Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Global Warming, Corrections Sentencing, and Deniers

I've been reading a lot of the articles on global warming and the important report to be released Friday documenting the problem and the role we human types play in it. And, as I read the naysayers who doggedly and dogmatically disagree with reality, I've found myself thinking that these guys look and sound a lot like the folks who deny we have a disaster coming with the prisons we've built and the ones we'll keep building if we don't get our corr sent and public safety efforts attached to reality. Global warming deniers and prison harm deniers both have managed to cast enough doubt long enough to make the easier, less costly ways of dealing with these serious issues impossible now, and we just have to hope that we haven't already hit a tipping point in our ability to deal with them at all.

Some states are getting it, as we've noted here, CA, CO, TX. Here's a nice example of the whole situation from OK. Our corrections department having to beg for funding to get through the year, more money to deal with next year's increases, including building a new prison. But also a legislator clearly understanding what the state faces ("We can't sweep it under the carpet any longer," said Lerblance, D-Hartshorne. "If we don't take drastic measures ... we could be back in a situation where we're under federal jurisdiction running our penal system. We definitely don't want that.") and a sentencing commission director who nails the main flaw (Sentencing offenders to prison for drug and alcohol-related crimes is particularly problematic, Moon said. "People still think if we just punish people hard enough, we can stop them from using drugs, and that philosophy has just been a disaster," Moon said. "The reality is there's always going to be a market for drugs. "Thirty years ago we started this grand experiment to increase funding for criminal justice to head off this drug problem, and here we are 30 years later with 10 times the spending on prisons. Obviously, it isn't working.").

Of course, this "grand experiment"was done in the name of public safety, but crime is coming back now, as this story on Philly's situation shows. Odd that the criminals there aren't deterred by a jail system that could generate stories like this one. Keep in mind, though, that PA has had guidelines as long as anyone and they may be as tough as any due to their fixing only the minimum sentence. This just shows that guidelines cannot be counted on to address very legit public safety concerns. They only work on stopping crime by freeing up resources for other areas of public safety and, as said before, even that impact is probably only marginal compared to what the ebbs and flows of our culture accomplish on their own.

I'm interested in where the deniers will go if/when the crime rate increases persist despite the slathering on of the remedy they claim will protect us. With global warming, it's gone from "there's no global warming" to "there may be but humans didn't do it" to "well, humans may have done some of it, but it's not going to be that bad" to . . . ? Once the IPCC report comes out? Of course, some folks are still at the first question. We're seeing a lot of the same dynamic now with the prison harm deniers, some guys hanging on to the same old, tired claims that are fraying more and more as they speak and ignore but with many former skeptics now see that there's no light, just more and more tunnel. When TX starts coming around, when Republican and Democratic govs are calling for more and more alternatives, when budgets get so tight that basic functions can't be performed well and the courts still jump into our correctional business, isn't that the equivalent of ice sheets melting, stronger hurricanes, and being able to walk to the North Pole in shirt sleeves (okay, that last one hasn't happened yet)? It's time for us to deal with the "prison is the only way" crowd the same way we're going to deal with the "how can you have blizzards in global warming?" people. Like the Little Hoover folks said, we don't need more reports, we don't need more evidence, we don't need more debate. We need to ignore the deniers and we need to act. Before the shoreline gives us no choice.

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