Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is It Time to Treat Violence Like a Contagious Disease?

The idea that violence is contagious doesn’t appear in the Obama administration’s gun control plan, nor in the National Rifle Association’s arguments. But some scientists believe that understanding the literally infectious nature of violence is essential to preventing it.

To say violence is a sickness that threatens public health isn’t just a figure of speech, they argue. It spreads from person to person, a germ of an idea that causes changes in the brain, thriving in certain social conditions.

A century from now, people might look back on violence prevention in the early 21st century as we now regard the primitive cholera prevention efforts in the early 19th century, when the disease was considered a product of filth and immorality rather than a microbe.
“It’s extremely important to understand this differently than the way we’ve been understanding it,” said Gary Slutkin, a University of Chicago epidemiologist who founded Cure Violence, an anti-violence organization that treats violence as contagion. “We need to understand this as a biological health matter and an epidemiologic process.”


Slutkin helped organize a National Academies of Science workshop that in October published “The Contagion of Violence,” a 153-page report on the state of his field’s research.

Read on...


Labels: , ,

A Look Inside the Astonishing Black Panther Murder Trial of 1970-71

These drawings are the only known visual record of the 1970-1971 trial of New Haven, Conn., Black Panther Party members for the murder of fellow Panther Alex Rackley. Suspecting that Rackley was a police informant, Panthers shot and killed him in 1969. Those who pulled the trigger admitted their guilt. The question at stake in the trial was whether Panther leaders Ericka Huggins and Bobby Seale were involved.

Robert Templeton, a sketch artist and painter, received a commission from CBS News to document the trial. The courtroom was technically closed to artists and photographers, so he had to hide his work. Templeton executed his drawings in two stages, first sketching initial impressions in pastel, and then making larger, more complete images on helicopter rides from New Haven to CBS headquarters in New York. CBS showed the finished products on the evening news.

The network went to such lengths to procure courtroom images because the story was a media circus that lasted for more than a year. On May 1, 1970, a crowd of 15,000 out-of-town Panther Party members, Yale students, and other supporters gathered on the New Haven Green to protest the trial, which they believed was a baseless attempt to disempower and discredit the Panthers. Yale’s president, Kingman Brewster, publicly supported the protesters; Benjamin Spock spoke at the rally. (This excellent slideshow from the New Haven Register tells the story of the trial and the protests in photos.)

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Missouri Bill Would Require All First Graders To Take NRA-Sponsored Gun Class

Students in Missouri have no sexual education requirement, so there’s a good chance they don’t know how to properly protect themselves from STIs or unintended pregnancy. Soon, though, they may be able to protect themselves from guns.

Missouri state Senate is considering a bill that would require all first graders in the state to take a gun safety training course. Using a grant provided by the National Rifle Association, it would put a “National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program” instructor in every first grade classroom.

The irony that there’s no requirement for students to learn about their bodies — but that there is one for deadly weapons — seems lost on the legislators proposing the measure, one of whom lamented, “I hate mandates as much as anyone, but some concerns and conditions rise to the level of needing a mandate”:pushing for its passage:

Read on...

Calling Stephen Harper. Calling Stephen Harper.

Labels: , ,

This Is What a Police State Looks Like: 7 Yr Old Interrogated, Handcuffed for Hours over $5.00.

You see, it was all done 'by the book.' according to NYPD.
... children seven to 17 can be charged as juveniles. "Everything was done properly," the unidentified cop told the News.

What does the book tell a police officer to do when a seven year old gets into a fight with another seven year old over $5.00?
Officers showed up at PS X114 on Dec. 4 at about 10:20 a.m., and handcuffed and held ((7 year old)) Wilson in a room there for four hours. They then hauled him off to the 44th Precinct station house for another six hours of interrogation and verbal abuse...
What does the book tell police to do with seven year olds when they are hauled down to the station?

Read on...

Labels: , , ,

Federal courts give California more time to ease prison crowding

Three federal judges on Tuesday agreed to give California an additional six months to reduce prison crowding to contested levels.

The U.S. District Courts' order that moves the deadline from June to December also demands California divulge whether it intends to file a motion to cease federal oversight of its prison healthcare system. The state in early January filed such an action to end oversight of the care given to mentally ill inmates, and Gov. Jerry Brown had vowed to seek a similar end to healthcare oversight as well. In the meantime, the judges put California’s motion to dismiss prison population caps altogether on hold.

Last week, one of those judges also ordered the state to produce details of its plans to return some 9,000 prisoners now housed in private prisons out of state, and to tell the court where it intends to house them.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

6 Things We Learned at the Senate's Big Guns Hearing

Mark Kelly and Wayne LaPierre agree on something. At Wednesday's much-anticipated Senate judiciary committee hearing on gun violence—featuring former astronaut Mark Kelly, Baltimore police chief John Johnson, NRA head Wayne LaPierre, and others—the fireworks, such as they were, erupted over background checks and high-capacity magazines. But on mental health, a significant element of President Barack Obama's gun control package, there appeared to be some agreement. Here's Kelly on the Tucson shooter who tried to kill his wife, Gabby Giffords: "He had never been legally adjudicated as mentally ill, and, even if he had, Arizona at the time had over 121,000 records of disqualifying mental illness it had not submitted to the background check system." And here's Wayne LaPierre: "We need to look at the full range of mental health issues, from early detection and treatment, to civil commitment laws, to privacy laws that needlessly prevent mental health records from being included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System."

Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn (among others) lamented the failure of state agencies to turn over mental health records to the NICBS, and suggested it might be worth examining the ease with which the outpatient mentally ill can obtain weapons. Still, it was unclear how far LaPierre would go to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, given that he generally opposed more expansive and effective background checks.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Stephen Harper’s ‘tough-on-crime’ laws are more misguided than ever

More Canadians are realizing that crime is down and want the federal government to focus on prevention.

For 20 years there’s been a troubling disconnect between the reality of crime in Canada and people’s fear of it. The persistent — though mistaken — view that crime is on the rise has allowed governments to push through ever more “tough-on-crime” laws.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have taken this to extremes. The omnibus Bill C-10 before the Senate right now will foist enormous and unnecessary costs on taxpayers.
Yet in reality violent crime is down. Property crime is down. Other crimes are down. Crime is at its lowest since 1973.

Read on...

This is from an editorial in the Toronto Star.  Tom

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"The whole intent was not to kill him. I was just trying to get this kid under control"

We need more monetary awards like this. It's the only thing that will change this torture culture:

The University of Cincinnati will pay $2 million and suspend the use of Tasers by university police as part of a settlement with the family of a student who died after being shocked with a Taser.

The settlement, obtained Wednesday by the Enquirer, also requires UC to create a memorial for the student, to provide free tuition to his siblings and to send a letter to the family expressing regret over the incident.

The student, Everette Howard Jr., died Aug. 6, 2011, after a confrontation with a UC police officer. A coroner’s investigation could not determine the cause of death, but Howard’s family and expert witnesses blamed the shock from the Taser.

Read on....

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hate Crimes: A Rape Every Minute, a Thousand Corpses Every Year

There' a pattern of violence against women that’s broad and deep and incessantly overlooked.

Here in the United States, where there is a reported rape every 6.2 minutes, and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime, the  rape and gruesome murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi on December 16th was treated as an exceptional incident. The story of the alleged rape of an unconscious teenager by members of the Steubenville High School football team was still unfolding, and gang rapes aren’t that unusual here either. Take your pick: some of the 20 men who  gang-raped an 11-year-old in Cleveland, Texas, were sentenced in November, while the instigator of the  gang rape of a 16-year-old in Richmond, California, was sentenced in October, and four men who  gang-raped a 15-year-old near New Orleans were sentenced in April, though the six men who  gang-raped a 14-year-old in Chicago last fall are still at large.  Not that I actually went out looking for incidents: they’re everywhere in the news, though no one adds them up and indicates that there might actually be a pattern

Read on....

Labels: , , ,

Shocker: NRA Survey Finds Its Members Love Its Extreme Policies

A new survey conducted by the National Rifle Association finds that—surprise!—NRA members really, really like the NRA and its policies. More specifically, it found that 98 percent have a favorable view of the gun-rights organization and its absolutist stance. On the flip side, 93 percent have an unfavorable view of President Barack Obama; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg squeaks by with an 80 percent disapproval rating. Moreover, the NRA finds its members overwhelmingly reject gun-control measures that nobody in Washington is seriously proposing.

Beyond the Saddam-like approval ratings, the survey of 1,000 NRA (PDF) members shows that the vast majority "are united in their desire for Washington to focus on keeping firearms from the mentally ill and to reject unconstitutional gun control measures that infringe on Second Amendment rights." More than 90 percent support keeping firearms away from the mentally ill, 89 percent oppose an assault-rifle ban, 83 percent oppose a ban on high-capacity clips, and 82 percent back the NRA's proposal to put "armed security professionals" in every public school.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

12 Photos of Presidents Packing Heat

When they're not coming for yours, presidents love their guns. Below, photos of modern presidents enjoying their right to bear arms. (And scroll down for some bonus shots featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden.)
A young Theodore Roosevelt, back when being into fringey gun stuff meant something entirely different, 1885.

Labels: , ,

Bill Seeks to Criminalize Abortion After Rape

Here’s some more backward thinking from the political party that introduced terms such as “legitimate rape,” “forcible rape,” “easy rape” and “enjoyable rape” into the national lexicon. Legislation introduced in New Mexico recently by a Republican lawmaker would make it a crime for a woman who gets pregnant as a result of being raped to get an abortion because it would be considered “tampering with evidence.” 

The result: Victims of rape would be forced to carry their pregnancies to term or be charged with a felony that could land them in prison for up to three years. That’s quite a burden for sexual-assault survivors—who, let’s remember, have already been heinously violated and victimized—to bear. 

Read on...

