Thursday, March 15, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Thursday, March 15, 2007

  • The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia U reports that substance abuse among college students, while not growing in quantity, is growing in intensity--more binge drinking, more prescription drug abuse, a doubling of marijuana use UP TO 4% OF STUDENTS--WHAT A STARTER DRUG!!!!! The increased abuse translates into riskier behavior, including criminality. If we can get and keep addiction under control, the message is clear, then we can cut a lot of social costs, including prison and jail bills.
  • Which is sorta the point of HBO's documentary series starting tonight on addiction. I've looked through the companion book, and it looks like they're serious about us trying to get a human face on these problems, the way the "tough on criminals" crowd dramatizes victims to get support for their prison buildups. This all ties into the weak and slow movement to get drugs considered a health and social problem and get it and its policy failures out of criminal justice. Maybe this will give everything a nudge in that supremely rational direction.
  • Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy notes the sentencing bill the impressive Sen. Romero and her folks have proposed in CA. Of course, the non-realist Repubs there are claiming it's DOA, but I'm impressed with its provision that the CA commission would be able to set prison terms unless overruled by 2/3rds vote of the both houses. That's the only way to do it, and if it's unconstitutional, then so are all other commissions and things like the Fed, for example (although would that be such a bad thing?). Anyway, good luck to them. Looks like they've got their heads on straight and no one will be able to say that a possible solution to at least some of the problem wasn't available. Maybe now if the courts will actually force other policymakers there to grow up, the state can settle down and start climbing out of that Grand Canyon hole it's in.
  • From Think Outside the Cage, we hear of another legis turnaround once logic had a little time to set in. The NM House had a brainstorm and reversed its defeat of the medical marijuana bill being considered there.
  • I always thought the opposition of law enforcement and prosecutors to taped confessions was misplaced and the taping would actually support them more than hurt. Turns out that it goes beyond that. If the camera is on the suspect the whole time, it seems that it biases even objective observers as to the defendant's guilt. Wonder if the opposition will shift now.
  • Something to keep in mind as the pharm side of technocorrections comes to the fore. Initially positive results of using an antidepressant to suppress compulsive buying have not been replicated, although it's not clear that's a negation of the early findings. May just be the nature of small experimental sample sizes and getting different groups the second time through. Anyway, it does point out the dangers of generalizing results and the potential for effectiveness on small, unique groups even when overall populations don't seem to be affected.
  • ID theft has moved to what you run through your copier apparently. Add that to your worry list.
  • We've known but ignored for a long time the dangers of pretending that prisoners can be hidden away and not affect us. Eventual reentry, of course, is the big one, but the health stuff is still out there, and still growing. Not AIDS in this story--hepatitis C, the "silent" one. The folks at the Centers for Disease Control are trying to get us to pay attention early on, before things get out of hand. Good luck on that one, docs.
  • Brendan Byrn at Prevention Works does a nice job reviewing the potential and threat of the growing neurolaw and its issues. What does it say about sentencing commissions and their relevancy to what's shaping how we will judge and punish in the future than none of this is on any commission's agenda? That's not a rhetorical question. Maybe some of the states that are planning commissions should get some answers to that before they get stuck institutionally in a "fix" that just hasn't kept up with the world around it. Maybe a 30-year-old box needs to be thought outside of. Maybe.
  • Finally, I might as well just let Grits for Breakfast have the final spot reserved every day. Here he notes a TX bill that actually spells out the purposes for the state's sentencing, with an emphasis on linking punishment to recidivism and rehab and proportionality, just like in a rational state. Coming from other states, I can tell you how essential that really is for corrections sentencing of any kind. Now if TX can only match the laws it actually passes to those noble goals. It might just live up to its "biggest and best" image . . . of itself.

No comments: