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No Recidivism to See Here, Move Along

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Together with the knowingly false refrain that those given early release under sentencing "reform" will be limited to low level, non-violent types, we hear even more frequently that they are at "low risk" to re-offend.  Every time I've mentioned the Justice Department's own 77% figure for the recidivism rate of drug offenders, the point has been ridiculed or minimized.

The minimization effort is understandable, because propping up the myth of "they'll-go-straight-this-time" is necessary for the success of the sentencing reform agenda. If reformers told the plain truth  --  that, according to DOJ's largest study ever, slightly over three-quarters of felony-level drug inmates go back to crime after release  --  no one would be in a big rush to release them earlier. More crime faster isn't a big sell. The reform agenda would implode.

In the real world, the only surprising thing about recidivism from the beneficiaries of sentencing reform is how little time it takes them to get back in business.  Thus I bring you the story of today's Mr. Nicey, Jason Saunders.  Saunders was sentenced for a crack cocaine offense in June 2014.  He got 41 months.  But because of retroactively lighter sentences engineered by our carefree federal Sentencing Commission, Saunders' sentence was reduced, and he was released in November 2015.

He was arrested on January 6, 2016.  But it was not for precisely the same offense. He had moved up to heroin.  Specifically, he was arrested for robbery of 480 heroin stamps.

Still, no recidivism worth mentioning here, people, move along...................

20 Comments

Your 77 percent recidivism rate figure has been ridiculed or minimized because you continuously suggest that it's the rate for federal drug offenders, which it isn't. Indeed, you're doing it in this very post.

So, once again: The 77 percent refers to released state-level drug offenders; Jason Saunders was a released federal drug offender. Federal drug offenders have a recidivism rate of about 30 percent.

I'm confused why you continue this "knowingly false refrain" over and over again, since it doesn't seem to be necessary for you to make your point effectively. -Jim

1. The 77% figure has been ridiculed and minimized because those of you who favor the interests of criminals simply refuse to admit that the great majority of them return to crime after release, and for no other reason.

2. The idea that federal felons are so much more saintly than state ones is absurd.

3. When those in the pro-criminal lobby stop their knowingly false refrain that sentencing reform will release only low-level, non-violent inmates, I will stop calling them on it. Until then I won't.

4. Assuming arguendo that your 30% figure is correct for REPORTED crime (which I do not), it grossly understates the true, on-the-street recidivism rate. As you can't help knowing, most crime is UNREPORTED. This is especially true of hard drug sales, which are consensual. So the actual drug recidivism rate is higher than 30% (indeed, it is very likely higher than 77%). You don't know this?

5. And while you want to continue to haggle about whether the recidivism rate is high as opposed to sky-high, I see you have nothing to say about the two children who were murdered by a drug dealer out on early release.

Was getting him out before his legally imposed sentence worth their lives? If so, based on what reasoning? And if so, how many additional child murders are you willing to see done by felons who, but for early release, would have been incarcerated?

No filibuster, please. How many?

So, I am curious about something. Let's assume that the 77% recidivism rate is for state drug offenders only. Let's further assume that 30% recidivism is the rate for federal drug offenders. We all know that state sentences are generally much lighter than federal sentences. Operating on the above assumptions, couldn't the recidivism percentage actually indicate that the lengthy federal sentences are achieving specific deterrence? In other words, couldn't this data (assuming it is accurate) demonstrate that people who serve 10 years for selling drugs are less likely to return to selling drugs than somebody who received 10 months? And, if that is true isn't it evidence that the federal system is working? It is specifically deterring at a higher rate than state systems. There's probably something I am missing here....
-Zac

Bill: I don't think our dispute will ever be resolved because you see no value in using relevant data. You'd rather throw out the highest possible recidivism figure you can find, 77 percent, and claim it applies to all offenders everywhere, even though there are much more specific and relevant data available for the federal drug offender population. It's hard to take any of your arguments seriously when you mix and match statistics as you see fit.

Zac: Excellent question. The two figures are measuring different things, though. The state figure refers to all released offenders who were arrested (not convicted, not returned to prison) within five years of their release. The federal figure refers to all supervisees whose cases are closed in a calendar year to see how many of them committed either a technical violation or a new crime. -Jim

Zac -- Your question here is a prime example of why you should write more on the blog.