Labels: , , ,

Liberalism’s unfinished agenda


In his column, Michael Lind writes that “Obama can't rest on his laurels. He still needs to fix our broken criminal justice and child care systems.”

Lind writes that there “should be an end to the permanent forfeiture of voting rights.

“People who have served out their punishment should be allowed to return to society as fully functioning citizens, not permanently relegated to a legal and political underclass. And tyrannical majorities should not be allowed to disenfranchise specific populations indirectly, as white majorities have sometimes sought to do, by connecting the forfeiture of voting rights to minor offenses like drug possession committed disproportionately by minorities and the poor.”


He cites a report from The Sentencing Project that notes that one in 13 African-Americans is disenfranchised as a result of a prior conviction; the numbers are even higher in Virginia (20 percent), Kentucky (22 percent) and Florida (23 percent).

Read on....

Labels: , ,

Christie Blatchford: Prison management told guards, if Ashley Smith ‘dies, it’s her own fault, it’s by misadventure,’ court hears

The absurdity of it, the eye-rolling madness of it, never seemed to resonate with anyone at the Grand Valley Institution for Women.

There, the powers-that-be had two basic options: Search Ashley Smith until the cows came home and keep her safe from herself, or follow the doctrine of “least restrictive” which, in the name of female bodily integrity, permeates the women’s side of Canadian federal corrections.

At its most simple, the choice was between a live teenager with injured pride or a dead one with intact dignity.

Consider what I think of as The Glass Conversation.

It took place on Sept. 22, 2007, less than a month before Ashley asphyxiated in her isolation cell at Grand Valley in Kitchener, Ont.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Here in Canada, we have our own gun madness

We don’t need to wait for a massacre of 20 elementary-school children in Canada to decry the scourge of guns. One dead nine-year-old is enough.

Kesean Williams, a Grade 4 student, of Brampton, just northwest of Toronto, was in his own home at night when he was shot, possibly through a window.

We have our own gun madness here. Kesean is far from the first agonizingly young victim. The names of the others, thankfully, are few and far between – though perhaps not as far between as some might think. And in Toronto, a remarkably safe city that, paradoxically, has occasional wild shootouts in public places, the names of child and teenage shooting victims are remembered.

Read on...

This is a Globe editorial.  Tom

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Happy Anniversary Roe v. Wade! Here Are the States Competing To Ban Legal Abortion First.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and thus 40 years of an angry, hyper-religious, sex-phobic movement that has sought every avenue it can to turn back the clock, and return abortion to the black market. Anti-choice efforts have been successful in reducing access to safe, legal abortion, but for the past 40 years, pro-choice forces have maintained at least one clinic in every state in the country.

That might not last. Now various red states compete to see which can be the first to end legal abortion within their borders. As we take stock of where things stand in 2013, here are the three states likeliest to reach that goal in the near future.

Alabama. Alabama already has some of the most restrictive abortion rights in the country, which have been used to hound one of the last remaining clinics (the site of Eric Rudolph’s bombing in 1998) out of business, leaving the city of Birmingham with one clinic. To make things worse, the Alabama Supreme Court recently declared fetuses to be “children” under state law, giving those who believe embryonic personhood is the key to ending legal abortion a foothold. The decision explicitly made an exception for abortion, but anti-choicers hope that by routinely prosecuting pregnant women for “child abuse” or possibly even holding women criminally responsible for miscarriages, the groundwork can be laid for a legal decision banning abortion completely.

Read on...

Labels: , , ,

State report card on mental health care

Mental health grades by state
 
The National Alliance on Mental Illness gave the USA an overall grade of D for its delivery of mental health care in a 2009 report. The organization found problems in every state, but some fared better than others. Updated reports in 2011 have documented additional cutbacks and challenges. 
 

Labels: , ,

Radical Compassion: Restorative Justice Program Meets Needs of Both Victims and Perpetrators

A new program allows victims' forgiveness to play a role in prosecution.
 
A storm of comments swirled around a story about teen murder in the New York Times last weekend. The parents of a young woman named Ann forgave her boyfriend, Conor, for murdering her. Andy and Kate Grosmaire had loved Conor before he killed Ann, their youngest daughter. But they said they did not so much forgive him for his sake as for their own, to free themselves from being imprisoned in hate and anger, and to follow the teachings of Christ (they are committed Catholics).  

What shocked many readers, though, was that they sought a " restorative justice ” process, in which Conor, the two sets of parents and other involved individuals met in a circle with the prosecutor and bared their souls to one another – and thereby succeeded in persuading the prosecutor to give Conor a lower sentence than he would otherwise have received. 

Conor is white, some readers commented, believing that could never have happened to a person of color. It’s unfair and arbitrary, others said: no one’s sentence should be determined by how forgiving or angry their victims’ families are. Forgiveness is a private spiritual matter. Sentencing should to be unemotional and consistent.  

Labels: , ,

Judges vs. juries, and the Supreme Court

Judges may decide whether a punishment fits the criminal as well as the crime. But whether a crime was committed is for the jury, not the judge, to determine.

