Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Up and Running Again!!!

For those of you who still kindly return here on a regular basis for information and those of get here through some wild accident of Google space-time warping, I want to let you know that some colleagues and I have started a new blog with many of the same topics and features as this blog. Check us out at Corrections Sentencing 2020 as we build our corrections and sentencing network to work through the demanding challenges the next several years will bring fiscally and environmentally.

As always, thanks for visiting here. Hope to see you there.--Mike

Friday, February 01, 2008

Corrections Sentencing Blogroll

In my adios post yesterday, I promised to put up my usual sources as a blogroll for you to use to keep up with areas and topics that you used to come here for. Here it is. Be sure to look at all of them when you have time, just to see what they have to offer if you don't already know. And some of them will have their own blogrolls that can extend your searches. I hope you get as much from them as I have.

Corrections Sentencing Blogs
a public defender
BlackProf Blog
Crime and Consequences
Crime and Justice News
CrimProf Blog
EvidenceProf Blog
Gavel Grab
Governing Through Crime
Grits for Breakfast
Prevention Works
Sentencing Law and Policy
Sex Crimes Blog
Texas Prison Bidness
The Real Cost of Prisons
Think Outside the Cage

Cognitive Science Sites
All in the Mind
Mind Hacks
Neuroethics & Law
Psychology and Crime News
Science Blogs (Mind and Behavior)
Science Daily (Mind)

General Science and Health Sites
Health Central
Reuters Health
Science Daily
Scientific American

Other Discipline Sites
Climate Progress (well, what it sounds like)
Empirical Legal Studies (law)
Governing (state and local government)
Governing's Blog--the 13th Floor
Prawfsblawg (law)
The Agonist (econ)
The Monkey Cage (poli sci)
The Situationist (social psych)
Voir Dire (law and politics)

Research Report Sites
Justice Research and Statistics Association
National Center for State Courts
National Institute of Corrections
NCJRS Weekly Accessions
NIC Correctional Research Roundtable
Pew Trusts Corrections and Public Safety
Reentry Policy Council
The Sentencing Project
The Vera Institute of Justice
Washington State Institute for Public Policy

General and State Specific News Sites
BBC News
Boston Globe
Christian Science Monitor
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Reuters News
The Guardian
US News & World Report
USA Today

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Turn Out the Lights

This will be my last substantive post on this blog, for reasons described here. As I considered the kind responses I received to my wondering how to deal with this blog taking up so much of my non-work life, I realized that cutting back or focusing on more specific topics really wouldn’t get it done. It would still just be saying the same things I’ve already said again and again over and over, and I couldn’t justify that use of time compared to the other things I can be doing. If only People or someone had come through to subsidize my Jamie Lynn Spears coverage so I could quit the day job . . . . So I’m setting a monthly post record and then taking off before I start looking like Willie Mays his last year with the Mets or that last season of “Friends.”

I don’t have words good enough to tell you how much I appreciate the generous response to what we’ve done here and the people I wouldn’t know to look at them but whom I consider friends as a result of contacts here. For those of you interested in specific topics or blogs that I have cited here, tomorrow I will post the sites and their links that I hit each evening to find things to write about. I’ll leave it up for you to use that post as your blog roll to those topics if you’d like. Feel free to pass around the "So You Want . . ." readings on the right if someone sounds like they could use them. I’ll be posting occasionally on books, movies, tv (mainly telenovelas . . . seriously) at my son’s blog, and I plan to keep trying to help NIC’s Corrections Community Correctional Research Roundtable get off the ground now and then if you’d like to stay in touch.

Thank you again for coming here. I hope that it has never been too aggravating. If I can ever help in any way (short of lending money), please let me know. Just because I’m moving on from sentencing doesn’t mean I don’t want the best things to happen. If/when the day comes when we move corrections sentencing from the early 1990s rhetoric and ideas that all sides here are still glued to and that technology and other countries are moving on from, maybe I’ll be able to contribute something substantive and we can start this again when there may be an actual payoff I can justify. As it is now, though, it’s time to pay off other things. This weekend my wife and I will start reading a novel together.

It's been real and it's been fun. I truly do wish you the best.

Can This Be Our New National Motto, Please?

“You can’t live in fear. Stuff happens.”

Fulton County, Ga., Sheriff Myron Freeman, saying he isn't uneasy about the south Fulton neighborhood where he lives despite burglars' theft from his home of his personal cellphone and his department-issued handgun

Water, Water Nowhere

When I talk about the coming additional costs to state and local govs from the transitional expenses related to global warming and its scary cousins, peak oil and declining water supplies, and the impact of those costs on all current programs and spending, like corrections sentencing, I usually focus on the weather elements. But here's a great story on what I'm talking about from the H2O side, in case you don't believe me:

Human activity such as driving and powering air conditioners is responsible for up to 60 percent of changes contributing to dwindling water supplies in the arid and growing West, a new study finds.

Those changes are likely to accelerate, says the study published Thursday in Science magazine, portending "a coming crisis in water supply for the western United States."

The study is likely to add to urgent calls for action already coming from Western states competing for the precious resource to irrigate farms and quench the thirst of growing populations. Devastating wildfires, avalanches and drought have also underscored the need.

Researchers led by climate expert Tim P. Barnett at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, studied climate changes in the West between 1950-1999. They noted that winter precipitation falls increasingly as rain rather than snow, snow melts faster, river flows decrease in summer months, and overall warming is exacerbating dry summer conditions.
"The picture painted is quite grim so it's time to collectively sit down and get our act together," Barnett added, suggesting the need for conservation, more water storage, and a slowdown on development in the desert Southwest.

"The building is just going crazy, so it would be a pretty good idea to put a curb on that unless they can figure out how to get more water," he said.

The study also included researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of Washington, Seattle, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan.

"Our results are not good news for those living in the western United States," they conclude. The research "foretells of water shortages, lack of storage capability to meet seasonally changing river flow, transfers of water from agricultural to urban uses and other critical impacts."

