Friday, November 30, 2007

And Women Worldwide Are “Shocked, Simply Shocked”

Male ancestor was slow to grow up

Juries Are Only Skin Deep

One of the things I like about the Deliberations blog (don’t forget to vote in the ABA best blogs election) is how Anne Reed will take a topic seemingly unrelated to her blog’s focus on juries and show instead how that topic is essential to understand if you want to understand how juries operate and react. It’s a creative approach that makes you look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. Here’s an excellent example, taking research that shows that perceptions of attractiveness change, for good or bad, as you get to know a person better (my wife has finally gotten to where she thinks I’m halfway attractive!!!). Okay, so what does that have to do with juries, you say.

Does this have anything to do with juries? Absolutely. Like it or not, physical beauty matters to jurors, as a British study in March most recently showed. Back then I got to spend one long post on the study itself and another one on what to make of it. One thing I said was "Remember 'more than skin deep.' . . . If you have a witness you think may be stereotyped because of the way he looks, there are ways to let the jury see the beauty of his character." I didn't have a study to cite when I said it, but there is one now.

See what I mean?

Another Christmas Book List

A few days back we linked you to Deliberations’ recommended book list for the holiday season. For those of you more into science sorts of things, here’s what Scientific American would apparently put under your tree. Come on. Even if you aren’t interested, you’re bound to have a geeky relative.

Pot but Not Pot

Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London, have discovered a new way to separate the therapeutic benefits of cannabis from its mood-altering side-effects.

Cannabis contains a chemical called THC, which binds to, and activates, proteins in the brain known as ‘CB1 cannabinoid receptors’. Activating these receptors can relieve pain and prevent epileptic seizures; but it also causes the mood-altering effect experienced by people who use cannabis as a recreational drug.

Now, Professor Maurice Elphick and Dr Michaela Egertov√° from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences may have found a way of separating out the effects of cannabis – a discovery which could lead to the development of new medicines to treat conditions such as epilepsy, obesity and chronic pain. The research is described in the December issue of the journal Molecular Pharmacology.

Pedophiles and Control Group

We noted a study a few days ago indicating that pedophile brains may be different, may have white matter (whatever that is) in some areas than brains of the non-pedophilic general population. Well, here’s a very good critique of that article that asks us to avoid jumping guns on the findings for a variety of reasons, including these that are most understandable to non-cog sci folks:

Now, a few things strikes [sic] me odd in this analysis and interpretation. First of all, why is the comparison group nonsexual offenders? After all, that the crime is of a sexual nature is absolutely central to the present question, and especially that the sexual offender has been interested in children. The obvious choice would be to compare paedophilic sexual offenders to sexual offenders who had adult victims (typically a male offending a woman). Here, the act of sexual offence is similar between the two groups, while the sexual “object” is the vital difference. In the present study, any significant difference could just as well be explained by the nature of the crime as the sexual inclination of the subjects. It’s a classic case of poor control of confounding variables.

The whole thing is worth your time just as how good critique of scientific studies should go, not just as a speed bump to the start of profiling and then dealing with certain types of offenders differently based on presumed genetic and subsequent physiological differences.

Trial Penalty

Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy has been running some great stuff, such as this, on the “trial penalty” associated with longer sentences if you decide to go to trial rather than plead. When we were studying WI sentences a couple of years back, we found exactly the same thing in state cases there for the offenses we were analyzing. To me, the trial penalty is the clearest statement possible that sentencing in America is completely and totally unprincipled. It doesn’t matter whether the trial sentence or the plea sentence is the “right” one or if neither is. That one occurs if the defendant pleads and the other if s/he doesn’t, regardless of which is “right,” however defined, is all the proof we need that there is no more empirical basis for the sentences we give than medicine had for blood-letting back when it was at the same stage of professional development that sentencing is now. Unless and until we establish a philosophically justifiable ground for the goals, practice, and actual outcomes of sentencing, these kinds of unjust but common results are inevitable.

Enough talk about guidelines as the primary focus of sentencing deliberation. Let’s figure out what we want from sentencing in particular to start with and what evidence we have to support it or to deny alternatives. Let’s find out what sentences get closest to what we agree should be the proper social outcome(s) and desire(s) and get the data to show how well we do. This floundering around and gamesmanship may be fun for the practitioners like the ones in Doug’s “comments” who are clearly so deep in the kool-aid that they don’t know it even exists, but the rest of the community has to live with the poked eyes and diminished confidence that the system’s outcomes are based on just and reasoned conclusions at all. Once we get to a place at which we can talk intelligently about reasoned sentencing, then we can discuss how guidelines might or might not accomplish it, especially when those of us who’ve been involved in far too many sessions of guidelines development know that one goal of many framers is overtly to create the very “trial penalty” that corrupts everything about our sentencing.

Here’s some of the section Doug links to that makes the point less emotionally or pugilistically:

Now imagine that you might face [a 35-year] sentence if found guilty. Imagine, too, that you believed yourself innocent of all charges, but recognised the great complexity of the case and the ease with which a prosecutor might twist evidence against you before an uninformed (perhaps prejudiced) jury. You might suppose you had a one-in-five chance of being found guilty. That would be particularly plausible if you had run out of financial resources and so were unable to retain a first-rate legal team. What would you do if the prosecutors offered a plea bargain, under which you would serve just 37 months in prison in your home country (and pay $7.3m in restitution to the Royal Bank of Scotland, now the owner of NatWest)?

The answer is that most people would plead guilty, not because it was true but because it is what any risk-averse human being would do. To my mind, this system is tantamount to extracting confessions of guilt under a form of psychological torture. That torture consists of the reasonable fear of being found guilty and fear of the length of time one might then serve in prison and of what might happen while one was there. A ll but exceptionally brave people will confess to almost anything to escape even the possibility of torture. In the same way, the majority of people would surely confess to almost anything to avoid the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in prison.

Recognition of the meaninglessness of confessions extracted under threat of torture was the main reason civilised jurisdictions abandoned its use. The same objection applies to pleas of guilty made under the kind of plea bargaining employed in the case of the NatWest three. Let me be clear: I am not asserting that the men are innocent. But the fact that they have made a plea of guilty does not prove their guilt. It could just as well show that the US judicial system has a potent machine for extracting pleas of guilty to lesser charges. In this way, it has also effectively eliminated a presumption of innocence.

Okay, Now We'll Get Action

Kevorkian cries out against justice system
'Dr. Death' wants courts to stop putting criminals in jail, defends assisted suicide

Smokers Hurt More Fetuses Than Do Crack or Meth

Deepening research shows babies who are exposed to cocaine or methamphetamine in the womb fare similarly to other babies as they age.

Moreover, terms such as "crack baby” and "meth baby” are pejorative and not based in scientific research, said scientists, physicians and social workers who spoke at the "Women, Pregnancy and Drug Use: Medical Facts, Practical Responses and the Well-Being of Children and Families” seminar Wednesday afternoon at the Presbyterian Health Foundation Conference Center.

Barry Lester, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics who heads the Brown University Center for Study of Children at Risk, worked to debunk the notion that prenatal exposure to cocaine and meth is extremely damaging to babies.

Two studies Lester has contributed to, including one ongoing in Tulsa, show minor differences between babies born to cocaine- and methamphetamine-using mothers and those born to mothers who don't use the drugs.
Speakers said prosecution of pregnant women for drug abuse deterred them from seeking drug treatment and prenatal care, and negatively affected their children.

Dr. Eli Reshef, an obstetrician-gynecologist and assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, compared prosecution of pregnant drug abusers to punishing obese mothers and those who smoke.

"A smoker has more risk of harming the baby than someone who uses meth,” he said.

Mr. TECHNOCORRECTIONS, You Have a Call on Line One

Home price decline equals property tax decline equals less money on city and county levels equals more demand for state assistance equals fewer dollars for normal state activities, such as corr sent, for the foreseeable future equals incapacity to continue on the paths we’re on in prison policy.

Fastest decline in price of new US homes since 1981

[And if you want an update on where and how fast the developments in brain engineering are going, check out Brain Waves, where you’ll get news on developments on the corporate side and announcements that we’re only about a decade away from being able to simulate a human brain in order to better test treatments and interventions. Thank goodness that in a decade I’ll only be 14 years away from my Death Clock date.]

Don't Want to Know How They Knew This

“It sort of tasted like toilet-bowl cleaner.”

Dana Shires, a University of Florida researcher who worked on the first batch of Gatorade in 1965 with Dr. J. Robert Cade, who is credited with inventing the sports drink — its flavor was later improved with the addition of sugar and lemon juice, launching a multibillion-dollar industry — and who died Nov. 27.

