Saturday, June 30, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, June 30, 2007


NCJ 218591
Steve Aos; Marna Miller; Elizabeth Drake
Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison Construction, Criminal Justice Costs, and Crime Rates
Washington State Institute for Public Policy

This report presents the results from a study conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy on whether evidence-based and cost-beneficial policy options exist to reduce prison construction, criminal justice costs, and crime rates, and the total impact of alternative implementation scenarios. The results suggest that some evidence-based programs can reduce crime, but others cannot. Economically attractive evidence-based options in three areas were found: adult corrections programs, juvenile corrections programs, and prevention. Per dollar of spending, several of the successful programs produced favorable returns on investment. Public policies incorporating these options can yield positive outcomes for Washington. The study indicates that if Washington successfully implements a moderate-to-aggressive portfolio of evidence-based options, a significant level of future prison construction can be avoided, taxpayers can save about $2 billion dollars, and crime rates can be reduced. Current long-term forecasts indicate that Washington State will need two new prisons by 2020 and possibly another prison by 2030. With the cost of a typical new prison about $250 million to build and $45 million a year to operate, the Washington State Legislature directed a study be conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to test whether evidence-based public policy options could: (1) lower the anticipated need to build new prisons, (2) reduce State and local fiscal costs of the criminal justice system, and (3) contribute to reduced crime rates. Exhibits and appendixes

NCJ 218630
Patricia L. Fanflik; Nicole E. Johnson; David R. Troutman; Frank C. Skinner
Drug Prosecution and Prevention Across the Nation: Prosecutors' Perceptions of Drug-Related Crime and Strategies to Combat the Problem in Their Communities
National District Attorneys Association

This report presents results of a national survey of prosecutors assessing their current efforts in implementing and operating innovative drug-related crime prevention, intervention, and prosecution programs. Results of the survey indicated that the majority of participants perceived the drug and drug-related crime problem in their community to be an extremely serious problem. The majority (64.8 percent) also believed the drug problem in their jurisdiction had worsened over the last 5 years, while 28.1 percent reported their drug-related crime problem had remained stable. Only 7.1 percent reported the drug-related crime problem in their community had improved. The most commonly reported drugs surfacing in communities were marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, prescription drugs, heroin, and ecstasy. There was some variation by jurisdiction size, with smaller jurisdictions most likely to experience problems with marijuana and larger jurisdictions most likely to experience problems with cocaine. In terms of community impact, 64 percent of prosecutors reported that methamphetamine had an extremely negative impact on public safety whereas marijuana and cocaine were seen as having only a moderate impact on the public safety. Variations were also observed by region, with the West, Midwest, and South reporting significant problems with methamphetamine and the Northeast reporting only small problems with methamphetamine. The most commonly reported prevention and treatment efforts of prosecutors were: (1) Drug Court; (2) more restorative and community-type prosecutions; (3) increased prosecution for drug-related crimes; (4) increased use of Asset Forfeiture; and (5) greater collaboration with other agencies. Mailed surveys were completed by 563 local and State prosecutors’ offices throughout the Nation. The survey focused on prosecutions’ perceptions of the scope of the drug problem in their jurisdictions and asked about any programs their office had actively undertaken to combat the drug problem. Prosecutors were asked to provide a detailed description of their programs and were asked to submit any written materials, such as brochures. Exhibits, references, appendix

NCJ 218589
Richard Hayes; Keith Dowd; Erin Collins
New North Carolinians: Doing Justice for All in the Criminal Justice System
North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission

This federally supported survey study examined the impact of the rapidly growing Hispanic and Latino populations on North Carolina’s criminal justice system and its ab This study found that nearly all criminal justice agencies and practitioners surveyed in North Carolina have had contact with members of their Hispanic community, as well as people with limited or no English skill. Agencies and practitioners almost uniformly understand the need for bilingual employees and cultural diversity training. Overcoming culturally learned fears of criminal justice systems in their native countries should be a goal of Hispanic community groups and every criminal justice agency. Many agencies are active in community outreach to assist new North Carolinians in understanding and trusting that the criminal justice system will be fair to everyone. The growth in North Carolina’s Hispanic population has far outpaced projections from a decade ago. In addition, the limited English Proficiency (LEP) portion of the North Carolina Hispanic and Latino population is also rapidly increasing, causing the need for accessibility services, whenever it is reasonable. Reasonable is a key provision under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This study’s goal, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, was to focus attention on accepting the fact that North Carolina is changing and that a substantial portion of its population has moved here from non-English speaking countries, where little faith exists in law enforcement, courts, and corrections. A survey questionnaire was administered with responses received from 104 sheriffs, police chiefs, probation district managers, district attorneys, clerks, and magistrates from 54 selected countries. Seventy responses from the pilot study were included in the data. Charts, tables, appendixes and references ility to provide services.

Law and Human Behavior Abstracts

Via Psychology and Crime News, some of the many current Law and Human Behavior articles you might like:

Incarceration and Recidivism among Sexual Offenders
Law and Human Behavior
Volume 31, Number 3 / June, 2007

Kevin L. Nunes, Philip Firestone, Audrey F. Wexler, Tamara L. Jensen, and John M. Bradford


The relationship between incarceration and recidivism was investigated in a sample of 627 adult male sexual offenders. Incarceration for the index offense was unrelated to sexual or violent recidivism. This was the case whether incarceration was examined as a dichotomous variable (incarceration vs. community sentence) or as a continuous variable (length of incarceration). Risk for sexual recidivism was assessed with a modified version of the Rapid Risk Assessment for Sexual Offense Recidivism. There was no evidence that the relationship between incarceration and recidivism was confounded or moderated by risk or that length of incarceration and recidivism were non-linearly associated. Sentencing sexual offenders to terms of incarceration appears to have little, if any, impact on sexual and violent recidivism following release.

Race-Based Judgments, Race-Neutral Justifications: Experimental Examination of Peremptory Use and the Batson Challenge Procedure
Law and Human Behavior
Volume 31, Number 3 / June, 2007

Samuel R. Sommers and Michael I. Norton
Practically speaking, the peremptory challenge remained an inviolate jury selection tool in the United States until the Supreme Court's decision in Batson v. Kentucky. 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Batson‘s prohibition against race-based peremptories was based on two assumptions: (1) a prospective juror's race can bias jury selection judgments; (2) requiring attorneys to justify suspicious peremptories enables judges to determine whether a challenge is, indeed, race-neutral. The present investigation examines these assumptions through an experimental design using three participant populations: college students, advanced law students, and practicing attorneys. Results demonstrate that race does influence peremptory use, but these judgments are typically justified in race-neutral terms that effectively mask the biasing effects of race. The psychological processes underlying these tendencies are discussed, as are practical implications for the legal system.

News of the Day, Saturday, June 30, 2007

Just a couple of quickies, thought-provokers for your weekend:
  • NM has taken an unusual approach to the medical marijuana legalization effort. The state itself will be growing the pot and issuing with doctors' guidance. This does two things: it leaves the decisions to medical authorities who know drugs as opposed to crim just types who get rewards from fighting them but tell some predictably odd stories about drugs, and it puts the state rather than growers and doctors in the crosshairs of the feds should they decide to prosecute in the state. A tad more formidable. This clearly should be the model for future states that want to give sick people relief without having the collateral damage of attacks from those who can't accept far better authority than they are that pot might actually have good medicinal effects for suffering patients as good as or better than legal drugs that do far more harm when used both as prescribed and not.
  • Derrick Jackson in the Boston Globe has a great op-ed calling out the Democrats and particularly Bill Clinton for their role in both exacerbating the incarceration overgrowth in this country and for not proposing anything much now to really deal with what's even worse on the horizon. A little "oh, crack isn't worse than powder" and the Democratic candidates think they've made a stand. As Jackson notes, Bill Clinton made even grander statements of understanding WHILE PRESIDENT and did virtually nothing positive. George W. Bush has been better for the country on incarceration than Clinton was and likely better than any of these characters who are clearly too focus-grouped to deal seriously with any of the many problems in criminal justice, not just corr sent, that need addressing.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Final Jeopardy Answer of the Day . . .

is AK (Alaska, not Arkansas), HA, NM, AZ, and OK.

(In order from first) the highest percentage of their prison populations in private prisons.

Oh, I'm sorry. Your answer must be stated in the form of a question.

