Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Do We Put Too Many People in Prison?

This guest column was authored by Mississippi Center for Public Policy President Douglas Carswell. 

Mississippi, it is often said, has an incarceration problem. Our state locks up too many people for too long, we are told.   

 Over the past two decades, Mississippi’s prison population has in fact fallen.  In January 2014 the prison population of our state was 21,008.  By January 2022, that figure had declined by almost a fifth to 16,931. 

 Those who argue Mississippi should incarcerate fewer people have been getting exactly what they asked for. 

 Now let’s take a look at what has happened to violent crime in our state over that time.

From 2016 to 2022, violent crime in our state increased by 741 percent, according to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.  We went from 538 violent crimes a year to 4,529.  That is 3,991 more violent crimes and more victims.

Anti-prison advocates like to argue that locking people up in large numbers does not work.  Crime, they point out, was high even when Mississippi locked people up in greater numbers than almost anywhere else in America.  The trouble is that Mississippi after these anti-incarceration reforms is a vastly more violent place than Mississippi was without them. 

 In 2013, the year before Mississippi enacted legislation designed to reduce the rate of incarceration, 28 people out of every 100,000 Jackson residents were murdered.  By 2021, that number had nearly quadrupled to 101 homicide victims per 100,000 residents in our capital city. 

 Of course, just because there has been a surge in violent crime at the same time that the prison population has been reduced, it does not automatically follow that the former has been caused by the latter. 

 The reality is, however, that across America the average state prisoner released has around five previous convictions.  That means that we have a pretty good idea of who is committing the lion’s share of the extra crime; those that have already been convicted and released. 

 "But it is so expensive to lock up so many people!" the reformists insist.  

 It is expensive to maintain prisons, just as it is expensive to maintain our country’s borders.  But there are some things that the government needs to do even if costly. 

 As Shad White, our State Auditor has shown, leniency is expensive, too.  According to estimates by the State Auditor, each homicide in Mississippi costs taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.2 million.  On top of that, of course, come all kinds of other costs paid for by the victims of the violent crime.  

 "But what about the human cost of incarcerating people?" the anti-prison advocates are quick to ask.  "Locking people up harms families, and the children of inmates suffer." 

 Anyone who assumes that releasing violent criminals back into the bosom of their families will automatically be good news for those families might not have met many violent criminals.   

 Eight years ago, back when every policy-maker in Jackson seemed intent on drifting along with the anti-incarceration vibe, we were told that there were better ways to reduce crime than by filling the prisons.

 Unfortunately, we have yet to find them.  When you factor in selection bias, there is remarkably little evidence that most rehabilitation programs have the efficacy that those who run them want them to have. 

 Anti-prison advocates are currently campaigning to have Mississippi’s Parole Board release more parole-eligible prisoners from custody.

 It is true that our Parole Board currently approves a lower percentage of parole applications now than it has done for years.  But that is because there has been a massive surge in the number of people automatically entitled to apply for early release to the Parole Board.  

 Why the increase in parole applications?  Because of legislation that the anti-prison advocacy groups helped pass which automatically entitles violent offenders to appeal to the Parole Board in the first place.  

 The Parole Board has recently been criticized for getting some parole decisions wrong.  I can’t help wondering if the Board might have done a better job if they had not been flooded by new cases at the insistence of anti-prison activists. 

 The tragedy of this misguided anti-prison agenda is not only that it is driving a surge in crime.  It has detracted from Mississippi implementing the type of prison reform that conservatives ought to support.   

 More needs to be done to make our prisons more humane.  The prison system ought to do a far better job of differentiating between violent criminals and the non-violent.  With so many young men graduating from the prison system each year, surely we could do a better job of ensuring they emerge with a better set of life skills?    

 These reforms are only going to be attainable if we have a prison system that achieves its primary purpose; locking up bad people in order to prevent them from doing bad things to good people.  

 There is now overwhelming evidence that we should abandon Mississippi’s flirtation with an anti-incarceration agenda – and it is not just a question of crime.  If Mississippi wants to see the kind of economic growth that other states have experienced, we need to reduce our crime rates.



Anonymous said...

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, we have too many laws in general. I heard once that the average person probably commits a felony every single day (which is obviously an exaggeration but it drives home a point). When you think about the issue through that lens and then think about how marginalized communities are more likely to have to engage in illegal behaviors (selling weed as an example) to get by.........overpopulation of jails is where the thought process ends up. The answer isn't to build more jails, the answer is for the government to lessen their grip on our throats.

Simple as that

Anonymous said...

gee whiz mr carswell, after reading this happy talk in gonna go sell all my guns that i use to protect myself from all those unfortunate people you talk about.

Anonymous said...

Capital punishment for capital crimes cuts down on the prison population and lowers recidivism rates.

Anonymous said...

Put them all on another planet.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the fact that the Corrections budget in FY 2016 was $359 million and in FY 2022 was $324 million has something to do with all of this.


Anonymous said...

anti-incarceration=democrat feel good agenda

Anonymous said...

Democrats love crime. There’s a reason.

Anonymous said...

9:47 is correct capital punishment is the best way to lower prison population. Lesser crimes could use deportation to California and never return. Minor crime would just be work camps that move from project to project and used tents.We can cut jail time down to nothing. First thing to remember is people should not be rewarded for breaking law.

