Thirteen Strikes and Still Not Out. The Media Gets Three-Strikes Wrong Again. Robert Ferguson is Not a Victim.

Reporters searching to illustrate the cruel and arbitrary nature of California’s three-strikes law have struck out again.  Their careless advocacy is actually providing opportunities to inform the public about facts that should have been part of the reporting on this subject all along.

Particularly, that the three-strikes law isn’t arbitrary.   Prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing to apply “three-strikes,” or not.  All that hype about an hysterical public forcing prosecutors and judges to send away shoplifters and pot smokers for life sentences?  Not true.  Prosecutors choose to forgo three strikes from 20% to 40% of the time when they could use it. ... 

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The Guilty Project, Kevin Eugene Peterson and Charles Montgomery: Two Sex Offenders Who Would Have Been Better Off Behind Bars

genthumb

Early release is going to be a disaster. It would be less of a disaster if the public had access to the real criminal histories of the people being released.  But we’re being kept in the dark: nobody wants to admit the chaos in criminal record-keeping.

Kevin Eugene Peterson ... 

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Julia Tuttle Bridge, Redux: More Made-Up Reporting on the “Sex Offenders Under the Bridge”

Quick, what’s more bathetic than a sack of drowned kittens?

Why, it’s the Sex-Offenders-Under-the-Bridge in Miami.  Again.  In Time this time.  Apparently, it’s just not possible to guilt the fourth estate into covering this issue factually (see here, here, and here for my prior posts).  Is some defense attorney running a tour bus for gullible reporters to guarantee a steady supply of this melodrama?  If so, I wish they’d take a side trip to go shopping for new adjectives: ... 

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New York City, 1990; Ciudad Juarez, 2009; Justice Reinvestment, Tomorrow

800px-NYC_murders

A shiny new euphemism is bouncing around Washington these days: it’s called Justice Reinvestment.

That sounds nice.  Thrifty.  Far better than the unfortunately named “Prisoner Reentry,” which was former President Bush’s euphemism for his program handing $300 million dollars over to FBCOS (faith and community based organizations, in other words, any darn thing) to provide “services” (“mentoring,” putative job training, free housing and other goodies) to offenders “reentering” their communities. ... 

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Media Bias in Crime Reporting: Hank Asher, the St. Pete Times, and Journalists’ Favorite Armed Robber (of the Week)

Two stories today underscore the media’s fundamental prejudices — prejudice against those who try to uphold the law, and prejudice for offenders.

In the St. Petersburg Times, there was a follow-up story to Susan Taylor Martin’s highly personal hatchet job on Mark Lunsford, father of murder victim Jessica Lunsford.  Back in November, Martin sneeringly attacked Lunsford for, among other things, having the temerity to earn $40,000 a year working as an advocate for child predator laws although, as she observed, he holds “only” a high school diploma.  She also criticized Lunsford for comping a $73 celebration at Outback Restaurant on the night the man who raped and murdered his daughter was convicted for her death. ... 

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Do Jobs Programs Cause Crime?

With something approaching fifty years of economic and crime statistics consistently disproving any correlation between recessions and crime, not to mention the last 12 months of terrible economic news coupled with still-dropping crime rates, you’d think journalists might finally start questioning their knee-jerk pronouncements about “lack of opportunity” being the primary motivation for unlawful behavior.

But they won’t.  Journalists simply can’t, I think, let go of the idea that young people (males, mostly) commit crime primarily because they are being unjustly deprived of economic opportunity.  To let that idea go would result in nothing less than the catastrophic collapse of a myth on which rests perhaps a fifth or more of the emotional underpinnings of the fourth estate.   It would require shifting culpability for criminal behavior from society at large, where journalists and policymakers are comfortable placing it, onto individuals who commit crimes (and in many cases their families and immediate communities, but no farther). ... 

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Tax Breaks for Hiring Ex-Cons. No Tax Breaks for Hiring the Law Abiding.

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Back when the economy was flush, President Bush (yes, that President Bush) started the “prisoner re-entry” ball rolling with $330 million dollars in federal funding to go for housing, drug rehab, jobs, and various therapies for ex-cons.  But now that we are a year into record unemployment for non-ex-cons, should the federal government still be offering tax breaks as a reward for hiring people with criminal records?