I Know It's Just the UK

But Psychology and Crime News links us to some really interesting reports that the UK Home Office (which really doesn’t deal with what it sounds like) has just issued. I was most intrigued by the application of crime mapping to movements (and disease-like characteristics) of burglaries, but there’s good basic data and work on effectiveness of drug treatment programs as well. It’s just possible, you know, maybe, that other countries could kinda, sorta, have something to offer us in terms of insights once in a blue moon.

Stick ‘Em Up, Peter, Paul Needs Paid

Odd that nothing’s coming out of the IL state prison budget, apparently, you know, where those not getting the treatment will end up.

Substance-abuse treatment centers are suffering through the worst backlog of state payments in at least eight years while Gov. Rod Blagojevich diverts $400 million from state coffers — not to pay the centers, but to expand health-care coverage for poor adults and middle-income families.

That situation frustrates Stephen Knox, chief executive of Springfield’s not-for-profit Triangle Center, which hasn’t received a substantial payment from the state since mid-August. “The governor is on the road, trying to expand health-care programs in Illinois,” Knox said Thursday. “I would like to remind him that alcohol and drug care is health care. The debt needs to be paid down before you expand.”

You Pick—Club Drug or Whack on the Head

What do suffering a traumatic brain injury and using club drugs have in common? University of Florida researchers say both may trigger a similar chemical chain reaction in the brain, leading to cell death, memory loss and potentially irreversible brain damage.

A series of studies at UF over the past five years has shown using the popular club drug Ecstasy, also called MDMA, and other forms of methamphetamine lead to the same type of brain changes, cell loss and protein fluctuations in the brain that occur after a person endures a sharp blow to the head, according to recent findings.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Next Fad in Privatization?

And please let’s not hear any state that uses a lottery to tap vices, parlay poverty, and avoid community responsibility for important functions argue that this shouldn’t be considered here. As the old joke says, we’ve established what those states are, we’re just haggling over price.

A Chilean prostitute has auctioned 27 hours of sex to raise money for the country's largest charity during an annual fund-raising campaign.

Maria Carolina became an overnight celebrity in the conservative Roman Catholic country, making news headlines and appearing on talk shows since she made her unusual donation to the televised charity event, which runs for 27 hours starting on Friday evening.

"I've already auctioned off the 27 hours of love," Maria Carolina told Reuters on Wednesday, saying she had raised about $4,000. "One of my clients already paid. It seemed like a good deed to him."

An Election That Means Something

Grits for Breakfast links us to an election involving the top law blogs being run by the ABA journal. It’s actually a very nice list of interesting sounding blogs that may have relevance to issues you’re involved with. Plus, there are several blogs up for consideration that we refer to frequently here that you might want to vote for, including Grits, Sentencing Law and Policy, Crime and Consequences, and Deliberations. (Where the he-l is Sex Crimes Blog?) Remember, every vote counts in America.

[And thanks, Anne, for the compliment, but I’m not sure the validity of your statement would be upheld in an election or a court of law.]

Speaking of Blogs That Deserve More Attention

Matthew Bowen at Prevention Works has a typically thoughtful post up regarding Jim Austin’s recent report on overincarceration and how to deal with the excess. He’s right that even those who are seriously concerned about the most cost- and victim-effective means of controlling crime habitually overlook everything that can be done to stop crime from happening to start with. Using prisons to fight crime is like using hospitals to fight disease. Prevention should be the starting point from which everything else follows. It’s not rocket science, but too many interests and habits, too many sunk costs that got paid before sense could prevail, would be overturned by taking prevention seriously, and even the advocates of greater rationality fail to see that. Thankfully we’ve got Matthew and his crew actively fighting the good fight to turn that around.

And Here Are a Couple More That Do

Yesterday I lamented not citing EvidenceProf Blog although I find its posts really informative, just not directly relevant to what we talk about here. Well, this post is close enough, and interesting to boot, that I thought I’d give you a taste of what I was talking about if you need your whistle whetted, which is something I always enjoy:

On Tuesday, a Knox County Criminal Court jury found Doug Glenn Flack guilty of assaulting Tenisha Bright by punching her in the face in the parking garage outside a movie theater at a Tennessee mall. This verdict came despite the caucasian Bright having apparent difficulty identifying the african-american Bright as her assailant.

Specifically, a month after she was assaulted in 2004, Bright picked out someone
other than Flack at a police lineup. At a subsequent police lineup, however, Bright did pick out Flack as her assailant. At trial, though, even with Flack sitting right in front of her in the courtroom, when presented with an assortment of mugshots, Bright picked out the mugshot of another man as her assailant. When asked to point to her assailant, however, Bright was able to identify Flack, the only African-American man sitting at the defense table. During trial, Flack's attorney attempted to question a detective about the problems with an eyewitness of one race identifying a person of another race, but Judge Kenneth F. Irvine Jr. precluded this line of questioning.

Judge Irvine's decision makes sense because I doubt that the detective had the qualifications to be able to render an expert opinion on the issue of the unreliability of cross-racial identifications. However, while the detective could thus not have been questioned about the unreliability of cross-racial identifications, I know that most courts have found that such testimony is admissible when presented by an expert witness. See United States v. Angleton, 269 F.Supp.2d 868, 873 (S.D. Tex. 2003).

Another very well done blog that I’ve not cited before, more from inertia and mental defect than anything else, is a public defender, where right now you’ll find a couple of great posts, one on research done on disparity in judicial treatment by race and on the characteristics associated with successful defense attorneys (surprise, it depends on your experience, not where you went to school) and one on reflections on the proposals being considered for changes in CT’s crim just system in light of the recent murders there that have spurred more attention. Definitely worth your time and thought.

Crime Pays Very Well, Actually

Texas Prison Bidness alerts us to a new book on the folks who make their profits off putting people behind bars. I’m not sure the “reformers” in corr sent truly understand the extent to which private corrections, treatment providers as well as the CCAs and GEOs that we hear more about, impacts our economies as well as our policymaking in the states where they’ve been successful. Any serious reform that ignores how the jobs and finances affect communities and the states, that doesn’t talk intelligently about how those areas will be remedied in any “reform,” is asking for a bruising when the debate and decision actually occur.


Here’s an op-ed on a topic that I'm actually very sympathetic to, the multiple DUI folks, that demonstrates, though, why I think TECHNO for substance abusers not only is needed but is inevitable. The writer argues for greater sentences for these truly dangerous people . . . without a single word about the enormous costs associated with the change proposed. We’re not talking about sex offenders here, who don’t make up much of the prison pop and can have time added at less cost, but DUI guys who are an enormous part of the prison pop, especially in WI where this op-ed was written and which is facing a large pop growth anyway down the road. Developing bioengineered or pharmaceutical remedies for these folks will not only prevent the prison pop explosion that this writer is advocating but would actually reduce the existing prison populations, and likely at less cost than current non-incarcerative alternatives. Once the TECHNO comes online, these guys will be at the forefront of their applications, with big payoffs that will encourage more turning to TECHNO solutions in other areas. Simply advocating more prison time is trading one bad problem for another bad problem.

Good News on Violent Crime

Looks like the violent crime surge of the last two years may have been a blip rather than a trend, although the offenses and rate changes vary from city to city. Once again, places like NYC (which emphasize a strong law enforcement rather than imprisonment approach) have a giant impact on overall national trends, and other cities, like Minneapolis, are also claiming substantial law enforcement program impact on the violence in their communities. The major point, of course, is that crime rates shift pretty dramatically over a period of time in relation to rates of imprisonment (like now when one’s going up and down while the other stays steady), and we have to stop this business of cherry-picking the times when they are inverse to each other to show how locking people up is the best strategy to prevent all crime. Some crimes, absolutely, most crimes, no. And the best strategy, as we note in a post above, is to stop the crime from happening in the first place, no costs, no victims.

CO Needs a Half Billion for More Prisons

So says their DOC chief. CO also needs its sentencing commission to do serious work quickly now to address what’s driving those costs, and it also needs dedicated staff solely committed to supporting that commission’s work, not reliance on one (or a half) director and the state Statistical Analysis Center, which will only see its other nationally known work get truncated by the state’s refusal to pony up the dollars for a real commission staff. “Penny-wise and pound-foolish” wasn’t just something that sprang out of nowhere.

The Costs of Warming

FL looking at a $92b. (that’s billion) cost associated with the impact of global warming on the state by 2050, according to a new report. And tell me again where all the new, needed money for the state’s crim just and corr sent will come from then? [And I doubt this includes the new diseases that will be moving north with the heat.]

Joan McCord

Very interesting book review of essays by Joan McCord, one of our pioneering female criminologists, here. If you’re not familiar with her work, this is a quick and easy way to get so. You’ll feel a lot smarter, trust me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lost and Found Department

The Florida Highway Patrol says anyone missing two big bags of pot can call their Tampa area office. A crew picking up litter from along Interstate 4 near Tuesday morning made an unusual find: two big plastic garbage bags stuffed with freshly harvested marijuana.

