Thursday, May 31, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Thursday, May 31, 2007

  • Well, looks like the UCR numbers for 2006, coming out next week, will definitely show yet another increase in violent crime nationally, although, as always, varying by jurisdiction and community. The assailants must have heard what a good time all those prisons we've built (and keep building) are. How else do we explain all the harsher sentencing of the last decade or so having this effect?
  • Really good post on the intricacies and silliness of how we inconsistently try to deal with teen sex in our legal system by Niki Delson at Sex Crimes Blog. Very thought provoking, especially the conclusion dealing with Kirk Douglas’ loss of virginity at 15 to a school teacher who, he says, took him off a bad course in life and set him on his successful one, neither of them knowing she was breaking the law.
  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage finds a great editorial on what we talk here a lot about, the “bad” DAs with “with latent character flaws [who] suffer a lapse when they are driven by a zeal to win, political ambition or pride in wrongly holding to an announced position.” A decade or so ago, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a long series on bad fed prosecutors that was truly one of the scariest things I’ve ever read and was enough to turn any reader into a libertarian. Then I got to work with guys like that on policy issues and saw how authoritarian and undemocratic they are, as well as the “character” probs the editorial outlines. Again, there are enough responsible and democratic DAs to give hope that the entire profession isn’t tainted by these zealots for their own version of truth, but I’ve never been able to take “Law & Order” seriously since.
  • Speaking of good DAs, Steven Erickson over at a DA blog, Crime and Consequences, reminds us all to think through what we're doing on these death penalty for child rape laws.
  • Maybe some of that sense is seeping through in MO. Certain sex offenders who were legally living near a school before Missouri tightened its sex offender law last year cannot be forced to move, a judge has ruled.
    Making them move violates the Missouri and U.S. constitutions, which say laws cannot penalize people retroactively, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce decided last week.
  • As if there weren’t already enough reason to hate telemarketers, Prevention Works surveys the companies selling databases to them, even to known thieves, and ignoring the regulations to screen sales, saying they’re just selling, they’re not the ones breaking the law with the lists of names and info. As PW says, It is just this sort of attitude that really highlights the importance of prevention. It would be nice if we could count on companies to take care of us and protect our information, but we can’t. When it comes down to it, the only person that can protect you and your assets is you. NCPC has a great publication called Seniors and Telemarketing Fraud 101 that provides seniors with all sorts of tips on how they can avoid being taken advantage of. The Federal Trade Commission’s website also provides many helpful hints on keeping your identity safe from telemarketers.
  • The Dutch cracking down on pot. Seriously. But, before you read too much into it, Due to the growing use of soft drugs among school pupils and problems caused by their sale and consumption, Rotterdam has decided to ban 27 shops within a 200 metre radius of secondary schools from selling cannabis, starting in 2009. Two years from now. And, let's see, a kilometer is .62 miles (as we all know from our car odometers) . . . 200 meters (sorry, not going to misspell it like they do), which is one-fifth of a kilometer, so that's .12 miles times 5260 feet . . . well, I think it's closer than we do with our drug laws. And here's the capper: The new laws will not cover primary schools, as primary school children hardly ever consume cannabis. What are they thinking? They'll never get their prisons overcrowded and budgets busted that way.
  • Finally, while in Europa, "Scientists have discovered particles of cocaine and marijuana, as well as caffeine and tobacco, in the air of Italy's capital, they said on Thursday." Heaviest concentrations around a Roman university. Imagine that. So . . . if I go to Rome and walk around with my baggage and then go through a drug screening at an airport on my way home . . . .

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Wednesday, May 30, 2007

  • Good story at Christian Science Monitor on the different amounts states recompense wrongly convicted inmates, with TX surprisingly among the better states (I hope Grits for Breakfast heard me say that), comparatively anyway, and FL remaining the very questionable state that it seems to like to be. . . .
  • Ingo Keilitz at Made2Measure has discovered Tom Tyler’s work on why people obey laws—because they judge them and the process that enforces them as fair—and recognizes the problems for the entire process, courts and sentencing especially, if laws and those who make and apply them are seen as illegitimate and unjust. . . .
  • Very few middle schoolers starting their drinking early get their booze from commercial outlets, and over a third got it from parent or grandparent homes or those of friends. . . .
  • Via Mind Hacks, a study of teen males for 20 years shows that those with cognitive difficulties were more likely to engage in violent offenses and those with higher abilities, in non-violent offenses. Lots of self-reporting and maybe no reporting but raises again the possibility of profiling and using MRIs along with self-reports to ID possible offenders before they offend. . . .
  • While you’re at Mind Hacks, check out the post on the growth of neurotech industry ($1.7b. in venture capital and 10% growth in revenue in 2006) and tell me what you think the prospects are for TECHNOCORRECTIONS in the future as they develop more and more applications for corrections sentencing. . . .
  • At Psychology and Crime News, a post on a new study showing that, yes, indeed, juries do deliberate well on average and more on jurors’ takes on their experiences. . . .
  • High-level execs and criminals. All that different? Well, maybe not on psych scales. Could just be the result of being successful and not. . . .
  • Emergency Powers Act” invoked in AR (Arkansas, not Arizona) in response to its overcrowded prison situation there. . . .
  • Deniers and obstructionists in MI suddenly finding value in alternative sanctions when the other alternative is the early release option. . . .
  • Finally, speaking of deniers, insights here into deniers and obstructionists and their childhood upbringing that may be useful as we try to reason with the people denying the corr sent futures that are already blooming in most states. (Actually, the blog with this post is a new one on denial that all of us in corr sent policy should bookmark and check daily. Yes, I already have.)

New Jersey Reentry Digest

Published by The New Jersey Institute For Social Justice, the most recent issue of the New Jersey Reentry Digest has information about the following topics:

  • Second Chance Act Update
  • New York Court Overturns Dismissal Over 21-Year-Old Conviction
  • Call for Employment Screen/Assessment Tool
  • Mentoring Children of Prisoners Grants
  • Employment and Training Administration Youthful Offender Grants
  • New Jersey Update: Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Death Penalty Abolition Bill, Juvenile Offender Community Service Bill Referred to Committee

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nevada Moves to Reactivate Sentencing Commission

According to this recent story in The Las Vegas Sun, the Nevada legislature has just taken a significant step toward reactivating and substantially strengthening that state's currently defunct sentencing commission. As recounted in the article:

AB508 would revive a state sentencing commission that hasn't met since 2000, give that board subpoena powers, and allow it to bring recommendations to the 2009 legislature.

The bill also changes the makeup of that committee, adding a second representative from law enforcement as well as an inmate advocate. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously for the bill, which now needs approval from the full Senate before moving ahead.

The commission, which must meet within 60 days of the end of the legislative session, will revisit harsh sentencing laws passed in 1995 that have contributed to Nevada's overcrowded prisons.

Nevada joined a national trend of states creating tougher, mandatory punishments in the mid-1990s. This year, legislators are reviewing studies showing that those policies have resulted in the state housing large numbers of low-risk inmates.

Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty has criticized the "mandatory minimums," saying they result in skewed sentences for nonviolent, low-level offenders.

Hardesty and state prisons chief Howard Skolnik told lawmakers again on Thursday that revisiting sentencing guidelines is critical to relieving the state's overburdened prison system.
"We have inhumane treatment of inmates," said Hardesty. "We have risk to corrections officers and inmates. We have risk of riots."

A powerful sentencing commission is critical to getting good information, and allowing the next legislature to make real change, he said.

Hardesty and Skolnik also updated the committee on the status of AB510, a proposal to offer more good-time credits to Nevada offenders, including retroactive credits. That bill could drop the prison population by about 1,500 offenders over the next two years.

The good-time credits would affect only the minimum sentence requirements. That means that while credits would make some inmates eligible for parole sooner, the final decisions about releases would be up to the parole board.

Both Senate and Assembly money committees have closed prisons budgets that set aside $3.3 million in anticipated savings from lower inmate populations. That money will be made available for more parole officers or treatment programs if the projections are correct, or can go back to the prison system if they turn out to be wrong.

Though New Jersey prides itself on its unduly deserved rep as perhaps the "bluest" of the blue states, I can't envision any member of our three branches of government taking such as prominent and forceful a stand on the importance and necessity of a sentencing commission as did Justice Hardesty. Good for him and good for Nevada. And how utterly pathetic that legislation to establish a permanent commission with clearly defined responsibilities continues to languish in the New Jersey Legislature.

