Friday, January 12, 2007

News of the Day, Friday, January 12, 2007

Waiting for the ice to knock out our power here so better get these done. If you don't hear from me for a while, the powerlines are down. We've got water and blankets, though, so don't worry. In the meantime, probably the biggest report of the day is this Harvard School of Public Health study showing the high correlation between states with high murder rates, including child murders, and high gun ownership. Anyone shocked should go get a clue, but, having just read the news report, I'm not sure what this says. States with high murder rates to my knowledge are the Southern states where people own guns, like in OK where I grew up. It's a culture thing, not a cause-and-effect. Maybe the paper talks about that or controls the variables in ways to discount it, but the news story didn't make it clear. Anyone who's had a stat class knows "correlation is not causation," and that is a point the reporter needed to deal with and didn't. Anyway, given the topic, it's bound to add to gun controversies. . . . Meanwhile, speaking of violence, Milwaukee saw a 20% increase in violent crime last year. I've met and talked with the Chief Hegerty there and talk about a thankless task. The city has some great people but it's in one of those Baltimore kind of spirals, and the parties who might be able to pull things together can't work it out. Judges don't trust the probation folks (who are more likely new hires since the experienced ones get out as soon as their seniority lets them) so they over-sentence to prison from which offenders emerge ready, willing, and only able to do more offending. Inadequate resources, inadequate trust, inadequate results. Not sure what they're going to do, but I do know the place can't recover if status quo is the best people can think of. For some reason, the word "intractable" keeps popping up in my conversation more and more, which is surprisingly annoying to people. . . . Finally, the redoubtable WA State Public Policy Institute has reported that the state can avoid building a new prison there if they can reduce recidivism, and a bipartisan group of state senators has signed onto a bill to require more assessment and community involvement in reentry efforts (full details nicely provided in the article). If they don't do it, they're looking at 4500 more inmates in 14 years. Of course, the DAs there are balking over work-release provisions that minimize the time offenders can spend behind bars where recidivism is always so successfully reduced. No state has a better resource for providing the empirical support for intelligent policy. This will be a test of whether informed and productive policy can actually be done in corrections sentencing anywhere in this country. If people don't listen to WSIPP, then the hopes for wise decisions elsewhere are pretty pointless.

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