FHP Trooper Larry Coggins says the 60 pounds of pot might be worth around $54,000 on the street. It probably fell off or was thrown from a car on the interstate.

The plants appeared freshly picked and some had intact roots.

Coggins says it's not the largest amount of pot ever dumped along a roadside, but it's certainly not a common find.

Maybe We Should That Pot to This Guy

A US judge has been removed from the bench for jailing an entire courtroom audience after none of them admitted being responsible for a ringing phone.

Judge Robert Restaino was presiding over a domestic violence case in the city of Niagara Falls in March 2005.

A commission on judicial conduct said Judge Restaino had acted "without any semblance of a lawful basis" and behaved like a "petty tyrant".

The judge has said he was under stress in his personal life at the time.

New Science News

Get your TECHNOCORRECTIONS going, you defense lawyer types:

Pedophilia might be the result of faulty connections in the brain, according to new research released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The study used MRIs and a sophisticated computer analysis technique to compare a group of pedophiles with a group of non-sexual criminals. The pedophiles had significantly less of a substance called "white matter" which is responsible for wiring the different parts of the brain together.
This discovery suggests that much more research attention should be paid to how the brain governs sexual interests. Such information could potentially yield strategies for preventing the development of pedophilia.

Speaking of pedophiles, we’ll banish sex offenders from being near schools but not do a thing about efforts to hook those kids on lethal drugs? . . . oh, wait, forgot they were “legal” drugs, too:

A new Canadian study reports that tobacco marketers have found a way around tobacco advertising restrictions, reaching teens by marketing in retail shops located near high schools. The findings, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, suggest the strategy is working.

"At the time of the study, we found that, compared to retail stores near schools with low smoking prevalence, stores near schools with high smoking prevalence had significantly lower prices per cigarette, more in-store promotions and fewer government-sponsored health warnings," said University of Alberta researcher and study co-author Candace Nykiforuk.

And by no means do anything about these things, either. They’re legal, too:

Watching media violence significantly increases the risk that a viewer or video game player will behave aggressively in both the short and long term, according to a University of Michigan study published today in a special issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
"The research clearly shows that exposure to virtual violence increases the risk that both children and adults will behave aggressively," said Huesmann, the Amos N. Tversky Collegiate Professor of Communication Studies and Psychology, and a senior research scientist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

I Wish I Could Write

“To be blunt, we fear murderers and we lock up Laurel and Hardy.”

Jonathan Simon, Governing Through Crime

Soft on Crime Republicans?

A nice piece in the Guardian about people Romney and Giuliani appointed as judges who turned out to have records that sound more like they were appointed by wussy Democrats. When you add to that the problems Huckabee might have over a guy he went way out of his way to pardon who afterward killed some people, we may have the three top candidates getting attacked by the Democrats’ nominee for being soft of crime. And men will be biting dogs all across America.

Gift Ideas

Anne Reed at Deliberations has some ideas for book gift giving that include some tomes that I’ve found very interesting, too, and not all directly corrections sentencing, once again proving that “Thinking Bloggers” think alike. Go check them out if you want some holiday tips for yourselves or others. Now if someone had just told me about that bookstore she lauds while I still lived in WI . . . .

[Speaking of good reading and blogs, I have yet to cite anything from EvidenceProf Blog, run by a friend of Corey Rayburn Yung’s at John Marshall Law School, but every day the blog has something fascinating about an area of law that makes the heads of most of us start buzzing. Good stuff and insight into a difficult part of our legal process.]

Quick Note on CA

Republican legislators in CA are urging the gov there to invoke a “fiscal crisis” mechanism to handle their severe budget problem which is being exacerbated by fires, fuel increases, real estate declines, etc. Policymakers already staking positions, setting the state up for a worse replay of what happened earlier this year and at a time when they are supposed to be acting serious about dealing with their chronic prison problems. Gordian Knot, Cincinnatus leader, big sword . . . have yet to see any other real solution.

Evidence-Based Programs Web Page from SAMSHA

A friend sent in this notice of SAMSHA's latest web page on evidence-based programming. I'll be nice and share.

New Web Page Helps Users Identify Evidence-Based Programs

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has developed a new Web page to assist the public in identifying evidence-based programs and practices that can prevent and/or treat mental and substance use disorders. A Guide to Evidence-Based Practices on the Web features 37 websites that contain information about specific evidence-based interventions or provide comprehensive reviews of research findings.

The Web Guide—a component of SAMHSA’s Science and Service Initiative—can be used by stakeholders throughout the behavioral health field to promote awareness of current intervention research and to increase the availability and implementation of evidence-based practices.

Read the full news bulletin

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

News of the Day, Tuesday, November 27, 2007

  • Showing how policymakers in one state pay very little attention when bad ideas go bad in other states, WA is planning a major crackdown on registrations for sex offenders just as, as we’ve talked about before, CA is facing the massive (and probably undo-able) implementation problems with its GPS tracking system and GA’s top court has struck down the residency restrictions on them. (Doug Berman adds some nice commentary on the implications of the CA GPS troubles for all TECHNOCORRECTIONS here, and I can testify that WI is having the same problems.)
  • Speaking of TECHNO and dwelling on irony, research is indicating that nicotine may help recovering alcoholics with their attention and working memory. I think treatment providers may go with patches rather than the more customary manner of the drug’s delivery, however.
  • ID hearing from a TX private cell provider that they’re better and willing to supply even more beds to keep that state from facing up to its incarceration policy problems.
  • A move in MA to decriminalize an ounce or less of pot, familiar arguments pro and con. What’s fun about this article is that, of course, the idiotic “gateway” drug argument is hauled out by a critic, who also heads the widely discredited DARE program in the state. Don’t you dare let reality hit you there, buddy. (h/t Real Cost of Prisons)
  • Finally, while on the topic of not letting reality hit you, CT’s gov wants a task force there to fix the crim just sys problems that have gotten a lot of attention there lately, talking about several ideas to improve the system but insisting that the substantial costs associated with what’s being discussed don’t have to be considered until an agreement is in place. This is what passes for leadership in state capitols all over the country these days. And when exactly did we in our American democracy deliberate and vote on “public safety,” however poorly defined, being the Number 1 thing we want from our government, trumping education, economic development, health, safe bridges and roads, etc., or how about our children's futures or world peace, or how about not melting all the ice on the poles and inundating our shorelines? Seriously, because I missed that election somehow.

Law, Brains, and Behavior

This post at Neuroethics & Law sounds like good news for those interested in the future of TECHNOCORRECTIONS (which means everyone reading this, of course), focused attention on the issues of neuroscience and corrections sentencing at a major school.

The Eagleman Laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine is pleased to announce the launch of the Initiative on Law, Brains & Behavior. This Initiative addresses how new discoveries in neuroscience affect the ways we make laws, punish criminals, and develop rehabilitation. The project brings together a unique collaboration of neurobiologists, legal scholars, ethicists, medical humanists, and policy makers, with the goal of building modern, evidence-based policy.

BCM, a top ten medical school, is particularly well-positioned to host such an Initiative, being home to a top-flight neuroscience department and one of the premier research neuroimaging facilities in the nation. At present, the ILBB currently teaches an interdisciplinary seminar on Law, Brains, and Behavior. Graduate students in neuroscience, law students, undergraduate students, mental health professionals, medical humanists, and health policy scholars are all participating in the seminar. The ILBB will also host a conference in the fall of 2008, bringing together stakeholders from a variety of disciplines to address the ethical, legal, and social implications of developments in neuroscience.

Discussion regarding other ILBB projects and areas of interest is ongoing. Further information is available on the ILBB website:

Those with questions regarding the ILBB are invited to contact the Director, David Eagleman, Ph.D. or the Research Professor, Daniel S. Goldberg, J.D., Ph.D Student.

Teens, Gender, and Drinking

Adolescents who drink alcohol, smoke and/or use drugs tend to have peers who do the same. A new study that looked at other factors which may moderate the influence of peers has found that gender, and gender of friends, can also affect this association.
Researchers used data from a population-based, longitudinal twin study of behavioral development and health-risk factors from Finland (n= ~ 4,700 individuals). They analyzed the association between friendship characteristics and alcohol use, testing for interaction with gender and gender of friends. They also used the twin structure of the data to examine the extent to which similarity in drinking behaviors between adolescents and their friends was due to shared genetic and/or environmental pathways.

"Our findings suggest that girls may be more susceptible to their friends' drinking," said Dick, "and that having opposite-sex friends who drink is also associated with increased drinking, for both sexes. Furthermore, genetically based analyses suggest that the correlation between adolescent/friend drinking was largely attributable to shared environmental effects across genders. This suggests that the association between an adolescent's alcohol use and that of his or her peers is not merely a reflection of genetic influences on the adolescent's own alcohol use that cause them to select drinking peers."

In other words, said Kenneth J. Sher, Curators' Professor in the department of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, the influence of risk factors associated with the peer network appeared to be stronger in girls.

