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I Am Not Making This Up, Either

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In my entry here, I insisted that I was not making up the story that, while President Obama labors to reduce the sentences of heroin dealers in the midst of a heroin epidemic, he was meeting with rappers  --  yes, rappers  -- to plumb the depths of criminal justice issues.


Hey, look, people, this is one serious administration when it comes to dealing with crime.

The ankle bracelet is a condition of [Ross's] release after his 2015 kidnapping charge.

The U.S. Marshals Service picked Ross up in Georgia last June and collared him for kidnapping, aggravated assault and aggravated battery after a dispute between the rapper and a man working on one of his homes.

Ross and a bodyguard allegedly forced the worker into a guesthouse bedroom and pistol-whipped him with a .9-mm Glock, according to police.

Though he was initially held without bail, in July TMZ reported that a judge allowed him to be released on $2 million bail with a GPS ankle monitor.


The reason you know I am not making this up is that no one could make it up.



I Am Not Making This Up

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This is the headline in today's The Hill:  "Obama, Rappers Meet on Criminal Justice Reform."

The story starts:

President Obama is meeting with a group of music stars on Friday to discuss his push for criminal justice reform and his initiaitve dedicated to helping young men and boys of color.

Rappers Busta Rhymes, Common, J. Cole, Wale, Ludacris and Chance the Rapper are all attending the meeting, according to a senior administration official. 

"Many of these artists have lent their voices and platforms to promoting these issues," the official said. "Through their own nonprofit work or artistic commitment, many of these artists have found ways to engage on the issues of criminal justice reform and empowering disadvantaged young people across the country."


The President's meeting with "Ludacris" says nearly all I am capable of writing about this, within the bounds of the polite discussion we like to maintain on C&C.

Under the federal Constitution, governmental power is disbursed by creating federal and state jurisdictions, and by establishing, within federal jurisdiction, separate and co-equal branches.

Someone might want to remind the current Justice Department of this fact, in light of yesterday's New York Times story, "Justice Department Condemns Profit-Minded Court Policies Targeting the Poor."  The gist of it is that DOJ has snarled at state judges for attempting to collect fines lawbreakers owe.  Such efforts, we are informed, violate civil rights.

I had not previously been aware that there was a "civil right" to be a scofflaw, but you learn something new every day from the Obama Justice Department.  Perhaps the right to skip out on paying traffic fines is part, as the NYT puts it, of the Administration's push for the "rights"  --  ready now  --   of "the poor and the disabled, the transgender [sic] and the homeless."



A Guarantee of More Crime Faster

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Prof. Doug Berman, author of Sentencing Law and Policy, today writes a post that (unintentionally, I think) spills the beans on what will happen if, as the SRCA would have it, we start releasing more federal felons earlier.

We'll get more crime faster.

How do we know that?  Because, as Doug's entry discloses, half (49.3%, to be exact) of released federal inmates recidivate (or so says the US Sentencing Commission).  Most do so within the first two years after being put back on the street.

The Commission also reports that most re-arrest offenses were for non-violent crimes.  That is, of course, what we should expect: The bulk of the those convicted of federal crimes were in for consensual drug trafficking, immigration offenses or fraud; such is the nature of federal criminal jurisdiction.  But to say that the re-arrest offenses were not violent is scarcely to say that they were not harmful (although that is often misleadingly implied).  Trafficking in hard drugs is one of the most harmful enterprises going on in this country.  Even when not accompanied by violence in any given transaction, it is rooted in violence, begets violence, and grossly aggravates the already appalling epidemic of heroin overdose deaths.

I'll note only two more things for now.  First, having half of released inmates recidivate is shocking.  It puts the lie to the idea that attempted rehabilitation can be counted upon.  Second, the actual recidivist crime figure is certain to be significantly higher, since most crime  --  and certainly most drug transactions  -- never even get reported.

Want more crime faster?  No problem.  Enact the SRCA.

The Unprotected

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Peggy Noonan has this column in the WSJ, titled Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected: Why political professionals are struggling to make sense of the world they created.

But I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.

There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful--those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.

The Right Kind of Criminal Justice Reform

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Dumbing down punishment for intentional and dangerous behavior that a child would know is wrong does not commend itself as sensible "reform."  It's simply a national loss of nerve.  Since the early 1990's, we have succeeded in scaling back crime in a way matched by few if any domestic programs.  Legal academia and pro-criminal types to the contrary, we should preserve, not dilute, the things that have worked to make us massively safer than we used to be:  More prison, more police, and more aggressive policing.  

In other words, we should take "yes" for an answer.  If thieves, strong-arms and drug pushers want to stay unincarcerated, fine. They can get a normal job like the rest of us.  They might even find that work, unlike smack, won't kill you.

But there is an important sort of criminal justice reform we should adopt.  No one should go to prison, or be threatened with prison, for behavior a normal person would not understand to be wrong, much less illegal.

My friend John Malcolm of Heritage, and former debate partner Judge Michael Mukasey, make the case here.

 

Sign Up to Be One of the Lucky 200

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What happens when the "criminals-are-victims" mentality takes over, and your obligation to live within the law is no longer considered a cornerstone of citizenship?