And, since NM's governor has already been asking why those Great Lakes shouldn't be funneled southwest, this isn't just a Western problem. Welcome to your 21st Century, folks.

Boy, Do I Sympathize

If you want to live a moment in the life of people trying to get chicken salad out of chicken data from crim just agencies, read this story from ID on (possible) mixups in the state’s report on child sex abuse prosecutions and why they (might have) happened. You would be making a safe bet if you bet this story is repeated all over the country in various agencies every day. As I’ve said before, after about a decade and a half of working with them, I warn people not to see laws, sausages, or criminal justice data being made.

More NCJRS Abstracts, January 31, 2007


NCJ 221056
Patricia Gonzalez; Tony Romero; Christine B. Cerbana
Parent Education Program for Incarcerated Mothers in Colorado
Journal of Correctional Education
Volume:58 Issue:4 Dated:December 2007 Pages:357 to 373

This study examined the short-term impact on 219 incarcerated mothers of the Partners in Parenting (PIP) curriculum, a skill-based program that focuses on strengthening family relationships and promoting positive behaviors. This study found that the differences in testing before and after participation in PIP showed that the mothers experienced an increase in their sense of parenting proficiency, improved their parenting skills, and increased their knowledge about parenting. The PIP education curriculum contains material on reintegration issues after release that tend to confront families. Issues discussed include establishing positive social support networks, the school system, and high-risk behaviors by children. All participants in the PIP program were administered a test before and after program participation in order to assess their parenting attitudes before and after program participation. The first section of the test consisted of 10 items that asked the mothers to report on how their parents treated them as they were growing up, with attention to perceptions of whether their parents helped them with their problems and made them feel wanted. The second section of the test contained 10 items that asked the mothers how they parent their children. The questions dealt with such parenting behaviors as respecting their children's opinions and giving their children help with problems. The last section of the test focused on the mothers' feelings about how they have performed as a parent and how parents should treat their children. 3 figures, 2 tables, 9 references, and appended test administered before and after program participation

NCJ 221007
Rita Haverkamp
Implementing Electronic Monitoring
Max-Planck-Institute Fur Auslandisches und Internationales Strafrecht [!!!]

This study compared attitudes of criminal justice professionals toward the electronic monitoring of offenders among criminal justice professionals in Lower Saxony/Germany (n=541) and Sweden (n=440), so as to gain insight into a number of key issues associated with the debate on electronic monitoring. The comparison of the findings in the two countries shows similarities and differences in criminal justice professionals' attitudes toward electronic monitoring. Respondents in both countries hold a positive view of electronic monitoring in principle; however, support among the Swedish criminal justice practitioners is stronger than among their German colleagues. The professionals in both countries want to integrate electronic monitoring as a form of enforcement in the sentencing and correctional system. They also agree on the goal of the measure, i.e., reduction in the use of imprisonment and a reduction in the time spent in prison. During and after prison, the majority of respondents in both Germany and Sweden want the use of electronic monitoring; however, in Sweden the use of electronic monitoring is preferred in the context of parole. Respondents in both countries favor electronic monitoring as an alternative to imprisonment for offenders who are elderly, physically handicapped, chronically sick, or pregnant. In both countries, significantly less support exists for its use with substance abusers, violent offenders, repeat offenders, and sex offenders. In a statement based on these findings, the author suggests a change in the criminal proceedings toward a policy that uses electronic monitoring as an alternative to imprisonment and to shorten time in prison. An appropriate use would be to apply the measure in cases of minor probation or parole violations. Suggestions are offered for when to use electronic monitoring to shorten sentences of various lengths. 4 figures, 30 notes, and 52 references

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why I Miss Wisconsin

A friend from WI sent me this, knowing all the levels that this is a remarkable story, even for WI. You have to read the whole thing, but here are a few teasers:

Heavy drinking only seems to make everyone better looking, and it sure doesn't improve judgment.

Pat Dykstra is living, breathing, drunk-dialing proof of that.

She's the Dodge County woman who called 911 from her pickup truck early Sunday to report that she just might be intoxicated enough to need a sheriff's squad to follow her home. Wonder if she would have expected warm milk and a tuck-in once they got there.

And why did she make such a call? Because her boyfriend, who admitted to downing twice as much beer as Dykstra did at the tavern, told her to.

"He wanted me to call 911 'cause he thinks I'm too drunk to drive," Dykstra, 51, of Fox Lake, told the surprised-sounding dispatcher. . . .

. . . Dykstra agreed to a TV news interview that did little to re-establish her solid judgment. She was asked what she thought would happen when she called 911 to report a drunk on the road - herself.

"I really wasn't sure. Like I said, I don't think I was really thinking that much at the time either," she told Channel 4. . . .

The sheriff compared Dykstra's actions to a burglar who suffers remorse and turns himself in later. But to me it seems more like a burglar who calls police during the break-in and says come and get me. Very odd. . . .

The most ironic moment in Dykstra's call comes at the end when she says she must hang up because it's really not safe to drive and talk on her cell at the same time. . . .

Want Proof?

Of what brainless and scared stupid people we’ve become? Check out Gideon’s catch at “a public defender” blog of a guy in trouble now because one of his MySpace friends linked to a porn site, meaning a kid on the first guy’s page could click and then click and find porn. Generations of Americans have fought and died for us?

[Warning: Some of the language in the post may be offensive. If Americans were grown ups, I wouldn’t have to warn you, but see above.]

