Reason.tv: Filling Up Prisons Without Fighting Crime-Mark Kleiman on America's Criminal Justice System

UCLA Professor of Public Affairs Mark Kleiman is "angry about having too much crime and an intolerable number of people behind bars." The United States is home to five percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's prisoners, yet, says Kleiman, our high incarceration rate isn't making us safer.

In his book, When Brute Force Fails, Kleiman explains that, when it comes to punishment, there is a trade-off between severity and swiftness. For too long the U.S. has erred heavily on the side of severity, but if we concentrate enforcement and provide immediate consequences for law-breakers, Kleiman says we can both reduce the crime rate and put fewer people in prison.

Approximately 7 minutes.

Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Alex Manning. Edited by Weissmueller.

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  • kilroy||

    How about we stop making things that aren't crimes illegal? How do those numbers work out?

  • Pip||

    I blame the NY times who want to make things Delay did that were legal, illegal, because Delay did them.

  • Pip||

    I blame the NY times who want to make things Delay did that were legal, illegal, because Delay did them.

  • The Warden||

    Every Patriotic American should experience at least two years of mandatory incarceration.

  • Mosquevite Sandwich||

    What is responsible for all this crime in the States?

    Congress.

  • ||

    If you spend your time and effort locking people up for dumb ass shit, you will have less time to lock people up for serious shit. We are savagely authoritarian in this country on administrative matters. Get caught with a little bit of drugs, lie to a policeman, don't fill out your paperwork properly, or act on the wrong stock tip, you will go to federal prison for a year or more. Meanwhile, we wonder why cops never seem to have the time to solve murders and serious crimes.

  • Warty||

    lie to a policeman

    Try explaining to people why Martha Stewart went to prison. They usually don't believe you at first.

  • ||

    Example number one million of why the media does such an incredible disservice to this country. The dumb fucks were so caught up in the schadenfreude of watching someone they didn't like go down, they never bothered to notice what an injustice it was.

  • ||

    The joys of mob rule.

  • Warty||

    A friend of mine was in the same prison as Martha Stewart at the time, and she showed her around on Martha's first day. Apparently Martha was impossibly polite.

  • ||

    I hope your friend got out. And I have never gotten the Martha hate. She is a self made person and a hell of a business woman. She seems perfectly fine to me. And she let her daughter create a whole show dedicated to making fun of her. That doesn't strike me as the action of someone with the ego that the media claims she has.

  • CONCERNED CITIZEN||

    She was pretty impressive on 'South Park'

  • Warty||

    My friend spent a year in prison for possession of a bunch of heroin and coke and some guns. Because we all know that the way to make someone be no longer self-destructive is to lock them in a box.

    She's lucky she was rich and Jewish instead of poor and swarthy, so she only had to spend a year in a relatively cushy prison instead of 10 in a shitty one.

  • ||

    No kidding. With the mandatory minimums how did she manage to get off with a year? So I have to ask, she get any good lesbian action while she was there? Was she a LURD (lesbian until Release date)? Was Martha?

  • Warty||

    She was a stripper before she went in, so I certainly hope so.

  • ||

    I hope she got it on with Martha. That is a war story to end all war stories. "Let me tell you about the time I was in prison and got it on with Martha Stewart."

  • ||

    Hmm. Jewish, wealthy, with ready access to heroin and guns. Can I have her number?

  • CONCERNED CITIZEN||

    And getting a job with a felony conviction is no problem.

  • T||

    Not if you're a stripper.

  • ||

    a bunch of heroin...coke...some guns

    One year, excuse me, but who's the guy she told on that got 15?

  • Warty||

    Ha, I've wondered that myself. I hope he was a dick.

  • ||

    Same here. "Ohhh, but she's an aggressive businesswoman with high standards! That makes her a mean ol' bitch!"

    What always struck me as circuslike about that insider trading conviction was that Linda Lay (Kenneth's wife, of Enron infamy) did exactly the same thing, within about a month of Martha, on a much Hugh Jasser scale than Martha could ever have dreamed of. (Half a million shares vs. Martha's 3,928.) Linda Lay's total days in jail for the same offense? Zero.

    But none of Amurrika's indolent stay-home mommies who can't cook or keep house worth a damn would have relished seeing Lay carted off to prison; they wouldn't have known who the hell she even was. So Martha did time instead, so all the wannabes could gloat over her perp walk.

