Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thinking Outside the Cage

While some of us may have been watching football today, others have been continuing that quest for ultimate corrections sentencing knowledge and dissemination. One such soul has been Pam Clifton over at Think Outside the Cage, with a bunch of great finds, including this one detailing what's facing us as our prison population ages and multiplies the cost of maintaining them beyond anything we're talking about now, this op-ed on addressing the root causes for black anger and reaction which manifest themselves in prison pop growth that wouldn't stop even if we did get rid of any and all discrimination in our system (which Ben also notes below), and this coverage of Obama's recent speech on corr sent reform and his history on the topic as a state legislator in IL, among other posts. Thanks for doing our work for us, Pam.

Encouraging News From Alabama

The Association Press has the following story about the state of corrections in Alabama one year after the implementation of its Commission's guidelines.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Sentencing standards that are expected to help solve some of the state's prison overcrowding problems have now been in use for a year and officials say the early response is encouraging.

Rosa Davis, who is on the Alabama Sentencing Commission's executive committee, said the usage rate of the standards by judges for the first year is about 86 percent, and the goal for the next 12 months is bringing that up to 100 percent.

She said about 10,000 worksheets have been filled out to guide sentencing and described the number as a "strong indication of success."

"I certainly would have liked to have perfect compliance in the first year, but I know there were an awful lot of real logistical problems in learning to use and practice using the worksheets," she said.

The state Legislature passed a bill that established the new guidelines in 2006 after it failed to win approval for two years. The voluntary guidelines give judges more options, which tighten the range of prison time for drug crimes and reduce minimum sentences for property crimes.

Sentences for certain drug felonies can be shortened from a range of one to 10 years to a range of one year to about five and one-half years.

Alabama's prison system was designed to hold 12,714 inmates, but there were 29,148 inmates housed in corrections facilities in August.

Overcrowding was cited as one of the main reasons for the new guidelines, which are expected to help ease some of the congestion in about four years if at least 75 percent of judges agree to use them. The 86 percent usage for the first year surpassed that target.

Davis said steps are being taken to make it 100 percent.

"We're trying to work (the kinks) out on a county by county basis," she said.

Judge Tommy Nail, who presides in the 10th Judicial Circuit in Birmingham, said he uses the guidelines in about 95 percent of cases, but found that his sentences would have normally fallen within the newly recommended ranges anyway.

He said the reaction from other judges has been "mixed."

"Some like them, some don't. It varies from judge to judge," he said. "I think the biggest thing like anything else is change comes slowly in something that's as conservative as the criminal justice system."

"Also, it's a judgment call that can vary depending on the facts of the case, so it really depends to some extent on the individual case," he said.

Commission statistician Bennet Wright said it will be at least another year before enough data is collected for "meaningful analysis" to determine the impact of the guidelines.

"It would be possible to gather data before then, but we wouldn't be really sure that information is both valid and reliable," he said.

The New York Times Weighs In

This editorial from the New Jersey Section of the New York Times exhorts Governor Jon Corzine to reform the state's drug laws as a central part of his soon-to-be-announced crime plan.

Ditch These Drug Laws

New Jersey is missing out on an excellent (if necessarily incomplete) remedy for its fiscal crisis. Sadly, the only reason is that the state’s elected officials have been too scared to touch it.

The remedy is to change the state’s misguided drug laws. They were designed years ago to reduce illegal drug use by forcing judges to imprison just about every nonviolent offender who came before them. Not only have the laws not solved the drug problem, they have been counterproductive and terribly unfair. Thousands of young drug users have been put in prison, reducing their chances for treatment at an age when it could turn their lives around.

During the past decade, the judiciary has improved the situation somewhat by establishing special drug courts. Selected nonviolent drug offenders are placed on probation, monitored closely and treated for drug dependency. But over all, the state’s harsh drug laws continue to fill its prisons beyond capacity and cost it hundreds of millions each year.

The most egregious of these laws is one imposing a mandatory prison term, usually three years, on anyone selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, even if youngsters are not involved.

There is hope that Trenton may do something. The state attorney general, Anne Milgram, is working out details of a broad new plan to fight crime. And Gov. Jon Corzine, who appointed her, says he wants the plan to emphasize new ways, short of prison, for dealing with nonviolent drug violators. Mr. Corzine has long been an advocate of expanded drug treatment.

Whether the Legislature will go along with this is a big question, however. Up to now, a majority of lawmakers have been afraid to act, fearful they will be accused of being soft on crime. But many other states with fiscal problems — including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Texas — are seizing on this way of saving money, and Mississippi and Texas are hardly known for being soft on crime.

Neither are New Jersey’s prosecutors. Several of them, however, support treatment for low-level drug offenders, rather than mandatory imprisonment. Many prosecutors will tell you that the emphasis on putting drug offenders in prison distracts them from dealing with serious crime. In Newark and the rest of Essex County, prosecutors presented more than 8,600 cases to grand juries last year; more than 40 percent of them involved nonviolent drug offenses.

Drug treatment does not guarantee a good outcome for offenders. But as the drug courts have shown, it is far more effective in preventing recidivism among nonviolent offenders than prison. And it costs far less to treat a drug offender than the estimated $34,000 a year it costs to imprison one. The worst course is what exists now: thousands of young drug offenders getting released from prison, where they received no effective treatment. That only increases the chances that these once-nonviolent offenders will go on to commit more serious crimes.

The more sensible course would be to stop imprisoning these low-level offenders, divert some of the savings for treatment, and use the millions of dollars left over to reduce the fiscal deficit. It is time that Trenton learned this lesson.

But is it isn't all about the drug laws. In the Week in Review section, Orlando Patterson opines with great eloquence about the undeniably pivotal role culture plays with regard to the disproportionate imprisonment of african-americans. Doctrinaire liberals may (and perhaps should) be discomfited by this thought-provoking and compelling piece:

Jena, O. J. and the Jailing of Black America

The miscarriage of justice at Jena, La. — where five black high school students arrested for beating a white student were charged with attempted murder — and the resulting protest march tempts us to the view, expressed by several of the marchers, that not much has changed in traditional American racial relations. However, a remarkable series of high-profile incidents occurring elsewhere in the nation at about the same time, as well as the underlying reason for the demonstrations themselves, make it clear that the Jena case is hardly a throwback to the 1960s, but instead speaks to issues that are very much of our times.

What exactly attracted thousands of demonstrators to the small Louisiana town? While for some it was a simple case of righting a grievous local injustice, and for others an opportunity to relive the civil rights era, for most the real motive was a long overdue cry of outrage at the use of the prison system as a means of controlling young black men.

America has more than two million citizens behind bars, the highest absolute and per capita rate of incarceration in the world. Black Americans, a mere 13 percent of the population, constitute half of this country’s prisoners. A tenth of all black men between ages 20 and 35 are in jail or prison; blacks are incarcerated at over eight times the white rate.

The effect on black communities is catastrophic: one in three male African-Americans in their 30s now has a prison record, as do nearly two-thirds of all black male high school dropouts. These numbers and rates are incomparably greater than anything achieved at the height of the Jim Crow era. What’s odd is how long it has taken the African-American community to address in a forceful and thoughtful way this racially biased and utterly counterproductive situation.

How, after decades of undeniable racial progress, did we end up with this virtual gulag of racial incarceration?

Part of the answer is a law enforcement system that unfairly focuses on drug offenses and other crimes more likely to be committed by blacks, combined with draconian mandatory sentencing and an absurdly counterproductive retreat from rehabilitation as an integral method of dealing with offenders. An unrealistic fear of crime that is fed in part by politicians and the press, a tendency to emphasize punitive measures and old-fashioned racism are all at play here.

But there is another equally important cause: the simple fact that young black men commit a disproportionate number of crimes, especially violent crimes, which cannot be attributed to judicial bias, racism or economic hardships. The rate at which blacks commit homicides is seven times that of whites.

Why is this? Several incidents serendipitously occurring at around the same time as the march on Jena hint loudly at a possible answer.

In New York City, the tabloids published sensational details of the bias suit brought by a black former executive for the Knicks, Anucha Browne Sanders, who claims that she was frequently called a “bitch” and a “ho” by the Knicks coach and president, Isiah Thomas. In a video deposition, Thomas said that while it is always wrong for a white man to verbally abuse a black woman in such terms, it was “not as much ... I’m sorry to say” for a black man to do so.

Across the nation, religious African-Americans were shocked that the evangelical minister Juanita Bynum, an enormously popular source of inspiration for churchgoing black women, said she was brutally beaten in a parking lot by her estranged husband, Bishop Thomas Weeks.

