Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Has the Pendulum Swung Against Tough-on-Crime Policies?

An interesting piece at the New York Times, "Two Powerful Signals of a Major Shift on Crime":

WASHINGTON — Two decisions Monday, one by a federal judge in New York and the other by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., were powerful signals that the pendulum has swung away from the tough-on-crime policies of a generation ago.

Critics have long contended that draconian mandatory minimum sentence laws for low-level drug offenses, as well as stop-and-frisk police policies that target higher-crime and minority neighborhoods, have a disproportionate impact on members of minority groups. On Monday, Mr. Holder announced that federal prosecutors would no longer invoke the sentencing laws, and a judge found that stop-and-frisk practices in New York were unconstitutional racial profiling.

While the timing was a coincidence, Barbara Arnwine, the president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said that the effect was “historic, groundbreaking, and potentially game-changing.”

“I thought that the most important significance of both events was the sense of enough is enough,” said Ms. Arnwine, who attended the speech in San Francisco where Mr. Holder unveiled the new Justice Department policy. “It’s a feeling that this is the moment to make needed change. This just can’t continue, this level of extreme heightened injustice in our policing, our law enforcement and our criminal justice system.”

A generation ago, amid a crack epidemic, state and federal lawmakers enacted a wave of tough-on-crime measures that resulted in an 800 percent increase in the number of prisoners in the United States, even as the population grew by only a third. The spike in prisoners centered on an increase in the number of African-American and Hispanic men convicted of drug crimes; blacks are about six times as likely as whites to be incarcerated.

But the crack wave has long since passed and violent crime rates have plummeted to four-decade lows, in the process reducing crime as a salient political issue. Traditionally conservative states, driven by a need to save money on building and maintaining prisons, have taken the lead in scaling back policies of mass incarceration. Against that backdrop, the move away from mandatory sentences and Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s ruling on stop-and-frisk practices signaled that a course correction on two big criminal justice issues that disproportionately affect minorities has finally been made, according to the advocates who have pushed for those changes.
Again, just so much MSM bull.

See Heather Mac Donald, at the New York Post, "Ignoring the realities of NYC crime":
New York’s 20-year reprieve from debilitating violence may well be over. Yesterday, US District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York Police Department has been willfully targeting blacks and Hispanics for unlawful stop, question and frisks based on their skin color alone, in violation of the Constitution.

She has appointed a federal monitor to oversee the department and to develop new policies to end its alleged practice of biased policing. If the monitor adopts Judge Scheindlin’s definition of unconstitutional policing, it is not too soon to start looking into relocation plans.

The key moment of Scheindlin’s ruling comes with her discussion of the stops performed by one of the NYPD’s most hard-working members.

During a three-month period of 2009, the high-crime Fort Greene area of Brooklyn had been experiencing a spate of robberies, burglaries and gun violence. The robbery victims described their assailants as four to five black males between the ages of 14 to 19; the burglary victims reported the suspect as a Hispanic male between 5’8’’ and 5’9’’, in his 30s; and the shooting suspect was described as a black male in his 20s.

During that same period, Officer Edgar Gonzalez of Brooklyn’s 88th Precinct conducted 134 stops, 128 of which had black or Hispanic subjects. That stop ratio is consistent not only with the specific crime patterns then afflicting Fort Greene but also with the overall rate of crime in Gonzalez’s precinct. Blacks and Hispanics commit nearly 99 percent of all violent crime in the 88th Precinct and over 93 percent of all crime.

Scheindlin, however, apparently believes that population ratios are the proper benchmark for measuring the legality of stop activity. She points out that Gonzalez’s racial stop rate “far exceeds the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in the local population (60 percent).”

In other words, though whites and Asians commit less than 1 percent of violent crime in the 88th Precinct and less than 6 percent of all crime, according to Scheindlin 40 percent of all stops should be of whites and Asians, to match their representation in the local population.

Never mind that the suspect descriptions that Gonzalez was working off of gave blacks and Hispanics as robbery, burglary and shooting suspects. To avoid an accusation of racial profiling, he should have stopped whites and Asians for crimes committed — according to their victims — exclusively by blacks and Hispanics....

The rest of Scheindlin’s opinion is equally blind to the realities of New York crime and policing. She evinces little understanding of what it means to live in a high-crime neighborhood, where youths congregating on the corner can be the prelude to gun violence or a street rampage. She has accepted at face value the most far-fetched evidence against the NYPD, such as state Sen. Eric Adams’ absurd and uncorroborated accusations against Commissioner Ray Kelly. She has potentially restricted the NYPD’s ability to monitor the performance of its commanders and officers and to make sure that they are actually working to keep the city safe.

The result is not only an insult to the most effective, professionally run department in the country. It may also signal the end of the freedom from fear that New York’s most vulnerable residents have enjoyed for two decades.
Regressive leftist idiocy in action once again.

Additional case in point: Scott Lame-ieux at Lawyers, Gangs and Muggings.

BONUS: At the Last Tradition, "Crime Softy Eric Holder seeks to avert mandatory minimum sentences for some low-level drug offenders to curry favor with minority groups":
For progressive[s] like Attorney General Eric Holder it’s not about being an effective crime fighter. What’s more important to them is politically correct policing that may garner votes, but leads to real crime.
Ding ding!