Looking through my tweets, I've attacked Cotton tweets making this claim in 2016 and 2018. Now 2021. It's like a cycle for him.

Here's the main rebuttal: so small a fraction of ppl committing crimes end up in prison that the problem isn't there. It's earlier.
People don't trust the police, or don't think reporting to the police is worth their time, or have other reasons to fear going to the police (like immigration status).

55% of non-lethal violent crimes go unreported, and 65% of property crimes.
Of those crimes that the police hear about or witness themselves, the percent that result in an arrest are below 20% for property crimes, and often below 50% for violent offenses... and that's after those low reporting rates.
Now, to be absolutely fair, clearance is not the only measure of police effectiveness: a cop on the corner may deter the crime in the first place, so no arrest needed.

"Low clearance" thus does not automatically translate into "ineffective policing," but it's concerning.
Regardless, low rates of reporting plus low rates of arrest mean that only about 20% of violent crimes and 5% of property crimes result in an arrest.

THAT'S the problem.

Increased risk of DETECTION, not harsher sanctions imposed whenever randomly arrested, is what deters.
After that, the data gets even messier than the usual level of messiness, but a ... challenging ... dataset suggests that about 30% of felony cases get dropped by the DA or judge (but the data is old, is from urban counties, and is... quirky).
After that? While almost everyone whose case moves ahead is convicted, usually via a guilty plea, about 40% are sent to prison, another 30% to jail.

All told? Under 10% of all violent crimes, and under 1% of prop, go to prison.

Which UNDERMINES Cotton's point.
Now, maybe we are just good at choosing the right 10% of ppl convicted of violence...

But the main filters are not reporting and not arresting--not DAs looking at cases and judges sentences--so that seems v unlikely.

Which suggests changing prison pops likely not doing much.
Anyway, this isn't a serious criminological argument. It's not intended to be one.

Cotton is autocratic at heart. He wanted to deploy elite military units against protestors.

And while prison is ineffective at stopping crime, supporting it is a good for of autocratic-signaling.
And will add, just to be clear: if you really want to reduce crime, and are thinking solely within the conventional criminal justice framework, the data is fairly unambiguous.

More policing deters. More prison does not. It's not a tradeoff.*
* Here, economics owes the world an apology. One of Becker's most seminal papers made this v argument: the risk of detection and the magnitude of the sanction are equal tradeoffs: 50% of 2 year in prison = 5% chance of 20: expected value is 1 year either way.

This is wrong.
The data are clear: 50% chance of 2 years deters far more than 5% chance of 20.

But Econ, and then Law & Econ, have been slow to accept that. And those two movements have def influenced how a lot of lawyers/legal academics think about this.

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More from @JohnFPfaff

5 Apr
I am not easily shocked. I get nervous, sometimes, at how insured I feel abt the persistent violence I study.

This article, about how two police officers terrorized a FIVE YEAR OLD BOY, shocked me.

I've rarely put trigger warnings on my threads, but...

The boy left school. So the school CALLED THE COPS.

Where did the cops find him? ONE BLOCK FROM SCHOOL.

He wasn't missing. He was ONE. BLOCK. AWAY.

This is the unnecessary start. Calling the cops. On this.
The cop immediately starts berating the boy. The five year old boy.


Just... sit with that for a moment. Not just that it could happen. But that a five year KNEW TO FEAR IT.


I mean, God damnit. FIVE.
Read 10 tweets
5 Apr
You know one thing the Millennials didn't learn from the Boomers?

The surge in crime in the 1960s-80s happened when the massive cohort of Boomers aged into their most violence-prone ages.

Know when the Millennials--almost = to the Boomers in number--hit those ages?

The 2000s.
Yes, there are lots of explanations that tie into cohort-differences. Lead! Abortion! Cell Phones! Video games!

(All surely mattered, but all to a lesser and more complicated and less-well understood than their evangelists would like.)

But it's a major, striking difference.
The Millennials ate more avocado toast but killed and attacked and robbed a lot fewer people.

Which is why I'm Team Millennial whenever the Boomers lamely try to wage generational warfare.*
Read 4 tweets
3 Apr
One thing to add to this.

I was once told that the median age of ADMISSION for someone sentenced to life without parole under PA’s 3-strike laws was... 40.

Forty. Look at those graphs. Forty.

Just when they are fundamentally changing away from what we punish them for.
That said, at the end of 2013, ~50% of all ppl aged 65+ in prison had been ADMITTED at age 55+ (only 50.4% of 65+ had served over 10 yrs), a much higher % than in the past (ie, in earlier studies a much greater % of those 65+ had been admitted when much younger).

This matters.
The US, at least, has a sizable cohort of older ppl who have not aged out of crime to the degree expected, and it’s not entirely clear why.

Some have tied it to life-long complications w elevated drug use in the 1960s-80s... tho that also implicates how we CHOSE to address that.
Read 5 tweets
11 Mar
I realize that states really are passing new and tougher laws against protests these days, but I'm beginning to fear our coverage is focusing on the wrong aspects. Here are two examples, from OK and KY.

OK: "You can now drive over protestors!"


The CIVIL immunity piece is new, and important, but the criminal part tracks the pre-existing defensive force language pretty much exactly. I don't see how this adds anything new to OK law, just re-iterates it.

This happens a lot! What is "carjacking"? GTA + assault. Etc. etc.
Or in KY, we recently saw outrage over "can't insult cops" in a riot bill.

What that provision did was just codify SCOTUS's fighting-words exception, setting the standard for cops at a "reasonable person"... an issue on which SCOTUS is basically silent and state courts split.
Read 7 tweets
10 Mar
OT1H, good to see the most punitive Western European country acknowledge this.*

OTOH, the minister acknowledged this while apparently introducing new, longer sentences.

Also, "most punitive in Western Europe" = rate 5 times higher than ours.**

* Crosses fingers, prays hard that no one says "but if you add up all the separate rates for the UK...."

** International comparisons always are merged jail-prison pops, since most places don't run separate pre- and post-systems. Which makes solid comparisons... tricky.
As a general matter, pre- and post-conviction measures shouldn't be added together, since pretrial is more about the flow in than the daily population.

That 639 rate for the US is based on the jail ave daily pop of 750K, not the annual admissions volume of 10,000,000.
Read 4 tweets
5 Mar
This is bad, but there's something much worse lurking in this bill.

It makes knowingly providing supplies that can be used as weapons a Class D felony. One to 5 years in prison.

If you think this isn't terrible, let's talk about water bottles.
You're a Good Samaritan. You bring some water bottles to a protest, both for people to drink, as well as to pour in people's eyes when the police launch tear gas that is banned in war but legal for domestic policies.

But you also know people might throw them.
Now, "knowing" is an important word here. Under the narrowest reading, you have to be practically certain (but not desire!) that they be used as a weapon.

A broader reading? You just have to be practically certain that they COULD be used as a weapon. Everyone meets this def.
Read 9 tweets

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