Around the Blogs, Tuesday, May 29, 2007

  • A while back I reviewed a book on cognitive dissonance and the extremely hard time we have admitting we are wrong. One of the best things about that book was its scathing putdown of what we here call "bad DAs" who find themselves unable EVER to admit that that might not have been God whispering in their ear after all, the folks who, despite convincing new evidence to the contrary, nevertheless insist on asserting that they couldn't, just couldn't, have sent an innocent person to prison. Talk Left has the new leader in DA absurdity in this post about the guy who is now MT's Attorney General who convicted someone for rape whose DNA proved not to match that found on the victim. According to the God-inspired AG/former DA, "McGrath . . . cited several possibilities, including that the victim was sexually active with someone else or that her 11-year-old sister was sexually active while wearing her younger sister's underwear. The veteran prosecutor also suggested that the DNA could have been from the child's father and that the girl's parents had sex on their daughter's bed and left DNA, or that the father assaulted the girl." . . . omigod. Here's that messy (and/or perverted) father's response: "The victim's father, whose identity is being withheld to protect the identity of the victim, accused McGrath of making 'reckless statements that will cause more harm to the victim and her family. ... Needless to say, we are deeply offended by his remarks. Deeply offended.'" Want to know what a good and responsible DA (yes, they exist and save their profession) says? Here's the guy who released the innocent inmate: "Paxinos, informed of McGrath's views, said, 'I had [the innocent inmate] cut loose because his DNA did not match the DNA in the case. He could not be the perpetrator unless you believed the 8-year-old was having sex with multiple men. That would be far-fetched.'" Uh, how many people in the world really need to be told this? What kind of person would believe otherwise? Honest to God, not only should we require that any prosecutor, judge, and defense counsel complete a rigorous program in criminal prosecution and defense, we should require that no one be allowed to practice or judge until they have been certified (and the instruments exist) not to have this destructive inability to see and admit their own humanity. Yes, we'd have to grandfather it in or 95% of courtrooms would be empty since at least one of the three would almost always fail, and yes, I'm only kidding. About 10%.
  • Real Cost of Prisons continues its great catches with this Fresno Bee editorial on the fake solutions for CA's Gordian Knot of prisons, actually going so far as to wish for the old days that brought on the "reforms" that brought on the present mess: "The Adult Authority was arbitrary; it tended to be racist, and it punished prisoners who spoke out. But it was, in the end, more humane than what we've got now. Prisoners had a motive to behave well in prison and to rehabilitate, because that was the key to freedom. True fiscal conservatives, Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown, were running our state then. Prison sentences were relatively short, and our prisons were dungeons where corruption, brutality and neglect were rampant. Given what has happened since, perhaps this was a good thing. Perhaps we should have left well enough alone." Evidence and knowledge guided neither system Good people in CA are trying to change that, but, as I've gotten older and/or more experienced (the "wiser" is hopeless), I look on with hope and good wishes but no expectations whatsoever. Sometimes, when people are determined to be foolish, like addicts and policymakers throwing money at crime problems, you just have to let the disaster happen, let rock bottom slam into them before they can admit they're wrong. (See "MT Attorney General.")
  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage has a lot of good stuff up, including prisons and aging offenders, homeless parolees, helping kids with parents in prison, and drug courts and yoga. Oh, and Pam? I sat in on a presentation state police made to state judges on the intricacies of making meth while I was in WI. We, of course, were trustworthy. One of many valuable things I learned in my time there.
  • Finally, at Prevention Works, "May 25 is National Missing Children’s Day. It is a day intended to remind us of one of the most heinous of crimes, the abduction of children. However, the safety of our children is an issue that we all need to be concerned about. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to provide safety information for events going on across the country for the center’s TAKE 25 campaign, the goal of which is to heighten awareness of child safety issues." As always, the good folks there provide great pointers and link you to their sites for more info. Be sure to pass all those good words along.

News of the Day, Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An oldie but still goodie TECHNOCORRECTIONS favorite--chemical castration of sex offenders. This time in OR. Doesn't matter if the record isn't all that it's hyped up to be. What's important on these things is the precedent being set for applying chemical/pharmaceutical remedies to any and all offenders and offenses. As we noted yesterday, if we have registries for sex offenders, why not for them all? If we drug and chem one type of offender, what logic says we can't do them all? . . . New corrections officials in FL (treatment programs) and IA (director), both chanting the same mantra, "it doesn't do any good just to keep warehousing these guys as they cycle through our prisons over and over." Wanna bet if those states are still increasing prison bedspace 5, 10 years from now? . . . One reason they will be will be from treating juvies as adults and making them into better criminals. Yet another thing we have the evidence for and that policymakers and media types downplay and ignore. This time, the plea for applying real knowledge comes from folks who know in MA. Might have a chance there, I suppose, but the reason they're writing is because the state is in the same mess as everyone else. Good luck, guys.

A History of Wisconsin Sentencing- Part XXIX

Part XXVIII concluded a series of posts on the work of the CPSC’s Sentencing Guidelines subcommittee in creating a new set of state guidelines. This post discusses the work of the Computer Modeling subcommittee, whose challenges and controversies often paralleled those of their counterparts.

Even though the CPSC had received no “express statutory charge” from Act 283 to study or project populations and costs in its deliberations, their instructions from Governor Thompson, combined with the concerns of committee members themselves, led the Committee to work on the issue “from the very start” of their existence. Even before the Committee’s first meeting, Chairman Barland had traveled to North Carolina to examine their cost projections system, and spoken with an in-state expert on the topic, Professor Michael Smith, about developing software for cost estimates. Likewise, part of the Committee’s examinations of other state sentencing systems involved polling “technical specialists” in those states as to “how each state developed an accurate forecast of prison population and cost.” Those polls confirmed the Committee’s concerns and provided added impetus for the Committee to undertake organized efforts on the topic; each of those specialists “stressed” that “for the Committee’s work to have credibility, it must accurately forecast prison populations and costs.”

Thus, “given other states’ experiences, and the desires of Committee members,” the Committee formally moved to develop a computer-based model by which to “project the impact of criminal justice policy changes.” An additional appropriation was obtained to carry out work on the model, and Professor Smith, who was not originally a member of the CPSC, was drafted to serve on the Computer Modeling subcommittee that would oversee the effort. The report leaves little doubt as to the Committee’s personal view on the need for the model: “not to do so would have been irresponsible.” Statutory charge or not, Committee members quite clearly saw issues of cost and population projection as an essential part of their task.

Once the subcommittee was up and running, though, it immediately ran into the time and resource limitations faced by their counterparts on Sentencing Guidelines. The subcommittee faced a substantial and fundamental barrier to even beginning work on the model: “Wisconsin’s corrections data [could] not be accessed in a useful way.” Besides being stored “in an antiquated manner,” the criminal justice data maintained by agencies within the system was so fragmentary that complete data was impossible to obtain. Performance of the analyses the subcommittee desired would necessitate the use of the prison data maintained by the Department of Corrections (DOC) as well as the sentencing data maintained by the “CCAP” system used by the state courts, as the Committee needed both the criminal history information only CCAP could provide, and the prison time-served information only kept by the DOC. However, “no number identifie[d] a single offender” in both systems, rendering “access severely limited.”

And once again, time limitations prevented the subcommittee from undertaking any compensatory efforts. According to the database expert brought in to discuss merging the DOC and CCAP systems, simply linking the systems, less developing the models the Committee desired therefrom, “would be challenging even to a large research staff with a year of time to do it.” He further estimated that doing everything necessary to “develop the type of computer model the Committee was seeking” would take “perhaps as many as four or five years” to complete.

As with the guidelines, members had no choice except to seek an incomplete but expedient solution. With the help of Professor Smith, the subcommittee chose to circumvent its challenges by switching their goals to a “consumption” approach that would utilize only existing data to estimate the amount of corrections resources being consumed. Such a model could rely on DOC prison data without necessitating a link to CCAP, and “could be constructed more quickly” in order to obtain results in time for the Committee to debate its other recommendations. Having decided on the parameters of the system, the Committee contracted with a technical consulting firm to create the model. From there, the Committee used the model to validate its recommended changes in the felony classification system (with encouraging results), and also developed cost and population projections for the corrections system. Like the legislature, committee members had no means by which to predict how judges would sentence under truth-in-sentencing; thus, they published five different scenarios projecting potential changes in judicial sentencing practice.

Committee members once again expressed serious doubts. Dickey lamented the “lack of adequate data, the lack of documentation which could reveal to them how the model produces its results, and the lack of time” involved in constructing the model, while Hurley criticized the model as “untested” and its data as “incomplete.” Based on their objections, both predicted that costs and populations would undergo increases much greater than the Committee had projected. But, to repeat Hurley’s caveat from before, it was “better than no proposal at all.”

