Thursday, April 24, 2008


The tiny cells multiply wildly within the organism, eventually choking off vital functions

1) Cancer is such a fascinating disease, and I'm always amazed by the researchers in that field. So many advancements have been made in my own lifetime that we look at the disease differently. It is survivable now, rather than meaning almost certain death, and there are survivors all around us. I don't have the talents for it, but if I did I would love to be on one of the teams working on these projects, trying to unlock mysteries and save lives. The Race for the Cure is coming up in a week or so, and I always find the sight of the runners moving, even if I am not one of them.

2) The American prison population continues to be the world's highest per capita, and some of the statistics relating to this are shocking. We obviously are committing our treasure to this project of incarceration, and it is fair that the results be debated. Part of that debate, obviously, has to be the simple fact that imprisoning more people, even if they are chosen at random, will reduce crime because part of the population is incapacitated, and that effect is multiplied if we simply incarcerate the uneducated. Locking up everyone lacking a high school education, for example, would undoubtedly reduce crime, as that group provides so many of the people who commit crimes.

Isn't number 2 a kind of Social Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is really a primitive tool against cancer, as it slows down the mitotic activity of every cell in the body. It kills the cancer cells, but it also kills many other cells as well. It is like using a baseball bat to try to kill a mosquito.

Ok that is a bad analogy, but isn't locking up all people you think will commit crimes the same thing? Using like a blunt instrument against a problem that is more specific?

I am not really smart enough to comment on this blog. Hard to believe, I know. I should have left this party a while ago...

We could work on removing the major impetus to crime (poverty) by making education/vocational training a value in society and working to provide the lower economic brackets with sufficient opportunities.

This would, of course, require a massive economic restructuring in the US away from the profit-based business model, but I'm willing.

To analogize to medicine, this would be like making sure that your body is healthy enough so that it doesn't get cancer, or that if it does, you are strong enough to be able to fight it off with minimally-invasive medical procedures.

Unfortunately, health of that sort and the sort of society I envision seem more a pipe dream than a workable solution at this point.
It seems there are criminals in every level of society, so how does having enough money mean that there would be less crime?

There are also drugs in every level of society, as well as rapes, child abuse, spouse abuse, all kinds of problems. Its not like ONLY Poor people or ONLY uneducated people or ONLY non-religious people commit all of the crimes.
there is no pancea for crime. I will point out however that in the past, the crime level has always corresponded inversely to what can be best termed "max-capacity." Meaning, the more people you can fit into jail the less crime.

Osler I see you make this point as well and then go on to give extreme examples of the solution.

However, I have to say that after working in Dallas county for the last 3 years...putting stupid people in jail, doesn't seem like such a bad idea!
"the more people you can fit into jail the less crime"...
Can we see some breakdowns of the statistics involved here? From my own studies (and the figures are accessible from multiple sources) this is not the case at all across the board in many societies. For example, in a number of European countries, the per capita incarceration rates are much, much lower than in the US, and at the same time murders and rapes per capita are also much, much lower.
Now, "non-violent" property crimes, such as purse snatchings, thefts, etc., are higher per capita wise in a number of these same countries than in the US, so we really need to be a little more nuanced in our use of stats for legal analysis.
Deterrence is a tricky thing to measure. As you pointed out in sentencing, it's impossible to count how many people didn't commit a crime because they were afraid of being punished.

My personal opinion is that laws exist to keep good people good. Bad people will always commit crimes, regardless of the law. And if we remove a law, good people will begin doing what was once a crime.

So perhaps the increase, or at least failure to decrease, the crime rate isn't caused by the failures in our criminal justice system. What if it's the result of more bad people in the world?

And where do good people come from? Strong families.
Craig I agree with you 100% on strong families. Not everyone is so lucky to have strong families, (I did not have one) BUT I have created my own family which is strong. We have only one child, but we are very committed to our family, and I really think that is one of the best things you can do for a kid.
I point to Dallas as an example of the aforementioned stat. Last year we "let out" over 500 non-violent, repeat offenders such as prostitutes and thieves due to overcrowding in our county jail.
According to all of the statistics that I have seen, the crime rate jumped significantly in the following weeks with you guessed it...more prostitutions and thefts etc.
Being that I'm also European and most of my extended family consists of criminals, I can attest to the fact that if they were to remain locked up, my cousins wouldn't have commited crimes like agg assault with a deadly weapon and drug sales. But since they are not afraid of the light sentence, they do wrong nonetheless.
I do believe that long sentences and filling our jails works, if not only from studies, but also, personal experience.
I don't know if strong familes is the main issue, though undoubtedly very important. I tend to think it's a thousand little things that add up and unfortunately we can't focus on one issue lest we let the others grow.
Dallas ADA, you did not do what I stated need to make a distinction in the kinds of crimes, and their incarceration rates, and then compare the statistics.
Prostitution and petty thievery are not the same as murder, rape, etc., and as I said before, most countries in Western Europe have much lower rates of the latter than we have in the states, and their incarceration rates are much lower.
There are also pretty convincing studies that state that prostitution and petty thievery are frequently economically motivated; i.e., the economy tanks, the numbers involved in these crimes goes up. Of course, if you let people who commit these crimes out of prision, they are going to return to their former "jobs" to survive.

It's a fact; murder and other violent crime rates are actually higher per capita in states with higher incarceration rates for these same crimes, like Texas, Florida, and Louisiana, than in many states with lower rates. Now, of course, you can't impute causation here; I'm not arguing that higher incarceration rates per capita cause higher crime. But neither can you when you argue a blanket statement that higher incarceration rates reduce crime, besides which this does not hold for every category of crime.
Why is it that when someone talks about policy, it is always "treasure" instead of "money" or "tax dollars"?
Why is no one talking about the fact that Osler put a picture of Foucault's Panopticon up?
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