Waiting will get you killed

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

The various recent attacks all took place where law-abiding adults could not legally carry handguns for self-defense and largely had to wait for armed police to arrive, but waiting will get you killed:

A lot of people can be shot in the time it takes police to arrive after a mass public shooting begins. The norm seems to be between three and eight minutes.

Active Shooter Results

In every single active shooter attack where a good, armed person was present when the attack began and acted aggressively to stop the killer, the body count was less than 10, single-digits. Every time. 100%. Having a good, armed person present who will act to stop the killer, whether it’s a cop, armed security guard, or armed citizen, ends the attack in the first 1–2 minutes. This prevents the killer from having the time needed to amass a high body count. Waiting on police to arrive and stop the killing gives the killer plenty of time to shoot a lot of people.

Begun by dreamers and implemented by criminals

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Minorities trouble in two main ways, Dr. James Thompson notes — by being a nuisance and by becoming majorities:

Doing both in parallel is the greatest threat to the host nation.

Proportionality is the key here: in most places, most people, most of the time,  go about their business peaceably. They can rightly say of the troublemakers in their communities that “they are a minority”. True. However, those troublemakers are more frequent in some communities than others, and this is a subtlety that often gets lost in discussion. Troublemakers need some support from their own communities, even if just tacitly turning a blind eye.

The rate at which European communities commit mass murder of their own citizens is very low, though not zero. The US suffered casualties from anti-government bombers. The UK suffered more casualties from Irish Republicans. Basque separatists have bombed Spaniards. However, these dreadful events can be seen as localised grievances, not an over-arching plan.

What troubles most about the Jihadist meme is its generality: its scope is global, and although it has key Western targets, the Crusaders, it takes on all non-believers: white Europeans, Black Nigerians, and anyone else who gets in their way, including brands of Islamic belief they judge to be insufficiently pure.

Like any franchise, it attracts lone entrepreneurs: those who vaguely want to do something, and find a general plan excuse enough to vent anger, disappointment, and general malaise. Insurrections are begun by dreamers and implemented by criminals.

So now we have a dreadful calculus: Western Europe has sizeable Islamic populations, most of whom are not bent on committing murder. Within those populations there are a minority willing to murder on a large scale. Their spectaculars (as the IRA used to boastfully call them) are aimed at showing the population that their governments cannot protect them. They attack the presumption of safety on which civil society is based.

A nation is a protection system, and not a racket if you can leave of your own free will. In exchange for following the rules and paying your dues you get the protection of the state: the protection of borders and the protection of your safety within the boundaries of the state. Insurrections challenge that protection, and taunt both the governed and the government.

The paradox comes thus: any state which guarantees the rights of citizens must also grant them to those who would destroy the state and injure its people. Our interpretation of Magna Carta is that the big letter demands that no-one be arrested without due cause. A noble aim, though of course the original did not apply to all citizens, only to free men, say about 40% of the population at most. It did not contemplate millions of non-Christian non-Europeans, with perhaps 10% of them at least passively in favour of establishing the dominion of another religion and another system of law. That which would have been considered treason is now considered a right which must be defended by the very State which is the target of the attack.

Why Terrorists Keep Succeeding in France

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Muslims make up 60 percent of the French prison population, but just 8 percent of France’s total population:

Youths with a criminal record are excellent material for radicalization: It gives them a cause for which to fight. And yet the French government barely has a system for tracking this risk group’s embrace of radical Islam.

France makes a convenient target for global terrorists, because of the linguistic and cultural heritage it left in its former colonies:

“We must no longer think in terms of French or French-resident people, but in terms of francophones,” Patrick Calvar, head of France’s domestic intelligence, told the commission. “Thousands of Tunisians, thousands of Moroccans and Algerians can be dispatched into our territory.”

Puzzling Statistics

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Why do the human sciences record pervasive behavioral differences among racial groups, such as in violent-crime rates?

One explanation is that these disparities originate in complex interactions between nature and nurture.

But, of course, only dangerous extremists hold that theory.

The much more respectable sentiment is that statistical differences among the races are the fault of bad white people, such as George Zimmerman and Minnesota policeman Jeronimo Yanez.

