Monday, April 09, 2007

Around the Blogs, Monday 9, 2007

  • Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy tips us to this MN article about the state's sentencing commission coming out strongly for reconsideration of the state's harsh drug laws and recommending reduction of prison terms for users and small-time dealers, AKA, common sense. The commission's report estimated a savings of $2m. in 2008 if the recs go through. It also pointed out that prosecutors and judges were already getting around the drug guidelines 2/3rds of the time. Of course, some of them are complaining anyway. Check out this DA logic: "We shouldn't be a part of a downward trend in sentencing when we are already at the bottom [in incarceration]." To quote Jon Steward: "Whhuuuuh . . . ?"
  • Doug also notes an interesting new blog affiliated with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences with a "crime letter" with good stuff hopefully on a regular basis. The website was built with the idea of getting more criminological findings into actual policymaking and informing researchers how to do that. I especially liked Mike Israel's "The Hope of the World": A Role for Criminologists in the Making of Rational Crime Policy piece. Looking forward to what he comes up with in the future.
  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage runs this note on the way new cops and new DAs lead to new demands on the system, including a 30% increase in criminal cases filed by CO DAs in the last 6 years. Causes? Conjecture points at rises in drug cases, filing felony charges against halfway house absconders, experienced but term-limited DAs replaced by newer ones. No agreement apparent, however.
  • Norm Pattis at Crime and Federalism has a couple of really nice posts, one on how clearly our current war on (some) drugs parallels our past war on alcohol and one with this great quote from Justice Holmes on criminal law: "What have we better than a blind guess to show that the criminal law in its present form does more harm than good? I do not stop to refer to the effect which it has had in degrading prisoners and in plunging them further into crime, or to the question whether the fine and imprisonment do not fall more heavily on the criminal's wife and children than on himself. I have in mind more far-reaching questions. Does punishment deter? Do we deal with criminals on proper principles?" Said in 1897. What's that word, you know, when you keep doing the same thing over and over and, you know, expecting a different result? What's it called again?
  • Finally, at The Situationist, a review of an article on brains and addiction to behaviors and consumptions and "on how whether we become addicted to something depends largely on the situations in which we find ourselves rather than the choices we make." Here are the money quotes for our purposes: "'There really is no way to differentiate the behaviour of gambling, a love affair or pursuing a drug . . . . The evidence that behavioural addictions are very similar to chemical ones is mounting from brain studies, too. According to [an] addiction specialist . . . drug addictions and 'natural' addictions seem to involve shared pathways in the brain. 'Take a person with sex addiction, or a pathological gambler: their brains all show abnormal responses--the same reactions to drugs of abuse,' he says. . . . All pleasurable stimuli, natural and unnatural, act on the same 'reward' circuitry in the brain. When we find something desirable, the brain chemical dopamine is released in the brain. Drugs of abuse all cause dopamine release, triggering a desire to keep taking them. Pleasurable behaviours are rewarding too and also release dopamine. The fact that behaviours and drugs of abuse converge on the same brain circuit is not enough to prove they can both be addictive, but there are more specific changes that do seem to be characteristic of addiction." Let's see . . . dopamine . . . pharmaceuticals . . . bioengineering . . . TECHNOCORRECTIONS!!!

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