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Retreat, Complacency, Wishful Thinking, and Weakness, Part II

Fifty years of experience unambiguously teaches us that we get more crime with less prison, and less crime with more prison.

Notwithstanding this established fact, there is a big "reform" movement just now urging us to go back to less prison (and thus more crime, although the reform crowd won't say that and will call you a racist if you do).

So, yes, we can have more crime to go on top of....

Meanwhile, in real America, veterans are denied care. Other Americans are forced to buy insurance they don't want at costs they can't afford while their taxes bail out insurance companies in league with the Obama administration. Meanwhile, in the real world, Americans are abandoned when under attack by terrorists in Benghazi, and terrorists are released from Guantánamo in return for an American who abandoned his fellow soldiers. 

And now the Obama administration stands and watches as Iraq, abandoned after a noble if difficult effort on the part of American soldiers and Marines sent to Iraq with the blessing not just of George W. Bush and John McCain but of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, falls apart under the assault of an al Qaeda army that turns out not to be "on the run." 

This is not to mention a national debt we can't pay off because we've become addicted to a debt-fueled entitlement state that tells us the individual is not responsible for his life and choices, but the government is.

Yes, well, giving bigger breaks to felons through "sentencing reform" fits right in, doesn't it?  Just as the power vacuum in the Middle East will be filled with terrorists, the responsibility vacuum here at home will be filled with criminals. Let's not kid ourselves.  


How about if we conditioned early release from prison on a willingness to serve in Iraq?

I am not kidding, Bill, and I really would really like your opinion on a prison early release program that would demand at least a year of public service in the military or elsewhere for every two years cut off a federal or state prison sentence.

I would not allow early release conditioned on "a willingness to serve in Iraq" for several reasons.

First, a statement of "willingness" doesn't show anything. We no longer have any troops in Iraq, (which is the main source of the current prospect that the country will disintegrate under the terrorist upsurge). So an inmate's "willingness" is an empty gesture.

Second, you're looking at the well-being of the wrong group. It's our soldiers, not our inmates, who first deserve our solicitude.

I know of no evidence that our soldiers harbor a desire to have felons at their back, or as the people they will need to rely upon in a jam.

Third, many felons -- because of age, lack of education, or mental disability of one kind or another -- would not be eligible for this program, immediately prompting the defense bar to run to court claiming an equal protection violation.

Fourth, the whole point of having truth in sentencing is to have, well, truth in sentencing. It is not truthful to tell the public that Mr. X is going to jail for, say, ten years, then later adopt a release program under which this turns out to be false.

Fifth, inmates are in jail for a reason. Most often the reason is that they're dishonest in one form or another, e.g., by being in the clandestine drug business, or by stealing or cheating of some sort. The rest are in for sex crimes or violent crimes. These are not the kind of people our troops can trust, or that I think it is wise to give the honor of wearing the uniform of the United States. Why should the armed services accept exactly the sorts that, had they committed their crime while in uniform, would have been booted out with a dishonorable discharge?

Sixth and relatedly, I don't want our soldiers and sailors to start to see that the armed services have become a dumping ground for crooks FOR THE BENEFIT of the crooks. It's bad enough that they now know that, when they leave the service, the VA will fabricate waiting lists to deny them essential care. It's bad enough that they see their commander in chief hold a giddy press conference to announce that we have released five terrorists to return to the field to kill them (after a fig leaf stopover) in exchange for one of their number who deserted his post.

I just don't feel that a further indignity is what our service men and women need or deserve just now.

All reasonable points, Bill. But how about requiring everyone who gets an early release from federal prison to do one year of other public service --- say cleaning up trash on the side of the road or other like dirty work?

I share your sense that it would be the rare felon who deserves the honor of military, but I sincerely think we ought think about expecting (if not demanding) some kind of public/community service on the part of offender who we think we can safely release from prison.

I know you want to argue for no early releases, but that ship has sailed for lots and lots of reasons (including the financial ones you note). So I want your take on how we should ideally structure early release (especially from the federal system) given that at least some such releases are seen as practically essential (as well as just) by many.

Having served in Army personnel (Battalion S-1), I can say there are a good deal of sketchy characters in the ranks. For example, in my battalion (circa 2001) we had a handful of soldiers and at least one officer involved in a fairly elaborate drug distribution ring involving organized crime elements in at least two countries. Needless to say this doesn't help readiness when all of sudden you have 15 guys in the stockade and September 11 rolls around about the same time. So as a general rule it is probably a bad idea to allow most criminals to serve any portion of their sentence.

That being said, given our manpower shortage, extensive worldwide deployments, and a time honor military tradition of using "penal" battalions and the like, it is worth looking at giving certain offenders who have shown ability to reform / rehabilitate a shot at early "parole" by serving in the military. It is definitely something I think is worthy of consideration.

Finally, and this is solely one veteran's opinion, I appreciate it both of you referring to service as a honor, but honestly I never really thought of it that way but I'm appreciative both of you think of it as such.

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