The Dangers of Recidivism

Aren’t limited to the act by offenders itself. We also run into serious problems with its definition, as Corey Rayburn Yung discusses and links to in this post at Sex Crimes Blog. If we insist that public safety is the central focus of corrections sentencing (and leave aside whether it’s best attained through prevention, deterrence, incapacitation, all of the above, none, whatever), then recidivism is the central number we have to address. But as Corey notes, reports disagree and looking at aggregate or general numbers to the exclusion of sub-populations is dangerous when determining public policy. Some sex offenders, for instance, are horrendous recidivists while others do so so infrequently that they’re the ones responsible in part for the low overall rates that Corey discusses. And this doesn’t even get into the time frames you choose to look at (12 months, 36, lifetime?) or the act that makes you a recidivist (rearrest, technical violation of parole, reconviction). Depending on how you put these together, states and offender types can have multiple recidivism rates being thrown around at policymaking time. And, in my experience, the policymakers are not real thrilled with that. So Corey is right, as usual, in praising any effort to bring more light to the subject. The problem is, the lights need to equal what we’ll see on Sunday during the Big Game.

[Doug Berman adds some typically thoughtful commentary on Corey’s post here at Sentencing Law and Policy.]

A More Direct Tie?

Between the home mortgage crisis and corrections sentencing?

Broke homeowners linked to arsons

Beaten to the Draw Again

Looks like business schools are going to be the first to combine games, agent-based modeling, and simulation of real-life situations to test and train students on possible applications of their academic learning. Am I concerned that I’ve been begging the criminology and foundation types to get into this for a couple of years now and still no one is noticing? No, because I’m a mature person. Naa, naa, naa.

Addiction and Genetic Risk

For several decades, scientists have known that most of the risk for habitual heavy smoking (smoking a pack each day) is largely influenced by genetics. This conclusion comes from the study of identical and fraternal twins from Scandinavia, North America, Australia and (more recently) China. It has been estimated that ~ 2/3 of the risk to become a heavy habitual smoker is genetic. This does not imply that this genetic risk is due to a single gene. It is known that many genes are involved, each one contributing a small amount of risk.

Finding the individual genes is a considerable challenge, but worth the effort, because it is hoped that the genes conveying risk for heavy smoking could be used to develop new medicines to help people quit. The development of new medicines to help people quit is particularly important, because the existing medications, including nicotine replacement ('the patch' or gum), bupropion and varenicline are effective in the short-term (several months) for a minority of heavy smokers.

First nicotine, then other abused substances? Bioengineering and TECHNOCORRECTIONS? I’d say so.

And here’s a possible technique for making those genetic changes if you want to prove yourself really interesting at parties:

New Method Exploits Ancient Mechanism To Switch Genes On And Off At Will

When You Don't Have to Worry about Heating Costs

"Tents" will house up to 448 prison inmates

So Little Kids Could Do Coke?

In young children, psychostimulants relieve symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, yet in adolescents and adults, those same medications can cause euphoria and are often abused.

What is behind these differing drug responses?

Temple University scientists have identified a potential molecular mechanism, the neurotrophin system comprised of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor TrkB, as the cause of age differences in stimulant response. Their findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"Our findings suggest that the rapidly developing young brain is able to adapt and protect itself against the rewarding effects of stimulants due to the input of the TrkB system," said Ellen Unterwald, PhD, lead investigator and professor of pharmacology at Temple University's School of Medicine and Center for Substance Abuse Research.

Most preclinical studies have found that susceptibility to the addictive properties of stimulants is age-dependent. This is the first study to link the TrkB neurotrophin system to those age-specific responses. The hope is that BDNF/TrkB might someday be used as a target for the development of new treatments for childhood neuropsychiatric disorders or addiction.

Employability Certificates and Budget Cuts

IA may be joining the small group of states which try to improve offender reentry chances with “certificates of employability” under a gov proposal this year. The state is also looking at “racial impact statements,” a concept that could have a big impact (sorry) on the behavior of a lot of agents in state crim just, pushed strongly by the Sentencing Project folks. IA’s one of the states with corrections sentencing issues on front burner this year and what happens there may affect a lot more down the line. Meanwhile, KY is another state with issues, a GIANT budget decrease on the horizon, sweeping prosecutors and PDs in as well. And yes, we’ve mentioned KY as one of the state’s with mega-prison pop probs looming, although, with fewer DAs and PDs, fewer prosecutions will be likely, making crime much more attractive even if penalties are higher. Here’s how one state paper accurately and succinctly put it:

Kentucky would keep packing felons into its prisons and jails, and the Corrections Department would suck money from the rest of the justice system -- including Kentucky State Police, prosecutors and public defenders -- in Gov. Steve Beshear's two-year budget proposal.

Interesting experiment.

One Reason Relapse Is Easy

Using a brain imaging technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists have discovered that cocaine-related images trigger the emotional centers of the brains of patients addicted to drugs -- even when the subjects are unaware they've seen anything.

A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, led by Dr. Anna Rose Childress and Dr. Charles O'Brien, showed cocaine patients photos of drug-related cues like crack pipes and chunks of cocaine. The images flashed by in just 33 milliseconds -- so quickly that the patients were not consciously aware of seeing them. Nonetheless, the unseen images stimulated activity in the limbic system, a brain network involved in emotion and reward, which has been implicated in drug-seeking and craving.

"This is the first evidence that cues outside one's awareness can trigger rapid activation of the circuits driving drug-seeking behavior," said NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow. "Patients often can't pinpoint when or why they start craving drugs. Understanding how the brain initiates that overwhelming desire for drugs is essential to treating addiction."
Childress and her colleagues also found that the regions of the brain activated by drug images overlapped substantially with those activated by sexual images. This finding supports the scientific consensus that addictive drugs usurp brain regions that recognize natural rewards needed for survival, like food and sex.

