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« Fostering Conversations that Matter | Main | ’As We Forgive’ makes the rounds »

March 31, 2009

Wilson vs. Loury

Recently we ran Glenn Loury's "A Nation of Jailers" in the Daily Roundup. James Q. Wilson of the American Enterprise Institute has now written a rebuttal. An excerpt:

Glenn Loury rightly directs our attention to the troubling fact that we have put into prison a large fraction of our citizens, especially African American men. No one can be happy with this state of affairs. It is difficult to create and sustain a decent society when many of its members are former convicts.

Worrisome as this may be, Loury says little about why this happened other than to say we are a nation of "racist jailers" who operate a "greed-driven economy" and have created a "so-called underclass" that reflects the "moral deviance" of all of us. He looks askance at those who speak about the "purported net benefits to 'society' of greater incarceration."

I am one of those, and I do not feel inclined to apologize. Loury does not refer to the scholarly work of those social scientists who have worked hard to understand why we imprison so many people and with what results. Let me summarize what Daniel Nagin, David Farrington, Patrick Langan, Steven Levitt, and William Spelman have shown. Other things being equal, a higher risk of punishment reduces crime rates.

Read more. Which writer do you think has a better grasp of the problem and the solutions?
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Comments

Jason Taylor


Except for homicide America is safer? Honestly, that's a pretty big "except".

Kim Moreland

Violent crime is a pretty big part of criminal activity, and I'd say also say dangerous crime--like theft without intent to harm can also turn violent.

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