Tuesday, February 27, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Tuesday, February 27, 2007

  • Too bad this isn't "public safety" like an over-thyroided "Law & Order: Food Inspection." Money into cost-ineffective programs, like most prison sentences, taken away from other areas that protect people by finding germs, not crooks. You die from salmonella, tough. Nothing we could have done. We have to build more cells. Like in Animal Farm, some "public safety" is more equal than others.
  • Supreme Court lets 200-year sentence in AZ stand. Let’s make sure we understand what’s being said here. You can kill or rape someone in AZ and be punished less than someone who possesses pictures—didn’t take the pictures, didn’t coerce the pictures’ subjects, possessed pictures. I understand and completely agree that no decent person would have those pictures. I even agree that a prison sentence can be justified (although see the end of this bullet). I also understand that that person poses less danger to me or even my possible grandchildren than a rapist or murderer. This is just one more “because we can” case of abusive discretionary power exercised to show “Who’s The Boss,” not to enforce justice. This gets very close to “the rule of men” and not “the rule of law.” And that means it endangers all of us. Meanwhile, Norm Pattis at Crime & Federalism has more on what we’re doing to the legitimacy of our legal system, to the long-term safety of constitutional protections, particular our federal political system, in the name of fighting child porn. A CT state judge gives a reasonable sentence to someone essentially the same as the guy in AZ. The fed attorney decides he’s outraged at the leniency and now is going after the guy on fed charges. IOW, a judge with no demonstrably inferior intelligence or moral values to a fed attorney decides on an appropriate sentence for an apparently contrite offender and a fed attorney, BECAUSE HE CAN, decides to interpose his superior wisdom, judgment, and self-righteousness. That’s the world the Forefathers thought they were creating with the Bill of Rights?? Pattis says it better: Sure, no one is above the law. But the law's guarantees seem relaxed when the crime is hideous. What's going on in the Justice Department? Why a holy war against what even we sinners regard as evil? Are the states impotent? Or is it simply too hard to resist the temptation to encroach on state powers?
  • If you get a chance, go by Corey Yung's place at Sex Crimes Blog and wish him well on his new academic career. And hold him to his word that he won't let it hurt the blog we've all come to depend upon.
  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage gives a shout-out to Kim English's work at the CO Dept of Justice, specifically a new report she's come up with on community corrections programs in CO. You'll find the summary at TOC and can find the full paper here.
  • Via CrimProf Blog, a very good (and appropriately skeptical) overview of the current state of MRI application to lie detection and those trying to sell it at Reason. Here's the great conclusion: So adding up the studies cited by these two companies, we get a total of 154 subjects whose brains have been probed for lying in controlled laboratory settings. And on top of that most of the subjects studied were right-handed men. Of course, these are not the only fMRI deception studies, but it would be surprising if the number of subjects whose brains have been scanned to date for deception exceeds a couple of thousand. While fMRI deception detection looks very promising, a lot more and different kinds of brains need to be scanned in order to validate it. Right now its accuracy has not yet been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Or as Stanford law professor Hank Greeley succinctly put it: "I want proof before this gets used, and proof is not three studies of 40 college students lying about whether or not they are holding the three of spades."
  • A typically interesting and applicable post at Made2Measure on judicial performance measure systems, with some relevance to sentencing and corrections as well, if you're into accountability and everything.
  • Research on how "alcohol cues" and stress can screw up alcoholics trying to get straight but the evidence is that they target the brain in different ways to produce the destructive cravings. The part of importance for corr sent and technocorrections is: What the study findings do contribute, however, is an explanation for how stress and cues may affect the brain differently to cause cravings."This is important for scientists who are interested in improving treatments for alcoholism," said Thomas. "For example, it might be possible to improve alcoholism treatment by attending to these differences ... to develop new treatments that individually target both stress-induced and cue-induced craving to give the person in recovery the best possible.
  • From MD we hear that minorities are disproportionately hammered by man-min sentences there. That's not news, and they're apparently going to try to work on it, but here's what I found interesting, this quote from a policymaker there displaying his assumption that incarceration works on drug users with absolutely no evidence cited to support it, just "certainty": "Jail time, to me, should clearly be a deterrent to crime," said Del. Donald H. Dwyer, an Anne Arundel County Republican. "I personally do not support the idea that treatment alone is the answer. Many of the individuals who are involved in drug crimes are not only committing drug crimes, but they are also involved in breaking-and-enterings and theft. You still have victims who will suffer."
  • Better late than never, I guess. NJ is looking at whether its Megan's Law is actually being implemented as intended, ensuring equal treatment across the state in the face of news accounts that that's not happening (as any policy student would have predicted).
  • And in MO, the "nuclear option" of the state's public defenders, without resources to put defenders in every courtroom when needed. No new clients, even if the judge threatens contempt. Why isn't there money? Well, see, MO has been building prisons and they aren't made from fairy dust and so when other areas of crim just need funding . . . what? You've heard this before?
  • Finally, Psychology of Women Quarterly reports a U of OR study finding that "young men who have never been traumatized are the least likely population to believe a person's recounting of child sexual abuse." One remedy, according to the authors? Better education of men . . . okay, the less said about that, the better.

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