Frank Zimring (Berkeley professor and so-called expert on prison populations, long time enemy of tougher prison sentencing for criminals and opponent of 3-Strikes) gives credit to a 6-year reduction in incarceration rates to Proposition 36 (no prison time for 1st and 2nd time drug offenders) that went into effect 3 months ago. He goes on to say prison populations will drop another 5,440 inmates next year.
It was not explained how a law that has been on the books only 3 months is responsible in any way for the last 6-year decline in prison population by professor Zimring.
Most likely prison populations have been coming down as a direct result of less crime. Fewer crimes translate into fewer victims, arrests, prosecutions and fewer incarcerations.
The only question is, “Why is there less crime?” It’s certainly not because we have decriminalized drugs under Prop. 36. for the last 3-months.
The reason crime has gone down is simply the result of the incarceration of the people who are most active in their criminal conduct – repeat offenders!
The problem with Frank Zimring is he has already drawn his own social conclusions and is desperately looking for some supporting evidence to reinforce them.
His predictions on reduced prison populations as a result of Prop. 36 are based on his long held belief that if you reduce penalties you reduce prison populations.
During the 3-Strikes campaign his projections were that California would see a doubling of its prison population in 5 years with a need to build 20 new prisons to handle the flood of new inmates this law would bring.
Instead no new prisons have been built since 3-Strikes while CA experienced an inmate decline the likes of which have never been seen prior to the passage of this law.
So now we have an opportunity to see the results of de-criminalizing the use of drugs for 1st and 2nd time offenders – and providing therapy instead of incarceration.
Without discussing the effectiveness of drug treatment – as a policy, this will provide an opportunity for far more and widespread use of drugs without the fear of criminal prosecution that would result in time behind bars. Thus, more drug use equals more drug supply. The result will be more prison time for those who manufacture, transport, or sell drugs and an even greater prison population when these new addicts turn to crime to support their habit.
In the end, Zimring will be as wrong about his predictions regarding Prop. 36 as he was about his predictions of 3-Strikes.
Why Zimring continues to pursue policies that propagate the very condition that he wishes to alleviate is beyond my understanding. Why the media relies on his translations of statistics is also without understanding.
What is easier to understand is if you want to stop crime, the place to start is by locking up criminals