Criminologists Say The Craziest Things, Part 1: Spree Killings

The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, and other American papers with international readership frequently package stories about the horrors of America to feed the America-bashing appetites of their international audiences.  They are generously abetted in this mission by academic criminologists who stand at the ready to paint a dystopic picture of an America peopled with violent, bloated drones dragging their automatic weapons behind them as they traverse the soul-less space between their pickup cabs and the big box store.

Such stories are morality tales — the moral being that virtually everybody — except real criminals — are the real crime problem in America.  We are bad; gun-toting offenders are merely impulsive creatures channeling our rage. ... 

Continue Reading →

What Do You Call A Sex Offender Free on the Streets of Tampa Bay? Doctor. Or Nurse. Or Fodder for St. Petersburg Times Columnist Daniel Ruth to Crack Sex Jokes.

Maybe I’m just touchy because this neck of the woods is not far from where my own rapist traipsed in and out of prison for twenty-plus years, but what precisely does it take to get sitting judges (not to mention certain journalists) in Tampa Bay to take the threat posed by sexual predators seriously?  

First there’s Dr. Rory P. Doyle, who fled the Tampa Bay area after a judge permitted him to go free on bail after being charged with two counts of child molestation.  Astonishingly, Doyle is being treated to similarly indulgent judicial scrutiny in Ireland, where he has again been released to the streets while awaiting extradition hearings.  Then there’s nurse Richard Chotiner, who was released on bail pending an appeal that could take months, or years, after being convicted of lewd and lascivious battery of a mentally-disabled 23-year old.  Chotiner was released without electronic monitoring by Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett.  Releasing Chiotiner without considering public safety is especially egregious when you consider the details of the crime for which the nurse was convicted: ... 

Continue Reading →

Outrage of the Week: Just Not Putting the B******s Away

For years, I’ve kept a file inelegantly titled “Just Not Putting the B******s Away.”  Unfortunately, it is a thick file.  Here is the latest entry.

The St. Petersburg Times reported this morning that fugitive Tampa Bay area physician Rory P. Doyle has surfaced in Ireland, where he fled after being permitted to bail out on a double child-molestation charge in Florida in 2001.  Dr. Doyle somehow obtained permission to re-register to practice medicine in Ireland under his own name and then somehow received permission to change his name to Dr. David West.  In addition to the largesse demonstrated by these serial “benefits of the doubt,” an Irish judge now refuses to imprison him prior to his extradition to the United States.   ... 

Continue Reading →

“Cops Matter. Police Count”

Crime is down in Los Angeles, despite the economy:

Police Chief William J. Bratton sounded his familiar refrain when asked to explain why crime has not increased. “Cops matter. Police count,” he said.
Bratton has long clashed with prominent criminologists who argue that police cannot counter larger societal forces — such as the economy and drug epidemics — that they contend drive crime rates.
Criminologists like to point to 1990 – 1991, when a recession coincided with the highest crime rates seen in decades, to justify predictions that economic hardship causes people to commit more crime.  But does it? The types of crime that peaked in the early 90’s were largely fueled by inner-city drug-and-gang behavior related to crack cocaine and inter-generational poverty.  The crime wave preceded the financial crisis and persisted after the recession faded.  Crime rates really began to drop when sentencing laws were toughened, starting in 1993 (now those laws are being rolled back).   The stock market doesn’t cause or prevent crime (except white-collar crime).  More cops, and tougher sentencing laws prevent crime; fewer cops and lenient sentencing increases crime.  L.A. is experiencing a terrible unemployment picture, but crime is down, thanks (virtually everyone agrees) to Bratton’s policing.  In other part of the country, the economy is not so bad, but crime is still up.  It’s simple, really: nobody in this country has to steal bread to feed their children.  Trust the cop, not the criminologists.   

  ... 

Continue Reading →

Tools for Activists: Just Say No (To Releasing Dangerous Inmates)

With a hat tip to Chris, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Fulton Inmates to be Released Before Trial,” by Steve Visser.  It’s worth quoting extensively, to grasp precisely what is being done:

Fulton County court officials say they can save taxpayers $5.5 million a year by releasing suspected criminals from jail — inmates whom judges have balked at freeing because of the likelihood they would commit another crime before their trials. ... 

