We frequently hear that America suffers from over-incarceration. We should not dismiss these claims out-of-hand.
But neither should we dismiss the possibility of under-incarceration. It’s also possible that we are incarcerating lots of people who shouldn’t be jailed but at the same time failing to hold many who should be in prison.
My sense that we may be under-incarcerating stems in part from reports about the criminal records of certain heinous murderers. Take Daron Wint, who gruesomely murdered four people in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. With his criminal record, he shouldn’t have been a free man.
Now comes the case of Shannon Miles. He’s the man charged with executing Deputy Darren Goforth in Texas last week.
Reports regarding Miles’ criminal history raise (but don’t answer) the question of whether, in a better criminal justice system, he would have been on the street. Miles, age 30, has been arrested six times in the past ten years. He has been convicted of resisting arrest, trespassing, evading detention, and disorderly conduct with a firearm. Local officials reportedly say that this history includes violent acts towards police officers.
Yet, Miles reportedly never spent more than short stints (ranging apparently from six to ten days) in jail.
Without knowing more, it’s impossible to opine about how much time Miles should have spent in jail. And because his most recent conviction, for resisting arrest, apparently occurred six years ago, it can’t be said with any confidence that he should have been in jail in 2015.
However, it seems to me that, at a minimum, the criminal justice system treated Miles too leniently. And if Miles had a history of (a) violent acts towards police and (b) disorderly conduct with a firearm, then his very short stints in jail seem grossly out of whack in relation to his crimes and the risk he posed to society.