Law Enforcement Dividend: Who Benefits When Crime Is Prevented?

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This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Rafael Mangual, Manhattan Institute senior fellow, about his newly released book, Criminal (In)Justice, examining where crime is occurring in the U.S., what types of crimes those in the prison systems have committed, and the tradeoffs faced by society when considering defunding the police and reducing prison populations.

Guest:

Rafael Mangual is a senior fellow and head of research for the Policing and Public Safety Initiative at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. His first book, Criminal (In)Justice, will be available in July 2022. He has authored and coauthored a number of MI reports and op-eds on issues ranging from urban crime and jail violence to broader matters of criminal and civil justice reform. His work has been featured and mentioned in a wide array of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, New York Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and City Journal. In 2020, he was appointed to serve a four-year term as a member of the New York State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He holds a B.A. in corporate communications from the City University of New York’s Baruch College and a J.D. from DePaul University in Chicago, where he was president of the Federalist Society and vice president of the Appellate Moot Court team.

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Joe Selvaggi:

This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi.

Joe Selvaggi:

Welcome to Hubwonk, a podcast of Pioneer Institute, a think tank in Boston. The United States has the dubious honor of having both the world’s highest incarceration rate and the most people behind bars. Indeed, though, the us has just above 4% of the world’s population. We hold 21% of the world’s prisoners. These outlier statistics impose an enormous cost to taxpayers, to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate more than 2 million people and attempt well-intended reformist to reduce enforcement and jail sentences as a form of compassion or social justice. But the case for decarceration or to defund police activity relies a different often overlooked cost of crime that falls to the victims and communities on which criminals prey. What is the value of keeping criminals off streets to the citizens who are no longer harmed or the families that are no longer disrupted or the communities that will enjoy safer streets?

Joe Selvaggi:

How should criminal justice reformers weigh the welfare of convicted criminals against the benefits of crimes avoided in vulnerable communities? My guest today is Rafael Mangual, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an author of the newly released book, Criminal Injustice, what the push for decarceration and de policing gets wrong and who it hurts most. Mr. Mangual’s book examines where crime is occurring in the US, what crimes those in prison systems have committed and the trade offs faced by society when considering defunding police and reducing prison populations, we’ll discuss the favorable trends in public safety that have attended successful law enforcement and make the case for more informed and targeted reform that incapacitates our worst criminals while also remaining sensitive and vigilant to the needs of historically crime ridden communities. When I return, I’ll be joined by Manhattan Institute, senior fellow and author Rafael Mangual.

Joe Selvaggi:

Okay, we’re back. This is Hubwonk. I’m Joe Selvaggi, and I’m now pleased to be joined by senior fellow and head of research for the policing and public safety initiative at the Manhattan Institute and author of the newly released book, Criminal (In)justice, what the push for decarceration and de policing gets wrong and who it hurts most – Rafael Mangual. Welcome to Hubwonk, Rafael. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. Thank you. Well, lemme just say, I, I loved reading your book as a fellow urbanite, someone who lives and has always lived in the middle of a city these are issues that we deal with all the time and it’s in the headlines every day. So let’s start at the beginning. I think your book is well grounded in its way. It, it weighs the benefits of criminal justice reform against the cost of crime to of course, victims of crime families in those communities and the communities in which the crimes are committed.

Joe Selvaggi:

I like to quote Thomas Sowell pointing out that there’s, there are no solutions only trade offs, and your book does a nice job of, of talking about the trade offs. So let’s start at the beginning with some background data, we know we have a lot of crime in the us and a lot of folks in prison in the us particularly compared with the rest of the world. Let’s at start at the high level, let’s get a sense of how much crime and how much incarceration we have relative to our let’s say westernized neighbors.

Rafael Mangual:

Sure, sure. Well, it’s often said that usually meant as a point of, of criticism that the us has about 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prisoners. This is kind of, you know, always presented as prime facia evidence of an over-incarceration problem. And, you know, those numbers do sound jarring on their face. But they lack a lot of a really important context. One piece of context is that the us also has by virtue of its size, a lot of pockets of very hyper concentrated crime and not just any kind of crime, really serious, violent crime crime that would result in a hefty prison sentence, irrespective of where you committed it in the world. So it’s not necessarily that the United States is a more punitive nation than our Western European Dem democracy neighbors. It’s more so that we just have more of that kind of crime.

Rafael Mangual:

And one example of this is Germany, which actually sentences a higher share of their convicted murderers to life in prison than does the us in the UK, for example, there’s a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. If you’re caught with an illegal firearm, whereas in a city like New York, like New York, you may get probation for an offense like that. So it’s not that that the us is more punitive it’s that we have a lot more really serious crime, particularly homicides. The us sees you know, over 20,000 homicides a year now, which is a lot you’re talking about, you know, maybe seven or 800 in the UK in a given year by comparison. So we, we do have a lot of pockets of, of, of really hyper concentrated crime. And that’s an important point to make because we often, I think talk about crime in, in national terms partly as a point of convenience. But we also talk about in citywide terms as a point of convenience, but the reality is, is that crime is, is, is a very, very problem that does not affect the vast majority of the country. The vast majority of the us is as safe as the safest places in the world.