  • ||

    "If we include crime in the prisons, it's [the crime rate] not so good." - Mark Kleiman

    How about we try his brilliant theories out on the prison population first, then get back to us.

  • smartass||

    How exactly do you do that? Are they going to have normal jobs and families in prison or something?

  • ||

    You have to admit dude, it does make a lot of sense.

    Lou
    www.anonymity.th.tc

  • CatoTheElder||

    "We have a criminal justice system that doesn't know what every parent knows: that you influence people's behavior by having clear rules and enforcing those rules consistently."

    The professor omits one important thing that every good parent knows: you minimize the number of rules to cover the really important stuff.

    Otherwise, you end up with a nation where any prosecutor can say, "Show me the man and I'll find you the crime." Though that was said by Beria to Stalin, Holder could just as truthfully say it to Obama.

  • ||

    Yes. It's a bit tough to have clear rules and enforce them consistently when your average citizen is running around committing federal crime several times per day.

  • Pip||

    Or people like Joel Pile who have citizens arrested for political speech on private proprety. You know, I read somewhere that Joel Pile fucks sheep, though I find that difficult to believe.

  • ||

    You are correct, Pip, there is a rumor floating around that Joel Pile does indeed fuck sheep.

    I don't know what to believe, because Joel Pile will not deny the rumor that he fucks sheep.

  • Ray Ray||

    I'd have to say the average reason reader already knows there are a lot of dumb laws out there that contribute to prison overpopulation. There is a HUGE ignorance about just how easy it would be to reform your average criminal or deviant. Whether or not drug crime should be illegal, you have to be kinda a low life to not care about your circumstance enough to make it off drug probation. It's easy to teach these people by using operant conditioning, instead of being a bad mom n not setting clear rules and then beating the shit out of them when mom has had enough.

  • ¢||

    Meanwhile, we wonder why cops never seem to have the time to solve murders and serious crimes.

    Chopping up hookers doesn't flout authority, much. Putting "EAT A ASS" in the memo line on a check to the IRS does. The Man (yo) has his priorities perfectly straight.

  • normcash||

    I've been to jail many times and although never in prison, I had a close friend do two years for bookmaking. Most everyone I have come into contact with behind bars were there for stupid shit that didn't harm anyone. Now there are serious cases and we definitely need prisons but our current system just feeds the massive demand for fresh meat.

  • Edwin||

    heard the same arguments on Penn & Teller and am still unconvinced. Crime in this country has been going down for a long while. If incarceration has been going up, it seems that the cause of the crime going down is because more people who don't have the inclination or ability to follow laws of any, whatever kind they be, are in jail. Does no one remember NYC in the 80's? Now it's so safe by comparison it's unbelievable. Wasn't it the guys who wrote freakonomics who said that the crime in NYC went down because Guliani started pushing judges for longer sentences?

    Am I saying that obeying the law, even if some of them are bad, is a good thing? Yeah. Well, at least, that's how you have a peaceful, low-crime society. Whether or not some laws should be changed, is a separate issue. But the same things in the brain that makes people not steal or kill or rape, also makes them not break the law, or at least not break it much, like being a drug dealer. I'm pretty sure psychology has shown that, right? As in, the people who are more likely to do something that's VERY against the law, like deal hard drugs, are also more likely to kill, steal, etc.

    Being law-abiding can have it's downsides, especially if it leads to tyranny a la WW2 Germany, but America is pretty far from that, and we have our political process to get things changed. It's a winning strategy, get people to try to change the law instead of causing mayhem breaking it or revolting. It seems a lot of other countries are in bad situations because their people flip out and immediately resort to violent revolt, because they don't have an open, effective political process like we do and/or they don't have following-the-law culturally instilled in them.

  • Spoonman.||

    Dude, if you grow up in the ghetto barely knowing how to read, what the hell incentive do you have not to be a drug dealer? It's not like you're going to see any money any other way.

  • CONCERNED CITIZEN||

    Yes, the War on Poverty has produced some stellar parenting. Hell, the Left has put the KKK out of business.

  • Pip||

    Every time I see some dumb fuck with his pants to his knees and his boxers hanging out I think, Good Luck With That.

