Life's Better Ideas

Occasional links to, and comments on, ideas that I think will make this a better world, and remarks about things that need fixing, too.

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hard Choices, session 4

I'm taking a course at Denver University, Hard Choices in Public Policy. The instructor is former Colorado governor Richard Lamm.

Today we talked about Crime and Punishment. The poor tend to focus on short term gratification. Cultural (non-genetic) traits may lead to more or less success. Unintended Consequences - Charles Murray. Into the Promised Land: Issues Facing the Welfare State by Asher Ben-Arieh. Some of the major reform efforts that had unintended consequences were Community Mental Health Act of 1963, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Immigration Act of 1965, Campaign Reform Act of 1974. Adam Smith's the Invisible Hand. Rent Control, Busing, Birth Control, GI Bill, Term Limits, Initiative and Referendum, Tabor, and Amendment 23 (education).

"God uses lust to impel man to marriage, ambition to office, avarice to earning, and fear to faith." -- Martin Luther

Criminal justice system consists of Police, Courts, DA's and Public Defenders, Parole and Probation, Jails, and Prisons. Crime rates have been falling sharply. Homicide is lowest in 35 years possibly because we've locked more people up, but prisons are graduate schools for crime. Incarceration rates - US 700/100K (148 for drugs), Canada 102/100K, UK 132/100K, France 85/100K, Japan 48/100K. Why? more lenient? different crimes lead to prison? other?

100 felonies > 30 arrests > 20 prosecutions > 15 convictions > 5 prison sentences, but those 30 arrests may account for the bulk of those 100 felonies.

It costs $32K to keep 1 person in jail for 1 year. Is that the best use of our resources? Fastest growing segment of the prison population is women. From 1925 to 1973 the incarceration rate was 110 per 100K population. US has 2 million behind bars and another 4.5 million on probation or parole.

Info was flowing so fast and furious I didn't get it all. The Latino population is 11.5% of the total but 19% of the prison population. Missed the African American stats.

A significant number of people get off because of illegal procedures by the cops. Who's going to police the police?

The crime tax is $425 in economic costs and $1800 in non-economic costs. We have 3 million ex-cons. What restrictions should we put on people who have served their time, if any? Are there certain jobs they shouldn't be allowed to do?

Up until 1980, drug offender incarceration accounted for 15 per 100K population; in 1996 it was 148 per 100K. Each person in prison prevents 15 crimes per year.

Reductions in crime may be due to other factors such as an aging prison population. As criminals get older, they may be less inclined to lead that kind of life. Missed other factors. Mandatory sentencing came up several times.

The two parent family is probably the best crime preventor says James Q Wilson.

Gun control was briefly mentioned. I said I thought that people with concealed carry permits were probably very low on the crime rate stats.

Punitive punishment doesn't work. Neither do juvenile courts.

Governor Lamm said that if he could wave a magic wand, he would have everybody living in two parent families. Lamm is a member of National Issues Forums and he gets a lot of his material there.


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