Academics Fix Another Problem

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

How many academics does it take to fix America’s criminal justice system? Twenty.

criminal justice

That’s how many participated in a National Research Council (NRC) study of U.S. prisons and their effect on inner cities. The study was conducted under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

“After decades of stability, U.S. federal and state prison populations escalated steadily between 1973 and 2009, growing from about 200,000 people to 1.5 million,” they found. “The increase was driven by changes in policy that imprisoned people for a wider range of offenses and imposed longer sentences.”

“Has this greater reliance on incarceration yielded significant benefits for the nation, or is a change in course needed? A committee of the National Research Council examined the best available evidence and found no clear evidence that greater reliance on imprisonment achieved its intended goal of substantially reducing crime. Moreover, the rise in incarceration may have had a wide range of unwanted consequences for society, communities, families, and individuals. The committee’s report, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences, urges policymakers to reduce the nation’s reliance on incarceration and seek crime-control strategies that are more effective, with fewer unwanted consequences.”

One of the score of scholars who contributed to the report, University of Michigan historian Heather Ann Thompson, outlined the group’s findings in an appearance at the Center for American Progress on May 28, 2015. Among the “crime-control strategies” they recommend: more housing.

Yet and still, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported in 2009 that “The federal government commits substantial resources to support housing and mortgage markets through a combination of spending programs and tax expenditures (that is, subsidies conveyed through reductions in taxes). During the crisis of the past two years, the budgetary commitment expanded—to about $300 billion in fiscal year 2009—from the placement into conservatorship in September 2008 of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and the creation of new housing programs.”

It should be noted that at the time that the CBO delivered this report, it was effectively under control of the Democratic Party which dominated the Congress.