Recently in Miscellaneous Category

Prison Break

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The California Report's Prison Break is worth visiting. They have put together a video and three articles on realignment:

  • Were Counties Prepared for Flood of Inmates Under Realignment?
  • Prison Costs Should Drop With Realignment
  • LA Uses Realignment Funds for Re-Entry and Mental Health Programs
  • Television Special Preview

After an extended debate, much of which was uninformed or intentionally mis-informed by critics, the Affordable Care Act has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion.

This is an important moment in the U.S. history, a filling in of an area of citizen welfare that other advanced industrial nations (and others that aren't) figured out long ago. It is absolutely amazing and grotesque that Republicans in Congress are so bitterly opposed to what their own citizens want and need.

Of course this law has direct implications for the criminal justice system, for persons under arrest and in the care and keeping of the criminal justice system. Locally, health professionals have already noted its importance.

Over time we will see far greater impact as the law is fully implemented by 2014. The field of criminal justice is highly sensitive to changes in the health care system--adequate medical care is one of the best crime prevention policies around. As the long history of the criminal justice system attests, when people lack any or adequate health care, their problems multiply and this can easily put them at risk of falling into the hands of the criminal justice system--leaving criminal justice personnel with the task of providing a short-term solution to a community problem. This is most obvious in the case of substance abuse treatment and mental illness but also in a great many other situations.

Update:
since this entry was originally written, The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Public Safety and Corrections Populations, has been published, which breaks down some of the ways the Affordable Care Act will reduce crime and/or recidivism.

For the moment this is a time to rejoice and celebrate a new and long-needed chapter in the uneven progress of improved quality of life for Americans.

U C Davis Occupation and Reaction

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The treatment of peaceful Occupy protesters at U C Davis has become widely known thanks to video recordings that have gone viral. This letter by a U C Davis Professor, "Militarization Of Campus Police," provides a compelling interpretation of the official response to protest. Pepper spray in the faces of peaceful protesters? Think again and again. What is the crime and who is/are the criminals? U C D Law Professors also join in the discussion.

"Prison Realignment:" The Time Has Arrived

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The long awaited realignment in California has begun. The state of California now transfers responsibility for specific categories of less serious criminal offenders to county jurisdictions rather than state prison. Let us hope that it goes smoothly. Perhaps other jurisdictions could then see a viable way to reduce overused prisons and return offenders to local jurisdictions where they may have a greater chance of successful reentry. It is clear that many other states (and the federal system) have serious crowding and other problems, but it appears that California leads the pack in the size, extent and severity of the problems. If we have learned anything in California, it is that history can repeat itself: using prisons as we have to solve the problems of crime is an extraordinarily costly use of scarce public money that is highly likely to fail.

The colossal California prison failure has taken a narrowly defined federal court order (one that had to go to the U.S. Supreme Court) to change, which coincides with a financially broke state that has no money for teachers, roads, health care, and the like. So it's about time. Some of the nearly ten billion dollars that goes to the state's prisons--over eleven percent of the state's budget--should be reduced by $1.5 billion.

Observers estimate that almost twenty-six thousand would-be prison inmates will do time in local jails now instead of prison, which one would expect would be closer to home, job, family and perhaps even rehabilitation or job training programs. There won't be the rapid and wasteful "churning" of parolees.

There is a lot of speculation about the effects of the realignment on local jail capacity, crime levels, and the like. An editorial by our local paper says that it is an "experiment" and a "gamble." Much of the discussion statewide mirrors that that surrounded of the probation subsidy program of decades past: "Will the money for all of these inmates materialize?" (When and exactly how much are reasonable questions); "Will crime levels increase?" (Hard to imagine they could ever be as high as the recidivism levels of released prisoners in California); Can we develop effective local programs to manage our own criminal offenders? (What a refreshing question. Local experience in Napa County suggests that local programs can provide beneficial employment training, drug testing and yet have substantially reduced recidivism levels.)

