A reader touches on several themes of TNC’s cover story:
The essay is indeed long, with a lot to chew on. One thing that struck me is the lack of input from families suffering from having a loved one murdered by a previously violent criminal who was released after a 5 or 10 year sentence, or who was never imprisoned despite a life of criminal violence. Such an omission is nearly always the case when dealing with this topic from the perspective of the suffering families of those imprisoned for life.
If someone wishes to make the argument that violent offenders, once they get into their 60s, have almost always aged out of their violent tendencies, that’s a debate worth having. But to simply ignore the percentage of murders that are committed by people who are younger than that, who have a previous history of engaging in felonious violence, is, well, incomplete. I’d suggest that without that examination, this topic can't be addressed in an intellectually rigorous fashion.
Secondly, while it may be true that criminality—as wrongly and loosely as that label is deployed by the state—is directly correlated with material deprivation, it is simply not true that murder is directly correlated with material deprivation. I think we can agree that the percentage of Americans who were materially deprived in 1930 was significantly higher than the percentage in 1990. Despite that, murder peak of 1930 was less than that of 1990:
There is much that cannot be disputed in Coates’s essay. The War on Drugs has been a corrupt, abject, disaster from the beginning, and it is contemptible that the people who have voted for expanding the prison industrial complex have also mostly thought it acceptable that prisons are not operated as lawful environments.
Another reader responds to the previous ones who expressed no sympathy for Odell Newton, the central character in TNC’s essay who’s serving a life sentence for killing a cab driver:
It’s responses like the ones from your two readers that temper my hope for criminal justice reform. They probably wouldn’t admit it, but the main purpose of our justice system as it currently exists is vengeance.