After three months of Louisiana's attempt at criminal justice reform, Dan Fagan is ready to pass judgment on it as "foolishness." He points out that 76 out of 1,900 released prisoners have been re-arrested for a staggering rate of 4 percent. Though he didn't get more specific, it seems that most of those individuals were back in trouble for more nonviolent offenses.
Mr. Fagan's line of questioning defeats his own argument. By his own admission, two-thirds of murderers get away with their crimes. He follows that with this question: "Can you imagine how many criminals committing less serious crimes get away with it?" Well, I can think of a lot of bankers on Wall Street who got away with their criminal enterprises. Their offenses resulted in a lot of people losing their homes and their life savings, which is much worse than a burglar who steals a box of tools so he can sell it in order to buy food for his kids. Oh, and not a single banker went to jail. Rob a bank with a gun and get life in prison; rob a bank with a pen and get a raise.
Isn't the point of this whole exercise of reform to enable police to focus on the violent criminals and for society to make an attempt at rehabilitating the nonviolent offenders? If we put fewer people in jail, we can spend that money on the pursuit of violent offenders and counseling for the nonviolent. Does he really wonder why the court system is overburdened? Maybe if they didn't focus so much on nonviolent offenses, they would have more time (and money) to spend on more serious crimes.
Many studies have proven the direct relationship between time spent in jail and recidivism. If these nonviolent offenders didn't go to jail in the first place, a great number of them would have better educations, better job opportunities, better work records, etc. The system that has been in place for years has created a criminal class that costs a lot of money and denies human potential.
Fagan bemoans the fact that Louisiana entered into this reform without the financial resources of Texas. He should stop complaining about a lack of funding when he supports the no-tax mentality of Bobby Jindal. You get what you pay for, and Louisiana has been paying through the nose just so we can create criminals out of desperately poor people.
Louisiana's attempt at criminal justice reform may not be perfect, but it is long overdue and definitely an improvement over what we've been doing.