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Mike Makowsky
I was given the opportunity to lay out a proposal to end law enforcement as a system of taxation by the good folks at and , which you can read here: So let's get into it, shall we? 1/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
First, a couple stylized facts. Revenues from fines, fees, & forfeitures have been on the rise for decades, both in real $ per cap and as a % of budgets. The numbers here actually undersell the problem - none of the national data include the proceeds from seized property 2/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
The criminal system extracts revenues from nearly everyone incarcerated. 3/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
Conviction of a crime/infraction is a sufficient, but not necessary condition for the system to generate revenue from an individual. Civil forfeiture laws are sufficiently permissive that state and local governments can generate significant revenues without a conviction. 4/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
Unlike most traditional taxes, however, law enforcement is highly regressive in its impact. a) Felony arrests disproportionately involve the poor b) The inability to quickly pay traffic/misdemeanor fines leads to higher penalties. 5/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @AmandaYAgan
c) Arrestees who lack the resources to hire private legal representation are convicted at higher rates and incur harsher penalties, including large financial penalties ( , Freedman, and Owens 2018). 6/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
There's no shortage of evidence of racial bias in the criminal justice system (cites in paper) What I'll note here is a self-reinforcing product of that bias: it becomes more fiscally profitable to arrest those against whom the system is biased. 7/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
So how do we change this? How do we engender revenue-neutral law enforcement, and in a way that is institutionally and politically feasible? Put simply, we dilute and, when possible, outright eliminate, the incentives in front of principals and officers reporting to them. 8/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
In the proposal, I start simple. PROPOSAL #1: End participation in federal equitable sharing programs. PROPOSAL #2: eliminate arresting agency retention of proceeds from seized property. These are good, but insufficient policies in pursuit of revenue-neutral law enforcement 9/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
PROPOSAL #3: Redistribute all criminal justice revenues as per capita municipal block grants. The diffusion of revenues across localities would sufficiently dilute, to the point of irrelevance, the revenue incentive behind any individual arrest. 10/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
The appeal of this policy is its *lack* of impact on the median municipality. The municipalities for whom this will serve as a major fiscal shock *are exactly* where we will find the law enforcement agencies and court systems we want to fundamentally realign & restructure 11/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
For states serious about ending the connection between law enforcement and revenue goals, who want to change the motivations underlying officer discretion, and make a public commitment to law enforcement as a service to the community, I offer something more ambitious 12/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
Proposal #4: A Public Safety Rebate. All revenues generated via law enforcement to be pooled at the state level & rebated as a progressive transfer to the low-income constituents most likely to be victimized both by crime and historical inequities in law enforcement. 13/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
A Public Safety Rebate would end revenue incentives in a manner that is credible,, transparent, and immediately salient to the lives of low income individuals. The yearly pooling and transfer of funds would make it robust to fiscal workarounds.. 14/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
Perhaps most optimistically, I believe the PSR would rebuild trust. Every annual rebate would summarize for recipients pool of law enforcement proceeds, their share,, and a breakdown of officer actions that generated the proceeds 15/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
The commitment to serving the community rather than expropriating from it would constitute an important step in rebuilding the relationship between officers and the community they both serve and depend on for cooperation. 16/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
Replying to @mikemakowsky
There's a lot more detail in the proposal, including questions, concerns, and discussion of the incredible body of research this is built from (only a small fraction of which I was involved in) 17/18
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Mike Makowsky 18 Mar 19
I also recommend the criminal justice fact sheet the put together (where several of the figures came from) and the fantastic proposal on graduated sanctions put together by Thanks for reading! 18/18
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