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Posts Tagged ‘criminal justice

“There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress”*…

 

This is a comparison of probation vs parole rates by state (plus DC). The data used are from 2011. I expected the two variables to be strongly correlated, but they aren’t. Whether this is influenced by state laws, the behavior of the people, the attitudes of judges, or the leniency of parole boards, I don’t know, though I suspect it is a combination of all of them.

For those wondering about the difference between probation and parole, you can read a detailed description here:http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=qa&iid=324. The most fundamental difference is that parole is a supervised release from jail while probation is a sentencing by a judge that requires supervision of the individual.

What I found most amazing about these data is that 4.6% of Georgia’s population is on probation. If you rule out minors from the population pool, more than 1 in 20 adults is on probation there.

Data sources: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1997 andhttp://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2026

Just one of the fascinating data visualizations at Seth Kadish‘s marvelous Vizual Statistix.

* Mark Twain

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As we remind ourselves that, America’s astronomical incarceration rates notwithstanding, crime is a universally human phenomenon, we might recall that on this date in 1965, the infamous British gangsters the Kray Twins were charged with demanding money with menaces in the County of London.  Starting in the early 1950, Ronald and Reginald Kray used the cover of night club ownership to build a powerful gang, The Firm, that dealt in extortion, hijacking, armed robbery, arson, and murder.  The Kray’s, who had become celebrities– friends of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Diana Dors– by the time of their 1965 arrest, beat that rap.  But were convicted of a broader array of offenses in 1968, and imprisoned for (what turned out to be) life.

Still, in 1985 officials at Broadmoor Hospital discovered a business card of Ron’s, which prompted an investigation that revealed the twins – incarcerated at separate institutions – along with their older brother, Charlie, and another accomplice who was not in prison, were operating a lucrative bodyguard and “protection” business, Krayleigh Enterprises, for Hollywood stars– including Sinatra.

Ronnie was ultimately certified insane (paranoid schizophrenic) thus his time at Broadmoor, where he died in 1985.  Reg was freed on compassionate grounds in 2000, at age 87, with inoperable bladder cancer; he died 8 weeks later.

The Kray twins, Reginald (left) and Ronald (right), photographed by David Bailey

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Written by LW

January 7, 2014 at 1:01 am

Orange Is The New Black (Ink)…

 

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This year Sweden closed four prisons and a detention center… there simply aren’t enough prisoners to justify them.  Sweden has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the world.  And they seem to mean to do even better: though the crime rate is rising, the government is investing in prevention, not detention.

Conversely, the U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate (not counting North Korea, on which data is not available– though the Committee on Human Rights estimates that the rate is roughly equal to America’s).  And though there are a few states (like Pennsylvania) in which prison populations are falling, it’s not looking to shrink overall.

Among the reasons: private prisons.  Virtually nonexistent until the 1980s, private jails have spread across the nation, as for-profit corporations have built new facilities and bought older ones from cash-strapped states, operating them on contract.  Lately, these companies have prevailed on their customers– the states– to agree to minimum guarantees.  Some examples: Arizona has three private prison contracts requiring 100 percent occupancy; Oklahoma has three contracts at 98 percent occupancy;  Louisiana and Virginia have occupancy rate minimums at 96 and 95 respectively.

As In the Public Interest (ITPI) reports

These contract clauses incentivize keeping prison beds filled, which runs counter to many states’ public policy goals of reducing the prison population and increasing efforts for inmate rehabilitation… some worried the terms would encourage criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the occupancy rates required by a contract…

Bed guarantee provisions are also costly for state and local governments.  As examples in the report show, these clauses can force corrections departments to pay thousands, sometimes millions, for unused beds — a “low-crime tax” that penalizes taxpayers when they achieve what should be a desired goal of lower incarceration rates.  The private prison industry often claims that prison privatization saves states money.  Numerous studies and audits have shown these claims of cost savings to be illusory, and bed occupancy requirements are one way that private prison companies lock in inflated costs after the contract is signed…

Read ITPI’s full report (pdf), “How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits Guarantee Profits.”

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As we rattle our chains, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Margaret Sanger, fresh back from a stint in the Raymond Street jail, reopened the Brownsville Clinic in Brooklyn, NY– the first birth control clinic in the U.S.  Sanger had been shut down and arrested before for obscenity (she offered a booklet called “What Every Young Woman Should Know,” explaining the female reproductive system and several contraceptive methods).  This time, the police leaned on her landlord to evict her, and the clinic closed almost as soon as it reopened.

Sanger (center) at the Brownsville Clinic

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Written by LW

November 16, 2013 at 1:01 am

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