May 27, 2009
Thoughtful discussion of crime, punishment and restorative justice
A helpful reader altered me to this terrific new piece, titled "America's Prisons: Is There Hope?", appearing in the June 11, 2009 issue of The New York Review of Books. Though the piece in various ways keeps returning to restorative justice themes, it covers a broad array of ideas and has many terrific elements and passages. Here is just one of many sections that merits the spotlight:
According to one estimate, 23 percent of the discrepancy in black/white incarceration rates could be eliminated if blacks stayed in school as long as whites, and that was in 1980, before the thirty-year surge in black incarceration got underway. An even greater effect was seen with violent crime, such as murder and assault. According to the authors of this study, a one percent increase in the graduation rate could save $1.4 billion that would otherwise be spent keeping these men behind bars.
A high school diploma itself seems to help keep black men out of trouble. The likelihood of incarceration drops fourfold among black high school graduates compared to those who make it only to tenth or eleventh grade. It is unlikely that there is anything special about the twelfth-grade curriculum that would explain this. However, graduation may indicate a relatively positive attitude toward society and toward oneself that is more important for keeping black youths out of trouble than any skill or knowledge acquired in school. Some studies suggest, remarkably, that a diploma may matter more than one's income, or even whether one has a job at all. Prison education programs that allow inmates to earn college degrees have also been associated with a drop in recidivism. Thus the decision of former New York governor George Pataki to end these programs in the mid-1990s may well have had consequences for public safety.
May 27, 2009 at 12:49 AM | Permalink
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I would think the the diploma is more an indication of conformity to social norms. And if you are willing to conform to social norms you are more likely to conform to legal norms.
Posted by: Daniel | May 27, 2009 1:25:59 AM
Crime victimization rates dropped everywhere from the 1990's to 2007, by a huge 40%, coinciding with the percolation of the Guidelines to street level. The drop is a tremendous lawyer achievement.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 27, 2009 4:45:17 AM
I would also be interested in the following three way comparison:
1) Normal HS graduates
2) In-custody programs
3) Dropouts who don't finish HS even in custody.
My gut level thinking is that there isn't necessarily a whole lot society can do to increase (1), it comes from family and other facts, as do most education related achievment. 2 & 3 can only really be compared if the program is optional which from what I've seen isn't really the case for lots of offenders, completing a GED is part of the sentence.
I do agree with Daniel in that willingness to complete HS and thus conform to society is likely an indicator for conforming to the law, I'm just not sure how well that translates to people who've already decided to flout the law. I see two populations, one whom the prison experience is enough shock (and whom completing school is likely a helpful step) and a second that it just doesn't reach. For this second population I doubt a GED does a whole lot one way or the other.
Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 27, 2009 10:10:27 AM
The author of this "terrific piece" appears to be completely clueless about the correlation-causation distinction.
The first sentence of the second paragraph of the quote appears to make the usual, unjustified leap from correlation to causation -- from the fact that dropouts commit more crimes to an inference that the same people would commit fewer crimes if we could somehow get them to graduate. However, the fourth sentence indicates an awareness of the alternate hypothesis that Daniel and Soronel refer to -- that a third factor is the cause of both dropping out and committing crimes.
The primary "root cause" of crime is a lack of a personal sense of responsibility. The discussion would make more progress if we began with that understanding.
Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | May 27, 2009 10:52:22 AM
Is there any way society (as opposed to parents, who are sometimes either not around or lack a sense of persoanl responsibiilty themselves) can encourage a personal sense of responsibility in young people, I wonder?
Posted by: jiffypop | May 27, 2009 11:31:32 AM
Kent, is it an all or nothing thing? I would assume that all things being equal, a HS diploma would steer some people who would have otherwise led a life of crime away from that. Of course, by keeping criminals in school, we also risk harm to those who just want to be there to learn. I totally agree that correlation provides the cause of the lion's share of the association.
Are there any "prevention" programs that you feel have utility?
"The primary 'root cause' of crime is a lack of a personal sense of responsibility. The discussion would make more progress if we began with that understanding."
Posted by: federalist | May 27, 2009 1:11:29 PM
Reduce lawyer enforced bastardy. Stop the vile feminist lawyer all out war on the American productive male. Shrink the lawyer profession. The more lawyers, the higher the crime rate, because they have to immunize crime to prevent the deterrence of their clients. Close half the law schools, working down from the Top Tier. These are indoctrination camps that tear down traditional values, and seek to impose sick cult doctrines. Their train the cult criminals in attacking, defunding, and destroying all sources of authority competing with government. The latter has only a sterile, institutional motivation to abstain from crime.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 27, 2009 9:46:08 PM
Kent Scheidegger wrote: "The primary "root cause" of crime is a lack of a personal sense of responsibility. The discussion would make more progress if we began with that understanding."
Why do black people lack a personal sense of responsibility more than white people?
Given the implication of your assertion, you are obligated to answer this question directly. Should you not, it is proper to assume the worst.
