Monday, February 12, 2007

Around the Blogs, Monday, February 12, 2007

  • Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy has a good catch on the Houston Chronicle's op-ed bravely coming down on the sanity side of corr sent policy in TX. This is the part of the column I liked, though: This agenda is not grounded in the romantic and false belief that there is a treasure in the heart of every criminal offender just waiting to be discovered. Some are incorrigibly mean and evil. It is grounded in a belief that the majority of criminal offenders are not enemies to be conquered and destroyed. They are human beings who should be given opportunities for change and restored to our communities because it is in the public interest to do so. I've mentioned before that the best description of sentencing I've heard came from a conservative western OK judge who id'ed 4 types of offenders who came before her--the incorrigibly bad and incorrigibly good (who had just simply blundered this one time), the Earl and Randy Hickeys ("My Name Is Earl") who just need a turning point in life, and the tough cases who, if you could turn them, would give you great payoff. IOW, no "one size fits all." But to pull that off well, you need good assessment systems and a tolerance for the inevitable failure. That's costly and time-consuming and no one praises you for every risk assessment you get right. It's just easier cognitively and adminstratively and more rewarding politically to moronically lump all offenders into "bad guys" and treat them all the same. (I actually heard a prosecutor in policy discussion one time say that it didn't matter if an offender were put in prison falsely because that just made up for the times the guy hadn't been caught.) Unfortunately, that process is also extraordinarily wasteful and ultimately counter-productive when funds get shifted from other, more cost-effective areas of criminal justice. When a major TX newspaper gets that, maybe it's a sign that everyone should get it by now.
  • Want more TX. Well, Grits for Breakfast has usual excellent fare as well, including a reiteration of a reform agenda that actually could turn TX’s crim just probs around (so it will never be enacted) and a link to Tony Fabelo’s presentation to a legis committee a while back that spells out TX’s situation in his inimitable way. And while you're there, check out the post on mental health and prisons in TX. You can make a good case we haven’t increased state spending on corrections, just shifted dollars from mental health over the last two decades. Doesn't solve the problems, though, does it? Where can we stick these folks next? Departments of Transportation?
  • Yes, Grits does a great job keeping us up on TX issues, but don't forget what Think Outside the Cage does for CO's problems as well, including the CO gov’s recid reduction package, meth treatment as a wraparound community program, and self-defeating budget cuts in an early release program.
  • A short, sweet post on the injustice inherent in plea bargains over at Crime and Federalism. Everyone in any discussion of the sacred nature of judicial discretion and watching the opposition by judges to meaningful policy reform should have this post laminated and next to them for constant reference. Why do we have guidelines for judges? The guidelines should be on the pleas. (Just kidding. I think.)
  • Wish I hadn't signed off so quickly on Friday and missed this Prevention Works post by Matthew Bowen that would have told me just what to do when we found out Saturday that we'd been identity theft victims. Not too late for you, though. I hope. (And thanks for keeping the focus on the other issues, too, Matthew.)
  • Finally, for those of you who think transparency and accountability should be hallmarks in corr sent policy, Made2Measure has a typically interesting post up on the UT CourTools Measures website, which details the application of measures to performance and sets a standard for other state agencies. If we seriously go "sentencing info system" in the future, this will likely be very much what that future looks like. See it here first.

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