Around the Blogs, Friday, June 29, 2007

  • Adam Kolber at Neuroethics & Law Blog catches a New Yorker piece on the current and maybe future use of MRIs and “lie detection” in trials, with appropriate skepticism but also recognition of the potential.
  • Lots of good new posts on that restorative justice conference he’s been covering at Grits for Breakfast.
  • From Psychology and Crime News, an interesting study with replicable methodology apparently on how juries get verdicts wrong (guilty and not guilty) about 1 out of every 8 cases. (See also here.)
  • Corrections Community, the NIC blog, directs us to an NCCD report that gives an interesting and different perspective to the usual news on corr sent of women. OK is far and away the most punitive state for women if only adult incarceration is viewed. However, add in probation, parole, and juvenile detention and it’s not even near the top. (TX stays high, though, Grits, don’t worry.) Nice report with several things to get from it. (Relatedly, check out how growth in female population is hammering IA’s budget right now.)
  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage notes that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has called for a public health approach to substance abuse intervention, with good recs and cover for the rest of us from attacks that we as fiscal conservatives are somehow scummy tokers. (Although I don't guess those are mutually exclusive.)
  • At Prevention Works, Matthew Bowen has a fine piece on the increase in crime across many nations, not just the US. Good stuff to learn and also to think on after surfing on. We always think about our crime “waves” and “declines” here in isolation from what is happening other places. So we’re always claiming success for whatever’s happening when crime goes down and push blame elsewhere when crime goes up, but how can any one policy here be responsible for either if those same things are happening other places outside our borders, too? Yes, as Matthew notes, there are some common elements of increases—“a combination of a high percentage of young males, ample drugs, and easy access to guns”—but those things also have held when crime has gone down. I know the dead horse here has been thoroughly beaten, but it’s time we recognize that the nonlinearity of events caused by changes in how we interact, changes that are the result more of individual experience and culture than effective policy, causes the ups and downs we see. IOW, we need more humility, maturity, and tolerance (not things most practitioners in corr sent are good at) in the face of these ebbs and flows and learn to focus on structuring and containing these interactive patterns rather than continually looking, as we do, inconsistent, hypocritical, and frequently irrational. And, as Matthew says, more people need to learn more about more preventative techniques to take more responsibility for their own lives and potential victimization. I personally think that’s one area that we really need to explore much more thoroughly in our research.


This indicates that legis Repubs in CA are rebelling against Schwarzenegger on budget items that, because they require two-thirds votes, they can block. Okay. Use it for leverage. Basic politics. But I wonder . . . if the legis can get the votes for a sentencing commission and other reforms almost (?) exclusively with Dem votes, will the governor feel any compunction to support the legis Repub opposition???

Hmmm II

The MN Supreme Court has nixed requiring convicted sex offenders to admit their crimes as a condition of their treatment, which affects their credits for later release. Will this be limited just to MN?

The Problem Just Grows

Quick. What’s one of the most likely geographic sources to find drugs commonly abused today? Okay, besides pot mansions. Right, the medicine cabinet. Where legal substances to abuse reside.

More than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. One in 10 teenagers admits to abusing painkillers, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. Painkillers cause more overdoses than cocaine and heroin combined.

"Access to prescription painkillers has never been easier," says addictions psychiatrist Donna Yi, M.D., associate chief of staff and clinical director for The Menninger Clinic and assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. "Many people start taking prescription painkillers for a legitimate reason, for pain after surgery or childbirth, or to deal with chronic pain. As the sense of euphoria and relaxation provided by the drugs gets reinforced, they become increasingly reliant on the drugs even when they no longer need them for pain."

Once hooked, patients may doctor shop to get multiple prescriptions to painkillers, forge prescriptions, order painkillers from web sites that don't require prescriptions or take a road trip to Mexico to supply their habits. Teenagers can get prescription painkillers from their parents' medicine cabinets and their friends—even dealers. Because prescription painkillers are so readily available, they don't have the stigma of illegal drugs, like heroin.

Yi adds that it may seem much easier and acceptable to swallow a pill than to find a vein, inject yourself with a drug and risk getting AIDS or overdosing. The word "heroin" instantly evokes a negative image—usually that of someone homeless and on the street.

However, like heroin, prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin stimulate opiate receptors in the brain, relieving pain and providing a sense of euphoria, and are highly addictive and difficult to quit without medical intervention.

For those of you interested, I have a book review of The Cult of Pharmacology I’ll put up over the weekend. It’s the basic one-stop shop for our history of drug policy and how some drugs that are worse than or chemically the same as illegal drugs are nevertheless left unchecked unless someone is stupid enough to get caught with the multiple prescriptions. Great book. We’ll see about the review.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Thursday, June 28, 2007

  • Well, we've gone over 2.2 m. people behind bars now, with the largest increase in numbers since 2000. I don't see how that can be, though, because violent crime is also increasing, and we all know that's impossible with more people behind bars. But I do get confused sometimes.
  • Speaking of confusion and growing prison populations, looks like CA may be getting closer to that population cap that fed judges may drop on it. When your "solution" is more of what you've been doing and hoping for a different result, it's hard to argue you're acting responsibility or courageously, and, for all the talk about the treatment and reforms in that supposed "solution," the walk is just building more bedspace that will quickly fill and make less available for policies that actually do cut crime and victims. I've said all along that CA's problem is a Gordian Knot that requires a sharp sword striking fast and hard. The courts seem to have the only available blade at this point, but those cuts don't have as much legitimacy as those of sensible and forward-thinking elected officials in a democracy. Still, sometimes you can only dance with the ones that brung you. (h/t Sentencing Law and Policy)
  • I think about CA at the same time I read of Chief Justice Roberts' dismantling of integrated public education and remember something I discovered on the school board of the small city I lived in for years. I just took for granted that everyone had the same goal of using schools to improve the city, to build a positive image for economic development and growth so that our kids would be able to stay and everyone would benefit. It took a long time for me to understand that some folks in town didn't want things to change that way. More people and growth, less traditional power for them. So they fought us on a range of things that seemed self-evident to anyone looking down the road in an area with a dwindling population. As I look at Roberts and at opponents of corr sent reform, I see the same thing--my failure to recognize at times that there are people who want more prisoners, more minorities behind bars, more investment in privatization. They frame their reasons in "acceptable" rationales but the fact is that they benefit from where we are now and, if anything, want even more of the same. Meanwhile, those of us really concerned about getting crim just resources cost-effectively distributed to limit crime and victims get caught arguing about those "acceptable" arguments and never address the real underlying motivations. Too many people benefit too much from having more crime and more prisons for us to convince them to follow another path, and we do ourselves no favors by ignoring this.
  • STEPHEN SMITH ALERT!!! STEPHEN SMITH ALERT!!! We're into our ninth day without a post at Sex Crime Defender. The withdrawal symptoms are getting serious!!!
  • Good spin out of ID's DOC, where the state made a mistake reporting their prison growth, got into a fed report, and hell was paid, apparently.
  • This is bizarre, even for TX. Serious and legit questions raised about whether a guy executed there was innocent after the sole witness against him recanted, saying the police coerced him. Okay, so the DA agrees to review and report. DA reports no problem, guy was guilty. DA was judge at guy's trial. Wuhhh??? Grits for Breakfast says this is proof of the need for a real Innocence Commission in the state. I'd say other things about TX are proven, but I don't want to get Grits upset.
  • Over at Talk Left, Last Night in Little Rock has discovered the selling of GPS tech to anyone with the minimal cash, including your crazy ex-sweetie, and recognizes the importance for what used to be called civil liberties in this country before we all turned into vapid, clueless fraidy-cats.
  • More TECHNOCORRECTIONS and fear. Here's how you get the genetic testing and manipulation off the ground full scale, ready to be incorporated into crim just policy at the right moment--say you're doing it to protect children. Once the scared clueless parents get the process fully realized, then say you'll just use it on sex offenders. Then add violent types. Then on those who "might be" sex offenders or violent types. Jeez, this is so easy to predict.
  • Looks like prenatal exposure to coke can follow the child into early school years, affecting attention spans and learning. But as we power up to condemn and man-min coke users, note that second-hand smoke exposure of mothers while pregnant leaves their kids with more serious later psychological problems than those of unexposed mothers. Tell me again why one is legal and the other isn't? (And take note of this as well: Adolescents attending schools in neighborhoods where alcohol ads litter the landscape tend to want to drink more and, compared with other children, have more positive views of alcohol, researchers report in this month's issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.)
  • Finally, a great call-out of the hypocrisy and outright silliness of politicians fighting the drug war now when they toked every day apparently and went on to become US Senators. Actually, that's the best reason to put tokers behind bars for a very long time I've heard yet. I'd actually vote for that.