"Those who design and implement prevention approaches should take gender into account as a potentially critical moderator of prevention outcomes," said Sher. "We need to better understand the 'why' of sex differences in risk in order to shed important light on the nature of risk processes. For example, are girls potentially more 'vulnerable' to peer-related effects at this stage of life because they are likely to be more intimately involved with their closest friends than are boys" That is, does gender simply serve as a 'proxy' of a variable such as intimacy or closeness during this time of their lives?'"
Sher suggested that future studies look more closely at how friendship networks change over time, and how that may affect alcohol use among peers.

"These investigations need to carefully consider the ages being studied because the extent that alcohol use is deviant changes rapidly over the course of adolescence, the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors appears to change, and the degree of gender differences in risk factors might also vary as a function of age," he said.

More NCJRS Abstracts, November 27, 2007


NCJ 220351
Jonathan E. Messemer
Influence of Christian Programs on the Academic Achievement of Low-Literate Male Inmates
Journal of Correctional Education
Volume:58 Issue:3 Dated:September 2007 Pages:222 to 248

The purpose of this study was to measure whether Christian programs had a positive influence on the academic achievement of low-literate male inmates. The findings from this study were able to demonstrate that the total inmate sample (Christian and non-Christian inmates) participating in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program at the Mountain View State Prison had statistically significant learning gains in the reading, math, and language skill areas. The study also found that the Christian inmates had statistically significant greater learning gains in the reading and language skill areas than the non-Christian inmates. In addition, Christian inmates had statistically significant lower rates of disciplinary absenteeism in the ABE program than the non-Christian inmates. The rate of disciplinary absenteeism was a statistically significant predictor in determining the amount of learning gains the inmates would make in the reading and language skill areas. The current field of correctional education provides numerous programs for inmates. Nearly all prisons have chaplains from various faiths who offer formal and informal religious programs to the inmates. Adult educators in prison seek to create change by providing knowledge and skill based programs for inmates, whereas prison chaplains seek to create change by changing the heart of the inmates. An extensive review of the literature found only a few studies in correctional education that involved either low-literate learning gains or the influence faith-based programming had upon the lives of inmates. The study sample consisted of 124 male inmates in a closed security prison in the southeastern United States who were participating in an ABE program grouped into 2 categories: (1) 55 Christian inmates and (2) 69 non-Christian inmates. Tables, references

NCJ 220444
JoAnn Y. Sacks; Karen McKendrick; David Kressel
Measuring Offender Progress in Treatment Using the Client Assessment Inventory
Criminal Justice and Behavior
Volume:34 Issue:9 Dated:September 2007 Pages:1131 to 1142

This article expands the field of knowledge on the Client Assessment Inventory (CAI) instrument by exploring data collected for a criminal justice population. The study data supported the use of the CAI as a consistent, reliable, and easily administered instrument for measuring client performance and treatment progress in both therapeutic community (TC) and non-TC correctional treatment settings. The study addressed the use of different subpopulations of offenders such as race, ethnicity, and gender across a variety of correctional treatment settings. The accurate and reliable assessment of client psychological and cognitive change during correctional substance abuse treatment has gained increasing importance during the past decade as criminal justice systems seek to evaluate and understand those treatment elements associated with long term change. The CAI is a self-report survey that measures client performance in treatment across 14 cognitive and behavioral domains or scales. The data gathered on 1,170 offenders were analyzed for reliability and internal consistency of the CAI as adapted for use in criminal justice settings. When administered to multiple programs within an agency or across a system of care, the CAI provides an opportunity for agency-wide or systemic quality assurance approaches focused on program-level strengths and areas for improvement or enhancement. At the client level, the CAI also serves as a clinical intervention tool for increasing client awareness of personal progress designed to increase retention in treatment and improve outcomes. Future research efforts are planned to evaluate the predictive validity of the CAI, and to address the impact of discrete treatment elements on specific offender behaviors during treatment. Tables, references

NCJ 220445
Michele Stanton-Tindall; Bryan R. Garner, Janis T. Morey; Carl Leukefeld; Jennifer Krietemeyer; Christine A. Saum; Carrie B. Oser
Gender Differences in Treatment Engagement Among a Sample of Incarcerated Substance Abusers
Criminal Justice and Behavior
Volume:34 Issue:9 Dated:September 2007 Pages:1143 to 1156

This article examines gender differences in treatment engagement, psychosocial variables, and criminal thinking within prison–based treatment programs. Results indicate that inmates in female treatment programs report more psychosocial dysfunction, less criminal thinking, and higher engagement than in male facilities, and demonstrate more negative relationship between psychosocial variables and treatment engagement compared to males in programs. By assessing factors that might influence treatment engagement, such as psychosocial issues and criminal thinking early in the treatment process, programs might be able to target treatment interventions designed to specifically address these problems in an effort to enhance the retention rates, treatment experience, and treatment outcomes for their clients; clients who do not engage in treatment are less likely to complete treatment and less likely to have positive treatment outcomes. This study focused on gaps in the current research and had three study objectives: to examine differences between male and female programs in treatment engagement, psychosocial functioning, and criminal thinking; to examine program based gender as a moderator of the relationship between treatment engagement and psychosocial functioning; and to examine gender as a moderator of the relationship between treatment engagement and criminal thinking. The sample consisted of 2,774 substance abusers enrolled in 20 prison-based treatments programs in 5 different States. Participants were 56 percent non-White, with a mean age of 34 years and a mean length of treatment of 141 days. The study was limited in several ways: participants were not randomly selected but were part of a targeted drug treatment program eligible for study, data were self-reported, and only two primary factors on treatment engagement were examined. Additional factors such as individual differences and motivation for treatment should be considered for future analyses. Tables, references

More on Judicial Evaluations

Our friend from the AK (Alaska, not Arkansas) Judicial Council, Teri Carns, sent this note regarding our post on the judicial evaluation process KS is starting. Sounds like Teri may be one of the first people you should talk to if you're interested in this.

The Judicial Council (Alaska, not Alabama) has been evaluating judges standing for retention since 1976. Every once in a while, we find a judge not qualified and the voters vote the judge out of office. Other times, the judges see the information that will go into the voters' pamphlet and decide not to stand for retention. We think we don't have to recommend against many judges because we have a merit selection system, and put a whole lot of work ahead of time into nominating only the most qualified applicants for the governor to choose from.

The Alaska Judicial Council's evaluation process surveys every lawyer, peace and probation officer, court employee, social worker, guardian ad litem and children's volunteer (CASA) in the state, plus all of the jurors who sat before the judge in the last two years of the judge's term. It also looks at peremptory challenges to the judge, conflict of interest questionnaires, affirmance rates, credit and criminal histories, public and private discipline or admonitions, and collects public comments. We do substantial additional investigation if warranted.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Justice v. Process

Let me add an endorsement to Doug Berman’s recommendation of this SSRN article for which he provides a link and the abstract. The whole thing is worth going to the bottom of the SSRN page and clicking for the article. The article calls for broad application of empirical psychology to the study of the motive behind punishments and discusses how the general public’s notions of punishment correspond overwhelmingly to ideas of retributive justice, that is, proportional justice, not the utilitarian forms that focus on deterrence or incapacitation. Before you think that that would lead to more severe punishments in practice, note that the general public guesses that their state’s laws correspond to their own sense of properly proportional punishment but that their estimates of what is proportional and thus in state law are below what the law actually prescribes. Much of that is undoubtedly due to basing punishments on the worst possible case, usually just described in detail in the news or some movie, but nevertheless, it means that we end up erroneously claiming to base our punishments on what the public wants. And the authors make the case well that this disjunction between what the public thinks the punishments should be and what they are and between citizens who want justice and a process that wants other things will ultimately weaken the law’s legitimacy and its ability to set the norms for a society (yes, they cite Tom Tyler’s work as we frequently do here as well).

A couple of other implications they don’t really draw and might not want to claim. Their research was with a broad sample, not focused on victims or judges. Their findings, therefore, were applicable to what we as a community think the properly proportional punishments should be, not what specific victims want, another point to consider as we throw out the broader community’s welfare for the approval of specific victims in our laws and processes. And it would be very interesting to see if and how much results from judges would correspond to the general public’s. There’s also the question of whether guideline systems with their very few variables considered in fashioning grids encompass the range of variables that produced the results in this study. By shoehorning the factors at play at judgment, we may be losing even more the nuances that the public brings into play in determining just punishments, and thus harming our laws’ legitimacy even more in specific cases. We can certainly argue that that seems to be the case on the fed level.