There are a number of reasons our dispute won't get resolved, none of them having to do with the fact that I use DOJ's most extensively researched recidivism figure, to which I have linked many times.

The reasons for non-resolution are:

1. Your determination to minimize recidivism to suit your pro-interests-of-criminals viewpoint.

2. Your insistence on disappearing into the technical weeds, as you do in your response to Zac. Being nuanced and specific is fine, but not at the cost of dodging the central question: How many of these people are going return to crime, no matter what the technical measure of their return may be? And who will suffer from it when they do?

3. Your completely ignoring questions to which you lack an ideologically apt response, no matter how important to the central debate those questions are.

Thus, for one example, you simply walk past my question whether you know that ANY recidivism figure for reported crime is certain to be a significant understatement, because most crime, and especially drug crime, is considerably under-reported.

And for another example, your refusal even to mention, much less answer, the question about the recidivism -- to put it mildly -- of the Columbus drug dealer who, while he was out on the early release you favor, murdered three people.

Was he "non-violent," as we were told?

Refusals to answer, not citing DOJ statistics, are the reason there is precious little hope of agreement. I can't agree with you about X when you won't even talk about X.

Bill, I always find notable and telling how quick you are, when it serves your purposes, to use the same smarmy tactic that you love to criticize. For example...

1. You often criticize the use of "mass" to describe incarceration levels in the US, and then you use "mass" to describe Obama clemency grants representing a much smaller number.

2. You criticize reformers for failing to tell "the plain truth" about recidivism rates, and then you fail to tell the plain truth about these numbers (and also work hard to spin the numbers as not really accurate numbers).

3. You complain about "ignoring questions to which you lack an ideologically apt response, no matter how important to the central debate those questions are," but I am still awaiting your response to my persistent question on the central concern in debates over harsh drug sentencing, namely "what is the tangible evidence that criminalization and tough sentencing of drug offenders is working to reduce drug-related harms beyond the claim that things could/would be much worse without criminalization and tough sentencing of drug offenders?"

Zac's point, meanwhile, may have much to do with age/crime correlations as with long federal prison sentences providing specific deterrence better than short state sentences. The DOJ study Bill often references concerning state prisoners followed for 5 years after their release from state prisons in 2005 showed a progressively lower recidivism rate the older the prisoner was upon release. That finding, in turn, suggests we could reduce recidivism by just keeping every drug offender (and every other)offender locked up until their 60s.

Is that what you are eager to talk about Bill, the challenges of reducing recidivism? As you know, I am eager to talk about this, and I sincerely believe there is research to support the notion that one way to reduce recidivism is to explore alternatives to incarceration for more offenders. But I also recognize that another possible means to that end is to just keep every offender locked up at least until they are in their 60s.

"Is that what you are eager to talk about Bill, the challenges of reducing recidivism?"

I am eager to talk about the challenges of reducing CRIME. And I have talked often about how to reduce it. Among the answers we can control are: More police, more targeted policing, and more incarceration.

That is what the last 25 years show. Do you disagree with any of that?

Among the answers we (that is, government policy) cannot control are: Aging, private security measures and the amount of lead that was in paint four decades ago.

Here's another question you and "Jim" keep avoiding: Were the murders of these two defenseless black children worth the "benefits," as you see them, of releasing the Columbus, Ohio drug dealer, and others like him, early?

I am no more eager to lock every criminal up forever because of my opposition to crime than you are to send absolutely no one to prison, ever, because of your opposition to infringements on liberty.

Good grief.

Could we please elevate the debate above that kind of silly absolutism?

Doug,

Some questions for you if I might. I pose them understanding that you have no obligation to say anything. But you are one of our most valuable and responsive contributors, and I think it could well advance the debate if we had your views here.

1. Accounting for the fact that most crime goes unreported, and that this is especially true of drug deals (being consensual), what do you think the true, on-the-street recidivism rate is for persons convicted of felony-level drug offenses?

I think an actual, on-the-street figure will move the ball more than just guessing.

2. Who do you think is most responsible for seeing to it that a released inmate does not commit another crime? The inmate, through a more acute conscience and stronger self-control; or the state, through social programs?

3. While nuanced and intelligent thinking are without doubt virtues, I see many instances in which they are enlisted, with varying degrees of sincerity, to AVOID the basic question and instead introduce inquiring minds into a meandering maze designed, not to get to the answer, but to avoid getting to it.