Legal scholars long have struggled to determine the proper allocation of authority between judges and juries. But you don't have to be an expert to recognize that Allen Ryan Alleyne was treated unjustly by a federal court in Virginia.

The jury that convicted Alleyne for his role in the armed robbery of a convenience store specifically looked at the question of whether a gun was "brandished" by Alleyne's accomplice, a factor that would trigger a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years for any participant in the crime. The jury concluded that it wasn't (although it did agree that a gun had been "used or carried"). But when the judge sentenced Alleyne, he concluded that a gun had been brandished and sentenced him to the mandatory minimum.

Read on...

This is an editorial from the LA Times. Tom

 

Labels: , , ,

West Point study on ‘violent far right’ shows ‘dramatic rise’ in attacks

A report published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point Military Academy on Jan. 15 discusses the potential dangers of “violent far-right” organizations, which has angered some conservatives that believe the military should focus on international threats.

The executive summary of the paper, “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right,” claims that “since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating from individuals and groups who self- identify with the far-right of American politics.”

Written by Arie Perliger, Director of Terrorism Studies at the Combating Terrorism Center and an Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, the paper asserts that three distinct ideologies exist in the “American violent far right.” Those are “a racist/white supremacy movement, an anti-federalist movement and a fundamentalist movement,” the last of which “includes mainly Christian Identity groups such as the Aryan Nations.”

Read on...

Labels: , , ,

Excusing killers for self-defence is now more political than judicial

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision regarding Nicole Ryan – the Nova Scotia woman who tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband – has attracted considerable attention. This is, in part, because of the dramatic nature of the facts and, in part, because it highlights the troubling legal position of women who try to escape abusive relationships. But the Ryan case also underscores the delicate relationship between the courts and Parliament in the development of the criminal law. The McLachlin Court’s deferential attitude to Parliament, long apparent in its constitutional law decisions, is now just as plain in its approach to criminal law.

Read on...

Labels: , , ,

Christie Blatchford: Jury watches shocking prison cell video of Ashley Smith’s life slipping away

For the first time, the video depicting the asphyxiation of teenager Ashley Smith in a federal prison has been played in full in public.

Until Monday, when a five-member jury watched the 75-minute video at the coroner’s inquest examining Ashley’s Oct. 19, 2007, death at Kitchener’s Grand Valley Institution for Women, only limited excerpts had been played, and only in court proceedings and a CBC documentary.

It is the first 15 minutes or so which are most shocking because what they document are the young woman’s dying, as the pauses between her laboured breaths grew ever-long until they finally stopped.

The camera was then being operated by Valentino (Rudy) Burnett, a correctional officer who was temporarily working at Kitchener’s Grand Valley Institution for Women.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Harper’s ‘tough on crime’ is all torque

During five years in minority government, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives introduced 61 crime bills. In doing so, they successfully portrayed themselves as favouring harsh treatment for offenders. If “being tough” were all there was to criminal punishment, they would have been successful. But it isn’t that simple.

Most Canadians believe what the law has said for years: “A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.” But ensuring that this happens is not easy. In 2010, the Alberta Court of Appeal noted that judges sentencing identical cases would often hand down different sentences. When prison sentences are imposed, the portion of the time that is actually served in prison is not completely predictable. Many people think offenders will routinely be released on parole, although that isn’t the case.

Sentencing and release from prison, two parts of our punishment system, deserve thoughtful attention. Fixing the problems that exist in each will not be easy. But the Conservatives have systematically avoided addressing the difficult and real problems facing the criminal justice system.

Read on...

Tony Doob, one of the authors of this piece, is a Professor Emeritus at the Centre.  Tom

Labels: , , ,

Canada’s soaring police costs are unsustainable: Toews

Police services across the country must change the way they operate or risk drastic cuts, Canada’s public safety minister says.

Speaking at the start of a national summit on the economics of policing, Vic Toews said the current system is financially unsustainable and needs to be reformed.

“I’ll be blunt. Police services face two options: they can do nothing and eventually be forced to cut drastically, as we have seen in some countries,” Mr. Toews said. “Or they can be proactive, get ahead of the curve and have greater flexibility in designing and implementing both incremental and meaningful structural reforms.”

Read on...

Couldn't they just cut health care, and education budgets and save the police. Tom

Labels: , , ,

Meet the NRA's Board of Directors

Tom Selleck, Ted Nugent, and Karl Malone are just some of the high-caliber individuals who call the shots at the National Rifle Association.

 The National Rifle Association claims to speak for more than four million gun owners. But the shots are really called by a hush-hush group of 76 directors. The majority are nominated via a top-down process and elected by a small fraction of NRA members. A breakdown of the current board, based on their official bios:

  • 87% are men. 93% are white.
  • 25% are current or former federal, state, or local lawmakers or officials.
  • 22% are current or former law enforcement officers. 30% are current or former members of the military.
  • 24% are lawyers.
  • 12% are entertainers or athletes.
  • 64% are hunters. 71% are sport or competitive shooters.
  • At least 71% were nominated, endorsed, or selected by the NRA's Nominating Committee.
Read on...

