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Real War on Crime--Commission Study


The Real War on Crime:  The Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission,



We know that overall crime rates in the United States are no greater than crime rates in most industrialized countries, and that only our rate of homicide is unique.  Id. 197, argument developed below.


1:  Adopt a three-year moratorium on new prison construction. Replace some prison sanctions with alternative programs that are less ex­pensive and often more effective at redacting crime.  Id. 199.


2:  Replace the war on drugs with a policy of harm reduction where the police work with public health and other professionals to stem substance use.  Substance abuse should be treated as a public health challenge rather than a criminal justice problem.  Id. 100-201.


3:  Criminal justice spending must be cost-effective, so it does not drain resources from other civic activities.  Id. 204.


4: Restore the internal balance of the criminal justice system so that judges can (and want to) impose punishments that fit the crime. Id. 205.


5:  Eliminate racial and ethnic biases within the criminal justice system.


6:  Congress should commission an independent clearinghouse to gather and report objective criminal justice information to the public... separate from the Department of Justice.  Id. 207.


7:  All levels of government should create crime prevention councils to develop a coordinated anti-crime strategy.  Id. 208.


8:  Reduce violence by (1) using innovative approaches de­veloped in the field of public health, and (2) passing comprehensive gun control legislation at the federal level.  Id. 210.


9.  In order to reduce street crime, the nation must commit itself to reducing poverty by investing in children, youth, families, and communities.  Id. 215.


10:  Enhance services provided to crime victims.  Id. 217.


11:  Shift crime policy from an agenda of "war" to an agenda of "peace."  Id. 218.


The initial medical cost of treating a gunshot wound averages $15,000 to $20,000.  The cost of intensive care often reaches $150,000 per victim. In 1993, the direct cost of medical spending for the victims of firearms violence totaled about $3 billion.  Id. 214.

Murder victim, type of weapons used in 1993: firearms, 16,189; knives, 2,957; blunt objects, 1,024; hands, feet, etc., 1,164; strangulation, asphyxiation, 442; all others, 1,495. Id. 213.

Recidivism rates for released inmates of the District of Columbia, 1992:  65% for no form of drug treatment; 30% received some drug treatment. Id. 203




Fully 70 percent of all second and third-strike cases filed in California in 1994 were “nonviolent and non-serious offenses (20).


The Rand Corporations found that the new “three strikes” law will cost between $4.5 and $6.5 billion every year to implement [in California].  This is five times more than the state originally estimated. . . .  A life term for an average California prisoner is #1.5 million (21). 


People paroled from prison or serving probationary sentences commit only about 4 percent of offenses know to police each year for the most serious violent crimes of murder, rape, robbery, and assault (23).


Supervised parole costs about 1/8th that of incarceration substance abuse programs about 1/7th and residential programs (halfway houses) 30% (58).


Coverage of crime on the three major network television news shows tripled from 571 stories in 1991 to 1,632 stories in 1993—despite the fact that crime decline slightly over that period (69)


In 1993 there were seven major programs devoted exclusively to presenting real-life crime cases.  Full length criminal dramas have also become enormously popular (69-70). 


The media’s normally turns to unreliable sources for crime statistics.  For example they cited a 77 percent increase in the juvenile robbery rate; it had only increased 4 percent in a two year period.  To get the 77 percent figure, the police compared 240 arrests in 1992 to 444 referrals to the city probation department in 1993.  Arrest and referrals to probation have virtually nothing to do with each other. 


If burglary were not included, one would find that serious violent crime rate declined by 4 percent from 1980 to 1991 despite a 150 percent increase in the number of inmates (84).


Only 3 in 100 arrests in the United States are for violent crime resulting in injury.  Most violent crime is committed by friends and family (9).


Only 8 percent of the victims of violent crime nationally went to a hospital emergency room (11).


The average cost of probation is about $850 per offender per year.  In many states, probationers are required to contribute earnings towards the cost of supervision (190).


Most probation officers carry caseloads of 200 and higher.  The volume alone prevents most probation officers from getting actively involved with offenders. In an individualized manner, either in a supportive or punitive capacity (191). 








Although prisons cannot become same-sex country clubs, they cannot become gulags without jeopardizing public safety.  A system of job training, of incentives for employers to hire prison-train citizens, and extensive supervised release would duplicate the success that other industrial nations have with correcting criminal behavior and managing costs.  In 1993 our incarceration rate was 565, Canada 116, France 84, Norway 59, and Japan 36.  Given the similarities in crime rates, clearly the politicians have adopted the wrong policy (38). 


Our homicide rate is higher than in the developed world simply because there are more guns—jk.


In 1973 citizens reported 861,000 aggravated assaults to the police, but the police recorded only 421,000.  By 1988, citizens reported 940,000 aggravated assaults to the police, and the police recorded 910,000 (4). 


Some years ago I read a study done in Seattle whereby it was shown that it was 16 times more likely that a handgun owner would shoot someone he knew that a stranger.  Making ones home safer is a myth—jk.


This has lead to the anomaly that we have 3 times plus the incarceration of the other developed nations, yet the same crime rate—excluding drugs and homicide--jk.



In Connecticut the public defender’s office handles about 75 percent of the state’s major felony cases.  Each attorney who works in the office represewnts an average of 1,045 people a year (185).


More than 90 percent of all criminal felony cases end with a plea bargain.  With mandatory minimum sentences and the truth in sentencing proposal [good time can amount to no more than 15%].  The judge must sentence the defendant according to the statutory prescripton of the offense, regardless of any facts that may have led to a different prosecutor to charge differentely or any mitigating circumstances (183). 


The Mollen Commission found that the most common form of police corruption was the falsification of police records and testimony.  Serveral officers told the Mollen Commission that the practice was so widespread in certain precincts that officers created a name for it:  testifying (165). 


Public defenders received just over 2 percent of the total spent on criminal justice by all levels of government in 1990.  Of the remainder, police received 43 percent; prisons received 34 percent, courts received 13 percent, and the prosecutioin received 8 percent. 




As a utilitarian I measure our criminal justices system by the harm done.  If we were truly a Christian nation, love of thy brethren would extend to the wayward.  It is not what have they done, but how we can bring them back into our fold.  How is it that so many us find as a cause of action the fate of a clump of cells which could become an infant, yet so callous about the fate of a citizen who has lost his way.  Sentient life to me is precious.


The excessive harm done through a draconian criminal justice system does not end with its victims.  There are families, parents, relatives, and friends who have had their lives disrupted and companion taken away.  There also is the removal of productive member of society—for the vast majority of those incarcerated where employed at the time of arrest. 



Even the worst deserve better.  A simple proposal:


1.  Prisons are places where we treat those with social illnesses.  In promotion of this would be job training, prison industries to promote work habits. 


2.  There would be the incentive of early release with extensive supervised parole.


3.  Funds would available for to encourage employers to hire those trained in prisons. 


2.  Other social training would consist of continuing education and other constructive use of leisure time.  Such use would be a condition for leaving the prison cells. 


3.  Books, television, movies, and magazines would be constructive in content. 


4.  Those who don’t wish to participate in this type of prison life, or who are deemed to have a serious attitude problem would be shipped to something resembling the current penitentiaries.  If they persist then they should be shipped to an unsupervised penal colony on the Aleutian Islands, where they would be maintained at minimal cost, until they petition to be reintegrated into the reformation program.