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Thread: Does the Fear of Jail Actually Prevent Crime? By John R. Lott, Jr.

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    http://johnrlott.tripod.com/op-eds/F...ail112707.html

    John R. Lott, Jr. wrote:

    Does the risk of prison deter crime?

    According to a brand-new and extensively covered study by the JFA Institute, a George Soros funded group, the US prison system doesn’t deter crime and is “a costly and harmful failure.”

    Prison is supposedly so useless that the US prison population could be cut in half with no effect on crime.

    This distrust of prison reducing crime is not new, but many have a hard time believing the simplest rule of economics: if you make something more costly, people do less of it. People accept that this principle applies to what we buy in grocery stores, but not to “bad” things that people might do.

    So how plausible is deterrence? Let us take a couple examples from sports.

    When college basketball’s Atlantic Coast Conference increased the number of referees per game from two to three in 1978, the number of fouls dropped by 34 percent. Why? Basketball players fouled less often because they were more likely to get caught. In fact, the actual decline in fouling was probably even larger, since fouls that may have gone unnoticed by two referees were more likely to be caught when there were three officials.

    Baseball players respond no differently. The American League has more hit batsmen than the National League, but this difference only occurred after 1973, when the American League removed its pitchers from the batting lineup in favor of designated hitters. Since American League pitchers no longer worried that they themselves would be hit in retaliation if they hit an opposing batter, they began throwing more beanballs.

    Take another case where the “crime” becomes more profitable, specifically a type of fraud committed by air traffic controllers. To receive disability benefits due to job-related stress, air traffic controllers must present a well-documented stressful incident—a collision or close call—that has caused a deterioration in their performance.

    Unsurprisingly, when it became easier to file for disability, flights suddenly started experiencing more “close calls.” And these were not cases that the air traffic controllers could simply make up; they were reported by a sophisticated performance evaluation called the “Operation Error Severity Index.”

    Given these results, is it really difficult to believe, as the JFA Institute report claims, that the number of prisoners increased while crime rates fell? Is there really anything that makes criminals immune to these same forces?

    A large number of studies indicate that the more certain the punishment, the fewer the crimes committed (for a survey see here). Arrest rates of criminals is usually the single most important factor in reducing every type of crime. The death penalty may get the most media attention, as it deserves, but everyday police work is really important in making neighborhoods safer. Changes in the arrest rate account for around 16 to 18 percent of the large drop in the murder rate during the 1990s. Conviction rates explain another 12 percent.

    By comparison, the death penalty execution rate accounts for about 12 to 14 percent of the overall drop in murders.

    Prison stops crime in two ways: deterrence and incapacitation. The JFA Institute report misses both points. A longer prison term deters some would-be criminals from committing crimes to begin with. For those criminals who are not stopped by the threat of prison, at least they are taken off the streets and locked up, preventing them from committing yet more crime.

    Longer prison sentences explain at least another 12 percent of the drop in murder rates. Why is it “at least”? Good data simply isn't available. It’s surprisingly difficult to measure how long criminals actually end up being in prison. The length of a criminal’s sentence is often much longer than the actual time served. Furthermore, the time that is served varies widely, even for a single type of crime, depending on a suspect’s criminal history and the severity of the offense.

    The Department of Justice responded to the JFA Institute report claiming that 25 percent of drop in violent crime during the 1990s was due to increased imprisonment. But, unfortunately, the research that they cited only looks at the percent of people in prison, not other factors that are correlated with imprisonment such as arrest and conviction rates, thus falsely attributing too much of the drop to prison.

    Economics explains something else about the drops in crime rates. Everyone knows how violent crime fell dramatically during the 1990s. What is less commonly understood is that the drop was much bigger than reported by the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.

    With the exception of the data on murder, the FBI crime data are based on crimes that victims reported to police departments. But, of course, not every victim reports when a crime occurs. Victims are most likely to report two kinds of crimes: the most serious crimes, and the ones that they believe have the greatest chance of being solved. As arrest and conviction rates rose, victims more frequently reported crimes committed against them. Increasing the rate that crimes were reported makes it look as if crime rates are not falling as much as they actually are.

    These changes are not trivial. For example, if the rate of reporting of violent crimes had remained constant and not increased after 1999, the violent crime rate in 2005 would have fallen to 390 per 100, 000 people, not 469. 17 percent lower rate than it actually was in 2005.

