Monthly Archive: February 2022

Predicting the Path of the New Justice

Ruth Marcus has this column in the WaPo (behind a paywall) on the impact of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on the Supreme Court. Ms. Marcus has covered the high court for many years.

In addition, justices, male or female, aren’t fungible. Even if they can be placed into broad categories of liberal or conservative, they bring different passions and different life experiences to the bench. Jackson’s experience as a criminal defense lawyer, member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission and trial court judge gives her a perspective different from that of her colleagues. It’s reasonable to imagine Jackson emerging as an ally of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, especially on criminal law issues, where Breyer and Justice Elena Kagan have been slightly more moderate. And, as I wrote the other day, she also could emerge as another powerful voice in dissent, joining Sotomayor and Kagan in a forcefulness and passion that Breyer didn’t always display. Continue reading . . .

Efforts to re-fund police amidst rising crime

Amidst a surge in crime over the last two years, including homicide spikes in both 2020 and 2021, the national conversation is finally moving back toward re-funding the police. On May 8, 2021, President Biden submitted his FY22 budget proposal, which allocated $1.3 billion to law enforcement agencies. According to the budget request, the money would support community policing programs, specialized training and resources, and the hiring of new officers. In a statement made on February 3rd, 2022, the White House re-iterated this point and further urged Congress to direct more funds toward community policing efforts and to provide local departments with federal tools and resources to help them address violent crime. This is a step in the right direction, but given how vague the language is, it is hard to predict how effective his plan will be.

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The nation’s two official crime measures: NCVS and UCR

This week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released official numbers on the nation’s two crime measures: the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The UCR measures crime that is reported to the police, and the NCVS data is based on individuals’ reporting of past victimizations. The main strength of the NCVS is that it can measure unreported crime, and together the two datasets can be helpful for determining reporting rates. The report released by BJS shows crime rates measured by the UCR and the NCVS for the years 2011 through 2020. When comparing the estimates, reporting rates tend to be higher for violent crimes than property crimes, with the exception of motor vehicle theft. 

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The unintended effects of ban-the-box laws on crime

Nationwide, 37 states and over 150 localities have adopted “ban the box” (BTB) laws, which prevent employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal histories at initial job screenings. Advocates argue that these laws will reduce the stigma associated with past convictions and arrests, increasing employment opportunities for ex-offenders and subsequently reducing incentives for criminal activity. However, some recent studies suggest that this might not be the case, with some suggesting that BTB laws increased job discrimination against some minorities while others have found increases in crime. 

One recent study published in the Journal of Law and Economics comprehensively examined the effect of state and local BTB laws on criminal incidents involving racial and ethnic minorities. According to the study, BTB laws were associated with a 16% increase in property crimes involving working-age Hispanic men. A common theory is that BTB laws increase job discrimination against some minorities, and diminished employment opportunities increase crime. This especially makes sense in the context of property crime, which tends to be economically motivated. Property crimes did not increase among Blacks, however, suggesting that unintended consequences of BTB laws disproportionately affected only certain minorities. 

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The Road to Hell

In the struggle to achieve racial justice, New York and California have set the pace for the rest of America.  Over the past several years the Governors, state legislatures and Attorneys General of both states have promoted and implemented criminal justice reforms attempting to create equal outcomes among “marginalized racial groups.”  To create equity both states have effectively decriminalized certain offenses deemed non-violent, such as selling illegal drugs on the street, using drugs, traffic offenses, drunk driving, most theft, vandalism, some domestic violence, assaults, resisting arrest and illegal firearms possession.  Bail has also been eliminated or sharply reduced for all but the most violent offenses including car theft, commercial burglary, strong armed robbery and vehicular manslaughter among others.  Progressives tell us that reducing the arrest, prosecution and punishment for these crimes is necessary because people of color are disproportionately targeted by America’s systemically racist criminal justice system for committing them.   This is the kind of one-dimensional reasoning children use.  New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exhibited it Monday, opining that the spike in crime in her state is because “the child-tax credit just ran out, on December 31st, and now people are stealing baby formula.”  She has 12 million followers on twitter.

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The Diversity Scam

It’s not news at this point that President Biden preemptively determined that he would exclude close to 95% of the population in looking for his first Supreme Court nominee, and restrict the search solely to black women.  Excluding almost everyone in advance is a remarkably stupid way to go about making critical SCOTUS appointments, as three quarters of the electorate took little to time figure out.  The excuse being given for the blanket exclusion of black men, white men, white women, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and anyone else you can think of is  —  ready now?  —  diversity.

That this is preposterous on its face is not the point I want to make, since that’s too obvious to be posting about.  Instead, the point worth noting is that, according to one quite prominent leader in Washington, DC, it’s not really about diversity at all.

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Progressive NY District Attorney Changing His Tune

Alvin Bragg, the new Manhattan District Attorney who began the year promising not to prosecute property criminals did a 180 last week and says he will now get tough on thieves.  As reported by Tamar Lapin in the New York Post, after video of a thief walking out of a Trader Joe’s with an armful of steaks was released, Bragg told reporters “We have amongst us opportunists, who are repeat players, who are just taking goods…..We are brainstorming about how to respond to that.”  Brainstorming?  How about enforcing theft laws and giving jail sentences to repeaters?  How about getting rid of zero bail and holding thieves accountable?  None of this require much deep thinking.  A brief look at recent history indicates that consequences matter.  Holding property offenders and other so-call “low level” criminals accountable also helps reduce violent crime.  Many of the violent crimes occurring in cities run by progressive politicians are committed by repeat offenders who would have been in jail or prison prior to the “reforms” pushed by these politicians and groups like Black Lives Matter.  The Seattle man who clocked a woman with a baseball bat in broad daylight last week was one of those “low level” offenders progressives policies kept on the streets.

Violent offenders recidivate at higher rates despite age, criminal history

The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) published new findings last week regarding the recidivism of federal offenders, finding that violent offenders recidivate at higher rates than their non-violent counterparts. The study used USSC data coupled with FBI criminal history records to examine eight-year recidivism rates for 13,883 federal offenders released in 2010. This study is part of a larger recidivism study that includes more than 32,000 federal offenders.

These findings support the longstanding idea that violent offenders are more likely to recidivate than non-violent offenders. While recidivism rates tended to decline with age, they were still consistently higher for violent offenders across all age groups. This was seen even in the oldest age category where most individuals are presumed to have “aged out of crime” (60+ years). Even among those 60 years and older, one quarter of violent offenders were rearrested within eight years.

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Blaming Guns For Rising Crime

With America experiencing the largest single-year increase in homicide ever recorded in 2020, and data indicating another double-digit increase last year, it appears that many politicians including the president are confused about the cause.  During a New York  visit with the Mayor Eric Adams last week, President Biden pledged to address the city’s out-of-control crime with help in getting illegal guns off the streets.  Adams, a former cop, along with mayors in Baltimore, DC, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and St. Louis among others believe the most effective approach to violent and property crime is to try and remove guns from the hands of criminals.  Rebecca Rosenberg of Fox News has this piece discussing the fallacy of focusing on the weapon rather than the progressive policies that have enabled criminals to stay on the streets and prey upon the public.   Cully Stimson, a former prosecutor and senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation calls the focus on “gun crimes” a red herring.

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