Crime has long been a conservative issue. In the 1970s and 80s, conservatives answered the rising tide of crime by promising to “take back America’s streets” from thugs and gangsters. They offered clear solutions: more guards, more bars, and more prison beds. Put the fear of the law into would-be criminals, and lock the dangerous ones away.
Twenty years later, crime is down but corrections budgets are way up. About 2.3 million Americans are behind bars right now (think of them as “the other 1 percent”), costing their compatriots approximately 60 billion a year. Although sentences are often harsh, recidivism rates remain depressingly high. The war on crime has been successful, sort of, but it’s left us with a new set of problems.