility-5.jpg

Why, that particular child could even be eight years old, though that is harder to believe with the child in the orange shirt right next to him.

You did look at all the officially released pictures, right?

Did you? "About 200 people inside the facility are minors without parents, while about 500 are "family units," which consist of parents and children, according to the Associated Press."

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Thirty years ago there were frequent break-ins in our neighborhood. Now there are none.

Consider the possibility that the cops might not always get the right crime, but they usually get the right man.

Break and Enter is down by roughly half in that time in Australia with the incarceration rate remaining pretty flat. Break and Enter is down by about half in that time in Canada with the incarceration rate apparently down.

I certainly hope law enforcement usually gets the right person, but it seems pretty clear crime and punishment in the US is stuck in a low equilibrium rut.

I believe the current popularly accepted reason for this reduction in crime is the reduction of lead, found in things like gasoline, over the last generation.

However, the U.S. was following something of a plan that was intended to lead to the results Jim notes - 'Rather than waiting for delinquency to escalate into crime, which many believed inevitable, Murray marshaled statistics to show that intervening early and ruthlessly might be the only way to prevent juvenile delinquents from becoming hardened criminals. Criminologists in the 1970s fretted that “nothing works” in the fight against crime. Murray disagreed. Eventually others did too.

The solution discovered was mass incarceration, which continued long after crime rates declined precipitously. The U.S. prison population more than doubled in the 1980s, and then nearly doubled again in the 1990s. That decade matched the “end of welfare as we know it” with penal confinement, replacing the baby carrot with the big stick as the preferred tool of social order.' https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-white-man-unburdened-slobodian-schrader

In Australia the "internet and computer games" explanation is popular. Far fewer young people are spending time on the streets -- or street in smaller towns. One interesting thing is this also reduces lead exposure. Children living around the Southern Hemisphere's largest lead smelter have lower blood levels of lead than would be expected given the level of environmental contamination because they are staring at screens rather than running around eating dirt.

But it is obvious changing cultural standards has resulted in people being nicer. No one argues men should beat their wives anymore. No one calls for aboriginal people to be sterilized. No one publicly calls for gays to be bashed. No one thinks parents should thrash their kids or at least not many people.

Terrible things still happen, but mostly hidden and in the dark. Abuse of our fellow humans is no longer openly celebrated as it was in the recent past. Now private citizens fear criminal prosecution for putting their kid in hospital or raping their wife. Politicians fear Royal Commissions and future prosecution and put much effort into covering their tracks.

Reduction in leaded paint is an odd one to suggest being linked to crime.

Crime specifically that is; you should see it linked to general rates of disability in boys and girls, not specifically one sort of impulse control issue, and only in boys, who are otherwise developmentally normal. If you don't see this, its probably extremely wrong.

Crikey talked about dirt and children living near a lead smelter, and I talked about gasoline.

No leaded paint, or its reduction, to be found in either case.

Of course, the lead explanation may not be accurate at all, which one just might guess from the first sentence - 'I believe the current popularly accepted reason for this reduction in crime is the reduction of lead.'

Sure, there are argued to be many sources of lead in the environment, and I mentioned the one that to my recollection is most prominently referred to. The same applies whatever the source.

You could read your statement on it as as supportive or skeptical or neutral - it's not really unambiguous either way.

'The same applies whatever the source.'

Leaded paint was considered an inner city problem in the U.S., and stretches back to the 1970s at least.

Lead in the environment in general came from less limited sources, such as gasoline and lead smelters. Both of which have become rare in places like the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

'You could read your statement on it as as supportive or skeptical or neutral'

Fair enough - but I am always extremely skeptical of whatever popularly accepted just-so story is fashionable, as a general rule.

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Another possibility - with things like passwords and finder technologies, plus the overall cheapness of many capital goods nowadays, it is simply not worthwhile to rob people's houses. The statistics for the UK are similar in terms of a fall in burglaries and I don't think they have changed their criminal justice system. They ascribe the fall due to the improvements in home security, and less drug issues, but as I said I suspect the change is more about the lower returns to robbery.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/overviewofburglaryandotherhouseholdtheft/englandandwales

Agree (somewhat) regarding cheapness of goods to steal and (mostly) regarding security improvements. In my progressive enclave (blue city & state), I know landlords who've installed security cams and see a huge reduction in subsequent degenerate behavior.
That said, parcel theft is getting big in my locale. There seems to be incentives to ignore these crimes - the local PD (amazingly) considers parcel theft a federal responsibility. I've heard there don't even report it so lower crime stats can be pimped by the brass.

Yes, parcel theft is a huge issue where I live too. There's nothing amazing about thefts of post office-handled packages being a federal crime: it has been for a long time. I'm not sure though if that carries over to FedEx and other delivery services.

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I hear about home invasion in rich neighborhoods, but I agree the median home has less to offer.

