Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe Questions the Sentencing Project’s “No Exit” Report

In the Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby has other criticisms of The Sentencing Project’s anti-life sentence report:

OF THE 2.3 million people in prisons and jails in the United States, roughly 140,000, or 6 percent, are serving life sentences. Of that number, about 41,000 – 1.8 percent of all inmates – were sentenced to life without parole. Both numbers are at an all-time high.

Should Americans be troubled by this? The Sentencing Project thinks so. In a new report, the liberal advocacy group complains that the growth in life sentences has been costly and unjust. It “challenges the supposition that all life sentences are necessary to keep the public safe,’’ and particularly disapproves of life without parole.

As a matter of policy, the Sentencing Project supports abolition of both the death penalty and life without parole, an eccentric position that most Americans don’t share. Nevertheless, the group’s new report – “No Exit: The Expanding Use of Life Sentences in America’’ – has drawn deferential media attention, with stories appearing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Agence France-Press.

But good PR is not a substitute for sound analysis. . .

Read the rest of Jacoby’s column here.


4 thoughts on “Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe Questions the Sentencing Project’s “No Exit” Report”

  1. Yes, it is. Meanwhile, virtually every other media source reports on their report as if it represents some transcendental truth. I really wonder what it will take for journalists to start questioning academicians the way they question other sources. A good bit of the problem is ideological affinity, of course. But when something as ridiculous as this report comes along, and nobody blinks — well, that’s just sad.

  2. If, say, GE or a gov’t. department issued statistics, they would be questioned, and rightfully so. Nothing really explains why this org. does not get more scrutiny, because it just does not make sense.

    I saw yesterday that a man was released because of efforts of this org. (in Texas, I think?), and I applaud that. But there was no background info included, like how the guy got caught up in the investigation in the first place. When there are instances of wrongful convictions, the story is generally a bit more complex than “the wrong guy went to jail”: often they had a peripheral role in the crime, or they had a history of crimes like the one committed; it ain’t like they were just snatched off the street and jailed.

  3. Yes, a significant proportion of the Innocence Project’s clients are, in fact, either serial offenders busted for the wrong crime (you don’t end up in a line-up for singing too loud in the choir) or not as evidently “innocent” as claimed. Several are serial rapists. An unusually high percentage of the Project’s cases are rape/murders with unknown numbers of assailants or gang rapes with the same. Not all offenders leave DNA at the scene of a crime they have committed with others, and other types of evidence are now often rejected, post-conviction, if there is not also DNA. Look at the Innocence Project clients in Georgia — the two in Savannah, who nobody believes to be innocent (they were identified; the rape occurred in their house) — the one from Jonesboro with the disturbing prior record who was caught breaking into another woman’s house, armed to rape. The third who was caught driving the victim’s car. Many other Innocence Project clients were convicted because they took the fall (unwittingly) for fellow criminals.

    The best way to avoid wrongful conviction? Don’t become a criminal in the first place. Not that the media will acknowledge this.

    And far too many prosecutors are cowed into silence when faced with the influential PR machine supporting Innocence Project activism. Not that the media ever goes back to actually revisit the real reasons for conviction or re-examine criminal histories.

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