Labels: , ,

New York Passes New Gun Laws, But Will Nation Follow?

Gun specific measures welcomed by safety advocates, but mental health portions challenged by experts and professional

In what Governor Andrew Cuomo called simply a 'common sense' approach, New York passed the nation's most stringent gun safety laws Tuesday night following swift passage of the bill through the state's legislature.

New York's progress came nearly one month after the Sandy Hook massacre in December and one day before President Obama will publicly announce the White House's approach to tougher federal laws on Wednesday.

Advocates for better gun laws championed the developments in New York, recognizing that political will is all that prevents similar gun laws from being passed in other states or at the national level.
“Governor Cuomo and the lawmakers in Albany have shown tremendous leadership on the critical issue of gun violence.  By making this a priority, the Governor has not only saved lives, but will hopefully inspire leaders in Washington also to take swift action,” said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign.

Read on...

 

Labels: , ,

NRA’s New Ad Goes After the Obama Daughters

Apparently President Obama is a hypocrite because his children are protected by the Secret Service. Doubtless the NRA goons used similar tactics in the 1990s with Chelsea when President Clinton pushed for the assault weapons ban.

via the Washington Post:

The National Rifle Association released a new video on its Web site Tuesday calling President Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for having Secret Service protection of his daughters at school but saying he was “skeptical” about installing armed guards in all schools.

The NRA’s provocative, 35-second video is as harsh as any attack ad in a political campaign and illustrates how emotionally charged and personal the debate over gun control is becoming.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Ashley Smith case: Time to end ‘the ugly spirit of our penal system’

Ashley Smith was arrested when she was 14 for throwing crab apples at a mail carrier. In the five years Ms. Smith spent in the penal system as a result of the one incident (which dominoed into a series of ‘institutional charges’) she was bounced from institution to institution, suffered a range of abuses and potentially illegal treatments, including forcible injection with medication against her will, long periods of solitary confinement, being duct-taped, hooded, tasered and pepper-sprayed. Howard Sapers, the national correctional Investigator, concluded in his own inquiry into Ms. Smith’s case that she was routinely denied adequate mental-health care.

Ms. Smith died on Oct. 19, 2007, after choking to death in her prison cell. Amplifying this tragedy, several guards stationed outside the door of her cell were under orders not to intervene.

Attempts to investigate Ms. Smith’s death speak volumes about the ugly spirit of our penal system. Instead of an honest admission that there are deep and longstanding problems with the structures of punishment and an accompanying resolve to actually address these problems, the wagons were quickly circled.

The first inquiry was halted after allegations that its terms and processes were anything but fair and transparent. A second inquest that begun in 2012 resumed this week. This inquiry is also mired in controversy. Lawyers for the Correctional Service of Canada made repeated motions to have various pieces of evidence speaking to Ms. Smith’s mistreatment blocked. Included in their bid was the footage of Ms. Smith being duct-taped and hooded on a plane as well as the video showing her held down on a gurney by several guards as a nurse injects her with an unknown substance. In this video, Ms. Smith’s protestations are clearly audible.

Read on...

The author of this Globe piece, Dawn Moore, is a graduate of the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies.  Tom

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Astonishing New Argument for Why Violent Crime Rates Have Dropped

Less lead. It’s ridiculous -– until you see the evidence. 

It seemed, at first, preposterous. The hypothesis was so exotic that I laughed. The rise and fall of violent crime during the second half of the 20th century and first years of the 21st were caused, it proposed, not by changes in policing or imprisonment, single parenthood, recession, crack cocaine or the legalisation of abortion, but mainly by … lead. 

I don’t mean bullets. The crime waves that afflicted many parts of the world and then, against all predictions, collapsed, were ascribed, in an article published by Mother Jones last week, to the rise and fall in the use of lead-based paint and leaded petrol(1). 

It’s ridiculous – until you see the evidence. Studies between cities, states and nations show that the rise and fall in crime follows, with a roughly 20-year lag, the rise and fall in the exposure of infants to trace quantities of lead(2,3,4). But all that gives us is correlation: an association that could be coincidental. The Mother Jones article, based on several scientific papers, claimed causation. 

Read on... 

This post is a response to the post that follows.  Tom

Labels: , ,

America's Real Criminal Element: Lead

When Rudy Giuliani ran for mayor of New York City in 1993, he campaigned on a platform of bringing down crime and making the city safe again. It was a comfortable position for a former federal prosecutor with a tough-guy image, but it was more than mere posturing. Since 1960, rape rates had nearly quadrupled, murder had quintupled, and robbery had grown fourteenfold. New Yorkers felt like they lived in a city under siege.

Throughout the campaign, Giuliani embraced a theory of crime fighting called "broken windows," popularized a decade earlier by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an influential article in The Atlantic. "If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired," they observed, "all the rest of the windows will soon be broken." So too, tolerance of small crimes would create a vicious cycle ending with entire neighborhoods turning into war zones. But if you cracked down on small crimes, bigger crimes would drop as well.

