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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Public opinion has shifted on drug policy

In class we talk about how society is "progressing."

As in becoming more progressive.

As in making progress.

As in moving into the future without being too encumbered by the past.


Majorities of respondents in the three countries (Britain 56%, Canada 68%, United States 74%) welcome the concept of using alternative penalties—such as fines, probation or community service—rather than prison for non-violent offenders. At least seven-in-ten Britons (70%), Americans (74%) and Canadians (78%) believe personal marijuana use should be dealt with through alternative penalties. Support for similar guidelines for credit card fraud, drunk driving and arson is decidedly lower.

Our society is progressing. Punitive responses to recreational drug use (as well as drug abuse problems) are a thing of the past. The only problem is that current day law is not a thing of the past.

But it will be soon. Because we are progressing.

The people are already there. Now it is time for the law to catch up.

And here is the report.

Dude, you are so far behind the times, mmmmkay?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Look at what is happening to the death penalty

From the Death Penalty Information Center ...

RECENT LEGISLATION: Governor's Signature Makes Connecticut Fifth State in Five Years to End Death Penalty
On April 25, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (pictured) signed into law a bill that replaces the death penalty with life without parole. Connecticut is the fifth state in five years, and the 17th overall, to do away with capital punishment. Governor Malloy, who once supported the death penalty, offered the following statement: “My position on the appropriateness of the death penalty in our criminal justice system evolved over a long period of time. As a young man, I was a death penalty supporter. Then I spent years as a prosecutor and pursued dangerous felons in court, including murderers. In the trenches of a criminal courtroom, I learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect. While it’s a good system designed with the highest ideals of our democratic society in mind, like most of human experience, it is subject to the fallibility of those who participate in it. I saw people who were poorly served by their counsel. I saw people wrongly accused or mistakenly identified. I saw discrimination. In bearing witness to those things, I came to believe that doing away with the death penalty was the only way to ensure it would not be unfairly imposed." See more of the governor's statement below.

On April 23, the SAFE California Act, an initiative to replace California’s death penalty with a sentence of life without parole, qualified for the November 2012 ballot by presenting an ample number of qualified signatures. The initiative garnered almost 800,000 signatures for the measure that would repeal the death penalty and make capital crimes punishable by life in prison without parole. The initiative would also require inmates to work in prison to help pay restitution to the families of victims, and would send $30 million annually for three years to local law enforcement agencies to help solve murder and rape cases. Ron Briggs, who sponsored the 1978 initiative that expanded the death penalty in California, recently expressed support for repeal of the law. In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Briggs endorsed the SAFE California campaign, saying “I still believe that society must be protected from the most heinous criminals, and that they don't deserve to ever again be free. But I'd like to see them serve their terms with the general prison population, where they could be required to work and pay restitution into the victims' compensation fund. There are few 'do-overs' in life, especially in politics. With the death penalty, though, 34 years later I have an opportunity to set things right.”

It is slow, but it is sure. The death penalty is dying in America.

Monday, April 23, 2012

USA: Incarceration Nation

In class and the book I argued that the mainstream media rarely critically cover corrections, and that life inside prisons and jails is largely unknown to most. I also pointed out that this is changing with shows like "Lockup." And I claimed that stories about the enormous costs of corrections are becoming more popular given the current economic crisis.

Along comes CBS News to prove the point. Its Sunday story--"Incarceration Nation"--illustrates how prison and jail populations are killing us. And states are now finally waking up to that fact and taking steps to do something about it.

Remember my song, "We're number one in incarceration, that's why we are the prison nation!" See, I told you so!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Top movies now and ever ...

Just as with TV shows, the top rated movies deal MOSTLY with issues of crime and criminal justice.

Look at the top 10 movies of all time as rated by users at

And then there are the top 10 currently playing films as rated by

And then there are box office results which you can examine for any time period.

What do MOST of these movies have in common?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Take a look at the top TV shows right now


From TV.COM:

And from Nielson:

How many deal with crime, criminal justice, violence, conflict, etc.?

How many are just mindless entertainment?

Those are the top shows on TV today!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Death penalty in the news again today

From the LA Times:

The fight against the death penalty is gaining momentum, opponents of the practice say, with Connecticut's decision this month to abolish capital punishment making it the fifth state in five years to so do.

"For this to be happening in succession, and coupled with the decline in death penalty convictions, it creates a momentum that other states will at least consider to be a part of," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the independent Death Penalty Information Center.,0,4967063.story

And a lot of what is motivating these actions is costs. The death penalty just costs more.

