Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Happy Birthday to Us

They always say the first year is the hardest. Well, I don't know if anyone really says that, but this first year of our blog has been a lot more . . . involved than I think we predicted. Don't see how Berman's been doing it for all these years. Actually, after spending an afternoon with him and his stomach-attached laptop a few months back, I do see how, but this year has made the respect I have always had for his work grow even more. I can't say we've accomplished everything we hoped for when Kim and I launched this thing. We haven't gotten the communications going as much as we wanted to, and we probably have been more outspoken on issues than originally planned. OTOH, we've made some really good friends, gotten to talk to some really smart and interesting people we never would have known, and heard from folks who have appreciated various things we've posted. We hope we've helped more than hurt and that you keep coming here occasionally and find both things you were looking for and things you didn't know you'd be interested in until you got here. Can we become a two-year old? Well, the thought of being in our terrible twos is an incentive. Who knows what that would look like? In any case, thank you very much for your visits and comments and support. We'll do our best to live up to it all. That, we do know for sure.

News and Blogs Together, Tuesday, July 31, 2007

  • From a kind reader, word of the next possible Genarlow Wilson case, complete with over-testosteroned DA and a community that's "no different than any other community," any other racist community that may be about to find out what happens when the media shine light on your interesting views of life and humans. If you guessed GA again, sorry. Same region, different state--LA.
  • A much better takedown of that “you’ll go psycho if you do pot” study than I came up with.
  • This, I think, has always been the better case against marijuana than the “it’ll make you crazy although we never do direct comparisons with other legal crazy-making drugs” argument—one joint equals five cigarettes in lung impact. It’s probably the major reason why I’ve never touched pot, that and just being the outlier that I normally am. I’ve never seen why putting dirty, polluted air of any kind in your lungs and blood is seen as smart. Interesting, though, that cigs cause emphysema and pot apparently doesn’t. Having lost a mother to lung cancer and a father-in-law to lung problems including emphysema due to their smoking, I’m not sure this research doesn’t once again ask why tobacco is legal and pot isn’t. Why aren’t we arresting people for smoking five cigarettes? If they both do harm, ban them both. And if you don’t ban tobacco because the enforcement costs would be too high, then step back and think a little, doofus. Stop the hypocrisy.
  • An interesting article on RI’s response to the recent corr sent disparity report, why folks there think RI ranks too high, and what direction they may take.
  • The Brits have overthrown a law aimed at preventing sex offenders from getting parole consideration after the amount of time other offenders get it. Apparently the offenders were supposed to prove they deserved it rather than be assessed by authorities, as other offenders are. These are the quotes I like from the law’s critics because they seem to fit some other country I just can’t put a finger on: ". . . badly drafted, and whipped up by the previous prime minister and home secretary, they have become a ferocious, unjust law that, in two years, has catapulted around 3,000 people into jail for who knows how long” and "It has been described in some quarters as 'Kafkaesque', yet sadly the failure of the government to prepare for the impact of this sentence on resources is more in the vein of Laurel and Hardy."
  • The NY Times runs a good piece on the growing market for out-of-state shipping of inmates from states that refuse to build more prisons themselves or to fund the actions necessary to reduce populations. It’s popular to say these days that fiscal crises will force states to reduce inmate populations, and that may be true for those that can’t even afford sending offenders off to different climes and away from their families. But some states that can’t afford to build new prisons can still afford the tickets. It may be a long time before they get to the point of not making these private facilities profitable. I’ve said before that the private companies are nationalizing the prison population, and formulations of appropriate policy should start taking that into account. (h/t Sentencing Law and Policy)
  • Finally, I've been reading a bio on William James. Ran across this quote and thought, hmm, why does this sound familiar? "The ignoring of data is, in fact, the easiest and most popular mode of obtaining unity in one's thought."

Monday, July 30, 2007

MO Does It Right

The premier sentencing commission right now is not, sorry to all you usual suspects, VA or NC or MN, as good as they are. The distinction right now belongs to MO, whose commission has put together the state of the art online, data-based, risk assessment system for judges at sentencing and whose DOC has started “community supervision centers” in the old “break the cycle” mold that allows revoked probationers or parolees to be sent to those facilities instead of taking up beds in the state prisons. The result? The state has the largest decline in prison pop in the country. We talked about going this way in WI when I directed the commission there, but that commission never could get itself together. I still think this is what the “new” commission states or wannabes need to be considering. Data about sentences and their effectiveness, risk assessment tools up front to judges when sentences are actually given and not after the fact, community resources to deal with the folks who lapse but are trying. It’s not rocket science. Third time is apparently the charm for MO, which had two commissions before this one. They’re headed straight now. Let’s hope other states are paying attention.

News and Blogs Together, Monday, July 30, 2007

  • I’ve thought for a long time that the civil justice system might serve as a useful alternative to crim just and its enormous and ineffective costs if some imaginative folks would put their heads together. Well, looks like some have. Suing gangs to stop violence, using injunctions to crack down on associations. All kinds of worrisome precedents being set, but it sounds like this is effective in crime reduction so maybe the tradeoff will be worth it. Now let’s work on creative ways personal restitution can be worked into the civil side and avoid much of the crim just process altogether.
  • Speaking of civil remedies, very good article on civil commitment of sex offenders in WI, the difficulties of treating hard-core offenders and the payoffs (or the lack thereof), if you want some background on the topic.
  • Speaking of guys who should be put away for life, when (not if) this guy gets taken down for doing more than merely parading his pedophilia on a weblog, I have to say I’ll be one of the people supporting a very long term for him. The anger that people like this generate bleeds over onto a lot of people who can be seriously treated or who just messed up one time and adds to the general inability to think rationally about what needs to be done. I hope they catch him at something soon, but before he gets too far along.
  • At Sentencing Law and Policy, Doug Berman notes some interesting SSRN articles, including one on plea bargaining as a collective action problem which allows resource-challenged DAs nevertheless to credibly and successfully threaten disorganized defendants. And Sex Crimes Blog also links you to some interesting studies on, you know, sex crimes, here.
  • The third judge for the 3-judge panel to decide whether to cap CA’s prison pop has been named, a Jimmy Carter appointee, which likely multiplies the likelihood of the cap happening a great big bit, but also means the opponents will have more ammo to claim “judicial activism” and politics. We'll see if they keep that up when the US Sup Court overturns, supporting their political arguments.
  • Over at Think Outside the Cage, a story on churches that actually pay attention to the Christian call to tend to the prisoners, apparently with good effect.
  • Along that same line, a really good story on the Social Justice Committee at the DE state pen, violent and lifer types who, with the help of the religious groups, are talking publicly at meetings to bring dialogue with the community and the policymakers who support tough corr sent. Definitely the sort of piece to prevent the “one size fits all” perspective, even if these guys will likely never see the benefits of their efforts here.
  • If you ever wanted a good look at the politics of being a prosecutor, this article from OR is what you’ve been looking for. Not to say a happy look. And if you ever wanted a good look at enforcing sex offender laws, this SD article, well, you know, and again, not happy (although inmate numbers down in SD this year).
  • Prevention Works has a nice post up on a NIDA study showing a 10-year gap on average between commencing an alcohol abuse problem and getting treatment for it and ponders when the abusers might have gotten started.
  • Addiction experts are saying that the double standard we allow substance abusing celebrities makes it even harder to rehab.
  • At CrimProf Blog, a spotlight on one of the really good guys in corrections sentencing policy, Professor David Boerner of Seattle University, chair of the WA sent commission, and creator of “civil commitment.”
  • Finally, the delivery system for bringing surveillance tech to its full behavioral guidance potential is here now. Right now it will be used to deliver shocks necessary to the brains of epileptics to stop oncoming seizures, but, when electrical neuro-impulses can be specified for specific behaviors, what’s to stop us from wanting to use it on the bad ones? Or for delivering shocks to certain brain areas when offenders step outside their assigned zones? Oh, yeah, I forgot. Simply science fiction. Go back to whatever you were doing.

Corey Booker and Crime

Corey Booker, Newark's mayor, speaks out against our over-reliance on incarceration in this powerful op-ed, "When Neither Crime Nor Punishment Pays," published in yesterday's Newark Star Ledger. It begins:

In barbershops and boardrooms, in newspaper headlines and presidential debates, Americans are questioning the billions of dollars a month being spent on a failing war, and the current "surge" in Iraq.

