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TTAG reader BR writes:

There is a school of thought that says that if a man is too dangerous to be allowed to have a gun, he is too dangerous to be free. I have not previously subscribed to this school of thought. There are few black and white things in life so surely there must be shades of grey as far as how dangerous somebody is. If the state has the power to lock you up, then they should also have the power to let you out of the cage with some limits on what you can or can’t do/possess. If a person commits a violent felony, you lock em up for a period of years, then let them out with restrictions on their ability to own firearms. The theory being, they paid their time, if they re-offend they won’t shoot somebody. This should theoretically lower the risk of letting the offender back out to an acceptable level. Theoretically . . .

I’ve recently run across some pretty powerful data that would seem to support the lock ’em up theory. I was listening to a recording of Clayton Cramer at some symposium. Click here for the link (requires Microsoft Silverlight). His presentation starts about 2:20. If you have your blood pressure under control, then by all means listen to the whole thing.

Cramer referenced the work of Bernard Harcourt who studied the relationship between aggregate institutionalization rate (mental hospitals + prison + jail) with the murder rate. There is a pretty strong correlation between the level of folks who are locked up and the murder rate. REALLY strong. Here’s a link to Harcourt’s paper.

The paper itself is pretty dry stuff, and I’m no statistician, but click here and take a look at the graph on page number 56. It’s pretty persuasive stuff. There is a pretty direct inverse relationship between the aggregate number of people who are locked up and the homicide rate.

I’m re-evaluating my position. What’s your take?

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    • The PDF is only 46 pages long, the actual page numbers of the pages are higher than that. It must be numbered for whatever journal it was actually in. Page 56 of the article is page 19 of the PDF.

    • Check the article’s page numbers, not the PDFs. Many journals continue the page numbers between volumes. I guess that’s to make it easier to find articles?

  1. Disclaimer – I neither read the paper nor listened to the speech. I only read this article then looked at the graph mentioned.
    Correlation != Causation. There is certainly a correlation between incarceration rate and murder rate, according to the data presented. But incarceration rate is not the only variable that might effect the murder rate. The numbers are presented over time, and as a whole we’ve seen a decline in crime rates over the country. Maybe the incarceration rate impacts that, and it is very likely it does, but in my opinion there are too many unknowns to say that it definitely does, and it is certainly a fallacy to say it is the only thing that does.

    • If it graphed out homicide by ex-con and the release rate of criminals against the aggregate population, that would be much more telling

  2. I agree with locking them up, but only 2 or 3 times for violent felonies and then it’s the death penalty. We also need to address the issue of socializing with other criminals generally leading to more crime after release, and ‘do something’ to make a law abiding life after release more appealing and more possible. If you can’t get a job you aren’t in a very good position to stay out of trouble.

  3. If one cannot be trusted with a firearm, then he can’t be trusted to be without a custodian. Axiomatic for the rational.

      • Some violent felons actually DO get out of jail and stay on the straight and narrow, but I do not think they are the majority.

      • It depends on the person. Prison is able to reform some, and others are there because they made a poor choice in a bad situation. Here is an example for you. One of the cooks at the restaurant my wife used to work at went to prison for killing someone 25ish years ago (I don’t remember off the top of my head if they charged him with 2nd degree murder or voluntary manslaughter). It wasn’t planned, it just happened. He had run into a store real quick and came out to a couple of guys trying to steal his car, the thing was, his daughters were in the car and the thieves would have taken them as well. He stopped them from taking the car and chased them when they ran. He caught one and beat the shit out of him. The guy ended up dying. He admits he shouldn’t have done what he did and he did it in the heat of the moment protecting his daughters. He hasn’t done anything remotely similar since and a quarter century later is a kind, well rounded person, and level headed person. I would have no issues with the man being able to own firearms but he can’t because he made a mistake half a lifetime ago.

        • Our society seems to think (for some odd reason) that theft isn’t worth getting upset over. I don’t agree. That was more than grand theft auto, that was effectively a kidnapping in progress. That cook never should have been jailed in the first place.

        • No kidding. That was no mistake. Should he have allowed the kidnappers to make off with his daughters?