For example, here is yet another example from yet another study or yet another state:

COSTS: Death Penalty Cases in Nevada Cost $200K Extra, Just for Defense

A recent study of the death penalty in Nevada compared the costs of defending capital and non-capital murder cases. The study, conducted by Dr. Terance Miethe of the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, looked at the time spent by defense attorneys at various stages of a case. The study’s findings included:
- Clark County public defense attorneys spent an average of 2,298 hours on a capital murder case compared to an average of 1,087 hours on a non-capital murder case--a difference of 1,211 hours, or 112%.
- Defending the average capital murder case in Clark County cost $229,800 for a Public Defender or $287,250 for appointed counsel. The additional cost of capital murder cases was $170,000 to $212,000 per case compared to the cost of a non-capital murder case in the same county.
- The 80 pending capital murder cases in Clark County will cost approximately $15 million more than if they were prosecuted without seeking the death penalty.

It really says something about us that we are so heavily influenced by money, and that we make decisions about whether to pursue policies that ought to be influenced by concerns for justice rather than by money. But at least states are looking at the issue of capital punishment again.

Monday, April 16, 2012

We are going "self-defense" crazy

First there was the case of George Zimmerman shooting and killing Trayvon Martin in cold blood.

And you can thank her for that ...

One of the chief architects of Florida's controversial law is a petite granny gone gray. No matter what their position is on guns, Florida lawmakers respect Marion Hammer. FULL STORY | FLORIDA TASK FORCE REVIEWS THE LAW  FLORIDA TASK FORCE REVIEWS THE LAW

Second, there is this!

The man accused in the deaths of 77 people in a bomb and gun rampage in Norway last summer admitted the killings as his trial began Monday. "I was doing it in self-defense," Anders Behring Breivik said. FULL STORY

There is even a case near Boone of one man killing another with a knife (both were stabbed). The man who is alive, a rental tenant, claims self-defense against his landlord.

People, is your life really that important in the big scheme of things?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oh and then there is this from the New York Times!

"... the system cannot [of capital punishment] be fixed. It is practically impossible to rid the legal process of biases driven by race, class and politics."

Death penalty in Florida, Connecticut, and California in the news!

In Florida, a man was just executed for a murder he committed more than 28 years ago!

Reading this article that made the front page of Fox News made me think, yet again, does the death penalty bring closure?

Whatever you think of the death penalty, you have to seriously be bothered by cases like this one.

David Alan Gore, 58, was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m. Thursday after receiving an injection at the Florida State Prison, officials said.

Asked if he had a final statement, Gore said as he lay strapped to a gurney: "Yes, I do."

"I want to say to the Elliott family [the victim he killed for which he was sentenced to death], I am sorry for the death of your daughter. I am not the man I was back then, 28 years ago. I am a Christian. Christ lives within me. I hope you all can find peace today," Gore said.

Making no eye contact with the family, he added that he hoped the family could "find it in their hearts to forgive me" and concluded: "I don't fear death."

28 years after a horrible crime, and a family is finally given a conclusion to the case? Yeah, that sounds effective!
How do family members feel? Here are some of their reactions:

Elliott's parents had said as Thursday's execution time approached that this was the day they have been waiting for — a date many thought should have come years ago, considering there was no doubt he committed the crimes and he had shown no remorse for the killings.

"For us it's been a nightmare, because I just turned 81. I was beginning to think that I might die before he went," said Carl Elliott, the girl's father, recently.

And ...

"I've been waiting for this day for years. I would've saved the state a lot of money if they let me. I'd do it myself and have no qualms about it," said Mike Daley, whose wife, Judy Kay Daley was killed by Gore in July 1981.

So you see what the death penalty does for us? To us?

And California is being urged to by the very person who wrote the law 34 years ago!
Check that out here:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One network, two corrections stories

Talk about unusual...a single news network has two stories about corrections on the same day:

  • Charles Manson denied parole

  • Connecticut to repeal death penalty

  • As you can tell, neither of these things happens every day. Perhaps that is why they are in the news!

    Oh yeah, and then there is this...he is in jail so I guess that counts as three!

    Affidavit Says Zimmerman 'Confronted' Unarmed Teen

    Court documents in murder case allege Trayvon Martin shooter 'profiled' the Florida teen, killed him

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Jon Stewart tackles CNN

    As you know, Jon Stewart often criticizes Fox News. But there is plenty of blame to go around.
    Take CNN, for example. Is there another more ridiculous newscast on the air right now than on CNN?
    Watch as Jon Stewart questions their need for dozens of specific segment types across a 24 hour news cycle.

    Watch here:

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Friday, April 6, 2012

    Today's news

    From CNN:

    From Fox News:

    And then there is this:

    Wait, this is supposed to be "GOOD" Friday, right?

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    A great example of the lack of CJ knowledge by the media

    In class and in the book, we talk about how media personnel are not informed about criminal justice. And this hurts their reporting about crime and criminal justice.

    Here is an example from Fox News today:

    • Pitcher's Widow Outraged As Killer Draws a Walk

      Neal Evans, who murdered Atlanta Braves pitcher Dave Shotkoski in 1995, released from jail 10 years early 


      Gosh, that would be a tragedy if someone was released from JAIL 10 years early, because it would mean his sentence was negative 9 years.

