Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Top Economists suggest we should end mass incarceration in the US. Why is Hillary worried?

On Monday, the Independent (UK) reported on a Chelsea Clinton speaking engagement on her mother's behalf.
Chelsea Clinton said Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal to end mass incarceration in the US is "worrying" and insinuated that her mother’s rival does not understand what is “possible” to achieve in Government.
Speaking to a packed town hall in Cleveland, Ohio, Chelsea Clinton took the opportunity to denounce Senator Sanders’ proposed criminal justice reforms when she was asked about her mother’s “vagaries” towards African American policy.
She replied that Senator Sanders advocated the end of mass incarceration, aiming for the US to no longer be the country with the highest number of people in jail by the end of his first term in 2020 - but his plan "worried" her.
For the sake of brevity (for a change?), I will only cite the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. This time, I'll leave out numerous other sources that easily debunk Ms. Clinton's sad efforts to help her mother's campaign. Today, February 17, 2016, the Brennan Center posted this,

Top Economists to Join Criminal Justice Reform Effort

New York, NY – Today, 10 renowned economists from across the political spectrum — including former Cabinet officials, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, professors, and political advisers — joined the Brennan Center's Economic Advisory Board, a new initiative supporting the Center’s data-driven approach to ending mass incarceration.
The bipartisan group will provide strategic guidance and help chart economic and social science research for the Center’s work to end mass incarceration. The group will vet economic analysis seeking to quantify the effects of mass incarceration on economic inequality and the country’s economy. The initiative is led by Inimai Chettiar, the director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program.
“Data and economic research shows which policies are working, and which are not,” said Lawrence H. Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and President Emeritus and Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University. “It’s important for lawmakers, and all Americans, to understand that mass incarceration has real, negative consequences for our economy as reform of sentencing laws to reduce the number of people in prison is being considered by Congress.”
“Mass incarceration isn’t just a moral problem, it’s also an economic one,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate in economics and professor at Columbia University. “The unnecessary incarceration of millions of offenders keeps potentially productive citizens out of our workforce and contributes to the economic inequality of communities of color. It’s vital for economists to join lawmakers and law enforcement to call for an end to overly harsh criminal justice policies.”
“Criminal justice reform is an issue that brings both sides of the aisle together,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, and former chief economist for the White House and director of the Congressional Budget Office under President George W. Bush. “Conservative economic principles hold that we should not waste government resources on a system that does not work and takes thousands of people away from the American workforce.”  
Formation of the board comes amid ever-growing evidence that mass incarceration has significant and far-reaching economic consequences. The criminal justice system costs taxpayers $260 billion a year, according to The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act, a 2015 Brennan Center analysis. And, incarceration contributes to as much as 20 percent of the poverty rate in America.
“The fiscal costs of mass incarceration are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Inimai Chettiar. “Over-incarceration’s larger effect on human capital, the economy, and inequality haven’t been fully quantified. This initiative, with guidance from the Board, seeks to do that.” 
Chettiar and members of the board are available for comment. Members of the board include:

  • Steven N. Durlauf, William F. Vilas Research Professor and Kenneth J. Arrow Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin–Madison.
  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President, American Action Forum; former Chief Economist, White House Council of Economic Advisers; former Director, Congressional Budget Office; Chief Economic Policy Adviser, John McCain Presidential Campaign.
  • Glenn C. Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Brown University; member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Jeffrey A. Miron, Director of Economic Studies, Cato Institute; Senior Lecturer on Economics and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Harvard University.
  • Peter R. Orszag, Vice Chairman of Corporate and Investment Banking and Chairman of Financial Strategy and Solutions Group, Citigroup; former Director, White House Office of Management and Budget; former Director, U.S. Congressional Budget Office.
  • Daniel L. Rubinfeld, Professor of Law, New York University; Robert L. Bridges Professor of Law and Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of California; member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate, Economics; University Professor, Columbia University; former Chief Economist, World Bank; former Chairman, White House Council of Economic Advisers.
  • Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University; former U.S. Secretary of Treasury; former Director, White House National Economic Council; former Chief Economist, World Bank.
  • Petra E. Todd, Alfred L. Cass Term Professor of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Laura D. Tyson, Professor and former Dean, Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley; Director, Institute for Business and Social Impact; former Chairman, White House Council of Economic Advisors.
(Emphasis in original)

Additional information on these economists is posted on another Brennan Center page.

So, Hillary supporters, might you rather be worrying about her ties to the Private Prison Industrial Complex? Chelsea's speech was this week, despite the campaign's apparent claim last October to cut ties to the industry.
"Hillary Clinton has said we must end the era of mass incarceration, and as president, she will end private prisons and private immigrant detention centers," campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement Thursday night. "She believes that we should not contract out this core responsibility of the federal government, and when we’re dealing with a mass incarceration crisis, we don’t need private industry incentives that may contribute -- or have the appearance of contributing -- to over-incarceration."
Hinojosa said the policy against accepting contributions tied to private prison companies "is only one of many ways that she believes we need to rebalance our criminal justice and immigration systems."
Lobbying firms that work for two major private prison giants, GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, gave $133,246 to the Ready for Hillary PAC, according to Vice. Those companies operate a number of criminal and immigrant detention facilities, some of which have been plagued by allegations of abuse and poor treatment of detainees.
I refer you back to dissonance theory (as cited last weekend) and ask whether three to four months shouldn't be enough time for Hillary and Chelsea to synch up their talking points about mass incarceration? But I digress.

Again, quoting Larry Summers,
“It’s important for lawmakers, and all Americans, to understand that mass incarceration has real, negative consequences for our economy as reform of sentencing laws to reduce the number of people in prison is being considered by Congress.”

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