Crime is getting worse in America because of the eroding of the criminal justice system, says Rafael Mangual, author of the book “Criminal (In)Justice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who It Hurts Most.”
In a conversation with the president of The Heritage Foundation, Kevin Roberts, on “The Kevin Roberts Show” podcast, Mangual discussed what he considers to be the misguided narratives surrounding criminal justice issues.
The son of a police officer, Mangual said he became interested in criminal justice issues after hearing a guest speaker in his college class blame racism for his incarceration.
Policing and public safety are some of the most misunderstood phenomena in America, he said.
“Public safety is not something that you can take for granted,” said Mangual, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “A lot of our history has been marred by really high levels of crime, and relative to other parts of the world, particularly Western European democracies, we have a lot of serious violence. And that violence concentrates in really small pockets of our country, where people—who are not as fortunate as you and I—are stuck living with unbelievably high levels of violence.”
Cities will continue seeing increasing crime rates if the government doesn’t improve public safety, Mangual added. Repeat offenders account for the majority of crimes, but they are not incarcerated for political reasons, unleashing danger on cities such as Chicago.
“One of the privileges that goes unnoticed is the privilege to be able to live in safety,” he said.
Roberts said valuing the rule of law is one of the key tenets of conservatism. Incapacitation—that is, preventing violent criminals from committing more crimes—should be the focus of conservative criminal justice reform, said Mangual, head of research for the Manhattan Institute’s Policing and Public Safety Initiative.
“The small pockets—where crime concentrates, where the vast majority of residents just want to go about their lives, there are good, law-abiding people, and they deserve safety, too,” he said.
Rehabilitation of criminals must be a choice they make. Mangual said having a child and moving away from criminal networks have deterred some from lives of crime.
“Someone has to decide, ‘I’m done. I want to make my life better,’” he said. “And sometimes the research does seem to show that early intervention of the criminal justice system can actually be that shock to the system.”
Mangual said increasing the number of police officers in major cities will begin to restore public safety, but cities should not lower the standards for their cops.
“I can’t think of a major city that has not been hit by the recruitment and retention crisis, so invest in policing,” he said. “Don’t just throw money at it blindly. Try and figure out a way to recruit highly motivated, high-functioning people who really want to do this job right.”
The professionalization of policing has improved cop quality, Mangual said.
You have to make the job attractive to people who have options, he said, because right now, people who have options are not choosing to take the job, and why would they, when it is demonized?
The criminal justice reform movement, according to Mangual, has a lot of momentum. Reform will start in rural areas of the country and, hopefully, expand into cities, he said.
“We have history that we can draw on, and it’s really up to us,” he said.
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