Giuliani won the election, and he made good on his crime-fighting promises by selecting Boston police chief Bill Bratton as the NYPD's new commissioner. Bratton had made his reputation as head of the New York City Transit Police, where he aggressively applied broken-windows policing to turnstile jumpers and vagrants in subway stations. With Giuliani's eager support, he began applying the same lessons to the entire city, going after panhandlers, drunks, drug pushers, and the city's hated squeegee men. And more: He decentralized police operations and gave precinct commanders more control, keeping them accountable with a pioneering system called CompStat that tracked crime hot spots in real time.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

America’s Craziest Sheriff Sends Armed Posses to Arizona Schools

Joe Arpaio has thought of less friendly uses for firearms in his recent past. Back in November, the sheriff decided to arm his deputies with automatic weapons to stop “illegal aliens” “attempting to escape” his county.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will begin sending armed “posses” to patrol around Arizona schools today, in response to the shooting less than a month ago at Sandy Hook elementary school. 


Arpaio made a name for himself by  abusing the civil rights of undocumented immigrants — and for  detaining a six year old undocumented child. Now he’s heeding the  NRA’s advice that every school needs a “guy with a gun” and is sending out volunteers “ with questionable pasts” to guard students:
Arizona’s 3TV reports that Arpaio’s volunteer force is comprised of around 3,000 members, some of which have criminal pasts.

According to CBS5, Arpaio’s office has provided a list of more than 50 schools in unincorporated Maricopa County that will be patrolled by the posses, which are in charge of providing all of their own weapons and equipment. The volunteers will not actually be posted on school campuses, but will instead monitor the areas around the facilities.[...] 

Read on...

And he keeps getting re-elected. Makes you wonder about Rob Ford's chances in a new election.  Tom

A Point-by-Point Breakdown of One of the Greatest Prison Escapes of Modern Times

The capture last Friday of fugitive bank robber and prison escapee Kenneth Conley brings to an end one of the most entertaining and unbelievable crime stories in recent memory. On Dec. 18, Conley and another bank robber named Joseph “Jose” Banks escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a high-rise jail in downtown Chicago. The two men squeezed through a very thin window, then rappelled between 15 and 20 stories down the side of the building using a rope made from towels and bedsheets. Once they made it to the street, they hailed a cab and disappeared. Jail officials didn’t discover their absence for hours, when guards arrived for the morning shift and noticed an extremely long rope dangling down the exterior walls.

I’m ready to proclaim this one of the best jailbreaks of the past few decades, if not all time. It had everything you’d want from an escape:

A high element of risk. I would’ve liked to have listened in on the conversations as Banks and Conley were planning this. “OK, on the one hand, it’ll probably be cold and windy, and if our flimsy homemade rope gives out, we will both plummet 15 stories to the ground and die. Also, we’re right in downtown Chicago, and there will probably be people around, who will probably notice two men climbing down the walls of the local jail. On the other hand, I really hate the food here … "

Read on...

Labels: , ,

A Lynching Map of the United States, 1900-1931

This map, compiled using data gathered by the Tuskegee Institute, represents the geographic distribution of lynchings during some of the years when the crime was most widespread in the United States. Tuskegee began keeping lynching records under the direction of Booker T. Washington, who was the institute's founding leader.

In 1959, Tuskegee defined its parameters for pronouncing a murder a “lynching”: “There must be legal evidence that a person was killed. That person must have met death illegally. A group of three or more persons must have participated in the killing. The group must have acted under the pretext of service to justice, race or tradition.”

In 1900-1931, Georgia led the lynching tally, with Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas rounding out the top seven worst offenders.

These numbers can seem antiseptic. Upon the release of the Tuskegee Report in 1916, the Cleveland Plain Dealer sought to put a face to the statistics by describing the relatively minor crimes that provoked some of the year's lynchings (while noting that at least four of the people killed were later proved innocent):

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Justice for India’s Rape Victims

Influenced by extraordinary street protests, Indian authorities have moved swiftly to try the men accused of gang-raping a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi. Clearly, justice must be served, but there are disturbing aspects to the way the case is being handled.

The victim died last month, two weeks after the brutal attack in which she was beaten, assaulted with an iron rod on a moving bus and then thrown bleeding onto the street. She had taken the bus after seeing a movie with a male friend, who was also beaten. Thousands of Indians have demonstrated and called for justice. 

The case has brought to light India’s growing problem with violence against women. It has underscored serious weaknesses in the judicial system, which encourages women not to bring charges against rapists and rarely brings to justice those who are accused. Incompetent police are also part of the problem. The victim’s male companion said later that police were slow to respond and then wasted more time wrangling over who had jurisdiction over the crime. 


This is from a NYTimes editorial.  Tom

Labels: , ,

Gov. Jerry Brown calls on feds to give up oversight of prisons

A combative Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday declared that "the prison crisis is over in California" and demanded an end to years of intervention by federal judges and expensive edicts designed to reduce crowding and improve inmate healthcare.