But we, policy-makers at every level of government, should also be questioning the "domestic surge" at home in the so-called war on drugs and urban crime. There are more guns, more technology, more cameras scanning streets, and more money spent on jails, prisons and juvenile facilities every day. The cost to American taxpayers also rises every day.

The way we have chosen to deal with crime is leading our nation away from its highest ideals and producing results that stand in stinging contradiction to who we claim to be.

In the land of the free, we lock up a greater percentage of our population than any nation. The U.S. prison population has increased 91 percent in the past 15 years. More than 7 million Americans are under some form of state or federal cor rectional supervision, and this does not include the legions of Americans in county and city facilities.

Is this the America of which we dream?

Our societal resources pour into prisons and police budgets -- the numbers are staggering. Billions of dollars are spent annually around our state, with budget growth at a pace far beyond that of our economy. Newark spends over a quarter of its budget on police, courts and jails.

Is this the America of which we dream?

Our legal system is plundering conceptions of equality. In our America, one in three African- American men in their 20s is under some form of correctional supervi sion. New Jersey leads in racial disparities in incarceration; while 14 percent of New Jersey's population is black, more than 60 percent of its prison population is African-American.

Is this the America of which we dream?

Our correctional system does not correct. We are the worst nation on the globe for recidivism. After spending billions incarcerat ing people, we release them only to see one in every two ex-offenders return in three years. We are forcing our proud law enforcement community to engage in a profound cyclical absurdity of arrest ing, re-arresting and re-re-arresting the same individuals time and time again . . . .

Movin' On

In a recent (and very kind) post, Mike alluded to my imminent resignation as the first executive director of the New Jersey Commission To Review Criminal Sentencing. A week from today I'll be sworn in as Chief of Appeals for the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office in
Flemington, New Jersey.

The emotional and temporal distance necessary to place my two-and-a-half year experience in some sort of objective, articulable perspective isn't even close. But it isn't too soon to express how indebted I am to so many of you for your inspiration, experience, advise, and encouragement. The modest accomplishments achieved by the New Jersey Commission during my brief tenure were, in large measure, attributable to the virtual community of individuals across the country toiling in this unique vineyard who share a passionate and deeply-held desire for rational and humane change.

I'd especially like to thank the following folks who were there right from the start, and who prevented me from tripping out of the starting gate: Mark Bergstrom, Kim Hunt, Mike Connelly, Barb Tombs, Rosa Hamlett Davis, Laura Sager, Angelyn Frazer, Steve Chanenson, and Dan Wilhelm.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't sing the praises of Professor Doug Berman. Not only did his amazing blog, Sentencing Law and Policy, serve as the perfect window onto the ever-expanding universe of sentencing practice and policy, but the good professor used it to graciously promote the fledgling Commission and its initiatives at every opportunity.

My new position will allow me to continue following sentencing developments, and, as Mike noted, I'll still be contributing to this blog. Also, if anyone feels the need to chat, gripe, or just say hello, please always feel free to drop me a line at bbarlyn@gmail.net

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, July 29, 2007


NCJ 218982
Aaron Kupchik
Correctional Experiences of Youth in Adult and Juvenile Prisons
Justice Quarterly
Volume:24 Issue:2 Dated:June 2007 Pages:247 to 270

Analyzing data from interviews with inmates, this study examined the correctional experiences of young men incarcerated through the adult criminal court. The results suggest that the two facility types: adult correctional facilities and juvenile correctional facilities do indeed differ from one another but in complex ways. The juvenile facilities offer better access to counseling and treatment services than adult facilities. Adult facility respondents gave more favorable ratings to availability of institutional services. Juvenile facilities are more likely to positively assess staff-inmate interaction. According to the reports of inmates, adult facilities fail to foster positive staff-inmate interaction. With lower inmate-to-staff ratios and a greater emphasis on counseling by each staff member than in adult facilities, juvenile facilities might indeed create more therapeutic environments when it comes to individual interactions between inmates and staff. However, according to inmates, juvenile facilities seem to do worse at providing access to a variety of institutional services than adult facilities. In addition, reported experiences of young adults will be similar across these two types of facilities due to security needs and other commonalities of correctional facilities. The results suggest that correctional experiences of inmates in juvenile institutions and adult institutions are substantially different from one another. Over the last few decades, an increasing number of offenders younger than 18 have been prosecuted and punished in criminal court rather than juvenile court. A long-term consequence of this practice is that States increasingly rely on adult jails and prisons to house violent adolescent offenders. To address the question of whether the use of juvenile facilities for transferred youth allows for different correctional experience than in adult facilities, this study analyzed data from interviews with staff and incarcerated young adults in two types of correctional facilities within a large Northeastern State: facilities operated by the State’s children’s services bureau, and department of corrections facilities. Tables, references and appendixes A-B

NCJ 219044
Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett
Inflammation, Cardiovascular Disease, and Metabolic Syndrome as Sequelae of Violence Against Women: The Role of Depression, Hostility, and Sleep Disturbance
Trauma, Violence, & Abuse
Volume:8 Issue:2 Dated:April 2007 Pages:117 to 126

This research review examines how three harms caused by violence against women--depression, hostility, and sleep disturbance--can increase the risk of inflammation, cariovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Depression, hostility, and sleep disturbance should be evaluated for all women who have experienced violence. Each of these effects should be addressed in treatment, since reduction in symptoms will improve overall health. Research on violence against women should include measures to enhance the immune system, especially treatment with pro-inflammatory cytokines, particularly IL-1beta, IL-6, and TNF-alpha. Depression is one of the most common harms to victims of abuse and violence. Depression in turn apparently suppresses the immune system and has been linked to coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, chronic pain syndromes, premature aging, and even Alzheimer's disease. Women victims of violence and abuse also tend to develop a hostile view of the world. They bring mistrust to their relationships, along with suspiciousness, cynicism about human nature, and a tendency to interpret the actions of others as aggressive. A hostile worldview and associated strife in intimate relationships increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. These conditions can lead to premature mortality in abuse survivors who have a hostile worldview. At least two studies found that women were particularly susceptible to these adverse health effects. Disturbed sleep is frequently a consequence for women who have experienced abuse and violence. Sleep disturbance can increase the effects of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, which can increase health problems and decrease quality of life. 52 references

Stanford Executive Sessions on Sentencing and Corrections

Earlier in June, criminal justice experts, researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders met at the Stanford Law School for the second meeting of The Stanford Executive Sessions on Sentencing and Corrections. They recently issued a report, "California Corrections Reform: State/Local Partnerships,” which initially focuses on AB 900, the prison construction bill and bond package that passed earlier this year to deal with prison overcrowding. Citing a rather marked tension between the state and counties in particular, this report primarily centers on the interplay between the state and other levels of government from both a fiscal and an administrative point of view.

The second Executive Sessions meeting opened up channels of communication among a broad range of state and local stakeholders and identifying some broad themes and specific recommendations for further exploration. The meeting and report are designed to be helpful in developing the next steps for California sentencing and corrections policy.

There is also an executive summary that layout of a good overview of the report, but many fascinating details are in the body of the report.

Drug Policy Op-Ed In Newark Star Ledger

On July 23rd, the Newark Star Ledger published an op-ed by Roseanne Scotti, Director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. Since the start of my tenure with the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing, Roseanne has been stalwart friend to me personally and to the Commission as well.

Because the op-ed can no longer be accessed on the Web, I've taken the liberty of presenting here in its entirety:

Three incidents in the last few weeks may foretell a new day for drug policy in New Jersey. Newark Mayor Cory Booker spoke truth to power with a series of passionate statements on the devastating effects of the war on drugs on Newark, on poor urban communities and particularly young African-American men. The United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution calling for a "new bottom line" for U.S. drug policy.

And the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics released its latest report showing the largest increase in the U.S. prison population since 2000. The United States now incarcerates 2.24 million people. This is the highest rate of incarceration in the world in both total prison-jail population and per capita incarceration rates. Higher than Russia, higher than China, higher than any tin-horn dictatorship in the world. Most state prison populations, including New Jersey's, continued to grow.

What fuels most this out-of-control prison growth? The failed war on drugs.

If you ask most Americans if we are winning the war on drugs, they will answer with a resounding "no." Drugs are purer and more available than ever before. The harms associated with drug abuse continue to cause suffering and death. And more to the point, the harms associated with the war on drugs have spun out of control, devastating the same communities this failed policy was supposed to protect.

