February 22, 2019

Should America Cap Prison Sentences?

“America puts more people in jail and prison than any other country in the world. Although the country has managed to slightly reduce its prison population in recent years, mass incarceration remains a fact of the US criminal justice system.

It’s time for a radical idea that could really begin to reverse mass incarceration: capping all prison sentences at no more than 20 years. It may sound like an extreme, even dangerous, proposal, but there’s good reason to believe it would help reduce the prison population without making America any less safe.

In the 1980s and ’90s, American officials by and large believed the country was in the middle of a crime wave and an underincarceration crisis; they responded by increasing the length of prison sentences, enacting new mandatory minimums, and restricting the use of parole. Today, with crime rates lower, Americans more readily believe that the country has an overincarceration problem — one that disproportionately afflicts minority communities, as black and brown people are far more likely to be locked up than their white peers.

Given the impact that mass incarceration has had, there’s a strong case that the US should take steps to ensure that it doesn’t ever lock up so many people again.

Looking at the length of our prison sentences is one approach to reverse mass incarceration. Empirical research has consistently found that locking up people for very long periods of time does little to nothing to combat crime, and may actually lead to more crime as people spend more time in prison — missing big life opportunities for legitimate careers, and being incarcerated with others who have ties to the criminal world.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"Political leaders from all French parties, including former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, joined Jews and non-Jews in Paris’s Place de la Republique to condemn antisemitic acts."

"Eighty years ago tonight, thousands of Americans gathered in New York to rally behind the Nazi Party and its ideals. An Oscar-nominated short documentary retrieves footage of the event, but leaves out the context that gives it meaning."

"The PM has persuaded the religious-Zionist Jewish Home to partner with the Kahanists of Otzma Yehudit. It makes cynical political sense for his interests, but what of Israel’s?"

"IFC’s series Documentary Now! began as an affectionately parodic tribute to the classics of nonfiction cinema. Its first episode, “Sandy Passage,” was a note-perfect evocation of the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens..."

"Making our choices count is, however, far from straightforward, and this is the subject of Martin Hägglund’s book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom."

"Teens in the United States are coming of age at a time when digital technology is truly ubiquitous, where smartphones are all of our “constant companions.”"

"...the Smollett story, if the “trajectory” leads to evidence of fakery, would actually reveal something else modern America is about: victimhood chic."

"Cool in the humanities isn’t that different from cool in other areas of cultural life, like planking, hotdog-legs photography, mason jar rehabilitation, and novels whose main character is a city."

"It’s true that high-octane, hardworking child-rearing has some pointless excesses, and it doesn’t spark joy for parents. But done right, it works for kids..."

"Cape Town in South Africa is a foodie destination. Some people in its renowned restaurant industry are trying to spread the food wealth citywide."

"...for many “space expansionists,” escaping Earth is about much more than dodging the bullet of extinction: it’s about realizing astronomical amounts of value by exploiting the universe’s vast resources to create something resembling utopia. "

"After facing persecution in the former Soviet Union and a new wave of antisemitism in the United States, Marya Zilberberg decides to put her Jewishness on display."