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Monday, June 12, 2006

Justice: Not Swift Enough?

Posted by on June 12 at 18:14 PM

City Council passed legislation today that will take a dramatically different approach to battling crime in three areas most plagued by it: Downtown, Miller Park, and Rainier Beach. The idea is to shift the focus from arresting offenders to connecting them with services that can help keep them from lives in crime and, ultimately, jail.

If the pilot program works, it could influence policies city-wide, especially in drug enforcement, which contributes a huge (and expensive) share of King County inmates.

“This is the first time the council passed legislation linking law enforcement and human services to address the crime,” said Council President Nick Licata, in the press release issued after the bill’s passage. “It’s an innovative program that will help tackle the root causes of crime.”

But only if it has a chance to prove itself. Even before the ordinance passed Licata expressed concern about whether the program, slated for July 1 launch, will have had time to impress critics who favor the traditional lock ‘em up approach and City Hall colleagues who must decide in September whether to fund the program for next year. “We only have eight weeks,” says Licata. “What can we show?”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The program’s start was delayed by the number of players who wanted input: the mayor, council staff, police, social service providers, and community activists.

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"...connecting them with services that can help keep them from lives in crime and, ultimately, jail."

And just what are these miracle services?

Here's an idea for one - marksmanship training so that the crack dealers in my neighborhood can more effectively kill each other and avoid innocent bystanders.

There is such a perspective disconnect between those who offer these services and the criminals that they're going to be used for. Even if this gets the green light, I don't think it's gonna work at all.

The slaps on the wrist get lighter and lighter. And we wonder why crime continues to proliferate. I hear some nations actually punish their criminals.

oh batcrap Sean/Gomez...take it and put it some place dark.

You do realize that something like two-thirds of county funding goes to cops, courts and jails? And that a large proportion of that goes towards arresting, prosecuting, and housing incredibly low level non violent drug offenders. Like, do a year in Purdy for selling $20 dollars worth of heroin. Gee, now that's a rational trade-off of public dollars. How about just regulate drugs and get them out of the criminal justice system?

Several years ago California passed Prop. 36, which offered treatment instead of jail to nonviolent drug offenders. The wing nuts said the sky would fall (largest opposition group? the prison gaurd union!!). Total savings so far: somewhere north of $85 million.

Screw bleeding hearts if ya a taxpayer I want no more money to go into criminal justice. Simple rational economic calculus.

on the other hand, maybe, just maybe, the trial period is so short that it facilitates a request to continue it for another year to give it a real chance. let's hope...

Gnossos: You know why incarceration doesn't work as punishment? Jailtime puts a guy in a room, gives him meals and showers, recreation for a couple hours each day, and then lets him out. It's MUCH better than most of their lives outside of jail.

The U.S. is lighter on its criminals than most of the world. And yet people insist on being even lighter, and then wonder why crime doesn't disappear.

I'm not saying take those things away and put them in a pit of their own shit and torture them with spikes. But at least mix in some hard labor or something. Make the life unpleasant. The most unpleasant consequence of most jails is an extended opportunity to brood and the occasional violent outburst.

Why bother arresting people for drugs at all, if it costs so much money? If there were no legal consequences for using or selling drugs, the cost would go way down. Then the addicts wouldn't have to beg and steal so much to feed their addictions, and the dealers wouldn't have to shoot each other over who gets to sell to the addicts. They would have to rent a storefront just like the alcohol and tobacco dealers.

Better yet, just give them free drugs. Then they'll be happy and leave the rest of us alone. No more begging, no more stealing, no more shooting. I guarantee you it would be cheaper than the hopeless, puritanical crusade of trying to keep them off drugs.

The U.S. is lighter on its criminals than most of the world.

If you throw the third world into the mix, sure.

The U.S. is all sorts of different from the rest of the world if you include the third world. So is the rest of the industrialized world. What is your point?

Compared to our peer group of industrialized 1st world nations, those being primarily the nations of Europe, East Asia and the Commonwealth countries, the U.S. is tougher on crime at pretty much all levels, on average.

And as far as what percentage of our population is in prison, we're top tier, even including the third world. As far as the U.S. being soft on crime, I have no clue what you are talking about or referencing.

Gomez -- you seriously do not know what you're talking about here. As Max Hats notes, we are far tougher on crime than almost any other country.

We incarcerate a larger percentage of our population than all but one or two other countries (China and South Africa?). People incarcerated in the US do far longer sentences for most crimes than all but a handful of countries.

The problem in the US is not being lax on crime, but the utter absurdity of what we prioritize as crimes and how we deal with them.

As an example, Seattle -- with its oddly puritanical focus on drugs and sex -- clears less violent and property crimes than any other city of comparable size/demographics. And we arrest, prosecute and jail more drug users and hookers than other cities.

