City Journal Summer 2014

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Summer 2014
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Theodore Dalrymple
Go to Manchester, Young Hoodlum « Back to Story

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In my time as a prosecutor in Australia I noticed that many young offenders being sentenced to gaol for the first time already had lengthy records for offences that might have attracted custodial penalties but had been dealt with by non-custodial alternatives.

The "prison doesn't work" argument often looks, simplistically, at the recidivism rate amongst prisoners. Has anyone ever studied the recidivism rate amongst offenders who have been given repeated non-custodial sentences? I suspect that "non-custodial punishments don't work" might be the conclusion.

As a parent I believe that second chances and even third chances should be given to young offenders. Beyond that, however, leniency merely serves to reinforce criminal behaviour. Many of the offences committed by young offenders, although serious, are not even reported. If reported, they are not always adequately investigated. So the risk of apprehension, let alone conviction and punishment, is often slight. This, rather than prison, is probably what sets a young offender firmly on the path to repeated offending.

I have a feeling, unsupported by any science, that short sentences, of one to three months,say, in strict custodial establishments separate from main stream prisoners might prove effective.
"I'm not saying that I'd ever _want_ to shoot a burglar."

Really?

I think it would be rather gratifying myself.

(what's wrong with the quote feature? Oh, there isn't one.)

Really?

I think it would be rather gratifying myself.
"I spoke up and asked her whether she thought that there might be a connection between the fact that crime overall has dropped significantly, and the fact that so many criminals are in prison, often serving very long prison sentences that will not see them released until they are very, very old men."

This is what happened in the state of São Paulo. In the 80’s and in the early 90’s, the state had one of the country’s highest crime rates. They decided, then, to do something and enforced a more severe policy (the policy consisted in arresting as many criminals as they could). Although there’s still a lot of crime in there, São Paulo is now one of the less dangerous places to be in.

Liberals didn’t like this, of course. It doesn’t enter their minds that, once all things remained the same, the best explanation to the decrease of crime rates is the enforcement of the new policy.

Brazil is a strange place. The ordinary citizen wants the criminals behind the bars. Liberals want them on the streets. This fact suggests that policymakers fear the opinion of the liberals, not that of the general public.
"the handling of criminals in New York City did seem to be going the way most of England has gone"

And what way is that then?
Leeds aside, from 1965 to 1995 the handling of criminals in New York City did seem to be going the way most of England has gone. That's why, despite the occasional massacre, I continue to support the National Rifle Association. (I joined in 1994, before I had ever owned a firearm, when they finally stopped bleating about the "rights of legitimate sportsmen" and began defending the right to own guns that were designed for shooting people.)

I'll leave it to others to debate whether prison works; if it does and they use it then I should never see a burglar. Otherwise, the threat of bullets might deter them -- but even if not, a significant fraction of burglars who are shot never re-offend.

I'm not saying that I'd ever _want_ to shoot a burglar. I'd much prefer he be deterred, and if not, that he'll be shot by one of my neighbors before he even gets around to trying me (thus saving me the emotional trauma).

The same goes for muggers, rapist/abductors, and carjackers.
"Policy" instead of "police".
In Brazil, as far as I can see, things are worse. Usually, burglars don't spend even a day in prison. Officialdom tell us that they are not dangerous enough and add that we should not send them to prison, otherwise they will learn a lot there and, once released, work with improved skills. The liberals happily agree with this, adding that criminals do what they do because of Brazil's social injustice. Moreover, we have an additional problem: the "political prisoner syndrome". Our constitution was written just after Brazil has been ruled by an authoritarian regime – which lasted from 1964 to 1985, our constitution having been written in 1988. The politicians were feared with the possibility of more unjust arrests and gave the prisoners all the rights they could think of. The result is lax laws. And the result of lax laws is more criminals free to perform their job.

In Brazil, the monopoly of good police belongs to the liberals. Anyone who tries to enforce a more severe policy towards criminals is labeled as a conservative. This is very effective, provided the fact that being called “conservative” in Brazil, at least for the intelligentsia, means political death. Of course, being conservative is far worse than having Brazil’s crime rates. We can live with 50.000 murders/year. This has never been a problem.

Congratulations for the text, Mr. Dalrymple.
Criminologist Gary Kleck, Florida State University, used victimization surveys in the U.K. and the Netherlands in 1997. He determined that the rate of "hot" burglaries (occupied buildings) compared to total burglaries was 45% in these two countries vs. 13% in the USA. He was trying to find out whether gun ownership, much more prevalent in the United States, deterred burglary. He concluded that it did not deter burglary, but it did deter burglary of occupied buildings.

American burglars told him they eschewed burglary of occupied buildings particularly at night because "that's the way to get shot." As you noted, Louise, burglars don't always tell the truth even to criminologists. And, even if they are telling the truth there may be a selection bias here, since Kleck could only question burglars who are still alive.
The Wild West featured criminals progressively moving farther and farther west until the last stretch of the frontier actually had to deal with them all because they had nowhere else to run.

It may spread
Jack Olson July 20, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Samuel Davis, only one in ten American burglars is willing to break and enter a house he suspects is occupied. Half of British burglars are.'

Really?  Do you have a source for that?  Because, you know, criminals don't always tell the truth.

When these cases come to court you will often find that the defendant is accompanied by some dimwit 'psychiatrist' who has diagnosed him with oppositional defiant disorder or another similar illness invented to keep him in work and his client out of prison.  We have the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the American Psychiatric Association for that.