    The JFA Institute sees it as a good sign that states are starting to shorten prison sentences to save money. Possibly states do have more important things to spend money on. But economists have a simple prediction: less imprisonment, more crime.

    *John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics, upon which this piece draws, and a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland.

    *John Lott is the author of the book, Freedomnomics upon which this piece is based and is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Maryland.

    Either we are equal or we are not. Good people ought to be armed where they will, with wits and guns and the truth. LAB/NRA/GOP *******

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    I may just be a stupid, argumentative hick, but I'm having a hard time figuring out what Lott is trying to get across here.

    I would think that higher rates of imprisonment lead to less crime, but due merely to the fact that there are fewer people on the streets left to commit crime...

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    Yeah, this report does seem a tad ambiguous. Crime is down, but that's despite incarcerating more offenders, not because of it, or due to cyclic economic factors, or for other reasons that we can't fathom from the data set, or... we really don't know why, but there may be more people locked up than is strictly necessary anyway.

    Brilliant. Reminds me of my college days.

    -ljp

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    Dr. Lott wrote:
    This distrust of prison reducing crime is not new, but many have a hard time believing the simplest rule of economics: if you make something more costly, people do less of it. People accept that this principle applies to what we buy in grocery stores, but not to “bad” things that people might do.
    I paraphrase;

    The distrust of academics teaching that 'prison reduces crime' is not new. It is analogous to and an extension of the simplest rule of economics: if you make something, a product or an activity, more expensive, then people do less of it or buy less of it. People more readily accept this principle in their purchases but will not apply it to the 'bad' things that people do.

    Either we are equal or we are not. Good people ought to be armed where they will, with wits and guns and the truth. LAB/NRA/GOP *******

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    Doug Huffman wrote:
    http://johnrlott.tripod.com/op-eds/F...ail112707.html

    John R. Lott, Jr. wrote:

    by the JFA Institute, a George Soros funded group,
    George Soros. Yeah, a highly reliable individual. That's all I needed to read to know this is pure bunk.

    For a lot of these criminal scum a trip to the prison is considered a holiday. Cable TV, weights, training in your selected crime area, networking.

    Now if it were a prison run by Sheriff Arpaio, THEN it would be a great deterence!

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    I know a chick who was in Arpaio's jail. She had (has) cancer and was denied access to medical treatment while she was in - no "coddling criminals" you know. Her lawyer sued, and they settled for a pittance, because now she's not going to live long enough to collect anything like a jury would award her. Like that story? Absolutely true - not 5th-hand hearsay. I'll be seeing her later today. She now has tumors in her brain and her bones, in addition to her ****. She was a real stunner when she was young, and now she'll be dead before her next birthday. She'll want to die well before then, from the pain of myeloma. She's 38.

    -ljp

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    Legba wrote:
    I know a chick who was in Arpaio's jail.
    Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time.

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    She was in Maricopa County on a misdemeanor charge, not a felony. She deserves to die for this?

    -ljp

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    Legba wrote:
    She was in Maricopa County on a misdemeanor charge, not a felony. She deserves to die for this?

    -ljp
    As I said, don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

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    Decades from now, when you are hitting the button for your morphine in the cancer hospice, think of her then.

    -ljp

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    If the justice system somehow caused her cancer or negligently failed to allow access to proper treatment, then she should be compensated and the jail should be forced to change.

    However, the fact that she and her attorney are willing to settle for a pittance throws up a big red flag. Is she more interested in some quick cash than in making sure the system gets fixed? I would rather make a difference than be worried about being around to collect/spend the money. I'm sure the ACLU and various other groups would have picked up the case. I'm inclined to think she didn't have much of a case if she folded that easily.

    And yes, it's sad that she is suffering from cancer. However, appeal to emotion is a flawed way to argue. The fact remains - independant of this alleged mistreatment - that Arpaio's prison is a better deterrent than the typical prison.
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    She'd be dead before a proper hearing about it, that's why she settled. Easy enough to speak of principles when it's someone else's pain and death. Also, the ACLU doesn't answer the phone at all - you have to write to them, and they take about 2% of cases presented, regardless of merit. No appeal to emotion, these are facts. She may well have gotten sick and died irrespective of the treatment, but I do know that Sheriff Arpaio is a *****, if for no other reason than denying medical care to someone entitled.

    If you can't uphold the oath, don't run for office.

