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.

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