Thursday, March 01, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Thursday, March 1, 2007

  • Biggest thing I ran across today was Governing's Alan Greenblatt's very long and good article on prison overcrowding. Much interesting, if familiar, stuff in one place, such as the info that, because of court-ordered jail pop caps on 20 county jails, over 200,000 offenders in 2005 either serve just some or none of their jail sentence. So that's where one of the pressure valves has been. Not that it worked, really, but let us recall this when we hear about how CA can't release low-level offenders from prison early. Yes, the piece is primarily about CA, its dismal corr sent history and disastrous politics, but CA is the gold standard for screw-up. If it can be solved, there’s hope everywhere. If it can’t, and other states follow, well, that sends a message some of us would like to know about in advance, too. Truly a piece you need to read.
  • Speaking of CA, here's another guy who clearly gets it, particularly the "ooh, you're a bad guy lover" politics that the proposed sentencing commission will get (h/t Sentencing Law and Policy). One more time--people who propose prisons are doing bad guys a favor. Prisons are the least effective and most expensive way to reduce most crimes that we have. Criminals do better with prisons as our option than virtually any other strategy that has been tried. Used to warehouse truly bad guys who will never get out, they're a great crime-fighting tool. Used to ripen offenders who will get out pretty damn soon, not so much. It's not rocket science, people. It's reality.
  • Feel like being on drugs about now? Okay. Here's an op-ed from a Harvard psychiatrist advocating more medicinal use of marijuana. Here's his truly profound insight: "Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, spasticity, appetite loss, certain types of pain, and other debilitating symptoms. And it is extraordinarily safe -- safer than most medicines prescribed every day. If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug." See, on Planet Sanity, tobacco is banned and marijuana is used for healing. That, however, is in a galaxy far, far away . . . .
  • Apparently the folks in VT don't need any more convincing. They're talking about expanding their medical marijuana law. The Red Sox finally win a pennant and those people have been going crazy ever since.
  • And while on drugs, more evidence of the role that stress plays in counteracting efforts to withdraw from opiates. There is good news here, though. Apparently the effects in mice could be negated by a steroid hormone, Bondsium or something like that. Anyway, if that works on humans, too, then we've got another contender for the pharmaceutical part of our technocorrections triumvirate.
  • A heartfelt call for solving the problems we have with the mentally ill in prison, built around the story of one sad man.
  • A WI op-ed calls for more electronic monitoring, providing in one stroke the good reasons why it should spread and the failure to speculate at all where that leads us down the technocorrections road.
  • Don't really get into correctional management issues directly here, except as they're affected by corr sent policy, but I loved this story. We've banned smoking in OK prisons, too, so watch out. Cigarettes for hostages in TN. Gotta be a movie in there somewhere.
  • Matthew Bowen at Prevention Works picks up on the need for good strategy in approaching teens about abusing substances, in this case going after cigarettes but neglecting how the teens might then turn to cigars. The logic and problem could apply to any abusable substance, though. Here are the words of wisdom: "In a larger sense, the emergence of this problem shows prevention practitioners some interesting things about prevention campaigns. There are many substitutes for risky behaviors available to teens. We must be careful when constructing campaigns to be specific enough to be effective but general enough not to push youth from one bad habit to another."
  • Via Think Outside the Cage, farms and tents in CO. Sometimes the permutations of possible topics in corrections sentencing seem endless, don't they?
  • SD has come up with a workable solution to the "drive them to drink if you don't let them drive" dilemma with DUI laws that suspend driver's licenses that get guys to work and to keep their jobs so they don't sit at home drinking, then go driving anyway. Some SD counties required convicted DUI folks to show up twice a day at the sheriff's office to blow into the breathalyzer. Keeps them sober and out, it seems. The program's about to go statewide. Why not nationwide?
  • Some state other than WI has judges who throw the baby out with the bathwater in holding onto their precious prerogatives instead of adopting policies that would help offenders and cut state costs, huh? AR (Arkansas, not Arizona) dumps on a bill setting statewide rules and standards for state drug courts in deference to the state judiciary. Here in OK we have a problem with multiple drug courts doing multiple things, which serves the purpose of making categorical statements about their effectiveness impossible. Common standards would be the norm on Planet Sanity, but . . . well, we've already been there, haven't we? Still, a good look at how the politics of "separation of powers" work and why anyone considering any corr sent policy reform better know what they are.
  • Nonsense out West. The WA gov nixes any early release to free bedspace, even if that means more expense and shipping more offenders out of state. And the WY policymakers have lumped everyone together on their sex offender registration website, including apparently a guy who had sex 15 years ago with girls under 18, now married with kids and deemed a low risk for reoffending. Says his wife, ""My husband made two mistakes years ago. I didn't realize that was a life sentence."
  • Let's finish with some logic on sex offenses, however. A NJ judge whacked a town ordinance there that basically banned sex offenders from anywhere in town. Says the outraged mayor: "I frankly cannot understand why the state courts would not support our township's efforts to safeguard our kids," said Mayor Bernie Platt. "It seems to me that if this community wants to draw a line in the sand, we ought to be able to do that." DAILY DOUBLE!!! Can't understand violating the Constitution or how "drawing that line" will actually put more kids at risk. Hope he runs for Pres someday!! Maybe he should talk to this woman, someone who actually, like, experienced the offense and is out campaigning for GPS tracking instead and against these types of counterproductive nonsense. We'll leave her the final words:

"Stop giving the public a false sense of security that the 2,000-foot rule prevents abuse," said Leanne Buell, referring to Iowa's controversial law banning sex offenders from living near churches and schools.

Now 44, Buell, of West Des Moines, told a panel of legislators she was repeatedly abused by an older brother beginning when she was 11 and he was 14. She became violent at school and wet her pants, yet no one looked into the reasons while she was growing up.

Research has shown that almost 90 percent of all child sexual abuse is committed by people already known to the child. In lieu of a law that does little to prevent such abuse, Buell said, legislators should expand education for parents, children and even potential abusers who may not know that their actions are wrong.

"My brother said, 'I didn't know it was wrong until I saw a made-for-TV movie,' " Buell said.

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