Joe Selvaggi:

I want to zero in on that, because you do go to great lengths in your book to talk about the fact that when you talk about averages, none of us lives in an average town and an average community average state that there’s huge disparities between let’s say communities that for, for the most part have no crime and other communities that have you know, the vast majority, you isolate counties and communities even districts within cities that have all the crime even comparing one part of a city to another. I live in the middle of Boston where we, we have virtually no crime. If I go to another part of Boston, there’s gonna be substantially more crime, say more about the fact that crime is, is particularly concentrated by geography.

Rafael Mangual:

Yeah, so the geographic concentration of crime is actually really stunning. And in fact there is a criminological rule of crime concentration. So this is an analysis that’s been replicated in cities around the world. And basically what the rule of crime concentration says is that in any given city, about 5% of street segments are gonna see 50% of all crime with respect to violent crime. It’s gonna be between three and 4% of street segments that see about 50% of all violent crime. This is really important in part because it, it, it gets at why, you know, national or citywide averages you know, crime rates like that. Don’t actually tell us how safe we are at a given point in time because they represent aggregates and we don’t live in the aggregate, but it’s also important because it helps contextualize things like police resource deployment and how we understand those decisions.

Rafael Mangual:

You know, a lot of our criminal justice debate is sort of rooted in reactions to disparities that our criminal justice system produces in terms of enforcement outcomes. But that is largely a function of where police resources are deployed, which is in part a function of where crime concentrates, right. I’m old enough to remember where one of the, sort of most potent critiques of American policing was that they weren’t responsive enough to crime in low income minority neighborhoods. And that, you know, a, a, a, a white neighborhood would get just, would get a faster 9 1, 1 response than say, you know, a low income black neighborhood in New York city. The understanding crime concentration, I think helps contextualize that. And it also, you know, gives us, I think a, a better idea of why the data look like they do with respect to disparities.

Joe Selvaggi:

I wanna also say that we have a lot of people in prison, but the good trends, again, I know it’s both the case in your you’re New York and my Boston that the trends in crime independent of how many people are incarcerating are going down by substantial number. You, you talk about those trends for the last three decades, largely something’s going, right. Meaning if public safety is your concern, we’re doing a lot whatever we’re doing public safety has been improving for the last three decades.

Rafael Mangual:

It has, although, unfortunately, as, as we started to see in, in 2020 and 2021, those gains are now being reversed. A lot of cities, too many cities have actually reached crime levels, violent crime levels in particular that are as bad as they’ve ever been. Philadelphia broke its all time homicide rate record in 2021, Indianapolis Louisville Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, you know, I think had to go back to the 1980s to get a, a homicide rate as high as it had in 2020 and 2021. There are far, far too many cities. Baltimore broke a record in 2019. Far too many cities are now seeing the public safety gains of the last, you know three decades, quarter century start to ERO. And I think part of that has to do with the fact that we have systematically taken our foot off the gas in this country with respect to not just criminal enforcement, but also, you know, we’ve eroded the infrastructure of our criminal justice system in a lot of really important ways.

Rafael Mangual:

We’ve watered down our laws by, you know, enacting in some cases much needed, but in other cases, misguided sentencing reforms we have functionally watered down those laws by virtue of, you know, progressive prosecution policies that, you know no longer seek particularly harsh sentences even for really serious crimes or for, you know, repeat chronic offenders. We have seen a real disinvestment from policing both through affirmative defund campaigns, but also through just, you know, a refusal or, you know, a lack of, of initiative to backfill positions that have been dwindling in terms of the number of officers on the beat. Part of that, I think is just a function of the fact that we hired nearly a hundred thousand police officers as a result of the 94 crime bill. And those officers then started to become eligible for retirement in around 2014.

Joe Selvaggi:

So I, I want to dig deeply into that I, before we make sort of causational assertions about how it is that we sort of had an inflection point and started going the wrong direction again, let’s just again, start from the beginning or from the basics. You also make clear that all these people that we have incarcerated at this point, again, it’s far ahead of our, our neighbors that they’re not in jail for what’s commonly thought of as minor drug offenses, that’s sort of non-violent offenders, right? We imagine that we swept up some teenager on a corner who had a joint in his pocket. Now he’s doing hard time. You sort of dispel that myth in your analysis of, of who it is that is in these prisons, say more about what the, a profile of the, the typical prison inmate looks

Rafael Mangual:

Like. Yeah. I mean, I think the first thing to understand here is that incarceration in prison is not even the most common response to a state felony conviction. So state felony convictions account for the majority of our imprisonments, which is almost entirely at the state level because, you know, nine and 10 prisoners or, or state prisoners, which is just a function of the division of jurisdiction between the federal and state governments. But once you understand that only 40% of state felony convictions actually result in a post-conviction sentence. So 60% of people who get convicted of a felony are either gonna get probation or they’re gonna get time served you know, in, in pretrial detention and that’s it, or they’ll get community service or some kind of diversion program for the people who actually do get sent to prison. These are not first time offenders.

Rafael Mangual:

It’s really important to understand that we have this narrative in our country, that we are sort of systematically denying. People’s second chances we have second chance month. When you look at the profile of the average state prisoner in the United States, what you’ll see is someone who has more than 10 prior arrests and about five prior convictions. So these are not people who have been denied second chances. These are people who have had and blown several second chances and have, have re-offended again, on top of that, most of these people are not serving particularly lengthy sentences. The median term served in, in state prison. The United States is 15 months. This is I think surprising to a lot of people who have been told their entire lives, that we have this sort of mass incarceration problem. This that’s a result of really draconian sentences, particularly sentences handed down for, for not so serious conduct.

