February 14, 2007
Going tough on repeat offenders in Colorado
Following up the theme of prosecutorial (in)discretion, a helpful reader sent me this link to a very interesting (and very long) article discussing a Colorado DA's decision to greatly expand the application of habitual offender charges. The article's title, "The Punisher: Censured but defiant, Carol Chambers goes after habitual criminals — and cops, judges and lawyers — like no other district attorney. But at what cost?", provide a good summary of its coverage.
February 14, 2007 at 06:55 AM | Permalink
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One thing is for sure, if there's a violent offender in Arapahoe County who screws up, he's going down.
Posted by: federalist | Feb 14, 2007 11:42:55 AM
Not so clear.
Most of the rise in habitual cases in Arapahoe County is among non-violent offenders.
Violent offenses already have long sentences in Colorado, even without enhancements for habitual offenses.
But, neither pissing off the judges in your jurisdiction, nor being sanctioned for violations of professional ethics are great ways to improve your conviction rate.
Likewise, pushing a case to try to get a 48 year sentence instead of a six year sentence for someone who walks away from a half-way house after having had prior non-violent offenses, for example, pushes even long shot cases to go to trial. There is always a real risk that at trial there will be an aquittal and that the offender who screwed up will go free. No trial is every risk free, and not everyone acquitted in innocent. A plea bargain has greatly reduced risk of putting an offender back on the street.
It is a conviction, and not a sentence that adds additional years when the offender is already gray haired, that makes sure that an offender "goes down."
Recidivism is a real and material risk and a good reason to come down harder than usual. But, doing so indiscriminately does not necessarily make anyone safer and is guaranteed to be very expensive for the highly tax averse suburbanites who live in that area.
Posted by: ohwilleke | Feb 14, 2007 12:07:43 PM
And non-violent offenders get to look forward to this:
Posted by: federalist | Feb 14, 2007 12:12:01 PM
Life is a prosecutor's dream nowadays, from the paparazzi, to the cop on the street, to prosecutor's in court, to federal law, much like it was in the early 20th century. As Christopher P. Wilson writes in Cop Knowledge: Police Power and Cultural Narrative in Twentieth-Century America:
"Consistently at the center of my analysis has been a startling paradox of modern American cultural life: the fact that much of our popular understanding of criminality and social disorder, particularly street disorder, comes from a knowledge economy that has the police--putatively agents of order--as its center. It is not only that today's police forces feed our "information society" with data on crimes, security risks, and even the most petty forms of social transgression. Rather, it is that the police have always been knowledge workers of a kind. In our neoconservative times, they have often been given a new standing even in formal political debate, taken as seers whose broader cultural understandings of civility American society needs to rediscover and respect."
Wilson then quotes Ian Loader, in part: "It is merely to point out that the police's entitlement and capacity to speak about the world is seldom challenged. They start from a winning position."
So the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex are two sides of the same coin, and to question either is unpatriotic and is either coddling criminals or coddling terrorists. This is so ingrained that it is almost traitorous to think at all.
Posted by: George | Feb 14, 2007 2:17:38 PM
George, you must be very well-educated . . . .
Posted by: federalist | Feb 14, 2007 2:35:17 PM
All recidivism is not the same, and all recidivists are not the same. There is recidivism that has as its roots a criminal mind, and there is recidivism that has its roots in addiction, obsession, or compulsion. The difference as can be seen is that the latter is curative and is not necessarily born of a criminal mind, whereas the former is a choice of life style, and often without remorse.
The addictive, obsessive, and compulsive mind is much more treatable as long as the criminal mind is not a driving force for wrong doing.
The classification systems born from court cases makes great effort not to apply distinction. It is easier to control the few or the many with one set of laws than different sets of laws, and thus the inevitable disparity and over harshness of sentences and punishments will continue to exist, and the person with a treatable addiction, obsession, or compulsion will suffer greatly and still not be effectively treated, bringing forth the understanding that relapse or recidivism will most likely ocurr again.
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