Continue Reading →

Tools for Activists: Good News From The Courts, For A Change

I’m not a glass-half-full type of person.  But this story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution really must be categorized as a half-full glass: thanks to a lawsuit by the indomitable organization, Children’s Rights, headed by Ira Lustbader, children in foster care in Fulton County, Georgia are now one tiny step closer to being accorded the type of legal representation we routinely subsidize for murderers and rapists: 

Fulton County has made significant progress in reforming its troubled legal services for children in foster care, according to a report by a court-appointed monitor of the system. ... 

Continue Reading →

Article on Atlanta Crime in the Chicago Tribune

An interesting article in the Chicago Tribune today, about Atlanta’s drug gangs: “Mexican Drug Cartels Spreading Roots in Atlanta”:

Atlanta, with its prime location for easy distribution, has become a major hub for drug trafficking by the cartels and a principal distribution center for wholesale-level cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana to the eastern United States, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials said. In 2008, Atlanta led the nation with $70 million in confiscated cash, according to the DEA. That is more than double the $32 million seized in Chicago in 2008. ... 

Continue Reading →

More Americans in Prison Than (fill in the blank). Here’s the Unasked Question: Why Do We Have So Many More Criminals Committing So Much Crime?

In merely the latest of an endless series of proclamations that we must do something to get our prison population in line with other countries’, Republican Senator Arlen Specter and Democratic Senator Jim Webb have teamed up to create a blue-ribbon panel to rehash the usual themes: reducing levels of drug criminalization, freeing the mentally ill from jails, exploring alternatives to sentencing, and enhancing prisoner re-entry services.  Their goal is to reduce the prevalence of prosecutions so that our incarceration statistics come to resemble statistics in European nations.  Of course, crime, especially violent crime, is vastly more prevalent here; thus, higher rates of incarceration.  But that subject is verboten.  Efforts to avoid acknowledging crime in a discussion about responses to crime lead to convoluted statements like the following:

We are doing something drastically wrong,” said Webb, whose plan also aims to improve the US response to armed gangs, especially drug-related groups, as it seeks to bring the prison population down from about 2.4 million people. ... 

Continue Reading →

Dumbing Down Justice: The New York Times Reports One Side of the Anti-Incarceration Controversy, Again

Under the guise of news, the nation’s “Paper of Record,” The New York Times, is reporting on controversial efforts to release more offenders early or to not imprison them at all — as if there is no controversy and everybody simply agrees that letting recidivists loose early will save money, not cost money and endanger the public.

In an article titled, “To Cut Costs, States Relax Prison Policies,” the Times uncritically quotes both the Pew Center for the States and the Center for Effective Public Policy — and nobody else.  But these organizations fail to count in their analyses the added costs of crimes committed by offenders who would otherwise be incarcerated at the time they re-offend. ... 

Continue Reading →

No Harm, No Foul? Why Aren’t More People Charged With Attempted Murder?

Several recent crimes involving recidivists who had fired guns at people during previous assaults got me thinking about the charge of attempted murder.  Why is it that we almost never hear about an attempted murder case?  

Turns out I didn’t need to look far for an answer.  When I typed in the question, I found the most user-friendly prosecutor’s website I’ve seen.  District Attorney Kelly R. Burke, of Houston County, Georgia, posts articles about case outcomes in his district, funding issues, and explanations of Georgia law.  This level of transparency by a prosecutor’s office (or anyone else in the courts) is practically unheard-of. Burke clearly believes that the public has the right to know what is going on in their criminal justice system.  How odd of him.  ... 

Continue Reading →

Another (Wannabe) California Cop Killer, and Her Apologists: Sarah Jane Olson and Ruben Rosario

As some in Berkley/Oakland and Austin, Texas celebrate the murders of four police officers by child-rapist Lovelle Mixon, the recent release of Sarah Jane Olson, fugitive, murderer, attempted cop killer and Weather Underground activist should remind us of the origins of the sentiment “kill the pigs.”

Well-off radicals like Olson descended on poor communities in Oakland in the late Sixties, when it was hip to do so, and fomented violence there in the name of “revolution.”  When the wretched stakes for real community members wore out their welcome, these itinerant revolutionaries trotted back to their to upper-class enclaves, leaving conditions in the impoverished, urban, minority neighborhoods much worse than they found them. ... 