Again, speaking strictly as a cold-hearted pragmatist, that is a ridiculous use of my taxpayer dollars. I don't give a shit if you pay for a blow job, but if you break into my house I want you busted.

gomez, i see you've never spent time in a jail, which is good. neither have i, but i do work for the state attorney's office, so at least i know a little more about it. jail is not just a food and sleep vacation. it sucks. a lot. and prison, which is where you go for longer stays, is waaaaaay worse. we've had guys with huge rap sheets cry at the thought of going to prison. it is no fun. what is really sad is seeing a guy go to prison when his entire rap sheet is possession or sale of drugs. those who wrote it before are right: what a waste of money, time, and human life.

No, Gnossos, we are number one. No other nation incarcerates anywhere near as much of its population as we do. Not even Russia.

And "slaps on the wrist" hardly describes what happens in jails and prisons. American prisons are pretty nice compared to, say, Indonesia or Uzbekhistan, but compared to parts of the world where civilization has taken hold they are hell on earth. You think Abu Ghraib was bad? Tip of the iceberg. American corrections is scandalously brutal.

The serious question of what to do with young criminals in particular is complex and unsuited to quick answers in a blog. But locking them in a metal box with a bunch of other, much worse, crims has been proven over and over again to be an unsuccessful strategy. They come out much, much worse than they went in, which puts the lie to the word "corrections". Nothing is being corrected there.

Unless you advocate locking them up and throwing away the key -- a life sentence for petty theft -- you HAVE to address the question of what to do with these people upon their return to society.

Having had a few colleagues do time in jail, and in one case, boot camp, yes, you two bigots, I DO know what I'm talking about.

And no, KC, I haven't been to jail. You say that like it's a BAD thing. Like me, you're only on the outside looking in, except your bleeding heart wept when some guys cried when they had to pay the piper. Serves their ass right for being assholes and refusing to learn their lesson.

Take a page from Fnarf: do some research on prisons in Russia, Uzbekistan, Singapore and Indonesia, and your tune on even the "harshest" American jails will change in a hurry.

Gee, Gomez, I'm glad to see someone step up for America's relentless march into the toilet of Banana Republicanism.

Civilization is for pussies, right? We need more beatings and torture, not less. Those punks are so happy to have it so nice in prison; we should bury them up to their necks in the sand, huh?

Abu Ghraib abuses are THE NORM in American prisons; torture is commonplace, violence routine.

Works great, huh, Gomez? Fuckers are asking for it. If only the treatment was bad enough in the hole, those bastards would all turn straight in a hurry, huh, Gomez?

Get real, Gome. You're wrong, and you're being stupid. Your way DOESN'T WORK. This is not Indonesia, and we should not be trying to emulate them.

Observe, folks: the above comment is an example of the Straw Man fallacy.

everytime the morons downtown "crack down" on homeless people or crime, you just push it to the other neighborhoods of Seattle, like Fremont and Ballard.

quite frankly, we're sick of it. we pay taxes too.

No, it's not, Gomez. I am taking your own arguments to their logical conclusion. YOU are the one who suggested that US prisons are easy living, "MUCH better than their lives outside". Which is ludicrously false.

You also compared US prisons favorably to those in Third World countries. But why, if we are in fact a civilized nation, would Third World prisons be considered a worthwhile comparison? In comparison to other developed nations, our prisons are absolute hellholes.

You also suggested that not only do we slap the wrists of our criminals, we don't incarcerate enough of them. But in fact we incarcerate more of our population than any other country, FAR more than any other civilized country.

It's fun to say "straw man" but really you should reserve it for a case when you have something, anything going for your side. You are arguing "white is black, black is white", and you are not just wrong but ludicrously wrong.

The question of what to do with young offenders is very complex, and has no easy answers. All we can say for sure is that ONE PARTICULAR easy answer, yours, has been tried, and has failed miserably. Throwing young offenders in hard-core shithole prisons with rapists, murderers, Aryan Nations freak shows, and broomstick-wielding Charles Graner guards CREATES CRIME. It doesn't fight it.

This is analogous to the way that the war in Iraq is CREATING TERRORISTS, not fighting them.The only way our mission in Iraq can succeed is if we succeed in killing every man, woman and child there.

Likewise, the only way Gomez's prescription can work is if every misdemeanor offender receives a life sentence with no possibility of parole. Throw away the key. Otherwise, you WILL eventually face the problem of what to do when it's time for them to rejoin society.

Gomez, your knee-jerk lawn-order reaction is ignorant, ill-informed, and uninterested in being informed. It is as offensive in a civil society as the criminals themselves. This is not Mississippi, yet.

