Thursday, February 22, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Thursday, February 22, 2007

  • Sex Crimes Blog notes that CO actually showed sense that other states (except KS) haven't by stopping its version of the child sex offender residency restriction mistake. What was the reason given? "This bill gives a false sense of security for our community and that's why it failed to pass through the Judiciary committee today," said State Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "Experts have repeatedly testified against this type of legislation in years past because it simply doesn't work. It's hazardous because it drives sex offenders underground and out of sight." Experts, huh? And Kim English, one of our best on rational sex offender policy, just happens to work in CO. Hmm. . . give the rest of you wanting to stop this counterproductive stuff any ideas?
  • Speaking of CO and good ideas, Think Outside the Cage catches this interesting piece on how the state corrections folks are training some inmates in info tech assistance so they'll have some real reentry skills, you know, if all the license plate making jobs are taken.
  • Before we leave child sex offenders, though, looks like the victims advocacy groups are giving the Catholic Church a partner in their crackdown on criminal clergy, targeting Southern Baptist ministers who also have a major problem looming. Again, keep in mind the teeth-pulling it's taken to get even small things done against offending priests and imagine the same with these ministers and then ask yourself why anyone thinks that adding dramatic increases to their punishments will actually protect children and get more charges filed.
  • Really good posts at Grits for Breakfast on the problems arising from rushes to judgment with questionable witnesses and testimony from crime lab folks and even eyewitnesses. (Good to know losing that gall bladder didn’t cost him any IQ points. Still sounded pretty gross, though.)
  • While we're medicinal, let's note this lawsuit brought against the feds by medical marijuana advocates who are using the new studies showing definite medicinal benefits from the drug (for HIV patients, for example) to whack at the bureaucracy trying to shut the efforts down. The Food and Drug Administration's position on medical marijuana "is incorrect, dishonest and a flagrant violation of laws requiring the government to base policy on sound science," Joe Elford, said chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access. Good thing that only happens with Food and Drug.
  • Couple of technocorrections items to keep our eyes on. Here, we learn about computer lip-reading systems and their potential for "crime-fighting." And here, we get news of new GPS devices that can actually monitor offenders in real time and allow officials to talk directly to the offender. "Hey, you, where'd'ya think you're goin'?" I can hear the wheels spinning in defense counsel brains from here.
  • Not going to get into the politics of this latest story on Maricopa County's efforts to use the death penalty to suck every dollar out of every other area of AZ's criminal justice budget . . . well, okay, I guess I failed at that. Just a very nice example of how one jurisdiction's . . . zeal can imperil the entire process for everyone. "In the court's 39 years of practicing criminal law in Maricopa County . . . " wrote the judge, who is a former prosecutor and defense attorney, "the court has not seen more serious issues facing the criminal justice system." The only legit answer to this is to create one of many available mechanisms to force the costs back onto the jurisdiction causing the problems for everyone. Let the voters of that county decide if it's worth the cost rather than pawn their decisions off on others to pay.
  • Things just get tougher for the good folks trying to save CA from itself. Here we learn that the state's budget for the next fiscal year was built on a revenue estimate, oh, just $2 b. too high. And here we see why the head of the state's Alcohol and Drug Treatment department just got moved into the corrections department. $1 b. down the tubes through ineffective treatment programs. What happened? Well, apparently it was poor management by the department, which often houses them in prison settings where they are doomed to fail. Among the problems:• The state's "therapeutic community" treatment model calls for participants to be separated from other inmates, but such separation rarely occurs. Instead, participants share yards and other prison facilities with general population inmates, and security procedures routinely disrupt treatment.• Some treatment programs are at prisons that are subjected to frequent lockdowns, meaning that inmates are confined to their cells around the clock. When that occurs, treatment for them essentially stops until the lockdown is lifted.• Recognizing the importance of intensive group counseling, the contracts with program providers require enough counselors for an 18 to 1 ratio of inmates to counselors. About two-thirds of the programs do not meet that standard. Cate said one egregious example of the department's mismanagement was its willingness to pay for extensive studies that evaluate the treatment programs without then correcting problems those studies identified. There's talk and there's walk. It's time for walk. And not just in CA.
  • This story would like you to believe that Jessica's Law has been successful in FL because the number of sex offender absconders has been reduced. Well, actually, that's good news and might even be the result of the law, although no one has done a scientific analysis. And then there's this: It's too early to tell if children are safer because of the Lunsford Act, but anecdotal evidence from law enforcement suggests the efforts are making a difference. You know, like the D.A.R.E. program that "anecdotal evidence from law enforcement" assured us was successful, until the research was actually done. But by all means let's have a headline proclaiming the law successful. The things we need to be looking at on this law are stats on charges, prosecutions, convictions and their sentences, all done pre and post Jessica. Not to mention serious fiscal impacts. By "serious," we don't mean what they've done in TX, which Grits for Breakfast filets and sautees here.
  • Finally, one of the most effective crime prevention programs we have, with the research now to back it up. Sitting down with your kids to eat dinner most nights. A national study of kids between 3 and 12 found that more meal time at home was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores, ahead of time studying or in church. Researchers found a strong link between eating at least five dinners a week with a parent and children who are less likely to use drugs and develop good eating habits. And you know what? It does good things for the parents, too. Of course, that's just from me, but if others can be "anecdotal," what the heck.

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