"At some point, the job's done," Brown said at a Capitol news conference before catching a plane for Los Angeles, where he repeated the message. "We spent billions of dollars" complying with the court orders, the governor said. "It is now time to return control of our prison system to California."

Brown's push came as the state was faced with a deadline to produce a plan to further shrink the number of inmates in its 33 prisons. Late Monday night, the administration unveiled its proposal — "under protest" — but also filed motions calling for an end to caps on the inmate population and judicial oversight of mental health care.

The state also planned to seek to end federal control over all forms of inmate healthcare, the governor said.

"We can't pour more and more dollars down the rat hole of incarceration," Brown said Tuesday.

Read on...

Labels: , , ,

10 Ways the Drug War Is Causing Massive Collateral Damage to Our Society

The war on drugs is America’s longest war. It has been 40-plus years since Nixon launched our modern “war on drugs” and yet drugs are as plentiful as ever. While the idea that we can have a “drug-free society” is laughable, the disastrous consequences of our drug war are dead serious. While it might not be obvious, the war on drugs touches and destroys so many of the issues we care about and the values we hold. Below are 10 collateral consequences of the drug war and reasons we need to find an exit strategy from this unwinnable war.

1. Racial Injustice
The war on drugs is built on racial injustice. Despite roughly equal rates of drug use and sales, African-American men are arrested at 13 times the rate of white men on drug charges in the U.S. -- with rates of up to 57 times in some states. African Americans and Latinos together make up 29 percent of the total U.S. population, but more than 75 percent of drug law violators in state and federal prisons.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Weird Science: Siberian Psychologists Caning Patients "On the Buttocks" in New Addiction Treatment

Siberian psychologists are taking  a hair-raising approach to helping people with addiction: literally beating it out of them. The practitioners claim that lashing addicts on the buttocks with a willow cane can help those for whom more conventional methods have failed. Practitioners Dr. German Pilipenko and Professor Marina Chukhrova say that their treatment is grounded in science: "We cane the patients on the buttocks with a clear and definite medical purpose—it is not some warped sado-masochistic activity," insists Professor Chukhrova. The pair say that addicts suffer from a lack of endorphins, and that pain can stimulate the brain to release the feel-good chemicals, "making patients feel happier in their own skins." Mainstream doctors dismiss the practice, saying that exercise, acupuncture, massage, chocolate or sex are all better at stimulating endorphin secretion. Dr. Pilipenko admits, "we get a lot of skepticism...but so do all pioneers." The Siberian Times reports that "the reaction of most people is predictable: to snigger, scoff or make jokes loaded with sexual innuendo." And one recipient of the treatment, 41-year-old recovering alcoholic Yuri, says his girlfriend accused him of simply visiting a dominatrix. But he adds that although "the first strike was sickening...Somehow I got through all 30 lashes. The next day I got up with a stinging backside but no desire at all to touch the vodka in the fridge. The bottle has stayed there now for a year."  

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year Centroids.

All the best in 2013.  Tom

Labels: ,

12 Unbelievably Awful Things Fox News Did This Year

 
2012 was a dismal year for Fox News. The PR arm of the GOP failed to fulfill its prime directive: advancing the interests of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. It spent much of the year constructing an alternative reality that left millions of its flock in shock when President Obama won an overwhelming reelection. It refused to accept the facts on the ground and denigrated polls (even its own) when the results conflicted with the fictional narrative it was peddling. And perhaps most painful of all, Fox surrendered its ratings lead to MSNBC. Two-thirds of its primetime lineup (Hannity and Van Susteren) dropped to second place behind the competition on MSNBC (Maddow and O’Donnell). However, Fox’s travails did not occur for lack of effort. It was clearly operating at the top of its capacity to distort and deceive. In the process it unleashed some of the most feverishly biased reporting, even for Fox News. What follows are a few of the worst departures from ethical journalism by Fox in the last year. 

1) Romancing Petraeus: Fox News CEO Roger Ailes tries to recruit for the GOP.

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward revealed that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes had dispatched a Fox News defense analyst, to Kabul, Afghanistan to recruit Gen. David Petraeus as a GOP candidate for president. The notion of a news network soliciting candidates for political office is a perversion of the role journalists play in society. In response, Ailes claimed that it was “a joke” and that he “thought the Republican [primary] field needed to be shaken up.” Where Ailes got the idea that it was his right and/or duty to shake up the GOP primaries is unexplained. News people are supposed to report the news, not make it. Woodward’s story affirms that Fox News is a rogue operation. Its intrusion into the political process debases journalism by breaching all standards of ethical conduct. And it debases democracy as well by exploiting its power and wealth to manipulate political outcomes. 