Rafael Mangual:

I think what we see is that the sentences aren’t particularly draconian, at least not in terms of their actual effect and with respect to how much time of a sentence is served. But also they’re not for particularly low level conduct. 55% of Allstate prisoners are primarily incarcerated for a violent offense. If you add weapons offenders to that list, you get to 60% of all state prisoners. Now notice I said, primarily incarcerated for one of the things you have to understand about how our incarceration data is kept is that we categorize people as violent or, you know, drug offenders or property offenders as a result of the conviction charge for which they stand to spend the most time incarcerated. So if you are convicted of a drug crime, say you, you know, are, are convicted of possession with intent to distribute. You’ve got two kilos of cocaine on you.

Rafael Mangual:

You were pulled over with that in your trunk. You also had a firearm, technically you’re a weapons offender as well as a drug offender, but because of how much more time you might get for the drug charge, you’re going to be listed in the data as a drug offender. So you’ll be incarcerated primarily for the drug offense, even though you were also a weapons offender. The other thing we have to remember is that lots of drug criminals also have violent criminal histories, which is going to inform the sentences that get handed down. We have this tendency to kind of, you know, look at offenses in isolation and then judge the punishments based on that kind of isolated view of a single, you know, interaction with the criminal justice system. And that’s just not how it works. Sentences are often a function of criminal history because that, you know, more holistic view gives us a, a more total picture of the potential threat posed to society by an individual who’s being convicted of a crime. And I think that’s exactly how we want you know, our, our criminal justice decisions to, to be made. The, the thing we have to get away from is pretending like we can just sort of place people into static categories of violent and non-violent because it just doesn’t work that way.

Joe Selvaggi:

Indeed, I think again, when we’re talking about this push to decarcerate some in a sense, if you wanted to find parody with our Western neighbors, we would have to reduce our prison population by nearly 70%, which may sound appealing to, in a sense join the, the modern world in incarceration rates. But we’re, if, if it’s, if what you say is true, we wouldn’t be letting out 70% of you know, minor drug offenders, we’d be letting out violent criminals. But to work on what you just said, I think one of the more important facts in the book book, and you just brought it up here is we don’t have a criminal specialist there aren’t like floor men there aren’t like arsonists you know, drugs dealers, generally speaking criminals commit a vast array of crimes. They ultimately are convicted for one or two of those, but rarely does somebody you know do one crime in none other they, they, they run the gamut of, of all kinds of things. So say more about what you think in the sense of the push to decarcerate, how would we, you know, who would be, we be letting out were we to try to decarcerate?

Rafael Mangual:

Yeah. I mean, well, this is the thing, right? I mean, if implicit in the mass incarceration, critique is support for a massive decarceration solution, you can’t over incarcerate, you know to that degree without also believing that we have to decarcerate to the same degree in order to get to whatever level people have predetermined as the right number of people to have in prison as a society. A again, the problem with this approach is that in order for us to reach either parody with Western European democracies or to cut our prison levels by any significant percentage we would have to release people, not just who have been convicted of a violent crime, but also who have proven themselves to be chronic offenders. Again, remember you’re talking the average prisoners 10 prior arrests, five prior convictions already when they get released from state prison.

Rafael Mangual:

But these are also people who have proven themselves highly likely to reoffend again. So we have longitudinal analyses done by the bureau of justice statistics over several cohorts. And basically what we find is that over about a decade, more than 80% of people released from state prison are going to reoffend. At least once on average are gonna be rearrested another five times when you consider that alongside the fact that only a minority of crimes ever get reported to the police, and then only a minority of those crimes actually result in an arrest. They get cleared as, as the jargon goes. We are incurring a, a very, very real risk. Should we decide to go down the road of incarcerating by 50%, which is what president Joe Biden committed to when he was on the campaign trail or, you know, 40%, which is what the bread and center for justice at NYU has proposed in the past.

Rafael Mangual:

These are real costs. And the other thing I, that, that I really wanted to get across with this book was that their costs that are not going to be evenly distributed across America, because again, crime is hyper concentrated and so criminals don’t come, you know, from every part of society. And so if we were to release people, those criminals are going to be concentrated in neighborhoods that already have a lot of problems that already are suffering from disinvestment and other social ills. And those problems are only going to get worse because we know that crime in and of itself is not only criminogenic in that it leads to more crime within that community, but it also is, is incongruous with economic development and dynamism and, and that often gets, gets forgotten.