Continue Reading →

More On The Oakland Police Killings

In an article purportedly about Lovelle Mixon’s criminal record (he has been linked to one rape through DNA and is being investigated in another), the San Francisco Chronicle inexplicably chose to give the deceased quadruple murderer several column inches to assert his innocence, good intentions, and career goals.  He apparently thought he was a pretty good guy, carjackings, attempted murders, and sundry crimes notwithstanding:

Mixon’s version

Mixon told authorities that in the attempted carjacking, “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and did not act responsible and allowed someone else to act just as bad,” according to the report. “Now I have to take responsibility for it all.” ... 

Continue Reading →

“What Went Wrong” in the Murder of Four Oakland, CA Police [Update #1, Below, 3/24]

Yesterday morning, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about “what went wrong” in the quadruple murder of police officers in Oakland, California.  The focus of that story was police procedure — an understandable line of inquiry with four policemen’s lives lost at two crime scenes.  Today, both the Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times ran stories covering the problems that arise when violent offenders like Lovelle Mixon, the man who killed the officers, are released on parole.

The Chronicle, however, starts every story by stressing how rare it is that parolees resort to violence.  And, of course, killing four officers is a thankfully rare tragedy.  But, as the Chronicle itself notes, fully two-thirds of California parolees are returned to prison for violating parole.  That’s two-thirds of the state’s 122,000 parolees.  Is violence really “rare” in this vast group of offenders?  Why do some newspapers reflexively minimize such horrific numbers, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the murder of four policemen?  There are more than 16,000 parolees in California currently wanted for parole violations.  12% of parolees in California abscond immediately upon leaving prison.   ... 

Continue Reading →

A Recommendation on Acknowledging Recidivism From Tennessee

More interesting crime coverage from The Tennessean, this time an editorial detailing the legislative proposals of the Tennessee Public Safety Commission, a coalition of police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys.  Every state should take note of one of the get-tough-on-recidivists recommendations they’re making:

[Another] proposal of the group is for requiring each home burglary committed in a 24-hour period to count as separate cases. They would be considered separate previous convictions. Prosecutors say many burglars are aware that hitting several homes in one 24-hour period is considered only one case. That should change. ... 

Continue Reading →

What Is Your Personal “Aggregate Burden of Crime”?

On Tuesday, I wrote about the debate that’s raging over incarcerating convicts or releasing them to “community sentencing” programs of one type or another.  Proponents of community or alternative sentencing argue that we save tax dollars when people convicted of crimes get to stay at home for therapeutic or rehabilitative interventions instead of being removed from the community and sentenced to prison terms.  ... 

Continue Reading →

Outrage of the Week: Crayons and Gym Memberships, or Incarceration? Which Actually Costs Less?

A really interesting article in U.S.A. Today on the national push to get prisoners out of jail and into community programs.  

In a hushed conference room overlooking the town’s main drag, eight convicted felons, including an aspiring amateur fighter, brandish bright Crayola markers.

Their goal is to match their personalities to one of four colors. Tim Witte, 27, on probation for evading arrest, eyes the task as if sizing up a fellow middle-weight on Kansas’ gritty cage-fighting circuit. Witte and two drug offenders settle on orange. ... 

Continue Reading →

The Tiny Burglar, Shamal Thompson, and Johnny Dennard: Recidivism and Sentencing in Georgia

Atlanta is designed to be a neighborly city — so neighborly, in fact, with its vast downtown neighborhoods of suburban-style houses with yards, that it is entirely possible to get to know the criminals who cycle through the court system and end up in your driveway over and over again, rifling for change in your car. For years, I watched one such person wander the streets of my neighborhood, and I chased her away from my own car more than once — the worry wasn’t losing pocket change from the console but having to replace a broken window or jammed door lock, which can run to hundreds of dollars.  

She acted like a stray dog, and so I came to treat her like one, shouting at her out my window to get off my lawn. Of course I pitied her.  She was small, wizened and jerky from dyskinesia, and I knew the streets and her addiction must be hard on her.  She dressed to look like a male — less as a statement of sexual identity than as an effort to protect herself from sexual attack, I suspect.  Homeless women and women in the criminal “lifestyle” are very vulnerable to rape.   ... 

