Defund the police, abolish prisons, use welfare to fight crime: These ideas
and more are increasingly the rally cries of prominent Democrats eager for
a revolution in America's criminal justice system.
As municipal leaders dismantle police departments, progressives are
preparing to make a grand experiment of jailbreak liberalism. What they
would like you to forget is that we tried it before, with disastrous
The reformers' view is anchored in the belief that crime is ultimately caused
by social conditions, and that the only way to fight it is to target "root
causes" through social welfare and rehabilitation. The criminal justice
system is dismissed as useless and racist.
Following World War II, there was this rehabilitationist and consensus among
academics, policymakers, and the public when dealing with criminality.
If asked what steps in 1960 would or should be taken to prevent a sharp
increase in the crime rate, the answer would be reducing poverty, increasing
educational attainment, eliminate dilapidated housing, encouraging community
organization, and providing troubled or delinquent youth with counseling
This mindset drove policy changes. Prisons shrunk and police were treated with
suspicion. The incarceration rate declined between 1961 and 1976. President
Lyndon Johnson's Kerner Commission derided the cops as a symbol of "White
power, white racism, and white repression."
Then the results rolled in. Between 1960 and 1991, violent crime rose 370
percent. There were more than 20,000 homicides a year for much of the
'80s and '90s. Most of this violence fell disproportionately on poor and black
Americans, the same groups 'JAILBREAK LIBERALISM' meant to help.
Today's progressives, many whom didn't live through it are embracing policies
that will beget a 21st century crime wave.