Smart on Crime
I argue that (blue-collar) crime—theft and assault, in all their varieties—is still a real and major problem; that its economic and social costs are vastly under-appreciated; that its primary victims are disadvantaged minorities and poor people; that the current criminal-justice system wrongs them by under-enforcing the law against those who victimize them (who are, of course, mostly people like them in racial and class terms); that better criminal-justice policy could give us less crime and less incarceration; and that better and more equal law enforcement ought therefore to be as central a progressive political goal as better and more equal education or health care. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns
on Nov 1, 2013 -
On Wednesday, William Van Poyck was executed
by the state of Florida for murdering a prison guard during a botched 1987 attempt to free an imprisoned friend. Poyck spent 25 years in solitary confinement on death row, during which time he wrote to his sister about his life in prison. Since 2005 she has published those letters to a blog called Death Row Diary
. 'Poyck used to write about everything from the novels and history books he was reading and shows he watched on PBS to the state of the world and his own philosophy of life – punctuated by news of the deaths of those around him, from illness, suicide, and execution.' Excerpts
. His final letter.
posted by zarq
on Jun 13, 2013 -
"'If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.' So goes the old saying. Yet conditions in some American facilities are so obscene that they amount to a form of extrajudicial punishment." Mother Jones is profiling "America's 10 Worst Prisons."
Facilities were chosen for the list based on "...three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with reform advocates." [more inside]
posted by zarq
on May 14, 2013 -
“I was a monster,” Malvo said. “If you look up the definition, that’s what a monster is. I was a ghoul. I was a thief. I stole people’s lives.
I did someone else’s bidding just because they said so. . . . There is no rhyme or reason or sense.”
posted by silby
on Sep 30, 2012 -
Bugs and Beasts Before the Law
- "Murderous pigs sent to the gallows, sparrows prosecuted for chattering in Church, a gang of thieving rats let off on a wholly technical acquittal – theoretical psychologist and author Nicholas Humphrey explores the strange world of medieval animal trials." More on the theme of barnyard scapegoats from the BBC podcast documentary: Animals on Trial
posted by madamjujujive
on Jan 5, 2012 -
The Brain on Trial.
Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order.
"We may someday find that many types of bad behavior have a basic biological explanation—as has happened with schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, and mania." [more inside]
posted by Eideteker
on Jul 15, 2011 -
Flogging as an alternative to incarceration?
A thoughtful essay that considers flogging as an alternative to incarceration; the author uses this as a rhetorical device to point out the inefficiencies of incarceration, and get a conversation going. Some of the comments in the forum are priceless.
posted by Vibrissae
on Apr 27, 2011 -
A longitudinal study to be published in Jan 2011's Pediatrics (abstract
, PDF of article
) shows that GLBT youth are about 40 percent more likely to be punished by schools, police, and courts than their straight peers. [more inside]
posted by hippybear
on Dec 7, 2010 -
"Between the Bars
is a weblog platform for prisoners, through which the 1% of America which is behind bars can tell their stories. Since prisoners are routinely denied access to the Internet, we enable them to blog by scanning letters. We aim to provide a positive outlet for creativity, a tool to assist in the maintenance of social safety nets, an opportunity to forge connections between prisoners and non-prisoners, and a means to promote non-criminal identities and personal expression. We hope to improve prisoner's lives, and help to reduce recidivism." [more inside]
posted by gman
on Nov 6, 2010 -
Norway's penal system has gathered some attention recently, as the new Halden prison
just opened. The $217 million facility will house 252 prisoners, some long-term and some short. The new prison is notable for, among other things, use of armoured glass instead of bars on windows, natural lighting
and single-inmate cells with private showers, TVs and access to a gym and a sound studio. There was also an art budget, and Norwegian street artist Dolk
was commisioned to decorate some of the walls. The Norwegian penal system is similar to the other Scandinavian countries', with no death penalty, and a "life" sentence of 21 years. In Norway there are no privately run incarceration facilities, and the opening of the rather plush-seeming Halden prison spurred some discussion, but garnered no big controversy. [more inside]
posted by Harald74
on May 27, 2010 -