The collateral consequences of the war on drugs are well-documented:

A massive U.S. prison boom.

One in three black men ages 20 to 29 incarcerated or under supervision of
the corrections system.

Millions of formerly incarcerated people facing bleak prospects for
economic or social stability due to stigma and legal bars to jobs.

Families torn apart and children of incarcerated parents doomed to follow
in their parents' footsteps.

The Conference of Mayors' resolution recognizes this failure and these collateral consequences and calls for "a public health approach that concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own, saves taxpayer money and holds state and federal agencies accountable."

The resolution declares that drug policies should be evaluated not on how many people are incarcerated but on how much drug-related harm is reduced and emphasizes the importance of supporting the communities most affected.

Booker recognizes this failed policy. He sees the collateral consequences every day in Newark - young men and women unable to get jobs or decent education, serving harsh sentences that disrupt their lives and make it impossible for them to recover economically or socially. He sees neighborhoods where more state and federal money is spent on putting people in prison than is ever spent on job training or other social supports. He sees the social and economic instability that comes when so many men are ripped from their families and communities.

New Jersey has the highest proportion of drug offenders as part of the overall prison population and the highest prison admission rate for drug offenses in the nation. In 1987, only 11 percent of state prisoners were incarcerated for drug offenses. Today, drug offenders make up 32 percent of the population. And 81 percent of those incarcerated are black or Latino although those groups make up only 27 percent of the state's population.

New Jerseyans now pay a staggering $1.3 billion in corrections costs.

State corrections spending has grown at three times the rate of spending on higher education. There is an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Booker and the Conference of Mayors, sensibly, want to do something different. They want to redirect resources toward supporting families, not tearing them apart; toward building economic stability for individuals, not destroying it; toward reducing prisoner recidivism, not perpetuating the endless revolving door.

The time has come for new solutions and a new bottom line for drug policy in
New Jersey. The call has been sounded. Policymakers must respond.

Good Question

What will the sentencing guidelines be for a woman having an abortion when it's made illegal again after the Supreme Court undoes Roe and states revert pre-Roe?

[Second good question: You wanna be the DA who has to deal with all this?]

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, July 28, 2007


NCJ 218971
Jeffrey A. Bouffard; Lindsey E. Bergeron
Reentry Works: The Implementation and Effectiveness of a Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation
Volume:2/3 Issue:44 Dated:2006 Pages:1 to 29

This study examined the implementation and effectiveness of a Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) program. The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) program appears to be reaching its target population and identifying potential participants within an appropriate time frame. While reentry participants completed a high percentage of their institutional programming referrals, they completed a significantly smaller proportion of these referred programs than did comparison offenders. Overall, it appears that this SVORI program could benefit from additional efforts to increase offenders’ referral to and completion of institutional programming, since to date offenders in the program have not received any enhanced institutional programming, other than the increased attention paid to their case planning itself as part of the reentry program’s processes. Spurred by large increases in prison populations and other recent sentencing and correctional trends, the Federal Government has supported the development and implementation of SVORIs nationwide. Prisoner reentry programs in general, seek to maximize the offender’s positive release from prison and successful reintegration into society. Focusing on the effectiveness of the State of North Dakota’s SVORI program on in-program and post-parole recidivism, this study examined the program’s operation and its impact on recidivism for all program participants dating back to the start of the reentry initiative in 2003. Seventy-one SVORI participants were compared with 106 offenders who did not participate in enhanced reentry initiatives, but rather received traditional prerelease services prior to being paroled. Tables, references

NCJ 218985
James D. Unnever; Francis T. Cullen; Bonnie S. Fisher
A Liberal is Someone Who Has Not Been Mugged: Criminal Victimization and Political Beliefs
Justice Quarterly
Volume:24 Issue:2 Dated:June 2007 Pages:309 to 334

This paper assesses the common-sense, often repeated claim that a “liberal is someone who has not yet been mugged.” After testing the “mugging thesis” and controlling for an array of predictors of public opinion, no discernible relationship between being a crime victim and having a conservative worldview, support for conservative social policies, or punitiveness toward crime was found, as measured by support for the death penalty and for harsher courts. In summary, these results question the validity of the “mugging thesis” and, of attempts to use slogans to undermine progressive political agendas. The United States is the only Western liberal democracy that executes convicted murderers. It also has the highest per capita incarceration rate. Central to understanding why the United States is more punitive than its Western counterparts is the examination of why some Americans endorse a conservative political worldview. This paper explores one core aspect of this issue, whether crime victimization is related to (1) conservative views on crime, represented by support for punitive policies, and (2) a more general conservative worldview on social issues. The analysis is conducted within the broader context of the “mugging thesis”, the idea that “a liberal is someone who has not been mugged.” Tables, references

NCJ 218984
Steven Stack; Liqun Cao; Amy Adamzyck
Crime Volume and Law and Order Culture
Justice Quarterly
Volume:24 Issue:2 Dated:June 2007 Pages:291 to 308

In exploring public attitudes towards crime and justice, this paper investigates the issues of comparative analysis in regards to the death penalty and harsher sentences and the influence of high crime rates on public opinion. The results of the analysis regarding the effect of the volume of homicide on public opinion are consistent with three previous investigations that explored the relationship between public opinion of individuals and violent crime rates. Individuals residing in high crime areas were found to be more supportive of a law and order perspective than their counterparts. Strong results were also found for the hypothesized negative relationship between education level, a measure of cultural liberalism, and law and order ideology. Better educated persons are consistently less approving of a law and order ideology than less educated persons. Three control variables were found to have consistent relationships with both death penalty attitudes and a desire for stiffer sentences. Persons with economic security and married persons are consistently higher in law and order ideology than their counterparts. With respect to demographic factors, age is consistently a good predictor of law and order ideology, the higher the age, the higher the support for law and order culture. This study demonstrates that a relationship exists between objective crime rates and public opinion on crime and justice for a sample of 14 nations. Public opinion on crime is significant for a number of reasons. It is often cited in policy debates to legitimate existing practices and proposed changes in justice policy. However, the literature on public opinion about crime and justice has neglected the exploration of macro- or community-level influences on individual-level attitudes. This paper sought to test the hypothesis that persons residing in nations marked by a high volume of crime would be more likely to adhere to elements of a law and order culture. Tables, references

Terrific Stories In The Economist

The current issue of The Economist has several good stories of interest and more than justifies the exhorbitant subscription cost.

  • Excessively harsh conditions seem to make criminals more likely to re-offend. Are private prisons the answer? LIFE, which in Alabama really means life, is better than it once was at the St Clair Correctional Facility, a maximum-security jail near Birmingham. In 1985 prisoners rioted over what they called barbaric conditions, taking 22 hostages, breaking the warden's jaw and beating his deputy so badly that he lost all memory of the assault. Six years ago, six dangerous inmates escaped under a faulty lethal electric fence. All six were recaptured, but angry Alabamians demanded that someone sort the jail out. That someone was Ralph Hooks, the new warden who took over just after the escape. He tightened up security, adding ten miles (16km) of razor wire and a fence that trips an alarm if climbed on or tampered with. But perhaps more importantly, he tried to make the jail a less horrible place to be locked up in. When he arrived, he found that a few officers were handcuffing and beating inmates to punish them. One was demanding protection money from an inmate's family. Mr Hooks sacked or suspended all the abusers he could catch, and one was prosecuted. Now, he reckons, the prisoners feel they are treated fairly, and are less likely to riot. If an inmate has a grievance, he can come and discuss it face to face with the warden. Inmates (see above) even teach each other to read. A slight man on the point of retirement, Mr Hooks mingles fearlessly with hundreds of muscular, tattooed prisoners, who address him with respect and an occasional smile. Under Mr Hooks, the jail is no longer barbaric. But it is still grim. For a start, it is over-crowded. Three sweaty thugs are often crammed into a 69-square-foot (six-square-metre) cell with little light and no air-conditioning. In the Alabama summer it is fearfully hot. “If we had air-conditioning, we'd maybe have fewer fights,” says Mr Hooks, but there is no chance, he reckons, that the Alabama legislature will give him the money. Schools, roads and the needs of law-abiding folk come first . . . .

