A federal official has publicly acknowledged that the problem of violent crime in New Orleans is largely the result of a troubled education system and entrenched poverty. Yet he intends to fight the problem not with more teachers or anti-poverty programs, but with more police.
Speaking yesterday at a press conference during which he unveiled plans to double the number of federal agents assisting the New Orleans Police Department, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten made this astute observation about the city's criminals, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:
"They come from a failed educational system and poverty, and turn to drugs at an early age and settle things with guns," Letten said.
But Letten offered no plans to deal with that failed educational system, which just this week announced that it failed to meet its goal for qualified teachers, and that it had to place 300 students on a waiting list to get into the city's overcrowded and under-resourced public schools. Letten offered no plans to address poverty, or to offer alternatives to the drug trade, or to teach young people how to settle disputes without weapons. Instead, this is what Letten offered as a solution:
"We need to get these violent offenders in the federal system."
Louisiana already has the highest incarceration rate in the nation, with 797 people imprisoned for every 100,000 residents, according to recent U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. That's more than 60 percent higher than the national rate of 491 per 100,000 residents, which is the highest rate in the world.
If incarceration solved the problem of violent crime, wouldn't it have worked already? How long will we stay this course before we realize we're heading down a dead-end road?