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The State of the Union and Crime

The Manhattan Institute asked several of its scholars for the "top takeaways" from the President's State of the Union address.  Here is Heather Mac Donald's note:

The president called for reforming prisons to help inmates get a second chance at life after their release. That is a wiser approach to criminal justice reform than attacking "mass incarceration," a duplicitous term that ignores two crucial facts: first, that every prisoner is charged and sentenced individually through the due process of the law, and second, that the only criminals who end up in prison either have very long records or have committed very serious crimes. Incarceration played a crucial role in the twenty year crime drop from the early 1990s through the mid-2010s. But while the incarceration build-up was both procedurally fair and necessary, more can be done to try to help ex-cons become productive citizens. The main focus should be on having every prisoner work at a paying job while incarcerated that will give him usable skills on the outside. Universal work for inmates is costly and logistically difficult, especially with high-security prisoners; unions have fought prison labor to avoid competition. But it is a challenge worth taking on to try to break the cycle of recidivism.
I agree that in terms of in-prison programs, employment should be number one.  The long-standing fears that prison production will cost some law-abiding Americans their jobs should not be taken lightly, but surely in today's global economy segments can be identified where substantially all of the market is imported. 

The fact that the President did not include a call for large-scale reductions in sentencing was also quite encouraging.  His emphasis on the MS-13 gang was warranted, but domestic gangs cause great harm as well.  Helping the areas most afflicted by gangs will require domestic efforts as well as immigration enforcement.  Later, while discussing the drug problem, the President said, "We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge."  That does not sound like he is buying the line that drug dealer are harmless "non-violent offenders."

Helping the most afflicted areas will also require cooperation between state and federal authorities; the mindless "resistance" attitude of some local officials is killing their own people and needs to stop.

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