  • Ray Ray||

    Okay, all you told us is that you are old. I'm getting sick of people equating a fashion outside of their taste with bad/dumb/loser behavior. Every time I see some dumb fuck with Urkel pants on, I mind my business anyway. It's called taste, and yours isn't superior just because you say so. Why don't you go on Idol and sing about it.

  • doomboy||

    A+

    "an open, effective political process like we do"

    "we have our political process to get things changed"

  • ||

    ""Wasn't it the guys who wrote freakonomics who said that the crime in NYC went down because Guliani started pushing judges for longer sentences?""

    Being one who lived under Guliani, I heard the reasoning from his mouth many time. It wasn't necessary longer sentences. It was about arrests for quality of life crimes. If I put you in jail for drinking a beer in public, that one night, or a few hours anyway, you can't commit any other crime, other than in jail. Of course, not that all people who use substances commit bigger crimes, but people who commit bigger crimes also commit the smaller ones.

    What it boiled down to is that crime was common because cops where hands off unless you really did something big. The message was cops don't care. You could drink and smoke pot in parks and pretty much on the street and cops wouldn't give you a second look. Smoking pot in bars was very common. Rudy made cops appear to care by making them go after little stuff. Before long, eveyone got the message.

  • ||

    ""If I put you in jail for drinking a beer in public, that one night, or a few hours anyway, you can't commit any other crime, other than in jail.""

    Those who really did't give a crap about following the small rules would get arrested almost every day. If I'm running you in the system daily, you don't have much time to rob someone.

  • ||

    That's all well and good, but a huge part of this problem is that our criminal justice system has very effectively insulated itself from the "open, effective political process." The drug war is, of course, the prime example.

    I hear this argument a lot -- if you don't like the law, go out and get it changed. But it's just not that simple, and meanwhile we have a national mass-produced incarceration crisis that won't sit around and wait politely for the drug war to de-escalate through legislative action. We do need to change laws, yes, but I do think we also need to change the enforcement of any laws on the books and the punishment of offenders.

  • ||

    ""I hear this argument a lot -- if you don't like the law, go out and get it changed. But it's just not that simple,""

    It's not that simple when more people support that law than not. If the majority of people really had the opinion that many of us on H&R have, tough on crime ex-prosecutors would never get elected to a legislative position.

  • Mr. No||

    Wasn't it the guys who wrote freakonomics who said that the crime in NYC went down because Guliani started pushing judges for longer sentences?

    Actually, quite the opposite. That's what all the "experts" said, after they initially claimed crime was going to explode, who then reversed themselves and claimed it was the Tough on Crime crowd that reduced much of the crime. Little did they know, Roe Vs Wade had much more to do with it, then say, perpetually jack-booting people's faces ad nauseum.

    http://freakonomics.blogs.nyti.....u-believe/

  • ||

    Wasn't it the guys who wrote freakonomics who said that the crime in NYC went down because Giuliani started pushing judges for longer sentences?

    Actually, I think "Freakonomics" linked declining crime with the legalization of abortion. Their argument and logical link there was somewhat weak, I thought. That doesn't stop me from believing it, though. I sure as hell don't want people having kids they don't want, can't afford, can't care for, and have no intention of supporting without extensive public handouts.

  • ||

    "Wasn't it the guys who wrote freakonomics who said that the crime in NYC went down because Guliani started pushing judges for longer sentences?"

    No. In fact they argue the exact opposite. They demonstrate (fairly convincingly in my opinion) that the drop in crime is actually due to legalized abortion. Did you actually read the book?

  • A lawyer||

    Does swiftness reduce my billing hours?

  • ||

    Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert, vociferously opposes California's Proposition 19 to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis.

    It's because he's "against excess", you see.

    He should do the world a favor and hurry off into his grave.

  • ||

    Yeah Kleiman's pretty incoherent on that one -- he wants a strictly grow-your-own decriminalization, without any established industry. He says he's worried about a "corporate marijuana lobby."

    I guess he prefers the criminal marijuana lobby.

  • ||

    That is crazy. Either the stuff should be legal or it shouldn't be. If it should, then it shouldn't matter who produces it or how. What an idiot. So what if there is "corporate marijuana lobby", what are they going to lobby for? What is Kleiman so afraid of? Giving joints to darkies who will take all the white women?

  • ||

    ""What is Kleiman so afraid of? Giving joints to darkies who will take all the white women?""

