Intelligence Trumps Force, Professor David Kennedy Suggests

By · Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

David Kennedy, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, uses common sense to reduce crime and keep communities safer. In the February 9, 2009 issue of Newsweek, Suzanne Smalley reported on Kennedy’s techniques and the significant drop in crime (in 2008, one Nashville community saw a 91% decrease in drug crimes and prostitution) directly linked to his approach–he uses intelligence rather than force.

Rather than relying on law enforcement’s use of weapons, handcuffs, and prisons alone, Kennedy suggests that persuasion can also prove effective in stopping drug crimes. He instructs law enforcement officers to gather evidence against drug offenders and prepare criminal indictments. Before arresting them and locking the drug offenders into a system that perpetuates failure, he urges the officers to call the suspects in for a candid look at the evidence against them. The officers then give the criminal suspects a choice. Either they can enroll in a program with mentors who will help them develop community values and live as productive citizens, or the officers will go forward with the criminal cases against them and put them through the prison system. That liberal approach, to the chagrin of lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key conservatives has proven far more effective in reducing crime.

Prison administrators and legislators ought to consider the valuable lessons Professor Kennedy teaches. The use of intelligence is far more effective than the use of force in fostering safer communities. If prison administrators were to use incentives that would encourage prisoners to work toward developing skills and credentials and resources, the prison lenders would take a huge step toward both lowering recidivism rates and prison operating expenses.

By extinguishing hope for those who serve time in prison, administrators create us-versus-them environments. The more oppressive and controlling the prison regime, the more recalcitrant prisoners become. It is precisely the lack of hope that leads to the proliferation of gangs and violence inside America’s prison system. Such policies contribute to the cycles of failure and unsafe communities, as prisoners revert to crime upon release.

Some prisoners present a danger to law-abiding society and show no interest in living in accordance with the principles of good citizenship. Many more prisoners, however, would welcome opportunities to work toward reconciling with society and earning their freedom. The heavy-handed policies of get-tough politicians, however, keep society locked into a so-called “corrections” policy that is fundamentally flawed. It is the reason that taxpayers must spend $60 billion per year to fund a system that perpetuates failure. Although prisons churn out failure, the system ??? urge to punish.

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