What are you going to do, steal a TV?

Is home invasion really a thing? Are you talking burglary or when the armed robbers burst in and tie up the homeowner etc?

If you google "home invasion los angeles" you will see a few.

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Rapes and other horrors of American (and presumably other countries) prisons needs to stop even at a considerable expense. However, I have no doubt that anything that lets bad people of of prison will make life more dangerous for the rest of us. I'm not willing to sacrifice the safety of my children to make someone feel morally "right."

As a start perhaps, we could agree that after about 40 years of jokes on TV about white men being raped by black men in prison that prison rapes jokes aren't funny anymore?

I guess you have watched different TV shows over the past 40 years, or I was unaware that 'Bubba' was a stereotypical name for African-Americans.

Wikipedia seems to support the idea that 'Bubba' is not particularly related to African-Americans - 'Robert Ferguson notes in his book English Surnames that Bubba corresponds with the German Bube, a boy. This matches Saxon and Hibernian tradition.

Because of its association with the southern part of the United States, Bubba is also often used outside the South as a pejorative to mean a person of low economic status and limited education. Bubba may also be taken to mean one who is a "good ol' boy."' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubba

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>rapes jokes aren't funny anymore?

I dunno -- lefty comedians live for that joke, and they still tell "casting couch" jokes as well. I don't see them changing their minds.

Link? I'd love to see your evidence.

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I've heard some gruesome rape jokes, but never one about a specifically black perpetrator. In fact it's often something along the lines "Enjoy your friendly new roommate, Bubba" ("Bubba" being a nickname for loser white guys.)
Why do you have to make everything about race?

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This is your blog so of course you are entitled to say that you "are right". However you are outvoted by the rest of us during elections so it does not really matter.

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Less than 10 comments (with two of the commenters apparently not Americans) to find someone who does not feel 'creating and sanctioning a moral horror' is a problem. Someone who also feels that this perspective is shared by enough Americans to outvote those appalled at America's approach to imprisoning its citizens.

*FEWER than

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What about the horror of the crimes committed?

The broken windows theory is basically correct, so stop decriminalizing petty offenses like vagrancy (https://www.city-journal.org/seattle-homelessness). As for rehabilitation, "nothing works" despite the latest intellectual fad of claiming that offering prisoners college courses on intersectional oppression reduces recidivism.

More prisons and workhouses!

'More prisons and workhouses!'

These people disagree about nothing working as noted on May 18, 2018, though it also sounds suspiciously leftist. 'We find that there is great variation in the effectiveness across programs so that reallocation of budgets from poorly to well performing programs may both lower spending and improve results. In addition, CEA finds evidence that certain individual programs can reduce crime as well as reduce spending by lowering long-run incarceration costs. Programs that save at least one dollar in crime and incarceration costs for every dollar spent are deemed cost effective. More specifically, with a focus on rigorous studies of the programs that have been previously implemented, CEA finds that, on average, programs that address the prisoner’s mental health or substance abuse problems may reduce the cost of crime by about $0.92 to $3.31 per taxpayer dollar spent on prison reform and long-run incarceration costs by $0.55 to $1.96, for a total return of $1.47 to $5.27 per taxpayer dollar.'

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/cea-report-returns-investments-recidivism-reducing-programs/

Strange - why would the Trump Administration release such information, seemingly designed to give empirical support to the idea that recidivism can be reduced, and thus save the American taxpayer money?

Strange - why would the likes of you cite the Trump Administration?

Those of us card-carrying neocons don't put much stock in either Kim Kardashian or the latest tendentious studies that say that we need to dump more money on yet another criminal rehabilitation plan designed by social engineers.

'why would the likes of you cite the Trump Administration'

Why not? The data seems based on empirical measures. Though it seems unfashionable, I still believe there is no such thing as administration or partisan data, there is just data.

'Those of us card-carrying neocons'

You guys still exist? Really? Must be the disguises were so effective, following Bolton's example.

'to dump more money on yet another criminal rehabilitation plan'

You really didn't bother to even read the cited text, much less the press release, much less the actual research, did you? Indeed, you just might be a card carrying neo-con, of the variety that predicted rose petal strewn streets for American soldiers in Iraq 15 years ago.

It's the tired old line of social engineers who think that a few new BS studies suddenly overturn decades of experience. Speaking of neocons, Farabee (AEI) details the limitations of those types of studies and the stupid liberal assumptions about the causes of crime, which the administration has been suckered into accepting.

This is the WORST law created by the 115th Congress.

'It's the tired old line of social engineers who think that a few new BS studies suddenly overturn decades of experience.'

Data, who needs it? Yep, sounds like a card carrying neo-con, of the 'we create our own reality' variety.

'the stupid liberal assumptions about the causes of crime'

You mean criminals? Seems pretty self-evident, actually.

