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.

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