O. J. Simpson, the malevolent central player in an iconic moment in the nation’s recent black-white (as well as male-female) relations, reappeared on the scene, charged with attempted burglary, kidnapping and felonious assault in Las Vegas, in what he claimed was merely an attempt to recover stolen memorabilia.

These events all point to something that has been swept under the rug for too long in black America: the crisis in relations between men and women of all classes and, as a result, the catastrophic state of black family life, especially among the poor. Isiah Thomas’s outrageous double standard shocked many blacks in New York only because he had the nerve to say out loud what is a fact of life for too many black women who must daily confront indignity and abuse in hip-hop misogyny and everyday conversation.

What is done with words is merely the verbal end of a continuum of abuse that too often ends with beatings and spousal homicide. Black relationships and families fail at high rates because women increasingly refuse to put up with this abuse. The resulting absence of fathers — some 70 percent of black babies are born to single mothers — is undoubtedly a major cause of youth delinquency.

The circumstances that far too many African-Americans face — the lack of paternal support and discipline; the requirement that single mothers work regardless of the effect on their children’s care; the hypocritical refusal of conservative politicians to put their money where their mouths are on family values; the recourse by male youths to gangs as parental substitutes; the ghetto-fabulous culture of the streets; the lack of skills among black men for the jobs and pay they want; the hypersegregation of blacks into impoverished inner-city neighborhoods — all interact perversely with the prison system that simply makes hardened criminals of nonviolent drug offenders and spits out angry men who are unemployable, unreformable and unmarriageable, closing the vicious circle.

Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other leaders of the Jena demonstration who view events there, and the racial horror of our prisons, as solely the result of white racism are living not just in the past but in a state of denial. Even after removing racial bias in our judicial and prison system — as we should and must do — disproportionate numbers of young black men will continue to be incarcerated.

Until we view this social calamity in its entirety — by also acknowledging the central role of unstable relations among the sexes and within poor families, by placing a far higher priority on moral and social reform within troubled black communities, and by greatly expanding social services for infants and children — it will persist.

More NCJRS Abstracts, Juvenile Articles


NCJ 219600
David B. Henry; Kimberly Kobus
Early Adolescent Social Networks and Substance Use
Journal of Early Adolescence
Volume:27 Issue:3 Dated:August 2007 Pages:346 to 362

This study explored the relationships between social network position and the use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants among a sample of sixth grade youth. Results indicated that youth nominated by follow students as liaisons between social network groups were more likely to use tobacco than social network members or social isolates. Social liaisons were also more likely to use alcohol than were social isolates. Youth in the three social positions did not differ with regards to their use of inhalants or marijuana. Four potential explanations are offered for the higher use of tobacco and alcohol use among social liaisons: (1) greater opportunity for association with substance abusing peers; (2) social liaisons experience increased stress as a result of their boundary spanning and are thus more likely to self-medicate with alcohol and tobacco; (3) social liaisons offer a snapshot of a dynamic process whereby substance use promotes group acceptance or rejection; and (4) liaisons may have been in the process of being marginalized by peer groups, thus becoming more susceptible to peer pressure to use substances. Future research should use longitudinal data to investigate changes in substance use and social network position as youth progress through adolescence. Participants were 1,119 sixth-grade students from 144 classes in 14 public schools who were participating in the Metropolitan Area Child Study in and around Chicago, IL. Social networks were assessed using the peer nomination inventory in which students rate their peers according to a series of questions, such as “Who would you like to be your best friend?” Involvement in substance abuse was measured using an abbreviated version of the Self-Report of Delinquency questionnaire. Data were analyzed using logistic regression models. Tables, references

NCJ 219645
Benjamin Steiner; Andrew L. Giacomazzi
Juvenile Waiver, Boot Camp, and Recidivism in a Northwestern State
The Prison Journal
Volume:87 Issue:2 Dated:June 2007 Pages:227 to 240

This study examined the effectiveness of a boot camp program in terms of recidivism for juveniles waived to criminal court in a Northwestern State. Findings from this study suggest that when controlling for age, race, offense type, and criminal history, waived juveniles sentenced to a boot camp facility, known as the rider program were less likely to reoffend than those offenders sentenced to probation. Prior research suggests that juveniles waived to criminal court are typically sentenced to prison or probation. Boot camps represent an intermediate sanction that is typically reserved for young, first-time offenders, making waived youth probable candidates for a boot camp sentence. Boot camps, whether juvenile or adult specific, have been shown to be effective in reducing recidivism in some areas but ineffective in others. The waiver of juveniles to adult criminal court, an increasing phenomenon in recent years, transfers young offenders out of the juvenile system and into the adult criminal justice system, where the range of sanctions is presumably greater. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of the rider program, in terms of recidivism, for juveniles waived to criminal court in a rural northwestern State. The target population for the study included all juveniles waived to criminal court between 1995 and 1999 who were sentenced to the rider program or probation. Tables, references

How Coverage Is Supposed to Be

One of the things I appreciated most about my time in Madison was the excellent coverage of corrections sentencing issues by the two major newspapers in the state, including Madison's Wisconsin State Journal. Its publisher was pretty much your typical ideological basketcase, but the reporting was thorough and tough when it needed to be. To get a good example of what I'm describing, check in here to its series on a "bad" prosecutor, a more usual one than just those yahoos who've been making the news lately.

Please note that the DA in Madison is a "good" prosecutor and so is the bulk of his office. The DA has nailed some of the unfortunately too frequent and accepted corruption at the Capitol on a disturbingly regular basis. And he has a stated commitment to evidence-based practice and to a legitimate justice system, as you'll see when you read this story. But even good prosecution offices can be seriously tainted by ADAs "with passionate devotion." Note as well how "hard work" substitutes for "good work" for too many of this ADA's supporters and how he has a reputation for "honesty" despite the facts documented in this first of the series. And most of all, note how the bad behavior is justified by his commitment to victims, as if that makes it all right, which, unfortunately, it does to too many in our communities. The problem, of course, is that he's defining the "victims" and, as I've mentioned before, "victims" is a very diverse term, far more diverse in our opinions and desires for the system than what he is clearly picturing. The good victims organizations know that misuse of the system in their name not only frequently puts innocent people in jail and the true victimizers still free to continue but also creates distrust of the system by those whose cooperation will later be necessary to bring true offenders to justice.

The best thing about this story is the paper's willingness to delve in so deeply and bring this to light. "Light" is the necessary desanitizer for so much of the truly abhorrent behavior by not just prosecutors but also judges and defense types that has delegitimized and undermined so much of our sentencing system, and it's not shined nearly enough. Transparency and thorough and accurate data make it possible for us to restore some of the lost confidence and to refute the silliness so much of our justice rhetoric is infected with these days. Every newspaper in the country should have a full-time reporter whose job is to apply the same careful and objective eye to all the court participants that the Journal is this week. Hopefully their colleagues will be paying as much attention as I will be.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More NCJRS Abstracts, Sex Offenses Edition


NCJ 219658
Michelle Cohen; Elizabeth L. Jeglic
Sex Offender Legislation in the United States: What Do We Know?
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Volume:51 Issue:4 Dated:August 2007 Pages:369 to 383

This article reviews current trends in sex offender legislation and analyzes how these policies may impact sex offender recidivism and treatment. Despite less than promising research findings, it is likely that the public will continue to favor incarceration and incapacitation of sex offenders over treatment. Future research should explore other methods of dealing with sex offenders to replace or accompany those already in use. Main trends under examination included: mandatory sentencing laws, civil commitment, community notification, monitoring, and supervision. The current trend in dealing with sex offenders is to incarcerate them. Additionally, multiple new laws have been enacted allowing for longer periods of confinement for sex offenders. Many States even have mandatory sentencing laws for sex offenders to ensure that their incarceration will be both severe and uniform. For those who have already been released, there has been a movement toward increased monitoring. Sex offenders can also be civilly committed following the termination of their criminal sentence. While the option of civil commitments was originally designed to offer treatment to mentally ill offenders, it has devolved into a system used to keep sex offenders out of the community after their maximum sentences have expired. Once sex offenders have been released into the community and are under community supervision, a variety of laws govern their whereabouts and actions, including community notification laws, physical monitoring systems, and lifetime supervision policies. Many of these legal-based methods for dealing with sex offenders lack research regarding their effectiveness and the research on community notification laws indicates that these laws are ineffective and impractical. References

NCJ 219589
Lynn M. Pazzani
Factors Affecting Sexual Assaults Committed by Strangers and Acquaintances
Violence Against Women
Volume:13 Issue:7 Dated:July 2007 Pages:717 to 749

