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Locking up some criminals really can save them — regardless of what soft-on-crime pols say


For all of the patronizing perspective towards New York’s low-level criminals on the a part of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his supporters — that thieves and burglars bear no accountability for their very own habits as a result of they “need assistance” — not all criminals are mentally unwell or irrational within the decisions they make.

Exhibit A is Isaac Rodriguez, The Post’s “Man of Steal.” Like most of us, Rodriguez, 23, is a principally rational particular person: When the reward or punishment for his habits modifications, he’ll change his habits accordingly. 

Last yr, police arrested Rodriguez 46 occasions for shoplifting, together with 37 occasions at a Jackson Heights Walgreens. Was Rodriguez newly destitute as a result of he misplaced his job within the pandemic and determined for bread?

Nope: As he forthrightly notes, shoplifting was his job. He stole high-value items to resell, to feed his drug behavior. 

Now, he’s lastly at Rikers, serving a sentence till the tip of the yr for shoplifting at a special drugstore that had taken out a restraining order towards him. And Rodriguez is OK with that. He instructed The Post that “I might’ve died eventually” if he “was nonetheless on the market.” 

Rikers Island

Isaac Rodriguez is serving his sentence at Rikers Island.
AP/Seth Wenig

An affordable prediction, contemplating that New York City suffered 1,233 overdoses throughout the first two quarters of final yr (the most recent knowledge accessible), up 80% from pre-pandemic ranges and the best quantity on file. 

Now, Rodriguez needs to get his GED and progress from there. Good for him, and good luck to him — and let’s hope town does give him the assistance he wants to realize this objective. 

But how did Rodriguez change his perspective? The carrot may fit for some folks — however many people additionally want the stick. Rodriguez stole, again and again, as a result of he perceived — accurately — that there was no punishment for such habits.

Now that he does face such a punishment, he needs to vary that habits in order that he doesn’t face such punishment once more. With the cycle he received himself into now damaged — doing the quick “work” of stealing for the quick “reward” of getting excessive — he needs to assume long run. 

What broke the cycle? Not an “various to incarceration.” Incarceration. 

Look on the ’90s

Rodriguez was arrested 37 occasions final yr at a Jackson Heights Walgreens.
J.C. Rice

Indeed, what many individuals miss in regards to the early-Nineties “powerful on crime” period in New York City is that it wasn’t an period of mass incarceration. Between 1990 and 2019, the inhabitants held at Rikers Island fell from 22,000 on a mean day to 7,000. Though the declines began later, the development is analogous on the state-prison degree. 

This wasn’t as a result of New York had gone soft on crime. It was as a result of folks have been committing much less crime, from shoplifting to automobile theft to homicide. 

Why would they try this? It wasn’t as a result of we began making higher folks or that the drug commerce hasn’t lengthy provided a simple temptation above an entry-level minimum-wage job. It was as a result of folks knew that pursuing a profession of crime wasn’t a rational determination: They would get in bother. 

Incarceration skyrocketed, against this, within the ’70s and ’80s. People might get away with a number of low-level crime — till they did one thing actually unhealthy and went to jail after which jail for a very long time. This development is reviving itself, as each crime and the variety of folks in jail rise once more. 

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has obtained a variety of backlash for his soft-on-crime method.
Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

Based on what Rodriguez says, it’s a very good factor he stole stuff in Queens slightly than in Manhattan. As Manhattan DA Bragg has put it, individuals who commit crime to feed addictions ought to be afforded “repeated alternatives” to keep away from jail as a result of “relapses are a part of the street to restoration.” 

So is dying. These second — and third, fourth and forty sixth — possibilities run out on the road, because the OD charge exhibits. As Rodriguez instructed The Post, “This is a blessing in disguise.” 

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City ­Journal. 

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