Texas Takes Unlikely Road Toward Criminal Justice Reform


"If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."

That's the simplistic one-liner, ripped straight out of 1980s tough-on-crime propaganda: "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime." It sounds airtight on the surface, which is what makes propaganda so effective - it leaves very little room for context and perspective: It's against the law. You violated the law. Now don't complain if you get locked up.

But like most slogans built for social engineering, what's lost is the ability to question why the crime exists in the first place. As a tool in the war on drugs, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime," is a perfect slogan, because it's tough to question the rationale behind locking someone away for low-level and non-violent drug-related crimes like possession, for example, because it's a crime. And you do time for committing crimes.

As Reid Wilson writes for the Washington Post, the 1980s tough-on-crime approach has begun to wear a little thin. Texas, of all places, has gone soft on crime (though you won't hear any state politician call it that), and it appears to be working.

"A series of reforms implemented seven years ago," Wilson writes, "has reversed the explosive growth of the inmate population. Now, the home of the most active death row in America is the model other states are looking to for ways to reduce their crime rate."

For more on what Texas has done by way of reform, read Wilson's piece on how Texas has gone softer on crime.


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