The dirty little secret of decreasing mass incarceration

We’re going to have to let a whole more violent felons out on the streets.  There  was an article in the Times that there finally seems to be some real bipartisan momentum for reforming our horribly inefficient and way over-punitive sentencing laws.  That said, the accompanying article and graphs make it quite clear that this is not at all about just releasing non-violent drug offenders.  This chart is really something:


A massive share in rising prison populations is violent offenders.  The simple truth is we cannot address the overall problem without addressing what we do with violent offenders.  There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit here.  The likelihood of re-offense falls dramatically for older offenders.  And there’s plenty of ways to use technology (GPS and location monitoring with enhanced drug testing, etc.) to keep track of offenders in much more cost-effective ways outside of prisons.  But, we’re not going to solve this problem by just letting a lot of marijuana smokers out of prison.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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