Do you agree with me that there is such a phenomenon?

4. Let me mostly repeat an early question that's pivotal to the sentencing reform debate in light of the Columbus triple murder.

The preliminary question would be if you agree that, but for the inmate's early release, the three murder victims would be alive today. Do you agree with that?

The follow-up is whether you think the advantages of increased liberty given to the early-released inmate outweigh the disadvantages of what he did with his extra time free, to wit, slash three people to death with such bloodthirsty force that, in something I have never heard of before, the police investigating the scene had to be offered counseling to cope with the gruesomeness of it?

5. Do you think it would be kind or appropriate for any of the Sentencing Commissioners -- those who voted for the retroactively lower sentences that freed the killer -- to attend the funerals of the murder victims, in order to show sorrow and respect? If not, why not?

6. Do you think the defense lawyer who falsely maintained that his client could safely be released into the community should receive any censure at all? If so, what? If not, why not? When I grew up, if you lied about something, and the lie unpacjed catastrophic consequences, believe me, there was a price to pay. Should defense counsel pay any price here?

7. Do you think the US Attorney and his underlings who went along with this release -- apparently on the same grossly false theory of no danger to the community -- should be sanctioned? If so, by what? By getting fired? By getting prosecuted themselves for abetting a fraud on the court?

8. Do you think the judge -- the one who had the responsibility to decide whether to let Mr. Nicey hit the streets or not, and who, apparently, bought the mendacious idea that this long-time thug with a known record would not pose a danger to the community -- do you think that judge should resign, either is shame and disgrace, or as a result of pressure from her piers?

I think I can tell you this much. If I had been the federal prosecutor who concurred in this butcher's release, I would have resigned the day after the murders. I would then, by letter, have begged my then-former colleagues to see if there was a place in their hearts where I could find forgiveness for (a) the disgrace I had bought upon the Office, and (b) my role in enabling this horrible child murder.

9. Can you guarantee that we will have no more murders of innocent people undertaken by convicts released early from previously imposed, lawful federal drug sentences?

10. If you cannot guarantee zero, is there some number -- some "evidence-based conclusion" as it were -- at which you would pull the plug on sentencing reform. In other words, could the frequency and severity of recidivist crime by early-release prisoners get to the point where you would say, "Yikes, this program is just taking a grossly excessive toll, and is going to have to end."

If so, how much and what degree of seriousness of recidivist crime by early-released inmates would be so much you would want to call a halt to the early release program?

Bill: I'm not very interested in having an ideological debate in the comments section of a blog. That's why I don't respond when you open up new flank after new flank in the discussion, demand answers to your pointed questions, and refer to me as "pro-criminal" even though the only thing I've done is point out that the statistics you cite are demonstrably cherrypicked. -Jim

1. Ideological debates go on in the comments section all the time, and are often illuminating. If you prefer to abstain, that is your choice. I would note, however that whether and to what extent crime is under-reported is an empirical question, not an ideological one, yet you likewise decline to answer my questions on that subject. This leads me to believe that your criterion for deciding when to answer is whether you have an answer available that will tend to support complacency about crime.

2. It is true that I do not regard myself as under orders, from you or others, not to ask questions about related topics on a comment thread. I will continue to ask such questions.

3. I refer to you as "pro-criminal" because the gist of every answer I have seen you give tilts toward less incarceration. Less incarceration favors the criminal, no?

4. One of the statistics I cite is about the high recidivism of state prisoners, followed by a question about whether there is reason to think that federal prisoners are so better behaved that they would be significantly less likely to recidivate. This question is also non-ideological, but goes unanswered anyway.

Unlike some, Bill, I am happy to try to answer every question asked of me as time and energy permits. SO here goes:

You ask: "Were the murders of these two defenseless black children worth the 'benefits,' as you see them, of releasing the Columbus, Ohio drug dealer, and others like him, early?"

I answer: What do you mean "others like him"? Are you talking about the thousands of persons who got their freedom back due to the FSA? I struggle to make a sound comparison between the tens of thousands of families whose lives have been improved by the FSA and the three lives lost due in part to the FSA. (And isn't it a comparable question in the gun control setting to ask whether the deaths of all the innocent people in San Bernadino and Sandy Hook were worth the 'benefits,' as you see them, of letting people in the US have ready access to multi-round weapons? Or should we ask, in another regulatory setting, if the "benefits" of pain relief from prescription opiods have been worth the death of many thousands from overdoses?)

