Friday, February 02, 2007

For Your Weekend Consideration

Governing's blog alerts us again to the work of William Glaberson who did the NY Times series on town and village courts that we linked to last year. Their point is that the articles did everything the First Amendment requires of true journalism (aka not what we get 90% of the time with our navel-gazing, self-referential, Miss USA does coke!!! media) except do one thing: provide "balance." Let them explain:

While he clearly did his homework, talking to people inside and outside the court system, Glaberson doesn't suggest that having a favorable or unfavorable view of the courts are equally valid viewpoints.

Instead, what he writes is this:
"The examination found overwhelming evidence that decade after decade and up to this day, people have often been denied fundamental legal rights. Defendants have been jailed illegally. Others have been subjected to racial and sexual bigotry so explicit it seems to come from some other place and time. People have been denied the right to a trial, an impartial judge and the presumption of innocence."

That very unbalanced judgment just so happens to be strongly supported by the evidence he goes on to present. As such, Glaberson's series shows that there's a principle that, for good reporters, trumps balance every time: the truth.

. . . BlackProf Blog weighs in with another interesting riff on reentry and a call for minority professionals to play a greater role in its success. . . . Here's a problem most states want to have. NY is considering closing some prisons because they've reduced their incarceration rate so steeply in the last few years. Surely their crime rates have skyrocketed!! Well, no, they've actually led the nation pretty much in their decline. But . . . but . . . but . . . and what will they do with the saved money? Even more of what they've been doing to get the decline maybe? Please don't tell the prison harm deniers. . . . Finally, RI joins the crowded group of states looking at bursting prisons and considering alternative sentencing as a means of delivering public safety at lower cost. Not news so much, but here's the really good quote that finishes the article and, in fact, pretty much sums up the situation for most states:

But if the state’s judges, legislators, and the governor can’t reach an agreement on overhauling the state’s criminal justice system, is there a Plan B for that $4-million budget cut?

“That’s a great question,” said assistant director Ellen Alexander. “The point is we can’t afford not to make Plan A work.”

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