The stupid liberal assumptions about the causes of crime are precisely those highlighted: drug abuse, poor education, and mental health.

Speaking of mental health, have you bothered to do something about your Cowen Derangement Syndrome yet?

'The stupid liberal assumptions about the causes of crime are precisely those highlighted'

And here I was, thinking that conservatives were at least as convinced as liberals that drug abuse was a leading cause of criminal behavior, and that dropping out of school was a problem, one likely to lead to delinquency and criminal behavior.

But then, you are a card carrying neo-con, so obviously you are free to dismiss whatever idiocy is shared by both conservatives and liberals.

Those choices reflect bad moral character. Altering bad character is not something that some government program can remedy, which was the thrust of the arguments of a classic neoconservative thinker like James Q. Wilson.

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I agree. Crime is wrong.

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Lo and behold the CEA cites the standard liberal narrative on the causes of crime. The CEA minimizes the studies that show no reductions in recidivism as a result of programs targeting drug abuse and mental health. And there's this whopper:

"Thus, even though the current evidence base is lacking to evaluate education programs, education is, perhaps, the one program for which a great evidence base exists outside of prison." Which ignores the fact that the education bureaucracy already has trouble educating students outside of prison, let alone in prison.

And then like every good social engineer, they refer to dumping money down the sewer of these programs as "investment."

In the end, it was so predictable that it was really unnecessary to bother to read a single sentence.

Who is defending education programs? The CEA certainly isn't.

'minimizes the studies that show no reductions in recidivism as a result of programs targeting drug abuse and mental health'

Actually, they say the funding should be cut for ineffective programs, most definitely including those ineffective programs targeting drug abuse and mental health.

'they refer to dumping money down the sewer of these programs'

Well, at least you read something, however this is what the White House release actually said - 'We find that there is great variation in the effectiveness across programs so that reallocation of budgets from poorly to well performing programs may both lower spending and improve results. In addition, CEA finds evidence that certain individual programs can reduce crime as well as reduce spending by lowering long-run incarceration costs. Programs that save at least one dollar in crime and incarceration costs for every dollar spent are deemed cost effective. More specifically, with a focus on rigorous studies of the programs that have been previously implemented, CEA finds that, on average, programs that address the prisoner’s mental health or substance abuse problems may reduce the cost of crime by about $0.92 to $3.31 per taxpayer dollar spent on prison reform and long-run incarceration costs by $0.55 to $1.96, for a total return of $1.47 to $5.27 per taxpayer dollar.'

'In the end, it was so predictable'

Well, maybe you did not read the final paragraph, which indicates the need for more investment in better designed studies to gather reliable data to gather policy decisions - 'Overall, increased investment in better evidence is needed to guide future investments into programs to reduce recidivism. Many programs, even if they are found to be cost effective may have small sample sizes or unique characteristics that may be difficult to replicate or scale up, and some studies with high-quality research designs are too dated to provide needed insight. Carefully designed, broad-based national programs that target a wide variety of offenders in conjunction with carefully designed empirical evaluations would improve the ability of policymakers to allocate criminal justice funds to achieve the greatest possible social benefits.' Admittedly, data has never been something that interests a neo-con particularly.

"Who is defending education programs? The CEA certainly isn't."

We calculate that educational programming needs only a modest impact on recidivism rates of around 2 percent in order to be cost effective.

When you set such a low threshold, I call that a defense.

finds evidence that certain individual programs can reduce crime as well as reduce spending by lowering long-run incarceration costs.

I.e., minimize the studies that say that the programs don't work.

Carefully designed, broad-based national programs that target a wide variety of offenders in conjunction with carefully designed empirical evaluations would improve the ability of policymakers to allocate criminal justice funds to achieve the greatest possible social benefits.

Stop subsidizing bad behavior. The most cost-effective allocation is zero.

'When you set such a low threshold, I call that a defense.'

And if they cannot achieve that 2%, they are ineffective. Sounds like a way to measure whether a program is cost effective, not to defend it.

'minimize the studies that say that the programs don't work'

Brevity can be a problem, but here is the actual citation, which is actually the opposite of what you believe was written - 'Many programs, even if they are found to be cost effective may have small sample sizes or unique characteristics that may be difficult to replicate or scale up, and some studies with high-quality research designs are too dated to provide needed insight.' They are dismissing programs that are successful, which would appear to be the exact opposite of minimizing failures, unless one is a card carrying neo-con, of course.

"Sounds like a way to measure whether a program is cost effective, not to defend it."

Quite the opposite if you are talking about government programs. But then your Cowen Derangement Syndrome blinds you to public choice theory.

If the authors were dismissing the programs, they would not begin by saying: "CEA finds that there is an empirical evidence base to support programs that focus on the prisoner’s mental health or substance abuse to prevent future crime..." and then proceed to mention the "limitations of the reviewed literature." If the main intent were to dismiss the programs, the would proceed in the opposite manner (unless the authors are Straussians, which is unlikely because they're garden variety economists).

