We Need to Get Smart, Not Tough, on Crime

Mark Kleiman thinks we need to punish more readily, but less severely
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2013 1:33 PM CDT
We Need to Get Smart, Not Tough, on Crime
We need to punish offenders, but long sentences are a bad deal.   (Shutterstock)

Talk to a Democrat about crime, and he or she is likely to try to change the subject. They're convinced that conservatives, "who want to fight crime by hurting people who commit it," have the upper hand, UCLA professor Mark Kleiman writes at the Democracy Journal. "On this theory, the voters aren’t buying what the good guys are selling: less punishment and more social services." Progressives who aren't running for office cling to the illusion that crime is an imaginary or overstated problem invoked to stoke racial fears. "We can and should do better" than this debate, Kleiman says.

Crime is real and has real costs—which fall disproportionately on poor people and minorities. Progressives should be raging against this, both with social programs, and, yes, with punishment. But because crime is a terrible value proposition, criminals tend to be short-term thinkers, which means long jail sentences don't work. What we need are swift, certain penalties, not severe ones, which means investing in policing and being stricter with handling parolees. "With a little less heated rhetoric and a little more practical reasoning, we could have a lot less crime." Click for Kleiman's full column. (Read more crime stories.)

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