Monday, March 19, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Monday, March 19, 2007

  • I know, I know, more Second Life stuff, what is this man thinking? But I'm telling you, the day is getting closer to when we can start running simulations and experiments to test crim theory in there. Check out some of the stuff already happening: And marketers now study what some see as an interesting inside-out effect: Real-world firms that model designs and products and gauge how avatars interact with them, drawing lessons for real-world applications.
    "Aloft, the hotel chain, was doing exactly that [last fall]," says Mike Cucka, an analyst with Group 1066, a marketing consultancy in New York.
    Ultimately, individual avatars are about trying on masks. Second Life lets adults engage in the kind of social experimentation that used to be the province of teens, says Robbins. "You get to continue to play with identity, take on new forms, new lifestyles, social skills, and there are no repercussions," she says. "You're not going lose your livelihood if you lose your Second Life job."
    Okay, there are those Institutional Review Board things, but I'm on a university IRB. It can be done, I'm telling you. I'm telling you.
  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage has caught a telling story on the growth of Hispanic populations behind bars in CO. It's happening in OK, too, the fastest growing ethnic population in our system. The absolute numbers are still behind, but they won't be long at this exponential growth.
  • Somehow you just knew this headline before you ever read it. "The Brain Loses Neurons During Adolescence." Actually some seriousness to it: "This could have implications for understanding human psychopathologies, such as schizophrenia, which often arise in late adolescence, Juraska said.
    Other psychological conditions, such as depression, often first occur in adolescence. And alcohol and nicotine addictions that start in adolescence are harder to overcome than those that begin in adulthood, Juraska said.“We know that experiences are very potent in younger children because their brains are developing,” Juraska said. “So if there is another time that the brain is changing, then everything that happens can be written in and magnified more than during stable times.”
    More implications for juvenile delinquency and corrections sentencing.
  • Good stuff at The Situationist, including a trying Hamlet for murder and using the insanity defense, a meditation on how lawyers balance the dual ethical obligations to clients and to society, and more words of wisdom from Philip Zimbardo on how people can manage to be good despite all the pressures on them (many of which he’s documented) to go the other way and on the importance of maintaining and performing social heroism.
  • Stateline posits that 2007 could be "the year of tax hikes." It gives examples from several states and generally explains why and what the new revenue is planned for in great detail. The interesting thing to me was that corrections is never mentioned as a priority, is never mentioned at all, but it's the elephant in the middle of every one of the treasuries. Look up the word "fungibility." It will explain completely what these taxes are about.
  • SUPER DRUNKS!!!! The term of choice apparently for the guys who are out there basically double the alcohol content limit and still driving. This article lays out the problem in MI and discusses the actions of other states to address these derelicts and the dangers they cause. Great overview of the topic.
  • Privatize probation? When privatization has done so well with prisons, with wars? The key point to me in this was that, logically, there's no reason to stop at prisons or probation. Why can't prosecutors be privatized? If the market makes everything more efficient and effective, why isn't that worth talking about? (This idea doesn't originate with me. Some of the more bizarre libertarian sites have been promoting privatization of basically our entire cj process for years now. Not going to link to them because they're . . . well, nutty, but you can find them if you combine a couple of terms in Google.
  • This isn't exactly crim hist record like I talked about the other day, but it's a really nice example of how badly we do records in crim just, this time when arrests without later charges don’t get cleaned from the arrestees’ records. I can guarantee you Baltimore isn't the only place where this is a problem. (And it's also a very good reason why arrests should never be trusted as a measure of recidivism in recidivism studies.)
  • Hijacked PC networks (aka "bot networks") are the crime du jour right now apparently. Wait, too late . . . it's DWT ("Driving While Texting").
  • From a kind reader in TN, we get notice of this Slate article on the MRI brain reading stuff going on right now, particularly in Germany. Better details of the experiments than I think I've given you before, plus there's this quote that gets to the heart of this "technocorrections" matter: "But if machines can read your mind when you want them to, they can also read it when you don't. And your will isn't necessarily the one they obey. Already, scans have been used to identify brain signatures of disgust, drug cravings, unconscious racism, and suppressed sexual arousal, not to mention psychopathy and propensity to kill." And this one: "FMRI is just the first stage. Electrodes, infrared spectroscopy, and subtler magnetic imaging are next. Scanners will shrink. Image resolution and pattern-recognition software will improve." When's that national corrections sentencing conference on this again???
  • Finally, Cardiff U researchers have found, even controlling for family and peer influences, "a strong link between starting to smoke tobacco or marijuana and going on to heavy use. There was a weaker link for alcohol, suggesting that many teenagers may experiment with drink without developing a problem." Genetics seems to determine who will move on to harder stuff and who won't. But before we go all "starter drug" on people's bottoms, check out these stats: "The study found 86 per cent of youngsters had drunk alcohol at some point in their lives and of these, one third reported binge drinking, drunkenness, or getting into situations they later regretted because of alcohol. Cigarettes had been tried by 58 per cent, with 24 per cent reporting heavy use. Just 22 per cent reported trying marijuana and of these, 62 per cent had used it fewer than six times in their life." Conclusions? "The strong link between starting smoking and going on to heavier use suggests that public health strategies should concentrate on stopping teenagers from experimenting with cigarettes in the first place. By contrast, given the large numbers who try alcohol without developing a problem habit, it may be that drink strategies should focus on those at risk of heavy use. However, young people should still be warned against drinking too much, because of the risk of accidents and fights." Uh, cigarettes? Uh, at-risk alcohol? But let's keep throwing dollars into prison holes to get those pot smokers before they start using . . . cigarettes?

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