A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Blame Yourself For Repeat Offenders

Tom Barrett, editor of ConservativeTruth.org writes on his website in a well-reasoned article in support of faith-based prison rehabilitation programs:

"Many people re-offend over and over. Some adults in this country have spent far more time behind bars than on the outside. The costs to society are incalculable. Prison costs are staggering. We can't build prisons fast enough, so liberal judges release violent offenders before they have served their sentences."


Prisons are not being built fast enough, so liberal judges release violent offenders before they have served their sentences?"

Prisons are not being fast enough because legislatures are not doling out enough taxpayer funds to build them. Maybe we're thinking of ways to actually prevent crime, or other ways to deal with those who are not actually "criminals," but drug addicts (just kidding).

Legislatures are made up of Conservatives and Liberals. Here in Florida, where Mr. Barrett lives, there's plenty of room in the prisons - we can't convict people fast enough and sentence them to prison for such offenses as habitually driving with a suspended license, and possession of whatever minor amount of drug to which they are addicted.

But the problem is liberal judges?

No conservative judge has ever released a prisoner prior to the completion of their sentence according to Mr. Barrett.

We hear over and over again that prisoners are flying out of prison after serving small portions of their sentences. That is not true. Most prisoners today serve 85% of their sentence, and there is no evidence that letting someone out early is the reason they re-offend.

The problem is us. We simply don't care what goes on in prisons. We spent the 80's whining about prisoners receiving education, cable TV and playing basketball. We'd rather have them sit in their cell and "think about their crime," all the while becoming more adverse to society and ready to emit their anger on us when they are released.

Here's another fact - most people in prison are NOT sentenced to life. Regardless of the "throw away the key mentality," the key is available to MOST inmates. I know you don't care - but you should - because it is OUR problem once they are released.


And by the way - don't you think a prisoner is more likely to behave in prison knowing that if they accomplish something while inside - they can go home earlier, rather than knowing that no matter what they do positively - it won't matter?


  1. I find it interesting that someone reads an article that was supposedly about faith based programs in prisons. Finds a statement about "liberal" judges, and then says that we are to blame for criminals remaining criminals. First, I never could find the article Mr. Tannebaum quoted. I did find one that seemed to have a similiar subject dated May 12, 2002 titled "The Prison Revolving Door". That article had no mention of "liberal" judges, though it does talk about the issue of recidivism. Mr. Barrett goes on to talk about how the government has had horrible results with turingin criminals around. He points out faith based programs as a alternative. I have to assume, that if the article Tannebaum refers to did exist, that Mr. Barrett was again pointing out how faith based programs might be an answer whenre govenment programs have not worked. If Mr. Tannebaum thinks that all punishment, and no rehabilitation programs in prisons are a problem, then maybe he should support Mr. Barrett and faith based programs. That might be a little more productive than looking for "liberal judges" comments.

  2. Paul - thanks for your comments. I quoted directly from the article you referred to and there is a comment about liberal judges, the easy target for conservatives for all problems in the criminal justice system. I find no fault with the success of faith based programs, and nothing in my post criticized this effort.

  3. I’m almost disappointed that you’ve convinced me. What am I becoming.

  4. while i agree that prisons should try to offer some rehabilitation, this does not mean that those who avail themselves of rehabilitaion should be released early. why cant you acknowledge that many of the people right now serving long sentences actually deserve to be in prison? you practice in florida and must be aware of the fact that the crime rate has plunged in the last 10 years, in part, becuase the law has gotten tougher by making prisoners serve 85 percent of the thier sentences. there have also been a number of career criminal statutes passed which has contributed to this decline.
    every year the criminal defense bar and the pds office wrings thier hands and whines about career criminal sentencing laws as if they are somehow unfair. what you fail to acknowlege is that these laws and thier focus on repeat criminals is a large reason why crime rates are falling in florida and nationwide. why do you always mention people going to prison for drug possession when you know that in dade county those who possess small amounts of cocaine rarely if ever go to prison?

    as to "liberal judges" i am more annoyed with lazy judges who inhabit the bench in dade county. i hope you realize how fortunate to practice in dade county. in other jurisdictions judges dont not switch calendars with each so that they can offer every career criminal a plea of the bottom of the guidelines. what i love is how the only time the judges sentence anyone harshly under the career criminal statutes is when they get angry becuase the defendant actually had the nerve, imagine, to actually want a trial. then, unless the have a hig powered attorney, and only then, do the judges lower the boom and sentence harshly. it seems like the judges arent outraged by the fact that a guy who has burglarized homes 20 times in the past did it again. instead they are outraged that a defendant wouldnt take thier 3 year plea offer and wasted thier time and prevented them from leaving early so they sentence them to 30 years.