Crime and Delinquency Abstracts

From Crime and Delinquency, via Psychology and Crime News:

Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 53, No. 3, 436-470 (2007)DOI: 10.1177/0011128706286554

Wrongful Conviction
Perceptions of Criminal Justice Professionals Regarding the Frequency of Wrongful Conviction and the Extent of System Errors

Robert J. Ramsey, Indiana University East, Richmond
James Frank, University of Cincinnati, OH

Drawing on a sample of 798 Ohio criminal justice professionals (police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges), the authors examine respondents' perceptions regarding the frequency of system errors (i.e., professional error and misconduct suggested by previous research to be associated with wrongful conviction), and wrongful felony conviction. Results indicate that respondents perceive system errors to occur more than infrequently but less than moderately frequent. Respondents also perceive that wrongful felony conviction occurs in their own jurisdictions in .5% to 1% of all felony cases, and in the United States in 1% to 3% of all felony cases. Respondents, however, specify an acceptable rate of wrongful conviction to be less than .5%. Findings thus indicate that criminal justice professionals perceive an unacceptable frequency of wrongful conviction and associated system errors and suggest that programs aimed at reducing system errors and improving professional conduct would be broadly accepted among criminal justice professionals.

Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 53, No. 3, 380-407 (2007)DOI: 10.1177/0011128706286915

Perceptions of Punishment
How Registered Sex Offenders View Registries

Richard Tewksbury,University of Louisville, KY
Matthew B. Lees, University of Louisville, KY

Sex offender registries (SORs) are a societal response to serious and presumably dangerous criminal offenders. Existing research on registries has focused on demographic overviews of registrants, assessments of registrants' recidivism, accuracy and completeness of listed information, and collateral consequences for registrants. The present research assesses the perceptions of registrants regarding the value of SORs as a tool to enhance community awareness and promote public safety. In addition, this study examines offenders' perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of registry format and structure and suggestions for improvement. Results show that registrants see significant potential for registries but seriously question the efficacy and efficiency of how registries are currently constructed and used.

Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 53, No. 3, 355-379 (2007)DOI: 10.1177/0011128705285983

Restorative Justice at Work: Examining the Impact of Restorative Justice Resolutions on Juvenile Recidivism
Nancy Rodriguez, Arizona State University

Programs with restorative justice ideals attempt to incorporate victims and community members into the administration of justice. Although these programs have become increasingly popular, only a few programs in the United States have been the focus of prior studies. Using official juvenile court data from an urban, metropolitan area, this study finds that juveniles who participated in a restorative justice program were less likely to recidivate than juveniles in a comparison group. Also, gender and prior offenses indirectly influence recidivism in important ways. Girls and offenders with minimal criminal history records exhibit the most success from participating in such programs. Findings demonstrate the importance of examining additive and interactive effects in restorative justice research.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How Do You Top This Headline?

Florida man's headache mystery solved by a bullet

Why, with the story itself.

MIAMI (Reuters Life!) - A Florida man awoke with a severe headache and asked his wife to drive him to a hospital, where doctors found a bullet lodged behind his right ear, sheriff's deputies said.

"The nurse looked at him and said, 'It appears that you've been shot,'" the Fort Pierce Tribune quoted St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara as saying. "And he said, 'No way.'"

The wife, April Moylan, fled the emergency room when the bullet was discovered but later told deputies she had accidentally shot her husband as he slept early on Tuesday. She was jailed on a weapons violation charge while deputies pursued additional charges.

The husband, 45-year-old Michael Moylan, woke up with a head pain so severe he suspected he was having an aneurysm and asked his wife to take him to the emergency room, deputies said.

They arrested the wife after obtaining a search warrant and finding a gun and bloody rags in the couple's home near the Atlantic coastal town of Port St. Lucie. The husband was hospitalized in stable condition.

Gaming Performance

I’m reading a book right now re-examining the whole “performance movement” perspective, especially the areas of unintended consequences and other evidence that the full implications of the “greater accountability through measurement” approach that indicate our zeal for performance may, as usual, have counter-productive tendencies. It’s already raised a point that I’ve been concerned with as we use “recidivism” more and more as our measure of corr sent success or failure. One of the very simplest ways to get your recidivism rates down if you are in corrections sentencing is to sanction and incarcerate more low risk offenders who have previously been getting probation or community sentencing. They, by definition, have lower recidivism rates, although those rates may rise when those offenders get to go to Crime College now, and would bring down the overall stats. IOW, as we adopt the “evidence-based, data-driven” management perspective in the face of greater need to marshal our resources in the face of rising prison space problems, we may be moving toward exacerbating that very problem. I’m wondering if any of you can see other instances where focusing more on some of our corr sent measures that we throw about, including but not limited to recidivism, might have these similar effects. Might be good to know before we get too far down a road.

Changing Genes to Reverse Autism

Might not see how this story affects corrections sentencing, but if they can take someone who’s autistic and change his/her genes to end that, what about people with genetic dispositions toward substance abuse? Violence? Sure, I know. Just sci-fi.

All Those Dead Pot Smokers

Good catch at Talk Left of Newsweek’s story on medical experts who argue that good parents should let their kids do pot rather than alcohol.

Even if they don't become alcoholics, teens who drink too much may suffer impaired memory and other learning problems, says Aaron White of Duke University Medical Center, who studies adolescent alcohol use. He says parents should think twice about offering alcohol to teens because their brains are still developing and are more susceptible to damage than adult brains.

"If you're going to do that, I suggest you teach them to roll joints, too," he says, "because the science is clear that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana."

Of course, this kool-aid drinking drug warrior from DEA disagrees: "This ain't your grandfather's or your father's marijuana," Trouville said. "This will hurt you. This will addict you. This will kill you." This is when medical experts don’t even agree that cocaine is addictive (as a book review I’ll do this weekend points out). We've been hearing this sad, automatic ventriloquist response from drug agents for decades, as if they've actually done tests of all the weed in the country at one time and all the weed Grandpa and Daddy did. I’ll make a deal with Agent Trouville. Show me one person who verifiably died from the toxicity of a marijuana overdose. Not even one for every person who’s drunk alcohol to excess and death in an evening, as happened at U of MD Greek houses practically every year I lived in the state. Just one. Until then, stop being silly. It's way past time for us to get serious about what we're doing, like the doctors are doing. Too many kids are dying and will continue to while you chase hemp smells.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Around the Blogs, Tuesday, June 26, 2007

  • Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy has several good posts up, including a rumination on how sentencing issues suddenly seem to be important even to People Magazine (with a really nice rip on Martha Stewart, Doug) and a notice of a hearing today in the House on mandatory minimums and the strong stand against “one size fits all” justice from the fed judges. Proponents of man-mins, of course, will argue that they can use the threat of them to get more “just” sentences for individual offenders in plea bargains. This post makes the point, but, in my experience with three states (not the feds), the limited number of offenses that Doug feels get the man-min treatment by prosecutors is much, much broader at the state level. (I’m not linking to his post on porn in Sweden, but that should get plenty of people coming to him from Google.)
  • Corey Rayburn Yung at Sex Crimes catches a NY Times piece that had gotten by me on how the Duke lacrosse case was the exception that proved the rule regarding regular prosecutor misconduct, the difference in this case being that the prosecutor’s victims had resources and access to the media, unlike the folks who face similar manipulation far too often with no real recourse. (Like this guy, executed in MO but now his case is being reconsidered since the two chief witnesses have recanted and another witness at the scene who says the executed man didn’t do it was never called. The prosecutor in the case says, "I tried probably 60 homicide cases and a number of those were capital murder cases," said Ankney, now in private practice. "I'd have to say this case was as strong as any of them. There's nothing wrong with the evidence or the witnesses in this case. (my emphasis)" Uh-huh. Exactly. We’ll see if the new report confirms that it matters who you are and what resources you have.)
  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage finds a good article on what may be a hopeful sign in corr sent reform. The young mayor of Newark is outraged at the way our treatment of offenders is keeping him from cleaning up his town, making the cycles of crime permanent. He’s talking starting a civil rights-type movement to focus attention on what’s happening to poor communities, including maybe spending time himself behind bars if that’s necessary. It will take a movement, not simply well-meaning academics preaching to their own choirs, to get people halfway serious about reform with impact, and it’s sure not coming from Obama or Hillary or any of the other politicos who claim to be concerned about minority communities. This mayor is sharp and mediagenic. Who knows what he might pull off?
  • Joel Jacobsen over at Judging Crimes may have the quote of the year on the US Supreme Court and its sentencing decisions: “The justices have accomplished something truly special: they've taken an area of the law that no one even thought about and turned it into something no one can understand.”
  • Mind Hacks alerts us to an Australian Broadcasting Company Radio National series on neuroscience, law, and ethics that you can link into if your antenna aren’t that strong.
  • Grits for Breakfast has been doing good work covering a restorative justice conference, revealing many of the intricate aspects of this important concept. I’ve been a court mediator in my life and done an evaluation of victim-offender mediation. I’m a strong proponent, as someone concerned about victims and their sense of justice and system legitimacy. Too many prosecutors tend to only find victims useful when the victims support a vindictive agenda and to ignore those of us who have been victims that don’t see victims protected by every bumper sticker policy that comes along. I’ve worked with victim coordinators in DAs offices who could barely contain their distaste for the way they’ve been treated, either as nuisances or, worse, something to be ignored if at all possible. If we take victims rights and restoration seriously, we develop restorative justice in every avenue we can. Hoist one to Grits tonight for bringing some light and focus to a remedy that doesn’t have tv shows based on it but actually can help victims recover and prevent other victims from happening.