          Jesus H Christ on a sidecar, who got away with prosecuting this in the first place!


    • That’s what a life sentence with parole is for: parole means the offender isn’t fully a free person, and thus is subject to limitations on their rights as well as needing to keep others informed as to their whereabouts and status on a regular and continuing basis.

    • “There is a school of thought that says that if a man is too dangerous to be allowed to have a gun, he is too dangerous to be free…If the state has the power to lock you up, then they should also have the power to let you out of the cage with some limits on what you can or can’t do/possess. If a person commits a violent felony, you lock em up for a period of years, then let them out with restrictions on their ability to own firearms.”

      I’m afraid this entire argument is a red herring. The fact that violent criminals while incarcerated do not commit more murders is pretty obvious, although no one cites the statistics of the numbers of prisoners who are murdered WHILE incarcerated.

      The fact that the state has the power to do something does not make what they do legal or proper. Yes, after due judicial process they can lock you away for a period of time, even execute you. During that time they can fairly effectively inhibit your ability to exercise your Second Amendment rights, but even then cannot repeal those rights.

      Once a criminal has served his sentence and been released the state could PRETEND that it still had the ability to inhibit his Second Amendment RKBA, but we all know that this is a fantasy. The best they can do, at the expense of creating a database such as NICS that restricts everybody’s rights and violates the Second Amendment “…shall not be infringed.” is prevent these people from purchasing weapons at an FFL. But these people, if they remain criminally and violently inclined, will find the tools with which to pursue their lifestyle and ply their trade. To believe otherwise is pure fantasy.

      If you for one moment think that just because a criminal who is released from prison is enjoined from purchasing, owning, possessing or carrying a firearm that you have “Problem solved!” then you may be in for quite a shock. If simply enacting a law to make some activity illegal solved the problem none of these people would have been in the system in the first place. The vast majority of them were violating some anti-gun law BEFORE they were arrested, convicted and incarcerated. They will most certainly continue to do so after they are released.

      So exactly how much of YOUR (and my) Second Amendment are you willing to compromise to obtain absolutely no result in the control of violent criminals having access to guns?

      • Wait a second…I can give up a portion of my rights protected by the second amendment to do absolutely nothing to stop crime? Where do I sign up????

        Umm…none 🙂

  4. Lets reason this out logically.

    If we evaluate countries with restrictive gun regulations, we find that the only difference on the street is that the bad guy pays more for his felony gun.Raoul Moat bought an illegal sawed off 12 gauge twenty four hours out of jail, despite Britians notoriously restrictive regulations.

    The ONLY thing a rule against felons having guns does is give prosecutors a bargaining chip to plea away , and to assure the weak minded that the government is protecting them.Law or not, Joe Felon will get a gun if he darn well wants one.We may as well dispense with the illusion and face the fact that if someone wants a gun, they’re getting one.If they have to, said felon will even build one from scratch.What DOES not happen is the bad guy deciding a six month stretch for illegal gun possession outweighs his desire for illicit intent like murder, or the universal need to defend themselves once they become a productive member of society .

    On that point, I find it insulting that a man who commits a crime, pays his social penalty, and sins no more is forever denied his natural right to defend his family and productive earnings.Why should a business owner with a wife and family who was convicted of a misdemeanor in the Nixon administration be denied a firearm?

    • Agreed. I know wrong time wrong place felons who have no 2a roghts for no real reason. They are good, productive people with zero history after said felonies.

    • Well said.

      The punishment should fit the crime and we shouldn’t bother with the useless ineffective gun control after their release.

    • It’s a concept named “consequences.” You performed an act knowing there were consequences attached to it. There are no milk and cookies after your time out. Deal with that.

      • That’s what parole is for.

        When one’s debt to society is paid, then it’s paid, no second-class citizens.

        If they haven’t paid enough, then that’s an issue with the penalties, which needs to be addressed by the judiciary and, ultimately, the electorate.

      • They do deal with that, Bill. They continue to ignore the laws they do not want to obey and they WILL find and carry a gun if they want to. Saying it’s illegal will not change their behavior.

