Wednesday, August 09, 2006

News of the Day 8-9-06

Man, you're gone a couple of days and the world goes wild. Lots of stuff in the news besides the latest fire, murder, and bulldog that can climb a tree. . . . For example, via the Washington Post, the Associated Press is paying attention to a BJS report on prior convictions of violent felons. 38% of convicted violent felons between 1990 and 2002 had a prior felony conviction and another 18% a prior misdemeanor conviction. This supports a complaint I've heard regularly from prosecutors in response to claims that violent crimes are usually spontaneous and not patterned behavior. Of course, the report also shows that 44% do follow the claims. The study applied to selected major urban areas, pointing out again the need to differentiate here geographically. More interesting to me were the numbers on plea bargains on violent offenses (88%), on percent incarcerated (81%), and how many offenders had public defenders (59%) and private attorneys (21%). Good report (h/t Crime and Consequences) . . . . Speaking of violence, NJ saw a significant increase in its murder rate in 2005, while its overall violent crime rate dropped, proving the deterrent effect of prison on violence but not murder. . . . Science Daily tells us that Neuroscience has a report from the University of Illinois-Chicago indicating that a particular brain protein that maintains nerve cells also regulates anxiety and alcohol consumption, making genetic and other biological means conceivable for dealing with substance abuse problems. There were apparently a lot of anxious people at the NASC dinner Monday night. . . . I've often wondered why anyone would become a DOC director, but maybe it's the thrilling prospect of being sued. Two suits of note right now--one, an ACLU suit in DE to get the department to provide info on how it treats prisoners for conditions such as HIV, hepatitis, and pregnancy (truly don't know why SPORTS turns up in the URL) and the other, an effort in OK to use the "injection is cruel" argument currently receiving debate to stop the state's executions by that method (although I heard that the initial hearing before a fed judge failed today, just can't find a link right now). . . . Squeezing the toothpaste tube in NC, where state troopers have decided to crack down on drunk drivers. Where there are more than enough prison and jail cells to handle the new increases. . . . Next door in SC, they are following AZ's lead and going to video counseling of offenders with mental health problems, saving some dollars and doctor time in the process. Critics question the value and utility, but the prediction here is that it's just a matter of time before Dr. Phil gets the contract and clears up everything. . . . Back in my recent state, WI, a couple of stories of importance. The Janesville Gazette reveals early reports of a state DOC study documenting the increasing costs and future of aging offenders in the state correctional system. From 1995 to 2005 the number of inmates 60 and older went from 165 to 492, and their health costs from $28.5 m. to $87.6 m. The state (but not its Sentencing Commission) is looking at the implications and options, but keep in mind that many states use the rule of thumb of 50, not 60, for an "aging inmate," magnifying everything. Elsewhere, Governor Doyle announced that 17 dangerous sex offenders have been located after posting their pictures on the Internet. WI uses teams of retired law enforcement types to hunt these guys down. Nice to see both stories and to know that there are people there paying attention. . . . Finally, one more squeeze on the tube--a story out of MD where the state made cuts in correctional staff and overtime, and, uh-oh, vacancies went up and, uh-oh, assaults on staff tripled, including a recent murder. Good to know that incapacitation stops crime. . . . Got a little political there, better sign off.

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