News of the Day, Tuesday, June 26, 2007

  • Another victory in that War on Drugs. Opium production at an all-time high, especially thanks to Afghanistan. (No comment.)
  • Turns out there’s a strong link between adolescent violence and later domestic violence (and alcohol doesn’t seem to play a big role in it). Here’s the basic finding of the relevant study: “The study also showed a number of personal characteristics, partner characteristics and neighborhood conditions that increased an individual's chances of being involved in domestic violence as a young adult. Being diagnosed with a major episode of depression or receiving welfare were significantly related to committing domestic violence, as were having a partner who used drugs heavily, sold drugs, had a history of violence toward others, had an arrest record or was unemployed. Disorganized neighborhoods where attitudes toward drug sales and violence were favorable also increased a person's likelihood of committing domestic violence.”
  • This probably won’t startle anyone, but cigarette smoking can interfere with the cognitive processes of alcoholics trying to quit.
  • And here’s another "duh" study that indicates that chronic meth use can screw up your heart. In case you were thinking about going chronic with your habit.
  • One more. 20% of young males were willing to buy alcohol for underage consumers compared with only 8% of the general pop in this study. Did they do it for free or did they require cash for their own purchase like we . . . some guys I heard about did in college?
  • More of the nationalization of our prison populations, making it unlikely that state reforms can offset the ever-available bedspace (and hence easier, more politically palatable deferral of tough decision on prison resources, i.e., CA) in the near future. A private prison has just opened up in AZ. To house exclusively HA prisoners. As AZ itself needs bedspace and sends its surplus pop to places like IN. Where they riot because they’re not in AZ. Privatization and increasing prison pops will make it possible (because the immediate costs of building facilities are forgone until the costs of actually paying for the beds gets too high several years later, i.e., CA again) to prolong the current approach to corr sent reforms.
  • This would be embarrassing to a state capable of embarrassment. NYC types have put together $1m. bond for Genarlow Wilson for his hearing on July 5. The unfortunate truth, though, is the more you point out to some people how stupid and obstinate they’re being, the more they take pride in it and hang on for dear life.
  • Interesting article on how Detroit plans to deal with (or not) its parolees to be early released soon. It’s not that these areas won’t have to deal with these guys at some point; it’s just that they’re getting more of them in one fell swoop when resources aren’t there for their normal load. This is likely not the last time we’re going to hear this kind of story, in MI again for sure but also in other states as well.
  • Although it’s not mentioned in this story on states with inadequate numbers of state patrol troopers because of resource scarcity, every one of those states is having budget problems in part because of their corrections spending. I’m sure those left behind when loved ones are killed by speeding autos this holiday will feel it was a worthwhile balancing of public safety funding.
  • Speaking of resource scarcity, nice article on how RI is actually going to plan how to spend the funds recently appropriated for treatment before it, you know, just throws the money out there.
  • Oops. Last year Jeb Bush attributed FL’s low crime rate to Floridians being able to take their guns with them everywhere. Well, this year, gun violence offenses in the state are up, 42% for gun murders and 28% for gun robberies. It must have been the thought of sure, long-term incarceration that kept the crime down earlier. Uh . . . not so much, according to a captain in the Orange Co. Sheriff’s Dept: "Criminals out there have an attitude that there is no tomorrow the way they commit crimes," Strobridge said. "We have had several offenders tell us they're going to be dead or in jail by the time they're 22 years old, so what do they have to lose?" So, since they know they’re going away one way or the other, why not do as much crime and as violently as you can for as long as you can get away with it? Too bad there aren’t a whole lot of other things we know about to prevent crime and victims better at lower costs available.
  • Finally, those crazy liberal cops who populate UT are hacked off at how guys coming out of prison there are violent extremists like the recent corrections officer killer there who apparently learned his hatred and trade behind bars. Crime College, we used to call it, before we forgot that putting a bunch of law-breakers together with little to do but teach other might not be a good idea.

Monday, June 25, 2007

More Pharmacogenomics

Mind Hacks has a piece on the new “pharmacogenomics” that we talked about the other day, the new sciences linking pharmaceutical treatments to the specific gene types of users, eliminating the “one size fits all” approach we’re familiar with (and the drug companies no doubt would like to keep). The pressure to come up with “sure-fire” pharmaceuticals for specific offenders will be a counter-pressure to company resistance, I would think. The long-term effect will likely be what the post says: “Almost certainly, it will lead to the drug industry getting into the genetic testing market, probably with equally as many advantages and drawbacks as exist with their current marketing strategies.” This also fits well with a point I’ll be making soon in book review regarding the familiar but false belief that drugs affect everyone the same way and are equally good or bad for everyone. Not true, and this new discipline will pose serious problems for all the corr sent policies based on it. Something for you to really look forward to, I know.

Oncoming Faith-Based

For those of you interested in faith-based programs, an overview of a program in AR (Arkansas, not Arizona). Slights the very real concerns about government intrusion into religion, I think, but provides a nice example. In OK, we’re running a program at a male and a female facility right now in which the offenders have options of a faith-based and a secular program and will be doing the evaluation later. The data tracking is set up and the results should start being known within 2-3 years. A lot going on in the field, a lot to look forward to.

Right Hand, Meet Left Hand

Contemporary corr sent policy in MI, trying to find alternative punishments on the one hand while making it more likely to haul people back to prison with the other. That state almost makes me cry sometimes. But then so does “Ugly Betty.”

Sunday, June 24, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, June 24, 2007


NCJ 218575
Deborah South Richardson; Georgina S. Hammock
Social Context of Human Aggression: Are We Paying Too Much Attention to Gender?
Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal
Volume:12 Issue:4 Dated:July-August 2007 Pages:417 to 426

This article reviews the research literature concerning gender and aggression and proposes that the emphasis on gender effects in human aggression is misplaced. The main conclusion is that gender has a relatively weak effect on aggression and largely that the effect of gender depends on the social context. The role of gender in aggressive behavior can be better explained through a focus on the context in which the aggression occurs. Other findings indicate that: (1) gender roles are more predictive of aggression than is gender; (2) national origin is a better predictor of self-presentation concerns associated with the use of aggression than is gender; (3) the effect of gender depends on the type of aggression; (4) gender helps to define the nature of relationships and the type of relationship is a predictor of the type of aggression; and (5) while gender differences in the use of psychological aggression are not significant, males and females appear to differ in their motivation for engaging in psychological aggression. The authors thus claim that focusing purely on gender does not completely explain the use of aggression and that gender is likely to be meaningful only within particular social or cultural contexts. In reviewing the relevant research literature, the authors focused on two main issues: (1) how the broad social context affected male and female aggressive responding, and (2) how the immediate context of the relationship between two people affected the forms or extent of their aggressive behavior. In particular, the review focused on: (1) gender roles versus actual gender as predictors of aggression; (2) gender differences in direct and indirect use of aggression; (3) aggression in the context of interpersonal relationships; and (4) gender effects in psychological aggression. References

NCJ 218514
Susan Eley
Job Searching with a History of Drugs and Crime
Howard Journal of Criminal Justice
Volume:46 Issue:2 Dated:May 2007 Pages:162 to 175