Last week, on his way to Warsaw on Air Force One, President Barack Obama was looking at social media. According to The New York Times, he alerted his press secretary that:

He had decided to make a statement himself as soon as they landed, and had told his aides to collect statistics demonstrating racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Now, you might think that’s putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps the administration should objectively evaluate the evidence first, rather than order its media flacks to dredge up some data justifying the president’s prejudices?

But that would be wrong. Everybody knows that culture or evolution can’t have anything to do with hereditary racial differences in performance. If you even consider those possibilities, you must be one of the bad white people you’ve been warned about.

Instead, we know that science has proved that statistical differences among the races are all due to a vast conspiracy to plunder blacks. Nothing makes 21st-century people who think they are white richer than having a lot of black bodies around. Just ask MacArthur genius Ta-Nehisi Coates. He’ll tell you.

“Why are there all these puzzling statistics that don’t agree with the stereotypes promoted by our national leaders?”

And yet, here’s a statistic published in 2011 that doesn’t support the Coates-Obama orthodoxy:

While young black males have accounted for about 1% of the population from 1980 to 2008…(b)y 2008, young black males made up about a quarter of all homicide o?enders (27%)…

In other words, young black males are about 27 times more likely to kill somebody than the average American.

Interestingly, that datum comes from the Obama administration’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, which published a report entitled Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980–2008.

One reason young black males are disproportionately homicidal is that they are young (homicide rates are highest among 18- to 24-year-olds). Another factor is that they are male (according to the BJS, “Males were 7 times more likely than females to commit murder in 2008”).

That the police keep a warier eye on men than women and the young than the old is never seen as offensive. It’s just common sense.

Yet profiling blacks as tending to be more threatening than whites (not to mention Hispanics or Asians) is the worst offense imaginable under today’s ruling ideology. For instance, the day after the Dallas antiwhite atrocity, the first two policy responses that Hillary Clinton recommended in an interview with Wolf Blitzer were: “National guidelines for police about the use of force” and “We need to look more into implicit bias.”

Gun Deaths In America

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

FiveThirtyEight presents a rather reasonable infographic depicting gun deaths in America, which are mostly suicides, then homicides, with a few accidents, and notes that while the common element is a gun, the causes are very different, and that means the solutions must be, too.

Gun Suicides, Homicides, and Accidents

Lifetime Violence and IQ

Monday, July 11th, 2016

One of the most consistent findings in the criminological literature is that African American males are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated at rates that far exceed those of any other racial or ethnic group, but this racial disparity was completely accounted for after including covariates for self-reported lifetime violence and IQ.

Social Violence Networking

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Social media broadcasting has become central to social violence, John Robb notes, and this has led to a new dynamic that bypasses the “redirecting–calming–slowing” influence of traditional media and the government, one which is raw, unfiltered, and fast, radically increasing both the likelihood and the intensity of social violence:

Violence as performance art. Selfies. Instagram videos. Twitter. We’ve been conditioned to record our experiences using social media. Naturally, we’re are seeing the same thing with violence. Recording violence and showing it to the world, raw and unedited, can be used to “elevate the act” and memorialize it. NOTE: ISIS recently stumbled onto this as a way to motivate people to engage in terrorism. In these cases, the attackers used social media to turn their bloody attacks into both performance art and solemn ceremony. It gave it meaning. We’ll see more of that in the future.

We are bombarded with Instant outrage. We are more vulnerable to emotional manipulation than ever before. Our use of social media has changed us. We are constantly on the hunt for pics, news, stories, and videos that grab our attention and titillate us. Once we find them, we are then quick to share them with others. Few things provoke outrage faster than violence and injustice. It is proving particularly effective when the videos arrive raw and unedited from an individual rather than from the media. These personal broadcasts have an authenticity, a vulnerability, and an immediacy to them that greatly amplifies their emotional impact. This makes them more effective at triggering violence than any sterile broadcast from a traditional media outlet.

Echo chambers. Our virtual networks on Facebook, Twitter, etc. surrounded us with people who think like we do. These networks can easily become echo chambers. Echo chambers that radically amplify outrageous social media videos, spreading the outrage like a contagion. More importantly, it appears that this amplification can trigger individuals on the fence to engage in violence.

Four Months as a Private Prison Guard

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Shane Bauer went undercover as a prison guard for Mother Jones, with the goal of attacking private prisons.