Looking back over the past two sections, it is evident that Committee members had a clearly articulated and agreed-upon vision regarding both the purposes their work was going to serve, and how to go about achieving those purposes. They sought sentencing recommendations, in the form of grid ranges, which would provide comprehensive narrative guidance for judges but maintain maximal deference to judicial discretion, and a comprehensive computer model for anticipating space and resources needs within the corrections system. However, handicapped in terms of time and resources, the committee fell well short of those goals. By their own admission, members failed to establish either demonstrably accurate or useful grid ranges, or a projection model in which they had confidence. The evident result was that those goals, their accompanying challenges, and the hopes for achieving them would all come to bear on the Committee’s recommendations for the Sentencing Commission.

Part XXX will discuss the CPSC’s recommendations regarding the development of a new, second Wisconsin Sentencing Commission.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Around the Blogs, Memorial Day Edition

  • Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy catches my recent post on microchip planting in inmates and, of course, makes it better. Really nice abstract on possible growth of "geoslavery" (c'mon, you've got to go look at a term like that, don't you?). At Talk Left, Jeralyn adds her own piece, claiming that, as a defense attorney, she would take a case to the Supreme Court if her client had to have a chip implanted. She does note that the current judiciary probably wouldn't have the problems with it she does, but, frankly, I'm not sure what difference it makes if the tracking device is worn inside or outside the skin. Inside the body is a temple? Don't see it happening, especially if it will free up prison bedspace so judges can be tougher and get reelected easier. More reasonable, I think, to focus right now on the bugs still in the system, but, with all the money coming available (as Real Cost of Prisons shows in its catch of this article on predicted growth in prison corporations), there will be mucho effort in getting them worked out fast (or at least to be able to make the claims).
  • While you're at Real Cost, check out these good posts on how the recent CA deal to finance bonds to build its latest but not last set of new prisons may be unconstitutional there (which sounds about right for the crew that put all that together) and on a MA rep's call for smarter ways to spend taxpayers' money than simply building prisons to start with. He'd clearly never get elected in CA.
  • Grits for Breakfast is finishing up the TX legislative session with updates on the (yet another primarily disastrous) results there and his own take on the zoo that is the TX House.
  • At Empirical Legal Studies, a very good question: Why Not a Ph.D. in Law?
  • Finally, at Think Outside the Cage, Pam Clifton notes the consideration of a drug dealer registry in NY and asks why not have a registry for every type of offender? Indeed. Violent offender registries have been proposed in several places. What exactly is the logic for only some getting the notoriety? Well, maybe Pam hits the nail: At this rate people who have committed a crime will eventually just have their own yellow pages.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, May 27, 2007


NCJ 218178
Andrea Schoepfer ; Stephanie Carmichael ; Nicole Leeper Piquero
Do Perceptions of Punishment Vary Between White-Collar and Street Crimes?
Journal of Criminal Justice: An International Journal
Volume:35 Issue:2 Dated:March/April 2007 Pages:151 to 163

This study compared perceptions of punishment for street crimes versus white-collar crimes. The results suggest that policymakers should develop strategies to increase the ability of the threat of formal legal punishments to deter individuals from committing white-collar crime. Results indicated that when the street crime of robbery was compared with the white-collar crime of fraud in terms of perceptions of punishment certainty and severity, respondents’ viewed robbery and fraud as generally similar. However, respondents’ perceived that the street crime of robbery was more likely to be detected and the offenders more likely to be sentenced to more severe punishments than fraud offenders. Results revealed a divide between the perceptions of the punishment white-collar offenders were likely to receive and the punishment respondents’ thought they should receive. Other findings suggested that more educated respondents and those with higher incomes were more likely to believe that street crimes were more likely to be detected and punished more severely than respondents who had less education and income. Data were drawn from the National Public Survey on White-Collar Crime conducted by the National White-Collar Crime Center during a 12-week period beginning in January 1999. Participants were 1,169 citizens who were randomly selected using random digital dialing. Participants completed single-session telephone interviews using the CATI system. Interview questions focused on the distinction between white-collar and street crimes, perceptions of punishment certainty, perceptions of punishment severity, and demographic information, including whether the respondent had been a previous victim of crime. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine the data. Differences in perceptions of demographic backgrounds discovered in this study warrant further research exploration. Tables, appendix, references

NCJ 218193
Robert Alan Prentky ; Austin F.S. Lee
Effect of Age-at-Release on Long Term Sexual Re-Offense Rates in Civilly Committed Sexual Offenders
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment
Volume:19 Issue:1 Dated:March 2007 Pages:43 to 59

A cohort of 136 rapists and 115 child molesters civilly committed to a prison in Massachusetts and followed for 25 years was examined for the effect of age at time of release on sexual reoffending. The data support the general conclusion that risk of sexual reoffending diminishes as a function of increasing age at the time of release for rapists. There was a significant difference, however, in the reoffending patterns of rapists compared with child molesters according to age at release. Whereas the age-crime pattern was linear and declining among the rapists, child molesters had low reoffending rates according to age just after release, but then had a sharp increase before leveling off for several decades before declining at age 60. The highest risk period for child molesters was middle age (late 20s to mid-40s), followed by a decline. The difference in age-crime patterns of rapists and child molesters should be taken into account when assessing relative risk for reoffending. The study examined the reoffending rates for each of five age-at-release groups, separately for rapists and child molesters. The study tested the fit of linear and quadratic models for 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years, using Cox regression analysis. 5 tables, 3 figures, and 30 references

NCJ 218171
Lior Gideon
Family Role in the Reintegration Process of Recovering Drug Addicts: A Qualitative Review of Israeli Offenders
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Volume:51 Issue:2 Dated:April 2007 Pages:212 to 226

This study explored the role of the family in the rehabilitation and reintegration process of recovering drug addicts who participated in a prison-based therapeutic community program in Israel. Results revealed that although family involvement has been widely regarded as important to reintegration experiences, the offenders in this study reported that their families had a negative effect on their rehabilitation and reintegration process. This finding was especially significant among offenders who reunited with their spouse. The authors note that such findings tend to occur among families that did not participate in any kind of treatment and as a result were unfamiliar with the special needs of the recovering offender and the recovery process itself. Since the family is an important factor in the process of becoming a drug addict, the family should also be considered an important part of the recovery process. Participants were 39 ex-inmates who completed semistructured interviews about their experiences during the rehabilitation process and about their perceptions of their integration back into the community. Questions about family reunification and sources of support were also included. Participants were recruited from a listing of Sharon prison program participants who completed the prison-based therapeutic community program between 1994 and 1997. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed thematically. Future studies should focus on the experiences of female drug addicts returning to their families after completing prison-based drug treatment programming. Notes, references

NCJ 218166
Martha L. Coulter ; Abigail Alexander ; Victoria Harrison
Specialized Domestic Violence Courts: Improvement for Women Victims?
Women & Criminal Justice
Volume:16 Issue:3 Dated:2005 Pages:91 to 106

This study compared the perceptions of specialized domestic violence court processes versus general court processes among victims, courtroom police, judges, and victim advocates. Results indicated that despite the court’s specialization in domestic violence matters, victims perceived similar problems in both specialized and general courts. Findings further revealed that professionals working within the specialized domestic violence courts had no more domestic violence education and training than professionals from the general courts. Victims reported feeling unsafe in both court models, which contrasted with the positive perceptions of victims’ safety reported by judges and attorneys of the specialized courts. Likewise, attorney’s and judge’s perceptions of victim support countered victims’ perceptions and victims reported a significant need for increased guidance through the court system and its various processes. The findings suggest that more education and training about domestic violence is sorely needed for specialized court personnel at all levels. The study employed a multi-method approach that had two basic components: (1) focus groups of bailiffs and domestic violence victims; and (2) written surveys completed by judges, attorneys, and victim advocates. Participants were recruited from 14 domestic violence courts across 9 Florida counties. Transcripts of the focus group were coded using the constant comparative approach and were analyzed using content analysis. Survey results were statistically analyzed using SAS software. Statistical analyses included chi-square statistics to determine any statistical differences between domestic violence versus the general courts. Future research should focus on comparing the operational management, judicial caseloads, and community collaboration among specialized versus general courts. Tables, references

How the Media Can Help Corrections Sentencing

You may remember my mention last week of a Tulsa World story about a low-level female sex offender in OK who was only able to find housing among some really hard core low-lifes because of the state's "one size fits all" approach to classifying sex offenders. I noted that the World has a heritage, unlike the state's major newspaper, of trying to bring fact and reason to state policy debates. Well, as proof that sometimes good media coverage can play an important role in moving deliberation along, before the OK legislature adjourned last week, it changed the state's sex offender classification system to a three-tiered system familiar to many of you in other states. No word on how the woman on the story was affected yet, but, if we are to find out, you can bet it will be the work of a newspaper taking its role in our constitutional system seriously, unlike most of them today.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, May 26, 2007


