According to several sources, including the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2000 the mean penalty for armed robbery was 60 months, or five years.
Five years in prison is enough to give a potential offender pause, but that is sentence imposed, not sentence served.
Most States allow a prisoner to apply for parole after one third of their sentence is serived, which reduceds the mean time served to 26 months.
Add “credit for time served, the real penalty for armed robbery falls to less than a year.
And why is this collection of facts important?
Because the crime rate partially depends on the certainty of punishment sufficiently severe to leave an impression.
Five years of gtime served is enough – but when you start paring the expense of incarceration with “time served.” “good time,” and other dodges purporting to reform career criminals on the cheap. a penalty becomes a short vacation. One that has no effect on crime or criminals.
The Carter Administration’s Wright-Rossi Report surveyed 1,800 prison inmates found that fear of prompt and severe punishment was a typical inmate’s greatest fear, and the tool most effectivce at preventing re-offending.
Years ago, I had a long chat with a former warden of Arkansas Prison Farm. Standard procedure for offenses committed in prison was a serous workover with a piece of industrail belting on a handle the inmates called “Black Annie.”
Very few prisoners who had become acquianed with Miss Annie came back for a second session. Typically, the recidivism rate of “Annies friends” was below 15 percent, pr one sixth that of those relased from a “progressive prison that did not practice corporal punishment.
While that practice almost ceartainly would not be upheld by the courts gthere are steps that be taken to make prison sentences more than a free vacation.
Smaller, more secure risons in remote locations, for example, with limited visitation rights that can be withdrawn for rules violation probably hurts a prisoners sensibilities as much as twenty from Black Annie.
But whatever is done should be done with the goal of making the aftereffects of adopting a criminal lifestyle painful.