The system clearly has some incentive problems:

If he were sent to the hospital, CCA would be contractually obligated to pay for his stay. For a for-profit company, this presents a dilemma. Even a short hospital stay is a major expense for an inmate who brings the company about $34 per day. And that’s aside from the cost of having two guards keep watch over him. Medical care within the prison is expensive, too. CCA does not disclose its medical expenses, but in a typical prison, health care costs are the second-biggest expense after staff. On average, a Louisiana prison puts 9 percent of its budget toward health care. In some states it can be much higher; health care is 31 percent of a California prison’s budget. Nearly 40 percent of Winn inmates have a chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, or asthma, according to Louisiana’s budget office. About 6 percent have a communicable disease such as HIV or hepatitis C.

Even prisoners want good governance:

“CCA is not qualified to run this place,” an inmate shouts to me a day into the lockdown. “You always got to shut the place down. You can’t function. You can’t run school or nothing because you got everybody on lockdown.”

Another inmate cuts in. “Since I been here, there’s been nothing but stabbings,” he says. “It don’t happen like this at other prisons because they got power. They got control. Ain’t no control here, so it’s gonna always be something happening. You got to start from the top to the bottom, you feel me?”

It’s still shocking that they allow female prison guards in a male prison:

In interviews with staff, the DOC learned that staff members had been “bringing in mountains and mountains of mojo” — synthetic marijuana — and having sex with inmates. “One person actually said that they trusted the inmates more than they trusted me, the warden. One staff member said, ‘The inmate made me feel pretty. Why wouldn’t I love him? Why wouldn’t I bring him things he needs because you all won’t let him have it?’”

Mass Shootings Make Sense

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

What exactly was senseless about the recent mass shooting in Orlando?

A Muslim Afghan man who pledged allegiance to ISIS attacks and kills homosexuals in America two months after a West Point paper is published detailing ISIS’ strategy of encouraging and organizing international terror attacks. The Islamic State itself commits terrorism because, as this informative article stated, “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”

That sounds exotic — to put it mildly — but hardly senseless.

Not that the mass shooting in Orlando was alone in making a little bit more sense than the approved media would have you believe. Do a quick Google search of “mass shooters manifesto” and see how many results come up. Almost every single mass shooter releases some kind of manifesto or statement detailing their beliefs, their ideology, and why the two required a massacre. Sometimes, it’s as straightforward as “the world is against me, I must fight the world.” That describes the manifesto of Christopher Harper-Mercer. Sometimes, like in the case of Anders Behring Breivik, the manifesto runs up to 1500 pages long.

Far be it from me to sympathize with or support mass murderers, but to claim that men who spend years developing intricate, murderous ideologies with a litany of published justifications before acting on them after spending thousands of dollars and manhours on preparation is, frankly, senseless.

Crime Rises and Falls

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Barry Latzer looks at recent rises and falls in crime rates:

I wouldn’t date the start of the first 20th century crime boom at 1890. The 1890s were a low-crime period in the big cities of the North. In the South, however, black violent crime rose and rural whites panicked, leading to the lynching and convict lease policies of that era. Northern cities started to suffer more violent crime in the first decade of the 20th century, partly because of the southern Italian migration to the U.S. The typical Italian immigrant crimes were murder, assault and threats of same by the so-called Black Hand, a proto-Mafia which mainly terrified the immigrants themselves. Then, following World War I, a Mexican migration to the U.S. added to the crime totals, as did a major spike in black migration out of the South. The war sparked a black movement to big cities for economic betterment, but, unfortunately, also brought with it high crime rates within the black community. In addition, Prohibition, which began in 1920, produced violence among the alcohol distribution gangs competing for turf (though this violence did not target ordinary citizens).

Violent crime peaked in the early 1930s, with a wave of bank robberies by “Pretty Boy” Floyd, “Baby Face” Nelson, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde Barrow. This was accompanied by the sensational kidnap-murder of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 and a spate of copycat kidnappings. J. Edgar Hoover made his name by directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to hunt down and capture or kill these “Public Enemies,” as he labeled them, and by 1934 the FBI or local agents had successfully done so with each of them.

