Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Does Appropriate Discipline Stop Bad Behavior?

The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns safety and security. Governments are instituted by God for the benefit of the people. However, the people hold the power and cede to government power to do those things that the people cannot do for themselves.

One of those things is safety and security. The federal has the responsibility and authority to provide national security from domestic and foreign enemies. Local government has authority and authority to protect individuals with their police and fire departments. However, strange ideas have crept into public safety organizations.

Zack Smith, John G Malcolm, and Paul J. Larkin are legal scholars at The Heritage Foundation and recently published an article about public safety in The Daily Signal. They indicated that there are “twin myths” in the criminal justice system that they oppose. The two myths are “the criminal justice system is systematically racist” and “America has a mass incarceration problem.” They declare that the system is not systemically racist and that America does not have a mass incarceration problem. 

Heritage Foundation legal scholars have made clear that we oppose these positions in a variety of ways and in a variety of settings….

Because Heritage’s legal scholars possess a wide array of expertise – particularly in the area of criminal justice – we frequently are asked to give speeches and to participate in debates, which we gladly do.

We occasionally are asked to serve on committees by legal organizations such as the American Law Institute, The Florida Bar, and the Council on Criminal Justice, which we also gladly do. (The three of us, in fact, have served as advisers to these and other legal organizations.)

Such activity is a service to the bar and contributes to the lively intellectual debates that lawyers frequently engage in – and that ultimately serve the public good by leading to better policy outcomes.

These legal organizations solicit input from a variety of individuals across the ideological spectrum on different topics related to criminal justice. They also frequently issue reports containing data, observations, and recommendations while listing individuals who provided input.

The authors explained that their services on law-related committees are given as individuals and in their compacity as legal scholars. “The final work product is often, if not most often, the result of compromise.” The authors indicated that they rarely agree with all the final recommendations and sometimes do not agree with any of them. They stated that the committees “typically make this internal disagreement clear,” but news articles are often – sometimes deliberately -- misleading about who agrees with the recommendations. They gave the following example to educate their readers. (Emphasis added.)

For instance, the headline of a recent article in Law 360 blares: “Bipartisan Report Recommends Axing Mandatory Minimums.” It then notes all of those who participated, including “a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.” That fellow was one of us.

The article, intentionally or not, gives the impression that all committee members and/or The Heritage Foundation endorsed all of the recommendations. This despite the fact that the report in question clearly states that task force members “participate … in their individual, not institutional capacities, and professional affiliations included in Task Force Reports do not imply institutional endorsement.” The report also states that task force members do “not necessarily [agree with] every finding and recommendation.”

Nothing could be further from the truth than the article’s impression of unanimity.

The authors explained that the article in Law 360 does not include “the fact that several committee members, although not required to do so, wrote separately to highlight their own issues with the report’s recommendations.

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) was one of the committee members who wrote a separate statement. He explicitly stated that he continues “to believe mandatory minimum prison sentences are appropriate in crimes of violence.” Gowdy was a prosecutor before being elected to Congress, and he made clear that there “are other recommendations upon which my views differ from the consensus of the larger Task Force.” (Emphasis added.)

Despite inaccurate news articles about the results of such committee, the authors stated that legal scholars from The Heritage Foundation will continue to serve on them. However, they wish to make clear that their participation “should not be misconstrued as tacit support for all recommendations coming out of those committees or task forces.” When they agree, they will say so. When they disagree, they will say so.

They concluded with this statement: “Heritage’s writing and scholarship on the importance of holding violent offenders accountable with appropriately lengthy sentences speaks for itself. And that’s indisputable.” (Emphasis added.)

There is a true fact that applies to public safety and rearing children: Any behavior that is rewarded will be repeated. If we want good behavior, then we must reward good behavior. If we allow children or criminals to get away with bad behavior, they will repeat it. If bad behavior results in appropriate discipline, then the bad behavior stops. The bottom line is that most children who are disciplined appropriately grow up to be law-abiding citizens. The bottom line is that most children who are disciplined appropriately grow up to be law-abiding citizens.

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