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Lock up repeat violent offenders in Chicago

Sun-Times file photo

A great deal has been said about Chicago’s violence, particularly in light of the 73 shootings and 12 people killed on a single weekend last month. Suggestions have been made about major community development, improved early education and better parenting. Those are initiatives with merit, but the answer to reducing Chicago violence is to lock up the repeat violent offenders.

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has made this very point.

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The University of Chicago Crime Lab has analyzed shootings in Chicago. Clearance rates on shootings — the percentage of cases solved — are below 20 percent, so the Crime Lab instead has reviewed arrest records of the victims. Last year, the Crime Lab found that the vast majority of people wounded or killed in the city in 2015 and 2016 had prior arrests themselves — and most for violent crimes.

The Crime Lab found that of those targeted for a shooting in Chicago in 2015 and 2016, 90 percent had at least one prior arrest and 50 percent had a prior arrest for a violent crime. On average, Chicago shooting victims each had almost 12 prior arrests, and almost 20 percent of them had been arrested more than 20 times.

Meanwhile, we should note, the shooters face no meaningful deterrence. Eighty percent were never arrested or convicted.

Having served as director of Illinois Department of Corrections, executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, chair of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, and administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration under three presidents, I have spent the last 50 years observing what works and what doesn’t work. The excess emphasis on keeping repeat criminal offenders out of prison does not serve public safety and is the real contributing factor causing Chicago’s unacceptable shootings and violence.

The long-term solution to gun violence on Chicago’s South and West sides is a Marshall Plan-like commitment to creating real employment opportunities, better schools, more parks, fewer abandoned buildings and much more.

But private sector investment is unlikely to take place until the streets are safe.

Peter Bensinger, Chicago

Trump hardly talks like all Americans

Regarding Phil Kadner’s column on Wednesday about how President Trump “speaks American.” Please tell Mr. Kadner that not all Americans feel like, talk like or think like this man who occupies the White House. Hardly presidential! To suggest this is how Americans think and talk is to be insensitive to the many Americans that are grappling with the current presidential office occupant.

Irma Castaneda, Near North SideWhy free tuition?The University of Illinois has decided to provide full tuition and fees for in-state income-qualified students. While the program, that will cost $4,000,000 annually, is intended to lure Illinois students to attend classes here instead of outside colleges. Is it really so important that Illinois students attend classes here instead of colleges in other states?

In reporting the story, TV reporters interviewed students, but they should have interviewed those whose taxes will pay the bills, especially those who work in trades where a college education is unnecessary. Those struggling to make ends meet probably would not care to fund this program, unless their children would be the ones to benefit.

Larry E. Nazimek, Logan Square