Thursday, August 16, 2007

News of the Day, Thursday, August 16, 2007

  • The New Jim Crow (h/t Sentencing Law and Policy)
  • Latest teen drug use story here, with more teens saying that their schools have drugs going on but with those saying it was their primary concern dropping from a third to a quarter since the last survey. Here’s the part that interested me most: Students who consider themselves popular were more likely to use drugs, drink or smoke than students who do not view themselves as popular. Which likely means a lot of middle class and higher (sorry) kids, IOW, not the ones who’ll go to prison for this stuff in the future. Since the article and maybe survey don’t distinguish between drinking and other drugs, it’s hard to tell what this means for illegal drugs, but it’s probably safe that the high life, legal or illegal, is going to raise questions about the use of our scarce law enforcement and corrections resources for a little while longer.
  • NM’s legislature actually took the most rational step in the medical marijuana issue by having the state grow it itself, certify who could legally obtain it, and get the proceeds. Gets around a lot of the legit questions regarding the true needs of the patients. So what does the NM health dept do? Refuse to obey the law out of fear of federal prosecutions that have never happened and would even less likely happen if an entire state were on the block. The ball is in the NM’s governor’s hands now, who supported the legis but is now running for President. We’ll see if rationality can still prevail for once.
  • Speaking of rationality, here’s a good story out of WI about a former inmate who was having trouble sticking in “legit” society and who got a second chance from an understanding woman, who understood because she too had once been a former drug abuser. These are the stories we need to offset the horror stories and denials from the media that every offender is one of those irredeemable nightmares from Lifetime made-for-tv movies.
  • Very interesting story on an American Sociological Association panel discussing the reasons for the crime decline in NYC. As some of the articles abstracted here have indicated, there is a general consensus that the “broken windows” policy there did have an impact, although not as much as Guiliani and Bratten like to claim. But the failure of that policy to produce uniform results in other cities points to something unique going on in NYC’s culture, a point we also make here regularly. Cultures feature waves of activities that come and go as in any complex adaptive system, and crime seems to be one of those activities. This quote captures the mechanism well, I think: During the question-and-answer session that followed the presentations, Mr. Karmen was more explicit about what he saw as the reasons for the crime decline. “Street crime is a distorted form of social protest,” he said. “It comes out of anger, hostility to the system, to the man, to the rules, to the conditions of life that are so harsh. Frankly, I don’t see young people – including young minority males – being so angry any more.” There remains “a hard-core group of people that are disconnected socially, marginalized, out of work, out of school” that continues to engage in drug-dealing and violent gun play, he said, but far more people have had their anger diluted by “the consumer society.” (On a side note, he added that the diminution in anger is both good and bad. “They’re not committing crimes, but they’re not tackling these social conditions that have to be remedied,” he said.) (h/t Real Cost of Prisons)
  • Nasty, nasty article about modeling the results of a flesh-eating bacteria epidemic in the L.A. County jail. But cool, though. (Especially when you read elsewhere that flesh-eating diseases will be on the increase during global warming.)
  • Speaking of CA, from what I can tell about the situation there, described succinctly in this article, this seems like an eminently reasonable conclusion unless the courts step in: "The prospects for settlement at this time appear close to zero," Prison Law Office Director Don Specter advised the three judges. In preliminary talks with the state's lawyers and prominent state legislators of both political parties, "None of these persons has indicated that a voluntary resolution of the issues raised by these proceedings is a realistic possibility," Specter added.
  • You can find a link to that recent Urban Institute report on reentry if you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet at Corrections Community, NIC’s great resource.
  • Finally, why should any sex offender ever try to go straight if this is what they can expect anyway? How many more children do you then think will be harmed once those trying to turn their lives around figure it out? Speaking of which, the Adam Walsh Act, for all the good it may do, claims another victim already. Poor Adam.

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