Dallas Prosecutor’s Faith in “Evidence-Based Sentencing” Fails to Reduce Recidivism

Dallas Prosecutor’s Faith in “Evidence-Based Sentencing” Fails to Reduce Recidivism

By Doug Wyllie

Image courtesy of John Creuzot for DA Campaign / Facebook.

Late last month, officers with the Dallas Police Department fatally shot a man who had only moments before opened fire on them, jumped behind the wheel of a stolen Cadillac SUV, crashed said automobile, and emerged from the wreckage with gun drawn and firing again at responding officers.

According to WFAA-TV News, uniformed officers had planned a traffic stop of the stolen vehicle after undercover officers had located it parked a few miles northeast of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

As officers approached, the suspect—identified as 55-year-old Michael Shirley—drew a handgun from a shoulder holster and began shooting. The abovementioned vehicle pursuit and subsequent second gunfight then ensued, ending only when additional officers armed with patrol rifles approached the mayhem from another direction and neutralized the threat.

As it happens, inside the overturned SUV was a kidnapping victim handcuffed to a rear passenger seatbelt. The woman—whose name was not released—was discovered when police sent an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, or “drone”) equipped with an infrared camera over the scene. She was unharmed in the incident.

As it happens, Michael Shirley was a recidivist criminal—arrested and released and rearrested numerous times—and a registered sex offender with two active warrants out for his arrest at the time of the gunfight that ended his life. Charges posthumously filed against Shirley included four counts of Aggravated Assault on a Public Servant and one charge of Kidnapping. Those charges are “cleared by exceptional arrest”—being dead, he will never be arrested again.

As it happens, Dallas County—the second-most populous county in Texas with more than 2.6 million residents—has an ample array of career criminals walking the streets in Dallas-area “bedroom communities” like Garland, Irving, Lancaster, Mesquite, and Richardson after being arrested and released… rearrested and released… and then arrested again… and again (and again).

For that, we can thank—in part, at least—the efforts of Dallas County Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot, who hasn’t exactly made reducing recidivism a priority.

Need to Get Smart

John Creuzot is a former judge who won election to the office of Dallas County District Attorney over Republican incumbent Faith Johnson in 2018.

During that campaign, Creuzot ran on a platform of “judicial reform” with a desire to take a “pragmatic approach to reduce mass incarceration.” Unsurprisingly, he had significant financial backing—an estimated $236,000—from liberal-billionaire-mega-donor George Soros.

Creuzot won in a landslide—60% to 40% over the Republican incumbent.

According to KDFW-TV News, soon after his election—and even before taking up residence in the office—Creuzot said that prosecutors in his office need to “focus on the underlying reasons for crime and treat that and put good taxpaying citizens back on the streets of Dallas County.”

Creuzot said the people involved in the enterprise of in criminal justice “need to get smart on crime.”

Almost immediately after taking the helm in early 2019, he began dismantling the existing system and crafting something akin to the “reformist” experiments being conducted in places like Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

According to the Texas Observer, the then-new DA announced that his office would “advocate for pretrial release in many low-level felony and most misdemeanor cases” as one of the steps he planned to take toward “ending mass incarceration in Dallas County.”

In addition, Creuzot said his office would also seek to end prosecution of people facing criminal trespass charges “against someone who is clearly homeless and in need of services.” He said also that he would not to prosecute thefts of personal items under $750 “that are stolen out of necessity” (whatever that means). Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a social media post that this policy change amounted to “wealth redistribution by theft.”

According to the Capital Research Center, during Creuzot’s first year in office, violent crime reportedly increased by 15%—homicide jumped 27%—while total convictions dropped by 30% compared to his predecessor.

Creuzot’s “policy modifications” continued unabated for the duration of his first four-year term, and as the time neared to campaign for re-election—a 2022 rematch of the 2018 contest against Johnson—he doubled down on his “reformist” agenda.

According to CBS News, in January of 2022 Creuzot mandated that prosecutors in his office no longer make recommendations to Grand Juries as to whether or not the twelve randomly selected citizens should vote to indict or no-writ criminal cases.

Creuzot said in a press release at the time that the “revised policy requires that the facts and evidence will speak for themselves no matter the type of case, and ensures consistent handling of each case presented to the grand jury by his office.”

Creuzot won in a landslide—60% to 40% over the Republican challenger.

Apparently, the people involved in the enterprise of voting “need to get smart” about voting.

Good Morning, Mr. Orwell

According to his own official bio, Creuzot “has earned a national reputation for his innovative work on drug courts, criminal justice reform and evidence-based sentencing.”

The use of “drug courts” is nothing particularly new—or particularly innovative—and “criminal justice reform” is a term pretty widely batted around by politicians and the press, but so-called “evidence-based sentencing” hasn’t yet entered common vernacular.

Ask an “expert” on criminal justice reform what the “evidence-based sentencing” means—and what it is intended to accomplish—and you’ll get a heaping pile of words roughly along these lines:

“Evidence-based sentencing is intended to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system by enhancing public safety through ensuring that sentencing decisions are based on empirical evidence rather than on punitive measures.”

That expert will then throw around technical-sounding language like “actuarial analysis” and “common sense” and “criminogenic needs” and “graduated sanctions” and “individualized sentencing” and “recidivism reduction” and “risk assessment.”

That expert will almost certainly add in some laudable-sounding language like “accountable” and “appropriate” and “careful” and “effective” and “thorough” and “transparent.”

This language is generated by the kinds of minds that call pre-pubescent genital mutilation by the antiseptic-sounding term “gender affirming care.”

This language is essentially Newspeak and Doublethink.

Good morning, Mr. Orwell.

Judging Individuals, Not Algorithms

Perhaps the most important element in the entire American system of criminal justice is that every defendant—and every case—is considered on an individual basis. No person’s guilt or innocence (or the manner/duration of their sentence if found guilty) is determined by the group to which they may belong, be it racial ethnicity, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or other real and/or perceived affiliation.

However, any “actuarial analysis” is necessarily an examination of the most likely future outcome based on a defined dataset drawn from past events. The alleged “evidence” in “evidence-based sentencing” is an amalgamation, an average, an estimate.

A defendant with a “low risk” or “high risk” assessment score in a given case may share a set of characteristics with a group of other defendants (with whom he/she has no personal relationship whatsoever) that may have either reoffended (or not) in the past.

This whole concept removes from the equation (and the process) the most important single variable in predicting and individual’s likelihood to reoffend if released—that this is an individual, not a group or a dataset.

The mere fact that this “system” relies on algorithmic analysis of historical data—including elements such as racial ethnicity, gender identity, socioeconomic status of offenders not related in any way to the person under immediate scrutiny—to determine a person’s criminal punishment is probably also unconstitutional.

Regardless, Creuzot and other Soros-funded “prosecutors” are happy to reference “studies” that “show” how this stuff “works”—despite the likely contravention to the due process clauses in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Unlike other Soros-funded “prosecutors” whose backgrounds consist almost entirely of defending criminals in court, John Creuzot has at least some experience prosecuting crime—he served as a Dallas County Assistant District Attorney and Chief Felony Prosecutor. Perhaps more intriguing is the fact that he is also a former Republican who switched parties when Dallas County turned more Democratic.

However he may cloak himself—Republican, Democrat, prosecutor, defense attorney, judge, or something else entirely—John Creuzot hasn’t exactly made reducing recidivism a priority.