In part of a larger post at TAPPED, M. Yglesias makes an interesting point w.r.t. judges who are "soft on crime" and crime rates:
On a wonky note, "soft on crime" judges who let factually guilty people get off on technicalities actually don't impact crime rates at all. The way the criminal justice system actually works is that governors and legislatures appropriate funds to create enough space in prison for X number of people. Parole boards and prosecutors then use their discretion to ensure that the prison beds stay full. Faced with overcrowding, people don't serve their full sentences and people accused of relatively minor felonies get generous plea bargains. As prison capacity expands, prosecutors start driving harder bargains. Aggregate incarceration rates do impact violent crime but the fate of any particular offender doesn't change the incarceration rate; budget decisions made in state capitals are the real causal drivers.
I never realized this before, but it makes perfect sense.