    • A felon can have his gun rights restored by a judge once his sentence is over, but not many people (or felons, I imagine) know it. The person in your example would have a very good case for such a thing happening, I imagine.

      • How often does this happen in reality, though? I would imagine that not many judges would be willing to stick their neck out and restore an ex-felon’s gun rights. They’ll be thinking about the shitstorm the press will gin up if the guy does happen to commit another crime with a gun, and how it’s just not worth it for them to take the risk, when it’s so much simpler to just rubber-stamp the continued denial of those rights.

    • So we’re agreed: ex-con child molesters may work at your kid’s school?

      After all, he’s paid his debt to society and now just wants to earn a living. Soooo……you’re cool with him taking your 5th grader on field trips, right, and not restricting his post-prison life with employment restrictions? Or does the principle suddenly no longer apply?

      • Again with the child molesters (or was it pedophiles last time)?

        Jonathan, there is NO natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to be a pedophile/child molester. Society has a right to protect themselves against such people, once identified, and we have a right to protect ourselves against violent felons, once identified.

        But we cannot restrict everybody’s rights in order to get some false sense of security against violent and crazy people. No matter how many or how draconian the laws you pass restricting the right to keep and bear arms both violent felons and pedophiles WILL get a gun if they really want one. How does restricting your or my 2A rights alter that?

        • I think you misread the comment. The question is not whether you have a right to be a child molester the question is whether a convicted child molester should be able to work in school.

          I think the answer is no, because the risk of allowing the convicted child molester near kids is too high.

          Similarly, allowing convicted violent felons to possess a firearm is more risk than society is willing to accept.

          I concede that we can’t actually prevent the violent ex con from obtaining a firearm, but if we find them with one we should be able to lock them up because the felon/firearm combo presents a higher risk than we as a society are willing to tolerate living among us.

        • Cliff? Again. Still. Always and forever until you and others of this view demostrate logical consistency. My comment was clear, as Whitebox clearly understood it.

          Now, do you have an answer? Why is it ok to infringe on an ex-con pedophile/child molester’s right to work in free association, post-prison, but it’s not ok to bar felons from firearms?

          Either the principle is consistent, or it’s not. If not, fine, just admit it and let’s move on. Or don’t, but I’ll keep raising the issue for so long as the inconsistency remains when this topic comes up.

        • You have a rigjt to free association, don’t you? Nobody’s saying you have a right to a job, as in the right to compel someone to hire you. I’m asking, assuming a school wants to hire an ex-con pedophile, whether the law should still forbid him from working in that field despite his having been released from prison and served his time. See the difference? Do you have an answer?

  5. The majority of homicides in this country are committed by people that have been arrested 6 or more times against people that have been arrested 6 or more times. “Logic’ dictates that if they were locked up, they wouldn’t be killing anyone or being killed, right?

    • Of that majority over 60-70% are black males age 12-40. The real issue in gun control yet no politician dares talk about it.

      • How could they? The truth is often politically inconvenient or politically incorrect. Because there is often a call to “do something ” politicians will pick on group that are under represented or unable to fight back to give the illusion of something was done.

        Facts, logic, figures and honesty have no place in politics, perception and emotions always rule the day.

      • Those are called voters fella. Already felons so no hesitation in voting illegally (and multiple times).

    • Well, they’d probably still be killing each other, but at least it would happen inside a prison, where the concrete floors and cement-block walls make it easier to clean up.

  6. If we take Other data into account Correlation becomes more clear, lets look at recidivism rates among released felons. What percentage of the crime is by “New” Actors and what percent by repeat offenders, lets take that further and look at murder rates among “New” Actors and Actors with Prior violent convictions. Perhaps we should bring back Exile and penal colonies. If you can’t live peaceably within our society… get out

  7. I would agree that the gun ban laws are overbroad and scoop up persons who are no threat of physical violence. However, there is still the issue of recidivism among ex-cons convicted of violent felonies, and the last time I saw any stats, it was close to 50%–meaning that after release from prison, half were likely to reoffend, and that new offense will be a violent crime. We cannot keep them in prison for life absent some version of a three-strikes law. No, banning them from purchasing or possessing firearms is not effective in disarming them–but it does give a reason to throw their asses back in the slammer.

