Recently I mentioned how James Q. (broken windows) Wilson stunk up the place over at Volokh with some ridiculously moronic and unsupported statements in support of our incarceration rates, including this one
THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF PRISON: Several readers have said that prison would be fine if it did not cost so much. They typically quote the figure of $25,000 per year per inmate. Nobody knows if that is the right number, but let us assume that it is. Anne Morrison Piehl, Bert Useem, and others have estimated the costs of crime. Their calculations, presented in the book Prison State, shows that property and assault crimes committed by the median (50th percentile) offender in Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, and New Mexico range from $26,000 to $46,000. It would seem that prison pays: crimes avoided exceed the annual cost per inmate of locking them up.
Somebody with an I.Q. of 10 can spot the problems in this idiotic post, including the bizarre idea that anyone not locked up, or released early, will commit one crime per year, and… Drug crimes. The costs are based on assault and property crimes, not victimless crimes like consensual drug trafficking.
Enter pseudo-intellectualist George F. Will in the Washington Post: More Prisoners, Less Crime. He links favorably to Wilson’s work and goes on even further to support the racial inequities of incarceration. Will essentially claims that the reason blacks are incarcerated at a much higher rate than whites is not because of racism, but simply because blacks are worse.
But he supports it with evidence… Check this out:
Do police excessively arrest blacks? “The race of criminals reported by crime victims matches arrest data.”
Notice the trickery there? Let’s take a closer look. One of the biggest racial disparities both in arrest and in length of sentence (an element ignored in this instance) is in drug crimes. So who are these crime victims that are identifying blacks as the ones committing the crimes, then?
Officer, officer, yes it was a black man who made me smoke that pot!
There are no crime victims in drug arrests. Will is just manipulating the evidence to support his views.
So does he ignore drug laws completely? No, but check out what he does:
As for the charge that the incarceration rate of blacks is substantially explained by more severe federal sentences for crack as opposed to powder-cocaine defendants (only 13 states distinguish between the two substances, and these states have small sentence differentials), Mac Donald says:
“It’s going to take a lot more than 5,000 or so [federal] crack defendants a year to account for the 562,000 black prisoners in state and federal facilities at the end of 2006 — or the 858,000 black prisoners in custody overall, if one includes the population of county and city jails.”
So, despite the horrendously long sentences for crack defendants and the fact that they are given to disproportionately black men — because that doesn’t account for all blacks in all jails, then race is not a concerning factor in incarceration.
Does that make any sense at all? Of course, the crack disparity is only one of many racially skewed aspects of drug laws.
Will finishes up his racist defense with another nod to Wilson
And, Wilson dryly adds, the report does not explore “whether society gets as much from universities as it does from prisons.” A good question, but not one apt to be studied in academia.
No, it is not a good question. It is an inane question. Even if you count for the fact that universities gave us James Q. Wilson and George F. Will (every valuable fruit has a few spoiled spots), the value received from educating people far outpaces the value of paying to build a criminal class.
Now note, that both Wilson and Will had to ignore or completely dance around the vast numbers of people in prison for drug offenses in order to half-justify their bizarre and racist diatribes.
So who links favorably to Will’s piece?
Why, the drug czar, of course.
[Note: I’m betting this particular link on the drug czar’s “blog” was directed by Walters himself — based on reading his own racist book, which he co-wrote with William Bennett and John DiIulio.]
Update: Naturally, Scott Morgan has an excellent take as well.