Monday, 16 February 2015

American leftists want to empty prisons so they can feel really good about themselves

I gave up reading left-wing articles around the time of my 60th birthday. It was probably the intimation of mortality occasioned by the event that made me realise what a monumental waste of time it was to read deliberately misleading, illogical propaganda masquerading as rational argument. But something made me click on an article by Inimai M. Chettiar published by The Atlantic four days’ ago (here). It was entitled “The Many Causes of America’s Decline in Crime” – a subject which interests me. Unfortunately, I started reading it without registering the description of the article: “A new report finds that locking up more offenders isn't making people any safer—and may even be counterproductive.”

The "report" in question finds no such thing, of course. What it does is to deny, without more than a hint of proof, that there is any correlation between the 25-year long decline in American crime statistics and the rise in the prison population over the same period. Given the lack of hard evidence to support their instincts, the report’s authors spend 20 months casting about for other explanations: “Our team of economic and criminal justice researchers spent the last 20 months testing fourteen popular theories for the crime decline. We delved deep into over 30 years of data collected from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities. The results are sharply etched: We do not know with precision what caused the crime decline, but the growth in incarceration played only a minor role, and now has a negligible impact.”

The results are "sharply etched", but you don’t know “with precision”? Let’s face it, you don’t know at all. But, for some reason, we’re supposed to accept your bald assertion that locking up more people played only a minor role? Well, left-wing bleeding-heart lady – I’m sure the average law-abiding American would be happy to see your theory tested by flinging prison gates open across the land and granting hundreds of thousands of convicted criminals their unearned freedom.

Because Ms. Chettiar’s article seemed so bizarrely irrational, I looked her up online. Here’s how The Huffington Post describes her:
Inimai M. Chettiar is the Director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The Justice Program seeks to secure our nation’s promise of "equal justice for all" by creating a rational and fair legal system. It proposes and works to enact data-driven policy and legal reforms aimed at ending unnecessary incarceration and closing the justice gap for low-income Americans… Most recently, Ms. Chettiar applied these practices to help create and coordinate the American Civil Liberties Union’s nationwide state legislative Initiative to End Overincarceration. In 2011, she was selected by the Center for American Progress as a fellow for her groundbreaking leadership on the intersection of race and economics.
Ah! The American Civil Liberty Union’s “initiative to End Overincarceration”. So it’s not as if the fearless seekers after objective truth on Ms. Chettiar’s team at the Brennan Center for Justice would have prejudged the issue or anything. No, siree – if their ”research” had revealed that the reason for the decline of crime in America was due to locking more people up, I’m sure they’d have been shouting the news from the rooftops – and that The Atlantic would have been only too happy to publish an article announcing those findings.

According to Ms. Chettiar's article, “Instead of so many low-level offenders languishing behind bars, they could be earning wages and contributing to the economy.” Or they could be adding to the sum of human misery by committing more crimes while receiving welfare payments. I just don't know - but, then, neither does she. She goes on: “Former prisoners often have trouble finding employment and reintegrating into society due to legal barriers, social stigma, and psychological scarring from prison.” Or it could just be that they’re useless wastes of space, which is why they turned to crime in the first place.

But then we reach the heart of the matter, the real motivation behind the report: “Incarceration is so concentrated in certain communities that it has disrupted the gender balance and marriage rates. The costs are intergenerational. There are 2.7 million minor children with a parent behind bars. More than 1 in 9 black children have a parent incarcerated.”

Got that? It isn’t those members of “certain communities” who choose to rob, cheat, steal and physically attack their fellow-citizens who are responsible for their children growing up without fathers – it’s those horrible, racist, conservative meanies who lock these productive model parents away for no other reason that that they’ve broken the silly old law!

There may very well be rational arguments in favour of decreasing America’s prison population (especially given the number of those banged up for minor drug offences), but I didn’t find any in the article. Ms. Chettiar seeks to allay the fears of law-abiding Americans by citing the 14 states which, she claims, have seen a reduction in crime during the past decade despite a decreasing prison population. But given that she has warned us against “conflating simple correlation with causation” when it comes to inferring a causal connection between stiff sentencing policies and a reduction in crime – why should we infer a causal connection between decreasing prison populations and decreased crime in some areas? Well, there’s left-wing logic for you.

One of the many problems with the left is what Scruton has called the habit of “unscrupulous optimism” (it goes hand in hand with malign compassion). This inevitably leads them to advocates policies which allow them to parade their moral superiority – their infinite compassion - but which also put you and I at risk. That’s the thing about the Left – they’re rather careless when it comes to other people's safety. As far as they're concerned, if it's working - stop doing it!


  1. I'm afraid I've now reached the point where I almost always skip any article that begins: "A new report finds...".

    Whether my aversion began with the lies told about 'Global Warming' or whether that simply exacerbated an already sceptical turn of mind, I can't say. But I do know that much of what is passed off as 'research' these days is simply evidence torturing to extract a predetermined conclusion.

    Sadly, this is no longer confined to the madhouse worlds of sociology, economics and medicine (all historical haunts of charlatans) but even infests some of the real sciences now.

    Our universities really need to sort themselves out.

    1. The depressing thing is that most people probably accept these largely bogus "findings" as the truth, when the first three things to ask about any piece of published "research" are "who paid for it?", "who will benefit from this propaganda" and "would a report which reached the opposite conclusion have received as much coverage?" The answers to those questions allow one to ignore roughly 95% of all reports (100% if they were commissioned by a trade union). If only newspaper and broadcast journalists (I use the term loosely) would ask those three questions, there'd be more hard news on our screens and in our papers. Mind you, I wouldn't want to see coverage of climate change reports banned - I like a good laugh in the morning.