Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Politically Incorrect

I’m not always known for my political correctness, and one of the things I’ve been taken to task for the most in corrections sentencing is my inquiry as to how much of the crime decline since the early 90’s was the result of bad guys taking out bad guys, killing or otherwise incapacitating them. “Blaming the victim” or focusing on community dysfunctionality or undermining the “pure and innocent victim” narrative that drives so much of our irrational perspective about crime—three things you never want to do among the seminar types I was teaching at the time, or even today, I guess. But the logic made sense. If bad guys were eliminating bad guys from the crime pool, wouldn’t crime go down? Couldn’t you hit a minimum threshold tipping point that would stop new bad guys from replacing old bad guys? Could that never happen?

Well, seems like it might be. This story details the extremely high proportion of violent crime victims with extensive criminal records, including violence themselves. Just to make it clear one more time—I’m not advocating this as an acceptable public policy. But I’m willing to bet that the escalation of violence we’re seeing now is as short-lived, relatively speaking, as that of a couple of decades back simply because of the removal of these offenders from the pool and because of the example they’ll set for younger siblings and other friends and relatives, just like what happened after the eruption in the 80s and into the 90s. Let’s all check back in ten years and see if I’m right. Lunch is on me if I’m wrong.

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