Tuesday, February 13, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Tuesday, February 13, 2007

  • One of the more persistent problems with criminal forfeiture systems is the incentive for corruption that having these potential sources of substantial and generally unaccountable funds available to local crim just officials. DAs in OK have proven particularly susceptible to the temptations. The state has had the first DA rep to its sentencing commission taken to prison for selling evidence, a past DA in its largest county called the worst DA in America by the Chicago Tribune, and other too frequent transgressions but the forfeiture thing may end up being the biggest headaches, as this article notes.
  • Philly has 3 times the national average African-American homicides. This article describes the problem and what the city is trying to do about it. Keep in mind that PA has among the oldest sentencing guidelines in the country, and the commission there will play no role in the effort. Let's see if the "solutions" take sentencing and guidelines into account.
  • Yes, WiFi is cool, but it's also a dream for Internet crooks, and a nightmare for some folks whose signals are piggybacked. And as WiFi spreads, it poses an even bigger problem and possible new issue for sentencing commissions and correctional facilities.
  • Sometimes I think Will Rogers said "That ain't even good nonsense" about our sex offender legislation. For example, Sex Crimes Blog tips us off to two teenagers who photo'ed themselves doing the nasty and then sent each other the pictures. That's it, that's all. But don't you know, hackers could get them and post them for others so those two young people deserve to have their lives ruined. Please, people. Have you no sense or morals at all? And try this one out: AZ had a chance to stop ruining young people's lives, young people having sex even if one or both is underage . . . and turned it down. One woman testified that the law kept her husband from their children because when he was 15, he had sex with a 13-year-old. Tough luck there, buddy, we're for teaching children what's right and what's wrong so don't try raising your own children. Here's one of the idiots on parade: Bill Montgomery, who ran unsuccessfully for Arizona attorney general last year, testified that changing law to allow 13-year-olds to consent to sex with 15-year-olds would be tantamount to telling them that such behavior is OK."I think it sends the wrong message," he said, comparing removing felony statutes for sex among teens to removing speed bumps from streets just because everyone speeds. Yes, speed bumps have ruined a lot of young overhormoned, underbrained lives. . . Determined ignorance really can never be overcome or apparently outlasted.
  • Think Outside the Cage and Real Cost of Prisons both caught a good NY Times op-ed supporting NY's gov's effort to close down some prisons there now that they've gotten their prison pops pretty much controlled. The piece makes clear that there are people who benefit greatly from the crime business--some are called correctional officers unions, for example, although imagine how many degreed professionals would be out of work if we actually stopped crime.
  • Mexico is back at proposing decriminalizing small amounts of drugs, a law vetoed in the past because of the amounts involved. The reason for the decrim? The social and public costs of enforcement. Good thing we don't have that problem here. (h/t Talk Left)
  • Growing med marijuana in bulk to assure sufficient quantities of quality stuff? Supported by a US admin judge? What planet did I land on? And for those of you who think the med weed thing is just a ploy and grass can't really help ill people, read this. And maybe with campaigns like this "Drugs Hurt Kids" program in IA, we can keep any abuse to a minimum.
  • CO's gov continues his good work pressing for reform of sentencing and corrections there, expertly linking the joint goods of saving public dollars while increasing public safety better than "fail half the time" prisons do.
  • NE has become one of the states getting assistance from the Pew Charitable Trusts with its corr sent problems there. Good luck to them. [DISCLOSURE: I serve ineffectively on a Pew advisory committee.]
  • While we wonder about the potential uses and abuses of MRIs and other ways of reading our brain activity and consider their growing ability to cull out lying and deceptive behavior, with all the temptation there to jump to incarcerative conclusions, let us keep in mind this post at Neuroethics & Law. The focus is on "paltering," the half-lies, deceptions, misdirections, and so on that don't quite get to full stage but have damaging effects. The post discusses the future difficulties of detecting "paltering," even with great tech. This will be a particular problem for our corr sent enterprise, relying as much as we do on inference and the ability to make convincing narratives out of bits and pieces of info. It's also the reason why false positives will always be high with technocorrections because it will likely never get precise enough to deal with “palterers.” As the post makes clear, the real danger will be whether we really care.
  • Talk of extending GPS tracking to domestic violence offenders to let their victims know when they're getting close. Can't really oppose this, but I'd ask you to consider this as an example of how technocorrections is first introduced for good causes like this and then likely to be expanded as other claims are made using the precedent and its justification as the reason. I mean, if DV victims have a right to know when their attacker is getting near, or sexual abuse victims when the abuser gets close, then why is it not legit for merchants to demand that convicted hot check writers or shoplifters be fitted to beep whenever they walk into a store? The arguments in terms of concrete costs and benefits are pretty strong to do so. It's only that "privacy" or "Big Brother" thing that causes problems. You really want to bet who's going to win in the long run? But this is the great quote: It was unclear Monday how much the system would cost, but Caul said the defendants in cases where the technology was ordered would be expected to pay for it. Like defendants are famous for paying these things. "Unclear what it will cost" but, by God, let's just do it. What's that I hear you saying, Will?

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