Wednesday, February 21, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Wednesday, February 21, 2007

  • Things starting to hop in CA. You may have already seen that a state judge dumped on the gov's presumed power to declare a prison "emergency" (state law only allows local emergencies and if any crisis is statewide, it's CA's prison crisis) (h/t Think Outside the Cage). Some sad folks in OK's private prison industry today. But did you see that failures with the state's prison drug treatment program has gotten the head of that department moved out? One of the biggest problems CA faces with its corr sent problems, one that doesn't get talked about much, is just simply that getting someone, anyone, with talent and drive to come in there and try to make that place work is one of the hardest things those of us in the field can conceive. That's why I've referred to the situation as a Gordian Knot, and I've become more skeptical that even court orders and/or even a true sentencing commission on the Frankel model can work. Even with all those ducks in a row, you still have to have the people to get it done and who's going to give up a good job right now to waltz into situations in which department secs get moved or fired or resign on a quarterly basis? There may not be enough money in the world to draw the people who might actually have a chance. Promise them guaranteed jobs if they fail? Would a legislature go for that? It will be interesting to see. Despite our doubts, we do wish those folks the best.
  • Only sorta corrections sentencing, but Matthew Bowen has a very interesting post up on “emergency social networking” at Prevention Works.
  • Really good web roundup over at Sex Crimes Blog, other good posts there, including some commentary on the AL sex toy silliness (that should get you to make the link!). (And thanks for the kind words, Corey.)
  • MS running out of prison beds, despite just opening up new ones. This would have to make you feel good as a state resident if the head of your House Corrections Committee flat out says, "“We don't know what's in store for us.” Some interesting stats on the state's current situation, if you're into those things.
  • Meanwhile, another M state, MI, is proposing closing a prison and its 1500 beds by July, part of a cost-saving plan to get 5500 low risk offenders released. The prison's city, of course, is not thrilled. This is the problem that dare not speak its name when we talk about moving people into alternatives, and not the last time we'll talk about it.
  • Couple of technocorrections stories today. A long-term research project at my old alma mater, the U of MO (another M state--quick, just how many of them are there? what's that about????). Looks at family histories of alcoholism. Compared to folks from non-alcoholic homes, the subjects from alcoholic homes "maintained relatively higher levels of deviant behavioral and emotional traits during adult maturation." And a NIDA study has shown that the brain is affected the same way by nicotine as by cocaine, heroin or other addictive drugs. Here's what you need to know: "Experts on smoking have long said that nicotine is at least as addictive as heroin." Seriously, folks, and I don't care if we uncriminalize or new criminalize since I've never smoked tobacco or pot, but how on earth do we claim to have a rational justice system worthy of respect and deserving of legitimacy that distinguishes between the two inhalables? (And don't start counting the respective deaths every year.)
  • Finally, here's a story that ties back to a couple of themes we hit here until you throw up. A survey in the Public Library of Science of health professionals found that "generally prioritize spending on the young over the old and on preventive care over curative care. Yet this preference is at odds with the actual spending priorities in most countries throughout the world--most governments spend more on curative than on preventive health care services." Two things. We claim to love our kids here, but, as that industrial nation study we discussed last week showed, we're at the bottom of quality of life for our kids (except for our ancestrial country, Britain). This survey basically says the same thing. The other thing, put it in prevention, despite the inherent lack of glamour and drama that victimized folks provide, and live with less hardship, including crime and better lives. Or wait for the worst to happen, wail and bemoan and thump our chests and vow to never let this happen again, while we slight badly the best ways to do that. Do we realize that depending on prisons to stop crime is like depending on hospitals to stop disease? Not completely ineffective, but basically the equivalent of sitting on our butts all day, eating chips and candy at the same time, no exercise, no decent food, then relying on bypass to clean up the mess, higher costs, less likelihood of good life, everything. These doctors didn't realize they were talking about corrections sentencing, too, but they were.

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