Wednesday, May 09, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Wednesday, May 9, 2007

  • Oh, no, you say. Not another Second Life story. Well, folks, the virtual and the real are getting fuzzier and fuzzier. German authorities are investigating virtual child abuse in Second Life and its audience here in our real one. Tell me again why we're ignoring it, you bright young criminology computer whizzes out there? You could write your own ticket.
  • According to a National Institutes of Health study coming out, 1 in 10 Americans will be drug abusers or dependent in their lifetimes (the abusers "just use" while the dependents are, well, dependent). Less than 40% of dependents seek help (maybe because they can get hit with prison, unless they're celebrities and sports stars). Actually the numbers in all the categories of respondents seemed surprisingly low to me. More people seek help for depression. So is that a bigger problem?
  • Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy notes NY's recent creation of a commission on sentencing reform and how it has not set an agenda requiring guidelines, following the broader perspective of other recent states. I think it’s time for the sentencing policy folks to reconnoiter and reconsider their insistence that guidelines are the gold standard for states seriously trying to do something about their prison population problems. NY, CO, and VT are three very recent states that have created or are creating commissions explicitly WITHOUT guidelines as their central focus. Instead they are all doing reviews of sentencing data and studies of impact of alternative v. prison v. probation to discover what sentences are most effective both in terms of public safety and public costs. This parallels the advocacy of sentencing information systems as alternatives or supplements to guidelines as championed by Marc Miller, Steve Chanenson, and others. It also appears to indicate that, despite their three decade residency as THE option for policymakers seeking change, the lack of consistent and permanent reform from those states that have adopted them has caused at least some policymakers to think twice, especially when they know the resistance they’ll get from practitioners who have yet to see clear-cut benefits worth sacrificing their current arrangements. It will be very interesting to see which way other states go on this, and if some states like CA that have been considering guidelines will use recent setbacks as cause to rethink and redirect what they want to do. If they do, they will seem to be in growing company.
  • Good post at Prevention Works on how Baltimore is including community crime prevention as part of its latest effort to get at the gun violence that was a major issue years ago back in my stint as commission director in MD. And of course, the post also directs you to the very helpful materials that the National Crime Prevention Council provides to help communities do that prevention organizing, in case you might find them useful around your neighborhoods as well.
  • blackprof is raising the red flag over the nation’s structural fiscal deficit and the resulting inability to address most of the problems of our minority communities. They did not, however, relate it to the ongoing growth of our cost-ineffective approach to crime, aka prison, and its impact on those minorities, usually one of their better topics. One of the reasons I, a former budget analyst who cut his professional teeth on whacking budget requests, am so concerned about our inability to minimize what we spend to get maximum public safety is that the fiscal train wreck blackprof describes is so clear not that far down our road. When it hits, we’ll have both more demands on public services that won’t have resources and more crime and disorder which will pressure us into keeping the downward spiral going. We’ve borrowed and borrowed our way onto this binge, but the bill will come due at some point soon. And where we’ll be doesn’t look promising right now. For any who have been thinking I’m some kind of bleeding heart in these tirades against cost-ineffective policies and demagogues who practice and promote them, I’m a conservative who knows that governments might not be able to go formally bankrupt but can suffer the same effects as spendthrift individuals when their spending goes for emotional, short-term indulgences at the expense of their children’s long-term fiscal health and actual safety. Paris Hilton really is the poster-child for our current corr sent policy. The jail time is just the icing on the cake.
  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage finds a good piece here on the effectiveness of drug courts in WY.
  • Grits for Breakfast has his usual incisive analysis of how alternative sanctions in TX would help that state’s jail overcrowding problem as well as the state’s.
  • Psychology and Crime news alerts us to a new report on witness intimidation, one of the very biggest problems facing the "justice" part of corr sent right now. Produced by the National Center for Victims of Crime, it's got one of the best titles in a long time: Snitches Get Stitches: Youth, Gangs, and Witness Intimidation in Massachusetts(pdf). Here's the abstract: Witness intimidation is a pervasive threat to the criminal justice system, particularly in crimes such as domestic violence, trafficking, and gang violence and drug trafficking. Yet few jurisdictions have developed a comprehensive response to the problem of witness intimidation. The study described in Snitches Get Stitches gathered information directly from youth on their views about gangs, reporting crime, relationships with law enforcement, and witness intimidation. The report contains ten key findings and six recommendations to help criminal justice authorities and communities better coordinate and focus their efforts to protect young witnesses to gang crimes.
  • Finally, there are some stories where the headline says everything you need to know (please put down any drinks that may come through your nose): Son decapitates mother with circular saw, dies trying to cut off his own head

No comments: