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The Staggering Cost of Leniency

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The tug of war about the country's approach to crime in recent years can be boiled down to one question:  Should we preserve the get-tough policies of roughly the last generation  --  policies that have helped produce both much less crime and much  more incarceration  --  or have we gone overboard?

Proponents of a more lenient approach often point to the costs of these policies, which they characterize as massively rising taxpayer funding for prisons, together with the "broken families" of inmates sent away for years.  What we need, they say, is less emphasis on arresting and punishing and more emphasis on keeping people out of prison through expanded social programs.

Focusing solely on costs while downplaying or ignoring benefits is an old debate stunt, one that I need not pause long to consider here.  Instead, I want to discuss what is so often omitted from the debate, but came into grotesquely sharp focus last week:  The costs of leniency.

One example of these costs I have noted before is the case of early-release-followed-by-child-murder inmate Wendell Callahan.  Last week's example of the costs of leniency is by now known to us all  --  Nikolas Cruz.  Cruz and been a violent, menacing presence in his community for years, and was well-known to the police, but intentionally never arrested.  This was because of exactly the soft policies I have spent years opposing.  These policies may (or may not) be grounded in a thoughtless and breezy compassion, but, as we now see in a way we can no longer ignore, are certain to have, and in fact have had, lethal costs.

In a moral society, this cannot be tolerated.
Paul Mirengoff has the story, here.  This is how it concludes (with a hat-tip to Kent for his post on this):

Cruz [had earlier been] expelled for bringing weapons to school. And when he got into a fight in September of 2016, he was referred to social workers rather than to the police. Similarly, when he allegedly assaulted a student in January 2017, it triggered a school-based threat assessment, but no police involvement.  The Washington Post notes that Cruz "was well-known to school and mental health authorities and was entrenched in the process for getting students help rather than referring them to law enforcement." 

When I was growing up, there was no chance that a juvenile with a file like Cruz's would be outside of the justice system. Law enforcement would have been looking for excuses to take him off the street, not making excuses for failing to do so. 

But that was before arresting delinquent teenagers came to be considered taboo by the left and by naive conservatives. And before not arresting them became cause for being feted at the [Obama] White House. 

Sheriff Scott Israel provides a perfect example of the new mentality -- the culture of leniency. Speaking at a mosque, he  remarked:

I have said over and over again, we have to measure the success of the Broward Sherriff's office by the kids we keep out of jail, not by the kids we put in jail. We have to give our children second chances and third chances. 

Second and third chances to do what, exactly?  That is the question the soft-and-softer crowd shoves under the rug.  As Paul points out,  Nikolas Cruz's victims never even had a first chance.  

The idea of measuring the success of a law enforcement agency by the number of people not in jail is sheer lunacy. The only valid measurements of success are (1) prevention of crime and (2) apprehension and successful prosecution of criminals. If, instead, we were to measure success by the number of people not in jail, then the most successful sheriffs would be the ones who didn't arrest anyone, or at least any youths. And the logical way to build on that "success" would be to release those already in custody. 

Even the jailbreak lobby isn't advocating this, but it is pushing things in that direction. 

The push should be in the opposite direction. To that end, Horowitz urges the Trump administration to cut off all federal funding for jailbreak grant programs. He also calls on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rescind all Obama-era agreements and guidance documents pressuring local school districts to change their methods of discipline. 

It's not enough to condemn Scott Israel as incompetent. His incompetence is only part of the story. The rest of the story is the culture of leniency, enshrined in federal policy, that encouraged Israel's department to keep Nikolas Cruz free to kill.

1 Comment

~ I don't know which is more lenient -- early releasing a violent criminal, or tipping one off that authorities are coming, but are not both deplorable?

In the case of a mayor (Oakland's Libby Schaaf) tipping off multiple criminals, does that not represent multiple counts of criminality?

+ “Earlier today, I learned from multiple credible sources that the U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is preparing to conduct an operation in the Bay Area, including Oakland, starting as soon as within the next 24 hours,” the
mayor wrote. “

8 U.S. Code § 1324 (a) (1) (A) (iii)
Any person who, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection,
such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation
shall be punished as provided in subparagraph (B).

8 U.S. Code § 1324 (a) (1) (B) (ii)
A person who violates subparagraph (A) shall, for each alien in respect to whom such a violation occurs in the case of a violation of subparagraph (A)(ii), (iii),
(iv), or (v)(II), be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or


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