Locking up illegal gun holders – a solution, a nightmare?: covering one solution at a time

Guns kill, we agree.

But what do we do about getting them off Chicago’s streets?

Do we clamp down and lock up illegal gun holders, sticking them in prisons for a few years.

Or do we not let them crowd the prisons? And find other punishments?

The mayor has a point of view and so do others who disagree.

We are looking for answers because now it seems that the time has come. We know about the violence.

But what do we know about getting rid of it?

What do we know about telling the story of the way Chicago rids itself of this plague?

We’ll be talking about where we’ve coming in our reporting on violence and where we can search for solutions at our media workshop on Oct. 29th. We’re meeting at 6 pm at 33 East Congress (and Wabash) on that date.

So, do we stuff illegal gun holders in prison, as Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab suggests?

He explains:

“These social costs fall disproportionately on the most disadvantaged residents of Illinois, including people who live in distressed South Side and West Side neighborhoods of Chicago. That’s because they are more likely to be victims of crime.

“Lawmakers can debate whether there are other ways to get more consistent punishment for illegally carrying a gun. But we can’t focus on the costs of preventing crime without considering the real costs when crimes are committed. A narrow focus on costs would undermine almost everything government agencies and nonprofit groups do, including many promising social programs carried out statewide that also help reduce crime. This sort of narrow focus would hurt, not help, efforts to reach the goal we all share — to reduce the toll of gun violence in Chicago and the rest of Illinois.”

Or, as the John Howard Association suggests, we don’t put these folks in prisons, because we don’t think it will make a difference. Here, they explain that:

“This is an old argument that has never worked for two primary reasons. First, while there is no doubting the fact that the justice system and the threat of prison has a deterrent effect, research and decades of over-incarceration in the United States have demonstrated that the threat of longer prison sentences does not lead to more deterrence, just more prisoners serving longer sentences. Even the Crime Lab and its Director have acknowledged throughout their work that severe punishments, like long prison sentences, undermine crime control. It is true that, along with its recent memo in support HB2265, the Crime Lab’s Executive Director recently argued in a

Chicago Sun-Times’ story that Illinois should not try to rehabilitate offenders convicted of UUW offenses with alternative sentences like Cook County’s Boot Camp Program, saying “we should be treating illegal gun carrying like the violent crime it is. If violent offenders aren’t eligible for boot camp, I don’t know why UUW offenders would be.” However, the Crime Lab came to a very different conclusion in its 2009 report “Gun Violence Among School Age Youth in Chicago.” It argued: “We would do society as a whole and the youth themselves a favor by making far greater use of swifter, less severe punishments for infractions like gun carrying, including intermediate sanctions like community service or more stringent probation conditions.” Similarly, “More Prisoners Versus More Crime is the Wrong Question,” a Brooking Institute policy paper co-authored by the Crime Lab’s Research Director in 2011, recommended the following: “The resources currently dedicated to supporting long prison sentences should be reallocated to produce swifter, surer, but more moderate punishment. This approach includes hiring more police officers[.]” It is difficult to reconcile these conclusions, but the overwhelming body of research and evidence supports the more measured approach the Crime Lab took in 2009 and that its Director took in 2011.

Gang ViolenceWe’re the watchdogs and the gatekeepers here, us in the media. 

So, what do we think?

IN which direction do we point our attention?

Let’s talk about this on Oct. 29

and meanwhile, talk to me

Steve at the Community Media Workshop, 312 369 6400; steve@chicagoistheworld.org





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