Sunday, April 10, 2016

Incarceration Not Always Mass

The New York Times' Amy Chozick reports

Former President Bill Clinton said Friday that he regretted drowning out the chants of black protesters at a rally in Philadelphia the day before, when he issued an aggressive defense of his administration’s impact on black families. His reaction thrust a debate about the 1990s into the center of his wife’s presidential campaign, one that has focused heavily on issues of race and criminal justice.

“I know those young people yesterday were just trying to get good television,” Mr. Clinton said Friday of the Black Lives Matter protesters who had accused him and Hillary Clinton of supporting policies that devastated black communities. “But that doesn’t mean that I was most effective in answering it.”

 "It was a remarkable reversal for Mr. Clinton," wrote Ms. Chozick, who evidently believes "I know those young people yesterday were just trying to get good television" is a sentence of endearment. Still, while Bill Clinton's reference to "hopped on crack" are roughly as contemporary as "feeling groovy" (and even in the early 90's were intended to instill panic), he might hold off on apologizing for the sentiment.

Although the 1994 crime act had little to do directly with mandatory minimums, it helped inspire enactment of state laws mandating a minimum period of incarceration for specific crimes or under specific circumstances. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the targets of reform advocates, who decry the "mass incarceration" which followed the crime epidemic of the 80's-90's.

Though at one time overemphasized, mandatory minimums can play an effective role in deterring crime. Presumably, there are at least three children in New Orleans who would agree now that

Will Smith, a former defensive end for the New Orleans Saints, was shot and killed late Saturday night in that city, after his car was rear-ended. Police are calling the shooting a road-rage incident....

New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison told NPR last year that his city’s murders are not due to gangs, but rather “domestic violence related homicides, arguments that have turned fatal, and robberies that have turned fatal.”

Indeed, that’s what appears to have happened Saturday night. According to a police statement, Smith’s Mercedes was hit from behind by a Hummer, causing him to crash into the car ahead of him, which was being driven by a friend.

“At some point, the 30-year-old male driver of the Hummer and Smith exchanged words. The 30-year-old male driver produced a handgun and shot Smith multiple times, the female victim was also shot to the leg,” police said.

The female victim was Smith’s wife. She was taken to a local hospital and is reportedly in stable condition. The pair have three children.

Mass incarceration sounds horrid. However

On Sunday, police announced they have booked 28-year-old New Orleans resident Cardell Hayes on second-degree murder. In 2014, Hayes pleaded to illegally carrying a weapon and possession of drug paraphernalia and was sentenced to six months probation, The Advocate reported.

God, it is said, is in the details. The devil, it is also said, is in the details, and we don't know the facts about the circumstances pertaining to Hayes' arrest in 2014 on weapons and drug charges. But a sane and responsible society would incarcerate an individual found guilty of simultaneously possessing a weapon and drug paraphernalia, and do it each and every time.

It should not be optional, not should it matter if it contributes to "mass incarceration."

Rest in peace, Mr. Smith.

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