    • I saw any stats, it was close to 50%

      It’s 60%, and that only counts re-arrests. It does not count offenders who got away with it. Since most crimes are never prosecuted, the actual rate for re-offending is likely far worse.

      • Yup. I can’t remember how many times I arrested the same guy for yet another person crime.
        Even a serial killer I helped put away only did 19 years for confessing to two murders.
        I’ve always felt that until judges are the victims, there won’t be justice.

    • Prisons in the US are for-profit institutions. Want to create more new private-sector jobs AND keep streets safe? Build more prisons, and hire the necessary guards and support staff. All kinds of benefits, and fewer people being early-released that have no business on the streets.

      • I’m not sure you can legitimately call them “private sector” jobs if the entire income stream of the company they work for comes from the taxpayers…

        • Some prisons are owned by private companies and contracted to the state. One in particular that I am thinking of the inmates are not staying for free but are responsible for a certain portion of the cost to keep them.

          They either get that money from the outside (their own accounts or family helping) or they work a job inside.

  8. I am of the opinion that if the felony conviction is non violent, then they should have their Second Amendment rights (and the rest of their rights) restored once they have served their prison time and probation. They should be able to rebuild their lives. I cannot see ever giving back gun rights to violent felons( ie rapists armed robbery, second degree murder), for they have shown themselves to lack self control or to be entrusted with the responsibility of firearms ownership

    • Prison time and probation is not enough. What about restitution to the victims? Why should they get screwed?

    • If they get out of jail, give them their guns back. Rapists and murders should never be let out, ever. You are right, they show a lack of self control, and can’t be trusted on their own in public.

      • Why don’t we just pass a law that violent felons on release are required to open carry? We know they are going to carry anyway, at least this way we can keep an eye on them.


  9. I just look at the track record the government has at keeping people from smoking pot or teenagers from drinking alcohol and come to the conclusion that the only way to disarm felons is to irradicate firearms from the country altogether. Barring felons from gun ownership is kind of like hanging a sign on the wall that says “Gun free zone”. So yes, lock ’em up. Governments, like people should know their limitations.

    • Well, we haven’t stopped murder by making it illegal. So I guess that we have to legalize murder, too.

      Criminal laws are not intended to prevent anything, only to punish certain behaviors. The purpose of barring felons from possessing firearms is to punish them if they do.

      • “Criminal laws are not intended to prevent anything, only to punish certain behaviors.”

        And that’s the fatal flaw in any argument for more gun-control laws. It’s been proven time and time again. That’s probably the biggest reason behind the shift to the Mental Health industry by the antis.

      • If the question was ‘do we let felons have guns or not?’ you’d have a point. But the question is ‘do we let felons out and tell them not to buy guns or just keep them locked up?’

      • But then you punish people who haven’t committed a crime, but enacting laws that affect them, and not the people acquiring firearms via illegal channels.

        If you commit a crime, punishment is already attached to that crime, there’s no need to say “If you commit the crime with X it’s worse than if you commit it with Y”

        If you are mugged, it doesn’t matter if the person has a firearm or a knife, you’ve been mugged. If you are killed, whether you were stabbed to death or shot doesn’t matter.

      • Well, we haven’t stopped murder by making it illegal. So I guess that we have to legalize murder, too.

        If you can come up with a method of murder that doesn’t hurt anyone else and is done in the privacy of one’s own home, then legalize it.

        I mean, given the health effects, one could be justified in making cigarettes and alcohol illegal too, since they will, if abused, slowly murder those who consume them. What could possibly go wrong with prohibiting such things?

  10. Ive always been called a bit uncivilized compared to most in my attitude towards career criminals.
    But if a person has a 2nd violent felony conviction.
    I say the death penalty.
    Im not one for warehousing a useless human being who cant live in a civilized world.
    No excuses can be given that would have any meaning to me, if an animal cant obey common rules of living with others, get rid of it permenatly.

