Too many people are in prison for too long, and too often, at a financial cost disproportionate to the enhancement of public safety.Will notes Texas is using "alternatives to imprisonment" to the tune of $3 billion in savings. Meanwhile, the federal prison population "devours 25 percent of the Justice Department's budget" and has "increased more than 300 percent in less than 30 years."
About 7 percent of federal offenders are "violent" and Will notes members of Congress are"negotiating [selective] reductions in the severity of some mandatory minimum sentences — each reduction reviewed by a court — for nonviolent offenses." Will says this would "enable government to devote increased resources to coping with violent and repeat offenders."
In addition, Will argues Congress "should stop promiscuously multiplying federal crimes." He notes that, between 2000 and 2007, "Congress legislated more than 450 new crimes — more than one a week."
"Old theories about the causes of crime need to be rethought" because:
During the Great Depression, unemployment soared to 25 percent yet in many cities crime fell. Demographic factors? Crime rates often vary with the size of society's cohort of young males: Crime declined considerably during World War II because so many young males were in military discipline. In 2010, one year after the Great Recession's jobs destruction doubled the unemployment rate, the property crime rate fell and violent crime reached a 40-year low. Current high incarceration rates had something to do with that. But how much?See Will's full editorial here.