Anyway, I liked this article very much, as you can tell, beyond the usual point made here that the practitioners have sold out the client public's wants and wishes for justice in the name of making their own lives and egos easier. One of the things that has struck me as a non-lawyer in this law-infected policy arena is the general lack of concern about how poorly we identify the goals of sentencing at either the specific case or general overarching levels where policy has to be made. Legal types after all these decades (centuries? millennia?) are still whacking back and forth at “is retribution best?” or “can we deter?” and so on. No wonder policymakers like these in OH just go where the mood suits, contradicting themselves and producing counterproductive policies, when there’s still no agreed-upon and authoritative underpinning for what we’re actually trying to do with our punishments. The best of all worlds would be a system requiring judges to state at sentencing the goal(s) they were seeking with the sentence and the reasons why they believed that sentence was the best possible to achieve that goal. That would lead to greater use of existing data and research and likely stimulate even more. It’s the kind of thing the WI Supreme Court claimed to be advocating in its sentencing case law while I directed the sentencing commission there but followed through so horribly (see “talk’s not walk” in the picture dictionary and that court’s opinion’s will be the first picture). It’s still a very good idea, however, and increasingly practical. All it will need will be leadership, stamina, and retirements and funerals. Maybe articles like this one can start the ball rolling.

News of the Day, Monday, November 26, 2007

  • Folks in AL (Alabama, not Alaska) are trying hard to rein in their prison pop problems and all the negative impact that has on the rest of their crim just budgets, but their inmate totals just keep rising.
  • CO is also dealing with the squeezing the toothpaste tube effect. The gov there has cut back on prison rate increases in order to fund other elements of the crim just sys, like increasing the number of judges, but the counties are not thrilled with the attendant impacts on them. And what if more judges just equals more convictions and sentences to those prisons that aren’t being built now?
  • CT, meanwhile, is grappling with finding state supplied housing for sex offenders on probation or parole once we’ve made it virtually impossible for them to reenter our communities on their own.
  • Speaking of grappling, FL is finding the resolution of the problem of using jails and prisons to house their mentally ill a wee bit difficult.
  • Eye reaction time” now becoming the test of choice in ID for drug offenders on parole or probation.
  • Questions arising about whether mom-and-pop meth labs are popping back up in OK despite the bans on selling acti-fed and its ilk. Law enforcement says no, they’re still in control, but it would make sense since the traffic from Mexico has recently tightened and prices reportedly are going up.
  • Is this the future for all judges? A KS commission to evaluate judicial performance and let voters know at election time. Supposedly will improve “transparency” and encourage continual improvement. I guess that will depend on who’s on the commission and how they get there, won’t it?
  • Finally, victims can be among the most empathetic people on the planet, for the offenders’ families as well as for others. A nice example here of one victim’s efforts to help jurors who have to deal with psychologically difficult evidence after the trial. Would make a good model to follow elsewhere if you’re not already doing it.

Sense on Crime Prevention

A new study suggests that too much money is wasted on low-risk crime targets. Both crime and prison populations could be reduced dramatically by focusing on the “power few” criminals who commit the most crime, according to Lawrence Sherman, Director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and Professor of Criminology at Cambridge University, UK.

Using data across a wide range of research, Sherman shows that most crime is committed by a small fraction of all criminals, at a tiny fraction of all locations, against a tiny fraction of all victims, during a few hours a week. By focusing police, probation, parole, rehabilitation, security and prison resources on these “power few” units with the most crime, the study shows how society could stand a far better chance at crime prevention without raising costs.

“Billions of dollars in criminal justice costs are wasted each year on people and places with almost no risk of serious violent crime,” said Sherman, “while the high-risk targets receive far too little attention.” Citing rising homicide rates in Philadelphia since 2002, his research shows how more rehabilitation for a tiny number of offenders may have been able to prevent many of the murders.

The study shows that the key to making the most out of these extreme concentrations of crime would be to test prevention strategies aimed only at these few crime locations, times, situations, victims or offenders. By investing more effort in experiments aimed at finding effective solutions to the predictably serious crime problem caused by the “needles in the haystack,” governments around the world could move much quicker to reducing crime and violence. By investing equal effort in low-risk and high-risk offenders, these strategies now yield unequal results − wasting most of the money on targets unlikely to cause serious harm.

OCD Today, CRIME Tomorrow?

They’re already using brain scans to id the specific formations in the brains of those with or likely to develop obsessive-compulsive disorder, and they’re hoping to use the results to pinpoint folks to do future genetic studies with. This sounds like the kind of profiling precedent that could eventually be applied to brains of sex offenders or violent types as well. Seems like just a matter of time before making the connections with TECHNOCORRECTIONS . . . poetry at no additional charge.

Gruesome = Guilty

Jurors presented with gruesome evidence, such as descriptions or images of torture and mutilation, are up to five times more likely to convict a defendant than jurors not privy to such evidence, research reveals.

The finding, from two published mock trial studies, lends support to concerns by the Australian Law Reform Commission that admitting gruesome evidence may prejudice juries by influencing them to make decisions based on emotion or a desire to punish defendants.

"The finding that gruesome evidence can be prejudicial suggests that such evidence should be excluded in court proceedings," says one of the research authors, David Bright, a UNSW PhD student. "Gruesome information in the form or pictures or descriptions appears to influence jurors' decisions by increasing the incriminating value that they ascribe to such evidence.

"The results of our research and of other researchers suggest that the prejudicial influence of gruesome evidence on decision making occurs at an unconscious level. Jurors appear to be unaware of the extent to which they are susceptible to prejudice as a result of exposure to this type of evidence."
"Established safeguards, such as judicial directions that jurors should view such evidence in a calm and deliberate manner probably don't offer sufficient protection to defendants."
"Australian case law tends to assume that post-mortem photographs, for example, have little or no prejudicial impact on juries," says Dr Goodman-Delahunty, an Associate Professor in the UNSW School of Psychology. "Gruesome photographs have been considered for exclusion by NSW criminal courts on several occasions but in each case courts have held that the probative value of post-mortem photographs outweighed any prejudicial impact on jurors."

For example, in the criminal trial R v Bowhay (1998, NSWSC 782), Justice Dunford explained his admission of post-mortem photographs into evidence, saying: "In this day and age where people see 'blood and guts' on the television and on the movie screen day after day and week after week, I fail to see how it could be expected the jury would misuse this evidence".
In a 2006 study, the UNSW researchers found that mock jurors who saw gruesome photographs, compared with those who saw no photographs, reported experiencing significantly more intense emotional responses, including greater anger at the defendant.

As well, the conviction rate was significantly higher among jurors who witnessed visual evidence in the form of gruesome (41.2%) or neutral photographs (38.2%) compared to the conviction rate among those without photographic evidence (8.8%).

"The study revealed that mock jurors who viewed gruesome photographic evidence attributed significantly higher incriminating weight to the prosecution evidence than that by mock jurors who did not view any photographs," says Dr Goodman-Delahunty.

"Further analyses revealed that mock jurors who saw gruesome photographs rated the prosecution evidence as more adequate or sufficient to support a guilty verdict compared with mock jurors who saw no photographs or who saw neutral photographic evidence, because the nature of the photographs enhanced mock juror anger at the defendant."

This finding underscores the caution expressed by the Australian Law Reform Commission that admission of gruesome evidence in courts could be prejudicial against a defendant, especially "if it that appeals to jurors' sympathies, arouses a sense of horror, provokes an instinct to punish, or triggers other mainsprings of human action which may cause the fact-finder to base his decision on something other than the established propositions of the case". (ALRC, 1985, pp 351-2).

In the 2006 study, researchers randomly assigned 102 participants (UNSW psychology students aged 17-54 years) to one of four groups: verbal gruesome, verbal non-gruesome, color photographs and black-and-white photographs.

The gruesome version contained detailed descriptions of the wounds to the victim's neck. These detailed descriptions were omitted from the verbal non-gruesome trial excerpts.

Participants in the two photograph groups viewed 20 photographs from a real murder case tried in NSW (R v Valevski, 2000, NSWCCA 445.) in color or black and white, selected to include both neutral and differentially gruesome photographs (such as a close-up of a victim's neck wound versus blood-stained clothing).

This study indicates that photographic evidence, irrespective of whether this evidence is neutral or gruesome, can increase the likelihood of conviction, according to Mr Bright.

"Admitting gruesome photographic evidence appears to increase the incriminating value that jurors ascribe to prosecutorial evidence by influencing jurors' emotional state.

Although photographs of a gruesome and neutral nature appeared to have similar effects on mock juror overall emotional responses, emotional reactions to gruesome photographic evidence appear to lead to changes in the mental processing of evidence, and to an increased likelihood of conviction, compared with neutral and no photographs.

Violence Begets

Good link via Psychology and Crime News to a study of the “tipping points” for violent offenders, the “events and consequences of action” that move potential offenders into or out of violent careers. Apparently also goes into detail for some offenders and the stories they give of their lives, replete with tons of violence that would likely turn most of us psycho. Sounds like it fits well with the “crime in the lifecourse” literature and certainly worth reading to understand how punishments might or might not be effective.

