John DiIulio

Recent Articles

Cracking Down

Commentary on "The House That Crack Built"

Dixon's " The House that Crack Built " invites reflections on at least three sets of questions. First, is drug abuse and drug-related crime more or less common today than it was in the 1980s? Second, what is known about the efficacy of drug treatment programs in reducing substance abuse and crime? Third, what help can enthnographic studies be in understanding and shaping the next generation of drug policies? Briefly, let me sketch answers to each of these questions. Most analysts agree that the number of Americans who use drugs is lower today than it was in the early- to mid-1980s. They also concur that there has been a small but significant decline in the number of drug abusers--persons whose frequent or reckless use of drugs results in serious problems for themselves or others (child or spouse abuse, job loss, physical or mental illness). Some analysts, however, believe that the inner-city poor are exceptions to the trend. Over the last decade, drug abuse has become concentrated...

Instant Replay: Three Strikes Was the Right Call

Instant Replay Three Strikes Was the Right Call John J. DiIulio, Jr. Jerome H. Skolnick's essay on crime policy ("Wild Pitch: `Three Strikes, You're Out' And Other Bad Calls on Crime," Spring 1994), omitted some important facts and ignored several valid arguments. Echoing the anti-incarceration consensus within criminology, Skolnick asserts that life without parole for thrice-convicted violent felons is a bad policy idea, a "wild pitch." Actually, it's more of an underhanded lob to career criminals, most of whom would hardly be affected by it. In 1991 there were about 35,000 new court commitments to federal prisons. Less than 6 percent of federal prisoners were sentenced for violent crimes. About 30 percent of the 142,000 persons committed to state prisons were sentenced for violent crimes. If 10 percent of all prisoners sentenced for violent crimes were on their "third strike," then the law would have affected some 4,500 persons in a corrections population of nearly 4.5 million. Love...

Getting Prisons Straight

In the 1970s prison rehabilitation seemed destined for the conservatives’ trophy case of failed social programs. Now the evidence looks better: Some programs have beneficial effects on both the prisoners and the prisons.

Despite decades of debate and countless efforts at reform, the future of America's correctional system looks almost as bleak as its past. In the 1980s, the nation's incarceration rate more than doubled. Today the U.S. prison population is soaring toward 800,000, and nearly 4 million citizens -- including one of every nine adult African-American males -- is under some form of correctional supervision (in prison, in jail, on probation, or on parole). By some definitions, most prisons and jails are overcrowded; by any definition, many of them are filthy, violence-ridden, and lacking in programs that afford inmates a meaningful opportunity to work, achieve literacy, or free themselves from the shackles of substance abuse. Nor has overcrowding behind bars prevented "overloading" on the streets. Roughly three-quarters of all persons under correctional supervision in this country are in the community under various forms of probation and parole. In many jurisdictions, the typical probation or...