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Yesterday I mocked the National Review's Eli Lehrer for arguing that Bernie Madoff's sentence was too harsh.

Lehrer used to focus on prison and crime issues at the Heritage Foundation, and now focuses on "insurance and credit markets" at the Competitive Enterprise Institute -- a set of specialities that seem to have intersected with Madoff affair. As part of his argument for greater leniency, Lehrer wrote:

Deterring future cons along the same lines as Madoff’s, of course, provides a pretty good reason to imprison Madoff. But a longer sentence seems unlikely to change the deterrence factor very much.

Yet his same Eli Lehrer, back in 2001, was bullish of increasing prison sentences as a "get tough on crime" approach to drug offenses. From the August 20, 2001 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (via Lexis):

WASHINGTON -- When Asa Hutchinson is formally sworn in today as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, he will oversee an enforcement effort that arrests an ever-increasing number of people and puts them in prison for ever-longer periods.

A Justice Department study released Sunday shows that prison time for drug offenders has more than doubled since 1986. Despite the prospect of more prison time, drug-related arrests have gone up at nearly the same rate.

Between 1986 and 1999, the average prison term served by drug offenders rose from 30 months to 66 months. The number of drug defendants charged in federal court during that time increased from 15,762 to 29,306 [...]

"In general, stiffer prison sentences are one of the most important ingredients in crime reduction," said Eli Lehrer, a visiting fellow who researches policing and corrections issues for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

I kind of agree that "longer sentence seems unlikely to change the deterrence factor very much", but I'd apply it to all situations, not just those in which Lehrer's crooked friends end up in jail.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:42 AM PDT.


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