I know neocons lack self-awareness, but did get a chuckle that this neocon has something against unintended consequences from a large scale, top fed, social engineering project!

In anticipation, I will explain the joke for you: Isn't that what neocons live for, as long it is us lives and taxdollars for foreign "backwards" nations?

Talk about lack of self-awareness. Both the left and far right have a bad habit of thinly veiled antisemitic attacks on neoconservatives (and it's worse when those attacks originate from persons residing in Germany).

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I am ideologically predisposed to endorse these proposals, but one element gives me pause. There is good deal of evidence that increased incarceration rates played a significant role in the great reduction in crime in the last 50 years. (Yes, I am aware that there is also good evidence that demographics, lead reduction, abortion, increased policing, and several other changes played roles. But I am not aware of any serious study that doesn't find a non-negligible role for increased incarceration.) Simply put, the majority of crimes are committed by a minority of the most criminally inclined, so keeping those people locked up is an effective way to reduce crime. With this in mind, I'd want to see a serious analysis that tries to quantify how much increased crime we would get for any proposed reforms, and that tweaks to the reforms to try to minimize that number.

One idea I would be interested to see tried is to sentence people convicted of serious crimes not to specific prison terms, but to AI-determined-incarceration. They would be released when a trained criminological model predicted that their risk-to-offend had dropped below some threshold. The model would be fed not only their criminal record and prison behavior record, but also their age, sex, race, education, income, hormone levels, personality test results, family history, and anything else that might be identified as even slightly predictive.

I am not so techno-utopian as to be confident that this would work, but I'd give it reasonable odds to achieve lower overall crime rates for a given incarceration rate.

'that increased incarceration rates played a significant role in the great reduction in crime in the last 50 years'

Well, if one ignores other countries that had a similar reduction without following the such of policies fully endorsed by a figure like Charles Murray.

I think the policy was, have fewer young people.

Possibly, except that the median age in America is higher than either Canada or Australia, the two countries being used as examples of a falling crime rate not based on mass incarceration.

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"The upshot is that many incarcerated people suffer cruel and unusual punishment far beyond any issues they might raise about the unfairness of their sentence."

Why don't we use the standards of "cruel and unusual punishment" as expressed by, say, the Crimes Act of 1790 where the most common punishment was death? That would also solve the problem of inmates being repeatedly assaulted or raped by other inmates in prison.

My thoughts exactly.

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What's taking Trump so long to pass legislation to control the women? We need to stop feminism now!

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As President Captain Bolsonaro pointer out, people who do not like being jailed should not have commited crimes. Commiting crimes is wrong.

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How do US rates compare to others in stocks vs flows? We know the stock population is higher, but how much of this is higher flows in (perhaps due to higher US offending rates) and how much due to higher retention of stock through higher sentencing, more violent prison pops extending their sentences?

I'm really interested in the magnitude of changes in sentencing and raw rates here - the US has a "rate" about 4 or 5 times comparable countries, but if this is a composite of relatively small changes (4 year sentences rather than 2, 30 rather 20 for murder, etc) for equivalent crimes, and a higher base offending rate, then possibly not something to worry much about. Particularly since the "right" punishment is fairly subjective (perhaps its a "moral horror" to be sentencing for 20 rather than 30?)

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I was working for my state's legislature when the mandatory minimum sentence movement took off. It was the politicians' answer to the charge of soft on crime. Of course, it was nonsense. But politicians are notoriously irrational, especially those of a certain political persuasion. One of my duties on the staff of the judiciary committee was to write bill summaries, including the economic cost. For mandatory minimum bills, I applied simple math: compare the cost based on the average sentence served for the crime with the cost based on the mandatory minimum sentence for the crime, using the daily cost incurred for a prisoner in our state. This resulted in howls of protest from the supporters of the bills, who claimed that the mandatory minimums would greatly reduce crime and, thus, the number of prisoners and the cost to the state. It was a travesty in the making, and this young staff member wasn't about to deter that travesty. While in law school, our criminal law professor took a group of us to the state prison (located in a remote part of the state - out of sight, out of mind). It was shocking. Cells built for two prisoners contained (yes, it was a container) six or eight. It was winter, but the heat was stifling, the result of the combination of the old radiators used for heat, too many bodies in confined spaces, and little or no ventilation. And the politicians' answer to prison overcrowding and inhumane conditions: mandatory minimum sentences.

