Mississippi needs to look at the other side of the criminal justice debate, Rafael Mangual says in Jackson

By Tyler B. Jones
May 8, 2023

(Jackson, MS): Best-selling author Rafael Mangual was in Jackson this week advocating for more policing and stricter incarceration policies. 

Over the last two decades, Mangual said there has been a shift in criminal justice reform. At a luncheon hosted last week by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, he said the leniency and skepticism surrounding criminal justice is evidenced by a 25% decrease in the prison population, a 15% decrease in the jail population and a 25% decline in arrests. 

While activists continue to advocate for decarceration and depolicing, Mangual's research shows that this policy agenda is dangerous. 

The majority of crime in America is concentrated in just a handful of places, geographically and demographically. Fifty percent of the murders that occur in the country happen in only 2% of US counties - half of US counties will not see a single homicide in a given year. Demographically, Black men are 10% more likely to be the victim of homicide in America compared to their white counterparts. For example, since 2008, 95% of shooting victims in New York City were Black or Hispanic males.

This data shows, Mangual said, that the most vulnerable people, the ones who are more likely to be involved in violent crimes, are minorities living in impoverished areas. 

The argument on the other side is that the United States has an incarceration problem - the United States makes up 5% of the world's population, but 20% of the world's prison population - but in order to decarcerate, the US must do it safely, something Mangual said cannot be done for a majority of criminals currently in our prison system. 

Two-thirds of the country's prison population consists of offenders convicted of violent felonies or crimes involving weapons. More than 80% of offenders released from prison will commit more crimes once released and re-arrested for violent felonies. Mangual said this goes against the left's agenda which promotes the idea that the US doesn’t give second chances. 

"What that tells us is that the most serious crime problem that we have is one that is driven by people who have been given multiple bites of the apple despite showing their repeated criminal conduct, but they have no intention of playing by society’s rules," Mangual said. "And yet the agenda that we have seen characterizing criminal justice policy increasingly over the last several decades has been the idea that we ought to decarcerate en masse."

Mangual was joined at the event by Mississippi State Auditor Shad White. White has been a strong advocate for eliminating crime in Mississippi and said that we can take the ideas Mangual has given us and apply them here in the Magnolia State. 

For the last two years, Jackson has ranked as the highest city per capita for homicide in the country. If Jackson were taken out of the equation, Mississippi would still rank in the top five most dangerous states per capita in the US, which shows that crime is not just a Jackson problem - it's a Mississippi problem, White said. 

In order to combat crime in Mississippi, he said we have to be pro-law enforcement and get tough on violent criminals. 

"I’m grateful for a nationally recognized expert to come here and tell us about the real data underlying real solutions that we can get at this problem," White said. "We have a responsibility to the most vulnerable in our society to enact real solutions to get at this problem."


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