As a brief coda to what seemed to be Fright Week last week here at MM (radiation! brutal murder! screaming trees!) I want to clarify my position: I don’t believe cities are inherently scary places, nor do I believe that rural Maine areas are completely saccharine and harm-free. Which brings me to today’s myth: putting more people in prison decreases crime. False.
In case you have not heard, New York City’s violent crime has been reduced since 1990 by a jaw-dropping 59 percent. But, no matter what Presidential-candidate Guiliani would have you believe, that impressive fact is NOT due to locking more people up. In fact, in a period of time when the nation’s prison population ballooned New York’s actually declined by a whopping 50%. (I don’t mean to give the impression that they accomplished the crime reduction through being good listeners; there were certainly more police on the street.) But, somewhat paradoxically, New York City streets are safer, even though there are fewer people in prison.
That Bonfire-of-the-Vanities New York City, the one that was reproduced in miniature as an object lesson in “the wages of sin” at the fundamentalist Creation Museum in Bullittsburg, Kentucky–complete with graffitti reading “abortion!”–is no more, if indeed it ever was. (Unfortunately, it was too dark in the Tunnel of Sin for me to take effective pictures, but I will scour around for some, they’re very entertaining.)
And speaking of places reproduced in miniature for nefarious purposes–I feel it’s time to confess that my hometown, Southwest Harbor, Maine, despite what I told my college roommate (hi Jen!) is actually like something out of a Stephen King story. Quite literally. Our Main Street was used as the set for the much-forgotten Stephen King TV movie Storm of the Century, in which a Biblical-scale snowstorm (filmed in the summer using potato flakes) blow the Devil himself into town. In order to wreak the Devil’s revenge on the town, however, they had to built an exact replica on a soundstage in Canada.