According to Childress, these results could improve drug treatment strategies. "We have a brain hard-wired to appreciate rewards, and cocaine and other drugs of abuse latch onto this system. We are looking at the potential for new medications that reduce the brain's sensitivity to these conditioned drug cues and would give patients a fighting chance to manage their urges."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Die, You Gravy Sucking Pigs

This post gives you the latest blogosphere reaction to the brainiac quote we cited yesterday from the deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, with a tip of the hat to Steve Martin for the post title, which I copied. All of them are good and splat-perfect, but this is my favorite:

Hey, here's another suggestion: let's stop teaching people the Heimlich maneuver. Not only does it put a medical procedure in the hands of mere non-medical professionals, watching a few fat people in your local McDonalds choke and die, turning purple, thrashing on the floor, and clawing their throats, would be an excellent salutary lesson in the dangers of gluttony and poor dietary habits.

I'd Love to Hear What Juno Would Say

Mental Health Screenings, Risk Behavior Interventions Needed In Juvenile Justice System

Another TECHNOCORRECTIONS Breakthrough

A new chemical synthesis method based on a catalyst worth many times the price of gold and providing a far more efficient and economical method than traditional ones for designing and manufacturing extremely novel pharmaceutical compounds is described by its University at Buffalo developers in a review article in the journal Nature.

Why is that important to us in corrections sentencing?

So far, the new synthesis strategy has generated compounds that have potential activity against a broad range of disease states, from cancer to central nervous system disorders, such as depression, to inflammatory and microbial diseases and medications for treating cocaine addiction. (emphasis mine)

It should be even more important as the bioengineering side of TECHNO develops better abilities to pinpoint precise pharmaceutical remedies for individual addicts and others whose behavior can be affected by directed pharmaceuticals, like maybe sex offenders or violent types. The biggest news will be when the researchers involved on both sides start doing the same car pool.

[Here’s how it could be applied. Researchers have apparently discovered the means to block morphine addiction in mice. (How the mice got hooked on morphine is not disclosed.) The researchers think they may be able to induce the same effect pharmaceutically. And, if they can do it for morphine, that opens up possibilities for other addictive substances, even though not all of them act the same as morphine or its derivatives like oxycontin in the body. Good news for mice, for sure, but combine it with the findings above and maybe we can see ways to get a giant chunk of our prison pop out of those beds needed for the violent and sex folks. Then we can turn the TECHNO on for them, too, maybe.]

Can a State Go Bankrupt?

Treatment is sought for addicts

State officials are asking Gov. Steve Beshear and the legislature to consider steering criminal suspects with addiction problems into intensive treatment rather than a jail cell.
Kentucky is bankrupting itself by imprisoning drug addicts and alcoholics, lawmakers were told Thursday.

"We have too many people in jails, too many people in prisons," state Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Our capacity to care for them has been strained to the limit."

The state is poorly served by locking up street-level addicts, Brown added.

"I don't think we're getting the worst drug lords into the prisons. We're just getting the people who went out and got caught," he said. "It's the low-hanging fruit." . . .

More than 80 percent of the state's criminal suspects get into trouble because of substance abuse, Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly, R-Springfield, told the committee.

Kelly and Senate Minority Leader Ed Worley, D-Richmond, are pushing Senate Bill 72, which would establish an intensive three-month to six-month addiction treatment program for people charged with felonies. The committee unanimously approved the bill Thursday and sent it to the full Senate.

"This is one of the most sensible solutions to dealing with this problem in the real world," said Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville.

Under the bill, court officials would screen less-serious felony suspects within days of their arrests to determine who has a relevant addiction problem that could be resolved with treatment. Participants would agree to live in a secured 200-bed facility or, if it's considered safe, other residential drug-treatment programs identified by the state.

Successful participants later could have their records expunged and avoid a prison sentence, although follow-up treatment would be assigned. People who quit or are booted from the program would return to the justice system to stand trial. (h/t Crime and Justice News)

Don’t worry. In reality, a state will start furloughing staff with unpaid work days each month, maybe cut pay, reduce services to the bare bones before it will actually go bankrupt. No big deal.

Four Years to Probation

In case you were wondering what cell in your sentencing grid to put “faking having sextuplets and taking money for them” if it ever comes up in your state.

So the Deterrence Thing Isn't Working

Important story in USA Today today on multigenerational crime, how it runs in families who show how to do time, and how we brainiacs in corr sent are only now starting to glom onto the problem. Excerpts:

Nearly half of the 2 million inmates in state prisons across the USA — 48% — say they have relatives who also have been incarcerated, according to a Justice Department report in 2004, the most recent comprehensive survey of state prison populations. . . .

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says an estimated 2 million children with one or both parents incarcerated face the greatest risk of perpetuating the cycle of crime across generations. As part of a pilot project this year, the department will try to link 3,000 of those children with "mentors" to assist with counseling and other social needs, says Curtis Porter, an administrator in the department's Family and Youth Services Bureau.

Porter says the number of children with incarcerated parents is a conservative estimate that may not capture the entire population. He suggests generational problems associated with such families are more serious.

"There is a replication and a recycling of crime across generations," University of Maryland criminologist John Laub says. "It's a huge problem."

Family ties are ingrained in just about every part of the nation's criminal justice system. On California's death row, prison spokeswoman Terry Thornton says, there are six sets of brothers among the 667 condemned prisoners awaiting death by lethal injection.

In Texas, which has executed six sets of siblings, there are two sets of cousins on death row. An additional dozen or so death row inmates have relatives serving time in other parts of the state prison system, spokeswoman Michelle Lyons says.

And, of course, there’s the prototypical DA’s office rep denying that upbringing and circumstances have any impact at all on how people turn out. She needs a strong dose of The Situationist. There’s lead paint missing from a house somewhere.

I'm Not the Only One Profiting

An Economy Grows Around Britney Spears

Now if I could just see some actual dollars . . . .

Will this get it done?

Jamie Lynn Spears' TV show, 'Zoey 101,' returns

Looking for a Job?

How DOCs can do EBP and reentry, from Corrections Community:

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) solicits proposals from organizations or individuals for a 12-month cooperative agreement to provide coaching on executive leadership and complex project management to achieve the implementation of evidence based practices (EBP) on offender risk reduction for the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) Community Corrections Act oversight unit and a limited number of local community corrections agencies. The project is jointly supported by NIC and the JEHT Foundation.

