Friday, April 13, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Friday, April 13, 2007

  • Those Duke lacrosse players may want to sue the DA and may actually have a chance since the behavior was so beyond the pale. We need more consideration of these things. Immunity is necessary for public officials, but it should not be cover for abuse or malfeasance. It's not enough to say that elections every fourth year will take care of the problems these guys cause justice or even their own profession and professional colleagues. A former OK Co. DA was censured by appellate courts almost two dozen times, called worst DA in America by Chicago Tribune, his assistants were also chastised, and he was reelected every time. Democracy is not a defense against abuse of basic freedoms. Setting legitimate standards of behavior whose violation would open bad prosecutors to lawsuit would also give good DAs nevertheless feeling public pressure to abuse basic freedoms a buffer and protection, allow them to pass buck to that “stupid government” again. Good DAs would have little to worry about, but, like all professions, they police themselves poorly, and external action becomes the only means of redress, whether the DAs think it wise or not. It would be a fittingly bizarre coda to this bizarre case if it became a basis for ethical and enforceable standards for such powerful officials.
  • Drop a line, lean back, relax, enjoy the day, feel the tug, reel in your latest stash of dope. Or tobacco. Or other contraband. The joys of having an overcrowded jail in an industrial section of a large city.
  • Speaking of reeling in a great catch, Corey Rayburn Yung at Sex Crimes Blog hauls in this story from the British Independent showing that that nation is basically dumping on Megan's Law proposals because of the US experience with ineffectiveness and vigilantism. As Corey notes, "it is telling in each of the articles which England officials and media are saying about the American experience with cracking down on sex offenders. So far, it appears that our model isn't one other nations will be inclined to follow." There was a time when we were the nation of progress and model behavior. I was alive then. I remember it.
  • Architects against prisons??? Well, Pam Clifton's found some in CO.
  • Real Cost of Prisons links to this WI story on the importance of being able to drive for an offender's reintegration and the counter-effectiveness of penalties that deny them that ability. This was a big concern of judges in less populated areas of WI when I was there, so much so that they admitted that it affected their willingness to sentence as harshly as state policymakers wanted. (See this report of judicial focus groups we did a couple of years back.) I'm sure it's a consideration for other judges as well, one that seldom makes it into guidelines or other reforms.
  • A kind reader sent us news of a press release on the FL Chief Justice naming a special advisor on criminal justice and mental health. Here's the main graf: " In Florida , an estimated 70,000 people with serious mental illnesses requiring immediate treatment are arrested and booked into jail. The administrative order signed by Chief Justice Lewis notes that it is ‘a concern that state and county correctional facilities may essentially become the largest psychiatric institutions in Florida , at enormous expense to taxpayers.’ The Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health has been appointed in an effort to reduce the number of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system and to enhance the administration of justice and the responsiveness of the public mental health system.” It will be interesting to see if and how fast this innovation spreads.
  • CrimProf Blog has the VA governor vetoing a castration bill promoted as an option to the cost of civil commitment in the state, saying that "This bill was overly prescriptive of matters best left to the professionals in our state mental health agency." There you have it, folks, the essential argument in the much larger future debates over TECHNOCORRECTIONS.
  • We love our superpredators, even when reality says they don't exist. Here's another example, via Prevention Works, the superhacker who ingeniously breaks into computer systems and steals all our identities. Makes a good scary story, but the reality is much more mundane and simple, with much more hope for us to be able to protect ourselves if we just accept reality. Jeez, where have we heard this before?
  • From 8 state Attorneys General (never seems right to say it that way) meeting to discuss meth, we find the Mexican supply offsetting the local efforts to stop homegrown entrepreneurs through Actifed regulations and this admission that incarceration alone is not going to get the job done: "Even as we are doing everything we can from the law enforcement aspect, we have a generation of addicts out there," said Kentucky Attorney General Gregory D. Stumbo (D). "We don't have adequate treatment facilities. We know how to put people in jail, but I think we all need to recognize there is more to this problem than incarceration."
  • Increases in teen domestic violence against parents in Houston. Granted, it's only Houston in this story, but it's hard to believe that they're the only place it's a growing problem.
  • Finally, the self-justification for heinous crime of all time, from that TN wife who killed her preacher husband: "My ugly came out." . . . Hmmmmm. From now on, I guess we should all think through our bad hair days just a little more carefully.

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