Military and Police

Low Incarceration Rates Does Not Automatically Mean Low Crime Rates

It’s well-established with empirical evidence that President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” created a permanent subclass of poor, disadvantaged people, dependent on the government for subsistence. These people’s plight, caught in the axles of the Democrat’s institutionalized poverty train, has had zero effect on the left. They still adhere to this hopeless philosophy and boldly forge on toward the abyss with other leftist causes.

The brilliant economist/philosopher Thomas Sowell summed up this war: “Without some idea of what a person or a program is trying to do, there is no way to know whether what actually happened represented a success or a failure. When the hard facts show that a policy has failed, nothing is easier for its defenders than to make up a new set of criteria, by which it can be said to have succeeded.

“That has in fact been what happened with the ‘war on poverty.’”

But when leftists tout all their programs as ultra-virtuous and assert their programs are doing so much societal good, they’re not exactly offering transparency or inviting objective evaluation. They are good and everyone who disagrees, or even questions their program, is bad. That they are virtuous and “mean well” is all anyone needs to know about their program’s success—or failure.

I saw the effects of this “war” during my entire career. I’d hear able-bodied people talk about getting their “checks” as if referring to an earned paycheck and not a government entitlement. I once asked a domestic violence victim for her suspect/boyfriend’s phone number. In turn she asked me, “for his phone or his Obama phone.”

This brings me to an interesting phenomenon: regardless of the consistent failures, the leftists keep trying the same things, only to get the same failures, year after year, after decades, after a half-century. Insanity, I think is the common definition of this formula.

For a smaller scale, more modern example of the left’s disastrous war on the poor, look at Olympia, Washington’s current government-sponsored “War on Homelessness.” The city council of this once-beautiful, now trash-bedecked, needle-scattered, hovel-strewn, Seattle/San Francisco-emulating capitol city, nestled at the south end of Puget Sound, has lost its collective mind.

Even a superior court judge is trying to bring sanity back to the city by putting yet another city-sponsored “homeless” camp on temporary hold. This ruling was in response to city business owners who brought the suit due to the camp’s negative effects on their businesses i.e., quality of life and crime issues. But those less-than-divine Olympians won’t be deterred. Like other progressives across our great land, now they have added to their quiver another dull arrow: Lower incarceration rates.

On the website, Glen Morgan, Executive Director of the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, wrote: “When combined with Olympia’s widely touted sanctuary city status, and the public promotion of ‘low incarceration rates,’ this effort turned the City of Olympia into a destination paradise for drug addicts, sex offenders, fugitives, and illegal aliens from all over the nation. This has become an achievement worthy of state-wide (and even national) recognition.”

As in cities such as San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, Olympia’s leftist politicians have left their fingerprints all over this mess. Reminiscent of the Great Depression’s Hoovervilles (when many people truly needed help), Olympia now boasts its very own “Cooperville” named for City Council Member Jim Cooper. Other shanties and camps are named for Council Member Jessica Bateman, the “Bateman Motel,” and “Jonestown” after Olympia Mayor Pro/Tem Nathaniel Jones.

So, with a focus on “lower incarceration rates,” we’re supposed to believe not sending criminals to jail will protect society. I suppose if we don’t agree, we’re cruel, intolerant, even racist. Isn’t aiming for “low incarceration” as a goal in and of itself, simply by instituting policies that reduce the crimes for which suspects are arrested, suicidal for a community?

Low incarceration is eerily reminiscent of President Obama’s misguided policies of not involving law enforcement in high schools. The kind of policies that played a part in the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Of course, the ostensible reason is discipline inequity. Another leftist fallacy. You know, because the American education profession is so infamous for its cruel, intolerant, even racist teachers. Give me a break.

I experienced a version of this flaccid approach to discipline when I served on my precinct’s community police team. It wasn’t unusual to have high school teachers help students suspected of crimes evade us—even when the incidents involved crimes against other students or even teachers.

Well, I must admit that does help to lower incarceration rates when you hide criminal suspects from the cops. Some school districts’ policies, as in the Florida case, prevent teachers from calling the police when students commit certain crimes. I guess we can add sanctuary schools to the list of lefty lunacy.

But this is what’s happening all over America today. Leftist politicians in Washington State, California, Florida, etc., virtue-signaling their “goodness,” pursuing low incarceration, for its own sake, regardless of any actual benefit to society. By pursuing these nebulous, nonintegrated with public safety goals, the left is making it harder to arrest and charge criminals of all ages.

For example, reports that while Washington State’s incarceration rate is low compared with the national average which can be good (but isn’t in this case), the crime rate is up—particularly property crime. It seems many lefties see property crimes as another form of wealth redistribution. Well, property crimes are important and do affect law-abiding citizens who worked hard for that property.

