Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Journal of Quantitative Crim Abstracts

Good stuff up at the Journal of Quantitative Criminology right now. Here are abstracts for a couple of the interesting offerings, but you should check them all out if you get a chance.

Understanding the Role of Repeat Victims in the Production of Annual US Victimization Rates

Michael Planty and Kevin J. Strom

Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Volume 23, Number 3 / September, 2007, 179-200

Abstract Victimization incidence rates produced from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) are a generally accepted annual indicator of the amount and type of crime in the United States. However, persons who report a large number of similar victimizations—known as series victimizations in the NCVS—are currently excluded in government reports of annual violent victimizations. This paper quantifies the effect of series incident counting procedures on national estimates of violent victimization. The findings suggest that these high-volume repeat victims can have a significant impact on the magnitude and distribution of violent victimization. Current government counting rules that exclude series incidents do not include about three out of every five violent victimizations and distorts the characterization and risk of violence in the United States. However, the inclusion of series incidents introduces significant estimate instability. One remedy is to use prevalence rates in concert with incidence rates to present a more complete and reliable picture of victimization.

Space–Time Patterns of Risk: A Cross National Assessment of Residential Burglary Victimization

Shane D. Johnson, Wim Bernasco, Kate J. Bowers, Henk Elffers, Jerry Ratcliffe, George Rengert and Michael Townsley

Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Volume 23, Number 3 / September, 2007, 201-219

Abstract Using epidemiological techniques for testing disease contagion, it has recently been found that in the wake of a residential burglary, the risk to nearby homes is temporarily elevated. This paper demonstrates the ubiquity of this phenomenon by analyzing space–time patterns of burglary in 10 areas, located in five different countries. While the precise patterns vary, for all areas, houses within 200 m of a burgled home were at an elevated risk of burglary for a period of at least two weeks. For three of the five countries, differences in these patterns may partly be explained by simple differences in target density. The findings inform theories of crime concentration and offender targeting strategies, and have implications for crime forecasting and crime reduction more generally.

At Least It's Not Global Warming This Time

As a former state budget analyst, I was immersed at an early age (nearly fatally, perhaps) in how one piece of the public budget had to be considered and balanced against all the other pieces of that budget. That’s why I’m pulling what little hair I still have out over our negligence of the public costs of global warming that will greatly impact or be thwarted by corrections sentencing budgets. But don’t worry. This isn’t another scary climate change post.

It’s a scary transportation budget post.

Governing has a piece on the coming (and here) costs of fixing our state and federal transportation infrastructure, analyzing well how we got into the fix (uh, poor planning, wishful thinking, political hotdogging, yada, yada) and what the prospects are for dealing with it (hint: not good, heads in sand, yada, yada). I know that this stuff isn’t of interest to those in the corr sent field. As I’ve said before, a state DA org director once famously said to us when asked how we were going to pay for all the beds her org was advocating, “That’s not my problem.” Well, actually it is. We’re seeing it already. We’ve mortgaged so much of the future on unsustainable policies (not just in corr sent) and ignored all the cracks, shingles, and paint that have been needed on the house for so long that now, as the rain starts to get in, it’s going to be a flood, not the minor nuisance it should have been. Articles like these are in a fundamental sense about corrections sentencing. That we don’t know that and deal with it isn’t an indication of their irrelevance. It’s an indication of ours.

[And here’s from a different article in the same issue that goes beyond transportation to other areas of future massive state spending, talking about the cyclical nature of policy initiative in our federal system:

. . . The current decade has been a period of state energy and creativity, but also of capricious federal intrusion, often without more than a token fiscal payment from Washington to cover the massive expense that its demands on the states had imposed. The No Child Left Behind law, the Real ID license-security requirement and the ban on state taxation of Internet sales are the three prime exhibits in this category.

And the recent relatively sound condition of state fiscal health is not going to last much longer. The combination of health care costs and other commitments to the aging baby-boom generation will generate serious state budgetary trauma in most of the capitols even before the current decade is out.

Shhh. Be vewwwwy kwy-et. . . . TECHNOCORRECTIONS.]

Collateral Consequences and Mexico

We sometimes have a tendency to point at the Colombia’s and Mexico’s as the causes of our drug problems in this country, but, as this article makes clear, the reciprocity is really pretty one-sided and not in our favor. We have to do things on our end to help when Mexico, for example, does step up to the plate.

But on Tuesday, Mr Medina said that key parts of the agreement were US commitments to clamp down on the trade in arms and the illegal chemicals used to process drugs, money-laundering and domestic consumption of drugs.

"For me, it is far more important that the United States is dedicated to confronting these four components of the drug-trafficking equation," he told the Mexican Congress.

He said that there were some 12,000 American gun stores located close to the 3,200km border with Mexico, which, along with the US' "permissive" gun-control laws, facilitated the flow of arms into Mexico.

Mr Medina added that about $10bn of laundered Mexican drug money ended up in US banks each year. He said his office was drafting a money-laundering bill that would regulate those responsible for transactions commonly associated with money-laundering.

Of course, if we would just exercise the self-government and self-control of mature, intelligent people, there’d be no drug problem for us to be talking about. . . . I know, I know. I’ll stop now.

You Just Know What's Coming, Right?

But according to long-awaited new evidence filed by the defense in federal court on Monday, there was no DNA from the three defendants found at the scene, the mutilation was actually the work of animals and at least one person other than the defendants may have been present at the crime scene.

You’re right.

Two of the men, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, are serving life in prison, while one, Damien W. Echols, is on death row. There was no physical evidence linking the teenagers, now known as the West Memphis 3, to the crime.

Why do we keep letting this happen?

Evaluation Resources at JRSA

I haven’t mentioned the significant data and research resources you can find at the site of my old employer, the Justice Research and Statistics Association, lately, but they’re impressive, right there along the left side of the homepage. I was going through my old project, the Bureau of Justice Assistance evaluation site, now known as the Center for Program Evaluation, to see what JRSA and the current project manager, Veronica Puryear, have been up to lately. It’s really good stuff, much better than when I was in charge, and a complete one-stop shop not just for questions you might have about evaluation but also about the current literature on corr sent topics like reentry, sex offender programs, problem-solving courts, substance abuse, about anything you can think of. Keep it in mind as you surf the Web looking for bibliographies, tools, resources. There’s not much point in going anywhere else. And, if you’re impressed, drop a note of appreciation to Veronica for her next performance review. She’s concrete proof that having a Ph.D. doesn’t always make you snotty, opinionated, and insufferable like people I could name at this blog.

Not Getting Suspicious

But Pam Clifton and Corey Rayburn Yung were both away from their blogs for the same period for too long. Hmmmmm. I’m just saying. . . .

Studying Doesn't Mean Endorsing

Neuroethics & Law has a good post up rebutting an off-kilter Guardian article basically claiming that “neurolaw” students are advocates for turning research into defenses for offenders who could claim guiltlessness due to brain function. Not only does the post refute the claim that students are advocates but it also reiterates a point we make here. The findings from research in this area are just as likely to hurt offenders as help them as profiles and predispositions are detailed. And the developing “neuroethics” movement and publications are front and center in the attention to questions of ethics and proper reaction to what the science is producing. This stuff has its own momentum and will drive forward. This article gives a more detailed and balanced overview, citing one of the big names in the field who gives its future impact on law and justice a big thumbs up, “one that ultimately could have as dramatic an impact on the legal system as DNA testing.” But this article also raises the potential for the work to end up coming back on offenders, as well as raising in my mind the possibility of drawing victims who give impact statements into the same procedures to determine how big an impact the crime actually had on them compared to brain-profiled victims of similar crimes. The article is clearly right when it says that these things will pose “deep challenges for the legal system.” Ya think?

Right Hand, This Is Left Hand

NV passes legislation to get people to parole faster to permit lessening of prison bedspace problems . . . only the Parole Board stipulates treatment conditions that the state doesn’t have the facilities to meet so those guys don’t get out.

WY commits major resources to get meth use down (successfully for now) . . . but coke and prescription drug use are rising.

ME tries to grapple with problems with overcrowding and jail funding . . . but increases misdemeanor penalties to prohibit probation as the alternative so, surprise, the prison pop’s been going up there.

UT wants to bring violent inmates back from jails into state prisons after some disastrous mistakes . . . but that may mean release of lesser offending inmates because bedspace expected to be available by now has been slowed down by contractor problems.

WI did away with parole and instituted an “extended supervision” penalty to be served after incarceration, believing that the incarceration time and “truth in sentencing” were the major concerns . . . but revocations off the extended supervision and resentencings have placed new strains on an overburdened system that, frankly, are just beginning to be felt.

And CA . . . well, it has more hands than anybody, all strangers, needing to meet and know what the others are doing.

