SSRN-Jeremy Bentham

By , September 27, 2009 10:38 am

Jeremy Bentham is associated in criminology with his invention of the ‘Panopticon.’ In many ways this appeared as the quintessential disciplinary institution, training subjects to be ‘docile’ and obedient. Yet Bentham’s classical criminology also stressed that actors are rational choice optimisers, and are to be seen as inventive and enterprising rather than servile and mindless. In part, the overemphasis on the Panopticon leads modern criminologists ignore this side of his thinking and to see Bentham as narrowly punitive and disciplinary. But in his later years he turned toward ‘pecuniary sanctions’, fines and damages, that he regarded as the optimal liberal sanction. Bentham outlined many of the advantages of monetary justice, and advocated their use in relation to almost every crime, in place of the more usual punishments. This chapter suggests a need to reconsider the contribution of Bentham to criminology and penology in terms of such later works and ideas rather than his advocacy of the Panopticon alone.

via SSRN-Jeremy Bentham by Pat O’Malley.

Editorial – Prisoners’ Rights –

By , September 25, 2009 7:27 pm
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In 1996, Congress passed a law that made it much harder for inmates to challenge abusive treatment. It has contributed significantly to the bad conditions — including the desperate overcrowding — that prevail today. The law must be fixed.

In the name of clamping down on frivolous lawsuits, the Prison Reform Litigation Act barred prisoners from suing prisons and jails unless they could show that they had suffered a physical injury. Prison officials have used this requirement to block lawsuits challenging all sorts of horrific conditions, including sexual abuse.

via Editorial – Prisoners’ Rights –

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As goes California . . .

By , September 19, 2009 3:39 pm
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It hardly needs to be said that California’s leaders are acting irresponsibly, in violation of law, and with deliberate indifference to the health or safety of more than 166,000 people. But they’re clear on the other side of the country, some 2,000 miles from the Triangle Region of North Carolina. So what do we care about California’s misguided public policy and spineless leadership?

Here’s why we care. California is a harbinger of what lies ahead for the entire nation if we continue existing criminal justice policy. California’s crisis is the result of muddle-headed thinking about the purposes of a criminal justice system, political demagoguery for personal advancement, and inadequate funding to support the draconian laws enacted by the state’s legislature and its citizens. Would that California were unique in these respects.

When we incarcerate people for petty offenses and trifling conduct which we disapprove, we not only deprive them of liberty and virtually ensure that they will never be permitted to rejoin our society as respected, responsible citizens. We rob ourselves of the talents and contributions that might otherwise help to meet the challenges of our time, and those that lie ahead. We deplete public coffers of much-needed revenue in a wasteful, destructive spiral of reckless ruination. We fail to offer help to people who may suffer from mental illness, substance addiction, or who simply lack the skills to lead productive, law-abiding lives. We cheat victims out of any meaningful chance to recover restitution. We decimate neighborhoods, destroy families, and leave children without parents. And the outcomes we achieve with this “lock ‘em up” policy are shameful, with more than 60% of offenders going back to prison within three years.

How long would it be before you replaced a car that failed to start 60% of the time? If your employer routinely paid only 40% of your wages, how hard would it be to figure out you need a new job? Can it be anything other than irrational fear and hatred that cloud our judgement when we see a criminal justice system that fails to meet even the most rudimentary objectives of an ordered society?

via As goes California . . ..

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Botched execution brings reprieve | | The Cincinnati Enquirer

By , September 16, 2009 11:46 am

LUCASVILLE – A condemned inmate whose execution was stopped because of problems finding a usable vein will remain in the same maximum security prison over the next week.

Prisons spokeswoman Julie Walburn says inmate Romell Broom has been placed in a cell in the infirmary at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Walburn says Broom is on close watch similar to the constant observation of death row inmates in the three days before an execution.

Death row inmates are housed in a Youngstown prison and executed in the death chamber at Lucasville. There’s no precedent for housing an inmate whose execution didn’t work.

After an execution team spent about two hours trying to find a usable vein on Broom’s arms and legs, Gov. Ted Strickland ordered a week’s reprieve for the 53-year-old convicted rapist-murderer from Cleveland.

In a prison witness room, the parents and aunt of Tryna Middleton – who was fatally stabbed on Sept. 21, 1984 – watched silently as prison nurses struggled to keep Broom’s veins open for a lethal mix of chemicals to execute him.

There were so many logistical problems encountered Tuesday by an experienced execution team that Broom was never moved to the injection table in the adjoining death chamber. The Middletons and four news reporters, including from The Enquirer, watched the process via television monitors as prison staff tried to hook Broom to tubes in preparation for lethal injection.

Several times, Broom rolled onto his left side, pointed at veins, straightened tubes or massaged his own arms to help prison staff keep a vein open. He was clearly frustrated as he leaned back on the gurney, covering his face with his hands and visibly crying. His stomach heaved upward and his feet twitched. There is no audio from the holding cell, so reporters could only watch his movements. When the staff tried to put IVs in his legs, Broom looked up toward the camera above, appearing to grimace, at least four times, from pain.

via Botched execution brings reprieve | | The Cincinnati Enquirer.

A Recipe for Disaster: School Cops Are Being Armed with 50,000-Volt Tasers | Rights and Liberties | AlterNet

By , September 16, 2009 10:23 am
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One spring day this April, at the Franklin Correctional Institution on Florida’s Highway 67, Sgt. Walter Schmidt pulled out his Electronic Immobilization Device — EID in officer parlance — and zapped two people, who immediately “yelped in pain, fell to the ground and grabbed red burn marks on their arms,” according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The two were not inmates at the prison, however. They were students visiting the facility as part of “Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day.”

