incarceration unsustainable?

Fellows, Jeffrey jmf9 at
Mon Mar 8 13:10:41 PST 1999


Mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws have no immediate effects on incarceration rates, since the affected individuals are going to prison anyway. And if its the 3rd offense, usually violent but not always, the person would have done major time anyway. The problem is that three-strikes laws will burden the system 10 to 20 years out. BTW, Georgia has a 2 strikes law and California has a 1-strike law for offenses where firearms were involved. It's called to 10-20-life: add 10 years if a gun was present but not used; add 20 if it was fired and did not hit anyone; add life if anyone is hit anywhere by the bullet.

The growth rate in incarcerations over the last decade is primarily associated with the growth in drug offenses, and states are moving into other forms of punishment. Violent crime rates have gone down for years, and so aren't responsible for the increase, yet most of the new laws were aimed at violent index crimes. I'll get some references to you that I picked up at the conference put on by RAND that I referred to. There were 100 plus Crim Justice types from almost every state, and the consensus from this group (as well as research results) was that the current growth in incarceration rates is the result of longer sentences for those committed, even though commitment rates are not growing. I'll get refs next week, I am too busy this week preparing for the Easterns.


-----Original Message----- From: Doug Henwood [mailto:dhenwood at] Sent: Monday, March 08, 1999 12:35 PM To: lbo-talk at Subject: incarceration unsustainable?

I'm curious about the claim that incarceration rates are slowing. The latest Bureau of Justice Statistics numbers, which admittedly go only through the end of 1997, show no such slowdown. If there has been a slowdown, it's only happened in the last 14 months. What's the evidence? With mandatory minimums and three strikes laws (two strikes in some states, no?), it's going to take a lot to reverse the jail juggernaut.

Our dear Gov Pataki, after having made some noises a few years ago about repealing the insanely stringent Rockefeller drug laws, has now reconsidered his reconsideration and is back on the lock 'em up bandwagon.


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