Just some of the little things that don’t usually get into consideration when grand schemes and plans are considered at the top of policymaking but that somehow always seem to turn up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Love Pickles, Too, But

According to police reports, the pickle problems began when Bobby Lee Bolen of Buchanan was hanging out at his then-friend Jody Lee's home in Buchanan on Aug. 20.

Bolen went to the refrigerator and helped himself to some pickles. According to the report, Lee told Bolen he couldn't afford to feed everyone and not to eat his pickles. Bolen then began yelling and swearing and stormed out, according to the report.

Later, Bolen barged back into the house and got into an argument with Lee. Lee told police Bolen slammed him down on the couch and threw two large pickles at him and said, "Here's your damn pickles."

Bolen also shoved former friend J.W. Romanski III and beat Lee with a telephone when he tried to call 911, according to the report. Two counts involving Bolen's assaults were dismissed as was a charge of cutting or interfering with phone lines.

"If this is not the silliest case I've ever seen in this courtroom, it certainly is in the Top 10," Berrien Trial Court Judge Scott Schofield said. "The fact that it's silly doesn't mean that it's not serious."

You guidelines types want to know the going sentence for assault with a dangerous pickle?

Bolen's sentence included 54 days in jail with credit for 54 days served and one year of probation.

Oh, and oh, yeah . . . .

Defense attorney Robert Lutz said alcohol appeared to be at the root of Bolen's problems.

Huhhhh . . . .

Words for Us All

In an announcement of a conference on the criminalization of mental illness at U-MI on Nov. 5 (post links to details), Corpus Callosum makes this essential point about why it’s not just the costs of putting mentally ill people behind bars that should concern us:

Furthermore, the problem is so complex that it is difficult to conceptualize. Consider the three main issues: homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. There is considerable overlap, but they are not synonymous. Then consider the many other factors that impinge: developmental disability, poverty, domestic violence, head trauma, compassionate conservatism, malnutrition, employment insecurity, dementia, the war on drugs, and more.

So when we talk about the criminalization of mental illness, we are not talking about a unified or homogeneous problem. We are talking about a complex network of overlapping problems.

I won't be able to attend the conference, but I do know one thing about the subject: we will not make progress on this until everyone accepts the simply fact that these problems could happen to anyone. That means you. Homelessness. Mental Illness. Substance abuse. Anyone.

Moral Identity Equals More Behavior?

Not necessarily, according to this report. Those who most identified themselves as moral were more likely to go good OR bad in given situations, to the extremes of possible options in both directions.

Bad behavior seems rampant in business, and scholars are divided as to why people act ethically or unethically. Many have argued that ethical behavior is the result of simple judgments between right and wrong. Others suggest that the driving force behind ethical behavior is the individual's moral identity, or whether the individual thinks of him/herself as an ethical person.
"Our research suggests that a moral identity motivates behavior, but that accurate, ethical judgments are needed to set that behavior in the right direction," Reynolds says. "A person's moral identity can interact with his or her judgments and actually push ethical behaviors to extreme levels, as we saw with the students who decided that cheating was justifiable and OK."

According to the researchers, a moral identity specifically centers on a person's moral aspects and acts as a self-regulatory mechanism that sets parameters for individual behavior and motivates specific actions that are moral.
Reynolds and Ceranic found that this motivational force needs direction, and that without proper guidance a moral identity can conceivably push individuals toward socially undesirable behaviors.

"Moral identity seems to be more motivational in nature than 'moral' in nature," Reynolds says. "Managers and organizations should not just assume that a moral identity will necessarily translate into moral behaviors."

I know this applies most directly to offenders and their rationales for their criminal behavior, but I couldn’t help but think more of the bad practitioners on our “side” who consistently proclaim their moral superiority while acting in ways that refute it dramatically (like this guy today). The article goes on to provide ways of fostering both moral id and behav in orgs if you’re so inclined to study further.

I Know I've Been Griping about Alcohol

But this goes a little far, even for me:

77-Year-Old Gets Carded in Beer Purchase

News of the Day, Tuesday, October 30, 2007

  • When I actually got down and dirty in sentencing policy the first time, digging into criminal codes and building data sets for existing offenses, I would frequently come on offenses that puzzled me. Making terroristic threats? No, not bombings or that kind of terror, just scaring people credibly with the threat of violence into doing things. Making false statements to pawnbrokers? Why should we care if someone lies to . . . oh, I get it. And then there was the famous “theft of copper wire.” You puzzled, too? Well, this article will explain and show that it’s gotten to be a bigger deal than it was back in those halcyon days.
  • discovers the variation and problems with teen sex laws across the states and decides that maybe someday we just might maybe could pay a little more attention to them.
  • Hey, you sex offenders on probation or parole in ID and SC. No turning on your lights for trick or treat. Or going out and looking for kids that night either. We mean it.
  • NV inmates fighting the CA fires, spreading their evil across the land.
  • If you’re wondering which private prison firms to invest in, check out the ones that have the best connections in the South. Why? Maybe headlines like these: Poor kids are majority at public schools in South. We know how well the public likes to support schools with poor kids, don’t we? Prisons sound like a great long-term investment there. I’m not kidding.
  • Another reason why “huffing” needs to be taken seriously, given its association with increased consideration of suicide by teen huffers.
  • Textbook case of bad policymaking, making decisions without finding out how they’ll be implemented, creating more costs down the road in the name of fiscal prudence. RI decides to lower the adult age for juveniles to avoid the higher juvenile costs for 17-year-olds than for adults in general population. However, because they’re 17 and not in for violent offenses for the most part now, DOC logically sends them to more secure facilities to protect them, costing more than the juvenile sentence would have. And, now they’ve got kids being sent to max security, to become better at what they got sent there for. Every crim just bill ought to be sent to a Logic Department for approval before it can ever be sent for a vote. I’m willing to make that in the form of a motion if I can get a second.

Chocolate, Drinking, and Aggression

A research project carried out by a University of Hertfordshire academic has found that thought suppression can lead people to engage in the very behaviour they are trying to avoid.
The results indicated that there is a clear behavioural rebound among both male and female participants and both males and females who suppressed thoughts of chocolate ate significantly more than those in the control condition. Secondly, for males, actively thinking about chocolate can enhance subsequent consumption of that food.

“These findings open the door to a whole host of potential candidates for such effects,” said Dr Erskine. “For example, does trying not to think about having another drink make it more likely, or does trying not to think, or to think aggressively lead to aggressive behaviour? These questions are vitally important if we are to understand the ways in which thought control engenders the very behaviour one wanted to avoid.”

Nothing to Fear But

Since fear is the central driver of our corrections sentencing policy, sometimes justified, usually not, the research being done into it here could have direct application to what we do later.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Right Lesson Learned

Genarlow Wilson has thankfully come out of the unjust experience GA crim just put him through with a positive outlook about how to value the basic good things in life, without negative feelings toward the ludicrous DA who put him in prison for 20 years for consensual sex (“doesn’t he know he could have only served 10 if he had just pled down?!!!?”), and with a message for all the rest of us regarding how we’ve lost the ability to teach lessons without resorting to cells and bars.

"I believe it's something that could have been settled between parents or something to scare us up or teach us a lesson," he said.

Exactly right. Look at the resources wasted on this case that could have been devoted to actual crime control and victim reduction. A lot of our crime is like this, assaults or teen sex or pot use that should be handled by our families and by our churches, not by government, especially not by self-righteous, infallible DAs. The legacy of this country was supposed to be the demonstration of self-government and the institutions and values to create and support that. It would be nice if we could re-learn that ourselves. It would be nice if Wilson’s ultimate journey in life makes him one of our teachers.

[Prevention Works has an interesting example of self-governing against crime in Philadelphia and, of course, resources that you can use if you want to get started yourself right here.]

Uh, Duh

“I think we’re setting the bar too low when we say, ‘Look, isn’t it great that we haven’t had a statewide elected official go to jail recently?’ ”

Louisiana Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal, announcing that he will call a special session of the legislature to reform ethics laws in an effort to change the state's reputation for corruption

Biology and Addiction

Some items from the science world today that point to better ways to treat substance abuse and possibly open doors for future TECHNOCORRECTIONS:

Chilean researchers have identified a region of the brain -- the insular cortex -- that plays a role in drug craving in amphetamine-addicted rats, according to a report published in Science. This finding ultimately may help support the development of new therapies to treat drug addiction as well as certain behavioral side effects of medications. . . .

"By adapting and applying mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR in alcoholism treatment, we hope to develop an increased ability to cope with stress and enhanced psychological well-being among alcohol-dependent individuals," said Gerard J. Connors, Ph.D. "For people who often deal with stress in their lives by turning to alcohol, this could be a very positive alternative."

