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January 21, 2008

Reacting to sentencing on the front page: It's the economy, stupid?!?!

I am in Cleveland for a long weekend, and the front page of today's Cleveland Plain Dealer proves once again that so much of crime and sentencing comes back to economic issues.  Consider first this effective article about Ohio's struggles with implementing federal Adam Walsh Act:

The three weeks since Ohio rushed to implement tougher sex offender registration laws have been filled with confusion, lawsuits and concern that the provisions may do more harm than good. 

Ohio is one of the first states to pass legislation to comply with the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a set of federal laws that stiffens registration requirements for convicted sex offenders. The act mandates that all states uniformly register sex offenders and place them into a national registry by 2009. It was billed as a way to prevent people who commit sex crimes from slipping through the cracks and committing other offenses.  Being on the forefront of the movement has landed Ohio courts in the middle of constitutional arguments over retroactively classifying some offenders — often with harsher penalties — without a court hearing. It also has put a strain on sheriff's offices, who could see a 60 percent increase in their workload as they scramble — with no extra money for personnel — to register thousands of new sex offenders who now have to check in every 90 days....

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann campaigned on the promise that he would implement the act. And its implementation put the state in line to receive an increase of up to 10 percent in federal grants used to fight crime, said Erin Rosen, a senior assistant in the office.  But opponents say the act will cost taxpayers far more to put into practice and defend in court.  It is an assertion Dann's office did not dispute.

Now consider this distinct article about how fraudsters have played a major role in the foreclosure crisis:

A hot real estate market fueled by loose lending over the last decade opened doors to just about anyone who wanted to own a home. But the open doors also let in lots of criminals. 

Armies of unscrupulous mortgage brokers linked up with shady appraisers and loan officers.  Together, they doctored papers to inflate home values, forged signatures on mortgage applications and lied about buyers' incomes and abilities to pay. Their criminal work brought them big fees, and left behind thousands of empty, foreclosed homes in neighborhoods — rich and poor — across the nation.

Today, law enforcement agencies on the federal, state and local levels are trying to crack one of the biggest white-collar capers in U.S. history: the heist of billions of dollars in the value of America's homes.

So, while folks at the federal and state and local levels have been focused (one might say obsessed) on regulating the movements of sex offenders, other criminals have been wrecking havoc with our economic system and the entire nation is paying the price.

January 21, 2008 at 11:09 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Jan 22, 2008 9:41:05 PM


We as a nation do not punish these types of crime harshly enough. Organized identity theft needs to be punished far more harshly, like LWOP for widespread acts/repeat offenders. These mortgage frauds need harsh harsh punishment.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 21, 2008 12:40:14 PM

I am surprised that Federalist doesn't yearn for the days of British Common Law. All felonies result in death or transportation.

LWOP for identity theft? What's next Organized street drag-racers should get LWOP. Do we really need to ruin lives and pay for lifetime incarceration. Most of the identity theft defendants I have representated are drug addicts-stealing identities to further their fraudulent check cashing/credit-card schemes. Get them treatment-not life without hope.

The punishment of LWOP does not fit the crime. Get real.

Posted by: KAY | Jan 21, 2008 1:22:54 PM

KAY, I said organized ID theft people and repeat offenders. And yes, LWOP for multiple cases of serious identity theft is an appropriate punishment. That would exclude your clients, KAY.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 21, 2008 2:34:39 PM

Lets just make LWOP an option in any felony case. We already have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Lets not jeopardize our 'get tough on crime' image.

Posted by: Mark | Jan 21, 2008 2:49:31 PM

LWOP should be an option with repeated offenses of major identity theft crimes. Let's say that a group of people with records enter into a scheme whereby 100 people's identity is stolen and used. Somehow, LWOP seems appropriate to me.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 21, 2008 5:59:12 PM

About LWOP for people who believes in draconian sentences. Maybe the country can moved forward without these idealogical extremists.

Posted by: | Jan 21, 2008 6:25:17 PM

The First Amendment stands in the way of LWOP for people like me.

At the end of the day, people who systemically defraud many people in a manner malum in se deserve to be punished as harshly as the guy who sticks a gun in a clerk's face. As Doug points out, certain white-collar crime can have a devastating impact, and our punishment scheme should reflect that reality. I don't see how my proposal really is all that radical.

I fully understand the fact that a prison bed is a scarce resource. I would much rather see a hardened criminal who specializes in ID theft etc. do time than some kids who slap a girl's behind in school. I also understand that a blanket approach with draconian burdens on all "sex offenders" is probably counterproductive and hurts the targeting of those most likely to be a problem. So, do I still deserve LWOP? All I am saying is that certain ID theft criminals and people like them cause serious problems and some of them need to go away--forever.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 21, 2008 6:52:26 PM

Who are these "hardened criminals who specialize in identity theft." How many are there? Other than possibly using identity theft to obtain Viagra what makes them hardened? If you ask me LWOP says much more about the failings of the incapacitator than the incapacitee.

Posted by: | Jan 21, 2008 10:32:48 PM

The ridiculous suggestion of using LWOP for nonviolent offenses obscures Doug's main point: Simply using current statutes and punishments, fraud and identity theft could be reduced if the criminal justice system spent half the resources we focus on sex offender registration, Halloween roundups, and all the other foolishness we force sex offenders to endure. Another instance where hype, not evidence, drives the allocation of law enforcement resources.

One reason for that Doug didn't mention: Fraudsters like the sub-prime loan companies and mortgage interests give fat campaign contributions and hire teams of lobbyists to protect their interests both at the statehouses and in Washington. Since sex crimes tend to generate less revenue than white collar ones, I suppose the "sex offender lobby" would have a hard time gaining any traction.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 22, 2008 9:30:10 AM

What? No lobby? It's a billion(s) dollar industry (THE PERVERSE LAW OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY.)

Posted by: George | Jan 22, 2008 5:19:58 PM

So George, pornographer = sex offender?

If you say so.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 23, 2008 7:24:26 AM

America better wake up & look at the big picture. There are SO MANY sex offenders now, how do you know when one of them is really dangerous. Also, with so many people now labeled as sex offender-----the average citizen better care if only for financial reasons. IF a sex offender lives next to you---GOOD LUCK trying to sell your house & watch the value plummet. Hopefully you will have a drug dealer or thief be your felon neighbor---your house value won't be affected nearly as much. This law is crazy. It is a slipperly slope and people are just letting politicians manipulate them based on feelings rather than the research.

Posted by: Slippery Slope | Jan 26, 2008 9:35:06 AM

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