Joe Selvaggi:

Yeah, I think you make a good point in your book to talk about the fact that one of the, the functions of incarceration is incapacitation, right? You can’t commit additional crimes. Do you have solid data on, let’s say I think you just presented it, but let’s assume you know, is there any data that said, okay, for every person we let out or don’t let out X number of future crimes are likely to be committed? Yeah,

Rafael Mangual:

So, so there are some analyses. And I think I, I cite one of them in the book, but basically the, the, the, the literature supports the following claim, which is that for every year, the average prisoner spends incarcerated. Society is spared about eight index felonies. The index felonies are the sort of eight major crimes that are tracked by the FBI systematically. Four of them are violent. Four of them are property crimes. So you’ve got murder, you’ve got assault, you’ve got burglary, you’ve got robbery, you’ve got rape. You’ve got arson and you’ve got grand larceny and then grand larceny auto. So, you know, eight index offenses AB abated for every year that someone’s incarcerated. Again, those are, those are real costs that, that we’re saving society and not society as a whole. Those are real costs that we’re saving in very, very small slices of just a handful of American cities, which is where most of the crime concentrates.

Rafael Mangual:

And so, you know I, I think it’s really just important for people to internalize that reality that releasing the majority of prisoners in the United States is guaranteed to result in otherwise avoidable crimes should as opposed to, you know, having kept those people incarcerated. And that’s the incitation point. A lot of criminal justice AEs tend to focus on things like deterrents and rehabilitation, and look, I’m all for, you know experimenting with rehabilitation programs. But the reality is that we have not yet figured out or not yet even come close to figuring out how to reliably re rehabilitate prisoners, let alone to do that at scale, at the scale that we would need to do with a prison population of nearly 2 million people. We’re a prison and jail population.

Joe Selvaggi:

Yes. I’d be eager to hear and would support anything we could do if we could discover a way to rehabilitate these people and safely release them. But as you say, that’s, that’s not reality. That’s a lot of wish casting. You also say in a book, I don’t wanna make light of this issue, but the Richard por joke, I remember that well, when he said having visited a prison for a research for a movie, he was doing his conclusion after he came away, was thank God that we have prisons. So I think your book also sort of makes that assertion. You, you do talk about what’s now a very controversial issue up for debate, which is pre-trial BA cash bail, these kinds of things. Yep. Which, you know, those of us who lean libertarian is sort of are uneasy with the idea that folks are in jail before they’ve been convicted of a crime. And you know, it’s based on whether you have enough money to get yourself out. So a violent guy with lots of money might get out and a poor guy with no money who isn’t violent, might you know, languish in jail, waiting for his trial to come. Surely you see some injustice somewhere in that

Rafael Mangual:

System. Yeah. I think that’s the central critique of you know, a, a bail system that is heavily reliant on monetary conditions on release, I E cash bail. And, and I think that critique is, is valid and, and worth a response. And so my policy proposal in response to that critique is that we should reorient the pretrial release inquiry around dangerousness around the risk that an individual poses to society. Now, I understand, you know, as a, someone who’s fairly libertarian myself, you know, that there are worries about that. And, and I think the response is, is that there is due process in that situation. You, you know, yes, you’re not convicted of a crime. You haven’t been proven to have committed that crime beyond a reasonable doubt yet. But a judge does have to find a probable cause, meaning that it is more likely than not based on evidence presented by the prosecution, which you can challenge as you know, a defendant in court that you have more likely than not committed that crime.

Rafael Mangual:

And that finding, I think, you know, is rightly held constitutionally congruent, which is to say that it’s enough to justify a short detention on the basis of dangerousness while your trial makes its way through the system. I think one of the real reasons that bail has become such a hot button issue is a function of the fact that we underinvest in our criminal justice system. The whole reason that we talk about bail reform is a function of how much time people stand to spend in pretrial detention as their case makes it through the system. It is in my opinion, in a country as rich, as hours in absolute shame, and a point of disgust that it can take two, three years for a criminal case to get from filing to disposition. What I think we really need to do is not necessarily get rid of cash bail entirely.

Rafael Mangual:

And I’ll, I’ll tell you why in a second, but make cash bail a very, very rare thing, orient the pretrial release inquiry around risk, and then drastically shorten the amount of time that it takes a case to make its way through the system. And that means funding more, prosecutors funding, more judges funding, more defense attorneys so that these cases can, can get through the system more quickly. Now, the reason I said, I wouldn’t totally eliminate cash bail is because again, incarceration is a very, very life disrupting experience. And so I do imagine that there is a subset of the criminal offending population, people who have been charged with crimes for whom you could mitigate the risk of re-offense sufficiently without incarceration, by just tying their behavior to the money that they might put up to secure their release. And I think people should have that option.

Rafael Mangual:

If you, if we think that, you know, making you put up $10,000 in order to avoid pretrial incarceration is going to be enough to keep you on the straight and narrowed while your case pens, then there, you know, and you can come up with that money, then you should be able to do that and, and not have to you know spend time in jail. And, and so, yeah, I think there are a lot of other issues underlying our criminal justice debate with respect to pretrial detention that just don’t get enough attention. I mean, one of the things I think New Jersey did so well when they reformed their cash bail system was that they added, I think it was like $20 million for new magistrate judges to be hired. Now it turned out to be not nearly enough. And so it still takes a pretty long time, but they also put a meaningful cap you know, on how long you could spend in pretrial detention.

Rafael Mangual:

What people don’t tell you in is the last point I wanna make on this is that defense attorneys are usually pretty okay with the case, taking a really long time to make its way through the system. The reason for that is that evidence gets stale memories, fade, witnesses, move, they die. And so, you know, there is some data to suggest that the longer a case pens in the system, the more likely a favorable outcome for the defendant is. And I think defense attorneys know that. And so, you know, it’s not out of the realm of a possibility that they might be playing some games to keep those cases delayed.