    -ljp

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    Legba wrote:
    Easy enough to speak of principles when it's someone else's pain and death...
    I see... so I must have a painful and deadly disease to be qualified to discuss this matter... gotcha.

    ...No appeal to emotion, these are facts...
    So, you're using facts to support your appeal to emotion; that doesn't make it any less flawed of an argument. If you truly can't see the flaws in your argument, then maybe you're allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement.

    In any case, I don't see this conversation making any progress toward the topic at hand, so I'll reiterate my point: regardless of any wrongdoing by the jail/jailor in question, an uncomfortable prison is a better deterrent than one with cable TV and air conditioning.
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    CA_Libertarian wrote:
    Legba wrote:
    Easy enough to speak of principles when it's someone else's pain and death...
    I see... so I must have a painful and deadly disease to be qualified to discuss this matter... gotcha.
    That's not what I said - just accusing you of being glib about terminal illness that might have been prevented or mitigated.
    ...No appeal to emotion, these are facts...
    So, you're using facts to support your appeal to emotion; that doesn't make it any less flawed of an argument. If you truly can't see the flaws in your argument, then maybe you're allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement.

    In any case, I don't see this conversation making any progress toward the topic at hand, so I'll reiterate my point: regardless of any wrongdoing by the jail/jailor in question, an uncomfortable prison is a better deterrent than one with cable TV and air conditioning.
    Sure, it's emotional when someone you know is dying unnecessarily. Ergo, Arpaio is a role model... gothca...


    People are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment. There are no tennis courts, if there ever were, and it's no joke to rot in a cage, cable TV or not. Be sure to send me a birthday card when I go up for CCW (and for what it's worth - nothing - I didn't do the crime).

    -ljp

    p.s. if it will ease the moderators' minds, I'll recuse myself from further discussion in this thread.


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    CA_Libertarian wrote:
    Legba wrote:
    Easy enough to speak of principles when it's someone else's pain and death...
    I see... so I must have a painful and deadly disease to be qualified to discuss this matter... gotcha.

    ...No appeal to emotion, these are facts...
    So, you're using facts to support your appeal to emotion; that doesn't make it any less flawed of an argument. If you truly can't see the flaws in your argument, then maybe you're allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement.

    In any case, I don't see this conversation making any progress toward the topic at hand, so I'll reiterate my point: regardless of any wrongdoing by the jail/jailor in question, an uncomfortable prison is a better deterrent than one with cable TV and air conditioning.
    QED

    Well said.



    Tarzan

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    Legba wrote:
    She was in Maricopa County on a misdemeanor charge, not a felony. She deserves to die for this?

    -ljp
    Don't you know? Anyone who is alleged to have committed a crime isn't a person any longer.

    Nonetheless, it brings up an interesting point. What is the moral/ethical responsibility of prisons in terms of treatment of prisoners?

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    Wow, you guys are NOT gonna like this next video (watch it 'till the end):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ0B2xDzSgg
    -Unrequited

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    unrequited wrote:
    Wow, you guys are NOT gonna like this next video (watch it 'till the end):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ0B2xDzSgg
    But... but... they don't beat the criminals with chains or stick pins into their genitals! Those bastards!

    Of course I understand that there is probably considerable bias in the clip. But it can't all be false, can it? Regardless, I'm probably still the only person on here who supports a rehabilitation philosphy rather than punishment... as I believe I've said before, in this country, we wonder why someone would go out and commit murder after getting sodomized on a regular basis for several years and constantly told that they are sub-human. A mystery, really.

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    An aside on capital punishment as a deterent. 23.75% of all statistics are made up on the spot. Or was it 75.32% I can't remember.

    http://www.csicop.org/si/2004-07/cap...unishment.html
    An Amazon best seller "MY PARENTS OPEN CARRY" http://www.myparentsopencarry.com/

    *The information contained above is not meant to be legal advice, but is solely intended as a starting point for further research. These are my opinions, if you have further questions it is advisable to seek out an attorney that is well versed in firearm law.

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    gregma wrote:
    Legba wrote:
    She was in Maricopa County on a misdemeanor charge, not a felony. She deserves to die for this?