NCJ 218164
Elaine Gunnison ; Lisa M. McCartan
Role of Different Development Experiences: A Theoretical Examination of Female Persistence
Women & Criminal Justice
Volume:16 Issue:3 Dated:2005 Pages:43 to 65

This study examined female persistence patterns in crime using an integrated theoretical approach. The results indicate that two main factors were significantly related to female persistence in criminality: (1) prior sexual abuse and (2) association with delinquent peers. The main factors that seemed to distinguish between male and female offending rates appeared to be exposure to risk (association with delinquent peers) and a history of physical and sexual abuse. These findings suggest that different developmental issues for females should be addressed in the development of a theoretical explanation for female crime persistence. The findings also have implications for policymakers in terms of the development of prison-based programming that addresses female physical and sexual abuse. Participants were 131 female inmates residing in a southwestern prison who volunteered to complete a self-report survey focusing on their life history, prior criminal involvement, and demographic information. Participants were recruited through fliers in female prison pods that explained the research. Data were analyzed using stepwise logistic regression analyses. Future research on criminal persistence should continue to focus on distinguishing between male and female persistence to determine similarities and differences in persistence patterns. Tables, notes, references

NCJ 218168
Loretta J. Stalans ; Magnus Seng
Identifying Subgroups at High Risk of Dropping Out of Domestic Batterer Treatment: The Buffering Effects of a High School Education
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Volume:51 Issue:2 Dated:April 2007 Pages:151 to 169

This study identified the subgroups of domestic batterers who are at low or high risk of failing to complete domestic batterer cognitive behavioral treatment in order to inform the development of an assessment tool to determine risk of treatment failure. Results revealed that three groups were at high risk of treatment failure: (1) unemployed generalized aggressors; (2) high school dropouts court mandated into substance abuse treatment; and (3) unemployed offenders court mandated into substance abuse treatment. Having a high school education, even among unemployed and impoverished offenders, increased the chances of treatment completion for both domestic batterer programs and substance abuse programs. Furthermore, the findings indicate the importance of separating generalized aggressors from family-only batterers in predicting treatment failure. The findings suggest that offenders who have basic life skill challenges, substance abuse problems, and general violent tendencies are less likely to benefit from domestic batterer treatment. It is suggested that courts and probation officers encourage offenders to complete high school or job training before mandating domestic violence treatment. Participants were 355 domestic batterers ordered to complete treatment by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) during October and November 2000. Of the 355 batterers, 31.8 percent did not complete treatment. Variables under investigation included treatment failure and predictors of treatment failure. Data included the offender’s criminal histories, substance abuse problems, demographic characteristics, offense characteristics, prior mental health problems, and offense characteristics. Data were examined using two methods, which were then compared: (1) classification tree analysis (CTA); and (2) logistic regression models. The authors demonstrated that CTA, compared to logistic regression analysis, was a better statistical approach to determining groups of offenders at high risk for treatment failure. Future research should focus on the development of an assessment tool to determine risk of treatment failure. Tables, notes, references

NCJ 218176
Stephen W. Baron ; David R. Forde ; Fiona M. Kay
Self-Control, Risky Lifestyles, and Situation: The Role of Opportunity and Context in the General Theory
Journal of Criminal Justice: An International Journal
Volume:35 Issue:2 Dated:March/April 2007 Pages:119 to 136

This study of 125 homeless male street youths explored how low self-control, risky lifestyles, and their reactions to social circumstances influenced their involvement in violent behaviors as both offenders and victims. The study results indicated that particular subscales of low self-control influenced the way street youths reacted to criminal events and the likelihood that they would become involved in violence as either offenders or victims. The authors argue that self-control does not appear to be a unidimensional construct as suggested by Gottfredson and Hirschi. Instead, self-control appeared in this study to involve six distinct elements that had differing effects on violence involvement among the youth. The findings indicated that violent offending was predicted by the temper component of low self-control and by both behavioral measures of low self-control. Two other factors also emerged as significant in influencing street youths’ propensity to become involved in violence: (1) risky lifestyle, and (2) the situational dynamics of conflicts. The findings suggest that situational factors and learned responses for aggression can mediate the effects of low self-control for youths’ involvement in crime. The findings also suggest that certain components of self-control are important to understanding violent behavior. Participants were 125 youth who met the following criteria: (1) under the age of 24 years; (2) had left or finished school; and (3) had spent at least 3 hours a day, 3 days a week hanging around in the street or in the mall. Participants were recruited through snowball sampling. Interviews took place between May and July of 1995 in a midwestern Canadian city. Future research should continue to reach beyond self-control measures and integrate decision-making theories to help understand the causes of crime. Tables, figures, appendix, notes, references

Friday, May 25, 2007


Microchips in offenders. Passed the Senate in OK but failed in the House. Not sure if constitutional. Will be back . . . and other places. Not sure how effective it would be? Wait until you get the sales pitch adding on WiFi and RFID tech. The train's comin'. Our officials wouldn't force offenders to participate. Tell that to the mentally ill in El Paso. (h/t Think Outside the Cage)

Have a good holiday.

If We Were Serious about Actually Stopping Crime

From study by economists James Heckman and Dimitriy Masterov argues that investing in the education of young children (pre-K) provides the greatest return on investment. In contrast, trying to educate the brains of adolescents, the economists say, is largely a waste of resources.
Perry participants have been followed through age 40, and the program has shown substantial benefits in educational achievement and other social outcomes. Participants achieved greater literacy and higher grades, and they were more likely to graduate high school. Later in life, they were more likely to be employed--and to earn more--and less likely to be on welfare. They also committed less crime and had lower rates of teen pregnancy
The authors estimate the rate of return for programs like the Perry Project to be a substantial 16 percent.

Substance Abuse, and What We Punish

In the interest of balance, here is an article on the damage that using marijuana while pregnant can do to a fetus. Good thing we put those folks in prison . . . oh, wait, here's one on what using alcohol can do. . . . oh, wait, here's one on what using tobacco can do (h/t Think Outside the Cage). . . and, IMHO, the latter two sound worse. And here's evidence of what happens to those fetuses when they become binge drinking college students. Good thing our policymaking is rational.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Post From The Post

Although The New York Post isn't exactly the first publication that comes to mind as a venue for thoughtful op-ed pieces about topical sentencing issues, this op-ed, entitled "Crack: Tough Laws Without A Cause" by Jacob Sollum and published in today's edition is worth a read.

News and Blogs Together, Thursday, May 24, 2007

  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage informs us that CO’s innovative sentencing commission bill was signed yesterday by the gov there. I’ve praised the intent and set-up here before so I won’t go into that again. 26 members is way too many, by half, but, with strong and clear executive leadership setting the mission and chores, they have an opportunity there to set some new paths in how commissions and sentencing policy work. Good luck to them.
  • Prevention Works has been the go-to place for news and ideas about cybercrime and its prevention. It has a very good post up right now on the cyberattacks on the Estonian government and how we’re not immune here (and may be as or more vulnerable). Technology is always rolled out with its advantages and the blowups don’t get known until later, which is our cautionary tale for the day once more on the topic we always harp on here—TECHNOCORRECTIONS—as well.
  • Selected counties will be reimbursed up to a collective $ 1 million for using inmates to help pick up the tons of trash that litter the state, the Arkansas Highway Commission voted Wednesday.
  • Uh, if you already know the conclusion, why are you spending this money? Oh, wait. It's IL. The state plans to spend more than $450,000 to study the state’s expansive prison system in order to gauge what kinds of repairs need to be made to the facilities. . . . A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections, or DOC, said the study is unlikely to show a need for any new prisons to be built.
  • WY still having problems with rehabbing meth houses so they can be lived in again. Wants to force landlords to fix them up, landlords want the gov't to pay since it wasn't their fault. Bills dying so far.
  • Alert Grits for Breakfast!!! An interesting and maybe even workable bill approved by the TX state senate. A $5 charge per customer at strip clubs (how much the owner could get away with passing on to said customer unclear) to be used in the state's new sexual assault prevention fund and to the state health opportunity pool for poor people. I predict, though, that this will pull in so much cash that several other major taxes will fall in TX before it's through. The question is, how many other states follow suit?
  • Finally, some even better news. An Institute of Medicine panel has called for giving the US Food and Drug Admin the authority to regulate tobacco products and for raising cig taxes. As the panel head said, "If tobacco cigarettes were now being introduced into the marketplace for the first time, there is no doubt that they would be banned under any one of several consumer protection statutes." Lots of other good recs. Why is this necessary? Well, "Tobacco use causes 440,000 deaths every year in the United States, and secondhand smoke claims another 50,000 lives every year." Meanwhile our prisons bust our budgets for other crim just and other needs filled with pot users and dealers.