Let us hope that the experience with realignment will be carefully studied by researchers. We need ways of rationally assessing the consequences of our policy choices rather than allowing such things as politicians with simplistic crime control agendas, pundits, and high profile cases to guide policy decisions. The last thing we need is the hyperbolic thinking that got us into this enormous problem to begin with, like that supplied our own Republican State Senator (Runner) commenting on realignment:

"Now is the time for Californians to get a dog, buy a gun and install an alarm system. The state of California is no longer going to protect you."

The 2010 Census: Where Do Prisoners Live, Anyway?

Recently updated. Originally posted in April 2010.

Have you filled out the 2010 Census form yet? What does this have to do with crime and corrections? Quite a bit once you think about it.
"Fixing prison-based gerrymandering after the 2010 Census: A 50 state guide" is a very important look at where prisoners are counted as living for the purpose of the U.S. Census. Since residence defines where representation and resources are supposed to be apportioned, and with two million people locked up and prisoners counted as residents of the institutions (cities/states) where they are housed, it can give an unfair representative advantage to jurisdictions with prisons. As researchers note, "communities that bear the most direct costs of crime are also the communities that are the biggest victims of prison-based gerrymandering."

As these researchers and advocates for change note, states can change the way the Census counts are used for the allocation of representation and resources society.

More recently, the state of New York has changed its laws dealing with this issue. See the editorial in the New York Times.

Now Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation (AB 420) mandating that prisoners in California will be counted based on their residence at commitment, not in the prison that they happen to be housed in, beginning in 2020. California is the fourth state to do this.

Immigration Issues

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(Updated) Using criminal laws to manage a narrowly defined immigration "problem" is currently a hot topic. SSU faculty member Francisco Vasquez discusses the issue of the legal vs. ethical issues surrounding immigration in light of Arizona's new laws. He writes, for example, that "Politically, the issue of Mexican illegal immigration is the most exploited, useful and, historically, the principal political weapon for U.S. politicians every time there is an economic crisis." He raises a number of good points that can inform debate about immigration today.

Find Francisco's "GUEST OPINION: Standing up against an unethical Arizona law" at the local newspaper.

It is also worth noting that President Obama is frequently criticized for failing to enforce federal immigration laws. However, as more recently noted by TRAC,

"Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) show that during the first nine months of FY 2010, more non-US citizens were removed from the country than during any similar period in the Bush Administration....the first nine months of FY 2010...resulted in the removal of 279,035 individuals compared to 254,763 in the same nine month period during the final year of the Bush administration."

Should America unleash the private sector to solve our immigration problems? Even ardent private sector believers can't help but see the humor and truth in the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon about capitalism in America. Project Censored looks at the role of private sector corrections in responding to the issues facing immigrants and the U.S. problems with immigration. Their observation differs from but seems to complement Francisco's. They note at this link that two private sector leaders in the privatization of prisons,

"CCA based in Nashville, Tennessee, and Geo Group, a global corporation based in Boca Raton, Florida, are the principal moving forces in the behind-the-scenes organization of the current wave of anti-immigrant legislative efforts."

For the latest data on federal law enforcement in the area of immigration take this link. The table below is taken from 2010 TRAC report. It shows how Arizona compares to the rest of the U.S.


Here is a web site on issues of immigration that looks at its human side. Enjoy!

Justice: Criminal Justice Through Art

This ebook, Justice (pdf), was made possible by the Rockefeller Foundation, Columbia University, and Penland School of Crafts.

Justice

Cellphone laws

Laws relating to cell phone usage have been passed in many states or local jurisdictions (see this listing of states, local jurisdictions and their laws). This is one of those areas where systematic research has not quite caught up to the potential importance of a common practice (talking on a cell phone or even texting while driving) for traffic safety. Many such laws are targeting youth or 'novice' drivers: over 28 states target texting while driving, which is about youth mainly.

This is an area ripe for investigation by students of dynamic conflict and social change leading to legal change.

Swine Flu - panic watch

For the moment, fears about the H5N1 avian flu--and related criminological issues--have receded while U.S. and other investigators look into the latest outbreak of Swine Flu. WHO and the Center for Disease Control appears to be on top of this and (as of June 11) a worldwide pandemic has been declared. The CDC is careful to say that "WHO's decision to raise the pandemic alert level to Phase 6 is a reflection of the spread of the virus, not the severity of illness caused by the virus." As of 6.25.09 there have been 127 deaths in the U.S. and its territories and a total of 265 deaths worldwide.

