By Jeff Thomas
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Sometimes things are counterintuitive.
For example, high cancer rates generally
indicate healthy populations or exercising regularly boosts energy. When candidate Donald Trump promised more law and order, people thought that would be a good thing. Who is against cutting crime? But high crime is actually an indication of broken families and an unbreakable cycle of poverty and incarceration. Everybody knows when Trump says “increase law and order” he’s talking code for putting more black people in jail. But this will actually increase crime and worsen the crime problem across America. And increasing police patrols and further burdening poor communities will devastate budgets.
5 REASONS WHY TRUMP’S CRIME PLAN WILL FAIL
- Psychopaths are rare. According to a leading national scholar, Dr. Lisa J. Cohen, only about 15-25% of America’s prisoners are psychopaths. So if 75% of the people in prison are good people who may have made a bad decision, investing heavily in hiring more police officers and prosecutors seems to be a misplacement of resources. Yet drilling further down we find that many prisoners in America today are drug users or drug sellers. Those with a utilitarian perspective see the futility of arresting people for getting high, when alcohol is a more deadly and abused substance than all the “illegal” substances combined. While only 15% of the population, African Americans constitute 35% of those incarcerated, and 60% of African American males are jailed for nonviolent drug offenses. And of the whites imprisoned, fully 74% are lower class whites. So our jails are filled with poor whites and nonviolent blacks who have been over policed for nonviolent offenses.
- Most crime is not really a police problem. Examining the type of people who are actually incarcerated illustrates a certain kind of policing that has been going on. Blacks and whites consume drugs at equal rates, yet African Americans are jailed at shockingly high rates for drug offenses while poor whites are generally arrested after committing property crimes. Police racially profile and arrest drug users. But our current heroin epidemic shows the benefits of an empathetic approach. The new heroin epidemic has police departments not arresting users but transporting them to treatment centers. Departments have equipped officers with Narcan which can instantly reverse a deadly heroin overdose. In the past, an officer would wait to see if a crack addict survived an apparent overdose so the addict could be arrested. Departments now view drug abuse as a medical problem, not a legal issue. Heroin addicts are rarely if ever arrested in many parts of the country. Furthermore, almost all other nonviolent non drug crimes are related to poverty. Changing access to economic opportunity would greatly reduce this type of activity. Even some violent crime, like armed robbery would be dramatically reduced after an investment in jobs.
- Arresting people and putting them in jail for only short periods of time increases crime Multiple studies show that incarceration for even minor offenses dramatically increases crime. Further, a report from the National Research Council on mass incarceration in the United States finds that lengthy prison sentences do not deter crime. In Louisiana, the mass incarceration capital of the world, more people are in jail for petty offenses and the state uses draconian laws to severely punish violent crime offenders. Despite having more people in jail than any other time in history, crime not only persists, but increases annually.
- The costs of incarceration are too high and suck resources from other more important things. State legislators across the country, but particularly in the South, are grappling with budget deficits. Forced to choose between cutting education and paying billions to keep people in jail, often for nonviolent offenses, states started to reduce their prison populations. Concerned that letting people out of jail would cause an increase in jail, conservative legislators tracked the correlation between the prison reduction and crime rates. After a year, they found that a 20% reduction in the prison population translated into a 30% reduction in crime. Since then, Texas Department of Corrections has steadily reduced its prison population and the state has invested the money it saved in education, senior services and roads.
- Investing in people will reduce crime and make people safer. The more we reduce poverty, increase access to wealth and provide living wages to even the lowest wage workers, fewer police officers, prison guards, prosecutors and indigent defenders will be needed. If reducing prison populations to reduce crime seems unrealistic, don’t feel bad. The pervasive rhetoric and consistent lock em up and throw away the key narrative has been an American mainstay. Tough on crime wins elections. People want to feel safe and the tough on crime bombast has played well for decades.
Devastated poor white and African American families have borne the brunt of these failed policies. High incarceration rates in these communities has shattered family stability and heavily contributed to cyclical poverty. The costs to maintain these prison populations has wrecked city, parish (county) and state budgets. Remarkably, investing in drug treatment and jobs with living wages would not only save billions, but reduce crime.
Yet President Trump has signaled the exact opposite course of action. He hired a U.S Attorney with a dubious past and celebrated his confirmation by signing three executive actions. Though his words seem to make sense – “creating a task force to reduce violent crime in America” – the real consequences of the previous Presidential executive action to get tough on violent crime has resulted in the highest increase in the incarceration of nonviolent offenders in American history. People are more conscious and aware today. The expansion of the currently imploded mass incarceration complex has hurt too many families and, with Jeff Sessions at the helm, will likely result in the continued incarceration of poor and people of color for nonviolent offenses. Fatherless families fervently feed further lawbreaking.
Foiled by Budget Deficits
Independent review of the effects of the lock em up policies, reveal a destructive drain on dependable resources. States can not have both paved roads and huge prison populations. Now conservatives in many southern states have chosen to find those tossed keys, since unlocking the prison door not only frees up these resources but will actually reduce crime. Now President Trump seeks to restore “Law and Order.”
Smart people will resist Trump’s latest attempt to terrorize communities of color with overzealous police and fanatical prosecutors at the expense of safer communities and necessary services.