More NCJRS Abstracts, May 24, 2007


NCJ 218165
Nawal H. Ammar ; Robert R. Weaver
Restrained Voices: Female Inmates' Views of Health Services in Two Ohio Prisons
Women & Criminal Justice
Volume:16 Issue:3 Dated:2005 Pages:67 to 89

This study examined female inmates’ perceptions of health care delivery in two Ohio prisons. The results indicate that women are only comfortable discussing physical ailments with prison health care personnel and are reluctant to talk with them about mental health care or HIV. The participants reported that a female-oriented approach to health care in prisons would significantly improve prison health care. The authors point out that the female-oriented health care approach is not rooted in differences in the ailments between male and female inmates but rather by the differences in the ways that men and women encounter and respond to health care providers and illnesses. Other findings revealed that women frequently complained of back problems and about the nature and quality of health care that was delivered. Many complained of a lack of compassion from the medical staff. Fifty-six female inmates participated in face-to-face interviews regarding the role gender plays in prison health care delivery. The research was part of a larger research project that examined health care delivery in Ohio prisons from the perspectives of administrators, service providers, and offenders. The current analysis focused on the interviews of female prisoners from two women’s prisons in Ohio. Participants were purposively sampled from each category of health service consumption to ensure a variety of health care pattern use. Future research should focus on the relationship between poverty and incarcerated women’s use of health care, as well as issues related to sexual assault and battering and the effects of co-payments on the frequency of prison health care use. Tables, notes, references

NCJ 218167
David Loveland ; Michael Boyle
Intensive Case Management as a Jail Diversion Program for People with a Serious Mental Illness: A Review of the Literature
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Volume:51 Issue:2 Dated:April 2007 Pages:130 to 150

This study reviewed the research literature on two types of intensive case management (ICM) programs that serve as jail diversion programs for people with serious mental illness (SMI). Results indicated that the general ICM programs, which include an assessment of arrests and incarceration rates for people with a SMI only rarely reduced arrest or jail rates for this population over time. Additionally, the rates of arrest and incarceration for the general ICM programs were similar to those found in standard mental health services. The general ICM programs that included an integrated additional treatment component produced more mixed results. The findings were mixed jail diversion interventions with an ICM program, but generally more ICM programs produced significant reductions in arrest and incarceration rates over time for people with SMI. The research review was conducted with the following criteria: (1) an empirical study that evaluated a case management program for people with a mental illness; (2) at least 50 percent of the sample had to have a mental illness; (3) must include an assessment if involvement in the criminal justice system; and (4) the program had to be implemented in the United States or Canada. Research for review use identified using multiple scientific abstracts including PsycINFO, Medline, ERIC, Criminal Justice Abstracts, and Social Work Abstracts. Additionally, all published evaluations of case management programs were reviewed. The authors relied on a basic qualitative format to analyze the research literature. Future research should focus on the efficacy of using a community-based ICM program as an intervention for diverting individuals with a SMI away from the criminal justice system and into the behavioral health system. Tables, references

NCJ 218187
Lori Suzanne Golden ; Robert J. Gatchel ; Melissa Anne Cahill
Evaluating the Effectiveness of the National Institute of Corrections' "Thinking for a Change" Program Among Probationers
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume:43 Issue:2 Dated:2006 Pages:55 to 73

This article reports on the evaluation of the effectiveness of a National Institute of Corrections cognitive-behavioral program for adult offenders entitled "Thinking for a Change," which consists of 22 sessions designed to facilitate interpersonal problem-solving skills through instruction, role play, review of previous lessons, and homework assignments. Evaluation findings show that the program significantly improved problem-solving skills for those who completed the program compared to those who did not complete it. There was moderate indication that these acquired skills might have reduced reoffending. Program dropouts had significantly higher rates of technical probation violations than either program completers or members of the control group. Future research might examine whether "booster sessions," an aftercare group, or relapse prevention measures, added to the program curriculum, might further delay reoffending. The evaluation was designed to compare the demographics, differences in study measures, probation violations, and new offense charges among probationers who completed "Thinking for a Change," those who participated in the program but did not complete it, and those who did not participate in the program at all. Participants were 142 men and women on probation who were at least 18 years old and were classified as "medium risk," "high risk," or "high need." 2 figures and 32 references

A History of Wisconsin Sentencing- Part XXVIII

Part XXVII discussed the compromise the CPSC made on the conceptual framework of Wisconsin’s new, truth-in-sentencing era sentencing guidelines. This post discusses their efforts to develop the content that would guide judges within that framework.

A detailed compromise had been struck on the guidelines format, but the subcommittee still faced the challenge of developing the content of the grids- the factors to be listed and, especially, the sentence recommendations that would be placed within the grid. In this, the committee faced substantial limitations of resources and time. With the first Sentencing Commission’s databases lost, and the data systems used by other criminal justice agencies fragmented, “antiquated,” and difficult to access (which will be covered in detail in the next section), the committee lacked reliable data on state sentencing practices by which to construct descriptive ranges. And the Committee had little time by which to even construct ranges, much less remedy the data problems that existed; the report was due in a matter of months, with the looming onset of truth-in-sentencing prohibiting delay. As the Committee’s report repeatedly pointed out, the former Sentencing Commission, with five employees and databases on hand, had taken 11 years to develop 16 guidelines. The CPSC, with a single program staffer and no easily accessible data, had to develop guidelines in less than a tenth of that time.

The Committee solved their predicament in two ways. First, they limited their efforts to developing guidelines “for the 11 crimes which consume approximately 72% of the corrections resources devoted to prisoners;” the Sentencing Commission could develop “additional” guidelines after it was established. And to obtain the guidelines content with due speed, the Committee appealed to the eventual users of the guidelines, holding a one-day session in June 1999 with eighteen circuit court judges to help formulate their ranges. After “compil[ing] a list of offender and offense characteristics for each crime” for which the Committee intended to develop guidelines, the judges discussed those characteristics, considered hypothetical cases, and “wrote ranges of punishment” into the 9-cell grid the Committee had developed. After some discussion and revision, the written contributions were used by the Committee to develop maximum and minimum ranges within each cell. The subcommittee made a few policy decisions regarding the ranges, such as requiring that the most severe grid range for each offense included the statutory maximum penalty. In large part, however, the final ranges were simply the aggregated product of the figures recorded at the session. With truth-in-sentencing’s onset date looming ever closer and data resources lacking, the subcommittee was unable to validate those ranges before the report’s release.

The Committee was realistic about the results of these efforts. “This approach did not purport to be a scientific process,” the Final Report admitted, but rather just “an attempt to get a general reaction from experienced judges from around the state.” The report also acknowledged that the instructions by which judges filled in the ranges may have been unclear. Nevertheless, there was evident dissatisfaction with the process among Committee members. Professor Dickey used the guidelines development process as one of his justifications for dissenting from the Committee’s recommendations, arguing that the ranges were “based on nothing more than…impressions” and arguing that the “complex decisions” of sentencing judges would not be “made easier, more predictable, more fair, or more likely to create public safety by simplistic grids.” And although Dickey cast the only dissenting vote, he was not the only member with such doubts. In a concurring statement, attorney Steven Hurley may have spoken for more members of the committee. Although he raised similar objections to Dickey’s, noting that “the Committee had little rationale for the numbers that went into the grid cells” and calling the judges meeting “a simplistic exercise,” Hurley claimed to have voted for the proposals “simply because it is better than having made no proposal to the legislature at all.”

The guidelines were not the only area in which Committee members faced such constraints and confronted such problems. Indeed, the Computer Modeling subcommittee faced essentially the same challenges in confronting a task which, if anything, may have been even more difficult to surmount.