Like every member of the Senate and nearly every member of the House who voted for the FSA (which itself ordered changes to the crack guidelines later made retroactive), I generally think the FSA has produced more net societal benefits than harms. But when one focuses only on one ugly salient FSA harm, the diffuse benefits become harder to appreciate in comparison. (Notably, the bipartisan USSC did a big study about the FSA recently that asserted that the FSA has given our nation many more benefits than harms. Have you read that report, and do you think it would need to be completely redone in the aftermath of this sad Columbus case?)


You ask: "1. Accounting for the fact that most crime goes unreported, and that this is especially true of drug deals (being consensual), what do you think the true, on-the-street recidivism rate is for persons convicted of felony-level drug offenses?"

I answer: The "on the steet" recidivism rate is surely above 50% if we define recidivism to include all drug offenses including marijuana use and all property offense like shoplifting and all regulatory offenses like DUI. That said, I suspect that the "on the steet" crime rate for most younger adults males (aged 20 to 35) without any criminal record is probably over 50% if we consider all drug offenses including marijuana use and all property offense like shoplifting and all regulatory offenses like DUI. (A recent YouGov poll had more than 55% of males admitting to having tried marijuana; 2010 stats show men were responsible for four out of every five DUIs, and that though only 11% of the adult population is made up of males between the ages of 21 and 34, this high-risk group was responsible for 32% of all drunk driving episodes. And if we had full stats on what is called campus rape.... my head spins and leads me to wonder if any 20-something male can avoid committing a crime for a few months, let alone a few years.)

In other words, younger adult men as a group are MUCH less law abiding and MUCH more dangerous than much of the rest of the population. AND I would readily expect that those younger adult men who get convicted of a prior offense and then get sent to a crime-enhancing environment like modern overcrowded jails/prisons are even MORE crime-prone than other younger adult men. In short, for the young adult male population, I fear crime is rampant and likely more so for those who get incarcerated.

You ask: "2. Who do you think is most responsible for seeing to it that a released inmate does not commit another crime? The inmate, through a more acute conscience and stronger self-control; or the state, through social programs?"

I answer: I always think an individual is MUCH more responsible for all his behavior than the state. Indeed, I feel very strongly that the state never truly bears any responsibility for an individual's acts (which is why I do not hold the FSA or any prosecutors or judges or Congress "responsible" for the triple murder committed by the Columbus released drug offender).

That said, I think a wise state can and should take steps to try to reduce the social environment that data suggest increases the likelihood of individual behavior that harms others. This is why I support, for example, laws that mandate drunk drivers to have to have ignition locks on their cars to try to prevent repeat offending. Though I would consider the individual wholly responsible for any harms from a future drunk driving offense, I would like to see the state operate a "socal program" (i.e., the ignition lock mandate) that has proven in various jurisdictions to significantly reduce repeat drunk driving and associated harms.

More answer to come in next comment.... I now have to go walk my dog...

Continuing....

"3. While nuanced and intelligent thinking are without doubt virtues, I see many instances in which they are enlisted, with varying degrees of sincerity, to AVOID the basic question and instead introduce inquiring minds into a meandering maze designed, not to get to the answer, but to avoid getting to it. Do you agree with me that there is such a phenomenon?"

I answer: I generally believe that societies that praise and prioritize "nuanced and intelligent thinking" have done much better in improving the human condition throughout human history than those societies that praise and prioritize "crude and ignorant thinking." In addition, I tend to distrust much more the person claiming to have a simple answer to a complex problem (or saying I should simply trust a feeling or emotion or have faith to solve the problem) than the person who is working hard to help me see the nuances involved in the problem and is eager to challenge me to use my intellegence to better understand the problem.

Stated even more grandly, I think what makes humans a uniquely special species -- and has allowed much of what we call modern civilization --- is our ability/desire to engage in "nuanced and intelligent thinking." Due to this view, I worry far more about settings in which humans are adverse to (or are urged by others to) nuanced and intelligent thinking than do I worry about nuanced and intelligent thinking leading to harmful distractions from basic questions. Articulated slightly differently, most truly "basic questions" in society do not really require "nuanced and intelligent thinking" --- e.g., was it horrible that a man slaughtered a former girlfriend and his children? was it horrible that 20+ kids were slaughtered by a disturbed man at Sandy Hook? Yes and Yes! But these basic questions prompt critical follow-ups as to how we best reduce the likelihood of other similar horrors in the future. Some people would surely like to embrace a simple answer: "prohibit all guns" or "keep every drug dealer incarcerated for decades." But I sincerely believe that complex questions like how best do we reduce murders of all sorts in the US calls for as much "nuanced and intelligent thinking" as we can muster.


