Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Conservative Ideas in Criminal Justice

One of the most astute journalists on criminal justice issues, Heather McDonald, has penned another great article for City Journal.

An excerpt.

“Conservative ideas are responsible for the two great urban-policy successes of the last quarter-century: the breathtaking drops in crime and in welfare dependency since the early 1990s. You’d never know it from members of the opinion elite, however, who have rarely recognized these successes, much less their provenance. So let’s recapitulate an epic battle about the foundations of social order, a battle that had not just a clear winner but also a clear loser: the liberal policy prescriptions for cities that many opinion makers and politicians still embrace. New York has been at the center of this battle because so many of the bad ideas that wreaked havoc on cities hatched there. Fortunately, so did many of the antidotes…

“…Since 1990, New York has experienced the largest and longest sustained drop in street crime of any big city in the developed world. In less than a generation, many major felonies have fallen 80 percent or more. New York did this by rejecting everything that the criminology and social-work professions counseled about crime. Police Chief William Bratton announced in 1994 that the police, not some big-government welfare program, would lower crime by 10 percent in just one year. He not only met his goal, he bested it—by ruthlessly holding precinct commanders accountable for the safety of their beats, by the rigorous analysis of crime data, and by empowering street cops to intervene in suspicious behavior before a crime actually happened.

“Just as the liberal philosophy of exempting the poor from bourgeois standards of behavior set up a vicious cycle of fatherlessness, crime, and dependency, the conservative philosophy of universal standards set up a virtuous cycle of urban renovation. With crime in free fall across New York in the 1990s, the tourism and hospitality industries boomed, triggering demand for the low-skilled welfare mothers whom welfare reform was nudging into the workplace. Businesses moved back into formerly violence-plagued areas, creating more jobs. Neighborhoods were transformed.”