Yadda yadda... many criminals lead lives of crime because they must in order to survive, since they've screwed themselves out of a potentially decent life. And then there are criminals who lead the lives they do because living a straight and narrow life among the status quo disgusts them.

Does rehabilitation work on the habitually angry thug, rapist, robber et al? On the gang member? The car thief? You think someone habitually dishonest and corner-cutting is going to be completely honest with a rehabilitation effort? Such a person would put on a show and say what social workers want to hear to finish the program... then carry on like they did before once they're free.

It's not like society has never tried rehabilitation before. We've been trying it for well over 20 years in cities across America. If rehabilitation worked, crime rates would have dropped and jail populations would have decreased, rather than lead to overcrowded jails, more surly, troubled neighborhoods and a crime rate that only drops because a population increase leads to a proportional rate decrease.

It doesn't.

well, jail populations have mostly swelled because of the "war" on drugs. mainly because of drugs like crack and herion. i'm not suggesting that some guy who has been knocking off convenience stores for 20 years be allowed to avoid jail time, but there is zero point in putting drug offenders into jails. it also helps no one to put first time offenders, or people with short raps, into jails, where, as fnarf said, they will just be exposed to more criminals. is rehabilitation for everyone? no. but neither is longer sentences in inhumane jails.

So, then Gomez, you agree that your recommended solution is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for all offenders, no matter how small the offense? That's what you're advocating here, since rehabilitation is impossible.

You can't have it both ways.

But then, you're not making a real argument, just letting an ugly prejudice see the light of day for a sec. It's gross, it really is.

In the real world, rehabilitation works lots of times, and every civilized country in the world recognizes that. Does it work every time? No. But it's a question that HAS TO BE ADDRESSED, since these people exist. If you were even marginally educated on the subject, you'd know that prison reform is a hell of a lot older than "20 years". Ever heard of Charles Dickens? Jane Addams? Sheesh.

Brutality begets brutality. The US has by far the most brutal penal system in the developed world, and look what it's gotten us. We also have the most brutal criminals. Or look at it this way: why aren't Belgian prisons like Mississippi prisons?

Really, your attitude might fly at freerepublic or some white-power site, but even hard core conservatives recognize that you can't just lock up everybody forever. The problem is REAL. Especially when you consider the insane cost of holding a tenth of your population in lockups.

Your description of American prisons at the start of this thread was out of line. I'm sorry, that's the facts. You're just wrong.

Whatever, Fnarf. Keep twisting and exaggerating my points into one dimensional black-and-white conclusions.

Think outside the box: I'm talking about making jail life more harsh, rather than uselessly gerrymandering the sentences like you are. How about making jail life more brutal? Hard labor? Solitary cofinement? You're telling me a whipping or three is too Cruel and Unusual for a convicted rapist or murderer?

I think the overexaggerated enforcement of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment amendment is what's taken the bite out of our criminal justice system.

Gomez, sometimes arguing with you is as pointless as arguing with the simply decide something is true and stick with it despite evidence to the contrary.

You even miss arguments in support of your cause. For example: crime rates across the US have been falling steadily for a decade. If you actually knew that, you could argue that this was a result of the massive ramp up in incarceration that has taken place. You'd be wrong, but at least you'd be arguing based on some sort of evidence rather than silly belief. The possible causes of this drop in crime have been widely debated for years now, yet you don't seem aware of it.

Your last post reflects a view that has been rejected around the world and that is even being rejected in places like Georgia (the state) and Iran (the country). Yes, even redneck cracker country and the land of the mullahs are making significant reforms. In Iran for example all heroin addicts are put on methadone when placed in prison (the result: virtual elimination of black market trade in drugs [and a reduction in guards take home pay, the poor dears]).

Instead of just spouting off about things that you clearly know very little about, why don't you take some time to think outside of your own narrow little box.

When in doubt, insult the other guy's character. Oh, and liken him to a Republican, because guilt by association is always a great point. Good call.

Gomez I'm not insulting your character any more than you've insulted mine in the past ("clueless idealist" ring a bell?), all I'm asking is that you actually support your arguments with something resembling fact.

You debate fact, I'll respond. You debate belief, and I'll call it out.

"Clueless idealist" isn't the staunch, collective dismissal that 'arguing with you is as pointless as arguing with the Bushies' I may argue with an idealist but I'm not about to call your arguments pointless. And jumping to conclusions about what research I have and haven't done is isn't appreciated either, nor is acting like I never watch the news, read articles, go outside or anything for that matter. And no, I'm not going to cite sources. This isn't a fucking research paper.

It's pretty easy to talk shit about someone and degrade their character in lieu of debtaing the actual point, pal. How about sticking to the topic instead of debating my credibility? As if you have any more than I do.

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