Every day, the nation's prisons release a walking crime wave: 70 percent of state convicts are re-arrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of their release, the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal reports. A Justice Department study found that convicts let out from the prisons of 15 states in 1994 had been charged by 1997 with 2,900 homicides, 2,400 kidnappings, 2,400 rapes, 3,200 other sexual assaults, 21,200 robberies, 54,600 assaults, and 13,900 other violent crimes. Add in the crimes they didn't get caught for, and the total is undoubtedly far higher.
Most anti-crime solutions offered to date misdiagnose the problem, the Journal argues. Contrary to received criminological wisdom, there is no shortage of prisoner rehabilitation programs. What is in short supply are mechanisms to hold prison wardens and parole officials accountable for results. Prison and parole systems should learn from the New York Police Department, which engineered a massive victory over crime in the 1990s by rigorously analyzing police data and making local commanders responsible for public safety in their jurisdictions, with the help of a computer-based process called Compstat. In the same way, prison and parole officials should have to answer for the re-arrest and job-participation rates of ex-offenders. It's time to Compstat corrections.