A researcher at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) is initiating a study of "mindfulness-based stress reduction," a technique often used in behavioral medicine for stress reduction but not before as an adjunct in the treatment of alcohol use disorders.

"By adapting and applying mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR in alcoholism treatment, we hope to develop an increased ability to cope with stress and enhanced psychological well-being among alcohol-dependent individuals," said Gerard J. Connors, Ph.D. "For people who often deal with stress in their lives by turning to alcohol, this could be a very positive alternative."


A researcher at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine suggests that psychiatrists may need to approach the treatment of psychiatric patients from a new direction -- by understanding that such individuals' behavior and decision-making are based on an attempt to reach an inner equilibrium.

Martin Paulus, M.D., professor in UCSD's Department of Psychiatry, has compiled a body of growing evidence that human decision-making is inextricably linked to an individuals' need to maintain a homeostatic balance.

"This is a state of dynamic equilibrium, much like controlling body temperature," said Paulus. "How humans select a particular course of action may be in response to raising or lowering that 'set point' back to their individual comfort zone. In people with psychiatric disorders or addictions, the thermostat may be broken." . . .

The question addressed in part by this paper, published in Science, are whether changes in decision-making behavior and associated brain functions are a result of pre-existing characteristics -- which may predispose individuals to use drugs -- or as a consequence of long-term use.

"Decision-making dysfunctions and resultant altered neural processing could provide a biomarker to identify those at high-risk for addictive behaviors," said Paulus, who added that much additional research is needed before scientists could begin to use such an approach.

In an upcoming paper in the journal "Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience," Paulus cites the complex affective, cognitive and behavioral phenomena that come into play during decision-making. "The interoceptive system is able to connect with various physiological systems in the brain to orchestrate a complex set of responses," he said, adding that craving and urges are among the most notable responses that play important functions in maintaining homeostasis.

Insights into how pleasure and urge are integrated in the brain and how this process is modulated can play an important role in the understanding of -- and possible future treatment of -- drug addiction, according to Paulus.


At Mind Hacks we find an interesting link to a piece on “neurolaw” and the times it’s reasonable and times it’s not. I would note again that this can cut against offenders as well as for offenders once we start developing neural profiles of what a “violent” brain or “addictive” brain or “littering” brain looks like, so it’s not a defense attorney’s dream, even if they should probably be reading all these articles for ideas. Fortunately Adam Kolber at Neuroethics & Law is starting a journal on Neuroethics that sounds like it will provide a nice forum for these issues to be hashed out in. Here’s some of the good stuff from the Mind Hacks post:

Gerontologist and all-round skeptic Raymond Tallis has written an article for The Times where he laments the rise of 'neurolaw' where brain scan evidence is used in court in an attempt to show that the accused was not responsible for their actions.

Tallis cites the example of the trial of Bobby Joe Long where his lawyers tried to argue (unsuccessfully as it turned out) that he wasn't responsible for his crimes because brain scan evidence showed that he had an overactive amygdala (supposedly suggesting increased aggression) and underactive frontal lobes (supposedly suggesting reduced ability to inhibit aggression).

This, Tallis argues, is hardly evidence for diminished responsibility because it assumes that our brain is some sort of separate 'alien force' that is somehow not 'us', when we generally think of the brain as being synonymous with the self.

However, he goes on to cite the example of an epileptic seizure and argues that this is an example where we definitely can't say the person is responsible for twitching or losing consciousness.
One way of looking at the question is 'how responsible is the person for their actions', but another is 'what strength of urge do we think it is reasonable for a person to inhibit'.

Life experience, genetic factors, brain injury or any forms of neurological disturbance may make urges stronger or reduce our ability to inhibit them.
A serial killer may genuinely have reduced ability to inhibit violence urges, but at what point do we say that the effort they would have to make to stop them reacting violently is beyond what is considered reasonable or possible


No real reason for this post but the headline. The story itself reminded me of being around campus in MD whenever the Terps beat Duke in basketball.

Now This Is Just Weird

Older alcoholics who manage to achieve abstinence can have mental functioning on par with other older adults, a small study suggests.

Researchers found that as a group, elderly alcoholics who'd been abstinent for at least 6 months performed as well as older non-alcoholics on standard tests of thinking and memory.

The findings, reported in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, suggest that older adults who solve their drinking problem can emerge with their cognitive function intact.

The results do not mean, however, that years of heavy drinking do no harm to the brain, the study authors stress. Instead, they suggest that alcoholics who survive to old age with relatively good health may be a hardier lot whose brains are intrinsically more resistant to the damaging effects of alcoholism.

Well, not that part so much. This part.

Specifically, he told Reuters Health, abstinent alcoholics in this study tended to have larger craniums than the comparison group of non-alcoholics, and those with larger craniums -- a marker of a larger brain -- generally performed better on tests of cognitive function.

Fein and colleague Shannon McGillivray speculate that the older alcoholics had a relatively high "brain reserve capacity" -- a reference to the brain's ability to tolerate damage and allow a person to remain cognitively intact for a longer period.
"Our results show that it is possible for some elderly abstinent alcoholics to either have escaped the neurodegenerative effects of alcohol abuse on cognitive function, or to have fully recovered any cognitive function that was lost during active alcoholism," Fein said.

However, he pointed out again that the findings do not imply that all older drinkers who quit will have normal cognitive abilities.

Instead, Fein and McGillivray conclude, "cognitively healthier alcoholics, with more brain reserve capacity, may be more likely to live into their sixties, seventies, or eighties with relatively intact cognition, and to volunteer for studies such as this."

A Leaf, Not a Drug

CA’s gov has a documented history of pot use and recently “joked” that pot was a leaf, not a drug. Not saying much about it here, just that it well describes our double standard, that celebrities can even become high elected officials (actually did type that before realizing what I typed) for what they end up sending others less fortunate behind bars for. America in the early 21st Century.

ID and Private Prisons

ID has become the latest state to consider opting for cheaper and faster in getting prisons built by going private, although some Republicans may challenge the governor there who’s pushing the idea. Nice concise story on how that debate fleshes itself out in the early days before the lobbyists win . . . I mean, before the decision is made.

What's Not to Love?

Low pay. Stressful working conditions and possible serious injury. Surrounded by criminals, many of them violent. High turnover among your colleagues. Get blamed for high recidivism rates.

Be a prison guard in TX and all this can be yours, too!!

(And it’s not just TX, is it?)

With Friends Like These

who needs to find anything to post on your own? Many thanks to the folks who sent these to me and to you.

First this:
The American Psychiatric Association reports that up to 20 percent of the inmates currently incarcerated in our prisons and jails are seriously mentally ill. That equates to more than 300,000 inmates and represents a rate of mental illness that is four times higher than that of the general population.

Congressman Ted Strictland (D-Ohio), a member of the House Committee on Crime, reports that between 25 and 40 percent of all mentally ill Americans will become involved in the criminal justice system during their lives. A 1999 report by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill found that the number of seriously mentally ill individuals incarcerated was three times higher then those being hospitalized for the same illnesses.
A mentally ill inmate’s inability to comply with orders often leads to a poor disciplinary record and results in their failure to be paroled. Many mentally ill inmates will “max-out” their term or will serve up to 85 percent of their total sentence.
Two other factors contribute to this ongoing problem. One is the understaffing of mental health personnel and the quality of those who are hired. Of 17,640 prison mental health workers only 18 percent are either psychiatrists or psychologists. According to the 2001 Corrections Yearbook 58.6 percent of all mental health staff held titles that did not require them to have a mental health degree or any specialized training. The “Corrections Forum” (January/February 2006) reported that 12 percent of correctional facilities had no mental health programs whatsoever. Funding is also very problematic. According to a survey in the “Corrections Forum,” 73 percent of correctional agencies appropriate less than $500,000 for their entire mental health program.

Our nation’s prisons and jails are not designed nor equipped to deal with this population. Correctional Officers are not mental health professionals. We are not trained to deal with the mentally ill. We may be able to keep them medicated; we may be able to keep them segregated; we may even be able to protect them from becoming prey; but we cannot solve this problem.

Mentally ill inmates should be in facilities designed with one purpose: to address their needs and provide a safe, stable environment in which they can hopefully get better. This is not to imply that they should be immune from prosecution for the crimes they commit; they should not be. However, the insanity of the insanity plea is another issue for another day.

Then this:
A technological revolution is making it possible not just to track down escaping bank robbers but to find missing things and people far more quickly and precisely than ever.

The change is powered less by new technologies than the artful combination of existing ones, mainly the Internet, cellphones and G.P.S. satellites. In some cases, the new devices linked to these systems can even detect a theft before it happens.

