Monday, December 18, 2006

News of the Day, Monday, Dec. 18, 2006

A couple of really big stories today. The biggest news is clearly that violent crimes increased substantially (3.7%) in the first half of this year, despite all the deterring and incapacitative success of prisons for the last two decades. Robberies up almost 10%, murder and assaults up less so, property crimes down. Got that? The offenses we've been toughest on with prison up, the offenses we've tried hardest to find alternative sentencing for down. Must be an artifact of the data. (Check out here for a story I missed a few weeks back on the previously announced violent crime increase for 2005, this one focusing on WI and how and why the efforts of this premier "lock 'em all up" state are flying apart at the seams. Like most states, the full effects of what they've done there won't be felt for years yet. At least the judges there have preserved their precious independence from guidelines or policymaker input. . . no hard feelings about two-and-a-half years of my life I'll never get back, nonewhatsoever.) . . . Here's another big story. Quick. What's the US's biggest cash crop, with as big or bigger impact on our national economy as any another??? Ding, ding, ding. Marijuana! $35 b. annually. And that's not including all the government spending on the people trying to keep it from growing. Here's NORML's take on it: "Marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of the economy of the United States. The contribution of this market to the nation's gross domestic product is overlooked in the debate over effective control. Like all profitable agricultural crops marijuana adds resources and value to the economy. The focus of public policy should be how to effectively control this market through regulation and taxation in order to achieve immediate and realistic goals, such as reducing teenage access." The government's response is not so enthusiastic. . . . If druggies have money enough not to have to go to jail and hope for treatment by the state, they might just enjoy rehab in these luxury centers. . . . I used to have a boss who told me every drink of alcohol killed a million brain cells. After thinking "cooollll," I then realized, how the hell could they do that research? But still the point was made. Alcohol = brain cell death. Well, turns out my boss was wrong about that, too, according to Brain. But you do need to stop drinking. More frontier for future technocorrections. . . . Keep this British Medical Journal study in mind when I report rat or hamster studies and their possible utility for humans. Turns out we're not all the same. Obvious implications for technocorrections. Time to create those "science courts" yet? . . . Corrections Today has a new issue out on Programs. I liked these articles best--one on the True Grit program for NV inmates, one on sex offender management in MA, and one on children and incarcerated parents in OR. And, while you're reviewing Programs, check out Corrections Community for a good piece on the Thinking for a Change program. . . . Another program story today, this one on Moral Reconation Therapy in KY. Good overview with examples. . . . In MO, they're catching heat for including mentally retarded sex offenders in group homes with other mentally retarded offenders . . . and not telling all the folks who might want to know. . . . Toughening DUI penalties in ME and taking some of the financial pressure off jails in OR (some nice stats on recidivism rates and (non)treatment of offenders near the end of the latter article). . . . In TX the counterproductive impact of sex offender registration is getting serious enough attention that they may be considering deregistering some of the more obvious egregiouses, like the 18-year-olds with 15-year-old sweeties. Maybe Grits for Breakfast could prod them along. . . . WARNING, WARNING. Here comes yet another rant on how opportunity costs of our corrections spending are running headlong into other areas of our public safety and welfare. State retirement systems are disasters looming as big as CA's prison problem. When the states have to start paying off big time, the money's going to be horrendous. And at that same moment, we'll finally be hitting the payoff on all of our imprisonment of the 90s and since. Something will have to give, unless the "money on trees, throw it at prisons, no price too high as long as it’s not my money" crowd is right about money being infinite and not having to be prioritized. Frankly, my bet's on prisons trampling retirement just like it has public health, transportation, education and the rest of our seed corn. But articles like these might at least keep it from being a surprise.

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