Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Quick Hits

Really interesting info on the thoughts and reasoning of teens on snitching and fears of reprisal. This affects so much of our ability to do corrections sentencing right so give it a review if you have time. . . . Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy provides a couple of updates on the progress of commissions and guidelines in CA and CO. The chief difference between the two states is clear in Doug’s posts. CA practitioners are clearly, from the article, still operating under delusion that prison is the best way to stop all crime when it’s the best way for only a proportionately few offenses and offenders. CO recognizes that and proposes to get policymakers the data and info necessary to let them direct punishments appropriately so that the payoff in reduced crime and victimization is maximized. Most states, and frankly sentencing commissions, have accepted the CA paradigm so thoroughly and ignored the research that shows the better, more cost-effective ways to stop crime and victims so completely that they don’t even realize they are hurting their citizens, not helping them with the sunk cost approaches they insist on maintaining. That’s why CO encourages me so much, as I made clear in earlier posts. That state gets that the future path out of the mess we’re almost all in is not the one we’ve been on for decades now (how could anything be clearer after these decades???) but the one that is lit by good research and effective piloting of programs and sentences based on it. I know that many of the folks in CA also get that, but it’s not the leading vision of their reform at this point. If CO is successful, a decade from now, we’ll all be wondering how and why we could have wasted so much money that would have been so much better in other areas of crime prevention and justice. . . . The IRS has apparently screwed many of us in ways no tax protester or stand-up comic had thought of yet. The ever-helpful Prevention Works is there as usual with its insight and assistance. . . . The last comment I'm making on the egregious behavior of the DA in the Duke lacrosse case is to get you this link to his perfidy if you haven't already read it. . . . Finally, this abstract from a Journal of Quantitative Criminology article on measuring and explaining charge bargaining from Anne Morrison Piehl and Shawn D. Bushway. They've done some of the best research work in corr sent for over a decade now. We worked with them some in MD when I was there. And this piece is another important contribution on a topic that has needed much more examination. You can get to the info on how to find the whole article from this link:

Charge bargaining is a potentially important form of discretion in criminal sentencing that is obscured in many studies of sentencing outcomes. Our procedure to measure the difference in sentencing outcomes caused by plea bargain emphasizes the amount, in months, that the sentence length is reduced. Using this measure, we compare prosecutorial discretion across counties in two different states. We conclude that charge bargaining plays an empirically important role in determining sentencing outcomes. Furthermore, we find that measuring the distance (in months of prison time) moved during a charge bargain may provide a very different estimate of the discretion than is given by the rate of bargaining, which is the usual measure used. Although the rate of charge bargaining was higher in the voluntary guidelines state, its impact on sentences was greater in the presumptive guidelines jurisdiction, as predicted by Reitz (1998). We further observe a dramatic difference in predictions from shifting the case characteristics underlying the summary measure. This result reveals that distributional differences (either due to the underlying criminal activity or due to the overall level of severity of punishment) can easily obscure the inferences necessary for understanding the operation of the systems. Our finding of differential charge bargaining in these two jurisdictions should provide a caution when comparing the results of studies of disparity in sentencing across jurisdiction types.

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