    Something like that. A viewing of "Reefer Madness" probably highlights his concerns.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    So what if there is "corporate marijuana lobby", what are they going to lobby for? What is Kleiman so afraid of? Giving joints to darkies who will take all the white women?

    I, for one, support this and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    So what if there is "corporate marijuana lobby", what are they going to lobby for? What is Kleiman so afraid of? Giving joints to darkies who will take all the white women?

    I, for one, support this and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "Die in a fire" is officially overused, right?

    Kleiman should die in a car crash.

  • ||

    This would be TOTALLY worth it, just to see marijuana start being subtly promoted on the Disney channel. "Next, on 'Hannah Montana'..."

  • ChrisO||

    Sounds to me like he's on "the payroll." That's the only logical explanation for his argument.

  • Pip||

    "The United States is home to five percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's prisoners"

    [citation needed]

  • ||

    Maybe this one.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04......html?_r=1

    Hey, if I can copy and paste a sentence into a search engine so can you ;-)

  • Pip||

    How many people live in that prison known as North Korea? Or the one we call Cuba?

  • Pip||

    You know, I read the entire piece and while it did it claim that the US has "a quarter of the world's prisoners". But then I did read this:

    The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London.

    China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China's extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes.)

    China's 1.6 million prisoners + China's "hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China's extrajudicial system of re-education through labor", likely adds up to a number similar to the US. Given that they are comparing apples and oranges here, I gotta figure the US has far less than "a quarter of the world's prisoners".

  • LarryA||

    China's 1.6 million prisoners + China's "hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China's extrajudicial system of re-education through labor"...

    Add to that the number buried.

  • ChrisO||

    I'm almost daring that "dunphy" character to come here and peevishly start badgering me for evidence, but I recall reading some expert's opinion, based on some of sort of statistics, that the vast majority of predatory violent crimes (i.e., not two drunks getting into a bar fight) are committed by a relative handful of offenders who are simply "wired that way" and probably beyond rehabilitation. Keeping those people locked up keeps us all safer. But most of the others in the prison system? Not so much.

  • ||

    The crime issue seems to be one of the rare times in which libertarians DON'T usually argue for personal responsibility. So here's a thought: don't commit the insignificant crimes and you won't distract the police from solving the more important ones.
    Try it, it makes a bigger difference than wishing and moaning.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    "If they wouldn't make so many stupid laws I wouldn't break so many stupid laws!"
    -- William B. McCurdy

    ... Hobbit

  • guy in alley with knife||

    Here's a thought: Don't fight back and you won't get hurt. If you do fight back and do get hurt, well, you've got no room to blame me. Personal responsibility means that choices have consequences. Now, bend over and for God's sake, stop crying.

  • BakedPenguin||

    If another person's rights aren't violated, it should not be a "crime". Your morality is your own concern.

  • smartass||

    Hell, even if I was a hardass conservative who thought people needed to be punished for drugs and sex and fun and whatnot, I'm pretty sure I would favor immediate corporal punishment over prison, otherwise I'm victimizing myself, as a taxpayer.

  • fendi bags||

    Meanwhile, we wonder why cops never seem to have the time to solve murders and serious crimes.

  • fendibags||

    Try explaining to people why Martha Stewart went to prison. They usually don't believe you at first.

  • burberry scarf||

    You know, I read the entire piece and while it did it claim that the US has "a quarter of the world's prisoners". But then I did read this:

  • burberry scarf||

    Sounds to me like he's on "the payroll." That's the only logical explanation for his argument.

  • bags||

    How many people live in that prison known as North Korea? Or the one we call Cuba?

  • bags||

    That's the only logical explanation for his argument.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    How to Avoid Going to Jail under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 for Lying to Government Agents

    http://library.findlaw.com/2004/May/11/147945.html

  • ||

    You want answers, just follow the 'MONEY TRAIL'! The current laws are 'NOT' entirely about society's demand for public safety, Come on, It's a 'MONEY' Pit!
    Here's MY point, I read this article from NJ: http://www.nj.com/news/index.s.....s_sta.html
    'N.J. psychologist surrenders state license after alleged relationship with sex offender patient', Shocking right, what caught 'MY' eye is this paragraph,
    EXCERPT: 'Barone, 37, was previously responsible for about 100 staff members providing treatment to 426 civilly committed sex offenders'. Hello, 100 staff members with for 426 PATIENTS? Lifetime Civil Commitment and Lifetime sex offender treatment = BIG BUCKS! What is the over all cost to 'US' taxpayers for Special Courts, Special Hearings, Special prison's named 'treatment' facilities, , Special public defenders, Special staff , Special Guards all for Special Public Safety? WHO is benefiting? Crime, drugs, Sex offenders , the more fear and hysteria the bigger the profits! And, the high 'MY' Taxes! Do you think every report from these '100' Sex Offender 'Specialist' in NJ would claim there's 'NO CURE' for these Special patients? Easy people, It's just a question!