You ask: "4. Let me mostly repeat an early question that's pivotal to the sentencing reform debate in light of the Columbus triple murder.
The preliminary question would be if you agree that, but for the inmate's early release, the three murder victims would be alive today. Do you agree with that?"

I answer: With the benefit of hindsight, yes, but for the inmate's early release, the three murder victims would be alive today. But I might also add that, with the benefit of hindsigh, I could say that but for a federal prosecutor and a judge apprently failing to properly assess this inmates risk to public safety when deciding whether he should get early release, the three murder victims would be alive today. I could also perhaps say that, but for federal prisons not having effective rehabilitation programs, the three murder victims would be alive today. I might also have a basis to believe, though it would likely seem implausable to you, that but for the war on drugs, the three murder victims would be alive today. I say this because what we know for sure is that this inmates long stay in federal prison for a crack offense did not reduce his danger to society, it would seem that it increased it. Ergo, these tragic cases bolster my concern that sending people to federal prison for long periods for drug offenses may make them more dangerous to society, not less dangerous.

You ask: "The follow-up is whether you think the advantages of increased liberty given to the early-released inmate outweigh the disadvantages of what he did with his extra time free, to wit, slash three people to death with such bloodthirsty force that, in something I have never heard of before, the police investigating the scene had to be offered counseling to cope with the gruesomeness of it?"

I answer: As I said before, the balance is not this prisoner's freedom vs his crime, but rather the freedom of tens of thousands of others vs his crime. It is the same balance often stressed by gun rights supporters that we ought not prevent some people from having guns just because others use them poorly to kill innocents. Similarly, I do not think we should deny all younger men freedom become some use it poorly to kill innocents.

You ask: "5. Do you think it would be kind or appropriate for any of the Sentencing Commissioners -- those who voted for the retroactively lower sentences that freed the killer -- to attend the funerals of the murder victims, in order to show sorrow and respect? If not, why not?"

I answer: it would be kind for (your pal?) Judge Pryor or other commissioners to attend the funeral, though the federal prosecutor and judge who signed off on the early release motion strike me as much more directly responsible than the members of the USSC. The USSC, quite rigtly, was only voting to make past offenders eligible for early release, expecting and requiring prosecutors and judges to make case-by-case public safety calls in each case. I suppose I think the prosecutor and judge involved here ought to offer a ride to any member of the USSC or any member of Congress who might also want to attend. I am pretty sure all of Ohio's Senators and House members voted for the FSA, and I suppose the ought also think about attending.

You ask: "6. Do you think the defense lawyer who falsely maintained that his client could safely be released into the community should receive any censure at all? If so, what? If not, why not? When I grew up, if you lied about something, and the lie unpacjed catastrophic consequences, believe me, there was a price to pay. Should defense counsel pay any price here?"

I answer: Do you really think the defense counsel thought he was lying when he supported the motion for early release? Am I wrong to suppose that the prosecutor involved hear bears much more responsibility given that he (1) has more of a duty to the public than the defense attorney under prevailing ethical rules for lawyers, and (2) likely knows much more about what kinds of rehab programming is or is not available for this kind of inmate in federal prison?

Especially since prosecutors get absolute immunity for even bad faith mistakes made in the exercise of government power, I think it would be worrisome to require defense attorneys to pay a "price" for good faith mistakes. If there was evidence the defense attorney acted in bad faith, I would be open to considering sanctions, but then only if the same rule would apply to prosecutors shown to act in bad faith in other settings.

You ask: "7. Do you think the US Attorney and his underlings who went along with this release -- apparently on the same grossly false theory of no danger to the community -- should be sanctioned? If so, by what? By getting fired? By getting prosecuted themselves for abetting a fraud on the court?"

"8. Do you think the judge -- the one who had the responsibility to decide whether to let Mr. Nicey hit the streets or not, and who, apparently, bought the mendacious idea that this long-time thug with a known record would not pose a danger to the community -- do you think that judge should resign, either is shame and disgrace, or as a result of pressure from her piers?"