Crime rates started to decline in the mid-1930s, at the same time that the New Deal went into effect. This may seem like cause-and-effect: unemployment and poverty were reduced, so violent crime diminished. But this is not necessarily correct. First, Prohibition ended in 1933, and that helped reduce murder rates. Second, the spate of bank robberies and kidnappings declined, partly because law enforcement apprehended high-profile perpetrators. Third, migration by blacks and Mexicans and immigration by Italians declined dramatically when jobs became unavailable due to the Depression. Finally, there was a severe downturn in the economy in 1937 and 1938, yet violent crime continued to fall. The American public was terribly damaged by the Great Depression—68 percent of Americans were below the poverty line in 1939—but this produced no increase in violent crime.

During World War II, crime continued to drop, partly because the war removed hundreds of thousands of young men from the streets to the barracks. When the war ended there was a brief spike in violent crime, but the downturn continued after the war and well into the postwar boom of the 1950s. No one is sure why crime remained low in the 1950s, but several factors helped. Crime rates for African Americans, though higher than average, were historically low for that community. Drug and alcohol use also were down. The Depression had produced a birth dearth, so the young male population was reduced. And the supercharged economy created a massive and growing middle class in a short period of time; and middle-class people seldom commit crimes of violence. All in all, the 1950s was a golden age of low crime.

Permanent Peace

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Barry Latzer describes the cyclical theory of crime:

The optimistic view is that the late ‘60s crime tsunami, which ended in the mid-1990s, was sui generis, and we are now in a period of “permanent peace,” with low crime for the foreseeable future.

Pessimists rely on the late Eric Monkkonen’s cyclical theory of crime, which suggests that the successive weakening and strengthening of social controls on violence lead to a crime roller coaster. The current zeitgeist favors a weakening of social controls, including reductions in incarcerative sentences and restrictions on police, on the grounds that the criminal-justice system is too racist, unfair, and expensive. If Monkkonen were correct, we will get a crime rise before long.

Optimists point to the absence of factors that brought on the 60s crime boom: no immigration or migration of high-crime populations, no demographic upsurge in the youth population. They might also add: continued movement of minorities to the middle class, and no drug epidemics (like crack cocaine) among poor populations, which generate spikes in violent crime.

(The current heroin/opioid crisis is unlikely to produce significant violent crime so long as the drugs are cheap and the users relatively affluent. Drug and alcohol prohibitions produce violence in two ways: where distribution gangs compete for territory and kill one another, and where poor populations are unable to support their addictions, leading to robbery and other crimes to raise money.)

Terrorist Ritual

Friday, June 24th, 2016

ISIS has found a reliable way to span the gap between online support and physical action that isn’t easy to detect, John Robb suggests:

They accomplished this by building a formalized ritual that combines initiation (a self-planned attack) and a public pledge (a formal lifelong, irrevocable pledge of fealty to the Caliph), and acknowledgement (redemption, acceptance, and honor). It appears to work. For example, here’s what Omar Mateen said on one of his telephone conversations. Note how important the pledge is to Omar in this public record of the call.

Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD): Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

Shooter (OM): In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]

OD: What?

OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD: What’s your name?

OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OD: Ok, What’s your name?

OM: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

OD: Alright, where are you at?

OM: In Orlando.

OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call]

The same process was seen a day later outside Paris by an attacker who killed two senior members of the police.

With this methodology in place, ISIS has the ability to bypass the security procedures that were effective against attacks from the remnants al Qaeda, and strike US and EU targets.

Anarchy in the U.S.A.

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

The United States has been plagued before by immigrant terrorism, Steve Sailer notes, and completely solved the problem:

How? Largely by selective deportations of radical immigrants and cutting back on future immigration.

Immigrant terrorists committed many of the most heinous crimes during the anarchism plague of the first third of the 20th century. Anarchists are largely forgotten today, but they were a spectacular annoyance a century ago.

Even Marxists despised anarchists as childish show-offs who only provoked bourgeois reaction with their vicious antics. When communists and anarchists nominally teamed up during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, Joseph Stalin devoted far more energy to murdering his anarchist allies than to fighting the right.

Anarchist terrorists in the U.S. tended to be leftist atheists from either Catholic or Orthodox countries in Southern or Eastern Europe. Shooting heads of state or blowing up banks was known as “propaganda of the deed.”

For example, in 1901 President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, a second-generation Pole. The last hurrah for anarchist terrorists may have been Giuseppe Zangara’s attack at an appearance by president-elect Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, which wound up killing Chicago mayor Anton Cermak.

