CRB: More justice, less crime

The new (Summer) issue of the Claremont Review of Books is in the mail. Thanks to our friends at the Claremont Institute, I have read the new issue in galley to select three pieces to be submitted for the consideration of Power Line readers. As always, wanting to do right by the magazine and by our readers, I had a hard time choosing. You, however, can do your own choosing at the heavily subsidized price of $19.95 a year by clicking on the link above and accessing subscription services. At that price the CRB affords the most cost-effective political education available in the United States of America. I enjoy everything in the magazine, including the advertisements. Subscribe by clicking on Subscription Services at the link and get immediate online access thrown in for free.

You may have observed that decrying “mass incarceration” has become all the rage. Take Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness — please. When I wrote about it on Power Line two years ago, the book was in its eighteenth printing in the paperback edition with a new foreword by Cornel West. In his foreword, West declared it “the secular bible for a new social movement.”

President Obama and his administration certainly proclaimed the gospel according to Alexander’s “secular bible.” The gospel has even been taken up in some form by a subset of Republicans. In the Trump administration, Jared Kushner himself seems to be a believer.

In a review of two new books that take up the subject, Professor Joseph Bessette writes:

Currently, about 2.2 million individuals are incarcerated in the nation’s federal prisons (190,000), state prisons (1.3 million), and local jails (725,000). These are, admittedly, depressingly high numbers—and much higher, adjusted for population, than in other Western democracies. Prisons, however, are a response not to a population problem but to a crime problem. So the question is not whether the United States has too many people in prison for a country of its size, but whether it has too many people in prison for a country with its number of crimes and convictions. (Note that of the local jail inmates, about three fifths are awaiting trial and most of the rest are serving short sentences of less than a year.)

After reviewing relevant crime statistics, Professor Bessette adds:

With offenders each year committing well over a million very serious violent crimes and another 1.6 million burglaries, with police each year arresting 1.5 million violent offenders, and with courts each year convicting more than a million persons for a felony, it is perhaps not so surprising that state and federal prisons hold one and a half million inmates. If we have a “mass incarceration” problem it appears to be because we have a “mass crime” problem, despite the downward trend of the past two decades.

Professor Bessette’s review — “More justice, less crime” — injects a rare note of sanity into a subject that is now bathed in bovine detritus. If you have any interest in the subject, please check out the review.

NOTE: As posted online at the moment, the review has dropped Professor Bessette’s byline and bio: “Joseph M. Bessette is the Alice Tweed Tuohy Professor of Government and Ethics at Claremont McKenna College, and co-author (with Edward Feser) of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment (Ignatius Press). From 1985 to 1990 he served as deputy director and acting director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the U.S. Department of Justice.”

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