Tuesday, April 03, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Tuesday, April 3, 2007

  • Sense and courage in one day not once but twice??? If Louis Freeh says what we've been saying here over and over, does that mean we're ready to run the FBI? Try this out: "Louis J. Freeh, the nation's former top cop and a self-described 'law enforcement guy,' is leading an effort in Delaware to repeal state laws that require minimum prison terms for convicted drug offenders. . . . Freeh said he got involved with SURJ based, in part, on his experience as a federal judge. He recalled having to sentence 20-year-old offenders who were drug users -- but not dealers -- to nearly two years in prison. 'And they will come out hardened' by the prison system, Freeh said. . . . 'Drugs are cheaper, purer and more available than ever before, and America's prison population has tripled to more than 2.1 million,' Freeh wrote. In Delaware, the prison and jail population has more than quadrupled in the last 25 years, Freeh wrote. The cost to support the rising prison population has soared to more than $200 million a year. "Still, drug use has not declined and our communities are not safer,' Freeh wrote." And here, Bill Richardson has signed NM's approval of its new med marijuana law, despite displeasure and threats from the usual suspects. Why? "'It's a humane piece of legislation. It does not mean I support legalizing marijuana,' Richardson said. 'It means that we are alleviating suffering, ... and I must tell you, I was overcome by the personal stories of pain and the personal appeals I got.' The governor said he had heard from law enforcement agencies unhappy with the new law, and he acknowledged it might be unpopular with others as well. 'So be it,' he said." Realism creeping in despite ourselves.
  • Again, this does not imply approval of general drug use. Here's yet another reason why: "Young people who abuse cocaine and amphetamines are at heightened risk for suffering a stroke, a study published Monday confirms. Cocaine, amphetamines, and other stimulants may boost the risk of stroke by raising blood pressure or by triggering spasms in blood vessel walls."
  • TECHNOCORRECTIONS implications. Here and here we see how a parasite can target and eliminate specific fears in rats. So what? Well, so much of criminal behavior is apparently impulse and risk-aversion directed, which might be susceptible to whatever they find from this. The scientists, not the rats. And do not miss the current lead story in Scientific American. Here's the title: Seeking the Connections: Alcoholism and Our Genes. Great, really great overview of the science and the potential for genetic and/or pharmaceutical remedies. Here are a couple of the key graphs: "The recent genetic findings related to alcoholism may also suggest ways to improve the prevention and treatment of smoking and other forms of substance dependence that are frequently seen in people with alcohol problems and tend to cluster in the same families. Mood and anxiety disorders fall into this category as well, and the association between CHRM2 variations, alcoholism and depression illustrates how these problems may stem in part from a common source. Improved understanding of alcohol dependence should therefore help dissect factors involved in the development of related conditions." And, "Genetic testing is already providing opportunities for self-assessment that were impossible in the past, and the demand for genetic profiling will increase in the coming years. Microarrays, often called gene chips, can be used to detect a person's gene variants as well as variations in gene activity and to produce a series of medical, psychiatric and behavioral recommendations that the individual may take or leave as he or she wishes. This use of scientific knowledge is surely inevitable, especially in free nations with capitalist economies, where it will be market-driven and competitive. The scientific and academic communities must therefore help guide this process by distinguishing true physiological relations from false claims and by encouraging socially responsible uses for these discoveries." And here is the magazine's editorial endorsing current efforts to install privacy protections and future efforts for more.
  • Part II of The Situationist's analysis of why attorney acquiesce to their clients' misbehavior despite the clear implications for society, in this case, not caring about the innocence or justice of corporate clients, here.
  • At Psychology and Crime Blog, good updates and bibliography on studies demonstrating the mental processes underlying the effect of racial bias on jury participants, even when they insist they aren't affected. Not new, but if you're not familiar or want a handy reference, here you go.
  • The New Yorker has a nice and brief piece on a reentry program in NYC called "the Castle," primarily offering dorm space and opportunities to talk for parolees and ex-convicts. And here's a bit of what they have to say: “I went to Social Security to get a card,” he said. “They told me to go to Medicaid. Well, Medicaid says you need a Social Security card. Then I go to Vital Records to get a birth certificate—they won’t give it to me because I don’t have an I.D.” He went on, “One plus one is two, two plus two is four, four plus four is eight,” continuing the sequence until he reached five hundred and twelve. “They don’t realize, when they release people, you have to have one.” And, “Years ago, you had to be a criminal to go to jail. Now all you have to be is a f--kup.” And, “I don’t like following rules. The law’s the law and it’s not made for us.” There are complete dissertations inside every one of those quotes.
  • Finally, this couldn't have been a good plan. "A man who arrived at court drunk for a drunken-driving hearing was again charged with driving under the influence, police said. Paul H. Zeigler, 45, of Glen Rock, appeared at a preliminary hearing at the Shrewsbury district court on March 26 for a DUI charge from December. Police said Zeigler appeared to be intoxicated at the hearing, according to police records. After his court appearance, Zeigler failed a portable breath test for alcohol and was taken into custody for a blood test, police said. The second test revealed that Zeigler's blood-alcohol level was twice the legal driving limit and he was charged with DUI, police said."

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