This study explored the experiences of offenders with histories of substance misuse in relation to job searching in Scotland, as well as their aspirations for future work and self-employment. Results of the study confirmed previous findings that job searching with a history of drugs and crime presents a myriad of individual, institutional, and labor market barriers to securing and sustaining paid work. The participants expressed that employment was a critical component of their drug abuse recovery and most participants considered themselves ready for steady employment. Most participants had worked previously, had vocational qualifications, and were undertaking unpaid work as part of their community sentence. Most participants believed that their employability was limited by employer discrimination. As a result, many delayed disclosure of their criminal history or denied it to their prospective employers. The findings suggest that some employers are discriminating against prospective employees with criminal and drug pasts. Policy measures designed to decrease the perceived risk for employers, such as state-guaranteed insurance, may help alleviate employer reluctance. Follow-up research should focus on a multisite design capable of making comparisons by gender, age, and ethnicity. Participants were 27 men and 2 women who were involved with court orders in Scotland from June to August 2001. Participants, who were purposively recruited using criminal justice social workers in two local authority areas in Scotland, completed group interviews that focused on work experiences, job searching experiences, job-readiness, aspirations, and self-employment. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed for emerging themes. Table, note, references

NCJ 218497
Lori A. Koenig
Financial Literacy Curriculum: The Effect on Offender Money Management Skills
Journal of Correctional Education
Volume:58 Issue:1 Dated:March 2007 Pages:43 to 56

This article presents the development of course on personal money management for correctional populations and reports on preliminary outcome data. Posttest results indicated a moderate improvement in financial knowledge among participants. Pretest financial knowledge, which was measured prior to the beginning of the course, was 66 percent while posttest financial knowledge following completion of the course rose to 74 percent. Scores improved the most in the areas of credit cards, insurance, and retirement. However, participant knowledge dropped slightly on the budgeting questions and participants showed only marginal improvement in the areas of savings and housing. The author began by conducting a literature review of existing money management curriculum. Course materials were pulled from different curriculum programs and Web sites offering financial lesson plans. Course curriculum focused on budgeting, credit, credit cards, consumer privacy, saving and investing, buying a home, renting, insurance, cars, interest, payroll, and trouble. Seventeen inmates at a medium-security facility volunteered to participate in the course. A pretest and posttest were administered to provide information about program effectiveness. Data were analyzed using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Data were also used to create tables and queries using Microsoft Access. Future research will use the information gathered in this evaluation to revise the curriculum for the financial literacy course for correctional populations. References, appendixes, tables

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Grits En Fuego

Grits for Breakfast has a nice linky post up that includes a couple of posts re-emphasizing my old analogy of corr sent policy advocacy often being nothing more than rain dancing. Not sure if you remember, but basically it goes like this: 4 states in a drought, one tries rain dancing, one prayer, one cloud spraying, and one nothing. All get rain. The rain dancers claim victory, as do the prayers and sprayers. All 3 are full of it, clearly, but who challenges them in their state, especially if they're loud and in your face enough? Same with our corr sent policy people, one claiming incarceration brought down crime, another "broken windows" enforcement, another treatment and diversion, another does nothing (Canada for those of you who wonder). Crime comes down roughly the same in all 4, yet the incarceration people and the others declare victory for their method. Huh?

Well, Grits has found several stories today showing just how ephemeral our corr sent policy efforts are, basically showing that there's a lot of bluster and not much direct impact to show. First, he finds a report in the Texas Monthly indicating that two states, TX and CA, that went drastically different directions with their incarceration of juveniles in recent years saw basically the same impact on crime rates. Then he finds that story we posted on earlier on adult drug use (non-marijuana) and a note that the small percentage of admitted users still amounts to 15 m. hard drug users out there last year. How's that War on Drugs workin' out for us, huh? Other than the impact it's nevertheless had on our prison populations and the rest of our public safety budget that's suffered to fund that ginormous failure?

As I've said before, crime and crime rates seem to flow to nonlinear patterns and rhythms that are only marginally influenced by specific human policies. Given our scarce resources and how putting more into one interconnected area means less for the others, such as more into prisons means less into law enforcement and prosecution, more into drug offenders means less into violent or habitual offenders, this isn't really surprising, but it seems outside the realm of comprehension for most corr sent policymakers. (Maybe we should send all of them copies of the recent The Social Atom, which explains the whole concept generally for about everything humans do.) The best we can do is really just a containment approach with some efforts at structuring the channels for the flows resulting from our interactions, which requires us to understand and tolerate the inevitable ebbs and flows with something resembling maturity. But that is a profoundly conservative view, I realize, and practitioners who reckon themselves "heroic" and constituents who demand salvation despite reality and human history can't handle it. So we will keep getting the rain dancers, who will "be successful" during the periods of ebbs and blame someone else during the flows, and still be throwing dollars away at all these patent remedies until we just can't find another dollar to throw.

More NCJRS Abstracts, June 23, 2007


NCJ 218574
Theresa A. Gannon; Tony Ward; Rachael Collie
Cognitive Distortions in Child Molesters: Theoretical and Research Developments Over the Past Two Decades
Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal
Volume:12 Issue:4 Dated:July-August 2007 Pages:402 to 416

This article reviews the theoretical and methodological developments concerning child molesters' cognitive distortions. Generally, over the last two decades theory and research into the cognitive distortions of child molesters have been scant. For many years Abel’s theory on the cognitive distortions of child molesters was the beginning framework for most research on the topic. Abel’s cognitive distortion framework uses social learning theory to explain how the normal development of some boys goes eschew to promote deviant and inappropriate sexual arousal to children. Abel further explained that in order for these men to deal with the disparity between their deviant sexual arousal and the expectations of society, they develop pro-sexual offending beliefs that frame their actions and thoughts as being more appropriate. Approximately 6 years ago, however, Ward introduced the concept of implicit theory (IT) into the research literature on child molesters. According to Ward, child molesters' offense-supportive beliefs are the product of ITs that can be used to make sense of their world. Therefore, child molesters are drawn to offense-supportive social information and ambiguous social information is interpreted in offense-supportive ways. The application of IT to understanding the cognitive distortions of child molesters have led therapists to target the core theories hypothesized to underlie the offense-supportive statements of child molesters. This method allows therapists to: (1) educate child molesters about the ways in which ITs function to skew their offense-related interpretations; (2) provide child molesters with alternative interpretations of information they see as being offense-supportive; and (3) challenge the underlying IT with highly IT-incongruent information. Future research is needed on the effectiveness of child molester treatment programs using an IT framework. References

NCJ 218553
Angelia M. Paschal; Rhonda K. Lewis; Jamilia Sly
African American Parents' Behaviors and Attitudes About Substance Use and Abuse
Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse
Volume:6 Issue:1 Dated:2007 Pages:67 to 79

This study examined whether the behaviors and attitudes about substance use among a sample of African-American parents differed from the general population of adults. Results indicated that, overall, African-American parents held more conservative attitudes and reported less alcohol and illicit drug use than adults from the general population. However, there was more agreement between African-American parents and the general population of adults concerning the use of marijuana and cigarettes. While more than half of the parents in the study believed that smoking marijuana was risky behavior, a similar proportion of parents reported using marijuana themselves. The authors caution that the conservative attitudes about substance use found in this study may be partly attributable to the study’s location in the Midwest which is known for conservative stances on many political and health issues. The findings suggest that increased educational efforts should be targeted to parents concerning the dangers of marijuana and its relationship to their children’s behavior. Future research is encouraged on the attitudes and behaviors of African-American parents regarding marijuana and cigarette use. Participants were 239 parents who participated in the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), a substance abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention project for African-American youths aged 12 to 17 years and their parents. Participants completed the Government Performance and Results Act and questions from a piloted health survey. Statistical data analyses were performed using SPSS 11.5 for Windows. Comparisons of the data were made using statistics from the general population of adults. Tables, references

A History of Wisconsin Sentencing- Part XXXII

Part XXXI described the deadlock that ensued when the CPSC’s recommendations went to the legislature for ratification. This post describes the leigslature’s ultimate failure to break that deadlock before truth-in-sentencing began- leaving the new system without any supporting sentencing policies.

As the close of the session neared with no movement on either side, George and other Senate Democrats renewed suggestions earlier made by Assembly Democrats to delay the start date of truth-in-sentencing by several months. A few representatives had expressed doubts from the release of the CPSC report onward that there was insufficient time to educate professionals and the public on the tenets of truth-in-sentencing; senators now parroted those claims and added that the delay would provide time to reach a compromise if one was not made by the end of the session, since the legislature would not convene again until truth-in-sentencing was underway. Assembly Republicans “angrily rejected” the move, as Walker and Jensen repeated their accusations that the Senate was “too gutless” to vote on a bill. The inaction continued from there; even some Democrats pushed George to release the bill from committee from a vote on the Senate floor, but to no avail. When the adjournment date arrived, Jensen proceeded to reject the Senate’s vote to extend the session until compromise was reached. “We’ve been telling them for a week, if the Senate passes a bill, we will extend the session,” Jensen said, but “they failed to get their work done.”

