Monday, August 20, 2007

News and Blogs Together, Monday, August 20, 2007

  • Fed guidelines about to get their greatest public inspection? The judge in the Michael Vick case says he’s not bound by them and I don’t think he’s going below the range. DC Beltway types after the Scooter Libby case professed their shock that someone can be sentenced on behavior not found at trial. Now Falcon fans will likely lose their star when those guidelines say he should only be sentenced to a shorter sentence. Years of academic debate and nothing. A couple of pathetic cases with public proponents and we finally get attention. The world’s a kind of funny place, isn’t it?
  • Doug Berman already caught the TIME piece on mandatory minimums. I’d just like to reaffirm the concluding quote: "The problem is that they are using a prison cell to address what should be public health issue," says Gabriel Sayegh, a project director at the Drug Policy Alliance. "This isn't the criminal justice system we're supposed to have in this country."
  • Couple of stories on teens to note. One is obvious, the other not. The first points to a survey of teens that indicates that most teens who hack or illegally download do it more just to see if they can rather than with criminal intent. No shock there, or reason to excuse known illegal behavior, but another case to keep in mind when we try to paint all offenders with the same one size fits all, “they’re all evil” brush. The other is another story on how drama and theater help youths with emotional and behavioral problems. This fits well with the stories we’ve noted from time to time of effective use of plays in dealing with potential or real juvenile issues and consequences. As a former community theater type, I’ve seen this with some of the younger folks I used to work with (and, yes, almost all of them were younger).
  • More teen stories. Rather than doing anything serious with Genarlow Wilson, GA may decide that sex ed should include a chapter on the penalties for its 18th Century laws and thinking. Not a bad idea, really, if kids having sex have to be controlled by government rather than, you know, their families, their churches, their community norms, just to protect them. But what’s the pool on the first kid to say, “You know what, what we’re doing violates Section 12, subsection 3(b) of the Georgia Criminal Code”? So much corr sent that would be unnecessary if grown-ups would just do their jobs well to start with. And here we hear that, omigod, without any laws at all!!!, teens empowered with some knowledge and rational education are cutting back their pregnancies. One more bit of evidence that major social behavior changes don’t need formal policy action all the time. Far more gets done with seeing the consequences of an older sibling with an unplanned child or in a morgue or wheelchair than we can ever hope to do in corrections sentencing or other government institutions.
  • DAs ignoring laws. Here’s Grits for Breakfast catch of TX DAs who refuse to obey a very clear law in that state that was intended to reduce jail pops. On the other side of that, DAs who don’t use penalty enhancers that would increase prison pops. Doesn’t matter what your opinion of either is, we’re talking about public officials deciding not to follow the laws. After a while, what does that do to a society?
  • If states are the laboratories of policies in this country, OK has a couple of things going. This multiple-subject article gives a good overview of a secular-faith-based experiment going on (and is being monitored from the start for future evaluation) and the work of specialty courts, particularly drug and mental health courts there. Surprisingly good article for a small-town paper. (h/t Real Cost of Prisons) (And here you can find more evidence of the “lab” thing, info on a successful DUI court in NV.)
  • Couple more drug-related stories. One of the absolutely silliest results of our pot paranoia has been the loss of the economic benefits of industrial hemp. CA is looking at legalizing the latter, but its fate will depend on intelligence in our pot debate. IOW, buh-bye. Intelligence does occasionally peek its head through, though, as in San Quentin’s use of its inmates in drug counseling, one of those instances where we realize that our best “experts” in criminal behavior are, you know, criminals. But in DE, drug cases are being dropped because lab techs need a couple of weeks to do their tests and DAs are running the cases too fast for that. Sounds like something decent administrators will work out, but this being corr sent, who knows?
  • Finally, over at Mind Hacks, a description of “behavior detection techniques” hyped and promoted by entrepreneurs that, surprise, seem to be ineffective in real life. Won’t stop us from using them and inconveniencing and seriously injuring some people, though. Fits the heroic stories we tell ourselves about our superior intelligence. Reality has to really get in your face before it trumps a person convinced he’s smart. (And, yes, I have direct personal experience with that.)

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