Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Clerk, clerk thyself

Oh, too funny. The MD state police report that the handgun Frank Conaway, Sr. may or may not have "brandished" while he was or wasn't chasing Adam Meister has an expired permit. If it's true that Conaway left his property with the gun, he could be facing a month in jail. Oh, my. Conaway is the Clerk of the Court, so his job is to file and maintain the court's records and legal documents. Yet he groused to Justin Fenton, "I was never notified. I think there's an obligation on the part of the state police to notify." ... uh, really? If anyone knows that kind of information shouldn't it be the Clerk of the Court?!
... here's a WBAL interviews with "strong young guy" Adam and "I could have taken care of him otherwise" Frank.

.. and why is no one asking (or telling) exactly what Adam said to Frank?


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no one chimed in on that Bloomberg piece on incarceration in the U.S.

It claims that "It seems clear that the U.S. penal system discriminates against minorities."

Well, no. Actually, it discriminates against criminals. That's a good thing.

Now,.. if you want to ask why one in nine black children have a parent in jail, it's probably because one in nine of those parents commit crimes. (Alternatively, it could be that one inveterate criminal fathered one in nine black children.)

Now, let's talk about Baltimoreans.

Baltimoreans are convicted of crimes about proportionate to their racial percentage in the city's population.

But they just commit a LOT of crime. 55% of Maryland convicts are from Baltimore City. That's about 15 times the per capita incarceration rate for the rest of Maryland.

One in five intakes are for revocation of prior parole. Half of all releases return within 3 years on new offenses.

Intakes on only drug charges are actually down a great deal since 2004, but I think that may be because it only counts as a drug charge if there are no higher charges. (Baltimoreans frequently have higher charges.)

About 1 in 8 inmates is committed for only 90 days. And then he's back on YOUR block.

A really interesting feature of the inmate population is that about half are born outside the jurisdiction. Now, Baltimoreans are well-known for returning to their roots to reoffend. They just never get far from home. Which implies,... (wait for it).... that criminals actually flock here. We're permissive. We attract that sort. Mostly from Philly and points south.

So, the question to ask is not really "why do we imprison so many people?", unless you believe them to largely be wrongly accused. They (overwhelmingly) did the crime, so the only question to ask is "Should they then do the time?" Well, they are largely recidivist, which means that letting them out will increase crime. In point of fact, one in four nonviolent offenders will reoffend violently once released.

If you don't like having so many criminals in prison, do you a) release them to commit more crimes, b) exterminate them to keep that from happening, or c) keep them in prison.

Kinda makes it clear.

Oh, and before someone proposes to offer counseling and training so as to 'repair' them,... that doesn't work much better than just releasing them. They mostly don't fix well after about age 14.

- Galt

mj said...

Aw, before I even got to your signature I knew it was you, Galt! I missed you and your grammatically precise pontificating!

.. the thing is, 75%+ of the crimes the SAO deals with are drug crimes. Can you imagine how the system might actually work with 75% fewer cases clogging it? Baltimore used to build ships and airplanes, make sails, harvest seafood, etc., and now this city mostly makes a living taking crumbs off of other people's cake in various ways-- a Legg Mason, or bringing in and repackaging narcotics at the port, or getting money from the federal government for its prison-industrial complex. Baltimore does not actually make anything, unless you count our copious intellectual capital. I'm not sure legalization is the answer, because prescription drug abuse is a major problem -- having doctors deal the drugs does not seem to be a huge improvement, and now everyone with health insurance gets to subsidize pill addicts.

But more to your point, I do think the penal system discriminates against minorities, because there is no penal system. There are just human beings making a series of decisions on a given day, and human beings discriminate, often in ways they aren't conscious of. The federal government won't give us much money to educate people in a meaningful way-- especially if the money keeps disappearing-- but it will donate substantially towards incarcerating people. And so that's just the way it works out, it seems.

Cham said...

Thanks, mj, you said what I was thinking. I'm too tired to write the post.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, heard it before. Schools, not prisons. But the problem is, Baltimore hoods don't commit crimes because they don't properly grasp calculus or semiotics. They do so because they have been improperly socialized between the ages of 9 and, say, 14. They've been raised defectively, which largely cannot be corrected after the fact.

Even if you were to teach a typical Baltimorean hood string theory, I would probably still be unwilling to hire him. He'd still be inclined to hit me over the head and empty my cash register.

If you want to 'correct' their preparation for life among civilized people, you'd really need to take many of them into custody as preadolescents and perhaps enroll them in a public residential academy away from the deleterious effects of parent, friends, and neighbors.

But just sitting antisocial adolescents amidst pedagogy will not accomplish that. Baltimore City's schools spend a ridiculous amount amount of money per head casting pearls before swine to no avail. The history in that regard is quite clear.

Now on the subject you raised of people discriminating,... yes, and the answer there is to diminish the level of discretion within the judicial/parole system. One of the reasons continental European nations have far less serious crime per capita is that their institutions do not provide a great deal of latitude in respect of the guilty. The penalty is the penalty

Mostly, there is no parole and sentences cannot be reduced by more than about 8%. You serve your time. Further, they don't really provide for plea bargaining, only an expedited trial option. And their magisterial systems regard serious crime as an affront to the state, rather than a grievance by some atomistic victim.

Defenses mostly cannot consist of technicalities and exclusions, nor unreasonable appeals to reasonable doubt. It's much harder to draw tears of sympathy from a professional (as opposed to lay) judge than from lay jurors, as we have in this country. The perspective 'from the hood' never enters the decisionmaking, unless by some fluke someone from from the urban underclass is appointed magistrate.

Criminals there are sentenced by the same judge who determined guilt, so their is no incentive to be generous at sentencing on top of generosity at conviction, as is the case here. (Particularly in the case of violation of parole hearings.)

I know several judges on a social basis, and they overwhelmingly acknowledge that there's way too much wiggle-room in system in Baltimore. It's very hard here to implement the 'correct' sanction because no one adjudicator fully determines it.

Oh, one last point about 'fixing people' once broken: the most effective correctional measure is often to yank the convict out of his familiar environment (Baltimore) and forcibly insert him into a healthier one (ie. dairy farm in Wisconsin somewhere). It's not the cows, mind you. It's being alone amongst overwhelmingly prosocial, lawabiding people who will all instantly bring on sanctions if you misbehave. You don't get that in the hood, where the norms are almost the very opposite.

A very effective solution: exile from Baltimore City (plus designated adjoining sections of the County). But, alas, our law makes that impossible. But European magistrates have the authority to do pretty much whatever is needed.

My best alternative absent legislative reforms: the residential academy. self-contained. Isolated. Abaltimorean.