With truth-in-sentencing less than a month away, two options still remained for a timely compromise. George and Chvala offered to convene the “informal conference committee” outside of session, so that it could be formally adopted upon the legislature’s return. Jensen and his fellow Assembly leaders rejected the offer, reiterating both their justifications and their attacks. “We can only assume,” Jensen stated, “that the Senate majority wants to weaken Wisconsin’s truth-in-sentencing law.” The Assembly majority instead chose to authorize an “extraordinary session” to pass the bill before the start date, supported by Governor Thompson, who called on the Senate to do the same and criticized their “failure to act” thus far. But the Senate would not heed those calls, as Chvala held steadfast to his demand that the informal conference committee meet first. Thompson subsequently refused to exercise the final option and exercise his own power to call such a session, referring to his previous comments that he would only do so if the two chambers could reach an agreement beforehand.

“Legislative gridlock” had carried the day, and December 31, 1999 came and went without compromise. Many in the criminal justice community expressed concerns; Professor Hammer warned that “this is going to breed confusion systemwide,” while the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that judges, lawyers and prosecutors were “uneasy” about the lack of guidance they would have without the CPSC’s temporary guidelines. But at least one judge, Janine Geske, remained sanguine at the prospect of undertaking truth-in-sentencing without the CPSC’s help: “The world will go on. Judges will do the best that they can.”

Thompson attempted to break the legislative impasse in his State of the State address the next month, announcing plans to hire more parole and probation agents and develop a new drug treatment program in accord with two of Sen. George’s requests. While Sen. George praised Thompson’s plans as “real progress,” he refused to take action until a geriatric clause was added as well. Assembly Republicans accepted the Governor’s initiatives but balked at George’s request, as Rep. Walker indicated that the Governor’s proposal had not reached the crux of the issue. “Our line in the sand isn’t over any of those things [Thompson proposed],” he said, “our line in the sand with the Senate has always been on modifying sentences.”

A few days later, Senate Democrats again mirrored their actions from the original truth-in-sentencing debate. Led by Sen. Chvala, they introduced their own legislation implementing the CPSC recommendations, as part of an omnibus “mini-budget” bill, 1999 Senate Bill 357. Like 1997 SB 345, SB 357 included all of the Democratic proposals that had caused gridlock on the Assembly bill, from each of George’s funding requests to a sentence modification provision, and passed the Senate rapidly. And like SB 345 and the Democrats’ previous statements alike, their support of modification elicited claims from Rep. Jensen that they were “trying to weaken truth-in-sentencing” and a refusal on the part of the Assembly to comply. With no change in partisan control forthcoming, this time the deadlock remained. The Assembly rejected placing SB 357 on the schedule in April, while Sen. George continued his refusal to take action on AB 465. Together, those decisions foreclosed any possibility that the CPSC’s recommendations would be passed until the next legislative session- and gave no indication that they would be any more likely to pass then.

Part XXXIII will describe the contemporary and strikingly parallel saga of the Governor's Task Force to Enhance Probation.

Rhode Island Revolution

From an account by the Associated Press:

Senate votes to eliminate mandatory minimum drug sentences

The Rhode Island Senate voted to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. It's an effort to ease the growing inmate population at the state prison in Cranston. The legislation approved yesterday would give judges more discretion in sentencing people on drug charges -- and would decrease the maximum prison terms for major drug offenses. It also would enable judges to send drug users to treatment, rather than prison, in certain circumstances. Senator Rhoda Perry, the bill's sponsor, says the vote represents a watershed moment in the sentencing of drug offenders in Rhode Island. The House of Representatives is expected to take up a companion bill today.

Go for Sex, Stay for Drugs

Okay, if CNN can use a similar headline to titillate readers, why can't we? (Is it wrong how much I like saying "titillate"?) Here's the story in question, which spends the bulk of its time on some frankly disappointingly uninteresting results of a survey (that didn't include the homeless, incarcerated, or other institutionalized adults) about American sexual habits. Maybe I'm just jealous because I was so conclusively in the minority on the items. But, to me, the most newsworthy part of the poll was the part on American drug use. Here are the major findings:

--Twenty-six percent of men and 17 percent of women have tried cocaine or other street drugs (not including marijuana) at some time in their life. Seven percent of men and 4 percent of women had done so within the past 12 months.

--Non-Hispanic whites had a higher percentage of ever using cocaine or street drugs (23.5 percent) than blacks (18 percent) or Mexican-Americans (16 percent).

--Adults who were married or had more than a high school education were less likely to use street drugs than others.

A lot packed in those three bullets. Confirmation of the impact of marriage and education on drug use. If marijuana is pulled from consideration, drug use is pretty minimal in this country. In fact, why isn't the result phrased: "93% of men and 96% of women had not used drugs within the past 12 months"? No wonder there's such emphasis on a drug that has no known toxic level as compared to legal drugs like alcohol and Ritalin. Think of all the drug warriors out of work (or maybe out actually preventing violent and habitual crime and victimization) if we reduced marijuana use to a fine or a tax to be put into rehab programs for users of these harder drugs. And finally, even more confirmation that the disportionality we see in our imprisonment of minorities on drug convictions is unwarranted. All the states still looking at disparity (not as many as a decade or two ago, but I know MN and WI still are) should have this poll front and center as evidence of enforcement and conviction discrimination. With all that important info, I can see why the story has it all at the bottom of the article and, believe it or not, the Boston Globe doesn't report it at all. Priorities, you know.

Friday, June 22, 2007

New Jersey Reentry Digest

The most recent issue of the New Jersey Reentry Digest published by the New Jersey Institute For Social Justice is now available. Topics include:

  • Oregon Reentry Panel
  • House Appropriations Bill Increases Funding for Criminal Justice Programs
  • Briefing Sheets on Women in the Criminal Justice System
  • Interview on Barriers to Employment for People With Criminal Records
  • National Institute of Justice Conference
  • New Jersey Update: Driver's License Suspension Bill Referred to Assembly for Vote

News and Blogs Together, Friday, June 22, 2007

  • Good TECHNOCORRECTIONS news. “A pair of new vaccines designed to combat cocaine and methamphetamine dependencies not only relieve addiction but also minimize withdrawal symptoms, according to study results presented today by Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) researchers at the Annual Meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence in Quebec City, Canada. The vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies which then attack the drug while it is in the blood stream. This prevents the drug from reaching the brain and creating the reactions that contribute to dependency. ‘These are therapeutic, not preventative, vaccines,’ said lead investigator Dr. Thomas Kosten, Jay H. Waggoner Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry at BCM and research director of the Veteran Affairs national Substance Use Disorders Quality Enhancement Research Initiative. ‘They are meant for those who are already suffering from drug addiction.’” Before we get too excited, though: “Kosten stresses that while the vaccines have been shown to help overcome drug addictions, they do not necessarily curb relapse. ‘This is not a stand-alone treatment,’ Kosten said. ‘There is a reason drugs were used in the first place, and that needs to be dealt with either through counseling or behavioral therapies.’”
  • Speaking of TECHNO, looks like we may need to learn this word, too: pharmacogenomics. Deals with tailoring pharmaceutical interventions specifically for individual genetic types (does not sound like a good deal for the pharma companies that mass market pills based on “one size fits all”). Clearly this will advance the science necessary to tailor pharmaceutical interventions for substance abuse offenders as well. More good work from the folks at Neuroethics & Law.
  • You might think it only an interesting hobby that researchers are figuring out where marijuana was grown geographically and may be able soon to catch whether it was grown inside or out. But, with the emphasis on medical marijuana users being able to grow their own or get it locally, being able to pinpoint, why, no, that weed actually came from Dallas, might be of interest to law enforcement types and both sides in the debates over further legalization for medical purposes. (Like in RI, for example.)
  • Sad story on both human and institutional failure out of GA where cost-saving cuts in a state substance abuse treatment program left a strung-out young woman on her own. Fatally.
  • Laura Appleman at Prawfsblawg alerts us to a very interesting argument on the redevelopment of “private justice” in the US. I have problems with much of it, particularly its assertion that privatization has only affected law enforcement in the process end of things. This is news to those of us in states with 25% of our inmates in private beds. And the idea that private justice is prevailing because public institutions are failing to rehab offenders when there is, if anything, better evidence that private institutions have the incentive to do even less along that line is, let’s say, thought-provoking. Still, it’s a nice piece to launch more discussion around (95 pages, though, so be warned). I think it well describes much of what we talk about here, how the continual “gotcha” and “ends justify means” mentalities that we see among sentencing participants, the lack of true concern about justice, innocence, and the importance of public perceptions of those things for the legitimacy and operation of what we do. I think the author is right in sounding the warning bell to those who insist that we don’t need to rethink the whole adversarial system and all the perversities it’s engendered. People do have alternatives, they’re growing, and those proclaiming their virtue the loudest will be the first ones targeted by any changes. Good article.
  • Corey Rayburn Yung has a nice catch of a Times of London piece on how the British deal with sex offenders differently from our “Megan’s Law” approaches here. Crazy Brits are applying evidence of effectiveness to their policy actions, which we resolutely refuse to do in the US, as Corey also notes here.
  • Oops. Talk about cognitive dissonance. “A Fort Worth-area physician twice recognized by the Texas House of Representatives as its "Doctor of the Day" is a registered sex offender, according to a broadcast report.” Just seems just somehow, doesn't it?