    -ljp
    As I said, don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
    Yeah, don't commit a crime and still get your house burned down (with your dog burned to death as deputies laugh to boot)

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2004-...afternoon/full

    Excerpt:

    In less than 30 minutes, Arpaio's special forces unleashed an unprecedented wave of violence on this quiet community. Consider this:
    • Just after the tear gas canisters were shot, a fire erupted and destroyed a $250,000 home plus all the contents inside. (The home's occupants believe the tear gas canisters caused the fire. Phoenix fire officials say the blaze was probably started by a lighted candle that was knocked onto a bed during the confusion.)
    • The armored personnel carrier careened down the street and smashed into a parked car after its brakes failed.
    • And in the ultimate display of cruelty, a SWAT team member drove a dog trying to flee the home back into the inferno, where it met an agonizing death.
    Deputies then reportedly laughed as the dog's owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.
    "I was crying hysterically," Andrea Barker, one of the dog's owners, tells me. "I was so upset. They [deputies] were laughing at me."
    Making fun of the 10-month-old pit bull puppy's death wasn't enough. End quote

    Still feel like sticking up for these POS? Hope they never come to your house.

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    maxnobknee wrote:
    gregma wrote:
    Legba wrote:
    She was in Maricopa County on a misdemeanor charge, not a felony. She deserves to die for this?

    -ljp
    As I said, don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
    Yeah, don't commit a crime and still get your house burned down (with your dog burned to death as deputies laugh to boot)

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2004-...afternoon/full

    Excerpt:

    In less than 30 minutes, Arpaio's special forces unleashed an unprecedented wave of violence on this quiet community. Consider this:
    • Just after the tear gas canisters were shot, a fire erupted and destroyed a $250,000 home plus all the contents inside. (The home's occupants believe the tear gas canisters caused the fire. Phoenix fire officials say the blaze was probably started by a lighted candle that was knocked onto a bed during the confusion.)
    • The armored personnel carrier careened down the street and smashed into a parked car after its brakes failed.
    • And in the ultimate display of cruelty, a SWAT team member drove a dog trying to flee the home back into the inferno, where it met an agonizing death.
    Deputies then reportedly laughed as the dog's owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.
    "I was crying hysterically," Andrea Barker, one of the dog's owners, tells me. "I was so upset. They [deputies] were laughing at me."
    Making fun of the 10-month-old pit bull puppy's death wasn't enough. End quote

    Still feel like sticking up for these POS? Hope they never come to your house.
    Don't you know? Once you commit a crime, you're no longer a person. The prison system as well as the general public can treat you however they want because you have no rights. And no one is ever falsely convicted, so that's a non-issue. Once you commit a crime and enough people think so, you undergo an irreversible physical process where you can no longer be a person, and you are doomed to a life of crime not because the punishment philosophy does not work, but because you are broken.:?

    Note: That's sarcasm again...

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    maxnobknee wrote:
    gregma wrote:
    Legba wrote:
    She was in Maricopa County on a misdemeanor charge, not a felony. She deserves to die for this?

    -ljp
    As I said, don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
    Yeah, don't commit a crime and still get your house burned down (with your dog burned to death as deputies laugh to boot)

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2004-...afternoon/full

    Excerpt:

    In less than 30 minutes, Arpaio's special forces unleashed an unprecedented wave of violence on this quiet community. Consider this:
    • Just after the tear gas canisters were shot, a fire erupted and destroyed a $250,000 home plus all the contents inside. (The home's occupants believe the tear gas canisters caused the fire. Phoenix fire officials say the blaze was probably started by a lighted candle that was knocked onto a bed during the confusion.)
    • The armored personnel carrier careened down the street and smashed into a parked car after its brakes failed.
    • And in the ultimate display of cruelty, a SWAT team member drove a dog trying to flee the home back into the inferno, where it met an agonizing death.
    Deputies then reportedly laughed as the dog's owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.
    "I was crying hysterically," Andrea Barker, one of the dog's owners, tells me. "I was so upset. They [deputies] were laughing at me."
    Making fun of the 10-month-old pit bull puppy's death wasn't enough. End quote

    Still feel like sticking up for these POS? Hope they never come to your house.
    Putting aside the pontificating in the linked article, if even most of the facts presented are true it was a truly deplorable event. I have generally supported Arpaios' enforcement activities within the scope of what I have read, but this incident smacks of the atrocity that was the Branch Davidian stand off. Sounds like Joe is believing his own press a little too much and crossing lines that he would have, at the start of his crusade, himself have highlighted flourescent and demanded that no one cross over.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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