McMaster of the soundbite

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This week, Attorney General Henry McMaster is making stops across the state urging lawmakers — OK, their constituents — to pass a bill banning parole for state prisoners. And according to WCBD, he's got a great soundbite to help him out:

[McMaster said,] “We're supposed to be a nation of law, but what we've become is nation of parole boards.”

Seriously, you have to admire that one. Clever stuff.

Of course, McMaster denies charges that with fewer inmates getting out more prisons will have to be built:

While McMaster's plan would keep criminals in jail longer, he says jail overcrowding will not happen for two reasons.

He says violent offenders will think twice before committing a crime because the sentences are long, and he hopes an aggressive rehabilitation program will help keep more non-violent offenders out of jail.

While Henry MC have a point there when it comes to more rehabilitation programs, he's fooling himself if he thinks the threat of a harsh sentence will keep violent criminals from committing violent acts. Or at least that's what a University of Pennsylvannia study suggests:

 ust the threat of "hard time" in prison doesn't discourage most potential criminals from committing crimes, according to a study led by a University of Pennsylvania Law School professor.

The findings, published in the forthcoming Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, show that it's unproductive for legislators to re-write laws to increase prison sentences in hopes of improving the deterrence effect.

The study found that very often potential criminals don't understand laws.

"Even if they know what the rule is, a very large percentage of offenders have limited capacity, either because they have serious drug and alcohol problems, serious mental illness or other kinds of behavioral control problems," said Paul Robinson, lead author of the study, "Does Criminal Law Deter? A Behavioral Science Investigation.  "They assume the rules are as they assume they should be."

Robinson and co-researcher John Darley of Princeton University found that many criminals don't perform a rational cost-benefit calculation, and, even if they compared the positive and negative consequences of their actions they often would choose to commit the crime.

"Potential offenders don't seriously take into account getting caught, so it doesn't matter what you're threatening to punish at the other end.  Doubling the prison sentence is not something that's going to make a difference to people who don't think they're going to get caught," Robinson said.

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