Hometown News

Corey Rayburn Yung over at Sex Crimes links to a depressingly familiar story concerning the recent enactment of an absurdly overbroad municipal residency restriction for sex offenders. Though a New Jersey resident for the past fifteen years, I grew up in the great city which is the subject of Corey's blog post, Schenectady, New York. Things have obviously changed for the worst.

The U.S. Supreme Court's Decision In Rita

As expected, Professor Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy continues to parse the above opinion with Talmudic zeal. Since the decision's impact is limited, at least on first reading, to the application of the federal sentencing guidelines, my own interest in the case was relatively muted and my reading of the opinion accordingly lackadaisical.

Perhaps this explains why I was unable to readily divine a clear holding that would furnish concrete and desperately needed guidance to befuddled federal judges. Or perhaps the opinion just plain sucked. The latter perspective is more eloquently expounded on by the ever-engaging Joel Jacobsen at his blog, Judging Crimes. Joel writes:

Today the Supreme Court issued its twelfth in a series of opinions issued since 1986 that, individually and collectively, fail - not just fail, but thoroughly, comprehensively, epically fail - to clarify constitutional limits on criminal sentencing. "Twelfth" isn't an exaggeration - it might, in fact, be an understatement.

The justices have accomplished something truly special: they've taken an area of the law that no one even thought about and turned it into something no one can understand. Least of all the justices themselves, who by this point appear utterly lost in the labyrinth of their own construction - though, since the analogy to Daedalus's creation implies intelligent craftsmanship, maybe it would be better to say they seem as helpless and befuddled as a homeowner who's forgotten the code to his own alarm system.

Here's Professor Berman puzzling over some of the many opacities of today's Rita opinion. And here he is puzzling over others. Here are the Akin Gumpsters over at SCOTUSblog, still hands-down the funniest law blog name. Lyle Denniston even figures out a way to argue that the opinion with the two votes ought to be considered the "real" majority, rather than the one with the six votes.

(I think most of the confusion arises from the lawyer's automatic assumption that when the Supreme Court issues multiple opinions on a given subject, those opinions must be doctrinally consistent. The phrase "double standard" does much to clear away the fog: state sentencing statutes are judged much more harshly than the federal sentencing system.)

Today's Rita opinion was the second this year to muddy the issue. (See post 228 and post 230.) By the Court's standards, this is a frenetic pace. Justice Scalia - author of Blakely v. Washington, the 2004 opinion that first made me suspect he had suffered a stroke - was moved to something close to despair about what he and his colleagues had wrought, pointing out some of the many ways the Court has contradicted itself in just the last few years.

But it was left to Justice Souter to experience an epiphany of self-knowledge extremely rare in people as cosseted in institutionalized flattery as Supreme Court justices. Needless to say, none of his colleagues joined his lonely dissent. Souter wrote that "it seems fair to ask just what has been accomplished in real terms by all the judicial labor imposed by" the Court's flailing about.

But even in his formulation of the question you can see Souter flinch. "Judicial labor", indeed. The burden of the justices' inability to figure out what they're trying to say doesn't fall primarily on judges, but on defendants sitting in jail, and their lawyers, and prosecutors, and state legislators wondering whether it's necessary to rewrite their state's sentencing statutes.

At least we can give a confident answer to the last question: The Court has done New Jersey, Washington and California so far. That means 47 more to go. Plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. And Guam. If all goes according to schedule, we should be able to get a definite answer to you by 2080 at the latest, Senator.

As to what has been accomplished in real terms? Elvis Costello sang about it on his first album.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Guns and Recidivism

Criminology & Public Policy has a really interesting article in its latest issue (Vol. 6, No. 2, May 2007--no link) on "Gangs, Guns, and Drugs: Recidivism among Serious Young Offenders." It has serious implications for guidelines systems with gun use as sentence enhancers. Looks like justifications for the enhancers really can't rely on saying guns reflect future risk to public safety anymore and will have to fall back on pure "retribution for scaring the victim" arguments. Here are parts of the abstract, but be sure to hunt down the whole article if you can as well as the intro from Scott Decker and the responses from Marie Griffin and Jean Marie McGloin emphasizing the role of offender treatment in and out of prison in future recidivism.

. . . Results from a series of proportional hazard models indicate that race, gang membership, drug dependence, and institutional behavior are critical factors in predicting the time of reconviction. Contrary to expectations, gun use was not related to postrelease involvement in the criminal justice system [emphasis mine].

. . . The findings presented here indicate that preprison weapon involvement is not significantly associated with recidivism, likely because gun use is prevalent among young, serious offenders. Although policies aimed at the incapacitation of young, violent offenders may reduce community levels of crime in the short term, the chances of recidivism are likely to increase in the long term if factors like gang membership and drug use, and the deficits that these behaviors engender for social and emotional capital, are not addressed. More broadly, the strong, significant effect of the institutional misconduct measure signals the salience of accounting for institutional behavior when making release decisions. Institutional misconduct may be an important marker of sustained gang membership, making institutional programming and appropriate aftercare services a priority for this group of offenders.

Not That It's Important

I know that the "no price on human safety" folks don't care about stories like these, but declines in state budgets do have an impact on corrections sentencing policy among those who actually have to pay the "price." So "sluggish" state budgets will likely add to the pushes for alternatives, guidelines, and other oldies but goodies in our reform portfolio. What's really scary is this quote stuck toward the end:

California Controller John Chiang, the state's chief financial officer, says the nation's most populous state could suffer cash flow problems as early as the summer of 2008. California's last cash crisis led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and the election of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Well, the $7 b. they just spent there (and tons more in the future for maintenance) probably couldn't have been used for anything else more effective in crime/victim reduction anyway.

Congrats to The Situationist

Congrats to The Situationist for winning an award for Best Social Psychology Blog. We don’t always link to everything we read there because it doesn’t all pertain to corr sent, but we do always find everything we read there stimulating and valuable. We didn’t get to vote, but we do concur. Check them out if you haven’t already. It will be worth your time.

More Intelligent Journalism

Not going to get into this much, since I agree that death penalty studies have yet to come up with any clear conclusions regarding its deterrent value, but I have to comment on media presentation again. Read the whole article here and then ask yourself if you would headline it “Studies Say Death Penalty Deters Crime.” Technically, it’s true, but should a headline only provide one side of a multi-sided story, which the article itself portrays? And we get angry at the general public for its badly informed opinions on our issues. (h/t Psychology and Crime News)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

News of the Day, Wednesday, June 20, 2007

  • Good news, bad news in AZ. They've finally been able to fill up their vacant correctional officer backlog. But they still don't have enough beds for the current and growing population. So more private prisons (and more riots like the IN one?) on their horizon.
  • Poor Joan Petersilia keeps fighting the brave fight in CA, trying to get the state to move more attention and resources to rehab and finding other things to do with parole violators. She keeps beating her head on that wall so much you expect her forehead to cave in someday. But maybe that would get people's attention.
  • If she were doing the same thing in RI, she'd be popping the champaigne corks with what that state's legislature is doing.
  • CT's gov feels the pain of people needing medical marijuana . . . but vetoes the bill anyway. Says she doesn't risk people breaking the law . . . like there aren't already 13 other states that have done this. Good show of courage in the face of real suffering.
  • DE's letting victims of child abuse sue their abusers. This way of getting justice and redress--moving things to the civil courts--is a too unexplored means of moving away from our obsession with cost-ineffective prisons as the only source of those things.
  • More "governing through crime" in FL. Wanna do football, baseball, or weightlifting? Well, sign away your rights to probable cause.
  • Finally, the head of AR's (Arkansas, not Arizona) drug director says something smart: “I don’t … like to refer to the war on drugs because it overwhelms me, ” she said. “ I know I can’t win; but if I … change one person’s life, I’ve done something. People count, and families count. ” And then something, well, not so smart: One thing Flener doesn’t want to see is the decriminalization of drugs. “ I don’t think our society could, in any shape, form or fashion, afford the consequences, ” Flener said. I don't favor decriminalizing some drugs, but we're affording the crime and corrections costs associated with how we deal with drugs now? With this common inability to see what's going on clearly, don't see good things happening any time soon in AR (Arkansas, not Arizona).

