Wow ... Just Wow. Or Rather, Unjust Wow.
A new report says that the US has managed to incarcerate fully one percent of its adult population, or 2.3 million people. And there are some interesting findings.
From the article:
Although studies generally find that imprisoning more offenders reduces crime, the effect may be less influential than changes in the unemployment rate, wages, the ratio of police officers to residents and the proportion of young people in the population, report co-author Adam Gelb said.
For instance, Florida, which has almost doubled its prison population over the past 15 years, has experienced a smaller drop in crime than New York, which, after a brief increase, has reduced its number of inmates to below the 1993 level.
Go read the report.
Why should Canadians pay attention?
The Conservative government's crime bill narrowly passed in the Liberal-dominated Senate on Wednesday, avoiding an election showdown over the issue.I never thought we needed a new crime bill, particularly because I don't think it actually does anything that wasn't already covered by law. But I am very concerned about the apparent move toward things like mandatory minimum sentences, which are big contributors to burgeoning prison populations.
The crime bill, among other things, calls for:
Tougher mandatory prison terms for serious gun crimes.
Stiffer penalties for impaired driving.
Tougher bail laws.
Tougher rules for repeat offenders.
Increasing the age of sexual consent to 16 from 14 in certain cases.
The gun crime provision is interesting. Especially since this government is known to favour deregulating firearms. I don't feel that a longer sentence will dissuade the run-into-the-mall-and-kill-a-bunch-of-people types, and I don't think it figures highly in the mental calculations of your average drug dealer/gas station robber/guy who just lost his mortgage in a poker game. So if the intent is to reduce crime, I don't feel this will have the effect they seek. But it'll be interesting to watch.
I would also like to know whether the government is going to follow through on its comittment to funding more police officers nationwide. Boots on the ground will definitely reduce crime--one of the few proven solutions. I saw some funding in the budget, so that's good.
Yes, I believe that if you can't do the time, you shouldn't do the time. But I believe justice must be tempered with reason and mercy. There are good reasons not to treat someone convicted of pot possesion the same way we treat someone convicted of manslaughter, which seems to me to be the direction we're moving in.