I answer: I draw a distinction between good faith mistakes and bad faith actions in this setting. I would welcome investigations, perhaps by tort lawyers back up by the prospect of civil suits, going after everyone involved in this setting if they can establish (by civil standards) the presence of bad faith. I think this works reasonably well to try to police the behavior of police, and I think the same approach is worth trying with other criminal justice officials.

You state: "I think I can tell you this much. If I had been the federal prosecutor who concurred in this butcher's release, I would have resigned the day after the murders. I would then, by letter, have begged my then-former colleagues to see if there was a place in their hearts where I could find forgiveness for (a) the disgrace I had bought upon the Office, and (b) my role in enabling this horrible child murder."

I respond: "Have you urged Sen Grassley and others you speak with on the Senate Judiciary to conduct a public investigation of all this?"

You ask: "9. Can you guarantee that we will have no more murders of innocent people undertaken by convicts released early from previously imposed, lawful federal drug sentences?"

I answer: Nope.

You ask; "10. If you cannot guarantee zero, is there some number -- some "evidence-based conclusion" as it were -- at which you would pull the plug on sentencing reform. In other words, could the frequency and severity of recidivist crime by early-release prisoners get to the point where you would say, "Yikes, this program is just taking a grossly excessive toll, and is going to have to end."
If so, how much and what degree of seriousness of recidivist crime by early-released inmates would be so much you would want to call a halt to the early release program?"

I answer: This calls for more "nuanced and intelligent thinking" than this space allows after all this writing. Perhaps invite me to Hawaii so we can work on this complex problem together. Or do you think there is a simple answer: nobody every gets out early, no ever through clemency or for good time reductions or any other mechanisms in which people now often serve much less federal prison time than is actually imposed at initial sentencing.

Sincere thanks for taking the enormous time and effort to give these answers. I have a lot to say in response to each, but won't do so just now.

The only thing I'll say is that the Bermans would be more than welcome in Hawaii. The catch is that we wouldn't talk about business. You might conceivably be surprised at some of the people I have had here as guests. I largely agree with their politics and their views of law, but hardly always. So Lee and I pretty much avoid those subjects, together with pending legislation and pending cases, with the folks who choose to favor us with a visit.

If the Bermans come out this way, I'll be able to add to my list of guests two of the most gorgeous young ladies I've seen in Facebook pictures. And, for you, we have golf courses galore, although I'm not a member of any of them.

Sincere thanks for the invite, which I hope to have a chance to take up sometime. And I am sure the beauty of Hawaii would give us plenty to discuss. I trust you know that you and Lee are likewise invited to visit the Bermans in the far less beautiful central Ohio.

My comments here don't "tilt" toward less incarceration; they "tilt" toward more accuracy. I've said nothing at all about whether there should be more or less incarceration. I've just pointed to the best available data about federal drug offender recidivism. (I guess that makes me pro-criminal. Hooray, criminals!) -Jim

"My comments here don't "tilt" toward less incarceration; they "tilt" toward more accuracy."

Nope. Your comments tilt toward less incarceration, which is what you want, isn't it?

(BTW, DOJ's 77% figure is accurate as cited, to wit, as the finding of its most comprehensive recidivism study. And I see that, while you loudly claim your devotion to accuracy, you STILL refuse to admit that the statistics you use are almost certainly grossly inaccurate as a true statement of recidivism).

Now answer the question: In fact, you want less incarceration, don't you?

No filibuster. Yes or no.

It's funny how you view the 77 percent figure on state prisoners as gospel but the 30 percent figure on federal prisoners as "grossly inaccurate," even though both analyses were done by the same agency (BJS). That wouldn't happen to be because you're only interested in the data that support your conclusions, would it?

And see above re: the ideological debate. -Jim

There is one thing our two figures have in common: They are both too low, because they rely on reported rather than actual crime. Since we know that the amount of reported crime, and especially drug deals, is vastly lower than its actual incidence, my figure is off because it's an understatement, and YOUR figure is off for exactly the same reason.

Do you disagree? Yes or no.

P.S. After giving a yes or no answer, you may elaborate in any way and at any length you care to. But any answer that gets published is going to include a yes or a no. Your perpetual dodging and wiseguy evasion is over with on this thread.

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