The Obama administration is set to endorse one of the largest mass prisoner releases in American history, a move that aims to reduce the high levels of minority incarceration that politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have criticized. At the end of the month, the Justice Department will begin the process of setting 6,000 nonviolent federal inmates free, but it has yet to be explained how this contributes to a better America.
To be sure, we are probably locking too many drug offenders in prison. It’s hard to imagine how it benefits society to lock people away for harming only themselves. Now, you can make the argument that productivity suffers, families suffer, and all of that, but it’s not against the law to do a crappy job at work. It’s not against the law to neglect your family. So those arguments ring a little hollow.
At the same time, this needs to be done in a responsible fashion. You can’t “end the era of mass incarceration” (as Hillary Clinton has said) by simply giving everyone a do-over. And you can’t properly address the real problems in our justice system by trumpeting statistics that don’t tell the whole story.
One of those statistics – and Republicans are as guilty of using these as Democrats – claims that two-thirds of this country’s prisoners are there on nonviolent charges. While half of federal prisoners match that description, the same is not true of state penitentiaries. It also ignores the fact that many of these criminals have prior histories of violence and that some of them may have plead down from more significant offenses.
The story goes that if we go soft on crime, we’ll see an improvement in society. This argument is won with circular logic; mass incarceration is bad, therefore ending mass incarceration is good. But it’s not that simple. Are black communities to benefit from having a massive influx of drug abusers return from prison? How? It makes no sense.
For some reason, the left has decided that black Americans cannot obey the law. So they’ve decided that the only option is to change the law so that everything is decriminalized. To change the way the police operate so fewer arrests are made. They even want to change the way schools discipline their students, forbidding suspensions in many districts if the object of the punishment is a minority. This is absolute madness.
Minorities are not filling America’s prisons because of bad laws or racist cops. They are there because Democratic policies have ruined their communities, putting them in a neverending cycle of poverty that makes crime look like a reasonable alternative. Until that basic situation is addressed with a conservative approach to economics, any other quick-fix is at best a distraction and at worst an aggravating factor.