A little irony. We were required to include the cost estimate in bill summaries because the leadership decided that requiring an "economic impact statement" would discourage bills with additional public benefits by highlighting the cost to the state. I don't believe it occurred to the leadership that so-called tough on crime bills would be affected. Our chairman, after consulting with the leadership, decided that mandatory minimums would "pay for themselves" (by discouraging crime), much like the tax cuts in Congress that supposedly "pay for themselves" (by stimulating the economy). Unlike in Congress, however, the leadership in my legislature didn't need an economist to support the nonsense (the leadership simply dictated no more cost estimates for mandatory minimums).

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The economics are interesting. We are so wealthy, and so willing to spend money on things that don’t work very well.

It’s unfortunate that exile is no longer a practical option. Cheap and effective. Of course, it was death if exile was violated.

In an alternative scenario with plenty of nuclear energy, exile could be implemented by pumping desalinated water to some remote inhospitable dessert. Of course, with that scenario, today's useless badlands would be more valuable.

Another exile option would be to contract some nation to take our undesirables, say South Sudan, I hear they need some money. Would that go under "exporting pollution". Could we do the same with politicians after it has been proven they lied in order to implement programs that robbed tax payers? For example like the Gruber conspiracy to pass ACA.

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Would exile even work in this day and age? Back then, it was really considered punishment to not be among one's own people or with one's family.

A book I am reading mentioned Joseph Brodsky, a late victim of the half-hearted "re-Stalinization" of the 1960s, and how his time in Archangelsk for the crime of social paratism - writing poems that did not advance the Party and the revolution (in reality he had worked at a number of real jobs, more than most writers, probably) - was a blessing to him. He enjoyed private quarters, for some reason, and was for the first time in a while without fear - the worst had happened - and was probably one of the few people in Russia with the luxury to be alone in the evening with his thoughts and his books. He missed his wife or girlfriend, perhaps, and would lose her completely later when he was kicked out of the Soviet Union; but he made her a subject of many poems and finally suggested life was like a tape that could only be written over: "Your voice, your body, your name / mean nothing to me now. No one destroyed them. It’s just that, in order to forget one life, a person needs to live / at least one other life. And I have served that portion."

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So who do you want to let out?

Google supplied a nice article with percentages by crime. Of those imprisoned, one-fifth are rapists. Should we let them out?

Next up are the 15% in for drugs. Great let's let out all the folks with mere possession. Except for the fact that Drug admissions are only 22% of the WI prison population. The average sentencing length for these drug offenses are ~40% of those for rape, so we are not talking misdemeanors here. We are talking about either repeat offenders with book throwing judges or we are talking about dealers.

The next three down, around 10% are: robbery, murder, and burglary. Again the implied average sentence length is such that our burglars and robbers are unlikely to be first time offenders.

Other violent criminals come in around 7% and DWI at 5% (again typically not a first offense).

Put it another way, the state of Wisconsin, by overwhelming majority, is imprisoning people who engage in activities highly likely to kill other people albeit not necessarily intentionally (e.g. burglar breaks into the wrong house and a struggle ensues, drug dealer gets uncut fentanyl). This is worse because many of the small offenses are for things like prison escape, motor vehicle theft, and weapons charges which are also activities which greatly increase the risk of innocent people dying.

And this is not uncommon. Overall the largest tranche of prisoners at any given time are violent offenders. Those who are in for "non-violent" offenses are almost always still doing things that would greatly increase the risk of innocent people dying (e.g. dealing drugs all but invariably laced with toxic chemicals).

We can talk about incentives all we want, but at the end of the day we are going to face a choice between imprisoning those who undertake activities that harm others and risk lives, or letting the innocent suffer. This isn't Europe and hasn't been for centuries. Changing imprisonment rates will face this trade off until people become less violent or less dangerous.

And we know a lot better how to do the latter: youth church attendance, two parent families, financial stability, respect for authority, decreased drug use by parents and teens, and all the other social support systems we are busy ripping down to have a more efficient economy and more libertine options for the wealthy who run the place.

I can totally get behind making prisons more humane. I think the plea system and charge stacking are bogus. I just don't see any way to end "mass incarceration" when the average prisoner has done things most people think warrant imprisonment because they seriously harm or others or dramatically increase the risks of harming others.

Good points. Crime tears the fabric of society up. As we say in Brazil, human rights are for righteous humans.

Crime is part of the fabric of society, Thiago. But I'm not surprised you need someone from Convictopia to point that out to you.

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This subject is kinda depressing, so I hope I may be allowed to find it amusing that the #metoo moment, when men may be sanctioned for an ill-placed hand on an open-backed blouse, or uttering a hoary joke, should coincide with a call to fold rapists back into the community.

Maybe rape has a cultural component, and it will be impractical to lock up so many men in the coming years. (Change is always welcome?) For instance, in 2010 San Antonio had 1.6 as many people as my city, but it enjoyed 3.7 times as many rapes. Its slightly more youthful population may be suggested by the percent of young people in the cities' respective counties: 25% and 22%. Perhaps its police department is less competent. The only other notable demographic difference between the cities is the percent Hispanic - 60.4% versus 34.5%.

