The Problem Isn't Mass Incarceration; the Problem Is Not Enough Criminals Are Incarcerated

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

Robert Stacy McCain has the story of Deonte Lee Murray, 36, the innocent-until-proven-guilty suspect in the attempted assassinations of two Los Angeles County deputies. Mr Murray was arrested, following a pursuit and then standoff, on September 15th, not for shooting the two deputies, but for an unrelated crime, carjacking and non-fatal shooting of the vehicle’s owner on September 1st. Mr Murray tried to dump the pistol as he fled the scene, but it was recovered, and ballistics tests linked the weapon to the attempted murder of the deputies, and forensic testing confirmed that the gun was Mr Murray’s. Los Angeles’ CBS affiliate reported:

Murray has an extensive criminal history that includes convictions for sales of narcotics, firearm possession by a felon, burglary and terrorist threats. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged.

Mr McCain concluded:

People don’t usually begin their criminal careers with murder. No, they start small — a robbery here, a burglary there — and cycle in and out of the criminal justice system for a few years until, one day, they commit a heinous atrocity. Then everybody looks at their arrest records and says, “Why wasn’t this monster already behind bars?”

This is the philosophy behind “broken windows” policing, that we should arrest, convict and punish criminals when they start their ‘careers’ in crime. This was part of the way that Mayor Rudy Giuliani cleaned up New York City.

But, the left are calling our current prison population a ‘mass incarceration crisis, and are trying to get more prisoners released. The American Civil Liberties Union has come up with 50 state blueprints that explain what each state can do to cut its incarcerated population in half. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign website says:

We can and must reduce the number of people incarcerated in this country while also reducing crime. No one should be incarcerated for drug use alone. Instead, they should be diverted to drug courts and treatment. Reducing the number of incarcerated individuals will reduce federal spending on incarceration. These savings should be reinvested in the communities impacted by mass incarceration.

It’s policies like that which put Philadelphia Police Officer Charles Cassidy in his grave. In 2007, Officer Cassidy was gunned down by Lewis Jordan, a.k.a. John Lewis, when the officer interrupted Mr Jordan attempting to rob a Dunkin’ Donuts. Mr Jordan had been treated leniently by then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham’s department; he should have been in jail on a drug charge, but was allowed to live at home, with his mother, who was an armed corrections officer with a firearm at home.

What effect did the District Attorney’s leniency do for Mr Jordan? Instead of a conviction, probably on a misdemeanor, and perhaps a month behind bars to teach him a lesson, he was out on the streets, and engaged in a six-week crime spree. He’s now languishing on Pennsylvania’s death row. It’s the Keystone State, so he won’t actually be executed, but that part doesn’t matter; he’s going to die in prison.

Philadelphia had plenty of experience in treating criminals leniently, and then being shocked, shocked! when criminals who could have and should have been behind bars at the time upped their game to shooting police officers.

Larry Krasner, who was elected District Attorney in Philadelphia in 2017, and was the beneficiary of a huge campaign contribution from leftist billionaire George Soros, is a leftist who hates the police and doesn’t pursue supposedly petty offenses, and ran on a platform saying he would:

  • Stop prosecuting insufficient and insignificant cases
  • Review past convictions, free the wrongfully convicted
  • Stop cash bail imprisonment
  • Treat addiction as an illness, not a crime
  • Protect immigrants while protecting everybody
  • Reject a return to the failed drug wars of the past
  • Stand up to police misconduct

The wholly predictable results? In 2018, Mr Krasner’s first year in office, city homicides jumped from 315 to 353, a 12.06% increase. The following year, homicides held almost steady, rising to 356, but this year, wow, this year, there have already been, as of September 30, 348 homicides in the City of Brotherly Love. That’s with three entire months left to go in the year.¹

As we have previously reported, Cody Alan Arnett was convicted for two robberies in Lexington, on August 7, 2015, and sentenced to five years in prison for each offense. As early as June 26, 2018 he was recommended for parole, and was scheduled to be released on August 1, 2018. This would mean that he served a week less than three years for his (supposedly) consecutive five year sentences. Within two months of his release, Mr Arnett was arrested for the forcible rape at knifepoint of a Georgetown College coed, at a time in which he could have and should have still been in prison. Mr Arnett had five violent felony offenses on his record. Had the state parole board kept Mr Arnett in prison, where he belonged, he wouldn’t have been free to rape a young woman.

Mr Arnett has not been tried yet for the rape; the COVID-19 pandemic put a hiatus on trials. But his parole was revoked, and he will not be eligible for parole from his previous convictions until November of 2022. He could be locked up until as late as August 5, 2030, even without that trial ever happening.

Back to the beginning: why was Mr Murray not already in prison on the day he (allegedly) shot those two deputies? I don’t know, of course, but if there were an enterprising and diligent reporter in the area, his research would most probably uncover a history of lenient plea bargains, in which Mr Murray was granted lighter, concurrent sentences in exchange for not putting the district attorney’s office through the bother of actually trying him in a court of law.

Mr McCain has said it once before: the problem is not mass incarceration, but that we have not incarcerated enough people! We have too many people who could still be in jail, who should still be in jail, out on the streets, committing more crimes, turning more innocent people into victims, because we have not treated crimes seriously enough.
¹ – 348 homicides in 274 days equals 1.27 per day. With 92 days left in the year, the current rate indicates another 117 killings, for a projected total of 465. That would be the highest since 1990, and third highest in the city’s history.
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