What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 6, 2013

Jack Kelly Sunday

In this week's column in the Post-Gazette, columnist Jack Kelly comes to the conclusion:
But if we want to prevent future Newtowns, the facts must matter to us.
Too bad his own definition of "facts" and how they "matter" doesn't exactly correspond to everyone else's.

For example, Jack writes about a particular crime reporter of the New York Times:
Every year or so for nearly a decade, Fox Butterfield of The New York Times has written a story puzzling over what to him was a paradox: As the rate of violent crime went down, the prison population went up.
And then a few paragraphs later:
It never seemed to occur to Mr. Butterfield that crime went down because more criminals were being locked up. But at least he acknowledged the facts, and puzzled over them.
Now take a look at what Butterfield actually wrote in 2004. In the New York Times. While writing about the rise of the prison population/decline in the crime rate "paradox":
The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.

The continuing increase in the prison population, despite a drop or leveling off in the crime rate in the past few years, is a result of laws passed in the 1990's that led to more prison sentences and longer terms, said Allen J. Beck, chief of corrections statistics for the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and an author of the report.
Yea, he's puzzled.  But there's more here.  Unlike Jack, Butterfield looks deeper into what's going on.  Here's what he wrote in 1997:
Of course, the huge increase in the number of inmates has helped lower the crime rate by incapacitating more criminals behind bars, though there is no generally accepted way to measure the impact; crime rose sharply in the mid- and late 1980's, for example, even as the rate of imprisonment rose much faster.

But a growing number of criminologists say they are troubled by evidence that the spiraling growth of prisons is also causing unintended consequences that may actually contribute to increased crime as well as undermine families and inner-city neighborhoods.
And then there's this from 1998:
The nation's prison population grew by 5.2 percent in 1997, according to the Justice Department, even though crime has been declining for six straight years, suggesting that the imprisonment boom has developed a built-in growth dynamic independent of the crime rate, experts say.

In a new report, the Justice Department said the number of Americans in local jails and in state and Federal prisons rose to 1,725,842 in 1997, up from 1.1 million in 1990. During that period, the incarceration rate in state and Federal prisons rose to 445 per 100,000 Americans in 1997, up from 292 per 100,000 in 1990.

As for why the number of prisoners continues to grow while crime drops, Martin Horn, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Corrections, said: ''You have to understand that as incarcerating more people has helped reduce crime, the number of people we sent to prison in previous years is tending to build up, creating a delayed effect. So you've built in this escalating growth.''
And then:
Still another reason for the growth, while crime drops, is that an increasing number of prisoners are being incarcerated for parole violations, about 30 percent today compared with 15 percent in 1980, Mr. Beck said. That means that the larger the number of prisoners, the bigger the number of people who will someday be released, and then, either because of their own criminal propensities or their experience behind bars, will be likely to commit some new violation and be rearrested.
Not much of a paradox, huh?

Jack then uses the research of Marvin E. Wolfgang to support his general point that gun control is unnecessary and that they deliver a "false sense of security."

Perhaps Jack should have paid closer attention to Wolfgang's bio.  From his obit at the Times:
However dispassionate was the form of his testimony, its content was sufficiently stirring to provoke any number of mailed threats. ''We kept a folder of these loony letters,'' said Esther Lafair, who had been Mr. Wolfgang's secretary for 27 years.

She said the letters came in whenever he offered reasons that the death penalty should not be used or how the distribution of handguns should be curbed.
Uh-oh for Jack.

Doesn't he read his columns before submitting them?

1 comment:

Jim Moore said...

Thanks for another Kelly expose. Please keep these up as you have opportunity. Here's another of Kelly's self-serving half-truths: He claimed that only one of the recent mass shootings occurred in a place where carrying firearms is allowed.

Really? Kelly must have an idiosyncratic definition of mass shooting. Just about off the top of my head, I count the following: the Fort Hood, TX shooting, the Aurora, CO theater shooting, the Richard Poplawski shooting, the Geeseytown, PA shooting and the Webster, NY shooting.