Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Why the Left Must Start Caring About Its Victims

It's Michael Shellenbarger, at London's Daily Mail, "The Waukesha Christmas parade slaughter exposes the deadly insanity of the progressive left's drive to protect alleged criminals at the expense of crime victims":

Milwaukee's District Attorney John Chisholm admitted on Monday that the $1,000 bail that released Darrell Brooks Jr., the man who went on to kill at least six people at a Christmas parade in Wisconsin, was 'unacceptably low.'

But Brooks, a repeat offender, was just one of several men to have been charged with serious crimes, who had recently been given relatively low cash bails and diverted away from pre-trial detention by Chisholm and Milwaukee judges.

On November 11, Kenneth Burney was charged with four counts of attempted murder.

Burney reportedly shot and wounded at least three Wauwatosa police officers in a hotel, while he awaited trial for serious charges including 'disorderly conduct with use of a dangerous weapon as a habitual criminality repeater and with domestic abuse assessments.'

Burney was reportedly released on a $1,000 signature bond in March. A signature bond does not require a defendant to deposit any money. It only asks for a promise to pay the bond if they fail to show up at trial.

On November 13, Michael Dabney was charged with 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide, while he awaited trial for 1st-Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety involving use of a weapon. His bail was set higher at $10,000.

But Dabney posted bail and was later accused by police of killing a woman and attempting to make it look like a suicide.

All three men had supposedly been under the supervision of the same non-profit diversion program, JusticePoint.

How many lives could have been saved and how many fewer people would have been victimized, had Brooks, Burney, and Dabney, been kept in jail? We do not yet know because the reports that JusticePoint was supposed to file with the Milwaukee Board of Supervisors in 2020 or 2021 are not available on its web site, and the reports for 2017 through 2019 are incomplete, according to an investigation by Bill Osmulski of the MacIver Institute.

Calls to JusticePoint and to the Milwaukee Board of Supervisors requesting the reports were not returned.

What we do know is that some defendants facing serious crimes, some sickeningly similar to the circumstances of the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy, were given low cash bails and released awaiting trial in Milwaukee county.

The MacIver Institute found that defendants charged with crimes like felony hit and run 'are often released without any kind of supervision at all.'

In 2019, 'judges have released 11 of 31 defendants charged with hit and run involving injury or great bodily harm without supervision. Their bail was set as low as $250.'

Regardless of the specifics, the Waukesha killings points to how progressive prosecutors, judges, and policymakers are sacrificing public safety on the altar of reducing incarceration at all costs, ostensibly to reduce racial inequities, namely the disproportionately high representation of African Americans in prison. But the main reason for high levels of incarceration isn't because America is a racist society, it's because we're a violent society. The homicide rate in the United States is four times as high as that of France and Britain and more than five times higher than Australia's. Rising incarceration rates in the past reflected rising rates of violent crime. From 1990 to 2010, two-thirds of the increase in inmates nationwide came from people convicted of violent offenses.

It's true that black people are more likely to receive higher bail requirements for the same crime, to be offered plea bargains that include jail time, and to be incarcerated while waiting for trial, than white people. And African Americans are more likely to be charged with low-level offenses, fined for jaywalking, and have their probation revoked, than white people.

Black Americans are also seven to eight times more likely to commit and die from homicide than white Americans. In 2019, the homicide rate for white people was 2.3 per 100,000 whereas it was 17.4 for black people. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 81% of white victims are killed by white offenders, and 89% of black victims are killed by black offenders.

Our goal should thus be first and foremost on reducing violent crime, which has the secondary benefit of reducing incarceration. And yet the focus of progressives has over the last two decades been narrowly on reducing racial inequity in incarceration.

When District Attorney Chisholm was elected in 2007, he announced that he was seeking to send fewer people to prison even though he knew it would result in homicides. 'Is there going to be an individual I divert, or put into a program, who's going to go out and kill? You bet.'

By diverting even people who attempted homicide, like Brooks, Jr. did of his girlfriend, progressives like Chisholm have been removing the threat of jail from the calculus of criminals. In 2007, the homicide rate in Milwaukee was 12 per every 100,000 people. It rose to 25 in 2015, fell to 17 per 100,000 in 2019, and leapt to 33 in 2020.

In 2019, Milwaukee judges diverted every single one of the 19 people charged with murder into JusticePoint, rather than hold them in jail, Osmulski found. And, between 2017 and 2018, the share of defendants that committed a new crime while under Justice Point's supervision increased from 8 percent to 13 percent.

But another factor behind rising homicides has been the progressive demonization of police which, demoralizes police officers, leading them to withdraw from policing, and emboldens criminals.

In 2014, the police chief of St. Louis described less aggressive policing and more empowered criminals as the 'Ferguson effect.' Three months earlier, a white police officer in nearby Ferguson had killed an unarmed eighteen-year-old black teenager. 'I see it not only on the law enforcement side,' said the chief, 'but the criminal element is feeling empowered by the environment.'

In 2015, the US Department of Justice asked one of the country's leading criminologists, Richard Rosenfeld from the University of Missouri–St. Louis, to investigate whether homicides had, in fact, risen after Ferguson. At first, Rosenfeld was skeptical. He noted that homicides in St. Louis had already started rising before 2014...