“The liberal approach of coddling criminals didn’t work and never will. Nothing in our Constitution gives dangerous criminals a right to prey on innocent, law-abiding people.” ~Ronald Reagan, Feb. 18, 1984
The cool kids in Washington promoting the Michael Dukakis crime agenda have a clever way of enticing conservatives to support the Soros anarchist agenda. “Well, conservatives, don’t you want to save money and actually enhance public safety with less recidivism?”
How dumb of us not to know that all along, the far Left was really right about crime and that somehow the miraculous drop in crime in the ’90s following tougher sentencing laws was just a figment of our imagination.
Common sense and learned human experiences never fail to deliver the truth. Last Wednesday, the DOJ released an updated study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showing that 83 percent of prisoners released by states under jailbreak programs similar to what the bipartisan cabal is promoting in Washington were re-arrested within nine years of their release. So much for the recidivism argument for early release programs. Unfortunately, the House was in such a rush to pass this bill even without a CBO score that the DOJ report didn’t come out until a day later.
The same people commit the crimes
The BJS study is the most comprehensive analysis of those released from prison in 30 states over the longest period of time relative to any other study. Those 30 states accounted for 77 percent of all persons released from state prisons nationwide. The total sample size was 67,966 prisoners, much greater than any study trotted out that supposedly vouches for early release programs. I cited this report in 2015 when it observed recidivism patterns over five years. Now the BJS has collected the data for the extended nine-year analysis. Here are the results:
Overall, 68 percent of released state prisoners were arrested within three years, 79 percent within six years and 83 percent within nine years. The 401,288 released state prisoners were arrested an estimated 2 million times during the nine years after their release, an average of five arrests per released prisoner.
On an annual basis, 44 percent of prisoners were arrested during the first year after release, 34 percent were arrested during the third year and 24 percent were arrested during the ninth year. Five percent of prisoners were arrested during the first year after release and were not arrested again during the 9-year follow-up period.
These numbers are staggering. They lend credence to the experience we’ve learned from locking up the bad guys over the past few decades – that most of the crime is committed by a relatively small group of people who continuously re-offend.
But here’s the kicker.
More than three-quarters (77 percent) of released drug offenders were arrested for a non-drug crime within nine years, and more than a third (34 percent) were arrested for a violent crime.
Part of why the “tough-on-crime regime” – from the Reagan era through the last decade – had so much success in lowering crime rates is because most of the criminals were involved in drugs and property crimes. Whether you are a hawk or a dove on drugs is immaterial to the fact that most of those trafficking drugs are involved in many other crimes and account for most of the crimes committed. Thus, getting them off the streets worked wonders. It didn’t stop the spread of drugs (although I would argue that is because we never went after the source via our foreign policy and immigration policy), but it absolutely did stop a lot of the violent crime and property crimes. When you let out drug offenders early from prison in this era, they will not only go back to selling even deadlier drugs, killing thousands, they will also commit other crimes.
This is just the beginning of jailbreak
The House-passed “First Step Act,” which is the first step to the broader agenda of its proponents to dismantle the Reagan crime agenda, does not make any exceptions for heroin and fentanyl traffickers for early release programs. And yes, they absolutely are early release programs. Ironically, proponents of the bill, who also support getting rid of mandatory sentencing on the front end of the system, insist that I am mischaracterizing the bill as a sentencing bill. No, it’s not a sentencing bill, but it is a jailbreak bill on the back end of the justice system, offering multiple avenues for early release.
Also, does this mean my opponents will now agree to scuttle the Lee-Durbin sentencing bill? Of course not. They support that too, but just downplay it in order to pass the aptly named “First Step Act.” Do we really want to facilitate the “next step?” Chuck Grassley, who himself inexplicably got sucked into the Koch jailbreak movement just six months after denouncing it, has committed to attaching the sentencing reduction bill to the First Step Act.
Saving money on prisons while costing the taxpayers billions in property crimes
There’s nothing new about what this bill is proposing. California already tried this. As part of a series of jailbreak proposals, the state passed Prop 47, which dramatically reduced the penalty for drug offenses and property crimes. What are the results? Heather Mac Donald compiled the following data:
In the city of Los Angeles, violent crime rose nearly 20 percent through August 22, 2015, compared with the same period in 2014; property crime was up 11 percent. Shooting victims were up 27 percent. Arrests were down 9 percent. In Santa Ana, felony crime was up 33 percent in May 2015, compared with May 2014. Violent crime was up 28 percent, property crime up 43 percent, and robbery up 89 percent. In nearby Costa Mesa, violent crime increased 47 percent, and theft was up 44 percent, through late July, compared with the same period in 2014. In San Francisco, violent crime was up 13 percent, and property crime up 22 percent, through June 2015 over the previous year.”
Ironically, prison costs have increased in California, even as the state released 30,000 prisoners over the past three years. The moral of the story? When you pursue reduction in prison population at the expense of public safety, you get neither.
Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, former director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, wrote in the Washington Post in 2008 that that “most conservative estimate for the cost of violent and property crimes in the United States is $17 billion a year — and that’s just direct, immediate cost.” Just a few weeks ago, during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the Senate passed a resolution including this very finding from Sedgwick. On the other hand, the entire cost of the Bureau of Prisons is roughly $7 billion.
Supporters of the First Step Act claim that they are basing the model for early release into home confinement programs based off a successful Texas model, not California. However, the numbers they use to calculate recidivism in Texas in order to achieve a lower number only include re-incarcerations, not re-arrests. As we all painfully know, so many arrests never lead to incarceration, particularly in states that are trying to avoid incarceration at all costs. The federal system, on the other hand, measures recidivism by re-arrests. Apples to apples, comparing federal re-arrests to Texas re-arrests, the recidivism rate in Texas is 46.5 percent, 12.5 percent higher than the federal rate, according to the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are opposing this bill.
Why would we impose upon the federal system a weaker system of early release programs that have failed in the states?
This bill does not make exceptions for the worst drug traffickers or gun felons in terms of eligibility for early release programs. The data is clear that these people cause more crime when released from prison. Why would we create early release programs with “job training” programs in order to address recidivism when the early release itself is the problem?
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.