Radio Commentary

September 16, 1997

Throw Away the Key

new report by criminologist Morgan Reynolds has some good news: violent crime is on the decline. That may not be true here in Nevada, given the recent report that Nevada is the most crime-ridden state in the nation, but nationally the violent crime rate has fallen in each of the past three years. Reynolds wanted to see exactly why the nation’s streets are safer, and anyone concerned about fighting crime effectively should take notice of the conclusions he reached.

He determined that since 1993, the price of crime has gone up. Cons are serving longer sentences, and that fact has not gone unnoticed by their colleagues. The statistics are undeniable: the murder rate has dropped 23 percent, while the probability of going to prison for murder rose 17 percent. Rape decreased 12 percent, while the probability of going to prison for rape increased nine percent. Robbery decreased 21 percent, while the chance of going to prison for robbery rose 14 percent. Making crime more costly is a deterrent.

Nevada’s neighbor Idaho has been locking up criminals with greater frequency since 1986. That’s when a tough new Truth in Sentencing law went into effect, banning time off for good behavior. Idaho’s convicts serve more of their sentences than prisoners in 46 other states, and the Gem State now enjoys a crime rate well below the national average. That’s in sharp contrast to our crime rate. Reynolds’ research—and the example of our neighbor to the north—proves that if Nevada wants to lose its crime-ridden reputation, cracking down—not coddling—criminals is the way to go. u


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