When I look up official DPS arrest data for my particular state, I can find ethnic breakdown for murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, larceny, motor-vehicle theft, arson, forgery, fraud, vandalism, and so on. But next to "rape": n/a, n/a, n/a, n/a ...

Unless the privacy extended to rape victims is also kindly extended to perpetrators, I am not sure what to make of that n/a. Is rape something we've always been of two minds about, or is it something we need to reconsider the severity of, for its victims, so that we may all live together in harmony?

Americans, and perhaps humans in general, are obsessed with sex and its deviations. Other crimes, theft for instance, don't have correspondences with legal behavior, except in the case of law enforcement and asset forfeiture. Rape and its various manifestations are different. Rape is simply non-consensual sex.

Look at the case of perv Larry Nassar, sentenced to 235 years in prison not for injuring someone but doing something that the husbands and boyfriends of these women might very well do. As a result of his actions Michigan State University will pay $500 million to a supposed 332 victims, some of whom were so devastated by the experience that they went on to become Olympic champions. This is not to defend the perv except for the fact that by most definitions he's mentally ill.

Young men, on the other hand, can have the crap beaten out of them to the extent of permanent brain damage and it's no big deal.

'but doing something that the husbands and boyfriends of these women might very well do'

You do know that many of his actions involved children, right? From his wikipedia article - 'In November 2016, Nassar was indicted on state charges of sexual assault of a child from 1998 to 2005; the crimes allegedly began when the victim was six years old. Ultimately, he was charged with 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with minors: fifteen in Ingham County and seven in neighboring Eaton County.

The allegations asserted that Nassar had molested seven girls under the guise that he was providing legitimate medical treatment at his home and at a clinic on the MSU campus.

Nassar was arrested by the FBI in December 2016 after agents found more than 37,000 images of child pornography and a video of Nassar molesting underage girls. On April 6, 2017, his medical license was revoked for three years.

On July 11, 2017, Nassar pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography in 2004, possession of pornographic images of children dating from 2004 to 2016, and tampering with evidence by destroying and concealing the images. On December 7, 2017, U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff sentenced Nassar to 60 years in federal prison. If he survives that sentence, he will be on supervised release for the rest of his life'

'This is not to defend the perv except for the fact that by most definitions he's mentally ill.'

Well, he is certainly a pedophile - you are welcome to consider such behavior mentally ill. After all, other countries such as Germany do, and though it is impossible to impose a life sentence in Germany, it is possible to keep someone in a locked facility for the rest of their lives if they are judged to be mentally ill. And yes, in Germany pedophilia is pretty much considered a mental illness, thus ever so conveniently circumventing the legal system in terms of how long someone can be kept from leaving a locked facility.

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Theft corresponds with property, so I've heard.

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So around 1/3 of that population are there for murder and rape, which until very recently were almost universally treated as capital crimes.

Given that population, its no wonder that conditions and behavior inside the prison are bad.

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Sure: This isn't Europe and hasn't been for centuries. Changing imprisonment rates will face this trade off until people become less violent or less dangerous.

And yet incarceration levels only diverge from Europe in 1980.

1930-1950 must've been some fresh hell of violence.

I'm open to the idea US incarceration levels are symptomatic of only relatively small differences in convictions and sentencing relative to Europe that accumulate, on top of of some differences in offending rate, and these are totally defensible (in the sense of subjectivity in the idea of justice).

But differences in criminal justice and incarceration is obviously something that happened in 1980-1990 and not something that goes back centuries and has always been the case, or a simple, direct consequence of population differences in offending rates.

I suggest looking at the capital punishment rate. By the 1980s Europe had utterly ceased doing executions in the West. The US execution rate peaked in 1999.

The murder rate in Europe in 1980 ranged from 1/100,000 in France to around 1.5 in Italy. In the US at the same time it was ~10.

There is some play in the statistics due to differences in emergency response and the like (which generally make Europe look better), but nonetheless the US's crime rates and criminal populations have never been particularly similar to those in Europe.

Put simply, if there is some optimal trade-off for incacerations/murder that Europe has found; the US is still woefully below it. The fact that the US had relatively fewer incarceration-years per offender in the past does not make that the correct policy.

At the end of the day, the vast bulk of the prison population are people who are violent offenders or who engage in criminal activities that have extremely high correlation rates with untimely deaths.

So again, we want fewer prisoners ... great who do you let out? The convicted murderers? The convicted rapists? The convicted drug dealers? The robbers? Or those who assault with a deadly weapon?

Okay, maybe you think the sentences are too long, but the US has a much more heavily developed criminal class. Re-offense rates are higher than in Europe, last I checked, and we cannot expect to have to same success with recidivism reduction programs. These are pathologies with deeply enmeshed social components; simple solutions do not exist. Simple ones that are politically viable and likely to have any shot at success are also impossible.

