Tuesday, January 16, 2007

News of the Day, January 16, 2007

As we've said many times before, the real costs of the prison buildup of the 1990s have only started coming due in the last few years as the guys who would have gotten out by now pre-Truth in Sentencing, mandatory minimums, longer sentences generally don't get out and start to back up the populations. The crest hasn't been hit yet. Add to that the aging of those guys not getting out and the Baby Boomers entering prison in the older age categories in bigger numbers than ever in our history and the geriatric inmate will multiply our current spending beyond what most policymakers now even have a clue of. At least the folks in AL (Alabama, not Alaska) can't say they weren't warned now. . . . Some cases of cleverly thinking outside the box (or "cage" as the new blog in CO puts it), for good or bad, your call. Here CA has figured out one way to reduce the costs of incarceration on state budgets. Shift them to the local governments, this time by upping the minimum sentence receiving prison from one year to three. Needless to say, county jail people are not amused. Nor are they amused in SC, where the state is considering putting a quota on the number of offenders each county can send to state prisons (but they'd be willing to look at upping the minimum year thing, ala CA if they don't get their way). In NM, though, the jails won an appellate case that the state has to pay for parole violators brought to the local systems. And in CO, which as I note below is suddenly doing some of the most creative work in this area in the country, a legislator is proposing ending the death penalty there and taking the money that would have been spent on appeals to fund solution of "cold cases." Now do I think this is the best use of that money given the treatment that could be funded with it? Answers itself. BUT, this is where too many corr sent reformers and wonks could learn a lesson. Proposals should always be presented with a trade-off that recognizes the legitimate fears and concerns of law-and-order folks. Lowering cells in guidelines for some offenses? Well, up them for the guys at the really bad end of the grid. Taking chances on treatment? Well, take the savings and put them into more proactive crime prevention programs with demonstrable payoffs. Smart politics, good public safety, and preservation of the law's and criminal justice's legitimacy in community eyes. We should do more of this. (Of course, this headline may tell us one of the reasons why these things are coming to a head there: "Colo. black youths at higher risk of jail.") . . . In IL, some important questions are being debated about the appropriateness of having juvenile offenders on lifetime sex offender lists. The kid highlighted in the story was 13, rang a doorbell, and accosted the breasts of the girl who opened the door. That's apparently all he's ever done, but it may ruin most of his future. But we don't really need bright, productive young people when it's so clear that they're evil and deserve lifetime punishment. (And my point's not that some people don't deserve registries or worse. It's that we need to show some basic sense about what deserves those punishments and what doesn't.) . . . IA is trying to set up an meth registries, as NM is considering, among a list of drug efforts found here. . . . It doesn't look like it will be a female meth treatment prison in SD. It seems to have been working, but they need the space for regular old inmates now. . . . There are always drug courts, this time in MT. . . . Let's switch our substance abuse now. Seems MADD wants stricter application of ignition interlock devices on first-time DUI offenders, as this MD story tells us. This proposed UT legislation at least would get it on second-timers. . . . In MS, the state DOC has been told to cut more off what it spends on private prisons. Especially since AL (Alabama, not Alaska) has managed to wangle a better deal. It's an SEC thing, apparently. . . . More "Jessica's Law" problems, this time in SC. Two (frankly) weird angles to this one. Legislation is proposed to exempt 18-year-olds who have sex with 14-year-olds (the "Romeo clause") and to let offenders off if they reasonably assumed the partner was of legal age (the "mistake-of-age" clause). Does anyone know if these are new to SC or have other states done these things? If not, should we be sending SC off for counseling? . . . A couple of articles demonstrating my frequent laments about scarce resources, opportunity costs, and how we hurt other areas of crim just by putting all our eggs in the prison basket. This UT one details how the quality of judgeships is threatened by the low pay available. And this one shows how SC is trying to offset the low pay of its prosecutors and public defenders by forgiving student loans those folks built up in law school. . . . Finally, Reuters is only now getting around to the U of Pittsburg study of last year that demonstrated that the "gateway drug" notion does not comport to reality well. Thought I'd bring it up again here just for the reemphasis and for this note that I hadn't caught before:

The boys who had followed the traditional "gateway" path were no more likely to develop alcohol or marijuana abuse problems than those who went in the reverse direction, the researchers found.

Living in a poor-quality neighborhood was the single factor that predisposed youths to marijuana use. For youths who did conform to the gateway path, delinquency was more important than previous legal drug use in determining whether they would wind up using marijuana.

Based on this and other research, Tarter and his colleagues write, "in effect, the greater the deviancy, the more likely an individual is to use an illegal drug. These findings underscore the need to prevent conduct problems in early childhood to diminish the risk of later illicit drug use."

Ending with a little wisdom is never a bad way to go out.

No comments: