Playing with numbers: incarceration

Paul Mirengoff reports on the myths of over-incarceration. It’s another of those issues where American Guilt (™) is being pushed by distorting reality.

Behind the push for leniency is the notion that America — aka “incarceration nation” — has sinned. We are told, based findings by the International Centre for Prison Studies (“the Centre”), that the U. S. has only 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners.

But are these claims rooted in fact? Not according to a paper by Michael Rushford, President & CEO of the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (via Crime and Consequences).

Most conservatives and centrists understand intuitively that clemency, early release, and shorter sentences for drug dealers are bad ideas. To sell these ideas to sensible Americans, proponents of sentencing reform resort to mythology — most notably the myth of over-incarceration. In doing so, they slander our country.

This is much like going to Las Vegas and thinking it will be nice because everyone will win at the gambling table. The reality is something different. Emptying prisons is betting that crime has little to do with those convicted of committing them. The evidence, and sound reasoning, indicates otherwise but it does not seem that we are in an era of evidence and sound reasoning when it comes to governance. That should be a worry.

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