This Request For Proposals seeks a Technical Resource Person or Persons (TRP) to facilitate the strategic change process at both the KDOC oversight and selected local community corrections agencies levels. The coaching will include evidence based policy and practice related to decision making by criminal justice officials and stakeholders; organizational development knowledge and strategies; and assessment, case management and behavioral interventions for the state’s adult felony probation population. The selected TRP will need to be available for on site facilitation and off site coaching beginning early April, 2008, and continuing for twelve months thereafter. An initial site visit including NIC and JEHT representation will be scheduled upon award of the cooperative agreement.

The full announcement and resource documents can be found here. (I know, Eileen, but better late than never.) Maybe these sorts of initiatives are the reasons why KS is having these kinds of results.

More Phishing

Matthew Bowen follows up on Prevention Works' recent warning and help regarding phishing. This time he brings in the concept of the phishing criminal ecosystem to describe the, well, less than stellar individuals who get involved in this malodorous vandalism. As always, he always brings it back around to how we can use the knowledge of these general losers to protect and prevent. Worth your time, as always.

Big Dufus Brother

One of the interesting things about talking to inmates about their prior criminal histories if you work for a DOC is that they will almost inevitably tell you about more offenses than you have a record of, in part usually because they've bought into the notion that the government really has this wonderful and all inclusive data system with them in it. LOL. Those of us who work with sentencing or corrections data, especially those coming from old legacy systems or dependent on local jurisdictions to supply, may be among the most skeptical (but not completely) about the data warehousing fears and how they may be used. We're not that good and neither are our systems, even if they have a bunch of stuff in them. We're getting better, but Big Brother is still a year or two off.

Want some proof? Well, our friend from AK (Alaska, not Arkansas) Teri Carns sends along this piece on the really "Cloverfield" nature of many of the city surveillance cameras out there and their, oh, maintenance problems. I do believe we need to be wary, trust me, but never count out Murphy and his Law. It's alive and well in crim just generally and corr sent specifically.

More NCJRS Abstracts, January 29, 2007


NCJ 221130
Scott Vollum; Dennis R. Longmire
Covictims of Capital Murder: Statements of Victims' Family Members and Friends Made at the Time of Execution
Violence and Victims
Volume:22 Issue:5 Dated:2007 Pages:601 to 619

This study attempts to examine whether the needs of healing, closure, and psychological adjustment are met with the sentencing of an offender to death, and it attempts to shed light on the experiences and perspectives of covictims regarding the death penalty process and the execution of the individual responsible for their loss. The grief of covictims in the aftermath of murder is especially acute given the extraordinary traumatic nature of the loss. The needs of covictims in the weeks, months, and years following the murder are many and diverse but often revolve around notions of closure and healing, of moving on with one’s life in the wake of the tragedy one has experienced at the hands of a murderer. The statements of covictims in this article reinforce the importance of these elements for covictims. In an overwhelming majority of cases, covictims bring up factors related to healing and closure. However, there is some ambivalence in regard to whether the execution or death penalty assists or hinders the meeting of these needs. It appears that meeting these needs in the context of the retributive punishment of death is elusive. In many cases, victims report finding little solace in the fact that the condemned inmate who killed their loved one will be or was killed. The most common specific themes were expressions of dissatisfaction with the execution and/or death penalty more generally. There was dissatisfaction with the length of time it took before the execution was finally carried out, and dissatisfaction with something the condemned said or did at the time of execution. This study builds from previous studies and examines the breadth and depth of covictim statements. Covictim statements were obtained through articles reporting on executions. Using content analysis, 10 major thematic categories of statements were identified and examined. Table, notes, references

NCJ 221060
Kristina Murphy; Nathan Harris
Shaming, Shame and Recidivism: A Test of Reintegrative Shaming Theory in the White-Collar Crime Context
British Journal of Criminology
Volume:47 Issue:6 Dated:November 2007 Pages:900 to 917

Based on survey data collected from 652 tax offenders, this Australian study tested Braithwaite's theory of reintegrative shaming in the context of white-collar crime. The study found that those tax offenders who perceived the handling of their case as more reintegrative (designed to develop law-abiding behavior) than stigmatizing (impose negative labels and punitive sanctions) were less likely to report that they had evaded their taxes in the years following their enforcement experience. Reintegration predicted slightly less shame acknowledgement, not more. A desire to "put things right" was more influential in reducing reoffending than having a feeling of shame regarding the offense. The findings lend general support to the reintegrative shaming theory in the white-collar crime context. Braithwaite's theory argues that disapproval that is reintegrative is conducted in a respectful and healing manner. It makes a special effort to avoid stigmatizing labeling and ends disapproval with rituals of forgiveness or reconciliation. The findings of this study suggest that in order to prevent possible reoffending after an enforcement experience, regulators should adopt enforcement procedures that emphasize the reintegration of offenders back into society under the assumption that they have learned their lesson and will adopt law-abiding behavior. The 652 tax offenders who participated in the study had all been caught and punished for investing in illegal tax avoidance schemes. The survey to which the participants responded contained over 200 questions designed to test respondents' attitudes toward the Australian tax system, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and paying taxes. A number of questions were also designed to assess respondents' self-reported tax compliance behavior and their views about their enforcement experience. The study focused on ATO reintegration/stigmatization variables, shame-related emotion variables, and self-reported noncompliance with tax laws. 3 tables, 1 figure, 59 references, and appended survey items used in the study's analysis

Monday, January 28, 2008

Things You Never Thought You'd See

Marijuana vending machines in US

Was the Goin' Up Worth the Comin' Down?

