Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 14 Jul 07 08:40
I love Free Rnage Kids! Why is it that so many people are enraged by the consequences of governing through crime, yet still vote in a way that ensures we will be governed that way? It is frustrating to know that it will be years before this trend will end.
Jack King (gjk) Sat 14 Jul 07 12:19
You've got it backwards. People don't "vote" in a way that ensures governing through crime. Politicians vote in a way that ensures governing through crime, and then campaign on a platform that includes, "LOOK WHAT I DID!"
Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 14 Jul 07 14:03
People do vote in a way that ensures it. They vote for the candidates that are tough on crime. The candidates, in turn, remain tough on crime to get elected. Vicious cycle.
Doug Masson (dmasson) Sat 14 Jul 07 16:36
The Horrible Event is newsworthy and is something voters will remember (and, if they don't, a challenging candidate will help them.) The benefits of not being afraid are more subtle.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 15 Jul 07 00:48
Any comment on the various theories for why crime is going down? There was the theory a couple of years ago in Freakonomics that it was because abortion was legalized, and now there's a theory that it was due to the removal of lead from gasoline in the 70's. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/07/AR200707070107 3.html More: http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/2007/07/09/lead-and-crime/
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sun 15 Jul 07 13:43
About fifteen years ago, I read *A General Theory of Crime*, which crunched the numbers to posit that demographics make a whopper of a difference. Specifically, populations with relatively many young men in their late teens and early twenties had relatively much crime. It was pretty persuasive at the time. Ever since, my thoughts run to demographics and proportion-of-the- population-that-is-male-and-in-late-adolescence when talk turns to crime rates.
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sun 15 Jul 07 14:03
The adsolescent male problem has been dealt with traditionally by having wars. Alas, the survivors end up having lots of kids that are good at fighting.
Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Sun 15 Jul 07 22:44
The crime decline is fascinating. The best book on it at the moment is by my colleague Frank Zimring, The Great American Crime Decline. Zimring spends more time shooting down theories of convenience then he does asserting any particular alternative, although he concludes that New York City managed to do something that drove down violence much more dramatically than practically any other part of the country (probably policing). The real answer is that we do not know what caused the general down turn (even if Zimring is right that improvements in policing helped drive it down in NYC faster and deeper). On my blog I report on one recent theory that ties it to the abatement of led in gasoline during the 1980s (lead has a proven clinical effect on human brains, i.e., reducing their capacity for impulse control) see, http://governingthroughcrime.blogspot.com/2007/07/how-to-reduce-violence-get-l ead-out.html Two quick points. First, dropping crime rates will not get us out of governing through crime. The vast extension of preventive criminalization means that prison populations will continue to grow even if serious crime continues to decline. New monsters like violent sexual predators will continue to haunt our television screens no matter how low homicide rates drop. Second, reductions in violent crime make it possible to push Americans to re-evaluate the need for mass incarceration and spatial segregation strategies of security. Once people come out of lock down mode the improvements in their personal quality of life, and awareness of new kinds of threats will hopefully out weight the continuing salience of fear signals in our media and institutional environments.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Mon 16 Jul 07 14:44
"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?", said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against -- then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power that any government has is to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted -- and you create a nation of law-breakers -- and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." -- Ayn Rand's _Atlas Shrugged_ That paragraph was the defining advertisement for Atlas Shrugged in the Whole Earth Catalog. Ayn Rand never admitted that she got her definition of government not from Locke or Aristotle but from Max Weber: government is that institution with the moral right to a monopoly on force. When you talk about turning governmenance to solving the problem