May 2006 Archives

The latest BJS report, Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005 , reveals that the U.S. incarceration rate (people incarcerated divided by population multiplied times 100,000) has increased to all all-time high of 738, with the federal government's leadership. The incarceration rate grew at a combined 3.4% annual rate from 1995 to 2005, including increases in federal (7.4%), state (2.5%) and jail (3.9%) populations. Table 1, taken from the report, shows over two million one hundred and eighty five thousand inmates in custody, for an overall rate of 738 per 100,000 population.



The incarceration rate for the Western region is 421--it is 456 for California--with the latter's 170,000+ inmates and close to ten billion dollar budget coming out of the general fund. Of all the Western states, only Arizona's rate is higher (502). However, it is important to note that, "In general,racial and ethnic disparities in California’s criminal justice system resemble those found in the United States as a whole. However, African Americans in California are more likely to be under the control of the criminal justice system than African Americans nationwide" (Chapter 8, Crime and Criminal Justice" in A Portrait of Race and Ethniciity in California.

Then there are vastly different rates of incarceration by gender and race. See below:

Click this for Table 13

The BJS report data are not broken down enough to ascertain whether the West has disproportionate representation of blacks and hispanics than other regions.

The state that has brought us the Dred Scott decision, Busch beer, a dog museum, the Arch, and one of the highest levels of racial segregation in the country has moved into the provincial domestic realm via the city of Black Jack's cohabitation law, which made the news recently when a family that bought a home there was legally prohibited from living in it because the parents were not married. The city has an ordinance that prohibits over three people from living together unless they are related by marriage, blood or adoption. This is not-so-subtle absence of toleration for diversity in family forms. The City Council refused to change the law, so now the parents and kids are in the limelight and a pickle. Why, if they refuse to either get married or leave town they'll have to pay a $500 a day fine. Imagine that! When Black Jack means business there is no matter too small, large or moral or immoral enough for them to miss--something like LiveJournal excluding pictures of breastfeeding women from their pages.

Good old Missouri, the way I left it in 1989, a little behind our changing times. Even the late Dear Abby gave up on this issue decades ago. However, you don't have to go far to find more examples of the criminalization of cohabitation. Although some local jurisdictions have such restrictions, usually in rural areas, most examples that come to mind are a in a majority of states, including those in the Pacific region, which have laws or rules on the books that forbid probationers or parolees from living together unmarried. It seems to be an assumption that lack of legal marriage is unstable, immoral or an invitation to disobey rules (so-called "open or notorious cohabitation"). The criminal justice machinery in this sense is a big-time repository of conservative, sometimes religious values or residues, which define the criminal justice response as a step backward to the past rather than one that looks forward to societal integration.

The demographics of cohabitation in the U.S. and the world are worthy of note. The Bureau of the Census has shown that over the past 30+ years living together unmarried is a rapidly growing family form--most recently, accounting for at least four percent of all American households--two-fifths of which have children under eighteen years of age. It is in part a minor variation in the assortive mating process that describes us as humans. Perhaps the biggest increase in cohabitation, however, has developed among older people--who are also probably less afraid to admit their living arrangements to census workers. Moreover, in some areas of the world cohabitation levels are much, much higher--the Caribbean or Northwest Europe come to mind. Among demographers the study of cohabitation is sometimes tied to issues surrounding illegitimacy; the writings of the late Kingsley Davis are especially interesting to read on this issue. Others center on whether cohabitaiton is a threat to the institution of marriage or a precursor to it. These are interesting issues to many college students.

White House Commentary

Somehow Stephen Colbert was selected to roast President Bush and company in their very presence--on CSPAN. Did someone confuse Colbert with a perfect friend of the Bush Administration? It looks that way. Couldn't have been more incorrect. No one seemed to speak for days about this event but now you can listen to it via this link. Colbert is on the borderland of commentary, humor, critique, and something else. You wonder where he's coming from and going to, and much of it is, well, hilarious. This iconoclastic approach is much needed to stimulate the media to examine its priorities, approaches, commitments and other aspects of its existance, irrespective of the pathetic and morbid state of the Bush presidency (see PEW's latest study on perceptions of Bush and the U.S., along with other countries). Colbert dredged the depths to find positive meaning in pollster popularity ratings; there are lessons there for interpreting statistics in criminology. Apparently this roast was the most popular download on iTunes at one point. The Colbert Report, available at the Comedy Central web site, is filled with numerous other fascinating videos of relevance to the field.

See also the
Top 100 video links on Google.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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