UPDATE: Would Law Releasing Jail Mug Shots Deter Crime?

Rep. Al O'Brien

This just in: Washington State Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, introduced a bill Tuesday in Olympia that would make public all booking photographs and electronic images from jails.

O’Brien chairs the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, a fact that may give House Bill 2115 an increased chance at success.

I’m looking into O’Brien’s — and others’ — motivations behind such a move. But the first thought I had was if by releasing the mug shots of suspects is that it would have a deterrent effect on some in society to commit future crimes.

UPDATE: I spoke to O’Brien this afternoon and learned the bill was far more specific than its language leads on. O’Brien’s plan is to make the photos available to police, who could view them while on a traffic stop. He uses the example of an identity thief who police want to confirm that they are who they say they are.

“We were thinking just in terms the police,” O’Brien said.

Nonetheless, the subject of releasing booking photos to the overall public — not just police — is a hot topic.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I asked Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, what she thought of such an effort as well. Here’s what she wrote me in an email:

“The right to privacy is very strong in the WA State Constitution. These people at booking are not guilty of a crime. The photos and images are available after conviction.  Each intrusion into a person’s privacy does away with the presumption of innocence.  I don’t believe the bill has a chance to be passed.”

There are papers and web sites (take Newsday’s Long Island Mug Shots for example) that publish the mugs on crimes all the way down to DUIs. And some states, including Oregon, allow their jails to post mug shots on their jail booking rosters (check out the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office).

Perhaps in these days of budget cuts, keeping someone out of jail — who might be embarrassed at the thought of having friends, family and the community seeing them at their worst —would in fact trim our jail populations.

What is your take on releasing mug shots?

2 thoughts on “UPDATE: Would Law Releasing Jail Mug Shots Deter Crime?

  1. It cant deter crime because then people will be violent and angry with whatever crime they did. Apartently tuff love doesnt work you morons it causes people to lash out.

  2. Of course it could deter crime. Trouble is people aren’t used to consequences for their actions so it will take some getting used to but only until people learn this is a law with teeth. IF it is a law with teeth. Otherwise, don’t bother, we don’t need another ignored law on the books.

    A activation date should be set and from that date forward the full consequences should be set forth, photos and all…to all convicted of a crime!
    Sharon O’Hara

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