  • Drug Strategy Review: Prescription Renewal: No one can get rid of drugs but reducing the harm they do is cheap and simple. IT WAS the day the cabinet came out of the closet. When Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, admitted on July 19th that she had smoked cannabis in her student days, ministers rushed to get their own confessions out of the way. By the end of last week seven of her senior colleagues, including the chancellor and the drugs minister, had come into the open about their own youthful pot-smoking. By wonderful irony the prime minister, Gordon Brown, had a day earlier ordered a review of the drug's legal status. In 2004 cannabis was downgraded from a class B drug to class C on the official three-point scale of seriousness which supposedly reflects the harm that illegal drugs cause and determines the penalties attached to possessing or dealing in them. Now, as the government prepares to renew its ten-year drug strategy, Mr Brown has hinted that he favours upgrading cannabis again. It is only two years since the last review of cannabis classification, which left things alone despite reports that modern varieties were stronger than the sort that Miss Smith used to puff. And it is just a month since Mr Brown declared he had no wish to revisit the subject. A recent Tory report calling for cannabis to be upgraded, among other “tough” anti-drugs proposals, may explain his change of heart. Britain's main problem drug, in fact, is alcohol. Young Britons swig far more than their peers in any other rich country, according to UNICEF. Drink-related deaths nearly doubled between 1991 and 2004, to 8,221—many more than the 1,644 who died from drugs in 2005. But Britain is also the stoned man of Europe. Among teenagers, only the Swiss smoke more cannabis; British adults beat most others on heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. The government says drug-taking is falling (see chart), but most of this is down to a dip in cannabis. Cocaine, more dangerous, has flourished. This is despite a decade of real “toughness”. The number of jail years given for drugs offences increased by 22% between 1998 and 2005, thanks to longer sentences and more convictions. Officers seized nearly seven tonnes of cocaine in 2003, compared with less than one in 1996. It is hard to know how strongly would-be drug users are deterred by the law, but the decline in cannabis consumption since it was downgraded suggests not very. And despite the efforts of the coastguards, cocaine is cheaper now than it was a decade ago. The government will not say how much its drug-enforcement efforts cost, but an estimate from the UK Drugs Policy Commission, an independent board of brains, puts it at about £2 billion ($4.1 billion) a year. The £570m allocated for drug treatment last year is a fraction of this, but it is nearly a third more than three years ago (alcoholism charities now say they feel left out). The number being treated has more than doubled in the past decade; some 55% of those the Home Office identifies as “problem” users are enrolled, compared with 17% in America. Measuring results is more important than just “pushing people through the door and counting them”, says Danny Kushlick of Transform, a campaign group. But efforts to measure effectiveness are improving too. On July 25th NICE, the body that measures the cost-effectiveness of medical care, released guidelines on drug treatment, recommending innovations including vouchers for those who wean themselves off the stuff . . . .

Blakely's Kryptonite

Good story on the problems of getting people to do jury duty and the lengths some counties have to go to get the summons issued. Bet WalMart and Food Lion were thrilled.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Group Is Not the Individual

This may be as important an article for corrections sentencing as anything that’s been put out in a long time, and will likely come as small comfort to the family of the triple murder in CT the other day. A very readable and disturbing analysis of the inapplicability of assessment and profiling based on group characteristics to any particular individual being assessed. This should be laminated and hung in every corr sent practitioner’s office as a reminder of how tentative our methodologies really still are, as well as any policies or decisions on individuals based on them. (h/t Mind Hacks)

News and Blogs Together, Friday, July 27, 2007

  • The good folks at Prevention Works are reminding us that August 7 is National Night Out, the annual event at which community express their united efforts to provide neighborhood safety. Self-governance is the best corrections sentencing policy, both for would-be offenders who control themselves and for the societies that take responsibility for themselves without relying on others to stop transgressors. Of course, PW has links to all the details so get yourself prepared and good luck.
  • Slate posted a piece by an American Enterprise Institute scholar and a colleague denigrating the idea that addiction is a disease that’s going around now. I’ve made clear, I think, that I’m suspicious of any “The Devil Made Me Do It” explanation of drug use that both users and enforcers use to explain away their reactions, but I’m also suspicious of ideological agendas being pushed as “science.” The folks at Mind Hacks have a really good response to the Slate article if you’re interested. I’d just note that this is again an area where our narratives drive our policies. People who see humans as basically incorrigible (except themselves oddly) go for individual responsibility and punishment while people who see humans as basically improvable end up seeing more environmental and community obstacles to self-optimizing. Practically every policy position they take ends up being grounded in these stories, unless they have actual experience and then you may get some nuance and tuning into the gray world of Planet Reality. I’m not ready to call “addiction” a disease. I’m actually still waiting for the medical community to set out what an “addiction” is (are gamblers addicted? Sex fiends? Video gamers? Harry Potter readers?). Anyone asserting certainty before that’s complete is someone to keep a sharp eye out for.
  • Relatedly, new evidence that a drug called N-acetylcysteine works to reduce the cravings associated with cocaine use (notice I didn’t say “addiction”). The drug apparently has been used previously as a mucus-dissolver. I think I just figured out how it works to stop ingestion . . . of anything.
  • So is malt liquor the true gateway drug? Oh, wait. It can’t be. It’s legal.
  • Is it wrong that I’m not going to mention Nicole Ritchie’s 90-hour sentence for her DUI?
  • AFTER already having major problems that received admittedly inadequate supervision and AFTER already agreeing to send more inmates to private facilities in TX, the ID DOC chief decides to go look at the new contracted facilities. Right.
  • From Science Daily, “A new study reveals that girls in juvenile detention centers face surprisingly different psychological issues than average teen girls and, in some ways, more severe problems than incarcerated boys. In a four-state survey, researchers found that girls are twice as likely as boys to be aggressive, and just as likely as boys to have problems with alcohol or drug use.”
  • This NY Times article points to an ongoing problem for reentry plans, making sure offenders qualifying for fed benefits get them in time when they leave prison so they don’t return. An important issue, good to see it getting attention from both the media and the policymakers.
  • Man, first Grits and now Berman. I’d fear for where the corr sent blogs may be going except I seem to be going blind.

More Reefer Madness

This is why it’s so hard to get to reality on drugs, particularly marijuana. A British study getting wide play in the media today finds a slight association between pot use and later psychosis, more pronounced the more pot you do.

Dr. Wilson Compton, a senior scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Washington, called the study persuasive.

"The strongest case is that there are consistencies across all of the studies," and that the link was seen only with psychoses _ not anxiety, depression or other mental health problems, he said.

Okay. Seems pretty straight forward and will certainly be used to justify harsher penalties (we know this because it already is by reviewers). But then there’s this:

Scientists cannot rule out that pre-existing conditions could have led to both marijuana use and later psychoses, he added.

Uh, isn’t that the point? And then there’s this:

Two of the authors of the study were invited experts on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs Cannabis Review in 2005. Several authors reported being paid to attend drug company-sponsored meetings related to marijuana, and one received consulting fees from companies that make antipsychotic medications.

The study’s already drawing some arrows, although, interestingly, you don’t get them in the hyped-up news report:

Too many outside factors contribute to the disorders, and the studies Zammit used were too vague to draw hard conclusions, [Dr. Victor Reus] said.

"There's a limit to what you can do with the data that's in these studies," he said.

And also note that apparently absolutely no effort was made to compare the “psychotic” effects of marijuana with those of other drugs, including legal ones, so that we could do a fair cost-benefit analysis.