Journal of Criminal Justice Abstracts

Via Psychology and Crime News, abstracts from corr sent-related articles in the latest Journal of Criminal Justice:

Rural jails: Problematic inmates, overcrowded cells, and cash-strapped counties
Rick Ruddell, and G. Larry Mays
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume 35, Issue 3, May-June 2007, Pages 251-260
In the United States there were some 1,775 jails with one hundred beds or less, but there had been little empirical examination of these facilities, or the challenges that they confront. This survey of 213 jail administrators from these small facilities found that under-funding, overcrowding, and retention and recruitment of officers were the most significant challenges. By contrast, suicide and violence were perceived to be less serious problems. The small jails sampled also held relatively high percentages of special needs inmates, and this places further demands on these agencies. These challenges are very similar to problems identified several decades ago, suggesting that few structural or operational changes had been made in rural justice systems. In many places, rural jails acted as a default mechanism for failures in other social, health, or community systems and they become the place that “just can't say no.”

The effect of maternal incarceration on adult offspring involvement in the criminal justice system
Beth M. Huebner, and Regan Gustafson
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume 35, Issue 3, May-June 2007, Pages 283-296
Researchers have estimated that 63 percent of incarcerated women have one or more minor children and most reported living with their children prior to incarceration (Mumola, 2000). Unfortunately, children of incarcerated parents have been a relatively invisible population in the research on the collateral consequences of incarceration. The goal of the current study was to examine the long-term effect of maternal incarceration on adult offspring involvement in the criminal justice system using data from the mother child sample of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. Based on existing research, it was hypothesized that the adult offspring of incarcerated mothers would be more likely to have been convicted of a crime or to be sentenced to probation. The effect of maternal incarceration on correlates of criminal behavior in adolescence and early adulthood (e.g., negative peer influences, positive home environment) was also modeled to assess possible indirect effects. The results highlighted the direct effect of incarceration on adult offspring involvement in the criminal justice system, but parental incarceration had little association with correlates of criminal behavior.

Restorative justice practice: An examination of program completion and recidivism
Kimberly de Beus and Nancy Rodriguez
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume 35, Issue 3, May-June 2007, Pages 337-347

Studies of restorative justice programs continue to provide a review of restorative justice practice and impact. While this body of research is growing, many questions remain regarding the impact of restorative justice in reducing crime. By relying on individual and community-level data, the present study examined how offense type and poverty level influenced program completion and recidivism among juveniles in a restorative justice program. This study also examined the relationship between program completion and recidivism. Findings revealed that status offenders in the restorative justice program were more likely to complete the program and less likely to recidivate than status offenders in the comparison group. In addition, property offenders in the restorative justice program were less likely to recidivate than property offenders in the comparison group. Poverty level at the community-level had a significant influence in both program completion and recidivism.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, June 19, 2007


NCJ 218512
Diana Wendy Fitzgibbon
Institutional Racism, Pre-Emptive Criminalisation and Risk Analysis
Howard Journal of Criminal Justice
Volume:46 Issue:2 Dated:May 2007 Pages:128 to 144

This article analyzes the dynamics of racial discrimination in the areas of criminal justice and mental health policy and practice in the United Kingdom. The main argument is that the racial discrimination against Black people in the areas of criminal justice and mental health policy can be understood in terms of the relationship between three processes: (1) preemptive criminalization, in which criminal justice responses take on an anticipatory form; (2) risk analysis, which is the process of allocating individuals into categories based on their statistical likelihood of committing certain types of acts; and (3) institutional racism, which is racial discrimination that is rooted in the mode of operation of an institution. The growth of preemptive criminalization is explored followed by a consideration of the association between preemptive criminalization and risk management practices. The author shows how the relationship between preemptive criminalization and risk management cast the working class and the poor as a threat to social stability. Next, policing is used as an example of how institutional racism, preemptive criminalization, and risk management interact to produce racial discrimination. The author argues that the control and management of socially excluded risk groups creates a pressure towards the preemptive criminalization of certain groups regardless of their actual rates of criminality. Stop and search procedures put into place by policing institutions provide an example of the link between risk management, preemptive criminalization, and institutional racism. Similar dynamics are seen within the mental health industry, which is charged with socially excluding Black people. Concepts of mental illness are vulnerable to stereotyping which tend to misinterpret culturally appropriate behavior and reflect deep-rooted racism at different stages of the psychiatric process. The author notes that in order to combat institutional forms of racism, there must be a greater focus on the individual rather than the group. Notes, references

NCJ 218528
Julie Stubbs
Beyond Apology?: Domestic Violence and Critical Questions for Restorative Justice
Criminology & Criminal Justice
Volume:7 Issue:2 Dated:May 2007 Pages:169 to 187

This article identifies and discusses key issues that have been neglected in the restorative justice literature from a feminist perspective, using domestic violence as a focus. The author argues that victims' interest and safety, expectations about the victim's role in repairing harms done to her, and the appeal to the use of apology and forgiveness may require modification in cases that involve persistent intimate partner violence. Much of the restorative justice literature assumes that the victim and offender are strangers who have had a single encounter in which the offender harmed the victim in some way. The focus is on accountability for that one harmful event and how the harms done can be repaired by the offender. The rehabilitative focus is on the offender's behavior, beliefs, and attitudes that led to the harmful behavior. In domestic violence cases, however, the offender and victim have typically been involved in an ongoing cycle of abuse that has inflicted persistent psychological and physical harm on the victim. This occurs within a dynamic of the offender's obsession to control the victim. Issues that arise in submitting domestic violence cases to restorative justice processes are the mechanisms for ensuring the victim's safety before, during, and after the restorative process, as well as who is responsible for monitoring the outcomes of any agreement so as to ensure that victims continue to be safe. This suggests that restorative justice processes in domestic violence cases should give top priority to victim safety. Restorative justice processes should include domestic-violence experts who represent law enforcement, women's shelters, legal advocates, and treatment providers. This will ensure that any discussions take into account the factors that distinguish the case and must be addressed in order to ensure the victim's safety, along with that of her children. 9 notes and 83 references

NCJ 218576
Constanze K. Gerhold; Kevin D. Browne; Richard Beckett
Predicting Recidivism in Adolescent Sexual Offenders
Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal
Volume:12 Issue:4 Dated:July-August 2007 Pages:427 to 438

This review screened research literature for reliable markers or risk factors for predicting the sexual recidivism of adolescent sexual offenders. Results indicate that some static or historical risk factors can be identified as linked to sexual recidivism in adolescents. These static risk factors include previous sexual offending, stranger victim, multiple victims, and childhood victimization. In terms of dynamic or changing risk factors, not much was found within the research literature, probably indicating a lack of adequate psychometric assessment tools for assessing dynamic risk among adolescent sexual offenders. Only four studies identified dynamic risk factors, which included inter- and intrapersonal functioning problems and the propensity to blame victims. The research review included systematic computer searches on PsycINFO, Medline, and the Cochrane Library. All publications examining male adolescent sexual abusers and recidivism between 1990 and 2003 among adolescents aged 12 to 21 years were included in the review. Articles excluded from review included unpublished doctoral dissertations, single case studies, studies examining drug treatment impact on recidivism, studies examining prenatal influences on sexual behavior, and studies examining exclusively female or learning disabled offenders. The publications remaining for review involved 12 studies of 1,315 juvenile sexual abusers. The authors point out that in reviewing the research literature on recidivism among adolescent sexual offenders multiple flaws were discovered in the research methodologies. There continues to be a great need for study in the area of adolescent sexual recidivism, particularly in terms of the identification of dynamic risk factors. Instruments to properly measure dynamic variables in adolescents need to be developed and evaluated for validity and reliability. Tables, figure, references