(With apologies to Kristofferson’s unforgettable “The Pilgrim”)

Those of us watching the prison buildups of the last couple of decades, especially those of us living in states where communities were competing for new prisons on the unsubstantiated grounds that they help econ development of small towns, could see the vested interests and political power being placed solidly behind the continued growth and maintenance of those prisons. Crime and victims were a growth industry that many communities welcomed, as long as they weren’t in their community. Now that one state, NY, is looking at closing some of its prisons down, more people are beginning to understand the costs associated with the buildup and now the closedown. Juvienation and Sentencing Law and Policy both have notes on a NY Times article that gets at what everyone should be considering as they continue to build up and watch to see if a builddown is even possible.

Policy to Law?

Empirical Legal Studies continues an interesting discussion on whether law schools should be more interdisciplinary, incorporating more social science in particular, and provides a great historical perspective on the debate (while highlighting one of my legal scholar heroes, Edward Levi). After years of watching legal types stumble through or be completely ignorant of the findings and methodological warnings provided by policy analysts, I’ve been a proponent of more public policy perspective in legal training or a legal/policy degree, but not having the perfidious influence of economists, law’s incestuous cousin, more extended. But I’m just an outsider looking in. Maybe the insiders will get more people’s attention in the legal academy, although that historical perspective I mentioned certainly doesn’t give anyone optimism.

Quick Hits

If you want some thought provoked, drop by these blogs today and get pummeled: Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage has good stuff up on law enforcement’s salutary role in offender reentry if they’ll take it on and on the damage to incarcerated parents when their kids go through a corrupt foster care system; CrimProf Blog has a statistically rich and depressing post up on OH’s problems with DNA evidence care and efforts by the gov there to upgrade their system; All in the Mind lets us know that Australia is having the same problem with political interference with science and evidence-based research that we find in our country; and Psychology and Crime News has a post linking you to two good stories once again calling into question the entire enterprise of eyewitness testimony, either through the witness’ inability to deal errors or through their susceptibility to peer influence.

Hate to Go All Fuddy on You

But, seriously, what does this say about our senses of citizenship and mutual responsibility?

States hooked on slots revenues

Don't Drop the Soap

The name of a new board game developed by the son of KS’s governor.

"Fight your way through 6 different exciting locations in hopes of being granted parole," the site says. "Escape prison riots in The Yard, slip glass into a mob boss' lasagna in the Cafeteria, steal painkillers from the nurse's desk in the Infirmary."

The game includes five tokens representing a bag of cocaine, a handgun and three characters: wheelchair-using 'Wheelz," muscle-flexing "Anferny" and business suit-clad "Sal 'the Butcher.'"

Will this deter crime? Foster appreciation of what inmates actually have to deal with? Become the new “Trivial Pursuit”? You gunna start the neighborhood game night?

Actually, it seems sort of fitting for where we are as a nation right now.


NE becomes the latest state to bust down on DUI, putting mandatory ignition interlocks in even first-timers’ cars. NM says it has the stats to support the move, which it pioneered. What’s good about it is the fact that you don’t get mulligans like so many states provide before they start cracking down. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m pretty hard-core on this, even though I was young and stupid myself in the past. I can’t remember the last time I got anything to drink when my wife’s been quaffing sangria like it’s water and . . . sorry. This really does mark me as a fuddy-duddy, doesn’t it?

We're from the Government and . . .

Add the Feds to that list of fiscal problems facing the states as the economy recedes.

Stimulus plan could ravage state budgets

Meth Use Down in UT

So say the latest stats. Let’s wait and watch to see if ID, with its new Meth Project effort, has a similar decline to UT, without a Meth Project, and attributes the decrease to the Project, hmm? It would be a nice example of a point we make here frequently regarding our tendency to mistake our rain dances for effectiveness when it rains even though other states that don’t do the dances get rain, too.

Twitching, Screaming Deaths Can Be a Great Deterrent

There’s an antidote to heroin overdose that costs less than $10, can be administered by nonprofessionals, and has been successful in saving lives and maybe even in deterring further use according to the one study that’s been done. So what’s the problem? Much of the science blogosphere is howling over this statement about that antidote by the deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, who opposes the antdote’s use:

"First of all, I don't agree with giving an opioid antidote to non-medical professionals. That's No. 1," she says. "I just don't think that's good public health policy."

Madras says drug users aren't likely to be competent to deal with an overdose emergency. More importantly, she says, Narcan kits may actually encourage drug abusers to keep using heroin because they know overdosing isn't as likely.

Madras says the rescue programs might take away the drug user's motivation to get into detoxification and drug treatment.

"Sometimes having an overdose, being in an emergency room, having that contact with a health care professional is enough to make a person snap into the reality of the situation and snap into having someone give them services," Madras says.

Forget that research sensibly indicating that it’s the “almost kicking it” thing that gets their attention rather than the extra time “going to the emergency room” so they can learn a lesson (aka die) thing. So there you go, saving more addicted villagers by letting them die. Modern American history.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Arbitrary Justice

I taught the basic American government freshman survey course for 17 years, did all the usual topics you find in the textbooks, espoused wisely on the intricacies that I could add from personal experience as a former budget analyst, practicing school board member, campaign consultant. Yes, indeed, everything a student could ever want in learning about their government.

Never talked about prosecutors.

The most powerful people in our government, people who can threaten more President’s futures than anyone else on the planet, people who, if they target you, can do more harm to you and your family than any other government official, pound for pound. Never mentioned them. Which tells you basically everything you need to know about poli sci and US gov’t education in this country, but that’s a different topic for a different blog.

My point here, instead, is to note how important Angela J. Davis’ (not THAT Angela Davis) new book, Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor is in terms of its coverage of and questions about the power and practice of our DAs and about our general and determined ignorance about them as citizens and potential suspects. I’ve never bought the whole “power corrupts, absolute power yada, yada” thing because I’ve seen too many people whom power ennobled, made better, made society better because they had it. That’s true of many of the prosecutors I’ve been fortunate to work with in my life, including a couple of the recognized best of the 20th century, Andrew Sonner and Michael McCann. You have to know from his posts here that Ben Barlyn is one of those with whom that power can be entrusted. They epitomize what we talk about here as “good” prosecutors.