So once again we have a “study” that may be onto something but didn’t clear anything up and will frankly rightly be ignored by anyone suspicious of the authors’ motives and omissions but will be used by the pot warriors to ignore better uses of their time and resources. It gets tiring. And old.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

News of the Day, Thursday, July 26, 2007

  • As the triple murder in CT leads folks there and elsewhere to reexamine parole procedures because the killers were parolees with a long line of nonviolent convictions, do you think anyone will reach the obvious conclusions? Incarceration did not work with these guys, we couldn’t keep them behind bars for the rest of their lives, and the likelihood is very strong, given their histories, that the violence they exhibited is in large part due to their prison experience. The best you can say is that prison clearly didn’t mediate or deter any violent tendencies. The prospect of being sent back is likely what kept the killers from just walking away, leaving the victims alive. The thing that always struck me as most tragic in the Polly Klaas case in CA was that her killer was a walking advertisement for how prison seems to enhance and worsen the criminality of far too many offenders. Yet the wise folks there used that case to send even more people there to take away even more of whatever humanity they had and to be released later even more likely to be looking for pretty little girls. Were the CT killers inevitable? Could anything have helped to stop their persistent and habitual criminality? There actually is a good argument for lifetime incarceration for some folks, if you really and truly have exhausted the other options and can do it without running out of bedspace for similar people who need to be locked up. But the surprise perpetrated by these two, who clearly assessed as low risk, isn’t just a warning shot about how well we do assessments. It’s a statement about the effectiveness of prison in stopping later escalated criminality. Unfortunately, I doubt that’s the lesson that will drive the future policy coming from this viciousness, which means, as in CA, we’ll just be dealing with more and more viciousness down the road.
  • Good news. A company in Japan has developed a technique to track individual “ink signatures.” No, not what’s written, but the chem composition of that a counterfeiter’s pen leaves, which is apparently unique enough that we can pinpoint who did the faking much more closely when that trial rolls around.
  • Don’t really plan to go after Lohan the way I sympathized with Hilton (the latter’s born rich, spoiled and shown no added value at all, the other actually has talent and really, really screwed up parents) but this article about her likely corrections sentencing future is really pretty good. Nice quotes about how the “silk-sheet” treatment programs aren’t serious and why she almost has to do some time, although she can afford the kind of defense that prosecutors don’t usually like to run up against in these cases and that most people can’t . . . and end up doing serious time, not Paris time, as a result. And this article extends the extensive critique of these boutique rehab centers which undermine public confidence in the good and effective work that serious rehab folks do.
  • If you can’t get the people in the homes growing their pot, go after the landlords. At least that’s the DEA’s new strategy. (Check out the angry mob in the picture with the article. The DEA really is taking on ATF dimensions with some folks.)
  • Complete guide to the “delayed entry program” here, agreeing to plea deals to probation on weak cases confident that a P&P agent will find something less than “beyond a reasonable doubt” to revoke the guy on pretty quickly. (h/t Real Cost of Prisons)
  • Good article out of WI demonstrating that effective action on crime and corr sent can happen not just on the state or fed level but on the local level with jails and effective community partnerships.
  • Not happening here, but Britain is taking a serious look at the problem of using snitches as chief witnesses in their criminal trials. Law enforcement denies that the ambiguous morality and outright corruption historically associated with the practice actually happen, but people on Planet Reality want to make sure abuse is limited as much as possible. (h/t Grits for Breakfast. BTW, I’ve been looking forward to the day when I meet Grits for Breakfast face to face and shake his hand, but, after this post, I’m not so sure.)

More NCJRS Abstracts, July 26, 2007


NCJ 218258
James A. Wilson
Habilitation or Harm: Project Greenlight and the Potential Consequences of Correctional Programming
National Institute of Justice Journal
Issue:257 Dated:June 2007 Pages:1 to 47

This article presents evaluation findings of a short-term, prison-based reentry demonstration program in New York known as Project Greenlight. Findings from the evaluation of Project Greenlight indicated no differences between the Project Greenlight group and the two comparison groups in terms of employment, family relationships, and use of homeless shelters 1 year following prison release. Moreover, although Project Greenlight participants reported more knowledge and a more positive attitude toward parole than comparison subjects, they were no more likely to follow parole conditions than participants in the control groups. In terms of the effect on recidivism, Project Greenlight participants actually fared slightly worse than the two control groups in rearrest and parole revocation rates 1 year following release. The author suggests that Project Greenlight suffered from program design and implementation problems that may have led to the negative evaluation results. Specifically, the standard cognitive-behavioral component was substantially altered to allow for more participants and each inmate participant was forced to complete each and every component of the program rather than targeting their individual needs. It is suggested that programs carefully target interventions and avoid a “kitchen sink” approach, which may actually harm inmates more than help them. Key elements of Project Greenlight, which was run by the New York State Department of Correctional Services and the New York State Division of Parole, included: (1) cognitive-behavioral skills training; (2) employment assistance; (3) housing assistance; (4) drug education and awareness; (5) family counseling; (6) practical skills training; (7) community-based network referrals; (8) education on parole; and (9) the development of individualized release plans. The evaluation of Project Greenlight involved dividing 735 inmates into 3 groups that were followed for at least 1 year following release: (1) 113 inmates released from prisons without any pre-release services; (2) 278 inmates who participated in the transitional services program already in existence at the facility; and (3) 334 inmates who received Project Greenlight programming. Table, notes

NCJ 218264
Marilyn C. Moses; Cindy J. Smith
Factories Behind Fences: Do Prison ‘Real Work’ Programs Work?
National Institute of Justice Journal
Issue:257 Dated:June 2007 Pages:32 to 35

This article presents evaluation results from an assessment of whether the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) “real work” program for offenders increases post-prison employment and reduces recidivism in comparison to other prison-based programming. The assessment found that the PIECP program was successful at increasing post-release employment opportunities and reducing recidivism among released inmates. Results indicated that upon release, participants in the PIECP obtained employment more quickly and held the jobs longer than the two comparison groups who participated in the Trade Industries (TI) program and in other-than-work activities (OTW). Specifically, approximately 55 percent of PIECP participants found work within the first quarter after release while only 40 percent of TI and OTW comparison subjects found employment within that time period. Almost 49 percent of PIECP participants were employed continuously for over 1 year compared to 40.4 percent of the TI subjects and 38.5 percent of OTW subjects. The PIECP participants also enjoyed higher wages than comparison subjects. In terms of recidivism, the PIECP participants had lower rates of rearrest, conviction, and incarceration in comparison to the TI and OTW subjects. The authors argue that PIECP is an under-utilized rehabilitation program that should be implemented more widely across the country. The evaluation compared employment and recidivism among three groups: (1) inmates who participated in the PIECP, which allows inmates to work for private employers in a “free world” occupation and earn the prevailing wage; (2) inmates who participated in the IT program, in which inmates work within the correctional facility and are supervised by correctional staff; and (3) inmates involved in OTW activities, including idle time. Table, figure, notes

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

News of the Day, Wednesday, July 25, 2007

  • Not a good day for corrections sentencing. Two parolees with long but nonviolent records commit horrific murders. And the moral drawn from two guys who spent years and years in prison will be to put more guys into prison for years and years. Hide and watch.
  • Good coverage of the problem of labeling teens sex offenders for having sex with other teens and the intelligent and unintelligent ways states are dealing with it. Catch the quote at the end from the “legislator” who insists there should be consequences for such evil deeds. Okay. But do they have to be legal? Has that really become the only option in this screwed-up society (pardon the pun)? We clearly have more problems than teen sex.
  • At the Situationist, an analysis of and call for changing how state judges are selected in order to remove the temptations of politics in the making of sentencing decisions. We see how well that turned out for the federal judges, don’t we? But, seriously, sentencing reform will always be balanced on a razor’s edge as long as sentencing judges don’t have discretion and freedom from political pressures of the moment. (Okay, it's a blog, but the only one today so we'll call it "news.")
  • A KY judge has ruled that enforcing residency restrictions on convicted sex offenders who have completed their punishments amounts to a second punishment after the fact and has called that unconstitutional. We’ll see where that goes.
  • NV DOC director warning that infrastructure breakdowns caused by overcrowding state prisons are threatening an implosion there. The water crisis sounds particularly ominous given the summer. (Not sure if it’s related but NV’s also threatening to cap the number of cases its financially challenged public defender system will be allowed to carry. That should help things a lot. Its criminal justice commission is drawing explicit parallels between the state’s crim just problems and every available dollar going nowhere but lockups. Maybe WI won’t feel all alone as it ponders its serious underfunding of prosecutors’ offices at a time when the state faces a looming incarceration crisis.)
  • Phone counseling alone can help men get straight with their alcohol problems, even bringing them into more direct treatment, compared to a control group that only got info pamphlets, according to a UW-Madison study. Women seemed to be helped by both interventions. Long-term follow-up needed, of course, but the initial results are promising. So are the results from this Rutgers study of college students sent to counseling for repeated drinking problems. In-person, brief motivational interviews appeared to have a long-term impact on reduced drinking by the students, even more than the “written feedback” approach that other places found effective.
  • Speaking of alcohol, “A new study has found that immediate suspension of a driver's license upon failure of an alcohol breath test can reduce alcohol-related fatalities by approximately five percent, saving an estimated 800 lives each year.” Works on all levels of drinkers and proves once again the old fact that the certainty and timing of the punishment is more effective than the severity of it. Really good work which has applications far beyond drunk drivers. (But we have to accept that neither Paris nor Lindsay were part of this study as well as remembering that the verdict is still out on whether jail did better on Paris than the ankle bracelet did on Lindsay. And you just know the folks in NE just starting the anklet program cannot be thrilled about Lohan’s latest spiral downward.)
  • And, of course, alcohol abuse can lead to other problems. “Heavy prenatal alcohol exposure does not always lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS); sometimes it can lead to cognitive and behavioral deficits in the absence of craniofacial features needed to make an FAS diagnosis. A new study has found that children and adolescents prenatally exposed to alcohol have altered responses in frontal-striatal areas, brain regions that may inhibit behavior.” I wonder if this story will get as much play as similar stories about harmful effects on children of other but “dangerous” drugs. Well, actually, I don’t really wonder.