In Massachusetts, the new Suffolk County (includes Boston) district attorney, Rachel Rollins, plans to decline to prosecute certain crimes, including theft, drug dealing, property destruction, and resisting arrest. And in the other Washington, the one in D.C., the city council has decriminalized fare evasion on the cities buses and trains. So, now it’s official, only suckers who obey the law pay the fares.

Back to the “other” Washington, KTTH 770 radio talk show host Todd Herman (a frequent guest-host for Rush Limbaugh), writes about an “odd boast” from King County prosecutor and “legal heroin den” promoter, Dan Satterberg. The man who voters elected to prosecute criminals “likes to brag about Washington State’s low incarceration rates.” If that’s his thinking, perhaps he should consider lowering violent crime rates by de-criminalizing rape, robbery, and murder.

The left talks about creating “low incarceration” policies and jail/prison diversion/training programs to deter recidivism, and that can be a good thing. The recently passed congressional Criminal Justice Reform Act, whose models come from successful state programs, is a good example of an integrated-with-public-safety approach to crime reduction and lower incarceration. But the left’s approach to low incarceration rates too often seems to involve not holding people accountable for their actions, not putting criminals in jail, and de-criminalizing crimes.

So, by not putting “homeless” criminals in jail and decriminalizing the crimes they commit, incarceration rates will go down, but that sure doesn’t mean crime will. And few people talk about the environmental damage being done by the “homeless” camps. The blight in many large and medium-sized American cities is disgraceful. How compassionate is it to allow—even encourage and facilitate—human beings living in such squalor?

States, counties, and cities attempt to restrict what activities property owners can do with their own land and structures because of an ostensible fanatical concern for the environment. But these same officials allow and even encourage the “homeless” to despoil the same environment. These blighted areas attract not only criminal human vermin but the other literal type as well: rats and the diseases they breed.

Governments will fine their law-abiding, taxpaying residents and business owners if they fail to remove “unsightly” graffiti, unauthorized signs, garbage, and old vehicles from their properties. Governments also refuse to allow these good folks to build additions or outbuildings on their own properties. Yet, the same states, cities, and counties encourage and enable the environmental devastation that tent cities and shanty towns have wrought in these formerly picturesque and livable communities.

You’ve heard about what’s come to be called the Homeless Industrial Complex (HIC). The industry that thrives as long as there are street people. Rather than eliminate the problems they claim to fight, they use their causes to perpetuate their own existence.

So, I’d suggest expanding under the broader umbrella as the Virtue Signaling Industrial Complex (VSIC). Especially, since virtue is what leftist advocates have enlisted as a strategy for keeping the money flowing—in this case, not to the “homeless,” illegal aliens, and street criminals but to keep the VSIC humming.

This virtue flows in two directions: first, there is the VSIC’s own virtue, as they are always right, and you are always wrong. Second, there is the virtue the VSIC automatically confers on every single person in a leftist-approved victim category.

And don’t forget about the lies regarding who most of the homeless are. They are not locals forced out of their homes by rising housing prices because of the strong economy. Wrong! As Glen Morgan also wrote, these leftist policies attract people who wish to exploit and abuse these lenient, leftist, hands-off crime policies. Which reminds me, let’s head back down south to Olympia.

As we know, the War on Poverty created a population of institutionalized poor who continue to live in generational, government-dependent poverty. Well, in the name of “helping” the “helpless,” the City of Olympia, and other cities and counties like it, are creating an institutionalized “homelessness” establishment also dependent on government.

Consider this list of how Olympia is handling its transient “crisis.” The below was printed on placards reportedly distributed and posted in urban areas by local addict/homeless advocates:

  • Establish safe, growing tent communities (THE CITY JUST BOUGHT 120 NEW TENTS!)
  • Providence Community Care Center located across from tent communities (laundry, bathrooms, warming centers, health care) 225 State Ave. Olympia.
  • Transit center located across from tent communities.
  • Food bank located across from tent communities.
  • Take the BOLT Bus! ONLY $1! Route ranges all over the West Coast! THE DASH IN OLYMPIA IS FREE!
  • Low incarceration rate in Downtown Olympia [emphasis mine].
  • Many community programs for youth, family, and elderly.

Tell me this doesn’t attract out of town and out of state street people to a city or state. The VSIC is exacerbating the street person crisis by instituting policies that increase it. Despite the multi-millions of dollars flowing into cities like Seattle that reportedly has a worse “homeless crisis” than New York or Los Angeles, the problem only worsens.

But that’s the idea, isn’t it? Low incarceration policies, along with low threshold shelters, with little or no restrictions on drug or alcohol use, and minimal subsistence-level handouts from the VSIC, all serve to entice the “homeless,” addicts, illegal aliens, and street criminals (these categories are not mutually exclusive) to come to lenient leftist enclaves around the nation.

Last I heard, Olympia now wants to export its brand of crazy to two smaller neighboring cities by consolidating with them. Hopefully, the political representatives of the people of Lacey and Tumwater have more common sense than those in Olympia.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at

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