    • That’s an excellent point. There’s no such thing as a second honest mistake. If those mistakes seriously injure innocent citizens, that person cannot be trusted in public, and there is no reason to keep these animals alive and wasting all the space and money it takes to do so.

    • Jay & Jacob. This is an oft-repeated mistake because it appears so logical on the surface. In fact many governments have tried this method of deterring crime and the most common result is that the criminal, knowing they are subject to capital punishment if they are arrested and convicted of the crime, has no incentive not to simply eliminate with extreme prejudice all potential witnesses, and a very strong reason to just go ahead and kill his victims. This quite obviously tended to increase the number of homicides rather than create a deterrence to crime.

  11. My take is that people with felony convictions and those with mental health problems are not wealthy. They both live in poor areas. Crime and violent crime occur more in poor areas. Poor people are likely to commit crime and violent crime to support a drug habit. Poor people are also likely to be victims of crime because they are living in the same areas as those with mental health problems or felony convictions.
    It is a vicious circle. My solution;
    Stop the war on drugs. Stop making everything under the sun a crime, no victim no crime. Felonies should be for heinous crimes. When people have hope they will strive for better. The current system does not give hope to anyone who has committed a crime.

    • I agree, no victim = no crime. Weed doesn’t hurt anyone, but meth sure does. I’m all for legalizing weed and other low-level, borderline harmless (even caffeine is harmful in large enough doses) drugs, but some substances out there are extremely dangerous even when used the way they are meant to. If you use that stuff yourself, that’s on you, but selling it to another should be a crime. Let’s have a war on that.

      • Like alcohol (brain damage, cirrhosis, likely liver cancer) or tobacco (emphysema, lung cancer)?

        Let’s decriminalize and apply restrictions to drugs based on their medical impacts, and have those restrictions in line with the restrictions we already apply to currently-legal recreational drugs like nicotine and alcohol.

  12. I don’t buy it, for one simple reason. 55% of all people in prison today are there for a drug offense, only 13% of which included any sort of violence. The reason prison rates have gone up so precipitously since the late 70’s is that’s when the war on drugs started, along with mandatory minimum sentencing. The study doesn’t seem to take that into consideration.

    In addition, prison rates have been dropping both at the federal and state level for the last four years, as has the violent crime rate, while the rate of violent offenders in prison has remained fairly constant right around 50%, give or take a few percentage points according to BJS

    • I agree that we should be much harder on violence. The use of drugs shouldn’t be our concern unless it results in violence, or involves the illicit sale of hard drugs (encouragement of addiction). If someone commits a violent crime or negligent act on alcohol or hard drugs, double the penalty.

  13. I am against caging a person as a form of punishment. Long term confinement is inhumane and causes scores of ancillary problems (expensive too). Also, it seems everybody forgets that prisoners can and do commit crimes from behind bars.

    Caging men so that they can think about their crimes as a form of penance (penal) is a relatively new idea. There are alternatives that were exercised in centuries past:

    1. Banishment/Deportation

    2. Restitution

    3. Time served while waiting for trial

    4. Fines

    5. Death

    We would need to get rid of alot of rules that we now have in order to make it work but it can be done. It would help alot if America was a more moral society – you know the Bible or bayonet thing.

  14. “If the state has the power to lock you up…”

    This is actually the REAL question. Should the sate have the power to limit someone’s freedom? Voluntaryists say “no” while statist say “yes.” If we all get on the same page regarding that fundamental point, then we can address how truly criminal acts can be dealt with and victims made whole.

  15. Violent criminals are not all the same. One of the many things I have learned from my wife who has worked with criminals, violent or not, for over 20 years is that most definitions are too broad.

    Consider a rapist vs. someone who throws a punch in a bar. Both are violent criminals, but they are not the same. One set are mostly mopes that have some serious impulse-control issues: someone looked at him funny so he hit him. The other set are ones who plan their acts and tend to repeat it: the armed robbers, the rapists, child-molesters, serial murderers. Anyone who every participated in a fist fight while a kid was only one bad blow or misstep away from being a murderer. That doesn’t make everyone Jeffrey Dahmer.