"This stuff is coming down the pike very soon," said Jim Van Cleave, vice president of Spectrum Management, which has developed tracking systems for commercial and covert uses since 1980. "The number of potential applications is mind-boggling."
Next spring the group will introduce new bracelets, created by Locator Systems, a British Columbia company, that combine radio signals with G.P.S. and cellular communications. That should allow caregivers to establish a zone where patients can safely wander, said Jim McIntosh, the company's chief executive. If patients wander off, emergency crews could receive more specific information.

But most of the work is aimed at recovering stolen property, potentially saving billions.

OnStar, the G.P.S.-based navigation system offered by General Motors, will start a "stolen vehicle slowdown" service next spring to help avoid dangerous high-speed chases. If an equipped vehicle is stolen, police can ask OnStar to send a wireless message to the onboard computer, cutting the engine's power.

The driver, said Chet Huber, OnStar's president, will have time to pull off the road safely. After that, the thief is on his own.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

More NCJRS Abstacts, October 28, 2007


NCJ 219944
Bryan R. Garner; Lora L. Passetti; Matt G. Orndorff; Susan H. Godley
Reasons for and Attitudes Toward Follow-Up Research Participation Among Adolescents Enrolled in an Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Program
Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse
Volume:16 Issue:4 Dated:2007 Pages:45 to 57

This study examined the reasons why 145 adolescents (ages 12-18) who had completed outpatient treatment for substance-use problems chose to participate in followup interviews about the outcome of their treatment. The study found that financial compensation was one of the primary reasons for continued participation in followup outcome interviews. Other reasons given for continued participation in outcome assessment were the fulfillment of a commitment; wanting to help others with substance-use problems; and the perception that the research was credible, important, or useful. An unexpected finding was that only 5 percent of the adolescents said that they continued participation due to pressure from their parents. Another unexpected finding was the relatively high percentage (40 percent) of the adolescents who stated they would have participated in followup interviews even if there had been no financial compensation. Still, financial compensation for research participation is apparently critical for ensuring high followup rates with adolescents. The study sample consisted of the 145 adolescents (out of an original sample of 151) who agreed to participate in a followup outcome evaluation of an outpatient treatment program for alcohol and other drug-use problems. Most met DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for cannabis dependence (54 percent), cannabis abuse (30 percent), and/or alcohol abuse (28 percent). The majority were from single-parent families (52 percent) and lived in a home their parents rented or owned (91 percent). Forty-four percent were referred to treatment by the criminal justice system. Participants were asked to complete an interview at intake and then again at followup periods of 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after intake. They were compensated $40.00 for their time and transportation to each research interview. They could also earn an additional $10.00 for completing the interview within 1 week of their assigned interview date. 3 tables and 34 references

NCJ 219915
Richard B. Felson; Paul-Philippe Pare
Does the Criminal Justice System Treat Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Offenders Leniently?
Justice Quarterly
Volume:24 Issue:3 Dated:September 2007 Pages:435 to 459

This study examined whether men who physically assaulted their female partners or who committed sexual assault received more lenient treatment than offenders who committed other types of assaults. Results of the study suggest that the criminal justice system is not particularly lenient toward men who assault their intimate partners or who sexually assault people they know. However, evidence suggests that the police show leniency toward offenders who assault their partners under two conditions. First, the police are particularly unlikely to arrest women who assault their male partners. Second, the police are less likely to arrest offenders who engage in minor assault against their partner or other people they know (versus strangers). Offenders who assaulted their partners before the 1980s were much less likely to be convicted than other offenders, regardless of gender. Leniency in conviction, however, largely disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s. This trend supports the idea that public concerns affected the response of the courts. It was not found that offenders who assaulted partners were particularly likely to avoid incarceration. No evidence was found to support the hypothesis that offenders who sexually assault people they know are particularly likely to avoid conviction. In general, the evidence does not support the idea that the response of the courts depends on the gender of the offender or victim. The results demonstrate the importance of a comparative approach in studying legal outcomes. Some scholars and activists have criticized the criminal justice system for being too lenient in its response to assaults on wives and female partners. These criticisms have had a major impact on the criminal justice system. It is important to know if the criminal justice system avoids legal sanctions more often for certain crimes than others. This study examined three legal outcomes: arrest, conviction, and incarceration. Table, references

NCJ 219916
Rodney F. Kingsnorth; Randall C. MacIntosh
Intimate Partner Violence: The Role of Suspect Gender in Prosecutorial Decision-Making
Justice Quarterly
Volume:24 Issue:3 Dated:September 2007 Pages:460 to 495

Utilizing a sample of thousands of cases involving heterosexual intimate partner violence and four decision points, this study examined the role of suspect gender in prosecutorial decisionmaking. The data reported in this study confirm previous research findings which assert the importance of prior record and offense severity in criminal court processing. This is true for both male and female defendants, although there are also some important exceptions to this pattern. These exceptions are discussed. In addition, suspect gender was found to be statistically significant in relation to all four outcomes in favoring female over male suspects. The study suggests that prosecutors distinguish between male and female suspects across the variables of prior arrest and offense severity on the decision to file, dismiss, and reduce charges. It is suggested that these data provide some support for recent research suggesting that court personnel are responsive to the gendered asymmetry of intimate partner violence, and may view female intimate violence perpetrators more as victims than offenders. Efforts to conceptualize the role of gender in criminal court decisionmaking have undergone continuous revision in recent decades. Research evidence indicates that female offenders receive not more punitive, but more lenient responses than male offenders from the criminal justice system. This study assessed the multiple perspectives on this issue in the context of prosecutorial decisionmaking in cases involving intimate partner violence. This study used a sample of 8,461 cases involving heterosexual intimate partner violence to examine the role of suspect gender in prosecutorial decisionmaking. Four decision points are assessed: the decision to file charges; to dismiss for insufficient evidence; to file as a felony; and to reduce felony charges to a misdemeanor or violation of probation. Tables, references, appendixes A-C

State Budgets, Energy, and Climate Change

Joseph Romm over at Climate Progress has thanked me for nominating him for the Thinking Blogger Award and at the same time demonstrated in a couple of ways why, as clued in as the really good climate bloggers are (and his list of Thinkers essentially tells you who they are), they are still only using a small portion of their gray matter on the subject they're experts on. And, yes, that will have a big impact on corrections sentencing.

Note that Romm admits that he's never heard of me, but he does kindly link while acknowledging that our field isn't his "forte." Okay, no problem there. We who congregate here all know how weird we are. But the problem, his problem though he doesn't realize it, is that we will do our very best to clog up anything he wants to do to deal with his forte, just as he and his colleagues and their plans for a different climate future will clog up ours.

Here's a nice example of what I'm talking about, and something we need to be prepared for in corr sent. He has a post up responding to one of the most dire projections for our future out there today (to this particular author, the glass isn't even half empty, the glass is cracked and holes in it and will burn you if you touch it):

James Kuntsler, for instance, argues in his 2005 book The Long Emergency (see Rolling Stone excerpt here), that, after oil production peaks, suburbia “will become untenable” and “we will have to say farewell to easy motoring.” In Rolling Stone, Kuntsler writes “Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world” [No — that distinction probably belongs to China’s torrid love-affair with coal power].

But suppose Kuntsler is right about peak oil. Suppose oil hits $160 a barrel and gasoline goes to $5 dollars a gallon in, say, 2015. That price would still be lower than many Europeans pay today. You could just go out and buy the best hybrid and cut your fuel bill in half, back to current levels. Hardly the end of suburbia.

And suppose oil hit $280 a barrel and gasoline rose to $8 dollars a gallon in 2025. You would replace your hybrid with a plug-in hybrid, and those trips less than 30 miles that have made suburbia what it is today would actually cut your fuel bill by a factor of more than 10–even if all the electricity were from zero-carbon sources like wind power–to far below what you are paying today. The extra cost of the vehicle would be paid for in fuel savings in well under five years.

Think about this. You could just go out and buy the best hybrid and cut your fuel bill in half, back to current levels? You would replace your hybrid with a plug-in hybrid? You got that kind of cash lying around, especially when the demand will push prices even higher than they are now? People will need help with those costs, or with retrofitting or with paying for alternative transport, and so on and so on and so on, and where will they turn? Can you say "government"? Now, imagine the choice between keeping people on the road (and yes, I do believe in telecommuting and at-home work, but that doesn't fit with our still prevalent 19th century management models) and funding more prisons. When we're choking over whether we should fund more now before all this hits. Which leads us to TECHNOCORRECTIONS and other options, but which will still cost money and still have failures that end up on the evening news, leading to demand for more prisons. And this isn't even close to the worst dislocation and dysfunction we'll be looking at.