Joe Selvaggi:

Yeah, fair enough. But right to a speedy trial believe is among our enum enumerated rights. So we, we shouldn’t that shouldn’t be controversial. We we we’re entitled a quick trial. All right. Let’s shift our conversation from decarceration to defunding of police. I think that’s been a popular theme over the last two, two years, unfortunately, since the murder of George Floyd your book challenges that the, the high level narrative that police counter to our perhaps shared view that police reduce crime there seems to be a narrative that somehow more police means more crime. Say, I wanna form this in a, a bit of a you know, a question, but let, let’s start at the beginning. You, you do in your book, say, look, there’s limits to how much police reform can do for us, because at the start of the day, police do not get involved in that much crime, meaning they don’t shoot, they don’t arrest that many people, they don’t shoot that many people, they don’t kill that many people. So even if you were a hundred percent effective, there’s not that much going on, say more about what the, the quote unquote problem is in the first place.

Rafael Mangual:

Yeah. I mean, so I think the point I was really trying to make there is that the impetus for our police reform debate is usually police use of force. Whenever the reform debate heats up in this front, it’s almost always in response to a controversial police shooting or some other kind of use of force, like the murder of George Floyd, which of course sparked a, you know, a, a really, really huge national conversation. Really wasn’t so much of a conversation, but a national movement to reform police that took on a lot of, of momentum really quickly. And so if in fact the police reform a debate is really centered around how we can minimize police use of force. The point I’m wanting to make is that, well, I think we have to start from the understanding that police use of force is already very, very rare.

Rafael Mangual:

And so there’s not a ton of room for improvement on that front. Now, I think that that shocks a lot of people who watch a lot of news or who get, you know their sense of, you know, what the truth is on this front from social media, because in a country with 340 million people, you can film, you know, one really terrible police, citizen interaction every day, and it can go viral and it creates the impression that this is a very common occurrence, even though it’s not. And what I, I think people need to understand is that, you know, take 2018. For example, I, I estimated the police officers fired their, their weapons a little over 3000 times that year across the country, it’s about eight shootings a day. It sounds like a lot. But when you understand that we’re talking about almost 700,000 police officers who made 10.3 million arrests that year, even if you assume that every single police shooting happened during the course of a separate arrest, you’re still only talking about 0.03% of all arrests involving the use of deadly force.

Rafael Mangual:

It’s not very common. So again, the margin for improvement is very, very small. When you look at non deadly force, you see a lot of the same. There was a, a study that I talk about the book looks at over a million calls for service across three police departments, one in North Carolina, one in Arizona, and one in Louisiana over those million calls for service. Those calls resulted in about 114,000 criminal arrests and that entire data set, there was only one fatal police shooting captured. And in more than 99% of that 114,000 arrest number police use no force whatsoever. They only use force in about 0.3% of all of those arrests. And in 98% of the cases in which force was used, a team of medical experts reviewed the, the records of, of the inmates on, on the offenders on who force was used.

Rafael Mangual:

And they found that 98% of them suffered either no injury or very mild injury. So the idea that police are using force often let alone excessive force often is just wrong. But it, that, that, that misapprehension colors, our police reform debate. And so I think people enter that debate with very, very high expectations as to how much police force will be cut. And I think, you know, one of the things I wanted to start that particular chapter with was just grounding the conversation in data so that people understand that from the get go, this is already an incredibly rare occurrence, and you can only make a very rare thing so much rarer. Indeed.

Joe Selvaggi:

I think it’s a function of, as you mentioned, social media, again, if one of these horrible things happens once a month, you know, 12 times in a year of, of, you know, 340 million Americans and everything is filmed, we get the distorted impression that is happening everywhere all the time. That’s definitely an unfortunate phenomena. You did, did cite in your book. You, you mentioned the term, I like it a criminogenic which is something that creates more crime. You do actually post a, a, I think an important data point, which deserves to be cited that you have there’s data that says for every policeman, you reduce crime by so much, meaning if we all want to have fewer incarcerations and fewer crime and fewer victims, we want you know, fewer incidents of crime clearly more if, if the data suggests more cops means fewer crimes, we need more cops say more about that.

Rafael Mangual:

Yeah. So, you know, the research generally shows that for every police officer, you Abey 0.1 homicides that’s, that’s a lot, you know, so, so you avoid one homicide a year for every 10 cops. You know, that’s, that’s a meaningful benefit, a benefit again that that is not evenly distributed across the United States, but is concentrated in communities that are suffering the most from crime because that’s where police resources are generally deployed. But yeah, what, what, what it really bugs me about this is that, I mean, this is one of the clearest most robust points supported by a very extensive body of literature in criminology, which is that more police means less crime. There just isn’t a criminologist in the world that would push back on that who’s worth his or her salt. And so I think that’s a really important starting point that, that, that people need to understand.

Rafael Mangual:

And so the inverse of that though, is if, when you cut police resources and you cut police activity, and you cut the number of police officers on the beat, which is, you know, sadly a trend that, that we’ve been seeing across the country for some years now you’re going to get more crime there. You know, many studies that have shown this one really famous one is Broan fryer de from Harvard who were actually trying to study the effect of federal pattern and practice investigations on crime. And they found that those investigations, particularly when launched in the wake of a viral police incident were associated with significant crime increases the mechanism by which crime went up, was through a pullback on the part of the officers in that jurisdiction. And so, you know, these are real harms again, that, that, that are gonna be done to real people.

