While I was glad to see another piece on criminal justice making the front page of the Times (lord knows the subject has been conspicuously absent from the presidential debates), the article weirdly omitted some key issues surrounding astronomical imprisonment levels in the U.S.
First, one of the reasons that our crazy conviction rates and harsher sentences matter, beyond interest in international comparisons, is that they correspond to massive disenfranchisement levels, another of our ignominious distinctions among Western countries.
Second, the piece discusses rates of imprisonment without questioning the value of prisons themselves — making no mention whatsoever of the nation’s prison abolition movement. I mean, I know it’s the New York Times, but still. Look at the other perspectives included:
“The simple truth is that imprisonment works,” wrote Kent Scheidegger and Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in The Stanford Law and Policy Review. “Locking up criminals for longer periods reduces the level of crime. The benefits of doing so far offset the costs.”
If you’re gonna quote some dude saying that prisons are a dandy solution to crime, then you could at least find someone who thinks that maybe prisons aren’t totally awesome. And who doesn’t view the whole world and its human populations in terms of a series of cost-benefit analyses.