This study explored whether the causes of two types of sexual assault--stranger and acquaintance rape--differ. The findings point to different causes for stranger rape versus acquaintance rape. Factors associated with gender equality, prior child abuse, and prior sexual assaults were associated with acquaintance rape while a culture of “hypermasculinity” was associated with stranger rape. Other findings revealed that women who had been victims of child abuse or victims of prior sexual assaults were more likely to be current victims of acquaintance rape, but not stranger rape. The findings generally support feminist theories regarding violence against women stemming from historical and structural patriarchal beliefs and practices. Data were drawn from the Violence and Threats of Violence Against Women and Men in the United States, 1994-1996 survey, which used a nationally representative sample of 8,000 women and 8,000 men contacted by telephone using random-digit dialing. The survey asked respondents about violent victimization and sexual victimization. Data were analyzed using conventional multivariate statistical techniques including ordinary least squares regression, logistic regression, and multinomial logistic regression. Tables, appendix, notes, references

NCJ 219661
Eric Beauregard; Jean Proulx
Classification of Sexual Homicide Against Men
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Volume:51 Issue:4 Dated:August 2007 Pages:420 to 432

This study explored the sexual murders of men and offers a typology of sexual homicides of men. Three distinctive types of sexual homicides of men were identified: (1) the avenger; (2) the sexual predator; and (3) the nonsexual predator. After describing the general trends in the sexual murder of men, each of these three types of sexual homicide perpetrators is described, including their motivation and the characteristics of the criminal event. The avenger type of sexual murderer tends to be involved in prostitution and have substance abuse problems. Most experienced different forms of abuse during childhood. The motivation to murder may be to avenge himself of all past victimizations. Anger usually precedes the event and a weapon of opportunity is generally used. The sexual predator, on the other hand, is motivated by deviant sexual fantasies and he may have committed past sexual offenses against children. The victim is usually abducted and the event is marked by sadistic acts. The nonsexual predator is not motivated by deviant thoughts or by anger. Instead, this type of homicide tends to be accidental or instrumental. The principle motivation in most cases is to rob the victim, which then degenerates into homicide due to victim resistance. In most cases, the victim is not sexual assaulted, although sexual contact between the victim and offender may occur to manipulate the victim. Future research should continue to gather empirical evidence about this rare but very serious crime. Participants were 10 sexual murderers incarcerated in Quebec, Canada between 1998 and 2000. Participants completed interviews regarding the specifics of their crime, disinhibitors such as deviant sexual fantasies and substance abuse, occupational problems, relationship problems, and victim characteristics. The institutional files of the participants, the police reports, and in some cases the autopsy reports were also reviewed. Tables, note, references

Friday, September 28, 2007

One Is The Loneliest Number

Mike's effusive praise directed at my work in recent posts has not only caused severe cranial swelling, but also instilled a strong desire on my part to chime in on his observations based on my own experiences. First, the obvious. Understaffed commissions are intrinsically doomed to premature extinction. Candidly, I doubt very much that the New Jersey Commission will remain a viable, permanent entity, at least in its present form. This is in no way attributable to my departure: I'm genuinely convinced that many talented people with far greater expertise in this area could easily outperform me in the capacity of ED. Nor is it necessarily a direct criticism of the Commission as a whole, although blame could, I think, be fairly apportioned to several members who were simply incapable or unwilling to step up to the plate and advocate on the Commission's behalf.

My prediction is simply made in recognition of the fact that the Commission was brought into existence by well-intentioned people who were totally unfamiliar with the concept of a full-fledged sentencing commission of the sort exemplied by those in NC, VA, KA, MN, and contemplated by the pending legislation in California. The NJ commission's enabling legislation articulated no specific mandates beyond one amorphous duty to review New Jersey's criminal laws for "fairness and proportionality." It was a foundation of sand.

More importantly, I think that had the legislation encompassed a broader, more radical (for NJ) approach to setting sentencing policy, it would have garnered little, if any, widespread political support. This leads to another truism: a commission not entrusted to actually devise and implement sentencing policy is a commission not worth having.

When organized law enforcement signed on to the commission's recommendation to reform NJ's bogus drug free zone laws, I assumed that the Legislature would readily heed the call for change. Boy, how wrong I was. The hyperpolitization of crime policy in New Jersey (a Blue state to the core, incidentally) is so entrenched that even sympathetic legislators were cowed from endorsing a proposal supported by cops and prosecutors. And as the veil of naivete was being lifted, it became all too evident that my Commission was, sooner rather than later, going to drift into utter irrelevance despite my best efforts. It was about then that I first entertained the idea of bailing.

This idea was only compounded by the fact that during my tenure I inhabited an office with no colleagues, no support staff, nothing. Save for the company of Howard Stern on my satellite receiver (I'm neither proud nor ashamed), I worked entirely alone. Amazingly, New Jersey still lacks a state statistical analysis center. Consequently, I couldn't even appropriate data from another source had I wanted to. Ultimately, something just had to give. When an opportunity arose to go back to serving as a prosecutor, I felt I had no alternative but to move on for the sake of my family and my mental health.

To be certain, things are happening in New Jersey. Governor Corzine may very well formally embrace and advocate for passage of the Commission's recent proposals in the coming weeks. I certainly hope he does, although his backing will in no way gaurantee legislative success. Perhaps I left the party too soon as some friends have intimated. Sadly, I'm still convinced otherwise. NJ, as in so many other respects, is just a cautionary example.

Okay, This One's for Your Weekend

HASTINGS, Minn. - A Farmington woman accused of driving for half a mile with her husband on the hood of her car and her 9-year-old child in the front passenger seat now faces criminal charges.

The Dakota County Attorney's office filed a felony criminal complaint this week charging Jill Ann Miller-Cooper, 34, with two counts of criminal vehicular operation resulting in substantial bodily harm and one count of child endangerment.

Miller-Cooper is accused of hitting her husband on Aug. 15 in the parking lot of the restaurant he owns. The complaint said the impact tossed Randall Cooper onto the car's hood and Miller-Cooper drove off. The complaint said she eventually stopped and her husband fell off the car, then she drove away.

However, Miller-Cooper told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that her husband climbed on the car while it was parked.

"He was very threatening, and I wanted to leave," she said. "I stopped two times. He put his leg down, and I slammed on the brakes. ... It's been an ugly situation."

Cooper suffered a fractured knee.

Not Really Corrections Sentencing

Or even TECHNOCORRECTIONS, but I liked this quote over at Mind Hacks and thought it might get your weekend off to a good start. Enjoy.

TechReview has an article on teaching computers to have meaningful conversations.

Presumably, teaching humans is going to be the next step.

Wait . . . it actually does relate to corrections sentencing.

State Budgets, Get Ready

Recession now a sure thing.

Greenspan sees recession chances less than 50/50

Depression and Perceptions of Likely Crime Victimization

Strong relationship between depression, quality of life, and fear of being a crime victimization (high for the first, low for the second, high for the third). As the article notes, the fear doesn’t have to (and usually doesn’t) bear any relationship to the reality of being a crime victim. Works either way.

The researchers then compared the results with data collected about their mental and physical health -- symptoms of anxiety and depression, physical function, and quality of life. After adjusting for age, gender, employment grade, length of residence and previous mental health status, researchers found that participants with a high fear of crime were 1.93 times as likely to exhibit symptoms of depression and 1.75 times as likely to exhibit symptoms of anxiety, than those reporting low fear of crime. These people exercised less, saw friends less often and participated in fewer social activities compared with less fearful participants.

Dr Stafford explains that: "Things that influence our behaviour influence our health. One behavioural response to fear of crime is avoidance, so in this case fear of crime may stop some people taking part in the physical and social activities that are so good for health and wellbeing. If you are fearful, you are less willing to go out socially and less inclined to take physical activity. This impacts heavily on people's mental health and overall quality of life, as well as having an impact on their physical health, albeit less pronounced. It seems likely that if we work to reduce fear of crime, we could actually improve people's health."

So there’s more at stake than just who gets audiences and votes when our media and politicians hype crime as a means of “winning.” They’re creating real harm and actual victims themselves, not that that will stop them, any more than these words of advice will:

Commenting on the findings, Professor Gloria Laycock, UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, said: "Research does suggest that irrespective of recorded crime levels, public perceptions are that crime is on the increase. Even though data from the British Crime Survey (BCS) shows that crime has fallen in the last decade, people believe that crime is rising -- around two in three people believe that crime nationally has increased in the last two years and two in five people think that crime in their local area has increased.