I Would Hope Not

An anger management instructor was charged with domestic battery after his wife accused him of grabbing and beating her during an argument, police said.

The Rev. Robert Nichols, 49, has taught anger management classes for defendants in Gary City Court for several years, but his contract was voided while the misdemeanor charge against him is pending, said City Court Judge Deidre Monroe.

"It's our policy that anyone working in the court system can't have criminal charges," Monroe said Monday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Tuesday 24, 2007

  • Have We All Just Lost Our Minds? At a middle school where it’s become cool to slap each other’s butts, two kids face probation and a life as registered sex offenders. We should count them lucky. The DA was originally going for felonies, but thought this was more appropriate. Yet one more case proving that we need special legal training and certification before anyone can become a prosecutor. (This MI guy’s a second proof, making yet another unsubstantiated claim that prison is the best way to reduce crime and prevent victimizations with most offenders and offenses, which OH seems to be figuring out (h/t Think Outside the Cage) even if MI has its clueless.)
  • Good. “To Catch a Predator” getting sued over the suicide it caused. (h/t Sex Crimes Blog)
  • An eye-raising post at Prevention Works on how credit scammers get children’s Soc Sec numbers and run up debts, meaning Susie and Johnny are thousands of dollars in debt while in grade school. Of course, the PW folks give you the scoop on how to protect your kids best from this. What a weird and too malign world we live in.
  • Speaking of weird and malign, turns out that women suffer more brain damage from alcoholism than men (yes, we know, because they have more brain to work with).
  • Advances in “surveillance society” technologies march on.
  • Am I Prophetic or What? Here’s an American Prospect article advocating having former inmates in on any deliberations of serious sentencing and prison reform. Sorta like what I said a couple of weekends back, huh? Now maybe someone will listen. (h/t Real Cost of Prisons)

Big News from CA

Via a kind reader in CA, this word that the effort to cap the prison pops there is moving forward despite opposition from the traditional forces.

Two federal judges tasked with overseeing California's troubled prison system have decided to create a three-judge judicial panel charged with setting a population cap for California's prison system.
The decision, by U.S. District Court Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton, is to create a three-judge panel empowered to force the early release of thousands of prisoners from the California system.
Lawyers for state prisoners have appealed successfully to the judges that inmate overcrowding is contributing to constitutional violations of inadequate medical and mental health care in the state's prisons.

"There is no dispute that prisons in California are seriously and dangerously overcrowded," wrote Karlton in his decision, released Monday.
The three-judge courts were created as a component of the Prison Litigation Reform Act signed in 1996 that was designed to restrict the power of a single federal judge to order early inmate releases from jails and prisons.
Once empaneled, the three-judge courts can order early inmate releases only if there had been an earlier finding of a constitutional violation, if the defendants failed to fix it in a reasonable amount of time and if they found that overcrowding is the main cause of the problem.
Before they order the early releases, three-judge courts must first hold hearings in which interveners that include legislators, prosecutors and county jailers are allowed to file briefings and testify. Republicans in the California Assembly have said they plan to intervene if a three-judge court is empaneled.

The legislative reaction? First from the major legislative leader on the issue there, Senator Romero, and then from the main opponent, at least who gets quoted.

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) hailed the ruling as "profound" and "the right decision." She said the Legislature and executive branch in California have "largely abdicated their responsibilities" to operate effective, humane prisons.

She urged Schwarzenegger to sign her pending legislation, SB 110, which would create a sentencing commission to simplify and organize California's 1,000 felony sentences and 100 felony sentence enhancements, which were largely passed piecemeal by the Legislature.

Romero also urged prison officials to begin figuring out which inmates might be suited to getting out of prison before finishing their sentences.

"To some extent we do early release already — it's called parole," she said. "We have to take out our risk assessment measurements and figure out who might be eligible for release, because we're going to have to have that ready when the judges convene that panel."

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) called early release "not an option because it will jeopardize public safety" and said Assembly Republicans would try to intervene legally so that they can address the three-judge panel when it takes testimony to weigh a prison cap.

He expressed disappointment that Karlton and Henderson dismissed this year's prison bond package, known as AB 900, as insufficient.

As I've said before, CA's situation is the classic social Gordian Knot that can only be resolved by a swift and sharp sword. Hasn't hit the knot yet, but at least it's out of the scabbard. We'll keep watching to see if it really gets cut.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Quickie Reviews

How Doctors Think
No, this is the right blog for this book review. A thorough analysis by a practitioner of the thought processes of professionals as they deal with different kinds of cases and of the aftereffects when the resulting decisions go right and wrong. Sound like corrections sentencing now? An extremely well-written and interesting book by Jerome Groopman, How Doctors Think should be a model for all professions, including ours. The cognitive theories, heuristics, and traps underlying medical decisions, such as attribution errors, atypical representations, the immediacy effect, pattern recognition, etc., and efforts at their control, such as Bayesian analysis and decision trees, popular with rationalizers are discussed but not beaten to death. Instead, you mainly get to see thinking in action, real life successes and failures, and efforts to fight off the simplistic external control and structuring of medical decisions by practitioners. I dare you not to think of sentencing guidelines. In fact, this book is one of the strongest arguments against enforced, external guidelines of any kind I've read in a while, and judges, if truly wise, would be sending out one of their own to produce some "How Judges Think." (For the right price, I'm available.)

Challenging the Performance Movement
In the face of evidence-based practices advocacy and government efforts at GPRA, PART, MFR, OMiGod, and so on, it's almost heresy to write up a book on the difficulties of actually doing meaningful performance measurement, so call Beryl Radin an almost heretic. Her Challenging the Performance Movement: Accountability, Complexity, and Democratic Values will be like oxygen to those public officials, like teachers, judges, and correctons officials, held responsible for outcomes far too complex to assign to any one unit or individual. I read Radin for her budget work back in my poli sci days, and, to her credit, unlike too many academics, she took that budget knowledge into the trenches in the late 1990s OMB. From that, she got enough first-hand experience with inadequate data, responsibilities criss-crossing agencies and governmental levels, and the problems linking nebulous outcomes to poorly defined and frequently multiple goals to be able to address the world most corr sent bureaucrats face every day. It's not that measurement is bad or research based on it worthless. But users need to be aware of the limits, accord responsibility and blame responsibly, and recognize that "one-size-fits-all" "solutions" are usually (like corr sent policy) too simplistic for any real good, no matter how good they sound in campaign speeches or on Sunday morning talk shows. Yes, have all your reinventing government and managing for results close at hand, but have Radin nearby, too, whispering in your ear the whole time. The world won't look so black and white, but your odds of running aground will drop dramatically.


"The political scientist Vesla Mae Weaver, in a recently completed dissertation, examines policy history, public opinion, and media processes in an attempt to understand the role of race in this historic transformation of criminal justice. She argues—persuasively, I think—that the punitive turn represented a political response to the success of the civil-rights movement. Weaver describes a process of “frontlash” in which opponents of the civil-rights revolution sought to regain the upper hand by shifting to a new issue. Rather than reacting directly to civil-rights developments, and thus continuing to fight a battle they had lost, those opponents—consider George Wallace’s campaigns for the presidency, which drew so much support in states like Michigan and Wisconsin—shifted attention to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime: Once the clutch of Jim Crow had loosened, opponents of civil rights shifted the “locus of attack” by injecting crime onto the agenda. Through the process of frontlash, rivals of civil rights progress defined racial discord as criminal and argued that crime legislation would be a panacea to racial unrest. This strategy both imbued crime with race and depoliticized racial struggle, a formula which foreclosed earlier “root causes” alternatives."

