Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Reports, Reports, Reports

  • A banner day for reports related to our cause here. The big one in the news, of course, is the release of the Pew Trusts report projecting an overall 13% increase in US incarceration in the next 5 years and showing all the states' projections and the feds'. [See full report here.] This is self-obviously an important report and gives each state a nonpartisan, independent source of info that can't be faulted for individual state politics. What I would have liked to have seen more of, at least in the news coverage, was the connection that the costs discussed if actually spent on prisons will not have as big a payoff in crime reduction as other uses of those tax dollars. Too much of the corr sent reform movement has acted as if just id’ing the enormous and exponentially growing costs of what we’re doing is so obviously self-defeating that people will rush to change. It ignores the “no price is too high for public safety” and “don’t put a dollar figure on crime victims” arguments, it’s all vulnerable to the challenge of “but they didn’t tell you all the benefits you get from all the crime that’s stopped.” Well, prison has been shown to be one of the least cost-effective methods of public safety there is, and that has to be drummed in at every opportunity. I’m sure the discussion after the release of the report had more on this, especially with Steve Aos from the WA State Institute for Public Policy on the panel. And Adam Gelb did a nice job emphasizing it in the press release. However, as this USA Today article shows, it didn't make much impact. Cost-effectiveness, not the projections themselves, needed to be the central argument of the report, not simply the pop numbers and costs. [DISCLAIMER: I occasionally contribute a thought or two to a Pew advisory committee.]
  • But at least all this incarceration makes the US NO. 1!!!! in the world by an even larger model than we lead everyone in blonde pop tarts, dead or just killing us. At least this BBC article says so. Haven't seen anything on it in US papers. Odd, that.
  • From NIC's Corrections Community, we get tipped to this National Council on Crime and Delinquency report on a Zogby survey of US voter attitudes about youth crime and our crim just "system." Among the findings: 92% of respondents felt that there should be no blanket "transfer of youth to adult system" laws, 91% believed that rehab and treatment could help divert youths from crime, 80% thought spending on rehab and treatment would save money long-term, over two-thirds saw putting youths under 18 into adult facilities as likely to cause more future crime and disagreeing that it deters them in the future, and 60% thought minorities were more likely recipients of adult prosecution than whites. Okay. So tell me again why we have the policies we have???
  • Finally, what would you rate the prospects for crim just in a country that ranks at the bottom of an industrialized world comparison on child poverty and well-being? Well, of 21 nations evaluated in this Unicef report, the US came in 20th. Great Britain is playing the old "Thank God for Mississippi" role. Here's one explanation given for its showing: One of the report's authors told the BBC that under-investment and a "dog eat dog" attitude in society were to blame for Britain's poor performance. I know we don't have anything like that here, but does it make sense that a "dog eat dog" culture would lead to the collapse of the trust demonstrated necessary to accept laws as legit and to buy off on authority as treating everyone equally? And think about this: the kids of today haven't hit the crim just "system" yet for the most part. What will they do to Pew's exhaustive projections of prison needs? Just looks like we may have picked the wrong day to have stopped sniffing glue, doesn't it?

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