"It is very interesting that people's perceptions of overall crime remain out of kilter with the figures and that these perceptions could actually have a significant impact on health. We must do more to educate people about the realities of their vulnerability to crime, as well as taking action to reduce fear of crime on a local and national level. For example, we need to look at the ways in which crime is reported in the national and local press and be sure to avoid sensationalism."

Agreeing With Berman, Again

I concur with Doug Berman’s judgment of the hopeful signs that Obama might finally be noticing the need for serious corr sent policy in his speech today at Howard. The thing that most encourages me is this recognition of drug rehab programs “that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior”—both for the commitment to evidence-based policy implied but also simply for someone finally saying that prison doesn’t stop crime as effectively for some offenders as alternatives. Now all he has to do is get elected.

$100, Tax-Free

To anyone who can tell me what this lunatic Border Patrol Deputy Chief is talking about when he calls pot a “weapon of mass effect.” And that’s with spotting you the definition in the article.

Proof that these guys need serious counseling.

Latest NJ Sentencing Report

Press Release (

TRENTON - The New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing (Commission) today issued the first comprehensive and independent examination of legislative changes relevant to sentencing of adult criminal offenders since the enactment of the Code of Criminal Justice (Code) in 1979.

Specifically, the report explains the sentencing system established by Legislature in 1979 as part of the then-newly enacted Code. In addition, the report discusses how subsequent and numerous statutory changes to the Code during the intervening 28 years have fundamentally altered that scheme in terms of both the amount of punishment authorized and the process by which sentences are imposed.

This is a very well-written and valuable report even if you're not in NJ. Very thorough and gives you a very good idea of what kind of effort this takes, for you state types considering doing this yourself. Need I remind you that Ben Barlyn is the author, and that he was all the staff that NJ had? In some ways, getting someone as committed and talented as Ben screws it up for everyone else because NJ and other states that asked them will decide that it only takes one person to do this kind of work and not commit the resources necessary to do it regularly and for the long haul. Need I remind you that Ben left the NJ commission after finishing this report? Leaving a trail of very good work at their site that can serve you as a model and hopefully extend his impact beyond the work he did for NJ.

Insanity and Hearings on Insanity

Real Cost of Prisons has a couple of nicely juxtaposed posts today. One on ">OH’s plan to use a new reentry center to house female offenders returning to the community and . . . wait for it . . . sex offenders who don’t have any other place to live when released. Okay, I know on some planets this makes sense, especially since the sex offenders will be monitored and GPS’ed and everything, and we do say that sex offenders are not all alike and can have low recidivism rates. But think of the PR on this, especially when the surrounding community is already protesting having sex offenders housed around at all. I’m hoping there’s more to the story and this has all been better planned than indicated. Maybe everything will go without a hitch. But sometimes you can’t avoid trouble and sometimes you can. This sounds like a “can.” The other post has to do with Sen. Webb (D-VA) holding hearings (finally) on what our incarceration binge has done to us socially, economically, and politically, with some decent witnesses to present the case. Maybe they’ll talk about how a country can get to the point where it’s considered best economically and administratively to house female inmates and sex offenders together.

Birth Order and Adolescent Aggression

Not really sure what this tells us or what we'll do with it, but it's interesting:

In sum, the presence of both older and younger siblings influences the development of aggressive behavior in adolescence. Having a brother or a highly aggressive sibling of either gender can lead to greater increases in aggression over time.

Researchers looked at 451 sibling pairs, ages 9 through 18, and their parents. The adolescent siblings each rated their own aggressive behaviors, and parents described economic pressures on the family, such as difficulty paying bills. Trained observers assessed the hostility the parents directed toward each adolescent during family interactions. In their work, the researchers took into consideration the age difference between the siblings as well as such factors as parenting styles and family economics.

The study also found that older siblings who were aggressive tended to have younger siblings who were also aggressive, and vice versa. This association was found for sibling pairs with two boys, two girls, and one boy and one girl. Aggression in younger siblings also predicted increases in aggression in older siblings over time, and vice versa, though the extent varied according to each sibling's gender.

Parents' hostility also played a role in the development of aggression in their children. Family economic pressure predicted increased aggression indirectly, through its association with parental hostility.

Jail Politics

Interesting story sent in by a faithful reader regarding a controversy in Los Angeles where a holding jail stands unused for the purposes built and taxpayers are wondering why when Paris Hilton can't serve her full term because the rest of the city jails are overcrowded. Does sound like poor communications running up against public dissatisfaction, but serves as a nice example of the way crim just and corr sent debates go.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Good News

Afghan farmers find alternative to opium:

Bad news


My Kind of Study

When The Going Gets Tough, Maybe You Should Quit

Actually might have some corrections sentencing implications in a couple of ways, too.

Prison Pop Growth Rates Lower

Governing and Sentencing Law and Policy both have noted the WaPo article on the Census report of only a 4% growth rate in prison pops over this decade so far compared to the explosion in the last decade. The usual suspects are cited as reasons, including the fact that those guys imprisoned in large numbers in the 90s are coming out right now, offsetting arrivals to a large extent. How long that lasts will depend on their recidivism rates, which aren’t promising right now since their arrival in the 90s meant most states had to severely cut reentry efforts. Maybe the Census folks should have waited for a full decade to report this stuff.

One point I’d like to add that isn’t in the article is the dramatic impact NY has on these numbers. Because of its aggressive policing while deferring large prison pop buildups, it’s actually been leading nationally in reducing crime and keeping prison pop numbers down. We’ve seen the impact on the national crime rate. There’s good reason to believe that it’s affecting this, too. Other states, such as MO, have been following aggressive info-gathering and dissemination for judges at sentencing in order to improve their knowledge of what sanctions seem to work and what ones don’t. And? Their prison pops went down last year, too. States like OK and LA that haven’t done those things? Well, OK’s pops went up about 3% last year, similar to the 90s. The point is, the slowing of the growth rate is more due to certain states pursuing effective non-incarcerative policies that reduced intake than it is a general, across-the-board phenomenon. States looking to get their continuing prison population growth under control might be well advised to look at the NYs and the MOs rather than states that have done guidelines or states that just lock and throw.

[In Doug’s comments at Sent Law, Grits for Breakfast notes the increases we’re looking at in 65-year-olds and older and in women prisoners. It’s a good time to note that offenders 50 and older generally are considered to cost 2 to 3 times the younger prisoners due to their particular health and other needs. IOW, even if populations were dropping, the increases in these numbers would keep the costs to prisons from going down and in fact may keep them higher. And what Grits doesn’t note is that one of the even more specialized demographic groups needing special care in prisons will be those females who are 50 and older. If you think this report is good news for prison costs, well, it is, compared to the 90s. But the impacts won’t be proportional to the rate of decline. Costs are going to keep rising, diverting dollars from more effective crime and victim prevention efforts.]

I'm Getting Serious Now

When are we going to admit that we have a legal drug that does more harm than those for which we imprison people?

Alcohol And Cancer: Is Drinking The New Smoking?

Yes, we failed before when we tried to make it illegal, but, if our justification for the illegal ones is the harm they do, shouldn’t our message be the same for this, and what does it say that it’s not?

The Mark of a Great Society

More minorities in cells than dorms. But the stock market’s booming.

Genes and Addiction

Researchers have id’ed another gene that is implicated in more susceptibility to addictive behaviors.

"Previous evidence indicates that genes play a major role in liability to addictions, including alcoholism," said Riley. "Yet genes are certainly not sufficient to produce disease by themselves. The individual must be exposed to alcohol, which, in common with any chemical encountered in the world, is explicitly environmental. When you consider that addictions also involve that incredibly complex and unpredictable thing that is human behavior, then the real complexity of the problem is clear."

Also the real solution to the problem. If you can change the genes. Which they can now.


Early Mistreatment, Later Abusiveness

A new study catches the links between child maltreatment victimization and later youth violence and young adult intimate partner violence (IPV). The basic points?

Depending on the specific type of child maltreatment experienced, compared to nonvictims, victims were more likely to perpetrate youth violence (up to 6.6% for females and 11.9% for males) and young adult IPV (up to 10.4% for females and 17.2% for males). Gender differences exist in the links between child maltreatment, youth violence and IPV.

For instance, the link between IPV perpetration and child maltreatment in the forms of physical abuse and neglect was stronger in females. The link between child sexual abuse and future IPV perpetration was significant for males but not for females. Gender differences also exist in the effects of socioeconomic factors on youth violence and IPV.

Writing in the article, the study authors note that victims of child maltreatment are more likely to perpetrate youth violence and IPV in the future and that there was less of an effect of child maltreatment on future victimization of youth violence or IPV. The authors state that these findings reinforce the commonly held views that preventing child maltreatment may be key to preventing future perpetration of youth violence, and that interventions targeting youth violence may also serve to prevent later IPV perpetration or concurrent dating violence.

