Clinton’s inane remarks about the shooting of Patrick Dorismond
were on a par with the rest of her inane campaign. Day after
day she inflicts on us her dreary Sunday-school sermons
full of vacuous pieties, and laced with a malice born of
inordinate ambition. The Mayor’s actions, she warned, "have
aggravated tensions in the city and have helped drive a
wedge between the police and the communities they serve."
Well, no, Mrs. Clinton herself had a lot to do with that.
Her dishonesty and opportunism is breathtaking even by Clintonian
standards. In January she asserted that Amadou Diallo had
been "murdered." She was forced to beat a hasty retreat.
Then she denounced the New York Police Dept. for being insufficiently
diverse. Her loathsome husband chimed in with his claim
that Diallo would still be alive today if he had been white.
In the meantime, Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn,
is busy investigating the NYPD for possible civil rights
abuses. Expect a string of indictments between now and the
reject, with all my heart, the notion that falling crime
rates demand rising mistrust between communities and police,"
Mrs. Clinton wailed at Riverside Church the other day. "I
reject the false choice between effective policing and mutual
respect... It is a false choice to say we cannot cut crime
and have better community relations. It is a false choice
to say that we cannot have safer streets and greater trust
and confidence in the police." It is outrageous that the
First Lady gets away with this kind of lying. Her attacks
on Giuliani are idiotic. There is nothing she can do as
senator about policing in New York. But there is something
she could do about America’s exploding prison population.
The Clinton administration could have done something but
did not. Federal sentencing guidelines mandate minimum sentences
for many offenses. Many drug offenses, including possession,
carry mandatory terms. What does Hillary think about that?
Juveniles are tried as adults. Does she think that is right?
California’s "three strikes" law, whereby a third felony
conviction gets you a mandatory 25-year prison term, has
been widely imitated. Should New York adopt it? America’s
mad rush to shovel more and more people into prison long
preceded Giuliani. Since 1970 the number of people imprisoned
in the United States has quadrupled; it has trebled over
the last two decades and has continued at a steady clip
during the Clinton era. Today, the U.S. imprisons more people
than any other country in the world save perhaps Russia.
The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population
and 25 percent of its prisoners.
Bill Bennetts of this world rejoice. A large prison population,
they claim, is a small price to pay for safe streets. However,
it is not murderers and rapists who are filling up the cells.
Most of the new inmates are nonviolent offenders. Of America’s
2-million prison population, about 1.2 million (60 percent)
comprise nonviolent offenders. Incidentally, one could easily
eliminate all crime by locking up, say, a quarter of the
population. At what point would Bennett admit that the policy
had failed? When the prison population reaches four million?
Five million? Ten?
for Hillary, not only is she dishonest, she even gets her
facts wrong about New York. Compared to other states, New
York’s record is pretty good: the crime rate here fell despite
one of the slowest growing prison populations in the country.
Between 1992 and 1997, the number of people behind bars
in New York went up from 61,736 to 70,026. Violent crime,
on the other hand, went down by 38.6 percent and the murder
rate by 54.5 percent. During the same time, California’s
prison population grew by 30 percent while its violent crime
rate went down a mere 23 percent, and the murder rate by
prison population is not likely to go down anytime soon.
Prisons today are big business. There is a financial incentive
to incarcerate ever greater numbers of offenders–too many
people would stand to lose too much money if the prison
gates swung open. Prisons provide employment to a vast correctional
staff. In times of recession, when prison population tends
to expand even faster than usual, they will soak up the
unemployed. Plus, prisoners need to be fed, clothed, provided
with plumbing and telephone services. Inmate telephone calls
are estimated to generate more than $1 billion a year. A
lot of companies’ livelihoods depend on the prison system.
A 1998 article in The Atlantic described something
called a Corrections Yellow Pages that lists more than a
thousand vendors. Among the items on sale were a "violent
prisoner chair," made of belts and shackles attached to
a metal frame, with special accessories for juveniles. There
was also BOSS–a "body-orifice security scanner." Meanwhile
corporations are busy constructing private prisons, which
can be built faster than state prisons and are cheaper to
operate. Private prisons generally use nonunion labor. Corrections
staffs earn less than they would in the state sector, and
receive fewer benefits and no pension.