With one in ten people (probably more) unemployed, should committing a crime give people a leg up over other job applicants? ... 

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And So It Begins: Rhetoric on “Early Release for Non-Violent Offenders Clogging Prisons” is Dangerous Hot Air

From the Denver Post.  Not exactly Girl and Boy Scouts, these “best of show offenders” chosen as the first early releases in Denver.  Ironically, these records make precisely the opposite point than the one the Justice Department is making, which is that we are too harsh on offenders and “too vindictive” on sentencing.

Expect more of the same as Eric Holder gears up to throw massive amounts of money at anti-incarceration initiatives and activist groups like the Vera Institute, who do “studies” that all end up showing that we need to empty the prisons to save money. ... 

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The Real Perception Problem is the Perception of the Courts

The comments thread in response to this article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution contain a lot more insight than the article itself, which morphed from the purported subject of policing into another attack on the public for caring about crime.*  No surprise there.  While the criminologists try to minimize crime using formulas measuring relative cultural pathology and other number dances, the public hones in on the courts:

It is time that we stop protecting the young criminals – Start publishing names, parents names and city – Might just be that some parents will be so embarrassed that they will take control of these young people – Start publishing names of judges that continually grant bail bonds or m notes for “REPEAT” offenders. — “D.L.” ... 

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A Truly Offensive Effort to Whitewash the Crime Problem

What’s the matter with the Atlanta Journal Constitution?

In the last year, the residents of Atlanta stood up and declared that they do not want their city to be a place known for crime, where murders and muggings are taken in stride.  They declared that one murder, one home invasion, is one too many.  They partnered with the police — ignoring the headline-grabbing anti-cop types who perennially try to sow divisiveness. ... 

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How Many Women do You Need to Slaughter Before it Becomes a Hate Crime?

Let’s see. According the the silence of the “experts” in the face of Walter E. Ellis’ crimes, apparently it’s some number higher than seven.  And counting.

So what constitutes a hate crime against women?  Nothing, in practice.  Not selecting and slaughtering woman after woman after woman.  Not scrawling hate words across a murdered woman’s body.  Not ritualistically destroying a woman’s breasts or sex organs.  Not spreading fear among other women through your attacks.  Not inflicting “excessive” violence, “overkill,” whatever that means. ... 

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The Genesis of a Lie: How Brutal Killers Become Victims, Part 3

On August 28, jurors in the Michael King trial in Sarasota, Florida found King guilty of raping and killing 21-year old mother, Denise Amber Lee.  Here is a photo of Lee’s father, Rick Goff, listening to the last 911 call Denise managed to make, in which she was recorded begging for her life.  It’s worth remembering that the families were forced to sit through all the courtroom games the defense played while trying to get King off on a technicality.  Which technicality?  Any and all of them, of course.

Immediately following the jury’s conviction, the sentencing hearings began.  King’s lawyers set out to argue that a childhood sledding accident rendered him incompetent, a mitigating factor the jurors would have to weight against his crimes — if it was true. ... 

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Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe Questions the Sentencing Project’s “No Exit” Report

In the Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby has other criticisms of The Sentencing Project’s anti-life sentence report:

OF THE 2.3 million people in prisons and jails in the United States, roughly 140,000, or 6 percent, are serving life sentences. Of that number, about 41,000 – 1.8 percent of all inmates – were sentenced to life without parole. Both numbers are at an all-time high. ... 

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Risible Poppycock from the Criminology/Journalism Complex: The Sentencing Project and The Delaware News-Journal

It ought to take more than 25 seconds and two mouse clicks to find evidence that the media and The Sentencing Project are making stuff up.  It ought to, but it does not.

The Sentencing Project is a well-funded, powerful, anti-incarceration advocacy organization.  They pose as a think tank that publishes objective academic research on crime and punishment. ... 

