Tuesday, March 13, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Tuesday, March 13, 2007

  • Demons, demons everywhere. Via Sex Crimes Blog, a great op-ed in the LA Times on our moral panic branding any sex offender as predator and untreatable and basically building the world of our nightmares. It calls for "evidence-based" policy and a turn away from our latest "witch hunt." But we seem to need our witches, don't we?
  • Norm Pattis at Crime & Consequences stays on his recent roll with a very good piece on how the emphasis on victims is distorting and destroying our traditional criminal justice process in the name of "vigilantism." While I agree with the dangers raised, I have a little problem with his acceptance of the view that all victims' public advocates are the revenge-addled people the news media hype. The point he misses—not all victims are “vigilantes.” Roberta Roper in MD took her daughter's tragic death by torture and turned it not into constant tv presence but a statewide organization that has built some of the strongest and most reasonable victim policy in the country, aided by our sometime contributor here, Russell Butler. I came out of the OKC bombing acutely aware of how the "victims' advocates" on tv or in the papers did not speak for me or at least half of the bombing victims. When it is actually performed well, polls show few differences on policy between victims and non-victims. Victims don’t always agree with prosecutors and often see how they’re just being used, especially when prosecutors don’t want to deal with them if vengeance isn’t what they’re after. Restorative justice programs would never get off the ground if that were the case. So, yes, there are some truly destructive victims' "advocates" out there. But victims are far more diverse. We need to figure out ways to get the more community-oriented and less self-absorbed members of our sad grouping into the limelight to offset them. Too bad Roberta is so reticent. But I'll put Russell up against anybody.
  • A U of Buffalo survey finds that 18% of young women have suffered sexual victimization, broadly defined. What's particularly interesting in the study is its differentiation between intimate and non-intimate partners and the risk factors they pose for potential victims. One big tip to young women: no binge drinking.
  • More nationalization of our prison population. AZ hauling off over 1200 of its prisoners to IN. We need to start thinking of our prison buildup as one big national enterprise, except apparently for CA. It might help us to visualize what we're really dealing with differently.
  • Philip Zimbardo follows up his recent 3-post series at The Situationist with new insight into his famous Stanford prison experiment at The Situationist. Should be required reading for anyone seeking to know how and why people (from offenders to jailers) cross the lines of humane behavior.
  • Meanwhile in AR (Arkansas, not Arizona), the judges have won in their effort to avoid any kind of legis oversight of the state's drug courts. Not surprising, really, but to me this just shows why using states like VA as examples for sentencing policy is really so problematical. VA is traditionally a "good government" state and has legis controls of judicial budgets and personnel. AR cannot be substituted at any point in that sentence. Nor can most other states. Yet many of them will consider sentencing commissions. Keep in mind, AR has one. My work is done here.
  • And in a non-commission state, where DOC data are trusted, projections of increased costs convinced ND legislators not to pass increased sentences for drunk drivers. You don't have to have a commission, just trustworthy data and analysts.
  • FL is dealing with its prison pop problems by passing laws to require violent offenders be returned to incarceration upon probation violation, at least until a judge lets them out, like that's going to happen. And OH's gov is cutting the state's budget everywhere but guess where? And in OR where this has been going on for some time, the pres of U of OR has figured out that tax increase known as tuition is being used to shift priorities from colleges to prisons. And he seems to think that's bad for a community that wants a prosperous future. And he's right. We proclaim our intent to do better and the waves still lap at the sandy foundations.

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