Glenn Loury
Boston Review
July/August 2007 Issue

h/t Real Cost of Prisons

News of the Day, Monday, July 23, 2007

  • Here’s the kind of journalism that every state and community should have on corr sent. A very in-depth overview of a privatized sex offender program being run in ME, complete with details of operations and offenders, including their own stories and admissions. And here’s another excellent ME story on the growing pressures on jails with mentally ill inmates. We might just have effective corr sent policy if every state had this kind of info. Think there’s a connection between this and ME’s low incarceration rate?
  • This shock anyone? Kids in kind, likable peer groups less deviant than kids in popular, socially aggressive peer groups less deviant than kids in unlikable, unpopular peer groups.
  • Good article from USA Today of all places on the collateral sanctions associated sentencing, even the so-called “minor” sentences that we hear of as “slaps on the hand.” A movement to bring some nuance and sense is forming apparently, resisted, of course, by prosecutors’ orgs. Certainly you don’t want pedophiles at daycare centers, but a reformed pot user shouldn’t be allowed to sell stock? We let them be President.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, Criminology Edition


NCJ 218896
Daniel S. Nagin
Moving Choice to Center Stage in Criminological Research and Theory: The American Society of Criminology 2006 Sutherland Address
Volume:45 Issue:2 Dated:May 2007 Pages:259 to 272

This paper argues for moving choice in crimimal behavior to "center stage" in criminological research, since choice is a foundational premise of the criminal law. The author notes that he is not advancing a comprehensive theory of choice in relation to criminal behavior, since this can only come after the accumulation of a large number of research projects that test specific propositions about the role of choice in specific circumstances and stages of development. Part of the collection of this evidence will require that criminologists look toward research and theorizing on choice and decisionmaking that has been conducted in fields other than criminology. Research on judgment and decisionmaking in domains other than criminal behavior should be a key focus. The paper focuses on three points. First, research on choice in problem domains that apparently have little connection to crime provides guidance for advances in knowledge and understanding of choice in relation to crime. Second, decisionmaking involves more than cognitive deliberation. It also involves emotion. Understanding the interaction between cognition and emotion is critical to understanding crime and how to prevent it. Third, understanding the developmental course of decisionmaking in criminal endeavors is crucial to understanding issues such as the emergence of crime from childhood problem behavior, the chronic choice of crime, and desistance from crime. Examples are provided of the type of research on decisionmaking that will relate to important issues in criminology. 37 references

NCJ 218898
Graham C. Ousey; Pamela Wilcox
Interaction of Antisocial Propensity and Life-Course Varying Predictors of Delinquent Behavior: Differences by Method of Estimation and Implications for Theory
Volume:45 Issue:2 Dated:May 2007 Pages:313 to 354

This study identified and assessed several hypotheses that sometimes conflict regarding the ways that a propensity for antisocial behavior moderates the influence on delinquency of social factors that vary over time. The study found significant differences in the effects of the interaction between a stable propensity for antisocial behavior and the nature of social factors that change over time, depending on the statistical model used. Statistically significant interaction effects were nearly always evident under least-squares-based models. These effects are consistent with models that suggest individual propensity for antisocial behavior tends to magnify the changing risk factors of opportunity, delinquent peer association, and strain, as well as the crime-constraining effects of social bonds. In contrast, tobit models that better match the observed delinquency data only found one significant interaction effect, which was for the measure of delinquent friends. Taken together, the differences across the models heighten concerns that interaction effects in least-squares-based analyses of delinquency could be spurious. This originates from a mismatch between the linear model assumptions and the skewed/censored distribution of the dependent variable. Additional research is required before firm conclusions can be drawn; however, the results of this study should encourage scholars to focus on the adequacy of their statistical models when investigating the manner by which criminological variables interact in their effects on skewed delinquency measures. Data for this study came from the four waves of the Rural Substance Abuse and Violence Project, a prospective longitudinal study of substance use, criminal victimization, and criminal offending among a panel of students in Kentucky. Data were collected initially in the spring of 2001. The dependent variable was a 13-item index of delinquent behavior. Variables related to time-stable antisocial propensity and time-varying delinquency predictors were measured. 4 tables, 1 figure, and 55 references

NCJ 218899
Richard Rosenfeld; Robert Fornango; Andres F. Rengifo
Impact of Order-Maintenance Policing on New York City Homicide and Robbery Rates: 1988-2001
Volume:45 Issue:2 Dated:May 2007 Pages:355 to 384

This study examined the effects of order-maintenance arrests on precinct-level robbery and homicide trends in New York City for 1988-2001, using more reliable crime and arrest data, longer time series, and more extensive controls for other influences than were used in previous research. The study found that order-maintenance policing (OMP) did contribute to robbery and homicide declines in New York City; however, the impact was modest, and substantial crime reductions likely would have occurred even without the increase in OMP. In addition to OMP, several factors were associated with New York City's robbery and homicide declines. These factors pertained to socioeconomic disadvantage, racial composition, and immigrant concentration. There was also evidence that areas with greater initial crime levels experienced significantly greater crime decreases. Order-maintenance effects persisted even when the study controlled for robbery and homicide increases since 1984, which marked the beginning of the New York City crack epidemic. The crime, arrest, and criminal complaint data used in the study were from precinct-level annual reports produced by the New York City Police Department. The annual number of police officers per precinct was obtained from the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services provided data on the number of persons sentenced to prison from each precinct. The dependent variables in the analysis were the homicide rates and robbery rates per 10,000 precinct residents. The key explanatory construct was OMP, which was measured as the annual number of misdemeanor and ordinance-violation arrests per 10,000 precinct residents. The number of citizen complaints of misdemeanor and ordinance violations per 10,000 residents was used as a measure of disorder in the homicide, robbery, and OMP models. 4 figures, 3 tables, 43 references, and 1 appendix

NCJ 218900
Steven F. Messner; Sandro Galea; Kenneth J. Tardiff; Melissa Tracy; Angela Bucciarelli; Tinka Markham Piper; Victoria Frye; David Vlahov
Policing, Drugs, and the Homicide Decline in New York City in the 1990s
Volume:45 Issue:2 Dated:May 2007 Pages:385 to 414

This study assessed the role of policing and drugs in the sharp decline in homicide in New York City in the 1990s. The study found that changes in misdemeanor arrest rates were negatively related to changes in total homicide rates. This supports Keeling and Ceases general claim that the implementation of new policing policies (order-maintenance policing) had a noticeable role in the homicide decline in New York City. The study also found that when homicides were disaggregated by weapon use, the effect of changes in policing were significant for gun-related, but not for nongun-related homicide. Changes in homicide rates were also significantly affected by changes in cocaine use. Declining cocaine use, as indicated by the toxicology of accident victims, was associated with decreasing homicide levels. This study went beyond previous research in this area by examining gun-related and nongun-related homicides separately, by using a superior measure of drug activity based on cocaine toxicology of accident fatalities, and by including a measure of felony arrests in order to help distinguish the effects of increased policing of disorder offenses from intensified policing generally. Analyses were based on pooled, cross-sectional, time-series data for 74 New York City precincts over the 1990-99 period, with all variables measured at the appropriate precinct level. 3 tables, 1 figure, 45 references, and appended univariate statistics for New York City Police Precincts, 1990-99

Your Reading Assignment for the Day

This is as good a story as you will find as this point on the unfortunately inexorable future of TECHNOCORRECTIONS and "the surveillance society." Has all the basics, focusing on the injectable RFID chips sold on the promise of all things wise and wonderful (tracking Alzheimer's patients, providing harder-to-steal ID in security facilities) which turns out, surprise, surprise, not to be all that it's cracked up to be. In the meantime, the community is placed on the slippery slope, with righteous rationales for injecting probationers, parolees, mentally challenged, then other aliens we want to know who they are and what they're doing 24 hours a day. (Got into a conversation with a very bright gay person the other day who's a strong supporter of civil commitment for sex offenders without this person once indicating understanding that the next deviants to get the treatment someday might be gays if history is any guide. "Can't happen here." Oh, yeah, tell that to Reverend Niemoller. Or those guys in Guantanamo. Or readers of this blog someday now.) In any case, this is a very good overview and warning that, again if history is a guide, will be the proverbial frog-in-boiling-water if the safeguards aren't built in from the beginning. Just the thing to end a weekend.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Justice Research and Policy Abstracts

You can find these and other good Justice Research and Policy articles, as well as the JRSA Forum and Statistical Analysis Center reports, among lots of other good stuff, at http://www.jrsa.org/.

