Monday, August 21, 2006

Around the Blogs 8-21-06

Doug Berman has a couple of really good items at Sentencing Law and Policy (actually, they're all good but only two we'll note at this time). One is a link to a DA concern in OR about the state's early release program (Alternative Incarceration Program) now that it's having an effect. Some offenders are meeting requirements and getting out quicker than the DAs think wise. Examples are given and rationales for and against outlined. What's missing is OR's recent evaluation of AIP, delivered by Paul Bellatty, the OR DOC's research head, at the last NASC conference. AIP can show positive results, despite the laments in this article. The problem isn't so much that the DAs seem unaware of the study but that the reporter apparently made no effort to find out if the state had done one. Needless to say, it's a classic example of the "tree falling in the forest" problem behind so much crim justice policymaking. The other post of note is Doug's own on whether capital punishment for drunk driving should be morally required. Given the enormous damage done by drunk drivers, especially compared to other less frequent (sex crimes) or harmful (drug crimes) offenses, why not at least consider it as a means to deter this destructive offense? As Doug says, "Other than cynical explanation based on class and race, I have a hard time understanding why we so readily turn to super-tough criminal enforcement to deal with non-violent drug crimes but then we go harmfully soft on drunk driving." He's gotten some good comments to his obviously intentionally provocative question. Go add your own. . . . The Real Cost of Prisons copies a NY Times story on the continuing widespread availability of cocaine and its declining costs, despite Colombia's efforts to destroy the crops. Independent analysts say the eradication effort there has not succeeded, evidenced by availability and prices, while the feds point to evidence (cherry-picked, critics say) to say it has. The best authorities, addicts, say things like "Cocaine availability has gone up, so how can they say it's working? If you know where to look, you can find what you want." Among interesting facts in the article (interesting to me, anyway): a gram of coke goes for about $40 now, compared to $100 years back; use among high schoolers is down 60% since 1985; hard core users still number 2-3 million. . . . Crim Law Blog passes on a New Zealand evaluation of its home detention program. Details are provided including advantages in costs and recidivism. I liked the comment of the Victoria University evaluator: "If someone doesn't need to go to prison but can be dealt with through home detention then it seems to me to be a lot more sensible. If all those who say they should be in prison are willing to pay for that through their chequebooks rather than mine and many other taxpayers', then fair enough." If only we could get that on a bumper sticker . . . . Grits for Breakfast, which specializes in TX prison stories, has an update on the state's latest decision to go for even more prisons. Especially interesting (aka depressing) is the discussion of the problems of getting long-term prison guards, even in the hard-up rural areas, and how even conservative think tanks in TX are questioning the build-up.

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