of global warming or whatever, all you are doing is defining a new class of criminals, i.e, carbon-emitters or whatever. After my career in information systems was globalized, I fished about. As an old free trade capitalist, I could hardly complain that I had a right to a good career. And it was my second: I had just completed an associate's in transportation mangement in 1976 when Reagan decontrolled trucking in 1981 and killed the reading, writing, and interpreting of ICC Tariffs. So, I found a new career in security. In April, I graduated (with honors) from Washtenaw Community College (Ann Arbor) with a degree in criminal justice and I am now a senior in criminology at Eastern Michigan University. My area of concentration is police administration. In 2005, I was appointed to the City-County Citizens Advisory Board on Community Corrections. I am in my second term. One of my professors is Donna Selman (Killingeck). I had her for Community Corrections last semester. (She is co-authoring a book with Paul Leighton on the privatization of prisons. Dr. Leighton did not have to do much to convince me that the purchase and resale of human beings is generally a bad idea.) For the community corrections class, the book we used was BUT THEY ALL COME BACK by Jeremy Travis. Jef's remark about long prison terms cuts to the problem: here is nice liberal guy who just off the top of his well educated head thinks that after 35 years in prison, you just cease to exist, instead of being released to exactly the same spot you were arrested 35 years earlier... only now, you have been your entire life in the most violent and oppressive society imaginable... welcome home, son... It does not work because it cannot work. "Corrections" (so-called) is a metaphysical impossibility. One of the challenges to UN peacekeeping is that when the war is over, crime rises. For one thing, war _is_ crime, so there is that, and when life is cheap, enforcement is unremitting, but, basically, once the aggressors cannot aggress each other, they find other victims. That brings us back to this topic. Pick your numbers, but two-thirds of all crimes are committed by one-third of the offenders. Crime is real. We have governments in hopes of preventing or minimizing crime. Those who think that government cannot fight crime because government _is_ crime are called anarachists. Funny thing, though, I went to a prisoner art exhibit this winter and one of the speakers talked about Native Americans in prisons -- reservations and internal colonization, etc. -- and she said, "Every society has offenders. We just never had prisons."
Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Mon 16 Jul 07 18:23
Great quote from Ayn Rand! Thanks for bringing it in (if there is more good literary riffs on themes of crime and governance out there please send me more). BTW. Nothing in my position turns on the idea that crime is not "real." I'm interested in what happens when our response to real crime (whether as state or citizen) increasingly becomes our default response to the challenges of governing. We are surrounded by real risks from cancer, to crime, to global warming. The questions of which of those risks we take up as mandates for self and society, is what gets interesting to me. I see libertarian arguments against criminal law, like Rand's, as very attractive in many respects. But what libertarians tend to not have a vocabulary to talk about is all the space of governance in between the iconic images of the state defining you as a criminal and taking direct control of you on one end, and that of freedom or consent and contract on the other.
Jack King (gjk) Mon 16 Jul 07 19:12
"[I]mprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation." Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(a). In reading the chapter on "waste management prisons," I was surprised not to see that sentiment quoted, from the United States Code.
Ludo, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Tue 17 Jul 07 05:22
>The questions of which of those risks we take up as mandates for self and society, is what gets interesting to me.< This hits it. BTW, reading Max Weber should be mandatory so that that all humans may finally "get real" about life and society. For starters, I recommend his essay "Politics as a Vocation" which is available on the web by searching on the title. A note of caution: don't expect anything is the way of warm fuzzies.
PLEASE GOD, DO NOT GIFTWRAP YOUR ASS (vard) Tue 17 Jul 07 12:46
I find myself thinking about the "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy of local TV news. It is well established that people who watch local TV news on a regular basis significantly overestimate the prevalence of violent crime in their local communities, and are more fearful of personally becoming victims. I have certainly observed this in my own parents.
Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Tue 17 Jul 07 13:45
Great points. My wife, the rare death penalty (defense) lawyer who can stomach television crime shows, points out that as someone who basically does not watch TV (ok John Stewart in recent years), I have no business commenting on American culture, and especially the way crime influences it (or vice a versa). She's certainly right. If I were more astute at studying media I would look at the way crime has led to a nationalization of local media (bleed...lead..), and how the disappearance of local knowledge generally helps fuel the national crime imaginary. ...The deep irony is that crime has been stretched into a screen for national sovereignty when the best way to actually fight crime is to localize it as much as possible, a direction that both community policing (if done right) and restorative justice projects may help take us but only if the feds (and to large extent the states) get out of the way I should have written much more about sentencing law in the book, but was more interested in the non-criminal justice ways that crime was influencing government. The decades in which we moved into GTC are the same decades we moved from a more or less national commitment to rehabilitation as the purpose of imprisonment, to an era that is now referred to as "warehousing" now by Gov. Schwarzenegger and his staff . Warehousing made it easier to build a national consensus behind mass imprisonment because it was cheaper and fit with a victim centered emotional anger about crime that politicians have learned to thrive in over the last thirty years. It also seemed, until recently, relatively free of empirical challenge since the logic that crimes cannot be committed by people actually in prison seemed irrefutable (now we've rediscovered recidivism as a problem and dubbed it re-entry). But watch out for any attempt to re-qualify our increasingly crisis ridden system by restoring rehabilitation to an official purpose of punishment here in California. We still don't know much about how to treat most of the complex web of pathologies that streamline a path toward state prison. The first recourse should be shutting down the flow to state prison of people convicted of most property crimes, violations of parole or probation technical conditions, and virtually all drug crimes not linked to violence. Then lets remove those "violent" offenders who are psychotic and can be dealt with by a refunded mental health system. Once we are down to a prison population well south of half our current size, then we can start talking about whether "punishment" or "rehabilitation" or some combination of the two should be our objective for the rest.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Tue 17 Jul 07 14:22
The question is "Who benefits from crime?" and obviously, the criminal justice community is the stakeholder. We can widen that to include not just the cops and prosecutors and judges and prisons, but the caseworkers and social workers and then on to the news media who make an easy living from basically videotaping the police blotter. Here at Eastern Michigan University, we just lost three people (fired or resigned, take your pick) over a homicide. When the body was found, no one asked for a criminologist. Yet colleges and universities profit from these training programs. We like to believe that police officers with degrees seem to find other solutions to problems than those without, though I wonder if there is any statistically relevant empirical evidence. When crime rises, the criminal justice system demands more resources to fight crime. When crime falls, they do not give up resources. Tangentially about television and this topic, is a work done by one of my professors, Young S. Kim on the "CSI Effect" (see Wikipedia). Donald E. Sheldon, Young S. Kim and Gregg Barak A Study of Juror Expectations and Demands Concerning Scientific Evidence: Does the 'CSI Effect' Exist? Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law. Angela Davis has a little book on why we do not need prisons. She was thinking ideologically, but today, with GPS, etc., it may be just as effective to release all but the smallest number back into the community and just track them better and give them support. I note, however, that "back into the community" does not mean back into the SAME community. That does them no good and only endangers their victims. (Our community corrections program calls domestic violence a non-violent crime for structural reasons.) Release them to _a_ community, but not the old one. Again, however, this would mean identifying or creating resources and that brings us back to the problem that of people profiting from the creation of crime.
Doug Masson (dmasson) Tue 17 Jul 07 18:22
Any sense of what, if anything, increased security measures at school might be doing to kids' perspective on civil liberties? It feels like we're teaching kids to live like slaves and to take the security state for granted. But, maybe I'm just being dramatic.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 18 Jul 07 05:43
I don't think you're being dramatic. I think kids know that they're being watched/monitored at all times. Mostly to protect them from evil-doers, but also to keep them from doing anything wrong. Personally, I think this is the worst offense. Kids need to learn how to make those judgment calls for their own lives. Which means they have to make mistakes and do stupid and dangerous things. Not all of the time, and certainly when they're caught they should be punished. But not giving them the freedom to *have* to make an independent decision doesn't prepare them at all for adulthood. The fact that there aren't even that many evil doers out there targeting our kids (unless you happened to be related to one) makes it all the worse. Our kids are afraid of being abducted when fewer than 1% of all kids in the nation have this happen to them.
Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Wed 18 Jul 07 07:49
Schools have been one of the "nodes" of society most invested with GTC practices and logics. I was just blogging about the terrible EMU situation referred to above at http://governingthroughcrime.blogspot.com/2007/07/schools-and-crime.html and would invite more comment from mercury about the perception on the ground at EMU. Its not surprising. If two of the biggest things driving the whole trend are anxiety among parents who increasingly have little time to actually raise their kids, and mistrust of government, schools are bound to absorb at lot of that concern. This has been intensified by the federal government. Since 1998 the Jeanne Clery Act (yes named after a murdered student) mandates that most colleges and universities report crime information. I can't prove this empirically, but the securitization of schools has had to come at the expense of education, unless being routinized to comply with constant security procedures is education. The message to kids who walk into schools ringed with menacing signs warning that those violating its status as a drug free school zone will face mandatory prison, is a bit different then in France where "libertie, egalitie, fraternitie" are inscribed among most entrances to schools. Don't get me wrong. When gang violence threatens schools, administrators and teachers have little choice but to act. Most of the actual violence in high gang activity communities, however, takes place outside schools where it is far harder to guard against. What is more pernicious is how the vague possibility of drugs and crime leads many schools with no evidence of either to adopt intrusive security regimes. See, William Lyons and Julie Drew, Punishing Schools: Fear and Citizenship in American Public Education (University of Michigan Press, 2006)
Joe Ehrlich (static) Wed 18 Jul 07 09:15
Spend a week at Richmond High School and then tell me that.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Wed 18 Jul 07 09:45
The blog has a couple of problems. The EMU police chief resigned and then was fired. The suspect Orange Taylor III has not confessed, but has plead not guilty to both sexual assault and murder. The cause of death -- asphyxiation or whatever -- was withheld as undetermined for about eight weeks, with possibilities circulating as rumor (drugs, e.g., and she was on the crew team and you get these athletes with hidden cardiac problems or whatever), and so it was left in the air until the medical examimer could make a determination. In that time, they found semen on her and IDed it to a known offender. They got a warrant, went to his home and found her clothing. The problems begin with the chief of police either not being able to identify a murder scene or not wanting say it out loud. She told the VP for public affairs that the cause of death was uncertain and perhaps not violent and the Veep assured the president who went public with those statements. Going back over the records, the DoE decided that EMU had been unreporting crime for some years (violent sexual assaults reported as nonviolent; Michigan has four classes). Also in those eight weeks, the suspect was back on campus several times. Tangentially, it is important to understand that EMU is an urban school. We do not have 90%+ of our students in dorms or housing close to campus in a college town 20 miles from nowhere. My six-digit student number starts with a 7. Half a million people have come through the doors in 20 or 30 years -- and the school goes back to 1849. Lots of people pass through the doors here. (And that is true in many schools, actually.) So, to say that the perpetrator was "a fellow student" is a misnomer. 1% of children being abducted is a problem when it is YOUR child, and it still comes to 1.5 million per year, granted that many are "abducted" by their parents. Does it become a "real" problem when it is 2% or 20% or what? How much suffering is tolerable to those who do not suffer? In aviation, I collect old materials from first flight to 1940. The first Pilot's Handbook was about 40 pages. Everytime someone screwed up, they passed a rule against doing that. Now it is so big you cannot buy it conveniently and the typical private pilot's tests are limited to about 400 or 500 pages of material. We went from "keep the nose down in a turn" to being responible for knowing the whereabouts of the President. (When you see fighter planes off your wing, make no mistake: they're for you.) But our government -- no government, really, but ours least of all -- comes from MARS. These laws are what "we the people" demanded. Environmental protection, greenhouse gasses, pollution controls, food and drug laws, which ones do YOU want to live without? Everyone thinks that someone else's priorities are wrong, but their own are appropriate. I just read a book called BLUE COLOR ARISTOCRATS by E. E. LeMasters. These were your typical 60s hardhats: racist, misogynist, anti-progressive (though, oddly, anti-Vietnam War) and interestingly, all in favor of conservation laws because they loved to hunt and fish. Fear of "lost wildernesses" led to the governmentalization of open spaces: no drinking, no camping, no swimming, have fun. Really, I understand conservation and its enforcement. I only point out that everyone thinks their needs are appropriate whereas other people have opened to door to "too much" government.
Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Wed 18 Jul 07 18:58
Thanks to both recent posts. Local knowledge is always better. When dealing with crime it is crucial to ask what is happening in Richmond and it Ypsilanti, because the national frame almost always creates a more alarming and distorted image. I urge those of you who have personal experience with governing through crime in the school, at your work place, or elsewhere to contribute your stories. The way to check the escalating tendency of governing through crime is to subject media based moral panics to serious discussion based on local knowledge (rather than abstract expertise, including my own). The EMU story gets more interesting. That a college president had to resign notwithstanding (if we take our correspondent's report) that he was reasonably responding to actual uncertainty in the investigation, demonstrates the power of crime as governing principle.
Doug Masson (dmasson) Thu 19 Jul 07 04:46
It's interesting how technology creates its own need. When you don't have various security devices, somehow you manage to get along with out them. When new security devices become available, they become essential -- either right away or after a tragedy. So, necessary security expenses rise with available security technology -- taxation either rises or the money for other purposes gets reduced. I'm not sure how relevant it is to this discussion, but I had a telecommunications professor who taught us about a prison design theory called the Panopticon. Basically, prisoners were kept in cells formed in a circle around a central guard tower. The prisoner's cells were backlit so that the guards could see in and the prisoners wouldn't necessarily be able to tell if the guards were looking in at any given time. The idea was that, even if they weren't actually being watched, the prisoners would be more likely to behave themselves if they thought the possibility of being observed at any given time existed. So, now we live in a world full of cameras that can be viewed remotedly; heading toward something of a global panopticon. I'm not sure if that's changing anybody's behavior, however.
Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Thu 19 Jul 07 05:18
>Local knowledge is always better.< In this vein, there has been some attempt over the years to have juries go beyond finding of fact to having some role in interpreting the law. A search on jury nullification and or George Shiras will bring up the substance and history of the matter. I understand that some attempts to convict local bootleggers were thwarted by juries that couldn't see the sense of such local application of the law regardless of the facts established in the courtroom.
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Thu 19 Jul 07 05:28
re: 46 from our Guest Host, allow me to suggest that we would like to hear more from him. We all know each other, already, and we can visit in a wide range of conferences. I understand that he does not want to give away the book here, but, basically, there are unanswered questions. For myself, I pointed out that he wants the government to occupy some sort of "middle ground" between enforcement and laissez faire in which the government addresses environmentalism or other social needs. My question is: How do you do that without further manufacturing crime? What power does any government have as a government per se (govt qua govt) except to enforce laws. Dr. Newt Gingrich once reminded a Republican dinner party that "SPEED LIMITS are not an advisory from the chamber of commerce, yet Americans see them as a benchmark of opportunity." His point was that Americans respond to incentives better than to laws. My question here is, if the goverment does not have enforcement power to fix social problems -- i.e., to allow Greenies to govern through crime -- then it becomes just another Non-Govermental Organization. (As an anarchist, I support that, but is our guest host an anarchist?) ---------------------- Panopticon (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) Panopticon blueprint by Jeremy Bentham, 1791. The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. Panopticon-inspired prisons Chi Hoa Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Old Provost - Grahamstown, South Africa Panóptico - Bogotá Prison (today the National Museum of Colombia) --> What better use for a prison than to be turned into a museum?Pelican Bay State Prison Del Norte County, California, USA. Presidio Modelo Isle of Youth, Cuba
Doug Masson (dmasson) Thu 19 Jul 07 06:03
Government has some other tools at its disposal besides criminal sanctions -- though, at the end of the day, the ultimate effectiveness of any government tool tends to be that there are guys with guns, authorized to use force to obtain compliance if necessary. But, aside from just making something a crime, government has regulatory powers -- say, the power to withhold building permits (yes, I know, building without a permit is a crime, but it seems to be a little different than just saying "doing X is a felony.") There is also the power to tax and then offer tax money as an incentive to take a certain course of action, or using the tax money to hire people to perform particular tasks.
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