John Pfaff’s Op-Ed Cited By Judge Richard Posner


John Pfaff’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on better approaches to violent crime was cited by Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a dissent in the case of United States of America v. Norvell Moore.

Needless to say, there is no recognition in either the district court’s sentencing statement or my colleagues’ majority opinion of the need to curtail imprisonment of violent offenders, a need stressed in an excellent recent article by Fordham Law Professor John Pfaff, “A Better Approach to Violent Crime: If We’re Going to End Mass Incarceration in the U.S., It Will Mean Figuring Out Better Ways to Prevent Violent Crimes and to Deal with Those Who Commit Them,”…

As Pfaff explains in his Wall Street Journal article, one of his concerns is the high discount rates of typical violent offenders, though he doesn’t use the phrase “high discount rates” but instead says that “those contemplating crime often don’t know how long sentences are, or even that sentences have gotten longer. More important, those who are most likely to engage in violence and antisocial behavior tend to be very present-minded. They don’t think a lot about tomorrow. What really deters them, if anything does, is the risk of getting caught in the first place: policing and arrests, not prison sentences.”

Many violent offenders, moreover, age out of crime, often as early as their mid- to late-twenties—“by the time a person in his 30s has generated a long criminal history suggesting that he poses a continuing risk, he is likely to have started ‘aging out’ of crime, violent behavior in particular. … A long prison sentence also undermines someone’s ability to find the stabilizing influence of a job or a spouse, thus increasing the long-run risk that he will reoffend.” Among other alternatives to prison for dealing with violent criminals, Pfaff mentions “hot-spot policing,” which “identifies … high-crime blocks and significantly increases patrols and community involvement there [and]has produced significant results.”


Read full dissent.


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