Labels: , ,

Supermax Showdown

Update: On December 19, an Alexander County judge lifted the injunction blocking the closure of Tamms and six other state facilities. Illinois prison officials began transferring inmates out of the facilities following this move, which was taken on an earlier order from the Illinois Supreme Court. The facilities are scheduled to close by January 4. The judge did not dismiss AFSCME Local Council 31's underlying lawsuit, however, and the union said in a statement on the closings that “AFSCME will be able to continue to seek a legal remedy that addresses the dangerous conditions that the closures will cause throughout the prison system.” 

“I am a mom,” read dozens of signs lofted by protesters outside Illinois’ Tamms Correctional Center last spring. Many of the demonstrators were family members of the prison’s 100-plus inmates who are held in 23-hour-a-day isolation. But the slogan—an allusion to AFSCME’s famous 1968 “I am a man” campaign for striking sanitation workers in Memphis—was also seeking to shame the union that once marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr., for its current fight to keep the supermax prison open.

In June 2012, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that Tamms and five other state correctional facilities would be shuttered that August to help fill the state’s $43.8 billion budget deficit. But all have remained open thanks to a lawsuit filed by AFSCME Local Council 31, which represents guards and other workers at the prison. A bruising fight has followed between a union trying to preserve its members’ jobs and activists insisting that the labor movement must draw the line at supporting the prison industry’s cruelest facilities.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Obama Pledges To Push For Gun Control Measures If ‘American People Decide It’s Important’

President Obama called the Dec. 14th shooting in Newtown, Connecticut “the worst day of my presidency,” and said during a rare interview on Meet The Press, that he will propose a package of reforms that will likely include new regulations on assault-rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips, and enhanced background checks for gun purchases. A commission headed by Vice President Joe Biden is currently drafting gun safety recommendations.

But Obama stressed that reform cannot happen without broad public support, suggesting that he will rally public opinion for sensible gun safety regulations or drop the effort if Americans are not on board.

“We’re not going to get this done unless the American people decide it’s important and so this is not going to be a matter of me spending political capital. One of the things that you learn having now been in this office for four years. The old adage of Abraham Lincoln’s, ‘with public opinion there is nothing you can’t do and without public opinion there is very little you can get done in this town.’” Watch it:

Read on...

Not exactly leadership.  Tom

Labels: , ,

How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown?

Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, we at Slate have been wondering how many people are dying from guns in America every day.

That information is surprisingly hard to come by. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, for example, has a tally atop its website of “people shot in America.” That number, though, is an estimate, based on the number of gun injuries and deaths recorded by the CDC in 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which statistics are available. It seems shocking that when guns are in the headlines every day, there’s no one attempting to create a real-time chronicle of the deaths attributable to guns in the United States.

Well, someone is. Since this summer, the anonymous creator of the Twitter feed @GunDeaths has been doing his best to compile those statistics, tweeting every reported death he can find. He was inspired, he told us in a phone interview, by the Aurora, Colo., shootings and simply wanted to call daily attention to the toll that guns take. Now Slate is partnering with @GunDeaths to create this interactive feature, “Gun Deaths in America Since Newtown.”

Read on...

Labels: , ,

New York Celebrates Record Low Homicides in 2012 While Chicago Grapples With Spike

Even though New Yorkers were terrified by news that a woman pushed a man in front of a train in Queens on Thursday night (a suspect was in custody Saturday) in what was the second subway fatality of its kind in a month, the truth is that it was quite a safe year to be a resident of the Big Apple. Murders in New York dropped to their lowest level in more than 40 years with 414 recorded homicides as of Friday, compared with 515 for the same period last year, and lower than the previous record low of 471 set in 2009, reports the New York Times. That is quite the contrast from the early 1990s, when the number of homicides in a year easily reached the low 2,000s. While murders decreased, thefts increased, based almost entirely in a soaring number of robberies of Apple devices, including iPhones.

While New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg celebrated the latest plunge, officials in the country’s third-largest city have been grappling with how to make sure 2013 doesn’t see a repeat of what was a very bloody year. The murder count in Chicago reached 500 last Friday, the first time it reached that number in four years, when 513 were killed in 2008, reports the Chicago Tribune. It marked a 17 percent increase in homicides from last year, in large part because of gang violence that seems to be increasingly audacious, points out the Associated Press. Still, the number of homicides this year pales in comparison to what the city saw in the early 1990s when around 900 people were killed every year.

Read on...

Labels: , ,

Homicides decrease in Washington region

The number of homicides dropped again last year in the Washington region, including in the District, which grew in population and yet recorded the fewest killings in a half-century.

As of Monday evening, the District had 88 killings in 2012, a milestone for D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, whose long-standing goal has been fewer than 100 homicides. As recently as 2009, the District had 140 killings. In 2011, there were 108.

In Prince George’s County, where crime dropped in nearly every category, there were 63 homicides, down from 97 in 2011, a harkening back to the 1980s, when the county had more farmland than urban centers or upscale subdivisions.

Police point to several reasons for the decrease, which has been part of a years-long national trend in some major cities across the country.Authorities have broken up dozens of violent gangs, seized thousands of guns, used technology to monitor the streets and directed additional resources to high-crime areas.

Read on...

Labels: , ,