An editorial in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune begins by asking why Illinois’ (and the country’s, as has my county’s) crime rate has gone down and listing several possible contributors. It then asks why has the state's corrections expenses have quadrupled when corrections has been a small part, if any, of the contributions to the fall in crime (which includes the homicides of interest to my office).
I particularly like their last point that a “culture change” (I’ve used social norm change in prior posts) will be required to move “to a more affordable, more effective prison (I would say “justice”) system”.
In their editorial they point out several examples of system “corrections” already being “piloted” in Illinois. There is an “intensive-treatment program for non-violent offenders at Sheridan Correctional Center”, rehabilitation to reduce recidivism, that has been remarkably effective. The article also mentions mental health courts providing mental health treatment instead of incarceration for appropriate non-violent offenders. In the same vein, drug courts diverting appropriate individuals to needed treatment. They close with some points about the need for a “makeover” of the parole system to increase its effectiveness.
We do need improvements in our “justice” system to make it more effective at reducing violent crimes and more effective at rehabilitating offending individuals back into society. That improved system would be more cost effective and more effective for the people that the system impacts. We do need a culture change, and a change in mindset, to realize that rehabilitation and treatment is the most effective way to deal with this problem and help these individuals and our society as a whole. We must demand improvement and change (the current system costs "$7 billion a year”, to say nothing of the human cost, “and doesn’t work”).