But we also talk here about the “bad” prosecutors, primarily because of the harm they do not just to us and our free society but also because of how they undermine the work and reputations of the good ones. And the invisibility of most prosecutorial work and the questions that arise in its practice means that it’s not until the bad ones go so over the top that they can’t be ignored, well after their misuse of power could have limited the damage. Any book that pulls back the curtain is to be valued. A book that does that with good writing and thorough analysis like what Davis, a long-time public defender, pulls off here is even more important.

She covers all the basic topics—prosecutorial discretion, charging power and plea bargains, relationship for good or bad with victims, the death penalty choice, US attorneys and the Attorney General as a species all their own, prosecutorial misconduct, ethics, and accountability, and, best, possible reforms. Here are a few quotes to direct your interest:

All of the reasons in support of prosecutorial discretion explain why it is so essential, but they do not address the problems that have resulted from the failure to monitor how that freedom and independence to enforce the law, the judicial and legislative branches of government have failed to perform the kind of checks and balances essential to fair and effective democracy. . . .

Consequently, prosecutors, unlike judges, parole boards, and even other entities within the executive branch such as police, presidents, and governors, have escaped the kind of scrutiny and accountability that we demand of public officials in a democratic society. Prosecutors have been left to regulate themselves and, not surprisingly, such self-regulation has been either nonexistent or woefully inadequate. . . .

Much of what passes for legal behavior might in fact be illegal, but because prosecutorial practices are so rarely challenged, it is difficult to define the universe of prosecutorial misconduct. Because it is so difficult to discover, much prosecutorial misconduct goes unchallenged, suggesting that the problem is much more widespread than the many reported cases of prosecutorial misconduct would indicate. As one editorial described the problem, “[i]t would be like trying to count drivers who speed; the problem is larger than the number of tickets would indicate.” . . .

Prosecutors are rarely punished for misconduct, even when the misconduct causes tremendous harm to its victims. Of the eleven thousand cases of alleged prosecutorial misconduct examined by the Center for Public Integrity, the appellate courts reversed convictions, dismissed charges, or reduced sentences in just over two thousand. However, in these cases, most of the prosecutors suffered no consequences and were not held accountable or even reprimanded for their behavior. . . .

It is difficult to strike the appropriate balance between independence and accountability in the prosecution function. Independence is extremely important to the appropriate exercise of prosecutorial discretion and power. Thus, prosecutors should perform their duties and responsibilities independently, on the basis of all of the appropriate considerations that promote the effective and efficient enforcement of defendants in particular cases. On the other hand, prosecutors should be accountable to the constituents they serve without allowing the prospect of reelection to improperly influence their decisions in individual cases. Prosecutors should be accountable to their constituents as they formulate policies on general issues such as charging, plea bargaining, and sentencing. However, ultimately they must make decisions in individual cases independently, taking into account all of the relevant considerations and ignoring inappropriate factors such as class, race, ethnicity, or politics, with the goal of achieving a fair and just result in all cases. All prosecutors face the difficult challenge of effectively implementing these conflicting goals. . . .

Davis finishes her overview and analysis with recommendations for improving prosecutorial transparency and accountability, such as greater oversight by the legal profession itself, strengthening disciplinary processes, shoring up the current and basically ignorant (my words, not hers) electoral and appointments processes, and use of public information campaigns, prosecution review boards, and racial disparity studies. She particularly praises the Vera Institute of Justice’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Project for its work with prosecutors seeking to reduce racial disparity, without noting that the list of those DAs involved is almost a Hall of Fame of “good” prosecutors, not “bad” ones, who somehow are missing. She makes the strange assertion that prosecutorial support is necessary for the review boards or the studies when, in fact, enough data exist in a range of other sources to shine enough light on practice to force the prosecutors to open up their own data to fight the charges.

It’s true that DA data are the black hole of criminal justice, deliberately so so that the problems outlined here are so hard to address. Judge Sonner told me more than once how he had supported an original move to develop an “evidence-based” approach to study prosecution and its decisions, although it probably wasn’t being called that in those days, but the effort got shanghaied by hard-liners. As I said, however, our data from courts, corrections, victims, law enforcement, and other state/local agencies are good enough to paint a general portrait that only a truly obstinate prosecutor would ignore once public debate were started. The data track would be the best way to start shining the much needed light described by this study. I would also support moving toward a voucher system for counties to make limited claims on state resources and correctional facilities, which would force more local attention to how prosecutors are deciding to use the capped funds. Finally, here’s an idea only a public defender would love—hire as many PDs as ADAs and switch them out every three years, making each side have to deal with the realities of the others. Of course, in a world in which defendants can already be a little suspicious of who their PD works for, they might not be thrilled with having a former ADA recommending that they take that plea bargain.

Is Davis’ the best that can be done to stir investigation and discussion of the most powerful public officials in America? It’s a short book, easily digested, so those requiring the usual legal tome will likely say "no" or point to omissions as crippling. She only spends one chapter discussing the abuse of prosecutorial power and misconduct, any case of which can be and has been a book in itself (just ask John Grisham). But it’s a fair, objective account from someone whose own profession could have been expected to go a different way. Whatever. The point is moot. It’s the book out there right now and it gets the job done well. Let’s hope anyone wanting her to do more will be out with their better book quickly.

Black Lung Drug

Although I'm critical of our drug policies regarding pot, it's because I see them as so hypocritical (and thus legitimacy-draining) and wasteful given the opportunity costs for other areas of corr sent and crim just that they supplant, not because I think pot is a good thing for anyone not using it for (real) medicinal purposes. I've made the point before that I've never smoked, not even faked inhaling, anything first hand (although my lungs probably will never recover from a childhood of smokers). I don't see the point, and I used to get aggravated in the good old hippie days when pot advocates would downplay charges that marijuana smoke was just as bad for you or worse than tobacco. How could it not be?

