Monday, June 04, 2007

Hawks and Corrections Sentencing

One reason why the clear picture of what states are facing fiscally (i.e., GA's trouble funding their state prosecutors or CA's nightmare of prison health care) is so consistently ignored is the edge that the “hawks” having in winning their positions in any situation of disorder and threat. The Situationist is covering the cognitive and situational bases for that edge in a series of posts right now. Developing effective corr sent instead of this mess we have right now will depend more on understanding these insights, and those of the experts in framing and how ideas for action “stick” or don’t, than anything new that corrections or legal scholars can come up with. The basic data and information are there. There’s no good excuse for not knowing what’s going to happen with most crim just policy these days, despite the constant “unintended consequences,” because the research, evaluations, and analyses have been done. We don’t really need more. What we need are the compelling narratives, the “sticky” messages, the counter-stories that will change the way the public looks at the fiscal nightmare facing us, to make them realize that we can stop crime and victims better than we do. (Good lord, people, the violent crime rate just went up the second straight year despite us leading the universe in incarceration, and two of the worst cities for murder--Oakland and San Diego--are in prison-crazed CA.) The rudiments are there, but the well-intentioned but too academic and wonky reformers just have never demonstrated the skill or even the recognition of the need to focus on the symbols and styles of the messages, assuming all too wrongly that “rationality” will win. With humans???

I tend to think that we’ll adopt TECHNOCORRECTIONS, incrementally rather than with forethought, because of the options we have to our present system right now—traditional alternative sanctions, capped voucher systems forced on local jurisdictions, and TECHNO—the latter is the one with the most “hawkish” shadow, much as boot camps enjoyed public approval because they were “tough.” I’m not completely opposed to TECHNO, but am very worried about its implementation, in part because the “we’re only stopping bad guys” narratives will be more “hawkish” and acceptable than the prissier “what about the future of human rights and dignity?” laments. It’s clear that the best way to offset an approach that has the “hawk” imprimatur is to demonstrate that the approach isn’t really that toughly effective after all. To do that, we have to have a good comprehension of the ways context and messages combine to produce these cognitive results.

The value of a great new blog like the Situationist is that the folks there do already understand, and these series and its other posts give hope and tips that we’ll be able to break through someday, even if some states and policies have already imploded.

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