My Weekly Reader.

            From the 1960s through the 1990s, the United States suffered a very high rate of crime and violence, most notably murders.  People continue to debate the causes of this deadly era.  Then it came to an end, with crime and murder rates specifically declining to near their early-1960s level.  People continue to debate the causes of the ending of this deadly era.  In the midst of it, a “get tough on crime” approach understandably found favor.  Mass repression of mass crime logically led to mass incarceration.  Crime rates dropped.  Time passed.  People began to see the costs of crime repression in a different light.  It came to be widely accepted that America’s aggressive policing of some urban areas has produced an unjustified “mass incarceration” and that the burden is born mostly by Blacks and mostly for low-level offenses.  The change of mind didn’t halt at rhetoric.  Between 2009 and 2019, arrests in New York City fell by 25 percent and imprisonments fell by 17 percent.  A 2020 bail reform law in New York barred judges from considering whether the accused person posed a danger to the community in deciding on pre-trial release.  Then, in the last few years, the murder rate in some places—notably some big cities—has jumped upward to an alarming degree.  So, the issues surrounding mass incarceration and decarceration are in play once again. 

            Raphael Mangual is both a scholar of crime and policing, and a controversialist.  He isn’t buying what the anti-mass incarceration orthodoxy is selling.[1]  Instead, Mangual argues that “more policing means less crime.”  To this end, he deploys historical comparison.  For example, in 1993, the gun homicide victimization rate for Black New Yorkers stood at 40 per 100,000; by 1999 it stood at 10 per 100,000.  For example, the historical record shows that about 4 percent of city street segments account for about 50 percent of crime.  If the police go where the crime is taking place, they concentrate in a few areas.  In these areas, drug arrests often serve as a “pretextual attack on violent crime” and criminals.  Among state prisoners, only 4 percent are imprisoned for drug offenses and some share of those had pled down from more serious charges. 

Violent people are the problem in Mangual’s view.  The average person arrested in Chicago for a shooting turns out to have a rap sheet as long as your arm, averaging almost a dozen prior arrests.[2]  “The vast majority of American prisoners are violent chronic offenders.”  Moreover, the median sentence actually served for a violent offense is under 2.5 years.  The problem isn’t too much prison, but too little. 

Mangual offers another historical comparison.  In 1972, during the violent decades that gave rise to mass incarceration, New York Police Department officers shot 145 people.  In 2020, at the end of the tranquil decades, they shot 12 people.  Even criminals were safer. 

Still, this leaves us with problems.  First, why is so much crime and violence taking place in predominantly Black areas?  Second, how much of the backlash against “stop and frisk” policing sprang from its over-use by police commands that just kept on tightening the screws past the point of any reasonable return on effort? 

[1] Rafael Mangual, Criminal [In]Justice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who It Hurts Most (2022).  See: Rafael A. Mangual | Legal Policy Expert at the Manhattan Institute, City Journal (  He is currently affiliated with the Manhattan Institute, on which, see” Manhattan Institute for Policy Research – Wikipedia 

[2] An arrest isn’t the same as a conviction. 

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