Anonymous said...

The presence of crime is a lot like the presence of lawyers.

Everything gets f--d up.

Anonymous said...

I’m going to skip the part about reading the article before commenting and respond with a NEGATIVE. In these parts, criminals with convictions for violent felonies are roaming the streets with impunity and committing more murder and mayhem. They need to be confined at prisons, not rinky dink jails where they’re free to come and go at will.

Anonymous said...

"If Mississippi wants to see the kind of economic growth that other states have experienced, we need to reduce our crime rates."

What absolute rot. Anything the elites want, they shit down our throats by telling us, their inferiors, "If Mississippi wants to see the kind of economic growth that other states have experienced, we need to (fill in the blank with the pet project)."

Everybody down here beneath the big chunks floating atop the cess pool surface knows if Mississippi wants to see the kind of economic growth that other states have experienced, we need to incarcerate the elites.

Or we can just change the flag.

Anonymous said...

Too bad the context for those "violent crime numbers" is left out. The claim is blatantly false.

Anonymous said...

We need to rethink our constitutional prohibitions against "cruel and unusual" punishment. That's why the prisons are full. If we recognized PAIN as an effective punishment for crime we would not have so much crime or so many inmates. Corporal punishment has always worked better than detention. Go to the schools and see. Our soft-hearted approach to punishment has given us swelling prison populations. The whipping post or some other form of quick effective pain application would make a big difference and save billions. It's a simple truth.

Anonymous said...

Abolish victimless/self-harm crimes. Keep punishing the real crime. Especially violent and property crimes.

Anonymous said...

Consider how many persons arrested have criminal histories. Some commit crimes while out on bail, or while awaiting trial for something else. We don't put too many in jail - those who should be in jail are out committing more crime.

Anonymous said...

The 4 reasons we have so many people in jail is this country is 1: we are the third most populated country on the planet and 2: 99% of the people in jail are morons and stupid as shit. 3: We have a lot of law enforcement and people working the court system. 4: Recidivism.
Everyone of these people knew they were breaking the law and knew what would happen if they get caught, hence why they are in jail. You can’t rehab stupid, hence Recidivism. There are two groups that want to get people out of jail under the guise of Justice Reform, Democrats and Libertarians. In this state the main Libertarian groups are AFP, EmpowerMS and Mississippi Center for Public Policy. Now what makes these Libertarian groups more dangerous than democrats in Mississippi is that Libertarians parade themselves around as Conservatives. There aren’t enough democrats in the state to effect policy or enact legislation but the Libertarians embed themselves in the Republican groups.

Kingfish said...

Highest unwed birthrate in country. The main cause and the one reason no one wants to discuss.

Twitter Yappy Dog said...

Oh, Kingfish, you've gone and done it now. Hair is on fire, HAIR IS ON FIRE!

Anonymous said...

Why have out of wedlock births become so acceptable, especially given the access to birth control methods are more prevalent than ever before in history?

Anonymous said...

Oh Lord, yes we do put too many in prison. We should execute a lot more of them to make room for the ones running around with unresolved cases. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

Anonymous said...

KF is spot on: BTW these numbers are old so they are higher now.

Anonymous said...

Rarely is the question asked: How much worse would things be in Mississippi if USM didn't get that volleyball stadium?

Anonymous said...

Retired cop here, and it's mostly all about drugs, simple but true. You got to steal to get them, and can't work when stoned, so more stealing.

Anonymous said...

KF @ 11:30 am, great observation. And just how can a woman even get pregnant now unless she just wants to get that way? Birth control is all over.

@4:39 pm, equally asked as rarely, how much better off would Mississippi be if USM didn’t get that volleyball stadium? Not a lot, really, in the big picture. Now, if all the schools got volleyball stadiums, yeah, maybe…

Anonymous said...

Keep locking em up.

Anonymous said...

Execute instead of incarcerate..

Anonymous said...

It’s pretty tough to lay the blame squarely on our unwed mother birth rate when we are last in nearly every statistical category. It’s definitely a contributing factor especially since it affects household income and child supervision, but I would think education and job opportunity play a larger role.

Anonymous said...

@8:52 - If USM didn’t get the money, it wouldn’t have made a difference for the state. We would have still denied providing assistance to the families that actually needed it and a different professional wrestler or ex qb would’ve been given the money instead or maybe another one of Phil’s relatives gets a free stay in a luxury drug rehab resort. Now if the families that actually needed some help got that money, it may have been life changing for them.

On your other point, birth control is not 100% effective and it still requires the women in the poorest state in the country to pay for a doctor’s visit and a prescription. Many people in this state have to make tough and risky choices about medications due to financial constraint.

Anonymous said...

@9:03 5/30/23 = And stop knocking them up, too.

Anonymous said...

As the discussion surrounding the need to amend the Constitution for an 8th time ensued, one congressman stood to discuss the English reality of lopping off ears, flogging and putting criminals in public torture stocks.

He speculated that if we were to abandon those forms of punishment, we would eventually be so soft on crime as to remove fear of incarceration.

JUST LOOK AT US! He was right.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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