Re: Time’s Man of the Year

Lew, your link to Jack Miles’s article reminded me of this story that has been on the local news: DC’s prison was closed, so convicts are held pretty far away. Phone calls are long distance and, therefore, contact with friends and family is very limited. This is not a particular problem to DC though. I know a woman from the Philadelphia area who was in prison on drug charges in Erie, PA. She was fortunate that her parents made the 800-mile round-trip drive regularly to visit.

Of course, the NPR story on DC prisoners presents this as a problem of how to make the best of the situation to help reform inmates, but there is a libertarian lesson here. And it also draws on California’s years long problem with an overcrowded prison system. California has been forced to release prisoners early and not only ease up on enforcement of non-crimes, such as drug possession, but even to ease up on legislation of these non-crimes.

As Jack Miles points out, putting prisons or jails in a neighborhood is unpopular with residents. If not only states, but cities or counties were limited to housing prisoners within their own jurisdiction, there would be less space for prisoners in urban areas and reform of the law to arrest only true criminals — those who do not respect property rights — would be a higher priority. I’m the first to admit that this a solution in which a restraint is placed on the government, and we all know how well that works. But it is an important thing to contemplate — where are our jails and who is in them?


1:17 pm on December 15, 2010