People are discussing primarily the flu in general and swine flu in internet forums. The figure below, created from BlogPulse, shows the trends in mention of swine flu relative to "flu" and "avian flu" on 6.29.09 for the prior six month period. It is notable that the June 11 announcement barely led to a slight blib in discussion.

flu6-29-09.png

Remain aware by reading regular updates from the Sonoma County Public Health Division.

The link below is one way to keep on top of official CDC information.

Election Results

A titanic shift with major potential implications for criminology & criminal justice

Meet the Presidential Candidates

The Sentencing Projects' 2008 Presidential Candidates' Platforms on Criminal Justice is welcome reading for students of criminal justice. Learn about each (Clinton, Obama, McCain) presidential candidate's position on matters of concern to criminal justice: mandatory minimum sentences, "three-strikes-and-you're-out" law, approach to "war on drugs", crack/powder cocaine disparity, death penalty, disproportionate minority representation in criminal justice system, ex-offender re-entry into communities, felony disenfranchisement and parole.


Letter from a mom in prison

This semester one of my classes read Sue Stauffacher's book, Harry Sue, to learn what young adults (and others) are reading about children whose parents are incarcerated. The book is written from the perspective of an eleven year old girl, who develops a world of prison in her daily life. The book provides insights into what young people are learning about imprisonment other than what they consume through mass media, especially television.

In a separate venue, and available in pdf at fcnetwork.org through this link, here is a letter written by an imprisoned mom to her children:

My dearest, my precious, my beautiful daughters,

Hello sweethearts. Yes, it's me, I'm still alive, even though the break in my heart branches out and tears holes in my soul each and every day. Every second since the last time I saw my two beautiful daughters has been filled with agony. You are both loved beyond description. There truly is no possible way to put into words how very precious you both are to me. I know the both of you know deep in your soul how much I love you!!

I am so mad at myself, in fact, at times I hate myself for letting you down. I didn't walk away from you. I was shoved away long before either of you were ever born by becoming a drug addict.

On the days you were born, I held you up and looked directly into your eyes and swore with every fiber of my being that I would always love you and be there for you. And to always protect you, to see to it that you would never hate me for one iota of a second the way I hated my mother and father for all the mean nasty things they did to me, and the way they made me feel worthless. I would always try my hardest to make you both know how beautiful, special, sweet and awesome, smart and wonderful you are.

I know a lot of people tried to make you believe that you two didn't mean as much to me as drugs. They were so wrong. Please don't believe that. I did drugs to keep from hurting deep inside my heart. And I've come to realize drugs don't make it better. It only stops the pain for a minute, then it comes flying back at you, twice as hard.

Both of you meant everything and still mean everything to me. God gave me the opportunity, the beautiful moment, to be your mom. Not just your mother. Any woman can be a mother. But it takes love to be a mom. And I love you with every fiber of my being.

Please don't think for a fraction of a second that it's your fault or that I didn't want you. Because that is not true. It was the drugs. I didn't do drugs, baby girls, they did me! And since you have been gone, not one day has passed that I didn't think of you, miss you or wonder if you were all right. I'm clean now. And I'm gonna stay clean one minute at a time.

I look forward to the day you come home.

Please forgive me! You can go to any courthouse and find me! Just tell them to look it up. It's in the paperwork from the court, the ones that took you away...they have to tell you!

Love you with all of my soul!

Your mother
[name deleted]

There are other letters and poems included in the collection.

Collateral Costs

Collateral Costs: The Effects of Incarceration on the Employment and Earnings of Young Workers, by Harry J. Holzer.

Some of the most basic research about the effects of punishment on life go directly to earnings. This is not a new finding but it bears repeating in this era of resorting to incarceration as a first resort.

