The "Incarceration Nation" movement continues to insist we have too many people behind bars. And, indeed, we have quite a lot -- about 2.34 million. What "Incarceraton Nation" won't say so loudly is that imprisonment massively reduces crime, from murder to burglary and everything in between. The statistics over twenty years are stunning, as I set forth here. During the age of burgeoning imprisonment (roughly the last 20 years), crime in this country has dropped by between 40 and 50 percent. That makes it probably the most successful social program of all time.
When criminals are released, they don't disappear. They do something, and Incarceration Nation is a mite quiet about that too. The reason is that the recidivism rate is two-thirds. In other words, most people released from jail don't go straight. Instead, they go straight back to crime.
Today's news brings a jarring illustration. It seems that two very ill-tempered women McDonald's customers jumped over the counter and started a fight with the cashier. For obvious reasons, they shouldn't have done that -- and for one not so obvious reason: The cashier, a man, was on parole from a manslaughter conviction, and proceeded to beat the women senseless with a metal pipe.
The Incarceration Nation crowd beats the drum for a "second chance." Let me suggest that it would be prudent to pause for a moment to ask, a second chance to do what?