Part XXIX begins a discussion of the Computer Modeling subcommittee’s work.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Wednesday, May 23, 2007

  • It takes a lot to gobsmack me anymore, but this post at Prawfsblawg did. I don’t mean to be rude, but are law professors really so isolated from practice in corr sent that this can be serious? I guess that explains a lot about how we’ve gotten where we are.
  • Comparing our emphasis to prison as the only solution to crime despite the abundant evidence to the contrary to drug addiction.
    There are many reasons we are addicted to prisons. These institutions are an apparently simple solution to the complex problem of crime, and it is certainly gratifying to just lock criminals up, out of sight and mind, and throw away keys. We are tired of being crime victims, and prison is a partial solution to our crime problems (despite growing evidence that education, jobs, drug treatment, and mental health treatment are more effective at reducing crime than prison time). We have used the courts and prisons as our main attack in the "war on drugs."
    Withdrawal from addiction, as Merriam-Webster’s definition points out above, causes predictable withdrawal symptoms. In this case, withdrawal will result in claims that our crime rates will increase if we stop incarcerating so many people, that our leaders are going soft on crime and drugs, and that those of us who want this addict off this drug are addicted ourselves to smarmy liberal instincts to save souls. There will be accusations we want to empty our prisons, etc.
    Rubbish. Finding alternatives to prison is a good, solid Maine type of idea, like selling bronzed moose poop to New Yorkers. It is common sense, and good economic sense, because we can no longer afford the expensive prison solution that does not work well as treatment programs for the mentally ill and drug addicted. In addition, we keep running out of prison space no matter how many costly prisons we build. Maine spent more than $140 million on prison construction in the late 1990s, and here we are again needing millions more for the same idea. We need a better idea this time. Several other states, including our neighbors in Connecticut and Vermont, are well on their way to finding jail time alternatives to solve prison overcrowding because they, too, can no longer afford this prison addiction. A commission has been set up in Maine to look at prison overcrowding and is due to report back to the Maine Legislature in December; It will suggest many of the same solutions recommended by previous commissions that looked at the same problem (most recently in 2004). It should not recommend more prisons.
    (h/t Thinking Outside the Cage)
  • One of the hardest things for corrections departments trying to get inmates ready and able to be productive citizens is their inability to train them in actual productive work that doesn’t compete with private businesses, which then politically protest. The answer is probably more partnerships, but that gets into the “using inmates as cheap labor for business” argument. But, as this article shows, the issues need to get resolved or the revolving door will never even slow, much less stop. (h/t Real Cost of Prisons)
  • Good DOC directors sound the same these days. Effective re-entry programs aren't soft on crime; they're "anti-crime." The directors know what to do if we'll just let them. This case? FL.
  • I’ve talked here a lot about the narratives that underlie the policies we pursue in corr sent. We are a pattern-seeking species and we attach narratives to those patterns in ourselves, our environments, those around us, etc., to help us understand them and use them to guide our future action. Sometimes the narratives even have varying degrees of reality in them. At Mind Hacks, they point to a recent NY Times article on the field of narrative psychology which will give you a quick overview of what I’m talking about, at least as it applies to the stories we tell about ourselves. The guy they emphasize is Dan McAdams, and I can vouch for the value and quality of his books if you get interested in following up. Even if you think I’m a moron with the “underlying narrative” stuff, I’m betting you find it helpful in understanding other things in different ways.
  • Grits for Breakfast continues his excellent work on the criminal justice bills going through the TX legislature as it finishes its session. Several posts of note so go check them out.
  • There's treatment for addiction and then there's treatment. Buddhist treatment. Like "go to a secluded monastery, drink a special ancient concoction, then tons of water, then puke out your poisons. Rinse and repeat. Feel it coming back on? Chant the special phrase that will remind you of all the vomiting. They're claiming only a 30% relapse rate, which would be good even for Lindsey Lohan, although, you know, they don't really keep records. Tell you what. I'd swear off if I knew this were waiting for me. How long before some state legislator hears about it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, Race and Corr Sent Studies


NCJ 218125
Thomas J. Keil ; Gennaro F. Vito
Capriciousness or Fairness?: Race and Prosecutorial Decisions To Seek the Death Penalty in Kentucky
Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice
Volume:4 Issue:3 Dated:2006 Pages:27 to 49

Using an analytical method developed by Berk et al., this study examined the level of capriciousness (uncertainty) in prosecutorial decisions to seek the death penalty in Kentucky. In the overall population and in the various subgroups examined, prosecutorial decisions to seek the death penalty were more random than systematic. This randomness was inherent in the way capital-punishment decisions were made in Kentucky, irrespective of the race of the killer and/or race of the victim; however, capriciousness was higher for White murder defendants than Black murder defendants. When Kentucky prosecutors decided to proceed with capital charges when the victim was White, they were most likely to do so when the murder defendant was Black. When they prosecuted capital cases that involved Black defendants and White victims, these cases were far more homogeneous in their legal and extra-legal characteristics than the cases that involved White defendants and White victims. Given the level of randomness in prosecutorial decisions seeking capital punishment for all case combinations of defendants' and victims' race, these findings suggest that the individualized justice favored by the U.S. Supreme Court is a legal fiction or, at a minimum, an approximation. This study used the research method employed by Bert et al. in their estimation of the degree of capriciousness in the San Francisco capital sentencing charging system. In their model, the inputs were characteristics of the offender and the crime. The output was the prosecutors' decision to seek the death penalty. In the current study, the analysis focused on the extent of capriciousness in the prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty for all possible murders that met the Kentucky legal requirement for the death penalty. 3 tables and 39 references.

NCJ 218118
Augustine J. Kposowa ; Glenn T. Tsunokai ; James P. McElvain
Race and Homicide in the U.S. National Longitudinal Mortality Study
Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice
Volume:4 Issue:1/2 Dated:2006 Pages:1 to 27

This study identified the magnitude of the homicide problem by describing long-term national trends and examined the effect of being Black on the risk of homicide, as well as whether the influence of race was diminished by controlling for measures of economic/social disadvantage. Generally, findings support the argument that socioeconomic disadvantage increases the risk for homicide victimization, in that low income, poor education, and unemployment has increased the risk for homicide victimization. The link between low income and homicide victimization, however, has proven to be stronger among Whites compared to Blacks. Although low educational attainment significantly increased the risk of homicide among Whites, no such significant association was observed among Blacks. Living in an inner city was a strong predictor of risk for homicide, regardless of race. This finding further supports the influence of disadvantage on risk of homicide, since urban residents are more likely to be disadvantaged. These findings suggest that strategies for reducing homicides should target factors that contribute to social and economic inequality and unemployment. Homicide in America has shown an upward trend since 1900, but with significant declines between 1940 and 1970. Rates increased sharply after 1970, reaching a peak in 1981 and then increasing again after 1989 and peaking for the second time in 1993. Since 1994, homicide rates have generally declined, with the exception of a sharp increase in 2001. Since 1994, the African-American male homicide rate has been declining, although it remains considerably higher than the rate of other race and gender groups. The homicide trend analysis used National Vital Statistics. The analysis of covariate effects used data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Mortality Study. 4 tables and 47 references

NCJ 218119
Joanne Savage
Interpreting "Percent Black:" An Analysis of Race and Violent Crime in Washington, DC
Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice
Volume:4 Issue:1/2 Dated:2006 Pages:29 to 63

The average violent crime rate in the District of Columbia from 1960 through 1999 was 1,722 violent crimes per 100,000 population. The average percentage of the District-of-Columbia population that was African-American during this period was 68.5 percent, ranging between a low of 54.8 percent in 1960 and a high of 77.5 percent in 1975. Although increases in "percent Black" paralleled increases in violent crime in the District in the 1960s, and decreases in "percent Black" have paralleled decreases in violent crime to a small degree in recent years, the smooth and declining trend in the African-American population since 1975 contrasts with dramatic peaks and valleys in the District's violent crime during that time. The findings suggest that year-to-year changes in "percent Black" are not related to year-to-year changes in violent crime except in a model that includes all the relevant variables simultaneously. Any positive relationship between violent crime and "percent Black" over time is not robust when disaggregated by race and crime type; and it may be limited to Black robbery offending. Further, apparently "percent Black" may be acting as a proxy for other social problems. An exploration of possible correlates of racial disparity in arrests for violent crime suggests they are associated with a variety of factors, including social problems and their varying characteristics. The study used a longitudinal analysis of annual, time series data in order to examine the relationship between changes in the percentage of the population composed of African-Americans and the violent crime rate. 6 tables, 4 figures, and 96 references

NCJ 218121
Eric G. Lambert ; Lois A. Ventura ; David N. Baker ; Morris Jenkins
Drug Views: Does Race Matter?
Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice Volume:4 Issue:1/2 Dated:2006 Pages:93 to 111

This study examined whether race was a factor in how drug use and the societal response to it were viewed among a sample of 611 students at a midwestern university. The findings indicate that race was a factor in how drug use was viewed by the students and their preferred societal response o it. White students were more likely than non-White students to view drugs as a pressing social issue. White students tended to view drug use as a character weakness that warrants punitive action in a criminal justice venue. In contrast, non-White students were more likely to view drug abuse as stemming from an emotional disorder that requires treatment as a response. Non-White students were more likely than White students to be tolerant toward marijuana use and to support its legalization. Both White and non-White students were likely to view alcoholic beverages as dangerous drugs. Race as a factor in views toward the drug issue remained statistically significant in multivariate analysis after controlling for age, academic standing, political affiliation, and religiosity. In the spring of 2002, undergraduate students in 20 academic courses at a midwestern public university were surveyed under a systematic convenience sampling design. The selected course involved a wide variety of majors and included general education classes required by all majors at the university. A total of 611 usable surveys were returned. Eighteen percent of the respondents were Black, 4 percent were Hispanic, 70 percent were White, and 8 percent were of other races. Approximately 54 percent were women. The median age was 21. The 10 questions on drug views were the dependent variables. Control variables were academic level, party affiliation, importance of religion, and attendance at religious programs. 3 tables and 38 references