Posted by: DK | May 28, 2009 1:57:25 AM
I don't know if Kent will provide an answer but I do believe Supremecy Clause is onto something with his rants against lawyer enforced bastardry. Having a father present is also a major split point in all of the data I've seen concerning crime trends.
Whether you believe that the attempts of programs like the Great Society helped lead to the current situation or not, something did. Five kids by three different mothers may be a great evolutionary advantage, but it does not seem to lend itself to producing children that excel in modern society.
As for ways society could approach the problem of instilling such responsibility perhaps universal military obligation would suffice. A draft alone doesn't grab a large enough slice of the population and is easier to game. Not that such is currently a feasible solution politically.
Lighter forms of service would not suffice, I think, due to not having ready punishment available. Children need to learn that mistakes lead to consequences.
Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 28, 2009 2:20:41 AM
Kent and federalist and others: I called the article terrific in part because it explores, through discussion of the restorative justice movement, the idea that the 'root cause' of crime is indeed a lack of a personal sense of responsibility. I recommend everyone to read the full article before being too critical of the particular passages I decided to spotlight in this post.
Posted by: Doug B. | May 28, 2009 7:55:43 AM
Doug and others: The root cause of crime is lawyer forbearance and its profitability. Period. In Fallujah, even the well educated did as they pleased with impunity.
The article is a Trojan Horse for government make work for endless programs for Democrat left wing and union constituencies.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 28, 2009 9:30:16 AM
"Why do black people lack a personal sense of responsibility more than white people?"
The white cult criminal destroyed the Black family and imposed a soaring rate of bastardy in the 1960's. He paid people to spawn bastards, and began open warfare on the black male father. That explains all disparities. There is no racial difference in rates of antisocial personality disorder.
Whites should not feel smug. The lawyer is now coming after white families, and is doing a great job of destroying it, too. All racial disparities in crime rates will disappear in a decade if the lawyer is allowed to succeed. The white rate will be as high as the black rate.
Meanwhile, these lawyer hypocrites all have traditional family arrangements for their kids. What is the rate of bastardy among lawyer families? What is the rate of bizarre family arrangements among lawyers? Just about zip.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 28, 2009 9:35:52 AM
Yes, I did read the full article before commenting.
My comment had nothing to do with race. Therefore, notwithstanding DK's assertion, I do not have an obligation to address it and no assumption is proper.
Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | May 28, 2009 11:04:46 AM
Kent Scheidegger wrote: "My comment had nothing to do with race. Therefore, notwithstanding DK's assertion, I do not have an obligation to address it and no assumption is proper."
Your comment had everything to do with race. It is an empirical fact of the world that black people disproportionately commit crimes compared to white people. Your assertion was that "[t]he primary 'root cause' of crime is a lack of a personal sense of responsibility." The exercise of simple logic (very simple logic, Kent) makes the deduction for us:
Proposition 1: Black people commit more crimes per capita than white people. (true)
Proposition 2: The primary root cause of crime is a lack of a personal sense of responsibility. (true, according to Kent)
Deduction: Black people lack a personal sense of responsibility more than white people. (true, according to Kent)
I feel certain you have the mental capacity to have followed me so far. Now, holding this deductive belief doesn't make one a racist, per se. For example, one could proffer reasons external to inherent properties of black people to explain this discrepancy in personal responsibility between blacks and whites. Maybe, for example, living in relative poverty causes people--regardless of their race--to lack personal responsibility. Because we know--as another empirical fact--that black persons are also disproportionately poor compared to whites, then we have identified a reason why blacks might lack personal responsibility at a greater rate than whites that is not inherent to being a black person.
But, see, that introduces a new problem. You, Kent, believe that the "primary root cause" of crime is a lack of personal responsibility. According to our above example, relative poverty--not a lack of personal responsibility--would be the primary root cause of crime, because poverty would have caused the lack of personal responsibility.
So this combination of beliefs (prop 1, prop 2, and deduction) is indeed very problematic for you, Kent. For a lack of personal responsibility to be the primary root cause of crime, we must be talking about something that itself lacks a cause--an inherent property to something, here to people.
Therefore, assuming you don't wish to clarify or retract your statement, you quite clearly believe that some trait inherent to black people causes them to lack a sense of personal responsibility more than white people. In short, you appear to be a racist. And you're just a single deductive step from being an overt racist. Don't you think you ought to explain yourself?
Posted by: DK | May 28, 2009 8:30:05 PM
DK: The root cause of crime is lawyer rest seeking. They herd crime into black areas because it pays.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 28, 2009 11:21:01 PM
DK's exercise of reading waaaaaay too much into the word "primary" is a good example of why it is so difficult to have frank discussions. People such as him are just chomping at the bit to smear anyone who disagrees with them with the dreaded accusation of racism and will make unjustified leaps on ridiculously thin evidence in order to do so. He is as ready and eager to find evidence of racism as the Salem witch trials were of witchcraft or Joe McCarthy's committee was of communism.
No reasonable person would read any claim about inherent characteristics of any race into my comment. DK has succeeded in demonstrating only that he is not a reasonable person.
Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jun 1, 2009 1:45:21 PM