Rafael Mangual:

But I also think we have to start to understand the police are one part of an integrated system. And the more we erode the rest of our criminal justice system, the less impactful a proper deployment of policing resources will be. So, yes, as of right now, you know, for every cop we hire we’re debating 0.1 homicides, but if you’re hiring those cops in a jurisdiction with a prosecutor who is, you know, committed to not prosecuting whole bodies of crime, and who is committed to minimizing incarcerations for its own sake as a public policy, good unto unto itself and, you know, there are judges in that jurisdiction that are refusing to hold even really dangerous offenders in pretrial detention or to, you know, uphold lengthy sentences. And you have a parole board that is granting parole grant parole requests, Willy nilly despite the risk posed by, by particular offender, then the impact that police are gonna have in that place is gonna be increasingly muted. And I think that’s one of the things that, you know doesn’t quite fully get appreciated. We tend to look at policing incarceration prosecution in isolation. But the reality is, is that all of those things affect one another.

Joe Selvaggi:

You do address a little bit in your book of the fact that, that, you know, again, part of a part of the solution to decarceration or de policing is they don’t wanna defund the police, but rather they wanna refund a different sort of policing mechanisms, specifically social services or mental health professionals that, that, you know, a guy going in in heavy is probably not the best solution for someone who is having a psychotic break that you know, is the wrong tool for the, the problem. You do address that in your book that it, it seems somewhat a speech argument and that it couldn’t be effectively deployed to scale. Say more about that.

Rafael Mangual:

Yeah. I mean, well, there, you know, there’s this idea that we can just sort of take, you know, mental health calls, for example, off the play to police entirely, what that idea, which, you know, maybe has some merit at the margins ignores is that there is no preexisting infrastructure of qualified mental health professionals that is willing to be on call 24 7. Remember these calls often come in, you know, on weekends and at two, three o’clock in the morning you know, we, we, we already have a shortage of mental health workers in the United States that shortage is projected to, to grow. So the idea that, that, that there exist and infrastructure of qualified mental health professionals that can adequately handle the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of mental health related calls that come in on a yearly basis across this country that’s just misguided that that infrastructure doesn’t exist.

Rafael Mangual:

So we don’t even have the capability to fully take that function out of the jurisdiction of, of, of our police officers. So that’s one reason why we’re gonna have to live with police responses in these kinds of cases on its own. But the other reason is that it just practically speaking, it’s not super easy to categorize a call as a mental health call that doesn’t require police response simply based on the information that’s typically relayed to a 9 1, 1 or a 3, 1, 1 operator. There was a study done in Philadelphia, I wanna say two years ago by a criminologist who I, I really like and respect and Jerry Ratcliffe. And he found that one in 5, 9 1, 1 calls were, were just you, you couldn’t categorize them accurately either. They were police related conduct. They were relayed to officers as, as P as something that required a police response, but turned out to be a mental health problem, or they were relate as a mental health problem that turned out to require a police response.

Rafael Mangual:

And then of course there’s data out of places like Eugene, Oregon, which is very famous for its somewhat successful cahoots program, which is a program of alternative mental health responders, where I think it’s like one in 67 calls. They, those responders who are already only handling a very small subset of, of 9 1, 1 calls are, are still calling for police backup. So, you know, again, we haven’t yet quite mastered the, the kind of, you know, reliable deescalation tactics that, that guarantees that, you know, someone even who’s having a psychotic break won’t become violent, which in turn requires a police response. But, but again, you know, that that infrastructure doesn’t even really exist yet. And so a lot of I think, you know, some of the more popular police reforms are, are kind of pie in the sky in that sense either pie in the sky or just totally in Congress with, with what the data say and, you know, defunding police is one of those examples

Joe Selvaggi:

I wanna get to the more, for me more painful topics of the, or perhaps controversial issues of, of incarceration and policing, which has to do with communities of black or brown citizens where, you know, critics will rightly point to the fact. And I will acknowledge the fact that the VA, you know, a disproportion number of people from black and brown communities wind up you know I guess we would call you, call them Terry

Rafael Mangual:

Sure. Yeah, yeah. Terry stop. Yeah,

Joe Selvaggi:

Top, top question and frisk ultimately winding up in in in trial, ultimately incarcerated. Why do you think given that you’ve, you’ve made yourself an expert in this field? Why is this there such a disparity and a dis disproportionate representation of black and brown prisoners and convicts in our, in our community? It, what do you see as the causation, or, I mean, maybe this is too big of a question, but what do you say to that?

Rafael Mangual:

Yeah, I mean, look, it is a big question and it is a controversial topic, but I don’t think we can get away from the reality that those disparities and enforcement outcomes, which are not the entire picture by the way are a function primarily of disparities in crime commission and crime victimization. Again, if we want police to be responsive to crime and low income minority neighborhoods, which is where the bulk of victimizations are happening again, the, the, the black homicide rate in 2020 was about 10 times that the, the, the white homicide victimization rate. So these are just homicide victims, homicide commission and black male, I think is about eight times more likely to commit a homicide than, than, than his white male counterpart. These are just underlying realities. What do we do with those realities? Do we have police ignore them and deprive low income, black and brown communities of the benefits associated with policing benefits, which they disproportionately enjoy, or do we deploy our resources to the places that we know are suffering the most from serious violent crime.

