Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Around the Blogs 10-17-06

Doug Berman cites the impressively realistic approach to the current data on violent crime increases taken by AG Gonzales in a speech to the IACP yesterday. Sounds like DOJ won't be running off half-cocked, yet anyway. This actually fits well with remarks by the Bureau of Justice Statistics new chief, Jeffrey Sedgwick, at the BJS/JRSA conference last week. (More on those remarks tomorrow.) Dr. Sedgwick says he's never seen a time when BJS has been so heavily relied upon for data and info (as budgets are cut back, of course, so welcome to the club). Doug also wonders what our response here is to this commitment to evidence-based practice. I'll leave a detailed reply to Kim, who has given EBP far more thought than I, although a couple of my coming posts on the conference will apply somewhat. For now, I'll just say that many crim just data agencies/units are seeing more requests for data and just hope resources will be sufficient to avoid undermining capacity and then credibility. At some point a reckoning will come for most of us. Also, in response to the AG's refusal to knee-jerk a "let's just lock more up," that is indeed heartening. But it's also only the first stage of what may or may not prove to be a long-term trend. If we get into 2-3 years of media-political buildup and the feds are still keeping their heads, maybe a new day has dawned. Still, it would be easy in an election year to sound early scare alarms, and the AG resisted. That's promising. . . . Corrections Community, NIC's excellent blog, has a link to PA's recent (and very long) Report of the Advisory Committee on Geriatric and Seriously Ill Inmates, which won an award this year from the National Conference of State Legislatures. These offenders are the ticking time bomb in those exponentially growing population projections I keep harping on. They're coming, loaded with more and more costs, but we sit and wait far too much. This report explains why we shouldn't and what we can (should) do. . . . Via Grits for Breakfast, we get a National Center for State Courts publication in which OR Judge Michael Marcus lays out succinctly his concept of "smart sentencing" for public safety. A nice overview of his alternative to guidelines sentencing, one that becomes more relevant if/when sentencing information systems develop well. . . . Also from Grits, a notice of the TX Dept of Criminal Justice's sunset report detailing its projection for the state's prison policy for the future. It's an admission by the earliest and best "lock 'em up" state that it cannot financially support the exponential continuation of the policy (CA, take note!! And the rest of us as well.) . As I've said before, this really isn't a for/against incarceration argument. With infinite resources, that debate might never be resolved. But resources are finite, even in TX, and those of us who've actually done population projections know the waves are only starting to break (with or without another crime wave on the horizon). This report details the problem, proposes the usual remedies, leaves it to the legislature (which, as I outlined in the "CA Challenge," is the Gordian Knot that will lock TX into self-defeat as surely as any hopeless addict). It's going to take a Cincinnatus to get us out of this binding, but that's probably at best a decade and a boatload of courage away, once the problem has doubled itself yet again. Sorta like global warming. And we know how that one's going to turn out, really, don't we?

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