Psychology, Crime & Law Abstracts

Latest articles from Psychology, Crime & Law (h/t Psychology and Crime News). More, very interesting articles can be found here.

Alcohol as drug of choice; Is drug-assisted rape a misnomer?
Miranda Horvath; Jennifer Brown
DOI: 10.1080/10683160601061117
Psychology, Crime & Law, Volume 13, Issue 5 October 2007 , pages 417 - 429

Building on previous research which identified alcohol as the drug of choice for facilitating sexual assaults, this paper analysed 93 rape cases reported to the police in which the victim was under the influence of drugs/alcohol when the assault occurred. The aim was to explore what substances victims consumed to become incapacitated and who induced the state of incapacity. The degree of pre-planning suggests that the offender could be described as opportunistic or predatory. Findings demonstrated that the majority of rapes (coming to police notice) in which alcohol or drugs are implicated, are circumstances where the victim has self-intoxicated through alcohol consumption. There were relatively few cases in which drugs had been administered surreptitiously. The analyses successfully identified differences between rapes that occur when the victim is intoxicated or drugged according to how she consumed that alcohol/drug and what kind of alcohol/drugs she had consumed. The concept of negotiative space is offered as a potential theoretical explanation. The findings are discussed in the light of this and recommendations for crime prevention are made.

The measurement and influence of child sexual abuse supportive beliefs
Ruth Mann; Stephen Webster; Helen Wakeling; William
DOI: 10.1080/10683160601061141
Psychology, Crime & Law, Volume 13, Issue 5 October 2007 , pages 443 - 458

The identification of offence-related cognition is a major target of most cognitive-behavioural treatment programmes for sexual offenders, and a number of measures are available for this purpose. This study assessed the psychometric properties of a brief measure of beliefs that support and justify child sexual abuse: the Sex With Children (SWCH) scale. Factor analysis revealed two distinct types of belief: that sex with children is harmless, and that children actively provoke adults into having sex with them. The SWCH was also found to have good internal consistency, test-retest reliability and concurrent validity. Child molesters scored significantly more highly on the SWCH than did rapists or non-offenders, and high-risk child molesters reported more entrenched offence-supportive beliefs than lower risk child molesters. A relationship was also observed between general offence-supportive beliefs as measured by SWCH and offence-specific cognitions ascribing responsibility or enjoyment to the offender's victim. The SWCH subscales appeared to closely match two of the implicit theories hypothesized by Ward and Keenan (1999) to be related to child molestation. Sex offender treatment providers need to be aware of the relationship between underlying implicit theories and offence-specific distorted cognitions about the victim's experience.

The role of cognitive distortions in paedophilic offending: Internet and contact offenders compared
Dennis Howitta; Kerry Sheldon
DOI: 10.1080/10683160601060564
Psychology, Crime & Law, Volume 13, Issue 5 October 2007 , pages 469 - 486

Cognitive distortions are held to contribute to sexual offending against children in a number of theoretical explanations of such crimes. However, not only is there little or no direct evidence in support of the centrality of cognitive distortions in offending but recent research has questioned whether the concept has explanatory power. Cognitive distortions are variously seen as necessary for the offender to offend against children, as post-offending justifications for the offence, or as reflecting distorted patterns in the offender's upbringing. This paper explores the role of cognitive distortions in sex offending by comparing the distortions of contact sex offenders against children with Internet child pornography offenders without contact offences against children. A new cognitive distortions questionnaire was developed which was suitable for administration to Internet offenders who had no contact offences against children as well as being suitable for contact offenders. It was found that some cognitive distortions are frequently agreed with by sex offenders against children whereas others were seldom or never agreed with. Little support was found for earlier typological approaches to the cognitive schema of sex offenders against children. Contrary to the expectation that contact offenders would have more cognitive distortions, it was found that Internet offenders had more cognitive distortions that children are sexual beings. Furthermore, there were no differences in cognitive distortions justifying the offence. However, offenders with a previous history of offending were more likely to admit to cognitive distortions which justify their offending. It is accepted that cognitive distortions are readily recognized in interviews with sex offenders against children. Nevertheless, it is argued that there is a need for new research to stimulate a new understanding of the nature and role of cognitive distortions in sex offending.

iPods and Literacy

Teri Carns from the AK (Alaska, not Arkansas) Justice Center sends this link to an Urban Institute study linking iPods and violent crime increases, as stealing them forcibly is what we in most states call robbery. Not immediately obvious, but the stats are convincing. Sneakers, now iPods, driving crime rates. For those of us old enough to remember, auto burglaries zoomed once eight-tracks came available. If you ask "what's an eight-track?", get out of my sight. Here's the UI release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. September 26, 2007 -- Crime statistics released Monday by the FBI showed violent crime increased in 2005 and 2006, and a new Urban Institute analysis offers evidence that the concurrent explosion in iPod use may have triggered the spike.

The gadgets are not just entertaining and convenient; their high value, visibility, and versatility make them "criminogenic"--or "crime-creating," in the vocabulary of criminologists. And their power to distract users can give thieves an advantage. Researchers John Roman and Aaron Chalfin suggest in the report "Is There an iCrime Wave?" that iPods' popularity with consumers and appeal to criminals may have translated into rising violent crime rates.

Roman and Chalfin note that robberies--thefts that use or threaten violence--were up 3.9 percent in 2005 and 6.8 percent in 2006, while theft overall declined by 6 percent and auto theft fell 5 percent over the two-year span. The iPod's popularity among young people may make it a special target for juvenile offenders, and indeed youth robbery arrests jumped 11 percent in 2005 and 21 percent in 2006. Adult robbery arrests rose only 1 percent in 2005 and 5 percent the following year.

An outbreak of iPod-targeted muggings would be consistent with these numbers, but what share of the increase in robberies is due to these "must have" personal media devices? Empirical data are limited, but anecdotal evidence is mounting.

In the first three months of 2005, major felonies rose 18 percent on New York City's subways; but if iPod and cell phone thefts are excluded, felonies actually declined by 3 percent. Thus, the Metropolitan Transit Authority now warns riders that "Earphones are a giveaway. Protect your device." Similar signs appear on BART trains in San Francisco . In Washington , DC , in the first four months of 2007, robberies of iPods on the subway alone accounted for 4 percent of all robberies citywide, compared with well under 1 percent in 2005.

Roman and Chalfin raise intriguing questions about iPods and crime prevention. While complex social dynamics often are cited as root causes of crime, the researchers offer the possibility that increases in both the supply of potential victims and opportunities for would-be offenders are behind the recent crime numbers. The full report is available at

She also sends this notice of a new publication along and asks a question that it might be nice if you and other readers could answer for her:

. . . UAA Justice Forum which is not on-line yet. The current issue is devoted to literacy. The article focuses on the demanding nature of court forms, compared to the literacy levels of the U.S. population based on a recent study. The study also had a lot of detail about literacy in prison populations, compared to the range of literacy skills in the general population. As a side note, it says that the Alaska DOC spent $3.2 million in its 2007 budget for “Offender Habilitation Programs,” and an additional $1 million for personnel costs. That was 1.5% of the DOC budget for the year (which covers pretty much all correctional programs in the state, plus probation/parole, because we have a unified corrections system statewide – no counties, no municipal jails), and it covered all treatment and education throughout the system. I’d like to know what percent of their operating budgets other states spend on rehabilitation and education, although it might be hard to find comparable figures.

Can we help her out?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Momentum Builds For Reform In New Jersey

Two notable pieces in today's Newark Star Ledger about issues addressed by the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing during my tenure as executive director. First, as reflected by this column, political commentator Tom Moran clearly has yet to exhaust his outrage and indignation over the Legislature's indifference and/or hostility to the Commission's findings concerning the impact of New Jersey's so-called "drug-free zone crimes" and the Commission's proposed reforms. He writes:

In a few weeks, Gov. Jon Corzine will unveil his most important initiative to date, a plan to revamp the state's approach to crime.

It will be tough on gangs and guns, and he'll get no argument in the Legislature on that.

But Corzine says he wants to knock down some of the excesses of the drug war, too. And that will be a tougher fight.

Because the worst excess of all is the mandatory three-year prison term imposed on drug offenders arrested within 1,000 feet of our schools.

The law has proved to be a spectacular failure, stuffing our prisons with nonviolent offenders without slowing the drug trade one bit. Still, when you challenge a tough law like this, the drug warriors rush to grab their pitchforks and form a posse.