Remembering Enron: The Rolling Blackout Theme Song

We would be lost if we forgot the Enron scandal. It is still with us, and another like it could come again if we are not vigilant. Here a culprit is deregulation, which provided oceans of opportunities for the unscrupulous, or what Galbraith calls "The Predator State." The quote below, taken from the Attorney General report on Enron, reveals the extraordinary losses to California and the callous disregard for the welfare of its citizens. It presents a new version of Rawhide adapted to the spirit of ripping off California.

An E-mail from Jeffery Fawcett to Lorna Brennan, et al. transmitted on April 30, 2001 at 11:17 a.m.

Subject: California Sing-along

California Sing-Along Circulated by Generators

And to start off the week...California's new State Song! The Rolling Blackout Theme Song

(To the theme music from the TV western 'Rawhide')

Rollin', rollin', rollin',
Though the state is golden,
Keep them blackouts rollin', statewide.
A little colder weather,
And we all freeze together,
Wishin'more plants were on the line.
All the things I'm missin',
Like lights and television,
Are waitin' 'til we can pay the price.

(Chorus)

Turn 'em on, turn 'em off,
Shut 'em down, block 'em out,
Turn 'em on, turn 'em off, statewide!
Brown 'em out, black 'em out,
Charge 'em more, give 'em less,
Let the pols fix the mess, statewide!

Keep movin', movin', movin'
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them rates a-movin', statewide.
Don't try to understand 'em,
Just raise, charge, and collect 'em.
Soon we'll be livin' high and wide.
My heart's calculatin',
Nuclear plants will be waitin',
Be waitin' at the end of my ride.

(Chorus)

Turn 'em on, turn 'em off,
Shut 'em down, block 'em out,
Turn 'em on, turn 'em off, statewide!
Brown 'em out, black 'em out,
Charge 'em more, give 'em less,
Let the pols fix the mess, statewide!

STATEWIDE! Hyaah!


SOURCE: State of California. 2004. Attorney General's Energy White Paper: A Law Enforcement Perspective on the California Energy Crisis. Recommendations for Improving Enforcement and Protecting Consumers in Deregulated Energy Markets. [Online}. Available:http://ag.ca.gov/publications/energywhitepaper.pdf, p. 22.

For further information about the Enron scandal go to the Redwood Highway or see the documentary, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005).

White Collar Crime

This article was found in the Heritage Foundation's collection, in case readers have been wondering how they've been thinking about crime lately.

Quotes from The Sociological Origins of "White-Collar Crime," by John S. Baker, Jr. Legal Memorandum #14. [Accessed: 10.21.06]

The author writes:

"Despite the rhetoric, the decision to prosecute is unavoidably discretionary. How do prosecutors determine whom to prosecute? All too often, the choice reflects contemporary politics--and today's criminal du jour is the "white-collar" crook. Yet when most people talk about vigorously prosecuting white-collar crime, they don't mean locking up those who purchase medicine from neighboring countries or pirate music over the Internet, despite the fact that such crimes defraud pharmaceutical and music corporations (and thus their shareholders) of billions of dollars.

"What accounts for the difference in treatment? The Justice Department's formal definition of white-collar crime disregards class or economic status. But the truth is that in white-collar cases, such distinctions do influence decisions about whether or not to prosecute. Government prosecutors are far more likely to indict the "upper-class" businessman who works for Tyco--or the faceless Arthur Andersen partnership--than a middle-class grandmother who buys medications in Canada. This reflects the socialist origin of the "white-collar crime" concept. The war against white-collar crime thus unwittingly stems from and embraces a class-based sociological concept of crime."

His conclusion:

"The origin of the "white-collar crime" concept derives from a socialist, anti-business viewpoint that defines the term by the class of those it stigmatizes. In coining the phrase, Sutherland initiated a political movement within the legal system. This meddling in the law perverts the justice system into a mere tool for achieving narrow political ends. As the movement expands today, those who champion it would be wise to recall its origins. For those origins reflect contemporary misuses made of criminal law--the criminalization of productive social and economic conduct, not because of its wrongful nature but, ultimately, because of fidelity to a long-discredited class-based view of society [emphasis supplied].

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Miscellaneous category.

Media is the previous category.

Research is the next category.

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