Well, actually, appears it's worse.

A new study finds that the development of bullous lung disease occurs in marijuana smokers approximately 20 years earlier than tobacco smokers.

A condition often caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, bullous lung disease (also known as bullae) is a condition where air trapped in the lungs causes obstruction to breathing and eventual destruction of the lungs.

At present, about 10% of young adults and 1% of the adult population smoke marijuana regularly. Researchers find that the mean age of marijuana-smoking patients with lung problems was 41, as opposed to the average age of 65 years for tobacco-smoking patients.

[The lead author] added, "Marijuana is inhaled as extremely hot fumes to the peak inspiration and held for as long as possible before slow exhalation. This predisposes to greater damage to the lungs and makes marijuana smokers are more prone to bullous disease as compared to cigarette smokers."

Patients who smoke marijuana inhale more and hold their breath four times longer than cigarette smokers. It is the breathing manoeuvres of marijuana smokers that serve to increase the concentration and pulmonary deposition of inhaled particulate matter – resulting in greater and more rapid lung destruction.

But before you drug warrior types lay claim to this as proof that users should be imprisoned for their recklessness and stupidity, just remember that we'll be the ones paying for those damaged lungs if they're in our prisons and those dollars could be used to prevent real crimes and victims, or maybe even treat and solve some of the use. And you potheads who deny you're hurting yourselves? The 60s are over, man.

More NCJRS Abstracts, January 27, 2007


NCJ 221005
Rebecca L. Jackson; Derek T. Hess
Evaluation for Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders: A Survey of Experts
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment
Volume:19 Issue:4 December 2007 Pages:425 to 448

This study surveyed 41 experts who conduct sex offender civil commitment evaluations, in order to identify the features of their evaluations. There was significant agreement among the experts regarding how evaluations were conducted in determining whether sex offenders should be civilly committed for treatment. The majority of evaluators reported the assessment of paraphilias, substance abuse, other Axis I disorders, Axis II disorders, and psychopathy as essential to their assessment for civil commitment. Virtually all of the responding evaluators used actuarial risk assessment measures, primarily the Static-99, in assessing risk for future sexual violence. Although several approaches to the assessment of volitional impairment were described, the majority of respondents reported that a history of sex offending combined with a personality disorder or a paraphilia established the necessary link between mental abnormality and the risk for future sexual violence. An overwhelming majority of respondents reported that it was essential for evaluators to indicate their clear opinion as to whether criteria had been met for civil commitment. Future research should examine whether evaluators' heavy reliance on documentation in their evaluations is unique to evaluations for sex offender civil commitment or is also commonly used in other forensic evaluations. At the time of this study, 17 States had enacted sex offender civil commitment legislation. Although State-to-State variation exists in the exact language of these laws, they share four common elements: a past act of sexually harmful conduct, a current mental disorder or abnormality, a finding of risk of future sexually harmful conduct, and some link between the mental abnormality and the likelihood of sexual violence. 9 tables, 35 references, and appended questionnaire

NCJ 221020
Jason S. Carroll; Laura M. Padilla-Walker; Larry J. Nelson; Chad D. Olson; Carolyn McNamara Barry; Stephanie D. Madsen
Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults
Journal of Adolescent Research
Volume:23 Issue:1 January 2008 Pages:6 to 30

The purpose of this study was to examine levels of pornography use and acceptance among emerging adults in the United States. Results reveal that roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of young men and one-half (49 percent) of young women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable, whereas nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) young men and nearly one-third (31 percent) of young women reported using pornography. In addition, associations were revealed between pornography acceptance and use and emerging adults’ risky sexual attitudes and behaviors, substance use patterns, and nonmarital cohabitation values. Implications of pornography use during the transition to adulthood were discussed. Pornography is becoming a prevalent part of life in the United States and many countries around the world. Existing studies provide some insight into the pornography patterns of emerging adults and some of the reasons behind their use of pornography, however, there continues to be unanswered questions. This study examined correlates of pornography acceptance and use within a normative population of emerging adults (individuals aged 18 to 26). Participants included 813 university students, both men and women, recruited from 6 college sites across the United States. Participants completed an online questionnaire regarding their acceptance and use of pornography, as well as their sexual values and activity, substance use, and family formation values. Tables, references

NCJ 221004
Therese Skubic Kemper; Janet A. Kistner
Offense History and Recidivism in Three Victim-Age-Based Groups of Juvenile Sex Offenders
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment
Volume:19 Issue:4 December 2007 Pages:409 to 424

This study compared the sexual and nonsexual offense histories of subgroups of juvenile sex offenders who victimized children (child offenders; n=198), peers (peer offenders; n=77), or both children and peers (mixed offenders; n=21), in order to determine whether they constituted distinct and valid subgroups. Finding show that juvenile sex offenders whose victims were children tended to target male and female relatives, and juvenile sex offenders whose victims were peers tended to target girls unrelated to them. Peer offenders had a more extensive criminal history than child offenders, which is consistent with previous research that shows this group generally engages in more disruptive behavior than child offenders. Although the mixed offender subgroup accounted for only 7 percent of the total sample of juvenile sex offenders, the findings show they differed from the child and peer offenders in several important ways. They exhibited more diverse and physically intrusive sexual offense histories than the other subgroups and were less likely to complete treatment. The findings show the importance of including mixed offenders in future research, in order to examine the varying etiology of sexual offending, treatment, and reoffending among juvenile sex offenders. All of the study participants had been committed to a North Florida residential training school between 1995 and 2001. Commitment to this facility was limited to serious and/or chronic sexual and nonsexual offenders between the ages of 12 and 19. The majority were required by the court to complete a 12-month sex offender treatment program. Data were obtained on their sex offenses, nonsexual offenses, progress in treatment, and reoffending for nonsexual and sexual offenses following release from the facility. 2 tables and 33 references