This is a little old, but State Senator Mike Padden is writing nonsense in the Spokesman-Review.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s justice reinvestment task force has met just twice and has until December to produce its recommendations. Already, however, there are signals that it may propose easing up on prison time for drug and nonviolent property offenders as a way to save money and delay building a new state prison. Some outside commentators have called that a “smart-on-crime” approach.
The executive order to form the task force was only signed in June. Then it takes some time to get everything together. They’ve also had another meeting since this was published, that presumably Padden knew was on the agenda.
The task force was created in June through a federal-level initiative that is supposed to take a data-driven approach to increasing and reinvesting in public safety. Yet the data I have, as Senate Law and Justice Committee chairman, fail to support the notion that putting more burglars on community supervision will do much – except put them in a better position to reoffend.
Keeping people in jail for low level property crimes seems like an excellent way to integrate them back into society. Also, are we deriding the very notion of data driven approaches?
“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams once said. Here are three facts that cannot be ignored:
There was really no value added in quoting Adams there. The guy who signed the Alien and Sedition Acts likes facts. Here are some context free facts about prison in Washington:
First, reports of crimes and arrests have declined across Washington. Since 1990, the state’s population is up 40 percent, yet arrests are down 18 percent, and overall crime is down 10 percent. Washington’s incarceration rate is almost one-half the national average, and its property and violent crime rates have fallen one-third or more in about 10 years. There is no reason to believe these trends will not continue.
So less crime means we need to get tougher on criminals? It’s solid thinking right there.
And not for nothing, but we started doing adult drug courts in 2003 as one way of of moving away from mass incarceration. I’m sure whoever the equivalent of Senator Padden then was complaining about mollycoddling criminals and addicts. But while correlation doesn’t equal causation — and of course there are multiple causes for anything as complex as changes in prison population — I would posit that that’s a more reasonable explanation for a decline in crime in that time than harsh penalties.
The root cause of overcrowding at state correctional institutions is not the number of inmates but a lack of bed space that coincides with the state’s closure of not one, not two, but three prisons in recent years.
How we would pay for keeping more prisons open with the recent spate of austerity budgets pushed for by the GOP is left to the reader’s imagination.
Second, Washington’s prison population contains a large number of serious criminals. Almost 5,000 of those in prison as of June 30, 2014 – or 28 percent of the total prison population – were there for crimes of seriousness level 11 or higher. Level 16 is for prisoners serving life sentences or on death row; levels 11 and 12 include first- and second-degree rape, rape of a child, and intentional assaults causing great bodily harm.
I thought this article was about “drug and nonviolent property offenders.” Now we’re talking about the quarter or so of offenders that are in prison for serious crimes? How you deal with addiction (or for that matter people relaxing after work or however else non-addictively they use drugs) and petty theft should probably be different from how you deal with more serious crimes.
More than one-half of those admitted to prison in 2013 served time at least once before, and more than 40 percent of those admitted were convicted of crimes against persons. While less than one-third were property offenders, even 40 percent of them had prior violent offenses.
There’s no discussion in this if going to prison as opposed to committing those crimes is the cause of future crimes or escalation. But maybe don’t put how Washington’s prisons aren’t doing a good job of rehabilitating people into your article about how we need to send more people to prison for longer in Washington.
I suspect these statistics, which came from the task force, understate the dangerous nature of Washington’s prison population. For example, the governor’s group categorized certain burglaries as “nonviolent” offenses. Either way, even the task-force members would be hard-pressed to deny that earning a prison sentence in Washington means committing a lot of serious crimes. That’s how it should be, which is exactly why trading prison sentences for community supervision is no way to increase public safety.
Well it depends on the crime.
Finally, reducing punishment doesn’t reduce crime. Property offenses are the least-punished offenses in Washington, so this year I introduced legislation to increase sentences for habitual property offenders. In public testimony on this bill, law enforcement and lawyers told of offenders with 50 or more prior property crimes who don’t face prison time until after a dozen or more felony convictions. We heard similar accounts at the Senate Law and Justice Committee’s Oct. 3 work session in Spokane Valley – an area that is no stranger to property crime. In such cases, who is looking out for the victims?
I’m sorry, but if someone is committing 50 property crimes and not getting punished for it, they aren’t serious crimes. Or they’re like children or there’s some other mitigating factor.
Some argue that increasing supervision after prison will reduce recidivism. I am not persuaded, especially given a recent Freedom Foundation report that uncovered serious problems with home detention and electronic monitoring in our state, including a lack of adequate service and timely notifications to law enforcement. What’s to discourage a burglar from stealing if being caught is unlikely to mean prison or even effective community supervision?
So instead of having a bill to make supervision work better, Senator Padden decided to introduce legislation for throwing people into prison.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “pardoning the bad is injuring the good.” While releasing certain offenders may save money in the short run, doing so stands to hurt the people of Washington in the long run – and in more than their pocketbooks.
That quote is better than the Adams one, but I’d still ax it. Anything you want to say can probably be said better without it. Anyway, congrats on having a copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and/or having memorized two vague quotes from Founding Fathers.