The threat of a mild punishment imposed reliably and immediately has a much greater deterrent effect than the threat of a severe punishment that is delayed and uncertain. A state trial judge in Hawaii, was frustrated with the cases on his docket. Nearly half of the people appearing before him were convicted offenders with drug problems who had been sentenced to probation rather than prison and then repeatedly violated the terms of that probation by missing appointments or testing positive for drugs. Whether out of neglect or leniency, probation officers would tend to overlook a probationer’s first 5 or 10 violations, giving the offender the impression that he could ignore the rules. But eventually, the officers would get fed up and recommend that Alm revoke probation and send the offender to jail to serve out his sentence. That struck Alm as too harsh, but the alternative — winking at probation violations — struck him as too soft. “I thought, This is crazy, this is a crazy way to change people’s behavior,” he told me recently. So Alm decided to try something different. [more inside]
posted by caddis
on Jan 10, 2010 -
Three years ago, David Nixon took over the principalship at John C. Calhoun Elementary School. "Thirty minutes into his first day of school at John C, a father walked into Nixon's office and said, 'I want to give you the authority to whip my son's butt.' Nixon was surprised, but after he thought it over, he decided to give every parent the same option." Did corporal punishment save a struggling school? [more inside]
posted by jeeves
on Apr 28, 2009 -
The Czech Republic offers surgical castration
as a "voluntary" option to sex offenders, whose rate of recidivism in some studies then drops precipitously. Officials at the Council of Europe
, calling the punishment "invasive, irreversible and mutilating." Atul Gawande noted 10 years ago
that, despite his reservations, castration works - at least against a subclass of offenders: the pedophiles and sadists.
posted by shivohum
on Mar 14, 2009 -
The public shaming
of Orange County billionaire Henry Nicholas continues apace. While his financial crimes
may not have drawn more than a passing reference, his drug use and other, more unsavory acts, have gotten widespread coverage -- as early as last year
. Perhaps, it's because Nicholas was famously involved
in supporting tough sentencing laws (his sister was murdered by her boyfriend in 1983.) However, some of the "tough on crime" policies he has backed as recently as a few months ago
are said to unfairly worsen the punishment
for those who commit crimes much less serious than those for which he was just indicted
posted by noway
on Jun 7, 2008 -
Are you an older sibling? Did you feel unfairly treated compared to your brothers and sisters? Well, now you have science to back you up. According to Games Parents and Adolescents Play
, a new sociology study published in The Economic Journal
, the oldest kid in the family really does bear the brunt of parental strictness, while the younger brothers and sisters generally coast on through. [more inside]
posted by netbros
on May 5, 2008 -
It's the Vietnam War. Nixon has declared a state of emergency and allows for secret tribunals against anti-war protesters, draft dodgers, and others guilty of "hindering the war effort." They have two choices: spend 15 to 20 years in a federal penitentiary or spend 3 days in Punishment Park
, where they will have 3 days to trek 50 miles in the California desert without food and water while on pursuit by armed National Guard and police units.
Watch Peter Watkin's (previously
) "documentary" of Punishment Park here
(Google Video, with strong language ).
posted by champthom
on Aug 22, 2007 -
(motto: get paid to snitch!) is the Yang to the Stop Snitchin'
(motto: stop snitchin!) campaign's Yin. This commercial
, which I'm relatively convinced is not a parody, best illustrates the consumer value proposition behind crime stoppers.
posted by jonson
on Apr 28, 2007 -
finds that the human brain registers the avoidance of an anticipated punishment in pretty much the same way as it registers a reward. (See this link
for a less technical discussion of the research.) Do these findings suggest that the use of punishment as a deterrent to undesirable behavior in effect actually motivates the undesirable behavior (as opposed to the use of negative reinforcement, or in other words, the withholding of reward)? Do punishment-oriented models of socialization/behaviorial conditioning actually encourage cheating, by in effect selecting for better cheaters?
posted by saulgoodman
on Jul 12, 2006 -
Throw Away The Key dot org
seeks to lengthen the sentences of criminals on the premise of their mission statement: "Incarceration Works!" From their site: "If you believe a girl should be able to walk down the street in broad daylight without being abducted and murdered by a convicted felon, then it is time for you to get involved.
posted by fandango_matt
on Nov 29, 2005 -
Another Fan Of Torture Reveals Himself
Eugene Volokh, a former clerk to Justice O'Connor and a leading voice in conservative legal circles has some interesting opinions on punishment:
[T]hough for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.
posted by expriest
on Mar 17, 2005 -