Monday, October 16, 2006

Do Not Leave Baggage Unattended

Reasonable minds, while waiting for a flight, will read, sleep, watch depressing TV news, or watch people passing instead. Unreasonable minds consider possible blog posts. How's this for one? What do you think will be the major directions of corrections sentencing in the next decade or two? I've sort of listed mine in past posts, but here they are in rough order of sequence in my mind.

  1. continued prison overcrowding despite new prison building due to more and increased criminalization and to aging inmates
  2. more public dollars removed from other areas of criminal justice and law enforcement, including alternatives to incarceration
  3. more calcified state and local governments unable to address their needs cost-effectively and having to make self-defeating non-correctional cuts in other areas
  4. court orders to inhibit some of the worst consequences (but failing overall)
  5. more civil commitment of more offender types to protect correctional resources at the expense of mental health resources
  6. increased federalization of the criminal justice process as states shift high profile/high cost offenses and offenders to the deeper pocket
  7. greater development and dissemination of "technocorrections" to offset costs with sense of public justice, including pervasive surveillance, pharmaceutical controls, and genetic engineering of cell receptors at the least

Note that, while I talk a lot here at this blog about sentencing information systems and traditional or improved "Frankel" guidelines systems, I really don't see them playing as significant a role as technocorrections or continued imprisonment. I base this on the growing loss of control and influence of long-time guidelines states like MN and WA over their states' prison policies. Overly pessimistic or cynical? I prefer "realistic." (In fact, psych studies have repeatedly shown optimists to have the most tenuous grasp of reality, not that there's anything wrong with that.) Also, you don't see me stressing evidence-based practice in sentencing, despite Kim's far too sensible case for it frequently here. I do think, however, that EBP has a future in correctional admin as we're forced to warehouse more and more people more and more effectively, including really old, sick, and mentally ill people more and more years.

The thing is, I have never batted 1.000 in anything. (I picked the Redskins and Bengals yesterday.) And I'm open to ideas that will paint a better picture (or worse, although it's hard to imagine what that is). So let me know what you think. Or let's get proactive on our likely future, whatever that is, and figure out how to deal with it.

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