This happens:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- They say crime doesn't pay, but that might not be entirely true in the District of Columbia as lawmakers look for ways to discourage people from becoming repeat offenders.

The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a bill that includes a proposal to pay residents a stipend not to commit crimes. It's based on a program in Richmond, California, that advocates say has contributed to deep reductions in crime there.

Under the bill, city officials would identify up to 200 people a year who are considered at risk of either committing or becoming victims of violent crime. Those people would be directed to participate in behavioral therapy and other programs. If they fulfill those obligations and stay out of trouble, they would be paid.

The bill doesn't specify the value of the stipends, but participants in the California program receive up to $9,000 per year.

I have to tell you, $9,000 is more than I make teaching my course at Georgetown Law, and I haven't even lifted any of my students' wallets.  

I blogged here about the enormous increase in murder our country experienced in 2015.  This is after a generation of consistent decreases.

Time to confess error.  My estimate of the extent of the murder spike (14.6%) was too low.  The Washington Post's very liberal Wonkblog says, "The number of homicides in the country's 50 largest cities rose nearly 17 percent last year."

A murder increase of that size across the 50 largest cities is a national crisis, there's no other way to put it.  To give some actual numbers, Wonkblog continues, "analysis of preliminary crime data found that about 770 more people were killed in major cities last year than the year before..." In other words, the increase in murder in 2015 was more than 25 times the total number of killers executed that year.

Where's the White House emergency news conference?

And what's the explanation for this disaster?  As usual, that's where the pro-criminal crowd gets fuzzy.  

CJLF Website Under Construction

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CJLF's main web site will be under construction today.  Hopefully we will have a new, redesigned site in operation by the end of the business day, Pacific Time.
CJLF is very pleased to announce an addition to our legal staff.  Kymberlee Stapleton was previously a recipient of our 2002-2003 fellowship and did fine work for the cause of justice.  She has now returned as a more seasoned and experienced attorney.  We will now be able to take on more cases to further advance the cause.  She may even find some time to blog here.  Welcome back, Kym.
The Marshall Project, a liberal but not unhinged group, has a commentary out with this appalling news:  The "national spike in murder [in 2015 is] the largest single-year increase since at least 1960."

If this does not set off alarms in Congress and in the states, nothing will.  But what we see instead of alarm is a snarling complacency, in which the problem is not murder but  --  ready now?  --  the death penalty.  This would be the death penalty the great majority of Americans continue to think is a morally acceptable punishment for (at least) the most aggravated murders.

The other aggressively complacent response is that, for all these many prior years when murder and other sorts of violent crime have been decreasing, we've been too tough on criminals  --  so now, in the wake of an astonishing murder surge, we should go easier and start emptying out the prisons!

This is what passes for "logic" in academia and some parts of Congress.
Chicago has probably the strictest gun control law in the country.  Illinois long since abolished the death penalty (but unlike California, has never put the question to the people directly).

We are endlessly lectured that these two major items on the liberal agenda will keep us safe, as well as help us become, as President Obama (once a Chicago resident) might say, "the people we truly are."

Yes, well, read all about it.

The 2015 Lie of the Year

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Lying is not exactly new to political and ideological movements, but every year seems to bring a bumper crop, and 2015 had more than its share.  The Washington Post collects some of the leaders.  Among this year's winners were Donald Trump (thrice), Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and, of course, Barack Obama.

As respects criminal law, the Post's biggest winner was  --  drum roll  --  the anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement, "Hands up, don't shoot!"

This phrase became a rallying cry for protests after the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Witness accounts spread after the shooting that Michael Brown had his hands raised in surrender, mouthing the words "Don't shoot" as his last words before being shot execution-style. Democratic lawmakers raised their hands in solidarity on the House floor. But various investigations concluded this did not happen -- and that Wilson acted out of self-defense and was justified in killing Brown.

The odd and discomfiting thing is that, even knowing that its rallying cry is a fabrication, the BLM movement keeps right on using it, and using it belligerently.

  

Crime Is Worse Than You Thought -- Much Worse

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There is no credible doubt that crime has fallen dramatically in the last generation, because of increased use of incarceration, more police, more aggressive and proactive policing, the aging of the most crime-prone component of the population, and probably several other factors.  But even given this welcome fact, we have vastly more crime than gets reported.

The crime figures I have been using (and almost all other bloggers and academics use) are taken from the Uniform Crime Reports compiled by the FBI.  That source, however, gives only reported crimes.  The number of unreported crimes is staggering. As you can see from the chart below derived from the BJS National Crime Victimization Survey (see here), almost all types of crime are massively under-reported.  The chart shows that theft  -- perhaps the most common crime  --  is under-reported by over 70%; rape and sexual assault by about 65%; simple assault by 60%; burglary by just over 40%; and robbery by just under 40%. Indeed, it would seem that the only crimes that routinely get reported are auto theft and (although the chart does not show this) murder.

I have taken this chart from Vox, a liberal source.

Tell me again that now is the time to become complacent about crime.
I promised to furnish a link for the conversation between Judge Alex Kozinski and me, and it is now available, here.  I want to thank Judge Kozinski for the many insights he shared, and the Federalist Society for hosting a lively and wide-ranging discussion.

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