"What are we trying to do, accommodate drug dealers?" asks Assemblyman Peter Biondi, a Republican from Somerset County. "The intent was to keep it away from children, and away from schools. And now we're going in reverse. Who are they dealing to? Mostly the kids."
To people like Biondi, this is a simple morality play. Are you on the side of the children, or the dealers?

But when you talk to the people on the front line -- the cops, prosecutors and judges who actually fight this drug war -- the story gets more complex.

For one, schoolchildren are involved in a tiny fraction of school zone cases. Drug arrests tend to occur at night and on weekends, when school is closed. A study of school zones in Massachusetts found that less than 1 percent of the cases involved dealers selling to students.

he law has also failed to push the dealers away from the schools, judging by the rising number of arrests in the zones.

No surprise there. These zones are so large that they cover almost every acre in a crowded city like Newark. And because there is no escaping them, there is no incentive for dealers to move farther away from schools.

In the second op-ed piece, former Supreme Court (and Attorney General) Justice Peter Verniero champions New Jersey's Drug Program (NJDP). Although the piece unfortunately fails to give adequate props to certain officials in the Whitman Administration -- particularly my good friend, current commission member, and all-around mensch, Dr. Bruce Stout -- who were equally instrumental in launching NJDP in the mid-90's, the overarching thrust of the piece is unassailable:

What's a drug court? It's basically an intensive drug-rehabilitation program supervised by a judge. The way it works is that the judge sentences nonviolent, drug-dependent offenders to the program as a form of probation instead of prison. The participants are tightly monitored by court staff, treatment counselors, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Participants risk swift incarceration if they return to drug use or violate other conditions. Persons convicted of serious, violent offenses are not eligible to participate.

Created by the judiciary on an experimental basis in the mid-1990s, drug courts were in their infancy in New Jersey when I became attorney general in 1996. Like many law enforcement officials at the time, I was a bit skeptical. Wasn't treating offenders rather than jailing them a sign of weakness?

The answer, I soon concluded, was no. Since then, my favorable impression of drug courts has never waned. And the evidence in support of such courts has grown over the years. Today statistics confirm that drug-dependent offenders who complete treatment programs are far less likely to commit new offenses than those who are jailed and eventually released from prison. What's more, delivering rehabilitative services to an offender costs about half as much as housing that same individual in a jail.

This is a classic win-win. By treating drug-dependent offenders, we enhance the likelihood that they will beat their addiction and remain law-abiding members of society. In the long run, that makes us more secure and saves taxpayers' money, too -- a welcome outcome from any perspective. And, importantly, treatment programs can relieve untold human suffering by assisting participants in kicking their debilitating drug habits.

I saw those positive elements on display in 1998 at a ceremony in Newark marking the first successful completion of a drug-court program by an Essex County participant. The offender had turned his life around entirely. He explained how, as a result of treatment, he had become employed, gained custody of his 10-year-old autistic son and licked a 19-year drug addition. Nearly everyone in the audience was moved to tears.

The state Supreme Court recalled the history of drug courts in a decision last week in which the justices expanded the ability of trial judges to sentence offenders to treatment programs under the authority of such courts. Writing for his judicial colleagues, Justice Barry Albin aptly noted: "Drug Courts have proven successful in maximizing the rehabilitative prospects of addicted offenders, reducing the cycle of recidivism, and yielding cost-savings to our overburdened criminal justice system."

The judiciary deserves credit for creating drug courts in the first place. Former Gov. Christie Whitman and the Legislature deserve kudos as well. In her 1997-98 budget proposal, the governor committed state resources to buttress the judiciary's drug-court program. In succeeding years, all three branches of government have remained supportive of the treatment concept in varying degrees.

The ones who deserve the most credit, however, are the participants themselves. They muster the courage to complete a rigorous program with the support of friends, family and counselors. I remember a staff assistant once telling me that for some offenders it would be easier to enter prison than a rehabilitation program. Inmates are sometimes forgotten. But drug-court participants are strictly supervised by the judge and others as they dare to defeat their addiction. A treatment program is no walk in the park.

Despite their success, there is still hesitation in some quarters about drug courts. There shouldn't be. We need to expand such programs to increase their effectiveness.
Beyond drug courts, we should review other sentencing provisions of the criminal code to determine what works and what really doesn't.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker and other policy thinkers propose new strategies in dealing with crime, especially drug-related offensives. They understand we need to think outside the box to break the cycle of crime that threatens our communities and consigns too many youth to a state of constant despair. With Gov. Jon Corzine's backing, Attorney General Anne Milgram also is considering reforms.

We can help. One way is for us to be willing to experiment with new ideas, much like we tried drug courts 10 years ago. We need to surrender old notions about what it means to be tough on crime and reorder our fiscal priorities to better address the root causes of crime. Otherwise, we will witness an ever-swelling population of inmates and a prison gate that is nothing but a revolving door.

ICE Prisons

A friend sends along a link to this WaPo story on a proposed illegal immigrant prison in VA. Quick details:

Stolle stressed that the center would not be used to house immigrants whose only crime is being in the country illegally, nor would it house those convicted of serious crimes such as homicide.

Instead, it would house illegal immigrants arrested and charged with less serious offenses -- such as driving under the influence -- who state officials and ICE agree should be forced to leave the United States.
Mukit Hossain, a founder of Project Hope and Harmony, a nonprofit group that established a day-laborer hiring center in Herndon that recently closed, called the detention center a "very, very scary proposal."

"If they need more detention centers, then by all means build more detention centers. But to categorically set aside something which is going to be a detention center for ICE and immigrants, it opens up a very problematic notion, including possibilities of human rights violations. And it will create fear in all immigrant communities," Hossain said.

A lot of states face this, but I can't see that many state legislators, already getting antsy in most states about building prisons for their own citizens, thinking this is something they'll want to copy. Although they may think isolating them somewhere is okay if they can do it on the cheap. Plus, we've found in other states that the deportation isn't ABC. Our friend asks: And what will Virginia do with them? Teach them English? Give them citizenship lessons?

For Those Wondering

Why those of us in public service pledge ourselves to that service:

“Nothing like public service; it’s why we’re paid the big dollars.”--Coby Chase, director of the Texas Department of Transportation’s government and public affairs division, among state transportation officials reviewing the overwhelmingly negative e-mail comments — some referring to state officials as “morons” and “greedy dogs” and even suggesting that some of them should be hanged — pouring in in response to proposals to turn existing interstate highways into toll roads

Hard Sciences and Good Stories

Michael Shermer at Scientific American has a platform for a belief I’ve had for years regarding “hard” v. “soft” sciences and “technical” v. “popular” writing. I just wish, as a “soft” academic social scientist for years before my present lapse of judgment, I’d had as few variables and as easily obtained as “hard” scientists had to deal with. And having published way too many scholarly articles to be proud of, I always found it more difficult to write for the general audience than for my academic peers (whether they consider me a “peer,” I don’t really know). Shermer says it all much better than I can. Here’s his major statement:

Data and theory are not enough. As primates, humans seek patterns and establish concepts to understand the world around us, and then we describe it. We are storytellers. If you cannot tell a good story about your data and theory—that is, if you cannot explain your observations, what view they are for or against and what service your efforts provide—then your science is incomplete. The view of science as primary research published in the peer-reviewed sections of journals only, with everything else relegated to “mere popularization,” is breathtakingly narrow and naive. Were this restricted view of science true, it would obviate many of the greatest works in the history of science, from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, the evolutionary biologist’s environmental theory about the differential rates of development of civilizations around the world for the past 13,000 years.

Well-crafted narratives by such researchers as Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, the late Stephen Jay Gould and many others are higher-order works of science that synthesize and coalesce primary sources into a unifying whole toward the purpose of testing a general theory or answering a grand question. Integrative science is hard science.

“Integrative science” is exactly what’s needed in corrections sentencing. Data and theory do not support the policies we pursue for the most part, so why do we pursue them? Because we have failed at the last part: If you cannot tell a good story about your data and theory—that is, if you cannot explain your observations, what view they are for or against and what service your efforts provide—then your science is incomplete. On a planet with real humans, good storytellers, absent confirming data and theory, will still hold their own and usually win against only good data and theory. Writing up a couple of dozen reports or holding conference after conference on “good practice” or “what works” will go no further than those efforts have in the last few decades as long as the stories we tell ignore “what service your efforts provide.” As long as we accept the underlying premises of the counterproductive stories at play in our policies—that prison protects people best, that drugs take over minds immediately and lead to inevitable death, that all sex offenders are the same, so on, so on, so on—then our data and theory, which do not blend with those demonstrably wrong stories can never prevail. We have the data and theory, we don’t need more reports or workshops. Let’s get our stories better written and told. Then we might have a chance.

