NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Justice Is A Revolving Door

March 6, 1996

John DiIulio, a leading crime researcher at Princeton University, contends that the statistics show that revolving-door justice still exists and is a major cause of continued high levels of crime.

  • In 1992, there were about 10.3 million violent crimes, 641,000 arrests and 165,000 convictions -- 90 percent obtained by plea bargaining.
  • In the end, about 100,000 convicts went to jail, where they served, on average, about half their sentences.

Yet between 1985 and 1992, when prison populations were soaring, the average maximum sentence actually declined by 15 percent -- evidence that tougher sentencing guidelines are not being enforced.

  • Moreover, in 1992, the actual time served by the average violent felon was a mere 43 months.
  • Murderers set free in 1992 often served less than six years behind bars.

Thus, the justice system is imprisoning, at best, about one criminal for every 100 violent crimes.

So what is the cost to society?

  • In one 58-month period, prisoners who were released early in Florida because of alleged prison overcrowding were responsible for at least 26,000 crimes.
  • A study of 1,411 convicted killers in Virginia found that an astonishing 33 percent were either in prison, on probation, on parole or out on bail awaiting trial when they killed.

Experts believe that the only choice is to jail those who commit violent crimes, and to treat juveniles the way we ought to be treating adults.

Source: Perspective, "A New Crime Wave," Investor's Business Daily, March 6, 1996.


Browse more articles on Government Issues