Quick Hits

  • Really heartfelt and correct reminder of the important role of education in preventing recidivism over at, where else, Prevention Works.
  • New report out of IL on the impact of the last couple of decades on prison populations because of the War on (Some) Drugs. First quote to memorize: The result has been a prison system swamped with drug offenders, without much change in the rate of drug abuse, said Kathleen Kane-Willis, the report's primary author."You see a continual reaction by the General Assembly to penalize drug use, but I don't think they thought through what the result might be," she said. Second one, what will be written by historians trying to explain why the US corroded itself intentionally when it’s a second class nation like other former great powers: State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) called such measures "a hodgepodge mess of feel-good statutes and press release material" but acknowledged that he votes for them, too. No politician, he said, can afford to be branded soft on crime.
  • We prod and poke the states that can't get their acts together on the fiscal disasters facing their budgets because of the above quote, but we need to applaud a state when it seems to be screwing its head back on straight. Like NV.
  • Okay, back to poking. A CA appeals court has ruled it's okay for the state to go back to sending inmates out of state, further spreading that state's illness throughout the nation. Of course, some legislators there actually think it's a solution instead of fuel on the fire, but they'll likely be out of office by the time the hooey hits so no big deal.
  • Finally, some exceptionally good news, at least to us corrections types if not to the sentencing ones. Researchers may have found a cure for Hepatitis C. However big you think they would be, it's bigger, I promise you.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Headline That No State Really Wants to See . . .

. . . and that will explain fully to posterity why the state declined.

Prisons' budget to trump colleges'
No other big state spends as much to incarcerate compared with higher education funding

Yeah, it’s CA’s, but it will be others’ soon enough. Read here for a full analysis of the state’s entire fiscal mess. It ain’t pretty.

Nicotine and Other Addictive Drugs Like Heroin and Cocaine

Another study demonstrating that much of the addictive effect of drugs comes from the context in which the drug is taken as well as from the drug itself. This time it's nicotine and the study shows how any treatment has to take the user's environment into account as well. And, of course, here's the quote for us in corrections sentencing to consider: Psychologically, nicotine joins other such addictive drugs as heroin and cocaine-and even basic needs like food and water-in the category of primary reinforcers. Of course, cigarette users are deemed "good guys" and allowed to remain productive whereas . . . oh, you know the rest.

The Narrative Is Everything

A point I didn’t make when posting the story yesterday on the female sex offender in Tulsa was how important it was for corrections sentencing policy realists to start putting names and faces on the people harmed by “one size fits all” and other indiscriminate policies. Everything we do in corr sent is driven by the underlying narratives of "good guys" and "bad guys," completely innocent victims and totally evil offenders. We see and hear all the stories about the victims of crimes in the media so it’s easy for the public to have an idea of the harm caused by crime. But government, surprise, can harm people, too, and we need to be able to point to stories and folks that demonstrate the need for more thought and consideration. Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage has another good example, this time of a guy who fought off a drug addiction.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A History of Wisconsin Sentencing- Part XXVII

Part XXVI discussed the guidelines approaches considered by the CPSC’s Sentencing Guidelines Committee, which boiled down to debate between the conceptual approaches of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Corrections and of the previous grid-based guidelines. This post discusses the synthesis by which the debate was resolved.

The critiques of both approaches contained in the report provide an implied indication of the issues discussed by the subcommittee. The contrasts between the Rule of Law Approach apparently led to discussion regarding the balance between the individualized guidance of the Rule of Law approach and the aggregated approach of guidelines grids; between narrative and numerical methods of guidance; and between a focus on the contemporary circumstances of the offense and a focus on criminal history. But the “most critical” issue, and the one on which the Committee’s deliberations ultimately rested, regarded whether or not the guidelines system should include a grid.

Proponents of the grid won out, and the grid became the foundation on which the rest of the guidelines design would be built. To provide a measure of compromise, however, a “hybrid” approach was developed which attempted to “draw[…] on the strengths” of both approaches. While the proposal would include a grid, for the stated purposes of proportionality and projection, it would also “preserve[…] individualized sentencing and judicial discretion,” partly by including “crime-specific,” situational factors for judges to consider.

Further refinement of the grid model was necessary, as members still raised objections that the numerical scoring of the grid “lent an improper scientific caste,” and that too much weight was placed on criminal history. Thus, for the final product the Committee performed another merger, constructing a “middle-ground approach” that “attempted to incorporate some of the aspects of each of the proposals.” The grid and its ostensible advantages were maintained, but further compromises were made on each of the critics’ objections. The axis of the grid dealing with offenders was expanded from a criminal history approach to a more generalized “risk assessment,” which directed judges to consider other offender attributes and warned that criminal history “should be assessed with caution.” Numerical scoring within the grid, meanwhile, was eliminated in favor of a narrative approach which divided the offense into qualitative categories “roughly approximat[ing]” the types of crimes and offenders judges confronted. Offense severity would be divided into mitigated, intermediate and aggravated categories, and offender risk assessments divided into low, medium and high; together, they would create a 9-cell graph in which sentence recommendations could be placed. Because the worksheet’s guidance was more conceptual and subjective than a numerical system, the worksheet would also be accompanied by guidelines notes to “elucidate for judges and litigants many of the considerations and concepts underlying the questions posed on the worksheet.” In several cases, the notes articulated the standards by which offenses or offenders would “generally” fall into certain categories on the grid. For instance, placement in the “lesser” risk assessment category was “strongly suggested” for offenders who were not on legal status and had no criminal history, or convictions for non-violent misdemeanors only.

The CPSC’s guidelines were very similar in nature to the former Wisconsin guidelines; at their foundations, each was an advisory, descriptive grid system. But the process of merging the features of the old guidelines grid with the Rule of Law approach left the CPSC guidelines less controlling than its predecessor- or stated differently, more descriptive than the “hybrid” approach of before. The merging of narrative and numerical guidance- narrative categories with numerical ranges- made grid placement a less objective, concrete process and thus left even more leeway for judicial discretion. Although the worksheet notes provided “suggestions” for placing cases within grid ranges, in practice judges could now define the terms as well as the results of their grid placements. And partly as a result of those more ambiguous terms, the new guidelines were not even nominally presumptive. There were no expectations at all that a judge would have to place any certain case in any certain cell; rather, they would be free to depart from the ranges as they pleased.

Part XXVIII discusses the debate over the content of the guidelines.

More NCJRS Abstracts, May 20, 2007


NCJ 218086
Mitch Ruesink ; Marvin D. Free Jr.
Wrongful Convictions Among Women: An Exploratory Study of a Neglected Topic
Women & Criminal Justice
Volume:16 Issue:4 Dated:2005 Pages:1 to 23

This study examined the problem of wrongful convictions involving women in the United States since 1970. Results suggest there are important gender differences present in the known wrongful convictions of men and women. In particular, wrongfully convicted women were more likely than their male counterparts to be convicted of child abuse or drug violations. As anticipated, rape was more common among wrongfully convicted men than wrongfully convicted women. Racial differences were also found to exist among women. Wrongful convictions involving drug offenses were almost exclusively the province of African-American women. African-American women were also more likely than White women to be wrongfully convicted of murder. However, all of the wrongful convictions for child abuse involved White women. It was recommended that future research investigate these gender and racial differences to determine the extent to which the results might be a product of the databases employed in the analysis. Investigations of wrongful convictions date back to the early 1930s. However, the extent to which innocent individuals in the United States are wrongly convicted is largely unknown. When investigations of wrongful convictions occur, they typically focus on rape or murder. These convictions typically focus on male offenders, even though females are also wrongfully convicted. Two databases were consulted to compile a list of wrongfully convicted women: Center for Wrongful Convictions (CWC) and Forejustice. The study consisted of 42 wrongly convicted women. Tables, notes, references

NCJ 218052
Sarah E. Ullman Ph.D.
Comparing Gang and Individual Rapes in a Community Sample of Urban Women
Violence and Victims
Volume:22 Issue:1 Dated:2007 Pages:43 to 51

This study compared the impacts of multiple-offender ("gang") rape with single-offender rapes for a large, diverse sample of female victims. A comparison of trauma histories (e.g., child sexual abuse), assault characteristics (e.g., offender violence), and outcomes (sexual acts and physical injuries), as well as current functioning (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder and lifetime suicide attempts) showed that gang-rape victims had worse outcomes overall compared with victims of single offenders. There were few differences in informal support-seeking by victims of the two types of rape, but gang-rape victims had more negative perceptions of their social networks. Gang-rape victims more often reported their attacks to police and sought medical and mental health sources than single-offender victims; however, they received more negative social reactions from others they told about their assaults. Recommendations are offered for future research and for intervention with gang-rape victims. The study analyzed data from a mail survey collected during the first wave of a longitudinal study of sexual-assault survivors' recovery experiences. Respondents were recruited through fliers, advertisements, and notices distributed on college campuses, in the community, and at mental health agencies and rape crisis centers over a 1-year period in the Chicago metropolitan area. A total of 1,084 women (90 percent) returned the survey. The survey measured demographic information, assault characteristics, trauma-related outcomes, assault aftermath, and current functioning. 1 table and 20 references

One Size Does Not Fit All

We talk here a lot about the poor policy, human tragedy, and waste of our needed resources based on the underlying story that all offenders are the same, all "bad guys" whom we the "good guys" should use as examples to show we're better than they are. In too many cases, those "bad guys" exist, but the examples we make don't logically stop true "bad guys," by definition. And in the meantime, the offenders who are accidents, screw-ups (think "My Name Is Earl"), and hardened but salvageable get treated in ways that ensure many more of them than necessary end up victimizing us again, and often worse.