Rafael Mangual:

If we do that, then that is in and of itself enough to produce disparities because police are gonna have interactions with people in the communities in which they’re spending the most time. And it would be in my opinion both morally wrong and logically ridiculous to have police spend equal amounts of time and really low crime affluent areas as they do in really high crime, poor areas. I think the latter neighborhoods need that police response and need police resources far more, and therefore they should get them now. Yes, this does produce disparities in all manner of enforcement outcomes from Terry stops to arrests to incarcerations. But again, once we control for that underlying disparity in crime commission and in crime victimization, those disparities start to shrink. And I think that’s how you have to do these analysis. You can’t just do this sort of UN variate look at, you know, blacks or, you know, 13% of the population.

Rafael Mangual:

And, you know, this percentage of, of the prison population, of this percentage of, you know arrestees in the given jurisdiction, you have to control for how much crime is happening in, in those communities. Because again, I think that’s where police resources are needed and when police resources are deployed correctly, when incarceration is properly concentrated on people who post the biggest risks to communities, what we see is that crime goes down and when crime goes down, those benefits are also desperately concentrated. And so, you know, when we look at the other side of that ledger, which, you know, includes the other outputs of the criminal justice system in the form of crime declines, when it, you know, it’s, it’s mostly black and brown communities that benefit. So there was one study that I cite in the book done by a criminologist named Patrick Sharky, who I often disagree with, but, you know, I think does some, some good, some good work.

Rafael Mangual:

He finds that between 1990 and 2014, the homicide decline added a full year of life expectancy to the lives of of, of black men in the United States, while it only added 0.1, four years of life expectancy to the lives of white men in the United States. That’s a very, very disparate impact in terms of, you know, to whom the benefits of crime declines are, are, are going the public health equivalent of that, according to that same study was the elimination of obesity altogether. That is a huge, huge win. So there are two things that I think we have to, that, that I think we can get from that one is that it raises a really interesting question, which is if the critique is that the criminal justice system from police through prosecution through incarceration was designed and is operated for the oppression of low income black and brown communities.

Rafael Mangual:

How does that how does that fit with the reality that when the criminal justice system achieves its stated ends as stated by the people at the system’s health that it produces benefits that in your, primarily to black and brown communities, that, that doesn’t quite make sense. And I, you know, I think once we start to take that other side of the ledger into account, we start to see that, you know, yes, there are disparities, but there are disparities on both sides meaning that there are disparities with respect to the costs associated with the operation of a criminal justice system, but also with respect to the benefits. The other thing I, I think, you know, we get from that is that once you start thinking about these problems economically, and, and you start to have a more sophisticated view of what the proper analysis is, you start to see that the disparities don’t actually point to discrimination, which is what they’re often brought up to support.

Rafael Mangual:

They’re often brought up to support a claim of discrimination. And again, once you start controlling for relevant factors, those disparities don’t entirely disappear. But they, they, they get pretty, pretty darn small. So the national academy of sciences did you know, really big meta-analysis of the research on disparities in incarceration. And they did not find any kind of systematic evidence that black criminal defendants were being sentenced to significantly more time than their white counterparts. Once you control for the type of crime committed, the seriousness of the crime committed the criminal histories and all of the other relevant factors that go into a sentencing decision in the, the disparity shrinks down to, I, I think, a few weeks or a few months, and it would be strange, I think for racism to kind of rear its head in the form of a, you know, eight week difference in, in, in sentencing

Joe Selvaggi:

One aspect of this issue that really I thought you did well in the book in that ne not read about before is this narrative that all these people in, in jail many or most of them black or brown are, are separating fathers from families. And that these this in and of itself is

Joe Selvaggi:

You know, problem for, for communities. We, we all hopefully wanna have highly functioning fathers raising their sons and giving them guidance to be better men. And yet if they’re in prison, they can’t be helping their families. So we’re, we’re, we’re adding fuel to a fire that’s burning that, that these, these families would be better off if either we didn’t incarcerate their brothers husbands or we had them in for less time. Your book goes into reasons why that case might not be a very good one.

Rafael Mangual:

Yeah. Well, I mean, it, it, it relies on a really, really, really big assumption, which is that the sort of individual who is likely to find him or herself in prison would otherwise be a good parent, a reliable source of economic support and a reliable source of emotional support that just does not seem to be the case. And there is a lot of research on the intergenerational transmission of antisocial behavior that shows that yes, two parents are generally better than one, but if one of those parents is highly antisocial and his, or her disposition, the outcomes for those children are actually going to be worse than those for children who have one absent prosocial parent, and one present prosocial parent. So then the, the question becomes well, are the people who find themselves in prison generally anti-social in their disposition? I think the answer is overwhelmingly yes.