  • normcash||

    Similar scams in Juvie and FOC.

  • wormme||

    Rattan caning. Canings for non-predatory offenders who choose a whipping over a prison sentence.

    This is not a joke.

    http://wormme.com/2010/08/27/i.....g-america/

    You got a rational argument against it? Hit me. Er, figuratively.

  • ||

    Interesting, Upon reading the statistics at 'Bureau of Justice Statistics' which states in 2008, 1-31 citizens were supervised by corrections. (site and summary below) My question is, HOW MANY CITIZENS ACTUALLY HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORDS? Has crime reduced or 'increased' from ill re entry policies? Will back ground checks force people with past records, back into criminal activities to survive or cope in life? Is anyone observing the outcome of criminal database's limiting work opportunities for the working and/or willing to work ex criminals? I'm sure the justices NEW gossip lists will ill effect those with a former criminal history, right or wrong?
    Statistic: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.....amp;tid=11 My question is what percentage of American citizen's have which seems high to me Statistic:http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=11
    The total correctional population includes all persons incarcerated, either in prison, jail, or supervised in the community (probation or parole). Several different data collections are used to estimate this population, including the National Prisoner Statistics, Annual Survey of Jails, and Annual Probation Survey and Annual Parole Survey (listed under data sources). The basic count for correctional population is updated annually in the Probation and Parole in the United States series.

    Summary findings

    * In 2008, over 7.3 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at yearend — 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults.
    * About 70 percent of the persons under correctional supervision at yearend 2008 were supervised in the community, either on probation or parole, while 30 percent were incarcerated in the nation’s prisons or jails.
    * At yearend 2008 a total of 4,270,917 adult men and women were on probation and 828,169 were on parole or mandatory conditional release following a prison term.
    * State and federal prison authorities had jurisdiction over 1,610,446 prisoners at midyear 2008: 1,409,166 in state jurisdiction and 201,280 in federal jurisdiction.
    * Local jails held 785,556 persons awaiting trial or serving a sentence at midyear 2008. An additional 72,852 persons under jail supervision were serving their sentence in the community.

  • Kevin||

    Overall, great piece.

    Fixing the problem, as others have noted.

    We need to start by not criminalizing that which is not reasonably criminal.

    So, let's begin by

    A constitutional amendment:

    Any action in which there is no admitted victim, taking place privately and/or between 2 consenting adults shall not be criminal.

    Second Amendment, change the formula for passing criminal laws. The tougher the penalty the greater degree of consensus.

    ie.

    All Laws 50%+1 of the actual legislatures (not just those who showed up).
    Any Law with an option of prison, 60%
    Any Law with Mandatory min. Prison 70% and so on

    Hardly unreasonable that if we are going to forcibly confine someone, that a clear majority of us believe what they did merits such action.

    NEXT, we need to undestand that not all criminals are actively dangerous. That doesn't mean they don't need to be punished, or monitored, just that we don't need jail to do that. Let's look at fines, let's look at removal of social privilege (loss of Driver's License), let's look at ankle bracelets, curfews and community service. There are a host of better and cheaper alternatives to jail, particularly for non-violent offences

  • ||

    Incarceration is big business. If you legalized pot or stopped locking up minor drug convictions you'd put 30% of public union workers out of business. Think those goons are going to let that happen?

  • ||

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  • Kevin||

    The costs of prosecuting all these people for inane "crimes" is simply out of control. We're paying for judges, court administrative staff, probation officers, court appointed lawyers, transportation, and incarceration (which for some states exceeds $50,000 per year for each prisoner). And what do we get when the "criminal" is released? A guy that was probably not too bad when put away but is now nearly unemployable and really anti-social. If you're interested, see my blog at www.relentlessdefense.com.

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