I mean seriously, if we let free *everyone* but those convicted of murder ... we would STILL have higher imprisonment rate than the UK.

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"Can I simply say “I am right”?"

OK, but why now and not during the previous past ten years that MR has been around?

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Are you right, TC, to leave out relevant data on US rates of adult (il-)literacy?

If you're training your eyes to behold HORROR, no need to contemplate hell-hole prisons: turn your offended gaze instead to the MORAL HORROR OF AMERICAN PUBLIC EDUCATION.

No horror to be found? Then do begin to explain what our nonchalant and rare national assessments of adult literacy have been suggesting to us for decades: the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey results compared with those of the 2003 Natl. Assessment of Adult Literacy suggest that at least 30 million US adults are "below basic" (subliterate, that is) while at least 11 million US adults are non-literate (in English).

Letting almost 20% of the adult population fumble and stumble through life sub-literate or wholly illiterate--AFTER EXPOSING THEM TO PUBLIC EDUCATION--is a horror itself bordering on the criminal. (Failed pedagogical practitioners and theorists perhaps deserve prisons of their own for their own rank incompetence.)

That you completely failed to adduce the POOR state of American literacy instruction, Tyler, suggests that you are in fact not quite right, at least not for all the right reasons. Try again.

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If you are among the daft who still believes that Tyler is anything other than a boilerplate liberal who has been voting Dem his whole life, print out this post and staple it to your forehead. Right now.

The two major problems with the US justice system are that (1) sentences are too lenient, especially for newer offenders -- i.e., you have to steal 70 wallets before you get caught 7 times and then actually run the risk of a lengthy sentence, and (2) we need more prisons.

"Let the criminals run around society with ankle bracelets" is the most retarded thing I've ever heard, especially coming from a guy who spends so much time whining that the police who would monitor them are bigoted, hateful racists who murder non-whites for fun.

"The SJWs Are Winning and You're All Just Going to Have to Deal With It: A thread."

link to tweets

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'who has been voting Dem his whole life'

This is truly your most entertaining delusion.

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If you are among the daft who still believes that Tyler is anything other than a boilerplate liberal who has been voting Dem his whole life, print out this post and staple it to your forehead. Right now.

He isn't. He is, however, a highly other-directed man with no real understanding of what motivates anyone outside his immediate social circle. If he has a social vision, it's derived from science fiction. Punishing people is a 'moral horror' per the fashion of the arts and sciences faculty, doesn't pay any heed to technology or to economic incentives or to 'Coasean solutions' and incorporates an understanding of human behavior which acknowledges the joys of predation and vengeance. His out of his element. Completely.

But why would be angry with a guy who thinks that any random human system could be improved. That's the big question, or tell.

The "I oppose optimization" party.

He's not interested in improving anything. He is complaining that criminals are punished rather than being plied with 'incentives'.

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Tyler Cowen's political views aren't a secret, he openly advertises his views extensively on everything. I agree with categorizing Tyler as a liberal, but definitely not a "boilerplate". On some issues he's very liberal, and other issues he's not.

He's pretty liberal on racial issues, he supported the BLM movement, he strongly supports increasing immigration to the US and Europe against mainstream voter wishes. He also supports the university system as a centerpiece of society: he believes it deserves large government financial support, top society prestige, privileged careers in civil service, and also maximum autonomy and independence from outside pressures or oversight.

Tyler supports markets much more than most liberals. He's critical of minimum wage. On health care, Tyler would be considered very right wing relatively to today's climate. He supports free market reforms, he has a negative view of Obamacare, and also of "single payer" health care. Tyler Cowen understands the the fringe right-wing or the "neo-reaction" as he chose to label it. Cowen reads, links, understands, and even praises a figure such as Steve Sailer, which is someone mainstream conservatives put lots of effort into shunning and alienating.

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The pushback is sad but interesting. Especially the rapid conclusion among commenters that ankle bracelets must be ineffective.

Maybe it all ties to the first comment above, and an irrational desire for punishment.

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Can I simply say “I am right":
Yes, and.....
I think we really need to ask some more fundamental philosophical questions as a country. there seems to be a huge amount of confusion and disagreement about what the point is of our judicial and penal system. Is it intended to punish? Is it intended to punish in a way that is consistent with old testament wrath, via Hamurabi's code, or is it meant to be proportional? Is it intended to punish at all, or is it intended to protect the public safety? These questions seem to me to be at the heart of how we administer what we think of as Justice. And if you found 10 people on the street and ask them what the intent of our system is, you would get 10 different answers. Until we can all agree on those answers, we cannot approach reform without working at cross purposes or ending up with some other variation of domestic torture.

Tyler's essay is pretty utilitarian, and responses tend not to be. Various reasons why "we can't" look for the best solution. "Because BLM," etc.