From Volume 9, No. 1.

Tammy Meredith, John C. Spier, and Sharon Johnson
Developing and Implementing Automated Risk Assessments in Parole
pp. 1-24

This article describes the efforts undertaken during the past five years for the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to develop a method for assessing parolee risk to inform the supervision level assignments of Georgian's 23,000 active parolees. The project resulted in an actuarial risk assessment method based on the analysis of over 6,000 parolees. Historically, officers conducted pencil-and-paper assessments on all new parolees entering supervision and reassessments every six months thereafter. The new instruments are automated--offender risk is derived through the execution of computerized programs that access both prison and parole data systems. Parolee risk scores are updated daily, incorporating the dynamics of daily correctional supervision progress or failure, and are provided to parole officers through web-based reports and e-mail.

Jennifer L. Schulenberg
Predicting Noncompliant Behavior Disparities in the Social Locations of Male and Female Probationers
pp. 25-57

Researchers have examined post-probation recidivism, characteristics of typical probationers, and factors affecting recidivism while under probation supervision, but little has been done to explore the linkage between gender, risk factors, and noncompliant behavior while under probation supervision, despite the fact that almost a quarter of the probation population is female. Using chi-square and logistic regression to analyze nationally representative data of active probationers, this study found predictive factors for noncompliant behavior differed by sex and that there were fewer predictive variables for women. Age, race, education level, job stability, employment status, residential instability, and familial criminality were common predictors for missing a payment, being reprimanded for rule violations, and having a disciplinary hearing. Men and women faced multiple inequalities but did so from different social locations. Nonwhite women and those with little stability were at higher odds for noncompliant behavior, whereas offense and prior history factors were predictive of some but not all noncompliant behavior by men.

Jill S. Levenson and Andrea L. Hern
Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: Unintended Consequences and Community Reentry
pp. 59-73

Many states and hundreds of local municipalities have passed zoning laws prohibiting sex offenders from living within close proximity to schools, parks, playgrounds, day care centers, and other places where children congregate. The purpose of this study was to investigate the positive and negative, intended and unintended consequences of residence restrictions on sex offenders. Results indicate that residence restrictions create housing instability for many offenders and limited accessibility to employment opportunities, social services, and social support. Young adult offenders were especially impacted because residence restrictions limited affordable housing options and often prevented them from living with family members. Implications for policy development and implementation are discussed.

Connie Hassett-Walker and Douglas J. Boyle
Conducting Criminological Research in a Hospital: The Results of Two Exploratory Studies and Implications for Prevention
pp. 75-94

This article discusses the results of two exploratory studies using hospital data on intentional assault injury. Study #1 was a two-year gunshot wound (GSW) surveillance effort (N=920). A map of the EMS dispatch addresses revealed that certain neighborhoods were "hotspots" for gun violence. Hierarchical regression analysis revealed that poverty, vacant housing and rental housing were significant predictors of a neighborhood's GSW rate. Study #2 involved interviews with assaulted patients (N=30). More than half of the sample had been incarcerated, which is striking considering their young age (i.e., 21 years old and younger). Prevention implications of both studies are discussed.

More NCJRS Abstracts, July 21, 2007


NCJ 218895
Maria Kafatou-Haeusermann
Media-Crime Nexus Revisited: On the Re-Construction of Crime and Law-and-Order in Crime-Appeal Programming
Max-Planck-Institute Fur Auslandisches und Internationales Strafrecht Germany, United

This book critiques two "crime-appeal" television programs (programs that profile real criminal cases) in terms of their impact on audiences' views of crime. Critiques of Aktenzeichen XY...ungelost, a "crime-appeal" program in Germany, and Crimewatch UK, a similar program in the United Kingdom, show that they foster a punitive criminal justice policy, select rare random violent crimes while ignoring other types of crime, and tend to portray crimes that have been committed by Blacks and foreign-born offenders. The programs ignore the more prevalent property crimes, white-collar crimes, and acquaintance and domestic crimes. The programs also tend to exaggerate the victimization rates of the most vulnerable parts of the population, such as women, children, and the elderly. Offenders are portrayed as "evil" and abnormal without reference to the social and structural causes of criminal behavior and deviance. The programs' producers are less interested in presenting an objective and balanced view of real crime than they are in feeding the public's appetite for real-life drama and extreme tragedy that pits good (the police, victims, and viewing audience) against evil (people who aren't like the rest of us). The research underlying this book was based on coded observations of programming; documentation of the history, selection, and production of programming; and analysis of viewers' incentives for watching the programs. 18 tables and 590 references

NCJ 218950
David W.M. Sorensen
Scandinavian Prospects for a Place-Based Randomized Experiment on Burglary Reduction
Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention
Volume:8 Issue:1 Dated:2007 Pages:97 to 112

This article discusses the problems of prior evaluations on situational crime prevention programs for residential burglary and provides a plan for a place-based, randomized experimental study of a situational crime prevention program in Denmark. The main problem with previous evaluation studies on situational crime prevention programs is that very few of them have been carried out under controlled, experimental conditions. Prior evaluations have produced contradictory results, been subject to a lack of subject compliance, have been contaminated by the use of multi-tactic interventions and publicity campaigns, and have either lacked control groups or equivalent comparison groups. The author argues that a place-based randomized experiment in burglary reduction is well suited to Denmark and should be conducted to contribute to the dearth of knowledge in this area. The author outlines an experimental design in which the unit of analysis is the individual household dwelling rather than the neighborhoods, police beats, or cities that have been the unit of analysis in previous research. By making household dwellings the unit of analysis, dwellings can be randomly assigned to treatment and control groups and post-treatment differences in burglary levels can be observed. Denmark proves a particularly fertile ground for such experimentation because of the quality of the Dutch registries on dwellings and the fact that residential burglaries are relatively well reported to police in Denmark. Tables, footnotes, references

Friday, July 20, 2007

This Looked Like a Good Headline

Black Wants Alcoholism Care in Prison

A powerful legislator wanting more treatment in prison. Until you read the story and realize it’s HIS treatment now that HE’S going to prison.

Too Bad

This guy says he’ll never run for public office. But if he’s putting his (impressive) money where his mouth is, hmmm . . . .

The nation's drug policy "is a little bit crazy," Montana Meth Project founder Tom Siebel said Thursday.

Far too much money and effort goes toward imprisoning drug users, and too little toward prevention and treatment, Siebel said during an address before a Hometown Helena civic group meeting.

Prison doesn't work, he said.

"They just get a better education," Siebel added. "It's like a graduate school program in drug distribution."

Siebel, a multimillionaire software entrepreneur, also used the occasion to press Attorney General Mike McGrath to divert more funds toward the Montana Meth Project. Although Siebel paid millions for the original project — whose graphic ads about methamphetamine abuse garnered nationwide attention — a combination of federal, state and private money now will fund the project in Montana.

"We need money," he said. The project has raised more than $500,000 in corporate and private donations in Montana in the last year, which the Siebel Foundation will match, he announced Thursday, promising to match up to $5 million. Montana's congressional delegation is also seeking federal money for the project . . .

In The States Today

The Christian Science Monitor covers the Genarlow Wilson case, does it pretty well. I'm getting really tired of how every asinine decision being questioned in corr sent gets hit with "yeah, but if you help this guy, we'll have to open the jail cell doors." You mean like after Miranda? Apprendi? Cunningham? Please get real. And seriously, GA? Besides making this right, please get a different list of state officials to be quoted. Every one you roll out sounds like they’re off their meds and makes the rest of us think the whole state is mentally challenged. . . . Speaking of sex offenses, although we really weren't, here's a good (actually, bad) story on the difficulty facing parole and probation agents trying to keep tabs on them. What's particularly bad about this story, a definite cautionary tale, is that the offender focused on in the piece, the one committed murder after release, was assessed a low-level offender. Not common (some shoplifters do a murder as their next offense), but enough to raise concerns. I'm telling you, the company that invents the TECNHO "solution" to this will be the best investment for your stock portfolio this side of private prisons. . . . A couple of very white states upset that their ranking in the recent Sentencing Project disparity report makes them look bad--VT and WI. Both states saying they'll do better. WI even has a special commission going to look into the problem. Its other problem, though? It already has a commission that just finished a report but they're sunsetting after that report was the only thing it ever did, said inaction costing the commission its right and expectation to accomplish anything. Good people in WI seriously trying to do something, but this just shows you how hard it is. . . .