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Do consequences of crimes still matter?

(excerpt from

Is there anything more satisfying than washing your car, and then stepping back and admiring your now pristine vehicle? It’s like a fresh coat of paint on a wall or decluttering your desk, even though by week’s end the car will be a mess again. It seems we’re hardwired to appreciate a fresh start.

This is especially true when it comes to people. We all root for the underdog to turn misfortune around. It’s why some New Yorkers support the Clean Slate Law recently signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The law automatically seals criminal records for most offenders, in the hope that people will more easily shake any stigma associated with their convictions. This idea certainly comes from a good place, but there are never any one-size-fits-all answers when it comes to social issues or justice.

The core of this debate revolves around recidivism — the likelihood that a person will relapse into criminal behavior after completing a prison sentence. The hard, cold facts about the rates of recidivism are shocking. According to the Harvard Political Review, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons each year. Another 9 million are released from local jails. But within three years, two out of three are rearrested, and more than 50 percent go back to jail. That’s not good.


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