I'm not really whacking Joseph Romm here. As I said, I admire his work. But it's seriously incomplete, as is the bulk of his colleagues' work. They are just looking at one part of a major implementation headache, not planning for what happens after their preferred options are chosen (sorta like the "planning" for the post-invasion Iraq). We need to be getting this done up front, which means branching out from our own fortes and finding out what other fortes are doing. Hopefully, he'll check in here every now and then and so will his readers. Hopefully, you'll check in with him and the blogs he's recommending. But at some point we'll need to start institutionalizing some cross-discipline planning, or we'll end up looking at this particular time and all the CAs and TXs and almost everyone else as a golden period in policymaking.

That should scare you enough to get you ready for Halloween.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

There Are People Who Take Pride in This

Robin Prosser, a Missoula woman who struggled for a quarter century to live with the pain of an immunosuppressive disorder, tried years ago to kill herself. Last week, she tried again. This time, she succeeded.

After her earlier attempt failed, Prosser wound up in even more trouble after investigating police found marijuana in her home. She used the marijuana to help cope with pain.

That marijuana charge was eventually dropped in an agreement with the city of Missoula, and Prosser had reason to rejoice in 2004 when Montanans passed a law allowing medical use of the drug.

She was a high-profile campaigner for the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, and like others, she was dismayed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that drug agents could still arrest sick people using marijuana, even in states that legalized its use.

The ruling came to haunt Prosser in late March, when DEA agents seized less than a half ounce of marijuana sent to her by her registered caregiver in Flathead County.

At the time, the DEA special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain Field Division said federal agents were “protecting people from their own state laws” by seizing such shipments.

“I feel immensely let down,” Prosser would write a few months later, in a guest opinion for the Billings Gazette published July 28. “I have no safety, no protection, no help just to survive in a little less pain. I can't even get a job due to my medical marijuana use - can't pass a drug test.”

Federal prosecutors declined to charge Prosser, but fear spread through the system of marijuana distribution set up in the wake of the medical marijuana act. Friends said Prosser turned to other sources for marijuana, but found problems nearly everywhere she turned.

“Most recently, she had found some people who said they could get her what she needed, but it didn't go well,” said her friend Jane Byard.

Without the relief that marijuana delivered to her, Robin Prosser killed herself at home last week. She was 50.

Prosser suffered from an autoimmune disease that gave her allergic and dangerous reactions to most pharmaceutical painkillers. So she turned to marijuana. When that was no longer available she had no where else to turn.
Before being disabled by her disease, Prosser was a concert pianist and a systems analyst. After the disease hit her, she became a tireless advocate for legalized use of marijuana in medical situations.

“She had so many difficulties, but she was a wonderful person,” Byard said. “She was kind and funny and just as smart as a whip. She was a very good friend to me, and it's a very sad story what happened to her.”

More NCJRS Abstracts, October 27, 2007


NCJ 220038
Cynthia Geppert; Michael P. Bogenschutz; William R. Miller
Development of a Bibliography on Religion, Spirituality and Addictions
Drug and Alcohol Review
Volume:26 Issue:4 Dated:July 2007 Pages:389 to 395

This study aimed to develop a comprehensive annotated public-domain bibliography on the literature on spirituality and addictions to facilitate future research and scholarship. Findings suggest that the belief that spirituality is important in recovery is consistent with findings to date, but the literature needs to continue to explore ways in which spiritual interventions may help to alleviate addiction and related suffering. General findings included an inverse relationship between religiosity and substance use/abuse, reduced use among those practicing meditation protective effects of 12-step involvement during recovery. A search was conducted using all citations listed in the MEDLINE, PsychINFO, and ALTA Religion databases from 1941 to 2004 using the following search terms: substance abuse, substance dependence, addiction, religion, and spirituality. The citations were classified according to empirically derived categories. A total of 1,353 papers met the search parameters and were classified into 10 nonexclusive categories. Tables, references

NCJ 220037
Evelyn Harvey; Anthony Shakeshaft; Kate Hetherington; Claudia Sannibale; Richard P. Mattick
Efficacy of Diversion and Aftercare Strategies for Adult Drug-Involved Offenders: A Summary and Methodological Review of the Outcome Literature
Drug and Alcohol Review
Volume:26 Issue:4 Dated:July 2007 Pages:379 to 387

This study reviewed diversion and aftercare programs for drug-involved offenders. Results of the study found that the evaluation studies of diversion programs published in the last 10 years continue to be characterized by poor methodological quality and inadequate reporting of study details, and that there is opportunity to conduct evaluations in the area of aftercare that is not prison-based or postrelease. Twenty outcome studies were identified for review: 19 on diversion and 1 on aftercare. Although most studies were prospective, few reported on long-term outcomes following treatment. Detail was lacking in basic study characteristics, such as eligibility criteria and outcomes. All studies were conducted in the United States (n=79 percent) or Australia (n=21 percent). Total sample sizes ranged from 156 to 1,966 with a mean of 601 and a median of 399 participants per evaluation. Figure, table, references

NCJ 219897
Anne M. Dietrich; W. Carson Smiley; Claire Frederick
Roles of Childhood Maltreatment and Psychopathy in Sexual Recidivism of Treated Sex Offenders
Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma
Volume:14 Issue:3 Dated:2007 Pages:19 to 31

Using Survival Analysis, this study examined a sample of sex offenders completing the Intensive Treatment Program for Sexual Offenders (ITPSO) at the Correctional Service of Canada looking at psychopathy and childhood maltreatment history as potential predictors of recidivism. This study adds to the understanding of the relative influence of various forms of childhood maltreatment and neglect upon recidivism, and shows that having been placed in foster care as a child can influence recidivism. In this study, a history of childhood physical abuse predicts sexual recidivism, whereas violent recidivism is best predicted by a history of antisocial behaviors. Consistent with other studies, psychopathy per the Psychopathy Checklist, Revised (PCL-R) did not predict sexual recidivism, and childhood sexual abuse was not related to sexual recidivism. Although the findings of the study show that the Intensive Treatment Program for Sexual Offenders (ITPSO) results in lower recidivism rates than those reported for untreated sex offenders, the evidence suggests that treatment approaches for incarcerated adult offenders could improve upon their effectiveness by incorporating specialized programs for dealing with childhood maltreatment. Sexual violence is a serious social problem, with wide-ranging adverse effects on individuals and society as a whole. Sex offenders represent 25 percent of the total incarcerated population in Federal institutions in Canada. Treatment approaches for incarcerated sex offenders tend to focus on teaching skills to effectively manage their risk of reoffending in the community once released. In this study, different forms of childhood maltreatment are examined as potential predictors of sexual recidivism with a sample of 81 sex offenders who completed the ITPSO. In addition to childhood maltreatment histories, PCL-R ratings are also examined in terms of their potential predictive relationship to general, violent, and sexual recidivism of treated offenders. Figures, references

Ex Post Wilson

I'd been waiting a bit to post on Genarlow Wilson's release from a GA prison yesterday to see if there were any fallout, but even the bad DA who perpetrated all this has agreed that the state supreme court is the final word in it all. Sometimes we understand when it's finally best to just shut up. For those of you unfamiliar with the unjust story, here's the background and result.

The most important part now is what happens after this. Will the parties who managed to reverse this nonsense back off, let it all fade away, as happens too often, or will they use it to keep the energy alive for a full-fledged exam of the civil rights implications of how we do "justice" in this country? Pockets of activism exist but so far have not coordinated. Will Wilson be a rallying figure in it all? And what will the other group starting to see similar effects, the Hispanic and Latino communities, do? Their growth in the prison population is generally the fastest of all ethnic groups right now. Doubtful they'll ever reach African-American proportions but who knows, especially with all the intellect going into the immigration debate right now. The white community in the US is dropping pretty steeply in its majority, already a minority in some states, and one of the best ways to keep control historically is to basically criminalize being a different group. We've reinstituted some of Jim Crow with our imprisonment and felonization of blacks as evidence of that (disenfranchisement, inability to compete for jobs and professions, etc.--see Pam Clifton's more thorough catch at Think Outside the Cage). Will they be the only ones?

