Former Incarcerated Writes Increasing Incarceration Does Very Little in Lowering Crime Rates and Actually Has Negative Long Term Consequences 

via Getty Images

By Ebenezer Mamo

NEW YORK, NY – A recent opinion piece published by Teen Vogue written by Israel Garcia talks about how the word “Superpreadator” is a term to describe children who have committed violent crimes because of the lack of morals taught in the children’s homes.

Garcia, sentenced to prison while he was a child, wrote this was a term widely used in the 1990’s for children such as me…a young person ‘bred for violence,’ and I became the youngest person in the county to ever be tried as an adult. I was hurt, naive, and afraid — and I was about to spend at least 25 years behind bars. These crime statistics aren’t just a bunch of numbers. There are real people reflected in those numbers, and I was one of them.”

By the late 1990s, the federal and state prison population had increased fourfold in two decades, eventually peaking at 1.6 million people in the late aughts. But research has made it clear that increases in incarceration have little impact on crime rates, according to Garcia.

The author added according to research the data today shows that violent crimes and property crime rates are on the decline across the country, noting that actually this resurgence of tough-on-crime messaging today is designed to stoke fear and is threatening to undo the progress that has been achieved so far.

Garcia writes when he returned home four years ago in 2020 he thought that the country as a whole had moved on from the 90’s form of dangerous rhetoric that led to millions of young men like himself going to prison. Instead he noticed that, actually, Americans are still steeped in a media environment that produces warped perceptions of crime.

“News cycles consistently overemphasize violent crime and highlight sensational, outlier cases, so much so that people who frequently watch the news are more likely to support the death penalty.”  

Garcia argues that in the media Black and Latino men are overrepresented in the media’s coverage of violent crime which leads to racist assumptions by Americans. In fact, in the article he cited a 2023 study done by the University of Houston faculty where they found that people who use neighborhood apps, like Nextdoor and Citizen, perceive their local crime rates to be higher, regardless of actual crime rates.” 

Garcia talks about how this is also made worse by politicians who use these crime statistics in their political campaigns as a way to gain more votes by causing a panic in their voters, with both sides of the political aisle contributing to it, writing in Teen Vogue, Republicans often will accuse Democrats of being ‘dangerously liberal on crime’ for simply pursuing safe and effective policies, like bail reform and clemency.

Garcia adds, But Democrats are also often complicit in fear mongering and supporting ‘law and order’ policies at the expense of decarceration and true health and safety in a community” 

The result of all of this is Americans are still very afraid of crime, even though all the crime stats show historic lows, insisted Garcia, noting research shows 56 percent of Americans believe there is more crime where they live since last year, and 78 percent think there is more crime in the US overall, according to a 2022 Gallup poll.

Garcia also cites another study where a 2018 Center for American Progress survey found that as many as 88 percent of respondents consider crime to be either a major problem or an immediate crisis.”  

The formerly incarcerated author adds that the ex-prisoner continues by saying that we continue to use rhetoric towards people as offenders, criminals and monsters and relentlessly pursue carceral responses to crime at the expense of our humanity. We can’t let this type of fear mongering stand, sending us backward to the past where Black and brown communities, like mine, lost entire generations to incarceration and police violence.

When the media and politicians warn Americans of a so called ‘epidemic of retail theft’ and a ‘plague of lawlessness,’ we need to remind Americans that retail thefts in this country are lower than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, and not to mention but increasing criminal penalties for petty theft could actually have an inverse effect,” says the ex-prisoner.  

Garcia writes in Teen Vogue that “lawmakers will try to argue that bail reform doesn’t properly punish offenders and sets a bad precedent that you can essentially do what you want and not go to jail if bail reform is implemented.”

The ex-incarcerated said he believes there is no data that supports eliminating bail reform will lead to increase in crime, while on the other hand pretrial detention mostly harms the overall health and well-being of Black and brown communities.

Garcia adds that “when parole boards in this country refuse to release people who have spent decades behind bars—despite evidence that these people have been rehabilitated and show that they pose no threat to the outside—they still are there. This is not okay and it needs to change.”

Garcia argues the current landscape on how crime is viewed and dealt with is ignoring the real conversations and solutions like investing in our schools, housing, and health care, along with preventative interventions, such as treatment for mental health issues and addiction, and reducing the availability of guns, are all effective, proven strategies that meaningfully reduce violence and harm in our communities.” 

Garcia also notes the great success with programs like “bail reform, youth diversion programs, restorative justice interventions, and low recidivism rates made for people like me; giving us the opportunity to be released from long prison sentences. These are all things that actually help lessen crime rates and help the affected communities hurt by it.”

Garcia adds,  I know what it’s like to live in a community that isn’t safe. I don’t want my children or anyone else’s children to be exposed to crime or violence. But I also know that putting me—and thousands of other young men like me—in prison for 20, 30, 40 years or a lifetime isn’t the answer to the problems that my community is facing.

“In a society that is full of fraught and misleading discourses about crime, we must tell policymakers and Americans that we need real investments in safety, not the tired scare tactics that will funnel another generation into America’s prison system.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for