"Less Time, Less Crime" is the title of FAMM President Julie Stewart's piece in the July issue of Reason Magazine, and it's available online here.
The article documents a counterintuitive -- but nonetheless true -- idea: the fewer people who go to prison, the less crime we have. States like Texas have found that to be true, and a host of red and blue states alike are following suit, sending fewer people to prison, using wiser options like drug courts and community supervision. It's mostly conservatives leading the charge -- and it's about time. Here's a snippet, but read the whole thing:
Cost is not the sole factor in these changes. None of these states has decided to roll the dice with public safety. Rather, they are looking for ways to keep crime under control more efficiently. In fact, many of these debates demonstrate that policy makers are familiar with the last three decades of criminal justice research, which shows punishment is a more effective deterrent when it is swift and certain rather than severe, and that a vibrant parole system with effective re-entry programs is a better way to rehabilitate nonviolent offenders than making them languish in prison.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Congress is behind the curve. The rising federal prison population has pushed federal facilities to 35 percent over capacity. Half of all prisoners are nonviolent drug offenders serving mandatory sentences. There is no parole, and early release for good behavior is limited. Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of the federal system, both morally and financially, is the unwillingness to let the frail and elderly go home to die.