      Because a jail sentence can be no longer than 1 year.

      Get it? 1 minus 10 = -9.

      Is there a difference between jail and prison?

      Clearly, the differences are many AND important. And any student in Introduction to Criminal Justice could tell you all about them.

      But not the media.

      Imagine the ignorance that is required to state not only that a murderer was released from jail early, but also to state he was sentenced to jail in the first place!

      Oh yeah, and notice the killer is black and the victim is white. Does that have anything to do with the outrage?

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Now you can be strip searched after ANY arrest

    ... thanks to a 5-4 decision by the US Supreme court.

    So for any crime, any crime at all, if you are arrested and about to be jailed, prepare to bend over and cough.

    "Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs, but also public health and information about gang affiliations."

    Even if they have no reason to suspect you of being in possession of contraband!

    "The procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states and are at odds with the policies of federal authorities. According to a supporting brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also ban the procedures."

    Nice, so now the Court is ignoring state legislative activity, typically used by the Court as an indicator of the right thing to do. Not in this case.

    What is at stake here is captured in what happened in the scenario that prompted the case: It "arose from the arrest of Albert W. Florence in New Jersey in 2005. Mr. Florence was in the passenger seat of his BMW when a state trooper pulled his wife, April, over for speeding. A records search revealed an outstanding warrant for Mr. Florence’s arrest based on an unpaid fine. (The information was wrong; the fine had been paid.)"

    Got that? A man was arrested for not paying a fine, a fine he actually paid. And he was jailed for it. And then strip searched! Twice! (because he was held for a week in two jails) 

    Just like the nun who was arrested for protesting US war. She was strip searched too.

    Now it is all legal! Chief Justice John Roberts concurred in the decision, and said that exceptions to Monday’s ruling were still possible “to ensure that we ‘not embarrass the future.”

    Too late, sir!

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Obama versus the US Supreme Court

    As you know, the US Supreme Court has heard challenges to the Obama health care law, often called by its more cuddly name, "Obamacare."

    The Court set aside six hours of hearings over three days, as opposed to the normal one hour normally reserved by the Court. That should give you a sense of the complexity of the case, if not the importance.

    You listen to the entire argument as well as read analysis here (New York Times).

    The issues:

    1) Does the Court have authority to decide the fate of the law in the first place
    2) Can Congress require you to buy health insurance (the individual mandate)?
    3) If the Court invalidates the individual mandate, can that be severed from the rest of the law or does the whole law become invalid?
    4) What about the Medicaid expansion?

    The Justices are now deciding these issues in private. The process is unknown to most, but insiders to the Court have written about the process of bargaining between Justices, a process that sounds pretty disgusting to me. Imagine, for example, agreeing to conclude something to please another Justice or to get his or her vote on another case.

    Yes, it is entirely up to us.

    Thomas Goldstein, a Washington lawyer and publisher of, recently said: "This case is on a rocket ship. Because there may be as many as four decisions, the justices work collaboratively. The majority opinion writer circulates it for other people to comment, dissenters will circulate their opinions and that process will go back and forth, back and forth until about mid-June, when they will just get down to finalize it."
    So we will know the fate of this law in June. Predictions are all over the web. I already made the outlandish prediction that the Court will uphold the law, 7-2. But if I were a betting man, I'd go with 5-4 to overturn it.

    Clearly, some people love the law. Others, not so much.

    Personally, I wonder how many of these people have read the law (virtually none of them) or even know what it does (probably a tiny fraction of them).

    Things like:

    * Insurance companies cannot hike my rate without approval from an independent panel
    * They cannot put a cap of lifetime coverage for a serious condtion
    * They cannot refuse me coverage based on preexisting conditions
    * They cannot charge women more than men for the same insurance
    * They will start offering free preventive health screenings
    * Checkups and immunizations are offered for my children for free
    * An insurance exchange is created to allow me to buy coverage across state lines to find the best deal for my family

    Not to mention, millions of people who do not have insurance will finally get it. The only way to make sure this happens is to require people to buy insurance for those who can afford to buy it. That is, the law requires people who can afford to buy insurance to buy insurance from a private for-profit company based on the premise that it is your responsibility as a citizen to take care of yourself rather than to not buy insurance but continue to use the health care system (e.g., emergency room visits) and force everyone else to pay for your illness or injury.

    This is a conservative principle based on conservative ideas going back at least to 1989!

    So what is so controversial about this law anyway?

    Sunday, April 1, 2012

    "Trayvon Martin case exposes worst in media"

    That is the title of a Yahoo News article today.
    "The Trayvon Martin case has exposed some of the media's worst tendencies--selective editing, rushing to judgment, stoking anger for ratings and page views--and it's taken more than fake photos, the incendiary stumbles of Geraldo Rivera and Spike Lee and verbal clashes between Piers Morgan and Toure to shine a light on them."

    And the author goes on to provide only three examples of it.

    But of course these is so much more!