Thursday, October 18, 2007

News of the Day, Thursday, October 18, 2007

  • I’m not big on increasing the penalties we’ve built up today, especially in states already imploding with prison growth, but this new law upping the range for vehicular homicide under the influence in CA actually is defensible to me. I’ve always had a hard time understanding the differing penalties for killing someone with a gun or knife while you’re crazed than for people who do it with large vehicular machinery. Mens rea, all that, whatever, you still should have known better and your actions took lives. As long as it’s not mandatory and the judge is allowed to sort out actual culpability, it could serve justice much better. No word on what penalties CA reduced in order to avoid the bedspace impacts this will have there.
  • Lot of DNA-related stories from the states today. Here, Innocence Project folks are calling for reform of CO’s laws to better preserve evidence like DNA; here, the Project director castigates NY for not doing more with DNA and other procedures to prevent false convictions as well; here, two VA inmates are trying to get the state to let them use a non-state forensic lab to do the tests they need since the state lab can’t do them; and here, WA’s governor wants all convicted sex offenders to turn over DNA samples, even the offenders who have served their time. It’s weird, but, when I go back through my crim just textbooks a decade or two back, none of this seems to come up.
  • Okay, mentally ill more likely to have cardiovascular disease? Check. More mentally ill in prisons and jails? Check. More inmates getting older and older in prisons and jails, staying much longer time? Check. Costs of cardiovascular disease outrageous? Check. Sounds like we're in for a fun time.
  • More here on the politics associated with CT’s efforts to deal with increased demand for gov action on incarcerating dangerous folks and the eye that always has to be cast to the funds available to actually do it.
  • A second challenge to sex offender laws in OH reaching the state’s supreme court. The first, which we’ve discussed, was the constitutionality of the state’s residency restriction laws. Now we have a couple of former female prison workers challenging the retroactivity of the Adam Walsh Act, which made their low-level offenses something for which they will now have to register and be labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Lawyer David Singleton argued that neither is a community danger. "Labeling them the 'worst of the worst' offenders dilutes the purpose of the registry and will subject them and their families to public hostility and ridicule," he said in a news release. Seriously, like that matters in 21st Century America?
  • Is MI really closing a prison when its system is badly overcrowded simply to get out of a court order about the prison?
  • Now this is interesting. A trailer park in FL that caters to sex offenders. The landlord is a former victim and tries to get these folks counseling as well as a safe place to stay and try to get themselves under control. Morais said she carefully screens all her potential "guests," even with their unsavory pasts. "If they come into our program, I would look them close in the eye and will tell them very clearly: 'You want to do good? I will do whatever I can to help you do good,'" she said. "'You mess up, I'm not gonna cry when you are handcuffed and they are taking you away.'" The non-offender residents actually believe it’s a safer place to live because none of the offenders there want to go back to prison. Criminology doctoral students, where are you?
  • As a growing number of states pass laws against bullying, new research finds that bullies and their victims are more likely than other children to be victims of crime outside of school. "They're often victimized in the community," says Melissa Holt, research professor at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, co-author of a new study on bullying. The kids in the study at greatest risk are those who are both bullies and victims of bullies, Holt says. Of those, 84% had been victims of a crime, including burglary and assault, and 32% had been sexually abused. . . . The study found that 70% of bullies and 66% of bullying victims were crime victims, compared with 43% of kids who were neither bullies nor victims.
  • Finally, doctors in NC decided that their members couldn’t ethically participate in executions. A state judge decided that an execution wasn’t “a medical event” and overturned the professionals’ decision. The doctors decided to start hearing criminal cases on their own since anyone outside a profession can clearly tell better than those trained in it what is and isn’t relevant to that profession. . . uh, sorry, no, that’s not what they did. They’re actually deciding what to do now, but, as we get into TECHNOCORRECTIONS and the research and studies underlying associated health problems and offenses, this sort of thing may just turn out to be a lot more common. Here’s how one doctor already responded: "I think people are worried because this could be a slippery slope," van der Horst said. "First they rule that this isn't a medical procedure. What are they going to do next?" In a letter to the medical board after the ruling, van der Horst urged the medical board to stand firm and defend its principles. "We are required to provide care to those in front of us without regard to race, religion, past behavior, gender, insurance status, and a whole litany of characteristics," he wrote. "This has become increasingly difficult as insurers, attorneys, and others tell us what we can and can not do. But at all times we should at least aim for the moral high ground. When we make life easier for those who try to change us by caving in to their demands prematurely, we compromise our ethics and give up some of our humanity." Seriously, like that matters in 21st Century America?

No comments: