Guest Commentary: Supervisor Frost Strikes Out Again 

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By Mark Dempsey

SACRAMENTO, CA – Having just received Sacramento Supervisor Sue Frost’s recent newsletter, I’m shaking my head in disbelief that anyone could propose such counter-factual, counter-productive senselessness. 

Frost is a fear-monger—and apparently only Sue can protect us!

The opening paragraph of the newsletter reads, “I’m weary of news reports about criminals who prey on our citizens….” and the email goes on to tout legislation that would increase incarceration—she’s “tough on crime” despite generations of evidence that incarceration and increased policing does nothing to prevent crime, and ignoring the fact that despite the panicky headlines, crime has been declining in recent years.

Ms. Frost has allied herself with police/sheriffs and would increase the estimated 70 percent of the county’s budget that’s already “justice-related,” most recently by voting to spend nearly a billion dollars to enlarge the County Jail. 

And…bonus!…she’s “Fiscally Responsible“…”No new taxes” was her campaign slogan. And if you believe spending a billion dollars on a jail won’t impair the County’s ability to fix damaged roads, or deal with health and climate crises, well, I’ve got some floodplain in Florida to sell you.

True, the jail is full, but 60 – 80 percent of those detained are guilty of nothing more than being unable to afford bail. That’s right, it’s not “innocent until proven guilty” in Sacramento County, it’s “guilty until proven wealthy.” 

Does Ms. Frost consider programs like supervised release, or no-cash bail, or decriminalizing drugs despite such programs’ proven successes elsewhere? Nope.

US population increased 42 percent from 1982 to 2017 while spending on police increased 187 percent—yet Ms. Frost doesn’t appear to feel more than four times safer. 

The US is the world’s champion of incarceration too, with 5 percent of the world’s population, it has 25 percent of the prisoners. That’s five times the world’s per-capita average, seven times Canada’s per-capita incarceration, and Canadian crime is insignificantly different from US crime.

What is different about Canada, and most other lower-incarceration rate countries is that they don’t have medical bankruptcies. The US has more than a half million such bankruptcies per year. There’s even a Netflix series where a high school chemistry teacher starts cooking meth to pay his hospital bills. 

Could treating people better actually reduce crime? There are certainly studies that say so—see “New study shows welfare prevents crime, quite dramatically” for one. 

I’ve cited this before, but it bears repeating: 

“If you want policies that actually work, you have to change the political conversation from ‘tough candidates punishing bad people’ to ‘strong communities keeping everyone safe.’ Candidates who care about solving a problem pay attention to what caused it. 

Imagine a plumber who tells you to get more absorbent flooring but does not look for the leak.” (from “The Root Cause of Violent Crime Is Not What We Think It Is,” NY Times)

Despite Hollywood’s “copaganda” that says police solve all crimes and only bad people go to jail, “today, less than half of violent crimes in California are cleared. For property crimes, only one in ten reported incidents leads to an arrest. 

“While California’s rates are better than those nationwide, an unsettling proportion of crime in our state goes unresolved.” (from here) Consider one community’s experience: from 2010 to 2021, San Francisco’s police budget increased by 15 percent…and although reported offenses were up (+28 percent) crimes cleared (-33 percent) and total arrests (-41 percent) both declined. 

Knowing this should make the public at least skeptical of the effectiveness of those massive investments in punishment. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. That’s why I’m recommending counseling for Ms. Frost. 

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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