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Why the Promise Gets Broken

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Kent notes that California's promise to release only "nonviolent" convicts has been broken, and not a few times.  The AP story to which he refers recounts a corrections spokesman as saying the problem is not with the procedures for deciding who gets released, but with the statute.

Perhaps there's something to that.  But it's not the whole story, or even the most important part of the story.

The reason the promise gets broken is that it was not serious to begin with.

In order to understand this, one must understand that the true engine behind the move to release prisoners is not cost saving.  That is, in current budgetary times, a plausible pretext, but still just a pretext.

The real reason is a long pre-existing belief on the left  that we imprison too many people for too long, and generally that the system is too punitive.  This sort of thinking would prefer a return to the 1960's-1970's medical or rehabilitative model for dealing with crime.  That the evidence shows those models to have been disastrously unproductive, if not counterproductive, simply does not matter.  That's because it's not about evidence.  It's about ideology  --  specifically, the ideology that sees the criminal as the victim and society as the uncaring if not abusive nanny, and thus the villian.

With that sort of thinking as the animating force, it's unsurprising that there is no very exacting effort to distinguish between so-called nonviolent offenders and plainly violent ones; indeed, any other outcome would be surprising.  The more hard-edged and radical of the "release-'em-now" crowd thinks that recidivism is merely society's reaping what it has sown by its callous and inequitable institutions.  The more moderate voices are less bitter, but also sufficiently conflicted about our moral authority to punish criminals that laxness and blunders in a release program become inevitable.  And since they are inevitable, we are only at the beginning of the cost they will exact on future victims.

The real question here is not whether dangerous convicts will be released.  It's how vigilant the media will be in covering the suffering to the innocent they're about to cause. 

1 Comment

"The more hard-edged and radical of the 'release-'em-now' crowd thinks that recidivism is merely society's reaping what it has sown by its callous and inequitable institutions."

Nail head, meet hammer.

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