There are so many questions that Wilson's case raised under the surface that need to be addressed. The temptation will be to clap hands and go rest. That would be a mistake for the legacy of this nation.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tales of Three States

Each of these states are facing the same basic problem--incarceration rather than more cost- and victim-effective alternatives is taking up huge chunks of scarce resources about to become even scarcer. And each is following different paths to deal with that future:
  • OH may be deciding that the cliff isn't coming up on them fast enough so put the foot on the accelerator. IOW, CA's enormous mess has become something some of their policymakers [sic] want to copy, even importing some of their ideologues to make the case.
  • OTOH, MA's similar situation has one of that state's conservative newspapers scared into reality. Get this: "Meaningful reforms will ensure improvements to only better society. These include reducing crime, restoring families and communities and cost savings to taxpayers. Our citizens deserve nothing less." (h/t Real Cost of Prisons)
  • And more or less in the middle, trying to do something meaningful but maybe failing, OK is looking at trend lines and projections for its exponential prison bed growth, at how it created drug courts to help diversion, and at how the prisons seem to be growing pretty much the same way anyway. A couple of things likely, and not the "well, think how bad it would be without the drug courts" bluff. The drug courts may be pulling in folks who never would have gone to prison in the past anyway and counting them as if they would have. Or, worse, the courts may have high failure rates (40%-50%), meaning the guys end up in prison a year or two later anyway. And, if the judges are like judges I've worked with in other states, they will hammer these guys when they get revoked, meaning they not only go in anyway but will go in for longer, adding to prison costs down the road. No effective evaluation has been done yet, and certainly there has to be varying effectiveness among the multitude of non-uniform courts in the state. But, when your numbers are going up when the program was supposed to get them down, then some independent analysis is necessary. (The drug courts are part of a legislated audit that will presumably add some insight here in a few weeks. We'll let you know if any of it hits the news.)

Criminal Justice & Behavior Abstracts, Part Two

A few of several excellent articles available at Criminal Justice & Behavior right now. Go check out the others if you have time.

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 34, No. 11, 1441-1462 (2007)
Developmental Pathways of Deviance in Sexual Aggressors
Patrick Lussier, Simon Fraser University
Benoit Leclerc, University of Montreal
Jesse Cale, University College of the Fraser Valley
Jean Proulx, University of Montreal

The study investigated the behavioral antecedents of deviance in sexual aggressors and how they relate to sexual offending. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 553 convicted sexual aggressors to gather data on developmental history. Structural equation modeling was employed to analyze the behavioral antecedents. Results indicated the presence of three broad dimensions of deviance: internalization, externalization, and sexualization. Aggressors against children showed higher levels of internalization, whereas aggressors against adults reported higher levels of externalization. It is the dimension of sexualization and externalization, however, that appeared the most valuable in the understanding of sexual offending.

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 34, No. 11, 1385-1401 (2007)
Childhood Adverse Events and Current Traumatic Distress: A Comparison of Men and Women Drug-Dependent Prisoners
Nena Messina, Christine Grella, William Burdon, Michael Prendergast--University of California, Los Angeles

This study describes the prevalence of childhood adverse events (CAEs) among men and women prisoners and assesses the relationship of CAEs to adult symptoms of traumatic distress. Interview data for 427 men and 315 women were analyzed assessing childhood abuse and household dysfunction, drug and criminal histories, and symptoms of traumatic distress. Women offenders had much greater exposure to CAEs than did men and more often reported continued sexual abuse in adolescence and as an adult. Linear regression results showed that the impact of CAEs on traumatic distress was strong and cumulative for both men and women (greater exposure to CAEs increased the likelihood of 6 out of 7 mental health outcomes, although women had higher levels of traumatic distress overall). The findings indicate the need for early prevention and intervention as well as trauma-based treatment within the correctional setting.

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 34, No. 11, 1402-1426 (2007)
An Empirical Portrait of Community Reentry Among Serious Juvenile Offenders in Two Metropolitan Cities
He Len Chung, Carol A. Schubert, Edward P. Mulvey--University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

This study examined the community reentry process among 413 serious adolescent offenders released from juvenile court commitments in two metropolitan areas. Data are provided about postrelease court supervision and community-based services (CBSs) during the first 6 months in the community as well as indicators of antisocial activity, formal system involvement, school attendance, and employment. Findings indicate that a far greater proportion of offenders reported receiving supervision than CBSs, but when utilized, the frequency of CBS use was high, and intensive services reduced the odds of formal system involvement. In addition, court supervision increased the likelihood of positive adjustment during community reentry. These results held after controlling for social context variables, including peer deviance, parental monitoring, and contact with caring adults.

But This Isn't Nearly as Scary

One of the supporting pillars of the scare world we're told over and over by drug warriors is how parents are so clueless about their kids' drug use, how any kid could be doing drugs, how kids and drugs go together like bees and honey and parents are just deniers if they don't believe it, bwahahahahaha. Well, like most scary but untrue stories, there's enough reality with enough parents to allow examples. Just turns out that there aren't that many of them.

New research results from the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) suggest that most parents are aware of and accurately evaluate the extent of their teenager's cigarette smoking, marijuana use, drinking and overall substance use.

Researchers also found that in cases where parents provided lower estimates of substance use, parents were nearly twice as likely to underestimate frequency of marijuana use and quantity of alcohol use. Parents also were less likely to be aware of extent of use by younger teens and of their children's use if they themselves had personal problems or were using alcohol more frequently.

What is novel about these findings is that for the first time, detailed statistics are available about parental knowledge of teen substance use for families in which the teen's substance use is causing the parent stress, but the teen is not necessarily in treatment. Previous studies have been restricted to families with a teen in substance-abuse treatment or families with no current substance use issues.
According to lead researcher Neil B. McGillicuddy, Ph.D., "This study begins to dispel the notion that parents don't know the extent to which their teens are using cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs. It seems that, despite a few exceptions, many parents do know the extent of their teenager's substance use. Parents can use this knowledge to help themselves cope with teenage substance use and the resulting stress on the family, as well as to begin conversations with their teen about making changes."

There are provisos that you should be aware of, but this is basically very reassuring news. Maybe we all aren't dullards, after all.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Genetic Therapies for Alcoholics

More TECHNOCORRECTIONS potential here. Ignore the meant-to-impress science jargon because the meat of the concept is in the other words.

While both environmental and genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing alcohol dependence, it is believed to be a largely heritable -- 52 to 64 percent -- disease. Previous research had found a significant association between risk for alcoholism and DNA sequence variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the GABRA2 gene. New findings indicate that the GABRA2 genotype can modify overall drinking behavior, and may also have an impact on the success of certain types of alcohol psychotherapy.
"This was an important research step because one of the main goals of work on the human genome is that genetic information will someday be used to match individuals with the treatments that are most likely to work for them," said Kent Hutchison, a professor at the University of New Mexico and director of the Neurogenetics Core at the MIND Institute. "This is one step toward realizing that potential."
Collectively speaking, he added, these findings mean that certain genotypes may not only help to predict who might be at greatest risk of developing alcohol-related problems, but may also help to indicate which psychotherapies might have the best chance for success.

"It may be too soon to know exactly how these findings may be used in the clinic as there is much work to be done," said Hutchison. "But certainly, this is a first step in the right direction and at some point there is likely to be implications for how we match patients to specific treatments. The technology currently exists to genotype individuals on one million SNPs. At some point, we will have a panel of SNPs that can be used to match individuals with specific treatments."

Hi Tech, Lo Tech, No Tech

Prevention Works is still one of your best stops for info on identity theft and how to stop it. Matthew Bowen has a nice piece up today on the “low tech” of id theft, with surprising news (at least to me) that so little of it is really done over the Internet and how much still the good old-fashioned ways (although, as he notes, the sample may be skewed). Go read his post, then go read the report he tells you to read instead of just his post. But here’s a teaser:

Identity theft is not as high tech as it seems. According to the report, only half of identity theft cases investigated by the Secret Service involve the Internet or other technological devices. In 10 percent of cases, thieves resorted to “non-technological methods, such as change of address and dumpster diving.” That’s right, your trash still makes you vulnerable to identity theft. Additionally, in the cases where the center was able to identify a source of vulnerability, 50 percent of the victims were compromised by a business and another 16 percent were compromised by a friend or family member. Disregarding the 16 percent of victims harmed by family and friends, “59 percent of the victims did not know the offenders,” a much higher figure than I have previously heard.

Criminal Justice & Behavior Abstracts, Part One

A few of several excellent articles available at Criminal Justice & Behavior right now. Go check out the others if you have time.

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 34, No. 11, 1516-1527 (2007)
Belief in a Personal Just World, Justice Judgments, and Their Functions for Prisoners
Claudia Dalbert and Eva Filke, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg

This study focuses on the relationship between the experience of justice, belief in a just world (BJW), and the feelings of adult male prisoners. The sample comprised 100 adult male prisoners from a German prison. Regression analysis provided evidence for the assimilation function of the BJW: High believers evaluated the legal proceedings, their interpersonal treatment by their corrections officers, and decisions on prison affairs as more just; they reported better well-being and were less likely to express anger as outburst behavior. Interpersonal justice was particularly important in explaining well-being. The results persisted when controlling for social desirability, criminal background, and personal background. The role of BJW and interpersonal justice as a resource for adaptive social behavior and subjective well-being is discussed.

