Feature

The problem with the crime solution

&ldquo;Mass incarceration&rdquo; may have been a successful tourniquet, but it can&rsquo;t be a permanent solution to crime, said Ross Douthat in <em>NYTimes.com.</em>

Ross Douthat
NYTimes.com

Over the past 20 years, law-and-order conservatives—not liberals—“have been making policy on crime,” said Ross Douthat. The lock-’em-up philosophy has been very successful, and with many repeat offenders behind bars, “the violent-crime rate has been cut by nearly 40 percent since its early-1990s peak.”

But there’s been a price for filling the prisons with 2.3 million Americans: Every state and major city is facing enormous, rising costs in housing their prison populations, and the prisons themselves have become overcrowded, hellish realms where violence and rape occurs “on a disgraceful scale.” With so many fathers, brothers, and sons locked up for decades, moreover, the lives of the urban and rural poor have become even more grievously warped, creating another generation of fatherless boys headed for jail.

“Mass incarceration” may have been a successful tourniquet, but it can’t be a permanent solution to crime. That doesn’t mean a return to liberal “excuse-making,” but the country literally cannot afford to keep millions of people in jail for most of their lives.

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