Progressive reporters often prattle about “mass incarceration,” as if incarceration rates were somehow excessive. But polls show most Americans don’t think prison sentences are too long for violent criminals, and many offenders spend little or no time in jail.
Lawyer Ted Frank calls the failure to jail violent offenders for long “our underincarceration problem.” He notes that “Keith Gibson had 29 felony arrests” and “nine convictions,” yet remained “on the streets at age 39 to murder six more people, including three after he was released for a probation violation.” This previously “convicted killer” had been released by a Delaware judge despite being “the prime suspect in his mother’s murder.” And “Semmie Williams nearly strangled an elderly man to death, but only served 3 years, and was free to walk the streets at the age of 39; he abducted and repeatedly stabbed a 14-year-old boy to death because he was white.” Another “career criminal” was left “free on the streets to massacre at least five in Waukesha.” “Alton Spann had a record of carjacking and armed robbery, yet was free to walk the streets at the age of 21 to murder a UChicago student in Hyde Park just a block from campus.”
In Philadelphia, an “illegal Congolese alien had already racked up multiple convictions, including for sex crimes, but still hadn’t been deported and was walking” the “streets free to rape” a woman on a “Philadelphia train.” In Chicago, Angel Ayala was “still on streets, free to murder an innocent woman,” despite prior convictions for “carjacking,” “aggravated battery,” and being “caught with loaded AR-15 after a shooting.” Another “career criminal, violent, repeatedly fails to show up to court, but” was “released on bail anyway. Rewards society by killing a man.” In Wichita, a “34-year-old career criminal with a dozen felony convictions was out on the streets and free to murder a 13-year-old girl, who died horrifically being dragged by a stolen car.”
As the Manhattan Institute’s Rafael Mangual notes, “The man accused of killing a University of Utah student-athlete has a history of committing violent crimes.”
Thieves and burglars often do little time, even after committing many crimes, and having long prior records of stealing and invading homes. In Chicago, “Lamont Gordon, a 20-time convicted burglar who’s on parole for nine burglaries, is charged with burglarizing a Lakeview business on Christmas Eve.”
Lawyer Bill Otis notes that most Americans don’t think sentences are too long for convicted criminals:
I bring you this poll from the Pew Research Center, a center-left outfit that often does useful research. The question it asked was whether respondents thought people convicted of crime spend too much, too little, or about the right amount of time in prison. The results will not come as good news to those campaigning for “decarceration” (and thus, though they refuse to admit it, more grisly episodes like the Waukesha massacre).
In sum, the result is that about 70% of the public thinks convicted criminals spend about the right amount of time in prison (37%) or too little (32%), while just short of three in ten (28%) think sentences are too long.
Among the more interesting results was that a distinct minority of Democrats (41%), and of blacks (40%), think that criminals are incarcerated for too much time. Clear majorities of those groups think the present level of prison sentences is about right — or not enough.
For years, we have heard that America is a shameful “incarceration nation” and that shorter sentences and early release are not only the right thing to do, but are politically popular. In dramatic fashion, this poll puts the lie to that argument. When “about right” or “not enough” is beating “too much” by 70% to 30%, there isn’t much room for doubt: The public overwhelmingly rejects the main staple of criminal justice “reform.” Indeed, the groups most often said to be its main supporters also, and quite clearly, don’t want it.