    Want to eliminate rape as a crime? It is easier than you think. Simply make rape a capital offense. There. Done. No more rape because there will be no more victims of rape that survive the assault – they’ll all be murder victims. Make sticking up a 7-11 a capital crime. Every clerk in such a crime will be dead if you make the penalties the same as capital murder. Of course, I support every person being armed for self-protection, which can make this a moot point.

    Simply locking people up forever is not a solution to violent crime. People quote the recidivism rate and it is high – probably 60-80%. But it is not 100%. Some people – maybe not many – turn their lives around. It can and does happen. Just slamming the bars and throwing away the key is simple, but the unintended consequences would be profound.

  16. I emphatically disagree with the notion that ex-convicts cannot (no matter what) legally own firearms. Here are two compelling reasons.
    (1) Our criminal justice system wrongly convicts innocent people all the time. It is immoral and obscene to tell these people they cannot own firearms to defend themselves and their families.
    (2) Stable, responsible people can screw up one time. After serving their sentence, why should they not be able to defend themselves and their families?

    I can only think of two situations where a criminal should not have firearms rights:
    (1) They committed a heinous, violent crime and there is overwhelming video and physical evidence that unambiguously proves them to be the attacker.
    (2) The criminal has been convicted once or twice previously for violent crimes.
    And in these two situations, the criminals should not be let out of prison!

  17. Everything is a tenth amendment issue to me. The question to me is once you have been incarcerated and RELEASED, should the government be able to have it’s hooks in you for the rest of your life?

    • Once a man has proven that he’s a danger to others, then yes, the G should have their hooks into him forever.

      • “A danger to others…”

        There are dangers, and there are dangers. I think if a spouse punches her spouse a few times, six months in the hoosegow is enough. I do not want to live in a polity that considers one offense having minor long-term consequences enough to “put the hooks in” forever. It sounds like a hideous country. It sounds like a country in which I would feel compelled to join the political mob, become and stay an insider. I do that anyway. It isn’t an ideal solution.

        My uncle the trial (and then appellate) judge was wont to say “my job this year (criminal side duty) seems to be putting poor people in jail.” He is conservative, yet that was his take.

        You have negotiated clients through responses to over-charging, joined to plea offers. I am surprised you see things so black and white.

        I despise fraud and violence. But I note that the communities in which these frequently take place are often communities that cannot actually bring themselves to take a clear stand. I’ll give an example, with fraud: The people in his Palm Beach golf club who bought into Madoff’s scheme, invested, commonly referred to money placed with him as “the Jewish bond.” They understood the numbers couldn’t be honest, but as long as it paid, they played. This is a common feature with crime in ghetto neighborhoods: They hate being assaulted, but they won’t testify and they won’t accept “one law for all.” Fine. Just keep the dudes in your own neighborhood, whether Madoffs or armed robbers.

        We need CCW and Stand-Your-Ground for those without a violent felon record. I’m not the least worried about what happens to violent felons if the former needs are fulfilled. I think the current trend will continue to reduce violent crime.

  18. I call BS. This is part of the “incapacitation” theory of punishment. And it is evil. Justice demands that the punishment be proportioned to the crime. Not to the end of preventing future crime by locking you up.

    I doubt it, but I will ask anyways. Anyone read John Mueller’s “Redeeming Economics”? He looks at the same data, but more honestly. The fact is that murder rates can be made to correlate with many different things. Freakanomics, through some tricks and misdirection, tied it to abortion…claiming abortion= less crime. Funny thing is if instead of looking ahead 20 years, we correlated abortion rates to murder rates in the same years, well they correlate quite nicely. Nevermind you have a different y and x axis. I guess the derivative of the two are roughly the same.

    What Mueller gets to, cutting through this BS, is this: men can truly choose to do evil. If poverty, e.g., caused crime, why are most poor people not criminals? It is ultimately a decision of the person. And what very neatly tracks with crime rates, going back to the 19th century, is not incarceration rates. It is “economic fatherhood” To put it shortly, how many men between 18-45 on the streets are involved in fatherhood (not just conceiving, but actually involved). It tracks throughout. No manipulation is needed. The crime drop of recent years is largely due to incarceration. But that just means we have not addressed the problems in our society, we rather chose, at many times grossly unjust uses of the state’s coercive power to “incapacitate.”

