Thursday, August 9, 2018

Prison Reform

At a time when pampered multi-millionaire professional athletes keep accusing Trump (and the rest of us) of racism, Trump has been meeting with black ministers to discuss prison/sentencing reform. This has actually been a cause of the black community and the libertarian right for some time. What's my take on prison reform? I'm definitely for it.

If it were up to me, I would do the following in this regard:

1. Get tougher on real criminals:

(a) Add 10 years to any sentence for carrying a gun.
(b) Two strikes and you're out for violent felonies.
(c) Three strikes and you're out for any felonies.

The idea is simple: a small number of career criminals commit most crimes. Lock them up and keep them away from society. Focus particularly on violent ones, but also ones who just won't stop. Give an incentive to avoid carrying guns or being violent.

2. Change the focus on stupid crimes.

(a) Drop prison sentences for most drug possession arrests. Substitute community service plus drug rehab.
(b) Switch low level drug selling charges from prison to boot camp, plus confiscation of drug profits.
(c) Make the sentences related to distribution of cocaine, crack, meth, and other more dangerous drugs the same.

This will reduce overcrowding in prison dramatically. It will eliminate black complaints that they are targeted in the sentencing guidelines because the drugs they use have higher minimum sentences. The introduction of boot camp gives you a chance at reform as it teaches discipline and self-respect and it breaks the "I'm tougher than anyone" mentality. The introduction of rehab gives people a chance to get off the drugs. Community service is super annoying to dope heads and is a good punishment. The idea is to fix users rather than incarcerate them, make selling less profitable, and go hard after distributors.

3. Prison reform.

(a) Everyone gets a job, learns a trade, goes to school. Reform.
(b) Separate prisoners by race and gang affiliation to avoid the need for gangs.
(c) Put prisoners in small pods of 6-8, as this makes it easier to avoid conflicts and control prisoners. The idea is to avoid assaults. Also, separate them by the nature of the crimes so you don't get serious felons teaching not-as-serious felons the tricks of the trade.
(d) Build a better network for post-prison employment.

The idea here is to keep prisoners from learning how to be better criminals. Right now, the system throws them into large racially mixed groups, which encourages them to join gangs for their protection. Some have jobs, but not many. By keeping them out of gangs and teaching them trades, there is a much higher chance that they will be useful when they leave prison and won't come back.



tryanmax said...

We also need to keep the mentally ill out of prison and put somewhere better. A relative of mine has schizophrenia and about the only time we get updates is when he lands behind bars. One time, in what can only loosely be described as a lucid moment, he took stock of his destitution and vandalized a grocery store just so he'd get locked up and have a place to stay for awhile.

Critch said...

The mental health issue is a big one. I'm not sure exactly what we need, but I know that many of our problems around here are caused by mentally ill folks getting into trouble because their treatment is terrible and consequently they steal to eat. Back in the 60s our neighbor was a WWII vet who had a Japanese bullet in his brain...every once in awhile he would go nuts and do something dangerous to himself or others..or he would just scare the crap out of people with his behavior. The sheriff would pack him off to the state hospital and after a few weeks, they would send him home with new meds and he would be alright for 6 months or wife's uncle, in the same town, would get sent up there, however, after the Carter administration got through 'reforming' the mental health system, they stopped sending him...he had so much freedom he froze to death one night in his house because he was too mentally ill to understand that he needed to light a fire. I blame the do-gooders on that one...

I'm for prison camps and chain gangs...6 months on a chain gang for a first offender might convince some of them that working in WMT may not be such a bad idea. You could incorporate the into the "boot camp" idea. They need some real skills training.

Violent criminals need to be put away, period. I can't get over how many times I've sat in a court and listened to how some guy is on his 2nd or 3rd time there for violence, felon in possession of a gun etc..Throw their butts in jail if they commit a violent crime,,these drug crimes that don't involve violence need to be thought out.

Major drug dealers need long prison sentences..I'm not talking about weed here...

AndrewPrice said...

I'll respond tomorrow. Sorry, am too tired tonight.

That said, the NFL media is reveling in these headlines about "NFL PLAYERS kneel" or "raise fists." Yeah, about seven total out of 2800 players. So who is keeping this issue alive? They love to accuse Donald Trump of being the guy, but they're the ones.

Anthony said...

I remember when DC was being hit hard by crack in the 80's many just wanted everyone involved off the street. I guess now the solution is a bigger object of debate than the problem. I've never put much thought into the subject but the proposals sound reasonable.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, The reason crack has a higher sentence than cocaine is because of the 80's. In the 80's, crack was sold by gangs who killed each other (and anyone in the way) for turf. So it had a huge effect on people. Cocaine was sold to stockbrokers by insiders. So the sentencing guidelines reflected the association with murder and mayhem. The end result was that white guys got small sentences for cocaine and black guys got huge sentences for crack. The black community has been upset about this for a long time.

I don't see any reason today why the sentences shouldn't be the same because you don't have the same associated effects as you did in the 80's anymore.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, As an aside, I do think these things are reasonable proposals, but there are other proposals that aren't.

Obviously, there are the Black Lives Matters proposals, such as eliminating the police and prisons, which are laughably stupid. But others argue that the system shouldn't be allowed to sentence "kids" as adults, for example. One NFL player even wore a shirt claiming there are 2,500 "kids" in prison as adults. The thing is, that's mostly 17 year olds and the crimes are usually crimes of serious violence. What's more, the 12, 13 year olds who are in prison as adults typically committed heinous murders. They're not there for petty crimes.

Some want to eliminate capital punishment. I don't agree. Some go into race numbers and are all but proposing quotas. I don't agree.

Some want automatic DNA testing where possible. I agree with that. Some want less crowding. I agree, but I think releasing pot heads will achieve that.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch and tryanmax, I totally agree about mental illness. Mental illness gets dealt with through the criminal system way too much because the mental health laws are a mess. They need to be able to take dangerous people who need treatment off the streets without using the jails.

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