Rafael Mangual:

Take you know, a, a diagnosable personality disorder, like anti-social personality disorder, the prevalence rate for that for that, for, for that diagnosis in the general population, it’s about one to two, 3%. So for men, I think it’s like two to 4% for women. I think it’s like 0.5 to like 1.5%. But in prison populations, it, it can range from 40 to 70%. Right? So, so you’re, you’re talking about a population that is actually not likely to be the kind of a positive force in a household or in a community that I think should countenance against incarceration, because we’re also have to weigh the benefits of the crimes AB abated by virtue of that incarceration, which again, you know, are, are going to be many in number given what the data already say about recidivism.

Joe Selvaggi:

So we’re getting close to the end of our time together. I think we’re going long, but if you’ll indulge me I always like to let research authors like you have their moment where they say, if you’re king for a day, you know, let’s talk about you know, the big, big strokes you would do king king for a day. What would you do if, if public safety and, and social justice are all part of our our agenda, we want everybody to get a fair shake, but public safety is a, is a number one priority. That’s you, as you say, in a rich society like ours, you should be safe walking down the street. What would you do to to, to make this a, a better place from a, a criminal justice perspective?

Rafael Mangual:

Yeah, well, I think a few things, one thing is I think we have to make policing a much more attractive profession to high achieving high IQ, emotionally stable individuals. I think that job needs to be seen as a more prestigious professional line of work, as opposed to just kind of a, you know, sort of blue collar gr up. If you do that, I think the outcomes for policing will be significantly better. There’s data showing that college educated officers will use force less often than officers are just a high school education, even when you control for the type of assignment, the situation, et cetera. So I think that’s a good thing both from the reform perspective, but also from the effectiveness perspective. I also think we need to invest in a better use of data to inform everything from the deployment of police resources, to prosecutions and to sentencing.

Rafael Mangual:

There, there is a lot, a lot the data can tell us about how to assess risk with respect to you know, just determining which parts of a jurisdiction are most vulnerable to which kinds of crime, how much risk a, a specific individual poses if they’re released pretrial, or if they’re released, or if they’re not sentenced heavily a post-conviction. So there’s a lot that we can make of algorithmic risk assessments that, that I think are, are currently underutilized. And so if we use that and that kind of approach to data informs, you know, all of the, the, the, the parts of our criminal justice system, I think outcomes will be significantly better on the public safety front. And we’ll be able to kind of, I, I think be more precise in the net that in terms of the net that we cast so that, you know, we, we keep our incarcerated population you know from going above and beyond what it needs to be in order to produce the kind of safety that I think we’d all enjoy.

Rafael Mangual:

I mean, again, we’re never gonna be a completely safe society without any crime that’s impossible. And even if it were possible, you know, you would, that would require such draconian measures that I would never wanna live in that society. So we have to find the happy medium, and I think figuring out ways to use data, to be as precise as we can so that our, our, our public safety resources are concentrated on identifying, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating the people who pose the greatest risks of serious violence. I think that that is, is the, the sort of number one overall thing I would do. The second thing is I think is particularly in cities and in urban settings it needs to be remembered that public order matters. The idea that we can just ignore low level crimes, I think is wrong.

Rafael Mangual:

I I’m a firm believer in the broken windows a theory that, that, that informed a lot of policing strategies that public order matters perception is highly affected by public order. And the dynamism of cities, I think requires a level of order. People need to feel safe in public spaces when they do that. Cities thrive, economic investment comes in. If that fails cities can die. I think we’ve seen that in San Francisco, in Detroit and increasingly in Los Angeles and, and even a little bit here in New York these days. So it’s really, really, really important for cities to keep their public transit systems, their public spaces, their park, clean, safe and inviting so that the cities can continue to grow and be economic centers.

Joe Selvaggi:

Wonderful. That’s great advice. I think we’re following we’re, we’re doing all right here in Boston, but we should be it look cautiously at other, other cities around the country what, what not to do perhaps. So that’s the end of our time together. I want to give you one more opportunity to pitch your book. I, I think it’s on the shelf behind you, but if you wanna tell us it is name of the book where they can, where our listeners can find it we’ll be releasing this podcast the day it’s released. So today is the day they can buy it. So tell us what the book title is and where they can find it.

Rafael Mangual:

Sure. The title is criminal injustice. What the push for decarceration and de policing gets wrong and who it hurts most you can buy it anywhere. You buy your books, Amazon Barnes and noble, I think target Walmart. I’ll also have it on their websites, books, a million independent book sellers. You know, I, I, I hope you’ll all consider reading it and engaging with the arguments there.

Joe Selvaggi:

Wonderful. I think we’ve wet. Everybody’s appetite for, for the subject. And it’s very good in that plenty of footnotes and references to other research work. So people, folks, listeners can go deep if they, if they choose. Thank you for joining us, Rafael. And we hope to have you back when you finish your next book. Okay. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joe Selvaggi:

This has been another episode of Hubwonk a podcast of Pioneer Institute, a think tank in Boston. If you enjoy today’s episode, there are several ways to support Hubwonk and Pioneer. It would be easier for you and better for us. If you subscribe to Hubwonk on your iTunes podcaster, it would make it easier for others to find Hubwonk. If you give us a five star rating or a favorable review, we’re always grateful. If you want to share Hubwonk with friends, if you have ideas or comments or suggestions for me for future episode topics, you’re welcome to email me at hubwonk@pioneerinstitute.org. Please join me next week for a new episode of Hubwonk.

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