    What Mueller showed was the heart of the criminal is this: he values himself more, and others negatively. When men take familial responsibilities there are less crimes. Not because having a child makes you less criminal, but because the sort of man to take responsibility for another is the sort of man less likely to commit crime, because he doesn’t treat others merely as means to his own good.

    We can lock people up. But that isn’t justice. It is cowardice, a refusal to address the real problems.

    As far as the premise that if the state can lock you up, they can also deny certain liberties. True, as far as it goes. If you have the right to the whole, you have the right to the part. If your entire liberty can be taken for a crime, so could a portion. But one has to also consider other aspects. E.g., just because the state can put a criminal to death, doesn’t mean it would be just to cut off all four limbs and release him. But mutilation is less than killing in itself. It is just that if one is going to live, then he must be allowed what is needed to live in a human way. If someone is released from custody, then he needs the ability to do the things necessary to function in open society. This places limits on what liberties may be denied outside prison.

      • What on earth are you talking about?

        I never said we cannot jail anyone. I said the incapacitation theory of justice is evil. Any punishment must be fitted to the crime. Not the potential for crime.

        So if the offense is serious enough to warrant 5 years in the pokey. Fine. But you don’t lock people up merely to prevent crime. You lock em up to punish crime. That is the big difference

        So nice strawman.

    • Justice demands an eye for an eye. We don’t get that. The criminals don’t suffer that.

      If I had my ‘druthers, I’d prefer we retained capital-punishment for at least two crimes: Witness tampering and intimidation is one. Giving acquittals or light sentences to the judge’s defense bar friends’ clients would be the other.

  19. I haven’t looked into the statistics in-depth, but honestly from the graphs on pages 56 and 57, the correlation really doesn’t look that strong:

    -The 50% plummet in the homicide rate from 1934-1942 is accompanied by a minimal rise in the aggregate institutionalization rate.

    -The steady rise in the institutionalization rate from 1978 seems to have no discernible effect on homicide rates until 1992 when they start plummetting. If we postulate a delayed effect then we ruin the seemingly good agreement between 1954 and 1974.

    Add to that the fact that the U.S. has a sky-high incarceration rate compared to the rest of the world but doesn’t have a matching low homicide rate, and I have to say the whole proposition seems pretty dubious. I’ve seen much better fits between environmental lead exposure and murder rates.

  20. We know that violent felons, after a second violent offense, are recidivists. We know pedophiles and those who commit armed rape or rape of a stranger are recidivists. Neither should be released without effective restraint. “Felony” has nothing to do with the matter. It is the type of crime which matters.

    And before we go all Draco on criminals it would be well to reflect on the fact that remarkable crimes costing people their livelihoods, impoverishing them, or violating their persons, are often committed by people who are, for practical reasons, beyond criminal conviction, because of fame, wealth, power, or due to their ability to intimidate witnesses.

    I think we are on the right track as we make legal concealed carry an option for those without a serious criminal record. Isn’t restoration of gun rights best left to local trial court judges? It seems to work in PA.

    The notion of criminalizing cannabis consumption or possession strikes me as unjust and barbaric, and I’m a wine lover, not a head. Better we should double the penalty for crimes of violence committed by drunks and hard-drug users. I’ve been punched and run into by drunks. I’ve never been punched or run into by a weed head who hadn’t also been drinking.

    As for restitution, finance companies and banks routinely commit theft by deception. They rarely are prosecuted or forced to make restitution. I’m against punishing little guys more than the big guys that hide behind corporate veils.

  21. The “lock em up” theory is pretty libertarian (like I am). As you say, the problem of recidivism is one to be solved by sentences. Parole would be offered far more rarely, and violent crime would otherwise be a life sentence. Key to this would be ending the drug war and releasing non-violent drug offenders. Live well after release and you can be full citizens just fine.

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