Psychiatry has had a  hugely damaging impact on our legal system, hasn't it, 'Doctor Dalrymple'?
If prison doesn't work, why not bring back the stocks, flogging, and chain gangs? I suspect that a few hoodlums publicly flogged in the town square would definitely "work". And a few chain gangs working in the hot sun (or cold rain, as is more likely in Blighty) would do wonders for the crime rate.
Because of the possibility of very nasty outcomes; i.e. violence to residents of a burgularized dwelling, burgulars should be treated similarly to people charged with reckless endangerment or attempted assault. Any kind of violent act, short of murder, committed in the course of a burgularly should be treated as attempted murder and sentenced accordingly.
"As a prophylactic against liberal criticism, they pointed out that judges were permitted to impose heavier sentences if the offense had serious social consequences for the community.

This is surely a strange, arbitrary, and unjust judicial principle."

Bingo.

I am in a highly reputable Masters of Bioethics program in the U.S. Reputable by common standards of reputability, that is. I was researching this certain topic and I came upon the Nuffield Council, a British Council of Bioethics. Upon explaining why it would be wrong to limit health care options to smokers, drinkers, and the obese (with this I happen to agree), their reasoning was that it would "stigmatize" these people. Stigmatization. That was their justification. At this point, they had literally just got done explaining the supposed fact that health care is a basic human right (right up there with abortion) and their reasoning was stigmatization.

There's truly is a schizophrenic mind, the average lefty. Even more cruelly, it's amazing how pervasive that phenomenon is.
Samuel Davis, only one in ten American burglars is willing to break and enter a house he suspects is occupied. Half of British burglars are.
Whether prison works or not there has to be some price to pay for people who break into other people's homes and takes property that don't belong to them. Burglary also increases the possibility of violence as strangers breaking into a home is a situation is a perfect setting for physical confrontation.

In other words, who cares if prison works?

By the way, in the UK my understanding is that a good way to get prison time is to shoot or otherwise injure someone in the commission of a burglary. I've not heard whether the reverse is true.
No person, no matter how wise, will ever succeed in penetrating the Liberal mind. And I mean 'liberal' in the current sense, not in the classical meaning of that word.
An ultra-liberal co-worker of mine arrived in the office some time back and announced that she had attended a prisoners' rights group meeting the previous evening (no direct connection to her personally, but those organizations hold a special place in the heart of the Left, since as we all know everyone in prison has either been framed, or is innocent, or was forced into a life of crime against their will by the insidious racism of our society). Out of nowhere, over the morning coffee, she informed the rest of the office that the United States has the highest percentage of its population in prison of all of the industrialized countries. And, she added, this despite the fact that the nation's crime rate has been falling for the past twenty years.
I spoke up and asked her whether she thought that there might be a connection between the fact that crime overall has dropped significantly, and the fact that so many criminals are in prison, often serving very long prison sentences that will not see them released until they are very, very old men. Several of the co-workers laughed and just shook their heads; she looked at me shocked, just shocked.
The Liberal Mind is a terrible thing to waste. Yes it is.
`Prison works.
How can they possibly burgle a place while they are incarcerated`
It would be even more effective if it was more unpleasant from the start and promised to be even more unpleasant if repeated.
We hear much about punishment and rehabilitation but deterrence appears to have been forgotten which is surprising considering how effective it is in nature.
David W. Nicholas July 20, 2012 at 3:13 AM
One of my favorite discussions is whether the death penalty works to prevent murder. It's a commonplace among liberal opponents that it doesn't, because some clever guy rigged a survey to show that it doesn't. I always respond by pointing out that people escape from prison and kill people all the time, but since his execution, Ted Bundy hasn't killed anyone. No one's ever had an answer to that one...
Of course, something else deters burglars.

A pack of loyal dogs to warn the master.

Loyal neighbors armed to the teeth ( I quite certain that we have more weapons and stores of ammo in the immediate vecinity than many British police stations indeed probably more than entire neighborhoods of Manhattan).

Of coure, one should have one's own equalizer too. This is especially important as one gets older. Pepper spray and a Remington 570 do wonders. Of course, it helps if the law favors innocent homeowners being allowed to defend their lives and property. I used to love London, New York, Paris, Rome and Madrid. I even used to dream about retiring to one or another. No longer. When the world goes smash I will take my chances in the good ole USA.
Retired Croesus Wannabe July 19, 2012 at 10:57 PM
I have just woken up after travel round the world to London to read this happy sign that not all is as depressing in this country as one fears after recovering from the good cheer induced by an excellent production of
The Browning Version followed by prolonged visit ton the Tudor galleries of the National Portrait Gallery and its not-too-bad restaurant. So, why not be inspired to a novel thought in this Barclays obsessed city? Apparently long sentences for financial crimes have done too little to stop the behaviour which has disgraced financial and even entrepreneurial capitalism over the last 15 years (before which the mind of man does not reach). Obviously the incentives are unbalanced. Lower pay? Lower maximum rewards? Clement Atlee for PM? Of course these things need nice calibration. On the one hand we need remuneration setters to understand how much money is needed to motivate the average greedy banker at a given age and with a given base of inherited or married capital and spending power. Judges, like bureaucrats, can be fairly well relied on to use the "length of the Chancellor's foot" method for triggering outrage and determining official norms....
Prison works.
How can they possibly burgle a place while they are incarcerated.
When criminals have a gap in their comission of crimes, how often do we later find that they were incarcerated during those dates?
Prison works.