Continue Reading →

The Pew Center Study, Repeat Offenders, and the Real Price of Crime

From The Tennessean

Cons commit crimes after early release

Sentencing guidelines enable repeat offenders

A college student is kidnapped, brutalized and murdered. A mother looks up from changing her baby’s diaper to find a gun pointing in her face. A 62-year-old man is bludgeoned with a baseball bat in a mall parking lot. ... 

Continue Reading →

Burglary is Not a Non-Violent Crime, #2: A Lesson on DNA and Recidivism

In today’s St. Petersburg Times, on a double murder in Masaryktown, Florida:

The feet belonged to Patrick DePalma Sr., 84. He lay on his stomach, head and torso halfway into the den, a mess of blood by his head. He wore a blue sweat suit; his slippers were astray nearby. ... 

Continue Reading →

Semi-Open Thread Friday

Following is a list of the books convicts might read in Boston’s “Changing Lives Through Literature” program to avoid incarceration for their crimes.    

I have a hard time imagining convicts settling down to read Anne Tyler, or Sylvia Plath, or Annie Proulx (maybe this is punishment), or Anna Quindlan, or Jane Hamilton, or Anita Shreve.  Yet the thought of car thieves settling in with Edith Wharton is weirdly . . . comforting. ... 

Continue Reading →

Reading With Felons, Part II: A Blog is Worth a Thousand Words

The people over at “Changing Lives Through Literature” in Boston want you to read their blog.  They feel it will offer insight into the significance of running book clubs for people who commit crimes and have had their prison sentences deferred or reduced by participating in a book club or other taxpayer-funded, higher-education initiatives.

I think it’s a great idea to take a hard look at their blog.  After all, your federal Education Department dollars and Justice Department dollars doubtlessly support this reading experiment, either directly or indirectly (never believe anybody who says that their prisoner outreach is “funded exclusively by private resources”: the Justice Department and the states pony up tax dollars to support every prisoner initiative in some way.  Many of these programs would not exist without funding from the Justice Department’s Weed and Seed grants — federal tax dollars that are spread among the states.  All of these programs require oversight from corrections departments.  And public universities are public entities, as are the courts — it’s all on your dime, one way or another).   ... 

Continue Reading →

Outrage of the Week: Read A Book, Get Out of Jail

An unholy alliance between politicians and bureaucrats who want to keep prison costs to a minimum, and liberal intellectuals who pretend to see in crime a natural and understandable response to social injustice — which it would be a further injustice to punish — has engendered a prolonged and so far unfinished experiment in leniency that has debased the quality of life of millions of people, especially the poor.

                                             Theodore Dalrymple, in Not With A Bang But A Whimper ... 

Continue Reading →

Why Crime Victims Media Report? [Updated below, 3/11/09]

Because of this.  Why does the media report so obsessively on the last meals of convicted murderers?  This man sexually attacked a woman, stabbed her, slit her throat, and then left her to die, which took 20 hours. 22 years later, he is scheduled to die, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports — on his last meal.  

Does the reporter also tell us anything so personal about the victim?  No, he defines her, briefly, as a “former amateur diving champion,” then gets to the real point of the article: fomenting sympathy for rapist/killer Robert Newland by recounting the pathos of his prison diet.  Seasoned collard greens?  Bread pudding?   ... 

Continue Reading →

Should Judges Assign More Community Therapy For Recidivists?

LAST MAY, the wired world was treated to an unpleasant, yet hardly unique, slice of Atlanta’s public transportation system via “MARTA GIRL,” a video that showed a deranged young woman berating and threatening an elderly train rider.  The older woman dealt with the barrage of threats by doing what any sane consumer of public transportation knows to do instinctively: stare straight ahead and pretend that some screeching lunatic or addict isn’t threatening to harm you. ... 

Continue Reading →

How Many Gold Mercedes Are There Out There?

THE average citizen hardly needs to be persuaded that crimes will be committed more frequently if, other things being equal, crime becomes more profitable than other ways of spending one’s time.

–James Q. Wilson, “Thinking About CrimeAtlantic Monthly, September, 1983 ... 

Continue Reading →

The Case of the Missing Zero or 785 Officers

WHAT a difference a month makes. Or does it?

A few short weeks ago, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington and Mayor Shirley Franklin were working overtime to insist that residents’ concerns over crime were overblown. “The city is safer now than it has been in decades,” the Mayor callously announced when the brutal murder of bartender John Henderson mobilized residents to demand more police on the streets. ... 

Continue Reading →