Kim Kardashian was back at the White House this week to peddle her pernicious “criminal justice reform” agenda. While Kardashian’s passion about helping ex-felons reintegrate into society may be well-intentioned, the cold truth is that an absolutely staggering 83% of state prisoners are re-arrested within nine years of their release. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), furthermore, the so-called “low-level drug offenders” that Kardashian and much of the weak-on-crime/jailbreak cartel so aggressively promote are, in fact, also huge recidivism risks for acts of violent crime:
Overall, 68 percent of released state prisoners were arrested within three years, 79 percent within six years and 83 percent within nine years. The 401,288 released state prisoners were arrested an estimated 2 million times during the nine years after their release, an average of five arrests per released prisoner. …
More than three-quarters (77 percent) of released drug offenders were arrested for a non-drug crime within nine years, and more than a third (34 percent) were arrested for a violent crime.
The risk of recidivism is not just a fantasy concocted by law-and-order conservatives — it is very, very real.
But the broader reality is that weak-on-crime political operatives often operate under misleading or disingenuous premises. As Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) pointed out at National Review in the debate leading up to a vote on the White House-supported “First Step Act” criminal justice reform jailbreak bill, this “low-level drug offender”-centric law actually allows for early prison release for a veritable hodgepodge of thugs — everyone from dangerous weapon-wielding robbers to law enforcement officer assaulters to violent carjackers to traffickers of fentanyl, a narcotic so potent that a sugar packet-sized dose could kill a whole room. The general profiles of these miscreants would more readily resemble MS-13 brutes than they would the “low-level drug offenders” that the weak-on-crime sycophants would have you believe are the true target of “reform.”
Far from having a general over-incarceration problem, the United States in the year 2019 actually has an under-incarceration problem — especially for violent criminals and mid-high level drug traffickers. As Sen. Cotton argued in 2016, the actual percentage of violent criminals even arrested — let alone prosecuted and subsequently convicted — is harrowingly low: “Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes. If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem.” Indeed, according to 2017 FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics, the number of cases uncleared by law enforcement in a given year is astonishing: 6,013 murder cases, 79,310 rape cases, 206,091 robbery cases, and 349,190 aggravated assault cases in 2017 alone.
The good news, from a broader perspective, is that crime in America has indeed dramatically plummeted over the past few decades. According to Pew, citing FBI statistics, violent crime fell 49% between 1993 and 2017. That is outstanding news and ought to be applauded. But as Pew also notes, violent crime actually recently rose from 2014–2016. Furthermore, BJS’s 2017 National Crime Victimization Survey showed a “statistically significant increase” in violent crime victims from 2015–2017.
Distressingly, this recent increase in violent crime has coincided with a continued hollowing out of America’s prison population. As psychology professors Keith Humphreys and Richard Lane observed in April, in focusing solely upon the black subset of our prison population, “the African American male imprisonment rate has dropped by a third since its peak and is now at a level not seen since 1991. African American women’s rate of imprisonment has dropped 57 percent from its peak and is now at a 30-year low.” Amazingly, Pew actually noted last year that America’s total incarcerated population is now at a two decade-low:
At the end of 2016, there were about 2.2 million people behind bars in the U.S., including 1.5 million under the jurisdiction of federal and state prisons and roughly 741,000 in the custody of locally run jails. That amounts to a nationwide incarceration rate of 860 prison or jail inmates for every 100,000 adults ages 18 and older.
The nation’s incarceration rate peaked at 1,000 inmates per 100,000 adults during the three-year period between 2006 and 2008. It has declined every year since then and is now at its lowest point since 1996, when there were 830 inmates per 100,000 adults.
The generally tough-on-crime policies of the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton presidencies blessed this country with decades of relative tranquility. Why on earth would we risk throwing that away to satisfy law enforcement officer assaulters and MS-13 fentanyl traffickers? Why on earth would we now be further hollowing out the nation’s prison population, amidst a two-decade low in the prison population and recent increases, contrary to the longstanding trend, of increased violent crime?
On the contrary, now is the time to double down on giving law enforcement the resources they need to arrest more violent criminals and on giving prosecutors the resources they need to charge and ultimately convict more violent criminals. There are far, far too many violent criminals and drug traffickers who get off scot-free.
Now is not the time to be hoodwinked by perhaps well-intentioned, but nonetheless naive, promoters of the weak-on-crime and jailbreak agenda. And as for President Donald Trump, he should stop appeasing weak-on-crime libertarians within his White House and quickly retreat to his 2016 campaign-era rhetoric on drugs and crime. He had it right back then.