The peak of anarchist terrorism in America came soon after WWI in an era of broad nervous breakdown across this country.

In 1919, followers of the Italian immigrant anarchist Luigi Galleani mailed three dozen letter bombs to prominent citizens. When the housekeeper of a U.S. senator had her hands blown off, an alert postal worker recognized that the bomb was the same as sixteen packages that had been set aside in his office due to insufficient postage.

The thwarted cheapskates then set off bigger bombs outside the homes of eight political figures, including Woodrow Wilson’s Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, where an Italian terrorist managed to blow himself up. (One of his body parts landed on the doorstep of Palmer’s neighbors Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.) Palmer eventually responded by deporting 556 leftists, such as Emma Goldman and her former boyfriend Alexander Berkman, who had tried to assassinate industrialist Henry Clay Frick.

Then, in 1920, a couple of Italian-immigrant followers of Galleani, Sacco and Vanzetti, were arrested for murdering two workers in an armed robbery in the Boston area. The innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti became an immense cause célèbre for progressive intellectuals in the 1920s, although, as in so many similar recent fiascos, Sacco was likely the killer and Vanzetti his accomplice.

In September 1920, a huge bomb went off outside J.P. Morgan’s bank on Wall Street, probably as vengeance for the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti. It killed three dozen civilians, mostly messenger boys and the like.

The Republicans, hugely victorious in the 1920 election, responded to these outrages with immigration restriction laws in 1921 and 1924.

The relevant question is: Did this democratic response drive Italian-Americans and Polish-Americans to new levels of violence, as so many now assume that any attempt to trim the levels of Muslim immigration would lead to even more Muslim domestic terrorism?

No, not really.

In fact, following this assertion of citizen authority over immigration policy, America calmed down rather quickly. The ’20s were less agitated than the teens, and Depression America was remarkably stable. The thirty years from the apparent assassination attempt by an anarchist on FDR in 1933 to JFK’s murder by a communist in 1963 were among the most cohesive in American history.

A country that had appeared to be coming apart at the seams in 1919–20 went on to enjoy world-historical triumphs, with rapid assimilation to American norms by immigrants who were no longer reinforced by newcomers. Rather than answering with rage, Italians and Poles largely seemed to respond to this assertion of leadership by founding stock Americans as right and fitting.

Perhaps this historical analogy is an overly optimistic guide for a contemporary America dealing with a different set of immigrant groups.

But if we don’t try, how will we ever know?

You can’t stop future Orlandos, but you can reduce the chances

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Ed West is pro-gun control, but he comes from “the most heavily populated corner of one of the most crowded islands on earth”:

The average American is still very, very unlikely to be killed by Islamic terrorists and in an extremely violent nation the attention given to it sometimes seems odd. Democrats like to cite this fact, including the statistic being paraded until yesterday that toddlers have killed more people with guns this year than Islamic terrorists (alas, no longer), but for some reason they don’t like to get too analytical when it comes to violent crime in the US. Even with all those guns, white America is not that much more violent than the European average; but African-Americans have a violent crime rate that is off the scale in first world terms, and the daily toll of death in places like Chicago and Baltimore makes the fear of Islamic terrorism sometimes look absurdly overblown.

Having said that, three of the seven worst mass shootings of the past 25 years have been carried out by Islamic supremacists, which is quite something, considering America is just 0.6 per cent Muslim.

Not only is America’s Muslim population relative small, but compared to western Europe, they tend on average to be well-integrated, middle class and have a positive view of their country. Islam in America is mostly a success story, because immigration from the Muslim world has tended to be selective.

But the less discriminating immigration becomes, the more likely future events such as Orlando are to reoccur, especially when America welcomes supporters of the Taliban, such as the Orlando killer’s father. There is no need for the United States to block migration from the Muslim world, but it would be in their interests to be more selective, and to choose those who have a worldview similar to the American average.

Yet westerners seem blissfully unaware of how unusual their tolerance is in the world, and how at risk they put it with open borders; migration from societies which are largely intolerant is likely to produce more intolerant migrants, and increase the (admittedly small) probability of individuals who take that intolerance to extreme ends.