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 34, No. 11, 1499-1515 (2007)
The Role of Impulsivity in Antisocial and Violent Behavior and Personality Disorders Among Incarcerated Women
Irina Komarovskaya, Ann Booker Loper, Janet Warren--University of Virginia

This study investigated the relationships among impulsivity, antisocial and violent behavior, and personality disorders in 590 female inmates of a maximum-security female prison. Measures included the Barratt Impulsivity Scale, Prison Violence Inventory, Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Personality Disorders Screening Questionnaire, numbers of institutional infractions recorded in inmate files, and violent versus nonviolent offending. Results showed that impulsivity was associated with personality psychopathology and aggressive and antisocial behavior. In contrast to findings of studies with male inmates, female violent offenders did not demonstrate higher levels of impulsivity than nonviolent offenders.

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 34, No. 11, 1481-1498 (2007)A Multisite Evaluation of Prison-Based Therapeutic Community Drug Treatment
Wayne N. Welsh, Temple University

A quasi-experimental study examined multiple postrelease outcomes up to 2 years for inmates who participated in therapeutic community (TC) drug treatment programs (n = 217) or comparison groups (n = 491) at five state prisons. Statistical controls included level of need for treatment, current and prior criminal history, and postrelease employment. Prison TC was effective even without mandatory community aftercare, although main effects and interactions varied somewhat across different outcome measures and sites. TC significantly reduced rearrest and reincarceration rates but not drug relapse rates. Postrelease employment predicted drug relapse and reincarceration, and employment interacted with age to predict rearrest. Two sites had higher drug relapse rates than the other three. Implications for research and policy are discussed.

More Moderation with Pot News

After yesterday’s news about how pain can be suppressed or enhanced by pot use, depending on the strength of the dose comes another study indicating that differences in dosage can produce opposite effects. What a weird drug. Glad I’ve never tried it.

A new neurobiological study has found that a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, is an effective anti-depressant at low doses. However, at higher doses, the effect reverses itself and can actually worsen depression and other psychiatric conditions like psychosis.
Because controlling the dosage of natural cannabis is difficult -- particularly when it is smoked in the form of marijuana joints -- there are perils associated with using it directly as an anti-depressant.

"Excessive cannabis use in people with depression poses high risk of psychosis," said Dr. Gobbi. Instead, she and her colleagues are focusing their research on a new class of drugs which enhance the effects of the brain's natural endo-cannabinoids.

"We know that it's entirely possible to produce drugs which will enhance endo-cannabinoids for the treatment of pain, depression and anxiety," she said.

News Excerpts Just for You

  • Kansas' efforts to reintegrate its prison inmates into society are starting to ease the pressure on its bulging prison system, Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz said Wednesday during a visit to Wichita.
    "We could go several years without having to add to our prison capacity," he said. "All the numbers are going in the right direction."Last month, the KDOC was operating at about 97 percent of its 9,100-bed capacity.
  • Yet funding for the program and dozens of others across Michigan designed to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail and enrolled in drug and alcohol therapy took a hit this fall when the state announced how much or -- in many cases -- how little money it had for each court.
    Despite $5 million in requests for money for drug court programs, only $2 million was awarded statewide. The funding shortage means many courts are cutting back staff hours, limiting treatment options for offenders and making defendants who often are jobless pay more to be in the program. With low recidivism rates, drug courts have been spreading rapidly across the nation, especially in Michigan, where another nine programs are under way this year.
  • A western Missouri man convicted of drunken driving could face life in prison under a law targeting repeat DWI offenders. Joseph Townsend of rural Deepwater in Henry County was found guilty Tuesday of driving while intoxicated. Prosecutor Richard Shields had charged him as a chronic offender, under a recently toughened statute for repeat offenders. Shields said Townsend's status as a prior and persistent felon makes him subject to imprisonment for 10 to 30 years, or life. Missouri troopers stopped Townsend on January 15th for driving erratically and charged him with DWI. Townsend's record showed at least four prior alcohol-related driving counts and two more felonies. Sentencing is set for December.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More NCJRS Abstacts, October 24, 2007


NCJ 219914
Michael D. Reisig; William D. Bales; Carter Hay; Xia Wang
Effect of Racial Inequality on Black Male Recidivism
Justice Quarterly
Volume:24 Issue:3 Dated:September 2007 Pages:408 to 434

In testing two hypotheses on racial inequality and African-American male recidivism, this study examined whether recidivism rates were highest among African-American ex-inmates who were released to areas with higher levels of racial inequality. In following a large cohort of males released from Florida prisons, it was observed that racial inequality in counties where these ex-inmates were released impacted recidivism among African-American males. A significant direct effect of racial inequality on reconviction was observed. It was also found that racial inequality amplified the effects of criminal history on reconviction. With study limitations identified, this research extends prior theory and research by empirically linking racial inequality to African-American male recidivism. Macrostructural opportunity theorists posit that the unequal distribution of economic resources across racial groups promotes animosities among disadvantaged minorities, disrupts community integration, and fosters criminal activity. Guided by this framework, this paper hypothesizes that African-American ex-prisoners who reenter communities with high levels of racial inequality are more likely to commit new crimes. Support for this argument is found for a large group of males (N=34,868) released from State prisons to 62 counties in Florida over a 2-year period. Tables, figures, appendixes A-C, and references

NCJ 219970
Frederick Muench; Jon Morgenstern; Eric Hollander; Thomas Irwin; Ann O'Leary; Jeffrey T. Parsons; Milton L. Wainberg; Betty Lai
Consequences of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: The Preliminary Reliability and Validity of the Compulsive Sexual Behavior Consequences Scale
Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity
Volume:44 Issue:3 Dated:2007 Pages:207 to 220

This exploratory study examined the psychometric properties, descriptive features, and ability to detect change over time of a measure designed to assess the consequences of compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) in 34 gay and bisexual men enrolled in a double-blind, placebo-controlled medication trial that tested the effectiveness of a treatment program. The 21-item Compulsive Sexual Behavior Consequences Scale (CSBCS) detected changes in symptoms over the course of the 12-week period. Items related to intimate relationships were most resistant to change, and items related to intrapersonal conflict and impulse control were most likely to change. There were no differences in the reduction of consequences between medication and placebo groups. Consequences of CSB correlated only moderately with frequency measures which suggest that these constructs should be examined separately. The findings suggest that measuring the consequences of CSB can reveal important clues about the personal domains most affected by CSB, identify those domains that are resistant to change, and aid in individualized treatment planning. Study data were obtained during a randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study that assessed the effectiveness and tolerability of citalopram during a 12-week treatment program for 28 outpatient subjects with CSB. The primary outcome measure was the CSBCS, which was adapted from the Inventory of Drug Use Consequences. A second measure, the Primary Appraisal Measure: Compulsive Sexual Behavior, was adapted from the Drug and Alcohol Primary Appraisal measure. 3 tables and 27 references

NCJ 219969
Martin Lloyd; Nancy C. Raymond; Michael H. Miner; Eli Coleman
Borderline Personality: Traits in Individuals With Compulsive Sexual Behavior
Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity
Volume:14 Issue:3 Dated:2007 Pages:187 to 206

This review of the medical charts of 85 patients diagnosed with compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) focused on the presence of symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which has the common symptoms of instability in relationships and the need for multiple sex partners or multiple relationships. The study found that although a substantial portion of the sample showed considerable impulsivity, there was not sufficient evidence of the unstable and intense interpersonal relationships in the records of the majority of the 85 CSB subjects. The BPD symptoms most often found in the sample were impulsivity and dysphoria (an abnormal feeling of anxiety and discontent). Otherwise, the data did not indicate a relationship between CSB and BPD; however, the data did suggest some possibilities regarding factors in CSB. CSB is typically associated with impulsivity, which in turn can underlie habitual aggression and antisocial acting-out behaviors. The findings showed that 42.4 percent of the sample showed potentially dangerous impulsivity in at least two areas: risky sexual behavior and a general inability to control potentially harmful behaviors. The impulsive behavior tends to be preceded by increasing tension or arousal, followed by pleasure, gratification, or relief. Still, there was no evidence of potentially dangerous impulsivity in multiple areas for over half of the individuals in the sample. This suggests multiple types of CSB or a range of levels of uncontrolled compulsive behavior. There may be two subgroups within CSB, one that is more closely linked with compulsive acting-out behaviors and one that is more closely linked to anxiety and mood disorders that do not require risky sexual or antisocial behaviors for gratification or relief. 3 tables, 27 references, and appendix A

Moderation in All Things

When we give you good news about the medicinal value of pot, like its possible use against brain tumors we reported yesterday, we also are obligated to give you bad news. Turns out, as in all other things, moderation is key.