This is particularly true in the area of sex offenders. Many of those "guys" are truly "bad" and deserve what we parcel out. But our "one size fits all" approach in this area leaves a tremendous amount of self-inflicted damage in its wake as we punish people who did something stupid, not serial. The Tulsa World today has a great story on a woman treated to the residency restrictions so popular for a single idiot thing she did when younger. As a result, she and her 16-year-old daughter could only find housing among pedophiles and rapists. Keep in mind as you read the story that OK really does treat all sex offenders, of any offense, as the same "bad guys" and only now is considering a tiered classification system that might bring relief to former offenders who find themselves in this woman's situation.

The World has a history of trying to bring some sense to state policy, unlike the state's major newspaper, and this article is clearly an effort in that regard. Read it and give them some supportive clicks. And hope that they're successful. One size does not fit all.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Simon en Fuego

Jonathan Simon has taken to blogging in a big way with his new blog and guest-hosting at Prawfsblawg, and he's put up a post on each that are worth your time this weekend. On his own Governing Through Crime blog, he asks this:

Does America accept the moral necessity of a war on crime despite its clear tendency to reinforce almost every aspect of racialized disadvantage and disparity, or is that war on crime a barely disguised strategy to maintain a system of unequal citizenship on the basis of race?

ends with this:

. . . Thus the hidden danger in all the talk around re-entry about risk assessment and rehabilitation is to deepen the assumption that social pathology must be treated as crime in ways that will structurally disadvantage communities of color.

and fills the middle with a bunch of interesting thought in between.

While over at Prawfsblawg, he brings up a point we've made here repeatedly. His school, Boalt Law, is really the only one that's put forward a grad degree program uniting law with social science and its research agenda (he says maybe NYU has one--I can't speak to that), and it's coming up on its 30th anniversary. He's promising ruminations on the future of this and other programs, but I thought it was a good time to second his thoughts.

The more I get into neuroscience research, technocorrections, and the basic statistical stuff I do for a living, the more I think law schools preparing practitioners in criminal justice the way they do isn't just 20th century, it's 19th. No one should be allowed in a courtroom without knowing the research on eyewitness testimony, how memories are stored, what social and personal factors influence not just witnesses but the practitioners themselves. And that's on top of how our practitioners and policymakers fashion sentences with not just no tip of the hat to what research clearly shows is effective and ineffective but in many case with an actual back of the hand or upraising of a special finger. There is no excuse other than "this is how we've always done it" to justify maintaining the training and practice of the people who decide who does and doesn't go into our crim just system, and, while sometimes "it ain't broke, don't fix it" is actually a good maxim, in this case it's not only broke, it's pulling us all down a giant sink hole. Yes, progress will only come funeral by funeral, retirement by retirement of the people who insist ignorance is bliss in our courtrooms, but that progress has to start somewhere and there shouldn't just be one school trying to do it. I'll look forward to what Simon says (knew I'd say that, didn't you?) in his future posts and hope a lot of others with some authority over courtroom training are paying attention.

More NCJRS Abstracts, May 19, 2007


NCJ 218056
Lesley Williams Reid Ph.D. ; Kirk W. Elifson Ph.D. ; Claire E. Sterk Ph.D.
Hug Drug or Thug Drug?: Ecstasy Use and Aggressive Behavior
Violence and Victims
Volume:22 Issue:1 Dated:2007 Pages:104 to 119

This study examined the effects of ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymeth-amphetamine) (MDMA) on aggressive and violent behavior in a sample of active users. The study found that those with a higher prevalence of lifetime ecstasy use exhibited higher levels of aggressive and violent behavior. The more ecstasy a person had used in his/her lifetime, the greater variety of violent acts he/she committed. The chances of committing more types of violent acts in the past year increased almost linearly with the number of ecstasy pills ever used. The reverse was true for the odds of committing no violent acts in the past year. Ecstasy use had little effect on the level of aggression among individuals with low self-control; however, the effect of ecstasy on aggression was pronounced for those with high self-control, to the extent that those with high self-control were more aggressive than those with low self-control. Apparently, a high level of ecstasy use correlated with more aggression than might be attributable to any innate propensity for aggression. Although clinical studies have established a link between ecstasy and aggression, this is the first study to examine the presence of this link in actual behavioral outcomes. This research contributes to the growing body of evidence that undermines ecstasy's reputation as a safe drug. Data were collected from 260 ecstasy users in Atlanta, GA. Data analysis examined the likelihood of a user's engaging in aggressive behavior, controlling for key predictors of aggression independent of ecstasy use. 4 tables, 2 figures, and 63 references

NCJ 218089
Brian K. Payne ; Randy R. Gainey ; Crystal S. Carey
All in the Family: Gender, Family Crimes, and Later Criminality
Women & Criminal Justice
Volume:16 Issue:4 Dated:2005 Pages:73 to 89

This study examined how male and female offenders’ experiences with family violence and prior family offending related to one another. The results of the study suggests that the criminogenic aspects of child maltreatment, broadly defined in this context to include child abuse and exposure to substance abuse, were more marked for female offenders than for male offenders. Female offenders were more likely than male offenders to have reported experiencing each type of maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse) except for neglect. However, the relationship between abuse type and offense type was virtually nonexistent. This suggests that maltreatment does not predict a specific type of offending; rather, maltreatment may lead to a variety of types of misconduct. A large body of research supports the finding that exposure to violence and abuse early in one’s life influences adult criminality. However, very little research has examined whether female and male offenders’ histories of violence and abuse are comparable or whether abuse type related to later offending. Using three separate procedures, this study examined the role of child abuse and exposure to substance abuse in later offending among a sample of female and male offenders. References

Friday, May 18, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Friday, May 18, 2007

  • Don't care much for Slate or William Saletan, but he gets one good article out of about every 10. Here's his for this month so far, a nice overview of the use of GPS tracking, its problems, and implications (h/t Real Cost of Prisons).
  • I’ve learned unpleasantly lately that somehow considerations of morality, culpability, and justice seem to have been excluded from corrections sentencing practice in the name of process and professional turf, but for those of you who, like me, believe that a criminal justice process should be underpinned by those things, here and here (h/t Mind Hacks) are a couple of interesting articles for your thought and reaction.
  • Also via Mind Hacks, a thoughtful Madam Fathom post on neuroeconomics that discusses how long-term and short-term behavior (and all its risks and rewards) seem to be processed differently in the brain, meaning literally that efforts to stop short-term impulsive rewarding behavior by threat of long-term punishment might not prove successful with folks who don't have strong connections between the two. Hmm, anybody had any experience with that in the real world? And what do those findings say again about the ability and opportunity to tinker with folks' brains, technocorrections-wise, to change behavior?
  • Speaking of steps toward technocorrections in the name of improved social outcomes: Do Chip Implants Protect or Violate Privacy?
    Care Facility Will Electronically Tag Alzheimer's Patients Despite Protests
  • Would this apply to drug use, too? "The more a high school student overestimates the percentage of people in the general population who smoke cigarettes, the more likely he or she will be to smoke, reports a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study published in the current issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The study sheds new light on this and other identifiable risk factors that may make teenagers susceptible to smoking and offers findings that may be particularly valuable for smoking intervention programs."
  • Finally, the new and surprising just keep on coming. Yesterday, counting a dance school as a "school" for sex offender sentence enhancement purposes. Today, what do you do with sex offenders when a hurricane forces an evacuation? Well, in LA you have a hell of a time getting any community to accept a sex offender evacuation facility.