The Future of Pot?

[Some] states, increasingly aware of the power of agri-business to generate tourism and tax dollars, have gradually begun loosening some of the temperance-era laws that have lingered for decades, restricting who can distill what, and where.[...]

The heyday for small distillers was actually during Prohibition, which failed to deter extralegal production across the country. But after Prohibition’s repeal, each state was given broad powers to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol, with an overlay of some standing federal requirements. Some states adopted stringent laws.

(Home distilling is still against the law, largely because of the safety hazards of working with flammable liquids. At minimum, distillers must be licensed by the federal government and a state.)

Over the past years, though, small steps have been taken toward loosening state regulation — moves that probably have as much to do with bringing in revenue as anything going on with consumer tastes.

(h/t Governing)

Reform and Not in NJ

An op-ed in this NJ paper takes the state to task for a point we make here regularly, the growing tendency of state's to cheapskate the staffing of their sentencing commissions. NJ's problem is that it doesn't even have an active Statistical Analysis Center that could offset the inadequate staff somewhat, the way they have in CO and VT to this point. Also note that our contributor here, Ben Barlyn, gets authoritatively cited, which of course means you can bank it.

The New Jersey commission, once a source of hope for revising state sentencing laws, may itself be in serious trouble. Since midsummer, the commission has not had a staff at all! That's not an encouraging sign.

The overtaxed sentencing commission staff of one is now a staff of zero. The commission's former director, Barlyn, is a lawyer who was on loan from the Attorney General's Office. He left for a job in the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office in August.

The post has been vacant far too long. With so many sentencing issues to be sorted out, how serious can the commission be about making a difference in the incarceration landscape with no staff?

At a time when it should be adding staff and advancing the reform process, the commission seems to be in limbo. It makes little sense for the governor's office to present a major crime-fighting package, as it did last month, and not bolster a commission essential to making it work.

Newly defined offenses and harsher punishments have been the primary modifications made to New Jersey's criminal code since it took effect in 1979. So, from the perspective of both federal and state reforms, legislation has increased punishment but done little to redress policy mistakes that made the state's prisons swell to 28,000 inmates, and the nation's to 2.2 million.

"If a change results in punishment being reduced, it's an extraordinary step. The fact is, historically, politicians are loath to reconsider laws that they have passed which increase punishment... the reason being that they don't want to be considered soft on crime," Barlyn said.

The New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing loses credibility when it's left holding on by a thread with little staff, a stingy budget, and uncertain future. Besides, investing in it could eventually reclaim some of the state's $1 billion prison budget and redirect the savings toward more productive pursuits.

Katrina and Justice

Our friend Teri Carns from up there in AK (Alaska, not Arkansas) sends this along, remembering the folks interested in the topic at the recent National Association of Sentencing Commissions conference. The theme of the presentation at the conference was the effect disasters can have on justice systems, which this updates.

Justice in New Orleans
Caterina Gouvis Roman, Seri Irazola, Jenny Osborne
Other Availability: PDF Printer-Friendly Page
Posted to Web: August 28, 2007
Permanent Link:

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the full paper in PDF format.

This report provides a comprehensive review of the acute and lasting impact of Hurricane Katrina on the criminal justice system of New Orleans. Using interviews with criminal justice stakeholders living and working in greater New Orleans, the authors examine the state of the criminal justice system before the storm, the impact of the storm on each branch of the system, and how those branches operate today. The final sections of the report discuss policy considerations and how lessons learned from Katrina can be applied to assist jurisdictions across the country should they be confronted with natural or man-made shocks to the systems charged with keeping residents safe.


As the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, the news media continues to document high levels of violence and disorder across New Orleans neighborhoods. Stories document with regularity a criminal justice system in disarray1—homicide suspects freed due to constitutional violations of due process, arrested suspects awaiting trial for months without seeing a lawyer, police investigators working out of trailers, and a court backlog of thousands of cases. With the seemingly endless barrage of media highlighting the disorganization, it becomes difficult for the public to sort through rhetoric and hyperbole and grasp the current state of New Orleans’s criminal justice system. Did Hurricane Katrina wash away the criminal justice system, as some have asserted (Garrett and Tetlow 2006)? Has the multiagency system emerged from the disarray? Which components remain neglected? Where has progress been made? This report attempts to shed light on public safety and the administration of justice in New Orleans and surrounding jurisdictions; to separate fact from fiction; and to document the impact Hurricane Katrina had on public safety and the criminal justice system. We focus predominantly on Orleans Parish, which makes up the city of New Orleans, and on criminal justice agencies operating within Orleans Parish.

It is not a secret that, before Katrina, the New Orleans criminal justice system had long been plagued with inefficiencies and structural barriers that interfered with the fair administration of justice. Before Katrina, almost all criminal justice system agencies in New Orleans faced substantial funding problems and had been repeatedly criticized for weak management. Under the administration of an often poorly functioning criminal justice system, New Orleans was considered one of the most violent cities in the country.

The aftermath of the hurricane has provided and continues to provide a unique opportunity for criminal justice stakeholders to assess and reassess the situation as the city repairs the damages—damages due to Katrina and damages from before Katrina. The lessons learned from Katrina have relevance beyond the Gulf Coast in that they can assist jurisdictions around the country should they be confronted with natural or man-made shocks to the systems that are devoted to keeping residents safe.

For readers not well versed in the vernacular of criminal justice, the criminal justice system is a multicomponent system, primarily made up of three parts—police, courts, and corrections—together designed to maintain social control, deter and control crime, and punish those guilty of violating the law. Courts and corrections each have their own subsections—prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges are responsible for the administration of justice through the court system. Corrections consists of institutional corrections (i.e., prisons and jails) and community corrections (i.e., parole and probation) for those under state or local supervision but serving their sentences outside institutions.

1 The reports and stories highlighting the disarray are too numerous to cite. A few recent ones include Garrett and Tetlow (2006), McCarthy (2007), Nossiter and Drew (2007), and Shapiro (2007).

(End of excerpt. The entire paper is available in PDF format.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007


New report on the number of arrests for sex offenses dropping 10% in the last decade. Before we applaud the good news, let's think a bit.

Of course, the proponents of all the tough child sex legislation recently are already proclaiming success even though the article itself makes the point that the decline started before these laws were passed. Time and causation have no effect in la-la land. Plus, note that the arrests apply to all sex crimes, not just child sex crimes. And note that, maybe, treatment was effective, not the longer sentences (although the article does a nice job of noting the problems with quoting recidivism rates for sex offenders). What is true is that punishments for sex offenders overall and especially for the lower level offenses have been increasing in the last decade and that most offenders are known to the victim, usually a family member or friend, not the stranger made popular on Lifetime made-for-tv movies. Which only lends credence to the possibility that, as prosecutors and sex offense experts have noted, as we have increased penalties, we find it less likely for victims to press charges, not wanting what they see as the harm to that family member or friend. IOW, what we may very well be seeing, at least in part, is not a decrease in offending, but a decrease in reporting as we "protect" potential and real victims.

Naturally, the article doesn't even mention the possibility. Doesn't fit the narrative, doesn't sound good, doesn't help the logic or ratings of "Law & Order: SUV." Also, doesn't change what needs to be changed to make real protection possible.

A Hole to Fill

They say that, when a good person dies, it leaves a hole in the world that the rest of us have to work that much harder to fill. You probably have never heard of Steve Semmann, but we all have big, big hole to work on right now.

Steve came to work for me at the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission on loan from the state's Administrative Office of the Courts. We worked extensively with state court data, and Steve was one of the major players in that. We were fortunate to get him, and his work and attitude were exemplary. If you want to see one of the best reports on recidivism and applications of studies to robbery, go to the commission's site (it still exists even though the commission doesn't now) here and use it for a model. Steve wrote it. He left the state courts and us to go become the state's Statistical Analysis Center director and framed a proposal to create a criminal justice statistical bureau that would have put the state on the forefront of analysis in the nation. It made it into the gov's budget but the WI legislature, executing its usual wisdom and foresight, of course cut it in the final agreement.

The thing about Steve, though, wasn't his substantial contribution to the state. Steve was a good person. It's hard to talk about guys who were devoted fathers and family men in ways that aren't too familiar and trite, so I won't even try. He left young children who were always his favorite topic of conversation and a wife who he clearly felt lucky to have captured. He had a series of illnesses that apparently weren't related, but, at least in my experience with him, he faced them with a calm courage and a belief that every moment was to be cherished and relished. He knew how lucky he was, and he took none of it for granted. Steve was just a good man, too young to have this happen to him, too young for the rest of us to have lost. I've attached his obit below, which actually tells you more and better than I ever could. Please read it if you have time. And then join me.

There's that hole to fill.

