John Lott’s newest piece at the New York Daily News starts this way:
It is easy to forget that, in 1991, the U.S. murder rate was well over twice what it is today. In a speech last week at Columbia University, Hillary Clinton demonstrated she doesn’t understand that ending what she called the “era of Mass Incarceration” will endanger lives.
These days, it’s popular to sympathize with criminals. We saw this when Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake “gave those who wished to destroy space to do that” and ordered police to “stand down.” We saw it again when she failed to return the governor’s calls, as he repeatedly tried to get her permission to send in the National Guard. She even apologized for using the word “thugs” to describe those who attack people and destroy businesses.
Hillary Clinton now proposes to end mass incarceration by reducing prison sentences for some drug offenses. She intends to make greater use of “probation and drug diversion programs.”
There are good reasons for decriminalizing drug possession, but Clinton didn’t mention them. Furthermore, Clinton is wrong in believing that decriminalization would end mass incarceration. In 2012, fewer than 7% of inmates at state and federal prisons were in for possessing illegal drugs. And it was rarely just for possession of marijuana. There’s no national data, but state data from Arizona indicates that as few as 0.3% of inmates were incarcerated on account of marijuana possession, and those cases involve people who have been arrested multiple times.
In California, even adding together trafficking or possession offenses, only 1% of state prisoners are incarcerated for marijuana offenses.
To free a larger number of prisoners, you have to include all drug offenses, mainly trafficking. That would cut the prisoner population by 20%.
Clinton claims that putting people in prison for violating parole or minor drug offenses “does little to reduce crime. But it does a lot to tear apart families and communities.”
But virtually no one is in prison for minor drug violations. And there are good reasons for requiring parolees to regularly report to a parole officer, keep their hands off drugs and firearms, and — in some states — take periodic polygraph exams. These rules help keep criminals from committing still more crimes. . . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.