A Call To Run Social Services Outside the Justice System

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Social-service programs should be run outside the criminal-justice system, law Prof. James Forman, Jr. of Yale University writes in The Nation, reviewing Harvard historian Elizabeth Hinton’s book, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime. Hinton meticulously documents the opposite trend, Forman says, “detailing how robust funding for criminal-justice agencies, combined with meager support for social services, forced providers to become affiliated with law enforcement.” Forman endorses programs such as cops getting to know neighborhood teens in nonadversarial settings.  He says the problem arises when budget priorities mean that the only community-based youth programs to be found are those closely tied to law enforcement.

Forman says Hinton “lets Democrats and liberals off the hook too easily as bearers of the blame for today’s mass incarceration.  “As the product of one of the most ambitious liberal welfare programs in American history,” Hinton notes, “the rise of punitive federal policy over the last fifty years is a thoroughly bipartisan story.” In fact, she continues, “crime control may be the domestic policy issue in the late twentieth century where conservative and liberal interests most thoroughly intertwined.”

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