Semmann, Steven J. MCFARLAND - Steven Jay Semmann, age 44, passed away on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007, at home surrounded by his loving family. He was born on Nov. 10, 1963 in Milwaukee, the son of Ron and Miriam (Goetsch) Semmann. Steve attended the UW-Madison where he was a trumpeter in Rank 1 with the marching band. He graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in political science and received his Masters of Arts degree in public policy and administration from the UW LaFollette Institute. On July 18, 1992, Steve married his best friend, Beverly Anderson. They lived for one and a half years in Evanston, Ill., where they enjoyed time exploring Chicago with family and friends. They returned to Madison, where Steve took a position with the State of Wisconsin working for the Supreme Court, and had a significant hand in developing the CCAP system. His career continued as court administrator for District V, then assistant director of the Sentencing Commission. Steve most recently held the position of director of the Statistical Analysis Center for the Office of Justice Assistance; a position Steve loved. He also enjoyed spending time with his children. Steve was a great T-Ball coach and enjoyed watching his sons play hockey and soccer. With his daughter, he loved to watch her dance. As all great dad's do, he loved reading to his children. Steve was very close with his family and considered his parents and two brothers and sister to be more than family, they were also his friends. Steve was an active member of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church. He was a Sunday school teacher, vice president and currently president of the church council.

In May of 2006, Steve was diagnosed with Glioblastoma brain cancer. Throughout his journey and struggle with this disease, Steve taught those he knew about faith, courage and grace, all with a touch of humor. He was comforted by music, which was a continuous theme throughout his life. He enjoyed the outdoors, boating, time spent at cottages, camping and fishing with his family. He is survived by his wife of 15 years, Beverly; daughter, Kristin; sons, Brian and Jacob; parents, Ron and Mim Semmann; sister, Cindi (Jim) Matras; brothers, Tim (Lisa) Semmann and Mike (Joleen) Semmann; grandmother, Gertrude Goetsch; father and mother-in-law, Carl "Bill" and Bonnie Anderson; sister-in-law, Barb (Steve) Koston; nieces, Hannah, Abby, Laura, Elizabeth and Alyssa; nephew, Tyler; and many aunts and uncles. A Celebration of Life will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007 at 11 a.m. at BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH, 1700 Broadway Dr., Sun Prairie. Burial will follow at Roselawn Memorial Park. Visitation will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at OUR SAVIOUR'S LUTHERAN CHURCH, 1201 Droster Rd., Madison. Visitation will also be held on Wednesday prior to the funeral at the church from 10 a.m. until time of the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the family, for the children's college fund to be established. Gunderson East Funeral and Cremation Centers 5203 Monona Dr. (608) 221-5420

More NCJRS Abstracts, November 25, 2007


NCJ 220293
Jessica L. Hart; Siobhan K. O'Toole; Jana L. Price-Sharps; Thomas W. Shaffer
Risk and Protective Factors of Violent Juvenile Offending: An Examination of Gender Differences
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
Volume:5 Issue:4 Dated:October 2007 Pages:367 to 384

This research study focused on the makeup of violent juvenile offenders in order to have effective intervention and preventive programs. This research study found that tailored programs might decrease the number of violent juvenile offenders. The findings supported previous research studies on the protective effects of having a high GPA, not having an aggressive response to shame, not using aggression and violence with feelings of power and safety, having a caring adult in the community, and parental demands. The study supports the fact that strong risk factors are drugs use, alcohol use, and learning difficulties. The study did not support that marital conflict was a risk factor. The study also found that females had significantly more risk factors than males. The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of adolescent delinquency and violent behavior looking at both protective and risk factors. The hypothesis was that the more protective factors an adolescent had verses the fewer number of risk factors, then he or she would be less likely to become involved in delinquent or violent behavior. The research study was conducted by using a self-report survey of 124 participants. The participants were between the ages of 14 and 18, from four locations in central California, 53.8 percent were male and 46.8 percent were female. Tables, references

NCJ 220296
James Eugene Tille; John Creighton Rose
Emotional and Behavioral Problems of 13-to-18-Year-Old Incarcerated Female First-Time Offenders and Recidivists
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
Volume:5 Issue:4 Dated:October 2007 Pages:426 to 435

This research study compared the emotional and behavioral problems of female first-time offenders between the ages of 13-to-18 to that of recidivists. The study found that adolescent female recidivists had significantly more emotional and behavioral problems than the first-time adolescent offenders. The study also showed that the recidivist female had an unstable lifestyle and a less dependable family situation. The data found supports the need for adequate mental health staffing and services in the juvenile justice system to allow for better intervention or coordination of resources to aid first-time offenders and recidivists. The study also found that the percentages needing mental health medications were identical for first-time offenders and recidivists, nearly 50 percent of recidivists were not taking mental health medications at the time of incarceration. Mental health workers should try to lessen the stigma of taking mental health medications. Areas of focus to aid in reducing recidivism include effective family living situations, effective anger processing, reduction of drug and alcohol use, and regular school attendance. The study used the Massachusetts Youth Screening Inventory, Version Two (MAYSI-2) and demographic data. The study was conducted between June 7 and October 26, 2004. Survey packets were distributed for first-time offenders (n=38), and recidivists (n=78) were used for the exploratory Pierce County, Washington survey. Tables, references

NCJ 220327
N. Zoe Hilton; Grant T. Harris; Marnie E. Rice
Effect of Arrest on Wife Assault Recidivism: Controlling for Pre-Arrest Risk
Criminal Justice and Behavior
Volume:34 Issue:10 Dated:October 2007 Pages:1334 to 1344

This study examined the effect of arrest for assault on one's wife on reoffending, controlling for prearrest actuarial risk of reoffending, which was measured retrospectively and independently of the arrest decision, using the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA). The study found that arrested perpetrators of assaults on their wives were more likely to reoffend, but this effect was attributable to prearrest differences in perpetrators' risk of reoffending. There was no evidence that arrest for wife assault increased reoffending at any level of risk. The findings suggest that officers tended to arrest higher risk cases based on the seriousness of the offense as measured by victim injury. The study did not measure whether offenders who were not arrested but might have had a high risk for reoffending might have reoffended. Despite the fact that the jurisdiction studied had an official presumptive arrest policy for domestic violence, police officers arrested only approximately half of the perpetrators. Survival analyses indicated that arrest might have delayed reoffending among relatively low-risk cases. This delay effect might be expanded by providing police with an actuarial tool for a more accurate field assessment of an offender's risk for reoffending. As part of a larger study of wife-assault reoffending, this study coded information on 589 men identified in police records as perpetrators of a physical assault on a current or former wife or common-law wife, as well as a credible threat of death against such a victim with a weapon in her presence. The incident closest to the end of 1996 was selected as the index assault. Researchers coded all information in the police reports, including items contained in the ODARA, police response, characteristics of the perpetrator and victim as well as their relationship, and variables previously linked with arrest decisions. 1 table, 1 figure, and 52 references

Find the Globe Today

The Boston Globe has a couple of interesting, corr sent-related stories up today that you might want to check out as you start your diet. One is a story that proves that "justice" indeed is irrelevant to our system, just as defense lawyers have been telling us now. If Jesus wanted us to treat prisoners humanely, just imagine what he would think of how we treat the innocent folks we wrongly send to prison after we find out and let them out. Jefferson trembled for America when he feared God was just because of slavery, he must be twirling in his grave right now about innocent inmates. And add to that the lack of attention paid to actually reopening the cases that the guys were sent to prison for and you can see that our "justice" theater play is about chest-thumping and self-exaltation, not justice and the legitimacy of law. Just shameful and sad.

The other is a book review essay on fear and how insane we've become after 9/11 in how we've reacted. As one of the books notes, elements of this country have thrived on fear and undermined our creation for our entire existence, and it's hard to see how our current cowardice in the face of terrorism and criminals and failure to address them both forthrightly and with character and integrity isn't just a continuing offshoot of our McCarthyist past and shivering at commie boogeymen who turned out to be about as incompetent and self-defeating and short-term as any satans in history. Lose one boogeyman, find another when you have strong trends toward paranoia and self-doubt. The applications to our counterproductive overreactions to crime and to druggies and sex offenders are obvious as you read. Again, it's just sad to see a country founded so enthusiastically on the average person's ability to self-govern intelligently and to face challenges head-on has turned into such a quivering mass, blustering wildly with its massive weapons but weak and getting worse at its core. And reading this, you understand again how "smart on crime" will get its butt kicked every time by "tough on crime" in a nation that's lost the ability to stand up for itself against the real problems that face us.

Man, bet you didn't expect such sunniness this soon after a long weekend, did you?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Non-Addictive Painkillers

Could this work for recreational drugs as well?

Two University of Adelaide pharmacologists working with one the world’s leading neuroscientists have helped pave the way for the development of new pain-killing drugs that are not addictive.

Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide, Paul Rolan, and postdoctoral fellow Dr Mark Hutchinson are part of a combined US and Australian research team which has made a breakthrough in revealing how opioid drugs such as morphine both relieve pain and also cause addiction.
“Doctors prescribe morphine for pain relief but opioids come with the potential for addiction or abuse,” Dr Hutchinson says. “Our tests shows that by blocking morphine’s effects on glial cells, it stops cravings for the drug.”
The Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States, Nora Volkow, says the research “helps pave the way toward developing new, potent, non-addictive medications”.

Circles of Support in VT

Good overview in the Boston Globe of VT's efforts to import Canada's "Circles of Support" reentry program that links returning offenders to community members to establish the kind of communal ties that, in Canada anyway, keep the returnees from wanting to re-victimize.

Support teams, called "circles of support and accountability," meet weekly to check on former prisoners in Newport, St. Johnsbury, Barre, Montpelier, and Brattleboro. Each offender works with a small team of volunteers, who begin meeting with the offender before he or she leaves prison. The teams are supervised by local community justice centers, state-funded agencies that work with crime victims and offenders. Paid coordinators, who are employed by the centers, lead the groups and help make sure offenders stay on track. The offenders have been released from prison under state supervision; all have counselors or probation officers who also keep tabs on them.

To make them feel part of the team, the volunteers refer to the offenders as "core members." The teams discuss the effects of the crimes the offenders committed on their victims and the community.

Of course, the initial fed funding is about gone and Congress is eternally screwed up so who knows if it will keep going. Nevertheless, some other states like CO are apparently looking into it as well. I studied a mentor program in an OK city a decade ago that tried similar things, a DA on his own initiative working through his church to accomplish much the same thing. A couple of problems--the volunteers in the community tend to burn out, so you need to be able to replenish the pool and recharge their batteries. Also, the DA ended up in a federal prison. But still, the idea is worth development, even if it is Canadian, and it will be interesting to see where this goes, although needing Congress to get its act together is not the easiest obstacle to overcome.

Ignoring Is Bliss

We always like to ignore info that contradicts our delusions so I'm sure the report yesterday that NY City's murder rate is at its lowest in 4 decades will actually be taken as bad news if taken at all by everyone who thinks the only way to a lower crime rate is through locking everyone up. All through the last few decades of overincarceration, NY has stood as a counter that effective law enforcement and applied data analysis, introduced to NYC by William Bratton, who has now seen similar results in Los Angeles, can do more and better than prisons to bring victimization under control and at lower costs to state and local budgets. Yes, NYC's murder rate is still 3 times that of London and 4 times Tokyo, but, hey, we're America. We kill each other. But the overall crime rates are lower than other places looking to add cells, too, rather than NY's dilemma of empty cells. The lesson is clear. So let's just keep ignoring it. The crime victims won't really care, will they?

Friday, November 23, 2007


Mind Hacks links to major research on how we can "enhance" ourselves mentally through the new pharmaceutical and other technologies in the future. Of course, enhancements might not be limited to preventing brain failure or making us smarter. The question arises, as it always does with this, if we can "enhance" offenders as well at far less cost than warehousing them and teaching them how to be better at offending, then will we be appropriately concerned about the ethical and snowballing implications that also come up? Here's the exec summary:

Executive summary
People have long been interested in improving their brainpower. Developments in medicine and pharmacy could provide new ways of doing that but because they raise ethical issues that have not been widely discussed, there is a need for public debate about them. In Part One, this paper sets out some definitions and a framework for debate.

Drugs and medical interventions designed as therapy for people with diagnosed problems are likely to be sought in future by healthy people to “improve” on nature. It is important to distinguish, however, between what is possible now or will be in the near future and more abstract speculation about longer-term developments. In Part Two, the document examines the evidence (or lack of it) for different methods of enhancement, including nutritional supplements, pharmaceuticals and surgery.

People may not only want to choose enhancement for themselves but also for their children. The possibilities and limitations of genetic manipulation and selection as a means of enhancing future people are also covered in Part Two.

Individuals have always been able to try and improve their own or their children’s intellectual abilities through study and effort. The possibility of shortcutting that process and lessening the effort required by using nutrition, drugs or medical techniques is more controversial. Part Three considers why this might be.

It looks at the speculation about how the new technologies might bring about either positive or negative social and cultural changes, affecting not only individuals but the fabric of society. Arguments that have been put forward by those for and against such a change are briefly summarised.

One of the main arguments concerns interconnectedness. For the purposes of discussion, the paper looks at cognitive functioning as if it could be isolated from other parts of a person’s life. In reality the potential risks or benefits of cognitive enhancement for other aspects of individuals’ personality, such as emotional stability and creativity, cannot be isolated. People are also interconnected in a social sense, so that choices made by some are likely to impact on others and possibly on society at large. This is highlighted throughout the paper and discussed in detail in Part Three where some suggestions are considered about how a balance might be attained between personal liberty and responsibility to the community.

Why we may have quite different moral views about different methods, even though they all have the same goal, is also discussed in Part Three.

Almost anything we try may have some unforeseen side-effects or carry some risks. In order to decide whether change should be regulated, the scope and limits of what individuals should be able to choose for themselves or for other people also need to be discussed. Part Four sets out the arguments for and against limiting choice and considers how regulation, if needed, might be implemented.

The main questions arising from the paper are summarised in Part Five. The BMA does not have policy or recommendations to put forward on these issues but would welcome informed public debate about how, as a society, we should respond to these developments.

More NCJRS Abstracts, November 23, 2007


NCJ 220290
Erica Turley; Stephen M. Haas
Crime in WV Cities: A Comparative Analysis of Selected Population Groups and Victim-Offender Relationships
West Virginia Division of Criminal Justice Services

This report presents findings from an examination of crime trends in various principal cities and other population groups in West Virginia (WV). Crime rates in WV cities have varied directly with population size; crime rates in the six largest cities in WV were on average approximately 3.5 times greater than in the smallest cities between 2002 and 2006. Between 2002 and 2006, mid-size cities with a population over 10,000 experienced the greatest increase in crime rates, from 74.7 crimes per 1,000 residents in 2002 to 88.2 in 2006. Between 2002 and 2006, Charleston's crime rate was consistently higher than crime rates in other principal cities. The cities of Huntington, Morgantown, and Parkersburg each showed an increase in total crime rates over the past 5 years. For any given year between 2002 and 2006, WV's violent crime rate was roughly half that of the Nation. Violent crimes accounted for only 4.1 percent of all offenses reported in WV during 2006. In 2006, violent-crime rates varied significantly across all principal cities, ranging from a high of 8.8 in Charleston to a low of 2.7 in Parkersburg. Nearly two-thirds of all victims of violent crime (62.2 percent) were in a nondomestic relationship with their offender in 2006. Metro and nonmetro county law enforcement agencies were significantly more likely to report victims as being domestically related to their offenders. WV's property-crime rate has steadily increased over the past 5 years, while it has declined in the Nation as a whole. The cities of Charleston, Huntington, and Martinsburg had the highest rates of property crime among principal cities in 2006. Huntington had the highest property crime rate for all six principal cities in 2006. Data sources were the West Virginia State Police, Uniform Crime Reporting Section, and the U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. 5 tables, 7 figures, and 8 references

NCJ 220322
Michael G. Turner; Jennifer L. Hartman; Donna M. Bishop
Effects of Prenatal Problems, Family Functioning, and Neighborhood Disadvantage in Predicting Life-Course-Persistent Offending
Criminal Justice and Behavior
Volume:34 Issue:10 Dated:October 2007 Pages:1241 to 1261

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, this study tested Moffitt's biosocial hypothesis (Neuropsychological deficits interact with disadvantaged family environments to predict "life-course-persistent" offending) across different neighborhood and racial contexts. The study found that within the full sample, biosocial interaction failed to predict "life-course-persistent" offending, defined as problem behavior in early childhood that evolves into antisocial behavior well into adulthood. The biosocial interaction predicted life-course-persistent offending only for individuals living in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Further, when the data were analyzed by race and neighborhood characteristics, the biosocial interaction was only a significant predictor of life-course-persistent offending for non-Whites living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Although Whites and non-Whites were not different in their exposure to sources of prenatal problems (biological), they did experience significant differences in the social environments in which they were raised. These findings are consistent with prior research on the racial concentration of neighborhood and family disadvantage. Study data were obtained from the child-mother data of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. This involved a separate biennial data collection begun in 1986 that included detailed assessments of each child born to females in the original data cohort (1979). For the current study, the analyses focused on a subsample of 513 individuals who were age 15 by 1994 and who provided valid interviews during the years 1994, 1996, and 1998. Life-course-persistent offending was measured by self-reported involvement in violent offending and offending chronology. Independent variables were the prenatal problem index, the family disadvantage index, neighborhood disadvantage, and biosocial interaction. 4 tables, 5 notes, 89 references, and appended items used for the delinquency scale