For about the last two years, there has been a major crime surge across this country, as even liberals now concede
. The heroin crisis
is out of control. A major part of the reason for this is repeat criminals: It would be all to the good if the thousands of inmates we release each year went straight, but by-and-large, that is not what happens. To the contrary, we have an appalling overall recidivism rate of 77%. For violent crimes, it's over 70%. And all those figures are low, because a huge amount of crime never gets reported. This is particularly true of drug crimes, a major component of federal criminal enforcement.
Sooner or later, virtually all criminals will finish serving their sentences, and it would be unjust (and illegal) to keep them incarcerated simply because we know the majority will go back to crime. Some will indeed straighten out and, regardless, indefinite incarceration is not the American way.
But we face an entirely different situation with respect to criminals who get early release from legal sentences they have earned. In federal jurisdiction, thousands of early releases have already been allowed, and many thousands more are underway. This is a part of the recidivism (and the related crime surge) problem we can do something about right now. Specifically, the US Sentencing Commission must curb its early release binge. First, however, it will have to show at least a modicum of interest in the degree of harm its early release policies have already caused, and how much more damage, if left unchanged, they are likely to foment.
Victims of early-released federal inmates are human beings with rights and feelings no less than their victimizers. They deserve our attention and help. At rock bottom minimum, they deserve more attention from the Sentencing Commission than they've been getting.