Thursday, February 01, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Thursday, February 1, 2007

  • Miss USA!!! Okay, with that nod to Entertainment Tonight, here's the sad, sad story about her fall and on every channel rise now. "I would try anything once" is the quote getting the most attention although, to most 15-year-old boys' dismay, she's just talking about drugs. Here's the part that we in corr sent should pay attention to, though: Alcohol, though, was her biggest vice. "I'm an alcoholic. It was a craving thing _ once I put it in my body, I would start craving more," says Conner, who notes she drank heavily but wasn't "getting sloppy drunk and dancing on tables." Yes, she did coke and “anything once,” but her biggest problem? Alcohol. Just like millions of others. Who are only in jail if they drove and got caught. A coherent approach to the dangers of all discombobulating substances would take all this into account, equate the substances with their harm, and set treatments and punishments accordingly. That we don’t only confirms that our policies are based on the different stories we tell about each substance and the people who use them.
  • Note to her chaperone. Keep her away from the hand sanitizers. I swear, the things we put in our bodies. And we're the "sapiens"??
  • Scientific American has a good op-ed on the better prospects for science in Congress right now and recs on what priorities should be. Their last is reestablishment of the former Office of Technology Assessment. As the article says, "From 1972 until it was canceled in late 1995, the OTA carried out high-quality analyses without getting sucked into partisan politics." The OTA ran into the "Cambodia paradox." Neutrality looks like opposition to those committed to a cause and can be source of political conflict, as our recent posts on state statistical analysis centers show. Sent comm’s are also supposed to play this role and can run afoul in the same way, as the demise of the first WI commission and the last MI one revealed. The message of OTA and other similar agencies is that they must be deliberately and carefully buffered and protected from this institutionally—something those like CA and CO who are thinking about new comm’s need to seriously consider.
  • The brain mechanism underlying hallucinogens has been found by researchers, giving insight into function and, more important for technocorrections purposes, cell and process manipulation.
  • Some good news. 2006 saw an 11.5% drop in identity theft in the US, due mainly to better business awareness and counter-action.
  • Several Western states are taking aggressive ad efforts to discourage meth use. The examples given seem a little too "Reefer Madness" to me, but maybe you have to be there. The interesting thing here is the business community activity in getting this off the ground.
  • Neuroethics & Law alerts us to the first neuroethics-related issue of the American Journal of Bioethics. The first of many, we hope. The more, the more the attention to the issue, maybe even making it to corrections sentencing someday.
  • Here's a headline on a valuable point to remember when we urge alternative sentencing and the expanded availability and use of prison programming: At least 88 inmates refused programming. Let's just not overpromise, okay?
  • The OK Gov has recommended a "smart" public safety plan, setting aside $20m. new bucks for drug courts, mental health courts, juvenile courts, treatment, programs, restitution. Doesn't sound like much but the money's tight here so this is really noteworthy. In response to the predictable "every inmate is irredeemable so we can't let any out" critique, he hit the right note: "There's no question that we are tough on crime in Oklahoma and will continue to ensure the public safety at all costs," he said. "The question is whether we will manage taxpayers' dollars in a cost-efficient and effective manner as we strive to protect the public."
  • Really nice article on VT's Reparative Probation system that uses community volunteers and even victims to structure applied sentences rather than going to a judge. It seems to be effective. "[I]n 9,078 cases handled between 1998 and 2005, offenders were 23 percent less likely to commit another crime while on probation than those sentenced to traditional probation. And they were 12 percent less likely to commit another crime after probation ended."
  • They stood in the way of meaningful sentencing reform that would have made more cost-effective sentencing options available, but now WI judges want the state to provide the additional money they need to function effectively. A bit unfair, but only a bit. I was there.
  • Finally, I talk frequently about the need for law and our crim just process to be seen as legit and worthy of obedience in order for them to operate at max effect. This article does a really nice job demonstrating what young African-Americans think about our overall system and continuing racism. You should read it all but know that "widespread marginalization and alienation" would be the "label" words. There's hope and prospect for better but it's easy to see where things can and do blow up. And check this finding out: "One of the most troubling findings was that 41 percent of black youth believe they are judged by what they can buy and own, Cohen said. "There isn't the sense that they are worthy in and of themselves for who they are, not what they own," she said. This focus on commercial goods as a way of increasing status "leads down a road that can be very dangerous," Cohen said, explaining that it can result in heavy debt loads and increasing violence in communities as people turn to crime when they find that "legitimate" jobs won't pay the bills. . . . Uh-oh.

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