The move cost Sgt. Schmidt his job, despite his claim that he merely intended to demonstrate how the devices worked. He even asked the children’s parents who were also employees at the prison permission first. “When they said ‘sure,’ I went ahead and did it,” he told the Times.

“It wasn’t intended to be malicious, but educational. The big shock came when I got fired.”

Schmidt wasn’t alone in his job-costing blunder. In fact, it came just one day after multiple children, visiting different prisons were similarly shocked.

“A total of 43 children were directly and indirectly shocked by electric stun guns during simultaneous Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day events gone wrong at three state prisons last month,” reported the St. Petersburg Times on May 16th. “One was a warden’s daughter.”

via A Recipe for Disaster: School Cops Are Being Armed with 50,000-Volt Tasers | Rights and Liberties | AlterNet.

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Mentally ill often adrift in the criminal justice system

By , September 13, 2009 7:58 pm
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EVERETT — Jody Sands was off his medication and suffering from hallucinations when he killed his grandfather by clobbering him with an ax.

In another case, authorities warned that it was only a matter of time before Ryan Miller, homeless and mentally disabled, hurt someone. He confessed this summer to helping beat a Marysville grandmother to death with a hammer.

Both men had documented histories of mental illness that required professional care. Over the years, they were hospitalized and medicated.

Now, Miller and Sands are off to prison for murder.

Both are extreme examples of a system failing people living with serious mental illnesses, according to some in the criminal justice system and mental health professionals.

via HeraldNet: Mentally ill often adrift in the criminal justice system.

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The land of the unfree – Le Monde diplomatique

By , September 13, 2009 7:45 pm
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The United States incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other nation. It has only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. If you count everyone ensnared in the corrections system – on probation or parole – millions of Americans (one of every 31) are anything but free in the land of liberty (1).

“Incarceration is a rich country’s hobby,” says Scott Henson, a Texan journalist and political consultant who has monitored America’s addiction to imprisonment for years and thinks it a pastime of impractical and frivolous consequences. Crime and punishment are disconnected. As funding has increased, more prisons have been built, more of the usual suspects – drug users, dealers, and petty gangsters – have been wrangled into newly constructed penitentiaries, and more warders hired to man the guard towers.

Crime seems to have fluctuated of its own free will, unaffected by the billions of dollars thrown at it and the policies written to combat it. Although crime declined throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, incarceration rates climbed dramatically, even among the young. Meanwhile, the state of New York saw a dramatic decrease in violent crime as its prison population dropped (2).

via The land of the unfree – Le Monde diplomatique – English edition.

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Cultural Criminology and the Engagement with Race, Gender and Post-Colonial Identities

By , September 12, 2009 10:21 pm

This chapter explores the potential of cultural criminology as a theoretical and methodological paradigm with reference to some earlier research in which we examined the high victimisation rates of Filipino women in cases of spousal homicides compared to other Australian women. Our research considers the interplay of gender, ethnicity and first world/third world relations, both materially and symbolically, in seeking to understand the women’s experiences as immigrants, their postcolonial identities and their victimisation. The gendered and racialised nature of the movement of women across national boundaries, and their subsequent exposure to more extreme levels of violence, gives the research a broader focus than simply the experiences of Filipino women in Australia. While cultural criminology provides useful insights into the construction of this symbolic world surrounding violence against women, we argue that it cannot ignore the broader global political economies of labour, capital and communications which are closely connected to the construction of apparently `localised’ cultural expressions. We also demonstrate the importance of specificity in explaining how post-colonial identities and representations are constructed, and in understanding practices such as violence against immigrant women.

via SSRN-Cultural Criminology and the Engagement with Race, Gender and Post-Colonial Identities by Chris Cunneen, Julie Stubbs.

Iowa Law Review

By , September 12, 2009 10:12 pm

The most recent issue of the Iowa Law Review, an open access publication. includes several interesting articles about Critical Race Theory.

Over 100 Million Americans Have Smoked Marijuana — And It’s Still Illegal?

By , September 12, 2009 9:27 am
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Question: Does anyone still believe that marijuana prohibition is working — or that all of these people deserve to be behind bars?

For too long, advocates of prohibition have framed their arguments on the false assumption that the continued enforcement of said laws “protects our children.” As the numbers above illustrate, this premise is nonsense. In fact, just the opposite is true.

The government’s war on cannabis and cannabis consumers endangers the health and safety of our children. It enables young people to have unregulated access to marijuana — easier access than they presently have to alcohol. It enables young people to interact and befriend pushers of other illegal, more dangerous drugs. It compels young people to dismiss the educational messages they receive pertaining to the potential health risks posed by the use of “hard drugs” and prescription pharmaceuticals, because kids say, “If they lied to me about pot, why wouldn’t they be lying to me about everything else, too?”

Most importantly, the criminal laws are far more likely to result in having our children arrested, placed behind bars, and stigmatized with a lifelong criminal record than they are likely to in any way discourage them to try pot.

In short, what the results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health is simple and consistent; in fact, we say it all the time: Remember prohibition? It still doesn’t work!

via Over 100 Million Americans Have Smoked Marijuana — And It’s Still Illegal? | | AlterNet.

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