Compare America’s Muslim story with Britain and France, countries which have attracted large-scale, much more unskilled populations predominantly from North Africa and South Asia. Both Muslim populations – 5 per cent in Britain, and 9 per cent in France – have high levels of unemployment and ghettoisation, even if we could add a thousand caveats about complex demographics (Indian and Iranian Muslims are very different, on average, to Pakistani or Somali). Meanwhile surveys consistently show non-trivial levels of support for terrorism, and widespread views on homosexuality and Israel that would make your Democrat-voting maiden aunt go pale.

If America had had the equivalent levels of migration as Britain and France it would mean a Muslim population of between 15 and 25 million, many living in isolated areas of high unemployment, and with 10,000 American citizens fighting for Isis. This can be said in a reasoned and non-hateful way, but a country with as many guns as America really, really doesn’t want to allow mass migration from the Muslim world on the scale Europe has. No country can stop things like Orlando happening. But it can take reasonable precautions to reduce the odds.

Prison and Mental Illness

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Prisons have become a substitute for state-run mental hospitals, German Lopez argues, but Scott Alexander offers a deeper explanation:

Lopez seems to be working off a model where there is a population of mentally ill people who can’t make it in normal society, and so will inevitably end up either in a long-term mental hospital or a prison. Since mental hospitals are good places where people get treatment, and prisons are bad places where people get punishment, we should “catch” these mentally ill people before they end up in prison so that they can be in nice hospitals instead.

Needless to say I disagree with pretty much every part of this assessment.

Between all of this talk of “the tragic collapse of America’s public mental health system” and “the US’s largely gutted mental health system” and “the country pulled back and defunded its mental health system” and so on, you might get the impression that less money is being spent on mental health. This is not really true. The share of GDP devoted to mental health is the same as it was in 1971, although this looks worse if you compare it to rising costs in other areas of health care. There hasn’t been a “gutting of the mental health system”, there’s been a shift from long-term state-run mental hospitals to community care. It hasn’t “left the criminal justice system as the only system that can respond to people with mental illness”, it helped create an alternate and less restrictive system of outpatient psychiatry. In my opinion, this was a positive development, and the share of mentally ill people in prison is not an argument against it. Let me explain.

“Mentally ill people in prison” conjures up this lurid image of psychos who snap and kill their families, followed by “well, what did you expect leaving a person like that on the street?” The reality is more mundane. There are lots of mentally ill people in prison because there are lots of mentally ill people everywhere. Remember, 20% of the population qualifies as mentally ill in one sense or another. If a depressed guy sells some marijuana and gets caught, he is now a “mentally ill person in prison”.

There are disproportionately many mentally ill people in prison partly because people’s illnesses lead them to commit crimes, but mostly because some of the factors correlated with mental illness are the same factors correlated with criminality. Poverty? Check. Neighborhood effects? Check. Genetic load? Check. Education? Check. IQ? Check. Broken families? Check. Drug abuse? Definitely check. The factors that gave that pot dealer depression might be the same factors that drove him to sell pot instead of becoming an astronaut. Treating the depression might help a little, but it’s not guaranteed to keep him on the good side of the law.

In my model, the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people can live okay lives outside of any institution, hopefully receiving community care if they want it. If they commit crimes they will go to prison just like anyone else; if not, we should hardly be clamoring to bring back the often-horrifying state-run mental hospitals and lock them up there.


What about that graph? It’s very suggestive. You see a sudden drop in the number of people in state mental hospitals. Then you see a corresponding sudden rise in the number of people in prison. It looks like there’s some sort of Law Of Conservation Of Institutionalization. Coincidence?

Yes. Absolutely. It is 100% a coincidence. Studies show that the majority of people let out of institutions during the deinstitutionalization process were not violent and that the rate of violent crime committed by the mentally ill did not change with deinstitutionalization. Even if we take the “15% of inmates are severely mentally ill” factoid at face value, that would mean that the severely mentally ill could explain at most 15%-ish of the big jump in prison population in the 1980s. The big jump in prison population in the 1980s was caused by the drug war and by people Getting Tough On Crime. Stop dragging the mentally ill into this.

Lopez himself wrote a nice piece on how most mentally ill people are not violent, and another nice piece on how most people in prison are there for violent offenses. But put these together, and you get that most mentally ill people do not end up in prison. Most of the people who got out of the mental hospitals during deinstitutionalization are getting by. Some of them are homeless, and that’s bad. But if you want to solve homelessness among the mentally ill, build homeless shelters, not state-run long-term mental hospitals.