Monday, May 9, 2011

Libertarian Links: Criminal Justice Edition

Ok, these are not all about criminal justice, but most are.

Cost of crime and lessening prison population: And crime still happens even though it’s not exactly lucrative. A burglar in 1979 would get an average of six days behind bars for stealing about $250 – or about $40 a day, Kleiman said. Today burglary pays about $8 a day, and dealing crack pays below minimum wage because of the glut of dealers (and this is why, as well-known research has found, crack dealers live with their mothers). In the late 1980s it paid $30 an hour. As Kleiman said, “The wages of sin are well below the lawful minimum.” [...]The judge, Kleiman said to a laugh, “created an entirely new process, the warning hearing.” Thirty-five parolees, averaging 14 prior arrests, came before the judge, who told them they would be randomly tested for drugs about six times a month. Anyone who tested positive would go to jail right away. Of the 35, Kleiman reported, fewer than half ever faced sanction. Of those who did, fewer than half had a second violation. Today, 1,500 people are in the program, and they are two-thirds less likely to go to prison. Though the program costs more than routine probation, it saves far more money by reducing jail terms, preventing crime, and shrinking the drug market, and of course saving the parolees’ health.

More on criminal justice: Of the federal prisoners in 1996, fully 60 percent were serving time for drug offenses; of the far more numerous state prisoners, 23 percent had drug convictions. Virtually all the growth of the federal inmate population since 1988 has resulted from the addition of drug offenders. Between 1985 and 1995, state prisons added 537,000 inmates altogether, increasing their overall population by 119 percent. They took in an additional 186,000 inmates convicted of drug offenses, swelling that category by 478 percent. [...]Just ask the Cleveland police, forty-four of whom were caught in an FBI sting in 1998 and arrested for taking payoffs from drug traffickers in exchange for providing security to those subterranean businessmen.

A luxury prison (for normal people?):  And yet, an extensive new study undertaken by researchers across all the Nordic countries reveals that the reoffending average across Europe is about 70-75 per cent. In Denmark, Sweden and Finland, the average is 30 per cent. In Norway it is 20 per cent. Thus Bastoy, at just 16 per cent, has the lowest reoffending rate in Europe. [...]He goes on to explain that because the Norwegian penal system has no death penalty or life terms and a maximum sentence of just 21 years, Norwegian society is forced to confront the fact that most prisoners, however heinous their crimes, will one day be released back into society.

Incarceration nation: The United States, in fact, has relatively low rates of nonviolent crime. It has lower burglary and robbery rates than Australia, Canada and England. [...]In 1980, there were about 40,000 people in American jails and prisons for drug crimes. These days, there are almost 500,000. [...]Still, it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes American prison policy. [...]Burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison, according to Mauer, compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.

Chinese price controls: On Friday, China’s National Development and Reform Commission and the Shanghai price authorities fined Unilever 2 million yuan (about $308,000) for sending notices to supermarkets and for talking to reporters in March about plans to raise prices on its products, including detergents. [...]Miners are getting around the ban on price increases by mixing in cheaper grades of coal in their shipments and even imposing illegal surcharges.  The price ban caused a coal shortage that in turn resulted in cuts in power generation last winter, even in the country’s coal-mining areas.  The coal situation will aggravate looming power shortages.  And why will there be shortages this summer?  Price controls on electricity.

Growing police state:  What’s really shocking, however, is the number of people affected. A whopping 14,212 American citizens and permanent residents had records of their financial, telephone, and online activity seized last year.  The previous record, set in 2005, was 9,475. Were you one of those 14,212?

More surveillance state: The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved all 1,506 government requests to electronically monitor suspected “agents” of a foreign power or terrorists on U.S. soil last year, according to a Justice Department report released under the Freedom of Information Act. The two-page report, which shows about a 13 percent increase in the number of applications for electronic surveillance between 2009 and 2010, was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists and published Friday.

Michigan makes case for creative destruction?: "Michigan's manufacturing employment is about 4 percent of the total jobs in manufacturing. But about 15 percent of the manufacturing jobs created have been created in Michigan." [...]After four years of posting the worst unemployment rate in the nation — topping out at a whopping 14.5percent in December 2009 — Michigan now ranks fifth at 10.3 percent, behind Nevada, California, Florida and Rhode Island, and barely above the 10.2percent rates of Kentucky and Mississippi. Michigan's unemployment rate has fallen at twice the rate of the U.S. rate, now at 8.8 percent.

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  1. I loved this article about criminal justice and it brings up some really nice ideas for discussion, like a luxury prison for normal people.
    I would love to go to prison for a month or so in hot summers, if they are fully air-conditioned ;)
    What do you say?