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Failure of the "Get Tough" Crime Policy

NCJ Number
University of Dayton Law Review Volume: 20 Issue: 2 Dated: (Winter 1995) Pages: 803-808
E R Jones
Date Published
6 pages
The "get tough" policy that has emphasized the use of incarceration for more offenders for longer periods has not reduced the crime rate; the crime-prevention programs in the 1994 Crime Act provide a good beginning, but more needs to be done, including the passage of the Racial Justice Act.
Over the past 13 years State and Federal governments have tried to counter violent crime by incarcerating more people for longer periods. Consequently, the United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with a prison population growth that is 10 times greater than that of the general population; our prison population has nearly quadrupled in less than 15 years. Incarceration policies have had a disproportionate impact on the African-American community. With the advent of the "war on drugs," arrests of black youths for drug-related offenses greatly increased while arrest rates for white youths during the same period decreased significantly. The crime-prevention programs in the 1994 Crime Act offer a welcome change in crime-control policy, as they seek to intervene early in juvenile's lives through the implementation of "safe schools' programs and the use of alternatives to incarceration for first- time young offenders. Another attempt to reduce racial bias in the administration of justice, however, was not so fortunate. The Racial Justice Act was eliminated from the 1994 Crime Bill. It provided a procedure designed to eradicate procedural barriers to proving racial bias in capital cases; under this act, statistical evidence could be used to establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination in the imposition of capital punishment in the jurisdiction where a capital case is being tried. Based upon such proof and a showing of similar characteristics between the current case and the cases used in the statistical analysis, capital punishment could not be imposed in the current case. Such a procedure should be established for capital cases.