'The best predictor of future behavior is past conduct': Is Sheriff right about Sacramento shooter?

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Fact Box

  • On April 11, 2022, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told Fox News Digital that “the best predictor of future behavior is past conduct, and violent people, they’re going to be violent when they get out” in relation to a gang shootout in downtown Sacramento.
  • Sacramento police reported a gunfight on April 3, 2022 involving five or more gang members that resulted in the deaths of six people and 12 wounded. One of the suspects, Simley Martin, was noted as being released from prison after serving less than half of his 10-year sentence even though the District Attorney’s Office warned “he should not be released as he poses a significant, unreasonable risk of safety to the community.”
  • According to the Pew Research Center, gun murders reached a total of 19,384 in 2020, the highest since 1968, surpassing the previous high of 18,253 in 1993. Overall, the total amount of gun deaths reached 45,222 which includes death by suicide. 
  • The United States has some of the highest rates of recidivism in the world; World Population Review noted 44% of criminals return before the first year out of prison The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found that California rates of recidivism have averaged at 50% for the past decade.

Ethan (No)

The tragic Sacramento shooting resulted from gang violence in a city plagued by gangs who don't care if they damage or endanger innocent lives. To claim that everyone's past is an indicator of their future based on the actions of gangs is unfair to anyone who has been released from prison and chose to become a new person. Julius Thibodeaux, a gang intervention worker in Sacramento, says this shooting 'came out of the blue' and that the pandemic made it significantly more difficult to limit gang-related violence due to closed schools and the inability of mentors to meet with their pupils. Gang-related incidents shouldn't be used to cast judgment upon the entirety of the criminal population.  

Sheriff Scott Jones was referencing a psychological idea that's been debated and proven to be an oversimplification. Only certain conditions prove this statement to be true, and one of those is that the action must be a high-frequency habitual behavior. Although convicted previously, gun violence wouldn't be considered a habit for these men. The period of 'study' and their violent crimes occurred over several years due to their incarceration—not over a short period of time, which is another condition required for this statement to be true.  

People are capable of change, and laws can encourage them to make the right decisions. According to CNN, California State Attorney General Rob Bonta said his office continues to push for 'common sense gun laws' that will help end the gun violence that leads to crimes like these. If the US had stricter gun laws, these shooters might have had less of an opportunity to get ahold of the guns they used.

Curtice (Yes)

One of the suspects in the Sacramento shooting, Smiley Martin, had recently been released from prison after serving less than half of his 10-year sentence for an assault conviction. This, despite prosecutors pleading against the early release, stating that he 'clearly has little regard for human life and the law.' Unfortunately, this assessment was correct.

As Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones aptly noted, the best predictor of the future is the past. This is applicable in virtually any situation, but it is most certainly applicable to criminal behavior. Crime is increasing nationwide, but most notably in California, where, as Sheriff Jones stated, they treat 'criminals like victims and victims like criminals.'

California and other states have eroded the penalties for committing crimes. Add to that the movement to defund police, and what you get are the predictable results—increased crime and lawlessness and decreased safety.

For example, open-air drug markets have popped up in San Francisco. Drug dealers conduct business out in the open with little police presence. As anyone should know, drug crimes breed other crimes. Additionally, smash and grab thefts have become commonplace in California. In 2014, Californians passed a ballot initiative, Prop 47, that reduced the penalties for certain crimes. The objective was to reduce overcrowding in California prisons. However, this has incentivized criminals, as they know there will be few if any penalties should they even get arrested at all. When crime is not condemned, more of it is sure to arise.

Habitual criminals are habitual because they continue to be granted the opportunities to commit crimes. As Sheriff Jones so aptly noted, 'If people have a history of committing violent acts and they have not shown a propensity or willingness to change, I don't think they should be out on the streets.'

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