Wednesday, July 18, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Wednesday, July 18, 2007

  • Via Mind Hacks, we’re sent to The Mouse Trap where we find a wonderful post on a couple of experiments testing the motivation for punishment. Turns out that, while we justify what we do with rationales of deterrence, it’s punishment we’re after, affected by the severity of the harm and extenuating circumstances and that those punishments do seem to be affected by the levels of hormones at work at the time of “reasoning,” particularly testosterone. Do I need to point out again how this shows a better strategy is needed by those concerned about the bankrupting effect of prisons than “we need to be smart on crime” and “the costs of prisons are higher than the offenses that put people there”? We need to be discovering and publicizing those offender types whose only option really is prison warehousing as a means to stop their crimes but also those whose future crime will be best deflected by sanctions other than prison. IOW, we have to make the public safety case, not the “cost-benefit” case. We’ve tried the latter for over a decade now and don’t have nearly enough to show for the energy put into it.
  • Private prison expansion in OK, 720 new beds going up, lots of demand to get prices up as well, in the state and outside (even as HA tries to deal with all its inmates sent to private firms mainland who now have to be home, whether doable or not, at least a year within the time of their parole). Looks like those investments in private prison companies won’t be heading down any time soon for you future retirees.
  • As usual, Doug Berman has several great catches, including a good look at IA’s racial disproportionality in prison inmates (it’s always a shock to see the IAs, MNs, and WIs at the top of these lists), a thoughtful appeals ruling in NE demonstrating that any furor over judges sentencing in sex cases does indeed find folks who are irrational and stupid (the people doing the b—ching, for example), and a classic comment from an offender on the Libby commutation which reveals the point we’re always making here—how do we expect to “correct” anyone when the law gets played with by higher authorities?
  • DOCs heading to HMOs for their inmates? Looks like it in MI as they try to deal with their mess there.
  • My thoughts about the nation’s “drug czar” haven’t been exactly secret here, but it’s nice to have evidence that he’s all about politics, not reality, via Think Outside the Cage.
  • Folks in NY rebelling against political jurisdictions using their state inmate populations to boost their representations based on census data, which of course is not just a complaint in NY.
  • At Prevention Works a sadly funny tale of fraud and warnings about credit card companies and your liabilities.
  • You one of those folks hoping that rebuilding social capital in distressed neighborhoods will solve many of the problems leading to the youth violence that’s becoming more prevalent again? Sorry to burst your bubble. Turns out adults are frequently too afraid and intimidated to get involved. “There are these somewhat naïve notions that the key to reducing violence is to create these close ties with neighbors, where adults can provide informal social control over teens,” said Deanna Wilkinson, author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University. “That's not going to work in neighborhoods where relations between adults and young people are governed by fear.” The kids even know that the adult guidance is necessary AND that they’re the ones screwing it up from happening. Not earth-shattering stuff, but clear evidence that the plans for improvement that count on adults stepping up to the plate will have to be well thought and implemented.
  • All about neuroscience, dopamine, and the allure of gambling right here at the Frontal Cortex, along with brief connection to what the findings say about cigarettes and other drugs.
  • Want to find out all you could know about the law and ethics of brain scanning, including the (in)famous lie detection. The audio of a recent conference is up, along with a little commentary right here at Deception Blog.
  • Finally, proof that science can be a party. A couple of blogs post on an experiment to determine why drunk people get belligerent. Got some guys drunk, others not, made them compete, and the winners got to shock the losers. (Sounds like a typical frat party.) Turned out, of course, that the drunks were meaner than the sober guys . . . except when they had been distracted by having to do some mental exercises. Then, they were less mean than the sober guys. So I guess the moral is, when you’ve got a drunk mean guy, make him do Tomb Raider. Sometimes I miss being an academic.

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