Monday, May 14, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Monday, May 14, 2007

  • Another state where the law enforcement types are begging legislators to reconsider sex offender residency restrictions because the payoff of enforcement is negative and counter-productive, this time in OK.
  • A friend alerts us that the Texas Prison Bid'ness blog has a new piece up on private prisons there.
  • Doug Berman of course caught a couple of really good articles over the weekend (is it true he's taught his kids how to surf for sentencing articles?), one on how most US states have incarceration rates many times higher than those found in dictatorships and one on the NY Times' citing of a study showing that juveniles sentenced to adult sentences end up doing more crime in their lifetimes than those sentenced to juvenile sentences. The life-course lit has been showing this for over a decade now, but maybe people will pay attention to the NY Times. (Okay, just joking.) If you want to know how juveniles become worse, check out this really sad catch by Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage. One life wasted becomes two.
  • One of the states competing with the dictators was AL (Alabama, not Alaska). So, it's good news that they've gotten their community sentencing and guidelines up, even if they're just starting to get working, because they've already used up the relief they got from a second special parole board to speed up some releases. Oh, and a nice example of unintended consequences: Prisons Commissioner Richard Allen said the second board had an "unintended consequence" of reducing the department's budget by releasing inmates who would have otherwise been employed in a work-release program. The program went from generating about $19 million annually to about $9 million with the smaller work force, he said. But AL's not alone. OK's about to use up all its available space, too, and the jails are pretty much at the same place.
  • Prevention Works continues its excellent, excellent work with this post on domestic violence and making sure its victims have access to resources to help them get away from it. Be sure to forward it to anyone you know who may be needing it.
  • Newsweek catches up to "cheese," the heroin and cold med combo that's making its way through the substance abuse community. Good overview if you haven't caught past articles we've referenced. Sounds like truly nasty stuff. Nyquil alone is too much for me.
  • A good story here on future of traffic congestion. Why corr sent? Because the dollars to deal with the traffic buildups will have to come from somewhere, sure. But a couple of other points. The traffic debate is much like the health care and prisons debates—people getting something “for free” that is increasingly clogged as a result. Answer? More and more the first and easiest, but in all three cases, leads to quick fill-up of the “more” with ever more expensive “more and more” ceasing to look like the best option. And the likely proposed alternatives? Making it more costly for the individual users—less coverage and more personal cost in health care, congesting “pricing” and tolls in traffic congestion, but no so much more charges to users of prisons, the counties and their officials, at this point. But that’s an obvious direction if other options like TECHNOCORRECTIONS not adopted.
  • On the science and research side, here's a story on a British study showing that the more spending money and less supervision a young person has, the more likely that person is to buy and abuse drinking. Huhhh. And here's one that indicates that some high testosterone folks actually get off on finding people who look at the wrong way as outlets for the aggression they're building up. Huhhh.
  • Over at Mind Hacks, more info on the use of MRIs for lie detection, with the usual skepticism and caveats. But here's the best part: Interestingly, the company was partly funded by the US Government, and you can bet that they'll be trying the system, even with the low accuracy rates, in case it proves useful for the secret services. Probably the main advantage for most buyers is that is looks intimidating and high-tech. Like with the polygraph test, many people put through the system will undoubtedly be more truthful because they believe that they will be caught if they lie. In terms of its ability to catch genuine lies made by an individual, it's still fairly limited though.
  • At Psychology and Crime News, they alert us to a new study on "risky facilities theory" that holds that only a small proportion of any specific type of facility will account for the majority of crime and disorder problems experienced or produced by the group of facilities as a whole. Just a few convenience stores, bars, gas stations, and schools experience the bulk of the violence and criminality that we get every night, week, year. The article cited gives recs on how to firm up the problem areas.
  • Grits for Breakfast has a good post up on the unlikely partnership between left and right policy orgs to make clear that TX has other paths than simply more prisons to deal with its fiscal and prison pop crises. The conservative org is the one building the analytical model demonstrating the possibility of deferring on new prisons. If this can happen in TX, it can happen most places (CA???). The frightening question is, do the other states have to get as bad as TX before they start doing the same?
  • Finally, an interesting report on the creation and evolution of a court blog in FL and the reactions to it from people just entering the blogosphere, especially public officials not used to anyone much really paying attention. Despite their fears, very few public officials ever really face public outing for the stupid or arrogant or ignorant things they do. Not enough reporters, not enough knowledge of what’s going on, not enough concern. What blogs have done is to expand the eyes, ears, and, most importantly, voices available to shed light on what public officials do. After centuries of pretty splendid isolation and fief-building, the public officials now find themselves in the equivalent of a small town where everyone can tell what you do. I was on a school board for nine years in a town of less than 10,000, where you would vote for something one evening and have to be explaining it to somebody in the grocery store the next day. I don’t feel sorry for these judges or any other official who now finds their comfy little world less comfy. Do people get turned off by continued negativity? Sure. That’s why good blogs try to find other ways to be contributing. But that “negativity” argument is conveniently also a way to shut people up who now have a voice and are using it. Is anonymity bad? We don’t do it here, but prohibiting it is also another convenient way to shut up complainers who will have cases come before the judges criticized. If comments get nasty, there are plenty of tech ways to deal with that, and if the posts are unfair, the judges can start their own blogs and fire back with their version of fairness. It’s called free speech.

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