Finishing what they started
Ross Douthat calls on conservatives who successfully took ownership of the "crime issue" in the '80s and '90s to also take responsibility for the mass imprisonment that's been the consequence of their approach:
Mass incarceration was a successful public-policy tourniquet. But now that we’ve stopped the bleeding, it can’t be a permanent solution.
This doesn’t require a return to the liberal excuse-making of the ’60s and ’70s. Nor does it require every governor to issue frequent pardons. (A capricious mercy doesn’t further the cause of justice.)
Instead, it requires a more sophisticated crime-fighting approach — an emphasis, for instance, on making sentences swifter and more certain, even as we make them shorter; a system of performance metrics for prisons and their administrators; a more stringent approach to probation and parole. (“When Brute Force Fails,” by the U.C.L.A. public policy professor Mark Kleiman, is the best handbook for would-be reformers.)
Above all, it requires conservatives to take ownership of prison reform, and correct the system they helped build. The Democrats still lack credibility on crime policy. Any successful reform requires the support of the law-and-order party.
December 15, 2009; 9:12 AM ET
Categories: Crime and punishment
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