Smoking large amounts of cannabis for therapeutic reasons may increase rather than reduce pain, a US study suggests.

The pain-relieving qualities of cannabis have long been hailed, and several countries have made it available for medicinal purposes.

But quantity is key, according to the study in the journal Anesthesiology.

University of California researchers found moderate use had the greatest impact on pain in 15 volunteers, while large doses actually made pain worse.

I guess this puts an end to getting your pot at Costco or Sam’s.

Portrait of a Gordian Knot

You won’t find a much better, concise, and depressing overview of what’s happened to corr sent policy in this country and specifically in that coming future state of all of us, CA, than this article, via Real Cost of Prisons. The history is there nationally and of CA’s own special morass, and the essential intractability of dealing with the problem in “normal” ways once it passes a threshold is made clear. (The article gives hope that the courts will be the sword to cut CA’s Gordian Knot, but I’ll have to see what the US Supreme Court finally decides before I’ll believe it. That’s a long time and more Knot off.) I read this right after reading the latest report from NY’s sorta sentencing commission (two of them actually) that repeats all the usual talk but makes clear that it won’t walk any walk of real importance, via Sentencing Law and Policy, and the latest initiative proposal in CA, via Governing Through Crime, to add more time to existing sentences if related to gangs (which, given CA’s history, will pass).

And from all this I conclude that I don’t need to change my earlier views of what’s the only real solution possible in CA, and other states approaching similar situations, despite all the hard work by all the good people there. It’s not the tried-and-true sentencing commission. The only remedy that has a chance is Marvin Frankel’s original proposal for sentencing commissions, a body that MAKES ACTUAL POLICY, subject to review and extraordinary override vote, the way the FED makes monetary policy (another area impossible for legislators to handle effectively) for the US, which is NOT unconstitutional and which, since it is enacted in law by elected legislators and signed by elected executives subject to review at the next election, is NOT taking power from elected officials.

Too many people chant “commission will solve, commission will solve,” when in fact too many commissions haven’t solved. The right conditions have to come together in a state, almost a “perfect storm,” for a commission to have actual impact and long-term accomplishment, and no other state has faced the “storm” that is CA. WI’s meandering and unfocused second commission just bit the dust with the state’s long-overdue budget agreement (the third is undoubtedly around the corner in, oh, three years, is my longest guess). And what sounded like promising commissions when they started, in CO, NJ, VT, MI, etc., have now opted for the penny-wise, pound-foolish approach of not investing in dedicated, specialist staff and, some of them, of cannibalizing their effective statistical analysis centers in order to have any analytical capability at all. Good luck with that. I know the outcome my money’s on.

Senator Romero in CA has been a leader on creating a commission with authority and teeth, but she’s An Army of One for the most part and will be term-limited. As I said, there have been successful commissions, when the state also invests in real alternative sentencing at the same time. But too many commissions are just report-issuers that allow the state to feint allegiance to “evidence-based” policy while going its same old merry way. WI passed its Jessica’s Law without a nod at its commission. We focus on the small number of successes while ignoring the outright failures or the water-treading commissions which have little to no impact at all unless it’s politically convenient for the leadership. Read the CA article and see if that’s on the state’s horizon. So, it’s looking like the “best” outcome actually likely in CA will be a commission that issues safe and unchallenging reports like NY. And hurls them into a black hole that, as the Little Hoover Commission famously said there already, is filled with swirling reports saying the same basic things.

Until that hole collapses on itself, the Knot will just get harder and tighter.


Alec Jeffreys, the genetics professor who invented DNA fingerprinting in 1984 and went on to help police crack the Pitchfork case, is justifiably proud of his discovery.

He has a blurry image of the first ever DNA fingerprint on the wall of his office at Leicester University in central England.

Yet he is worried. He fears society has failed to grasp the ethical issues of DNA collection, its potential for abuse and the limitations of genetic analysis.

"The legislation is lagging really rather seriously behind the use of the database," he said.

"I take the simple view that my genome is mine. Under some circumstances, I'll allow the state limited access. But prying into my DNA ...? I am wholly opposed to that."
The size of the British collection, which is growing by 30,000 a month, reflects the fact that police powers to take DNA are wider in England and Wales than in any other country.

Under 2001 rules DNA can be taken without consent from any person arrested for a serious, or "recordable", crime and kept even if that individual turns out to be innocent. In Scotland, samples must be destroyed if there is no charge.
New government proposals would allow police to catalogue DNA from those arrested for "non-recordable" crimes, such as littering and minor traffic offences.

Fanning the flames, a senior judge last month called for genetic details of everyone living in Britain, and all those who visited the country, to be added to the national DNA database, in a move described by human rights group Liberty as "chilling".

Britain's leading ethical think-tank, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, has demanded a change of tack.

It urged the government in September to scrap its plans for wider DNA collection and stop the authorities keeping the DNA of people found innocent, arguing police efforts would be better spent on gathering more DNA from crime scenes.

Britain's Home Office, however, says crime statistics show current practices are effective, with 8,000 samples found to match DNA from crime scenes out of a total of 200,000 "innocent" samples collected by the end of 2005.

"We must consider anything which frees up police time or improves the efficiency and effectiveness of police investigations," a spokeswoman said.
"If you are removing DNA from just a few cells from the scene of crime, you have no idea whether those cells are necessarily relevant to the criminal act or not," Jeffreys said.
"DNA does not have the words 'innocent' or 'guilty' written in it."

For those of you unconcerned about where TECHNO might go, let’s rewind the tape, shall we?

"We must consider anything which frees up police time or improves the efficiency and effectiveness of police investigations," a spokeswoman said.

Ah, the old “it’s ok, it’s efficient.” No authoritarian has ever said it better.

And TECHNO Is Even Closer Than You Think

Get ready for more brain lie detecters. And mapping of "disorders."

For the first time, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are able to pinpoint brain waves that distinguish true from false memories, providing a better understanding of how memory works and creating a new strategy to help epilepsy patients retain cognitive function.

The study, the first to show that brain waves predict the veracity of human memories, is published in the journal Psychological Science.
In addition, these techniques for mapping cognitive networks could give rise to better ways of mapping functional networks in brain, which may help in treating a number of neurological disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, head trauma and affective disorders, Litt said.

Is criminal behavior an “affective disorder”? It’s not???

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Around the Blogs, Tuesday, October 23, 2007

  • Pam Clifton at Think Outside the Cage has found an intriguing report that THC, the active ingredient in pot, appears to have a therapeutic impact on brain tumors. As she notes, this might have implications for areas of corrections sentencing. I’m sure no drug warrior would let a loved one be cured, though. Wouldn’t it be something if it turns out that marijuana is the next best thing to aspirin? Wouldn’t that just, like, put the exclamation points on everything we’ve done in corr sent for the last several decades?
  • Corey Rayburn Yung has a typically insightful post up on “gray rape,” a new meme threatening to run us into a new hysteria, and the smart comments by a reality-clued DA on the implications of what the proponents of the concept are saying.
  • At Prevention Works, Matthew Bowen rightly laments the “bleaching” of the concept of “sexual harassment” to the point that kindergartener can be charged and forever labeled with the term. I would argue that Corey is making the same point about rape. When you water down and trivialize something so dangerous by calling anything that has a resemblance, no matter how tenuous, the same thing, you make it harder for us to take the serious cases seriously. Have we really lost the ability to keep our eyes on the ball that much?
  • Anne Reed at Deliberations has been running some good “Social Networking for Dummies” posts (she’s much too kind to call them that herself), which have included the web networks that have been growing. Of most interest to me has been her spot-on presentation of Second Life and the maybe infinite potential for simulation and experimentation that could happen there, which I have been pushing on crim majors with computer geek skills for months now. [After all, via Governing Through Crime, there’s apparently a new computer simulation game out there that will let you run your own private prison for profit. Or not. Am I wrong to be weirded out by that?] You’ll get a nice overview of Second Life, especially as it applies to legal stuff, and don’t miss the comments, where you’ll find out about a Second Life Bar Association and the expansion of cases that are exploding through that real fake world.
  • Finally, Grits for Breakfast has captured yet another story of how, in a time of generally declining victimization for most of us (although violent crime rates are inching up in a lot of places), the media (news and popular) have convinced folks that their likelihood of being a crime victim is high. The best book on this remains Katherine Beckett’s Making Crime Pay, which did a great job of showing that these polls follow, not lead, the actions of media and politicians in hyping fears of crime. And this poll again shows that telling scared people they should be “smart on crime” rather than “tough on crime” (think Woody Allen instead of John Wayne) is the best way of throwing in the towel possible in our efforts to bring sense to public safety and victim reduction.