Jazz wrote earlier today about how it seems counterintuitive to raise the threshold of felony theft in hopes of lowering the crime rate. I get why he thinks that’s seems bass ackwards, but yes, raising the threshold of felony theft does reduce crime rates.
The Pew study found crime rates were already going down before the reforms were being enacted, but Right on Crime deputy director Derek Cohen tells me there’s another reason why raising the felony threshold works (emphasis mine):
“While there is a decade of solid evidence that illustrates how incarcerating low-risk offenders produces a long-run public safety detriment, the authors are not saying that. They are showing that thefts collectively – felony or misdemeanor – do not increase when the perceived deterrent of an onerously low property offense threshold is raised. What does happen is judges are presented with more options in adjudicating these thieves; that they can pick the best sentence to bring about the best result and not be handcuffed to simply jailing them.”
That last part is key because there are people who decide to do stupid things and get caught. I know there are plenty of people who believe everyone convicted of a crime should do time behind bars, but this ignores how much it costs to house someone in a government facility. Texas is a great example of how justice reform actually saved billions in taxpayer money by changing sentencing laws. Guess what? The crime rate is STILL going down.
Georgia saw a similar situation pop up, when they started doing justice reform. FreedomWorks’ Jason Pye writes how things changed once lawmakers started studying the issue:
“If current policies remain in place,” the report explained, “analysis indicates that Georgia’s prison population will rise by another 8 percent to reach nearly 60,000 inmates by 2016, presenting the state with the need to spend an additional $264 million to expand capacity.”
State lawmakers have passed reforms over the course of Deal’s tenure in office. Georgia has seen a 10 percent drop in recidivism and taxpayers have saved $264 million in future prison costs. Importantly, crime rates have dropped by 2 percent since 2012.
These aren’t leftist governors deciding to be wishy washy on crime. These are fiscally conservative, REPUBLICAN governors (Nathan Deal and Rick Perry) going through with common sense measures to solve a problem. And they’ve worked! The reason these reforms have worked is because of the crimes they’ve targeted, but also because keeping people out of prison actually reduces the chance for criminals to re-offend.
The move towards justice reform obviously has plenty of critics because of actions taken by California in the last few years. But let’s be honest, it would be stupid for the Republican Party to NOT point out how it’s been leading the way in getting justice reform started. Oklahoma’s decision to raise the theft threshold was done under Republican Frank Keating. Alabama’s was done by Republican Bob Riley. Yes, Democrats have been involved in it too, but these reforms were mostly done by the GOP. This is an issue they should start owning because it makes sense. It may seem odd to think raising the threshold for felony theft is conservative, but if it saves taxpayer money, makes the state smaller, and gives people a chance to become all they can be without the help of the state, how can that NOT be conservative?