By Patrick Appel
The Economist explains the limits of tough on crime by studying California:
Since , California has passed around a thousand laws mandating tougher sentencing. Many have gone through the legislature, where politicians of both parties compete to be “toughest on crime”. Others have come directly from voters, who often bring a “crime-of-the-week mentality” to the ballot box, says Barry Krisberg, the president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a think-tank in Oakland. The result is a disaster, says Ms Petersilia. California spends $49,000 a year on each prisoner, almost twice the national average. But it still has the country’s worst rate of recidivism, with 70% of people who leave prison ending up back in it, compared with 40% in America as a whole.
Thoreau follows up.