The Sound You Just Heard

Was the collective thumping of every local Chamber of Commerce director in SC as they hit the floor after reading this headline:

S.C.’s violent crime rate again highest in nation

Unintended Consequences and [Insert the Name] Laws

I noted a nice post yesterday that Corey Rayburn Yung had put up regarding how Jacob Wetterling’s mom, of Jacob’s Law and sex registry fame, had concluded that unintended consequences had followed the passage of that law that were actually counterproductive to the goals. Today, Corey has another good post along the same line, only this time regarding the negative consequences of the Adam Walsh Act. It’s hard not to want to just lash out and hurt things when something horrific happens to someone you love, but it’s like how you put your fist through a wall or start hurling things around a room (not that I’ve ever done that). At some point, no matter how good it felt at the time, you’re going to have to clean up your mess and fix things back. Will we ever get to the point where we realize we need to do something better than screw up the drywall to start with?

[For a case that combines ex post facto punishment and the validity of pleas that wouldn’t have been taken had the punishment after completion of sentence been known at the time of the plea, endangerment of the offender’s innocent family members, and strong reactions to shaming as a sanction resulting from Jacob’s Law, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than this case now being appealed in ME.]

Native American Reentry

Nice article on reentry efforts by the Creek Nation to help tribe members released from prison. Using gaming proceeds to fund the program! The Cherokee and Chickasaw nations also run reentry programs in OK, which has a substantial number of Native Americans behind bars. Other American Indian tribes looking into it. Would be a great help in those states with large tribal presence.

Prison Journal Abstracts

The Prison Journal, Vol. 87, No. 3, 295-310 (2007)
DOI: 10.1177/0032885507304525
Model-Based Estimates of HIV Acquisition Due to Prison Rape

Steven D. Pinkerton, Carol L. Galletly, David W. Seal, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Nearly 1.4 million men are incarcerated in federal and state prisons in the United States. These men are disproportionately affected by HIV in comparison with the at-large male population. The elevated prevalence of HIV infection in U.S. prisons has raised concerns over the potential for intraprison HIV transmission due to rape and other forms of sexual victimization. However, the number of men who acquire HIV after being raped in U.S. prisons is not known. We developed a mathematical model of HIV transmission to estimate the likelihood that an incarcerated man would become infected as a result of prison rape and to provide preliminary estimates of the number of prison rape victims who acquire HIV. Our results suggest that between 43 and 93 currently incarcerated men already have or will acquire HIV as a result of being raped in prison.

The Prison Journal, Vol. 87, No. 3, 311-327 (2007)
DOI: 10.1177/0032885507304351
Educational Opportunities Within Correctional Institutions
Does Facility Type Matter?

Lauren O'Neill and Doris Layton MacKenzie, University of Maryland, College Park
David M. Bierie, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Washington, D.C.

Prior research suggests that educational opportunities during incarceration can help prepare one for reentry into the community and are effective in reducing recidivism. This article evaluates the differences between education programs offered at two Maryland State Correctional Facilities. Inmates serving a "six and out" sentence were randomly assigned to either the Herman L. Toulson Boot Camp or a traditional facility, Metropolitan Transition Center. Both facilities were to provide the same educational opportunities to inmates. The differences between the education provided at these facilities and the impact of these programs on the inmates' ability to obtain a General Equivalency Diploma while incarcerated are evaluated. Findings suggest that inmates have better access to education and are more successful at educational achievement in the small therapeutic environment provided at the boot camp. If replicated, the findings would support policies for increasing resources for educational programming at traditional facilities and design/implementation guidelines for successful therapeutic facilities.

The Prison Journal, Vol. 87, No. 3, 271-294 (2007)
DOI: 10.1177/0032885507304636
The Muncy Way
The Reformatory Ideal at the End of the 20th Century

Matthew Silberman, Bucknell University

Despite efforts to bring parity to women's prisons, the reformatory ideal still played an important role in shaping the daily routines of incarcerated women in Pennsylvania at the end of the 20th century. Programs at Muncy, the only maximum security prison for women in Pennsylvania, emphasized their special needs as victims of physical and sexual abuse. Traditional emphasis on training for domestic life was transformed into a therapeutically oriented focus on emotional control. Relying on data from a survey and interviews conducted with women incarcerated at Muncy in 1999, this article describes the gendered nature of prison life and the way in which treatment programs for women were transformed from an emphasis on restoring moral virtue to fallen women to providing therapy for the mentally ill.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Words of Wisdom

Matthew Bowen at Prevention Works has found a set of good reports on how universities can respond effectively and preventatively (of course) to the recent violence and death on a few campuses. The ideas probably could fit other settings as well. But my favorite part of the post is his wise conclusion: . . . crime prevention may seem like common sense, but it is not nearly common enough in our lives, and it needs advocates and research to make it a reality.

Property Crime Decreases Don't Matter

With high regard for Doug Berman’s admonition for folks not to read too much into the latest UCR report on increased violent crime while property crime dropped and his link to Talk Left, Talk Left falls once again into the old reactive and unimaginative rhetoric that has left crim just policy so poorly balanced in the last few decades. Voters don’t respond to property crime going down the same way they do violent crime. Violent crime and, more, fear of it are the drivers of all the counterproductive policies we have out there today. Even drug scares are powerful in large part because of our fear of the violence embedded in them, as this ND article shows.

Rather than cower about how acknowledging violent crime increase will lead to worse laws, why not be proactive and aggressive for once and turn the increase back on those who kept telling us that tougher and tougher would stop those violent crimes? Why not point out that the resources devoted to putting tokers in prison could be put into cops on the street, a policy that the most recent research has linked specifically to reduced crime and for which past research has shown a higher payoff in crime prevention overall? Why not put ourselves conspicuously on the side of victims by promising to pursue solid programs demonstrated to stop victimization BEFORE it happens rather than waiting until it has before we do anything? Instead, just like the wishy-wussy Dem leadership [sic] who have so egregiously failed on the proper framing of practically every vital issue facing this nation today, Talk Left tells us oh-so-rationally “don’t be fooled.” I’m sorry, but that’s worked so well so far, hasn’t it? That’ll stop the rush to more cost- and victim-ineffective laws she’s concerned about dead in its tracks, just like it always has.

And another golden opportunity is wasted.

[Grits for Breakfast makes the same point, and probably more cogently and less testosteroned, with some really nice analysis of some pot arrest stats that show how much law enforcement is pulled from the street by increasing those arrest numbers, enforcement that could be, you know, preventing crime. I especially like his deduction that clearance rates for violent crimes have been dropping for the same reason, fewer cops available to do the investigations and get the witnesses’ testimony. You gotta know that an idea is absolutely correct when both Grits and I have it.]

News of the Day, Tuesday, September 25, 2007

  • Excellent overview of the battle in CA between its DOC and the corrections union, which explains much about why the state is in the state and is the state it is.
  • Good summary of the work and thought of David Wexler on “therapeutic jurisprudence” here.
  • Squeezing the toothpaste tube in CT. The gov’s recent decision to stop paroling violent offenders means they have to early release some nonviolent ones, which actually sounds like what should have been happening to start with.
  • Trying to figure out if meth use is up, down, or sideways in Cheyenne and confronting the horrible dirty secret of criminal justice data—it’s right after laws and sausages in things you should never see made. And speaking of meth, UT is unveiling the kind of “non-scare” anti-meth campaign that’s worked elsewhere, despite the typical scare tactics promoted by those geniuses in the fed camp.

Hispanic Teens and Drugs

Drug use down 23% among US teens since 2001, but was higher last year among Hispanic teens than white or black teens. Reason given? The Hispanic teens are becoming more “acculturated.” “Non”-acculturated Hispanic teens, however they were defined, are far less likely to use. Since we’re talking 8th, 10th, and 12th graders overall in the decrease in drug use, it’s pretty safe to say that it’s not the threat of prison for all but a few of them that’s accounting for the decline. IOW, PREVENTION efforts have been the drivers of the decrease, not incarceration. And it raises an interesting point for the next few years, since we know early drug use is one of the best indicators of later adult drug use. Will we still see the same numbers going into prison because of drugs every year even if the numbers of users drops? Have we built an infrastructure that requires a maintained number of offenders in prison every year, or will we cut back our emphasis on “drug warrioring” with the decline of social drug threat and focus our resources back on property and especially violent crime and their prevention with the freed up resources? My guess is we have too many people invested in “fighting drugs” to see any letdown even as the perceived danger to society perceptibly diminishes, but I thought the Saints would be good this year.