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What Works? D.C. Moves Forward on Fighting Crime

As Atlanta prepares for the none-too-soon departure of the current mayor and police chief, it’s worth considering the example of cities where reasonable, engaged crime-fighting policies seem to be working:

Washington D.C. is experiencing the lowest murder rate in years.  Why? D.C.’s fairly new and interesting Police Chief, Cathy L. Lanier, attributes the drop in murder rates to intensive use of communication tools and intensive planning to anticipate trouble at certain events and between certain gangs: ... 

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No-Snitch Children and No-Punishment Adults

Every weekday, I receive a useful summary of crime, policing, and justice news stories called Crime and Justice News, compiled by Ted Gest at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  Considering that there are so many relevant articles from which to choose, Gest and his assistants do a good job of spotting national trends.

But, sometimes, reading through the report is singularly depressing, not only because crime is depressing, but because the trends in crime prevention that crop up regularly these days seem doomed to failure. ... 

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The New Normal: Detroit

Seven teens were shot last week outside a school offering summer classes in Detroit.  Three were in critical condition.  A week earlier, another girl was shot in the chest outside another school.

Now the police are having trouble getting anyone to cooperate with them.  “The taboo against snitching is worse than the taboo against shooting,” the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday. ... 

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The New Normal: Atlanta

I, for one, think newspapers are being rejuvenated by their current financial crisis.  The old-fashioned, insular newsroom, with its disturbing status quo on crime reporting (defendants are victims of society; victims are society, and thereby guilty of something) is becoming a thing of the past.

Over the holiday weekend, the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran this must-read story by Bill Torpy, in which he examines the real costs of retail burglaries for small business owners: ... 

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“National Network for Safe Communities” or More of the Same Old Song?

The newest hot thing in crime reduction is actually an old idea that has been tried again and again, at staggering cost, with little objective evaluation of the results.  It is now being re-packaged as an initiative called National Network for Safe Communities, and several large cities are already signing on.  The idea is to “reach out” to the most prolific criminals, the ones who control drug dealing and gang activities, and try to engage them in dialogue to get them to stop dealing, robbing, and shooting — before threatening them with prison.

To put it another way, cities overwhelmed by crime will hand over yet another get-out-of-jail-free card to offenders who already, in reality, have fistfuls of them.  Cities will reinforce the status and egos of the worst offenders by engaging them in “dialogue”  (predictably, some of these offenders will simply use their new status to grow their criminal enterprise, like this M-13 gang member/executive director of Homies Unidos, a “nationally recognized anti-gang group”).  Cities will create and subsidize larger numbers of expensive, redundant, slush-fund “job outreach programs” and “youth intervention initiatives” and “community summits” and “lock-downs service provision weekends” — more, that is, than even exist now. ... 

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The Tech Crime Wave. What Can Be Done. What Can’t Be Done.

What can be done about crime in the neighborhoods around Georgia Tech?  As reported by the AJC, the youths who have been arrested — and the ones who are yet to be caught — are perhaps the most dangerous type of criminal: immature and armed.  As James Fetig, an administrator at Georgia Tech, observed:

“[o]ne concern is the age of the criminals. Police tell us they are between 16 and 19,” Fetig said. “This is not a time when young men tend to consider consequences. We are very concerned that one of these robberies could go terribly wrong and have terrible consequences.” ... 

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More on Emergency Medicine and Murder Statistics

A subscription is required to read the study I talked about on Friday.  It is titled “Murder and Medicine, The Lethality of Criminal Assault, 1960 – 1999.”  Here is the abstract:

Despite the proliferation of increasingly dangerous weaponsand the very large increase in rates of serious criminal assault,since 1960, the lethality of such assault in the United Stateshas dropped dramatically. This paradox has barely been studiedand needs to be examined using national time-series data. Startingfrom the basic view that homicides are aggravated assaults withthe outcome of the victim’s death, we assembled evidencefrom national data sources to show that the principal explanationof the downward trend in lethality involves parallel developmentsin medical technology and related medical support services thathave suppressed the homicide rate compared to what it wouldbe had such progress not been made. We argue that research intothe causes and deterability of homicide would benefit from a“lethality perspective” that focuses on serious assaults, onlya small proportion of which end in death. ... 