Mother Forkin' Morals .. Utilitarianism

Utilitarians suffer from the inane view that retribution should not be a major component of criminal justice. Aristotle and Kant are better guides than Bentham.

You mean like Brexit?

Not joking. Choosing the less-good because you are angry is a dysfunction and not anything to be particularly proud of.

It is only less good if you are a vulgar utilitarian who does not understand that humans are by nature political animals and therefore will "waste" resources ensuring that retributive justice is served (ditto Brexit on the grounds maintaining political sovereignty).

What's dysfunctional about the U.S. criminal justice system is that too few (especially violent) criminals are behind bars. We have defined deviancy down so that we are supposed to be happy with current violent crime rates because they're lower than the worst levels of the 1980-90s, but they are still twice as high as in 1960 (https://www.ucrdatatool.gov/Search/Crime/State/RunCrimeStatebyState.cfm; murder rates are now comparable, but other forms of violent crime are much higher). Our system is also too expensive and to deal with that problem I suggest outsourcing our prisons to Mexico (the intersectional moral scolds have to tread more lightly there).

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Yes, Tyler. You are right. Thanks for writing this.

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No, you can't because you're wrong. The mean stay in a state prison is 30 months.

If you're concerned about prison rape and violence, sort the population more finely and intelligently, keep convicts confined most of the day, dismantle prison factories, and replace bunks with individual cells which have dedicated toilets and basins. But you're not really concerned with that.

The real moral horror is our faculties.

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Step 1. Americans take responsibility for the system they refuse to adequately fund. That'll be the day.
Step 2. Change career incentives for prosecutors. Could you be any more vague? You don't know how, do you? So, more research is needed, right?? Or should we just guess?
Step 3. More research is needed. I'm sensing a pattern...
Step 4. Frame reform. Isn't "frame" another term for spin or mislead or mischaracterize? Could you be any more vague? Why not just admit you haven't a clue what this should look like and admit that "more research is needed"?
Embarrassingly so arch-typical of an Ivory Tower Academic. "Fund us, we are the true path and the only way!"
Are you right? You're not even wrong. If it is a "moral horror" then we should act, not beg for more funding to study it. Your solution is laughable. Worse, it totally ignores human nature and the way our representative democracy works. ("works").
BTW, I'm trying to figure out what the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has to do with this? And CEA? WTF??

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When traiining a puppy not to crap on the carpet, you humiliate it and rub its nose in it. It learns quickly enough.
Real crime rates in the UK are not down, they have been manipulated by the police. My wife and I have both neen mugged in EC2, a supposedly low crime zone in the City of London. I actually recorded the five thugs who mugged me on video, and delivered a copy to the City of London Police, several times. They lost each copy. A retired policeman explained to me that they do this in order to keep the statistics looking good.
The problem with crime today is that the thug is rewrded, and his supporters include well meaning moral idiots like Tyler, who I otherwise regard very highly. These moral idots are the eilite whose lives are protected from crime, who never have to bear the brunt directly of the consequences of not punishing criminals.

Your argument seems to be "Something terrible happened to me and to someone I know therefore this terrible thing must be getting more common not less."

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In NY, it costs 70k per annum, to house an inmate. That's more than I've made in a year in my career. Plus the inmates get medical and dental.

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This article is complete nonsense.

See https://www.city-journal.org/html/myth-criminal-justice-racism-10231.html

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Wow, this is the first time TC equated America with moral horrors! Sounds like a Russian brainwashed him.

Wait until he learns about the fate of 500,000+ Iraqis, Afghanis, Yemenis, from 17 years ago!

The neocon conspiracy rules the world. Muahahaha!

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Since most "US Must Do Something!" people are moved by emotional stories of individuals rather than raw numbers of US atrocities, here's another one to add: "A Yemeni mother fought for 17 months to overcome the U.S. travel ban and visit her sick 2-year-old son. He has died only days after she arrived"

https://twitter.com/mtracey/status/1079153694892085248

You have a low bar for classifying something as an atrocity.

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The writer's heart is in the right place but each of these is a complicated issue with lots of trade offs. Would be more helpful to examine one issue in detail rather than this sort of (self-indulgent) polemic.

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I agree, you are right. And I say this as a person who is skeptical of those soft on crime. I agree with pretty much everything you wrote.

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Season 3 of the "Serial" podcast was eye-opening on many details of this post.
Further, prison guard & police unions play a non-negligible role in perpetuating the status quo; the former obviously lobbying heavily for policies which protect & increase the number of prison guard jobs (i.e. keeping enough people in prisons), and the latter in being able to influence elections, through the endorsement of candidates for judicial or prosecutorial offices whom are decidedly "pro-cop"; any incumbent found to be too tough on police or reform-minded runs the risk of a powerful union advising its members to not vote for that candidate.

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Only police unions?

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