Victims and Victims

Corey Rayburn Yung at Sex Crimes Blog makes a good catch of a statement from the mother of Jacob Wetterling of sex offender registry and “Jacob’s Law” fame. She’s read the recent Human Right Watch critique of our counterproductive sex offender laws of the last decade and pleads with us to get our eyes back on the prize, stopping victimization, not creating worse conditions that make increased victimization more likely. I’ve said frequently that, like “good” and “bad” prosecutors, there are “good” and “bad” victims and victims groups. When ALL victims are consulted, you get very different views of what our policies should be than when you just listen to the loud and personal-agenda driven ones who get in front of cameras regularly. My experience as a victim of the Oklahoma City bombing showed me that, as did my fortunate time spent on the exec board of probably the best victims’ organization in the country a few years back. We’ve come a long way in bringing the victim into the process and trying to restore them and prevent more. But we still need better mechanisms and a broader outreach to make sure that we’re actually representing ALL victims and not just the ones whose need for retribution coincides, usually only temporarily, with the ideological and political agendas of some policymakers, who oddly don’t think much of Jacob’s mom’s opinions when they don’t match those agendas anymore.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Climate Change

I know this isn’t a global warming blog, but climate change will have a big impact on what we’ll be able to afford to do in corr sent in the future. How big? Depends on how fast we act, apparently.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, opening a landmark summit on climate change, warned world leaders Monday they face condemnation by future generations if they fail to tackle greenhouse-gas pollution.

"Climate change, and what we do about it, will define us, our era, and ultimately the global legacy we leave for future generations," the secretary general said.
"The time for doubt has passed," said Ban, as he noted the grim 4th assessment on climate change by the United Nations' top scientific panel this year.

"If we do not act now, the impact of climate change will be devastating," he added. "We have affordable measures and technologies to begin addressing the problem right now. What we do not have is time."

Hmm, status quo unsustainable, costs much greater if we act later rather than sooner, deniers and obstructionists blocking meaningful, fact-based action, Schwarzenegger talking big and walking less (but still better than most), our grandchildren wondering what the hell we were thinking . . . sounds like something else, can’t quite put my finger on it . . . what could it be???

Maybe a nation that could govern itself effectively would know.

News of the Day, Monday, September 24, 2007

  • Biggest news—violent crime up 1.9% last year, mainly murders, robberies, and arsons, getting close to back to 2002 levels before the steep crime drop occurred. These, by definition, can’t be the guys who went in for violent crimes over the last 5 years or so because we’ve sent them away for longer and forced them to serve more time, either through 85% laws or highly restricted parole (except in CT apparently). These are guys who, if reoffending, more likely went in as nonviolent and came out otherwise (and yes, I know some nonviolent have violents, I can even give you numbers) or, more likely, guys who really don’t know or care about those laws because they’ve deduced, clever as they are, that their odds of getting caught, with the general lack of resources in law enforcement compared to prisons, aren’t that high. Probably haven’t been that high . . . up until now. In either case, it’s clearer than ever before that filling our prisons is not going to stop violent crime. We need to put violent guys away but stop turning nonviolent ones into violent, and we’ve got to funnel our scarce resources into the front end, into juv justice and cops and specialty courts and prevention efforts, and into back end measures that have much better demonstrated payoff on reduced crime, like substance abuse treatment, than prison has been shown to have. Let’s find the people who just can’t be out or they’ll hurt people and make sure they’re the ones locked away in the space we can afford. If they’re coming out, then we can’t keep messing up like this. Reentry efforts have to be intensified, and release supervision has to be adequately funded. Of course, there’s always the future of TECHNOCORRECTIONS. That’ll be much better.
  • I’ve traveled along the Canadian border before and often wondered this myself. What if all the traffic across the border--immigrants, terrorists, drugs--doesn’t conveniently go through our checkpoints?
  • CT really does seem to have problems with its parole screening process, and the gov there has enforced her own priority assessment criterion—violent offenders don’t get parole.
  • If you missed the “60 Minutes” piece on pot shops in CA, you can get a written version as well as the original here.
  • AZ is bringing in $8 m. in fed dollars to help with meth treatment programs.
  • Speaking of drug treatment, Naltrexone has been shown to have some moderate impact on alcohol dependence, but some doctors think that, given the different ways drugs affect people, it may have even more benefit for those more predisposed toward it (duh), such as those with a family history of dependence. Initial studies are indicating they’re right.
  • Mayor of Powell, WY, decided to try out ankle bracelets for four days. Was able to water ski (!!) but: "I tell you what," Mangold told the paper, "I don't want to be a criminal and have to wear one of those." I’d say that’s a good example for other policymakers, but I’m not sure how many would want their whereabouts tracked for 96 straight hours. (h/t
  • Meanwhile, AK (Alaska, not Arkansas) is adding bedspace, needing 2000 more beds in 5 years. Won’t that pretty much mean, like, everyone living in AK? (Just kidding, Teri.)
  • State reactions in AL (Alabama, not Alaska) to the duel between the good prosecutors there and the bad one who sits in the AG chair. Prosecutor actually does the right thing, refuses to seek death for a murder accomplice who didn’t actually pull the trigger since the triggerman can’t be executed. Wants proportionality in punishments, imagine that. AG says that it would be justice for the offender’s family to suffer the government’s killing of a loved one who didn’t end anyone’s life while the murderer lives. Steps in to reverse the DA’s decision, brings on deluge of “who’s in control here?” State DA association supports their own. Conclusion of those interviewed for the story: Politics, just politics. Shocker. The thing is, it wasn't politics until the AG stuck his nose in. Wonder who's running for governor there someday?
  • We tend to forget that not only do prison guards have to get by on low pay (in most states) and put up with crap none of the rest of us could stand, but occasionally they pay the ultimate price. I’ve worked with enough of these guys now to know how hard the job is and how great the loss when one goes down. Take a moment, if you have time.

Around the Blogs, Monday, September 24, 2007

  • CrimProf Blog has a couple of related posts up today, whether it meant to or not. One discusses and links to an article on the problem of not quantifying a “dosage” of medical marijuana when the law limits legal users to a supply for a given time period. The other notes that the quantities of Americans affected by sex trafficking laws passed in one of our latest hysterias don’t turn out to be in reality anywhere close to those estimated by gov analysts at the time of the hysteria. Imagine that. Good thing that’s an isolated occurrence.
  • Grits for Breakfast also has a couple of more notable posts among the always good ones he has on the zoo that is TX. Here, you’ll get a great definition complete with examples of “The Silly Season” as politicians wheel out their toughness on somebody else’s dime, and here, you’ll get a nice analysis of the recent GAO report that basically says our War on (Some) Drugs through interdiction programs couldn’t be more screwed up if we were trying. (And you’re right, Grits. Our salvation is better coordination with Mexico? Let’s wait until they get back to us on that one.)
  • While in the state of TX, Texas Prison Bidness has a good post we missed last week (sorry, Judy) on the ability of jail systems to develop and run good alternative sanction programs, which is something we fail to emphasize as much as we should here. My experience with the law enforcement folks on the commissions I’ve staffed is that they’re almost always among the brightest and most innovative people on those commissions, not to mention the system as a whole. Here’s hoping the program detailed in the post works. (But then again, as Grits notes, there’s Dallas Co.)
  • Brandon Bryn is having the same problem over at Prevention Works that we generally have here, getting folks to launch a discussion on a topic that needs discussion, in his case, the proposals to allow cops to patrol with assault rifles. Not really corr sent directly, but surely you have some thoughts you could share with him over there.
  • The Situationist is running a series on the contextual considerations of the Jena 6 case, with some good reporting on the nature of prejudice and how it reveals itself both inside and outside the crim just system.
  • Deliberations has the “17 Best Tips for Voir Dire” up at her place for those of you who actually deal with juries. Since she actually gets paid to consult on juries, consider this a freebie.
  • Speaking of voir dire, the blog Voir Dire has bits from the NY Times interview with Justice Stevens. I liked this quote, which highlights how completely we fail to learn the lessons of history: Last June, in his dissent from Roberts’s opinion upholding the power of a school principal to suspend a student for a banner that read, “Bong Hits for Jesus,” Stevens mentioned some “personal recollections that have no doubt influenced my conclusion that it would be profoundly unwise to create special rules for speech about drug and alcohol use.” He went on, “The current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our anti-marijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student.” Just as prohibition in the 1920s and early 30s was “secretly questioned” by thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens, he continued, so opponents of the war on drugs today may express their views only silently for fear of majority disapproval. Of course, as they say, the only lesson of history is that we never learn the lessons of history.