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That Perception of Crime Thing

I stop by the convenience store near my house a few times a week. It is the only store for a few miles in either direction, on a rural stretch of highway.  There’s a stop light, the divided highway, a single train track, the convenience store, and then 55+ trailer parks, tomato fields, and cow pastures leading out to the bay.  If you drive south on the highway, you hit the county line.

In other words, it is a perfect target for crime.  Easy-in, easy-out, with little traffic and a good view of the people coming and going.  The women who work as cashiers there are world-weary.  They are bitter and fatalistic about the fact that they keep getting robbed.  When I spoke with one of them a few weeks ago, she seemed a little embarrassed that she was even upset about the latest armed robbery.  She looks like somebody who has had few breaks in life and has learned not to complain.  She stands less than five feet tall and might weigh 100 pounds soaking wet, as they say.  Like most of the store’s employees, including the security guard they have hired, she is a senior citizen.  Once you get to be in your sixties, it’s hard enough to find work. ... 

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That Perception Thing

The release of the FBI’s semi-annual report on crime has provided Atlanta’s pathologically tone-deaf Mayor and the Chief-of-Police-In-Absentia with another opportunity to shower contempt on every citizen of the city.  What else could inspire the Mayor to repeat the words, “the city is ‘safer now than it has been in decades’,” given her knowledge of public feelings on her attitude?

Apparently, according to City Hall, a slight drop in the still unacceptable high rates of some crime in some areas, a rise in crime rates in other areas, and a sharp rise in property crime rates is cause to break out the bubbly. ... 

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They Really Do Hate Us: Academics on the Law-Abiding Public

The long list of slights committed by the public against criminals just grew a little bit longer.  We are now guilty of not thinking about the incarcerated enough during the time that they are behind bars, a distraction predicted to grow worse as prisons rely on videoconferencing for prisoner doctor appointments, psychiatric counseling, and family visits.

Although the actually relevant parties — from guards to prisoners to psychiatrists — seem happy with videoconferencing, it does not sit well with Nancy Stoller, a professor of something called “Community Studies” at University of California, Santa Cruz: ... 

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The Right Rat: Groundless Accusations Towards Victims of Crime

Yesterday, I wrote about the hysteria that arises when crime victims seek modest rights, such as the right to know when their offender will be cut loose from prison (a shifting proposition — never shifting further ahead, either), or the right to offer a victim-impact statement at the same time the convicted offender is permitted to parade his supporters before the sentencing judge.

It is a measure of society’s disdain for the rights of victims that, even when such laws are on the books, they are spottily enforced and treated like an afterthought, not a rule of law. Our courts are in far worse shape than most people realize, as evinced by my earlier post today. The first causalities of this chaos, inevitably, are crime victims. ... 

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“Defendants Have the Right to Remain Silent. . . Victims Have the Right to be Heard”

I found this quote on the website for the Larimer County, Colorado District Attorney’s office. It is a neat sentiment: well-intentioned, not overly ambitious. It is, in other words, a fitting description of the aims of victims’ rights laws.

It is also utterly untrue. ... 

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The “Benjy Brigade”, Part 1: Boston’s Finest Mount an Attack on an Elderly Victim of Rape

The theme this week is punitive attitudes towards victims of crime. At the most primal level, the mere existence of victims threatens to spoil all the fun that can be had as you lift your glass from the tray, turn to Professor Ponytail (who could dress better at these things), and say: “When I was mentoring at the federal pen last weekend I met the most inspirational young author — wrongly convicted, of course — we must do something about getting his poetry published. We must!”

Oh, the headiness. That Seventies Susan Sarandon vibe, edgy alchemy of righteousness and rebellion — what a shame if it were all interrupted by flashing on the pensioner in her wheelchair in ugly tan compression stockings, rope scars on her wrists from where the young poet had bound her so tightly the paramedics had to peel the phone cord out from under layers of swollen skin. ... 

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Meanwhile, In the Groves of Academe and the Forests of Newsprint

There’s no such thing as a crime problem. It’s just a perception problem, you silly hysterics. From the Houston Chronicle, which wants you to know that daring to be worried about crime is the only crime problem that matters:

In the words of a statistician, the decrease in criminality appears to have an inverse relationship, at least for now, with political rhetoric on crime, which has ramped up in recent months. ... 

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