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Some Sunday Reading


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  • I’m afraid Marie Gottschalk makes a highly misleading assertion. She says, “In fact, if we released everyone now serving time in state prisons whose primary charge is a drug offense, we would reduce the state prison population by only 20 percent.” Most readers probably won’t know that the state prison population represents a minority of incarcerated people. “Jails” are technically different from “prisons.” People with sentences of a year or less, or people awaiting trial, are held in county jails, and they are the large majority of incarcerated people. And yes, the majority of them are held for drug offenses only. Furthermore, only about 7% of federal prisoners have committed violent offenses. So she is being tendentious here, I’m afraid.

    • Anon21

      So yes, the federal carceral state is largely a drugs-and-immigration shop, but it’s also a pretty small slice of the overall American incarceration picture. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it, but it does mean that even if you fully fixed what’s wrong with it, the U.S. would still be far and away the world’s most imprisoning country.

      Can you expand at at all on your first point? Are there statistics on breaking down people imprisoned in non-prison correctional facilities by offense category?

      • Brett

        I found this from 2011. Table 9 on Page 9 has a break-down of inmates in state institutions by category of offense. 53% are in there for violent offenses, 18% are in there for Property Crimes*, 17% are there for drug offenses, and the rest are a mix of Public-Order offenses and unspecified.

        * Property Crimes definitely aren’t harmless, either. They include stuff like Burglary and Car Theft.

        • Anon21

          The note on that chart says it’s based on prisoners with sentences of more than one year. So Cervantes’s objection remains, but I’m still wondering what facts it’s based on.

    • Latverian Diplomat

      She also ignores the fact that the war on drugs indirectly leads to many other sorts of crime, including assault and murder over turf, shoplifting and other types of theft to support drug habits, etc.

      It’s irksome someone would cite The Wire in support of one other minor point, and completely ignore this aspect of the War on Drugs.

      It also ignores the tremendous power and discretion it gives police to have substances whose mere possession in sufficient quantities is a felony.

      And it’s a bit of strawmanning to say that proponents of ending the War on Drugs are claiming it will address all of the many problems with the criminal justice system. It does, however, seem like a perfectly good place to start.

      Pining for the days when politicians cynically used commutation to score political points instead of today’s cynical reluctance to commute hardly seems like a more beneficial or more promising aspect of the problem to work on.

      • cpinva

        she also ignored the fact that the “war” against African americans started right after the civil war, with the “Black Code” laws in the vanquished former confederate states. those laws were specifically designed to, among other things, keep the newly freed blacks from voting, and make it far easier to “legally” incarcerate them. the current situation, vis a vis African americans, is simply a continuation, by other means, of the Black Code.

    • Brett

      That’s not really true. About 58% of prisoners are held in state institutions, 33% in local jails, and the remaining 9% are in federal prisons.

  • Can I just say “Fuck NC State”?

    OK, maybe I should be angrier at Villanova for screwing the pooch, but COME ON! I was riding high in the Farls stream and now I’m practically dead in the water.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Personally, I can see an upside to it.

  • Wait, Sextron is still head of NYU?


    • Lee Rudolph

      He’s only just been succeeded.

  • Re: Goons in the NHL

    It sort of astounded me that this was still a thing once the Broad Street Bullies were shown the door. Yes, a string of championships makes everyone sit up and take notice, but the team that gave them the most trouble was the Rangers, most notably the Smurf line. There was a hint there.

    There are any number of factors exogenous to talent that sustained this dynamic (steroids leaps to mind) but the simple fact I always found astounding was how do you sacrifice a fifth or sixth of your playing bench to men who can’t skate against other men who can’t skate?

    Me, I’m all for a tough, gritty checker, and a guy like Scott Stevens planting an open ice hit has its own risks, but it’s in the context of the game. Why you send two WWE tag teams out on the ice for 45 seconds every three or four shifts baffled me. I’d rather the other guy sent a bunch of tangle foots out while I sent a scorer who could lap it up and force the other team to shorten the bench.

    • I have to agree. The greatest NHL players – Gretzky, Orr, and others of their stature — didn’t fight, but they won. This is just a pathology in the culture of hockey.

      • Happy Jack

        Dave Semenko and Terry O’Reilly did the fighting.

        • Tybalt

          But not the winning. Everyone has goons (well, had goons, now most of the best teams don’t bother) but skill wins out and has for 40 years.

          • Latverian Diplomat

            I think the point is that if you tried to mess with Gretzky, Semenko would come after you. Thus, his reputation as “Gretzky’s bodyguard”. That’s why “everyone has goons”.

            The point to draw is not, the best players rise above all that, it’s that fighting is a systemic problem that needs a systemic solution.

            • Happy Jack

              Yes. Hard to let those skills shine if you’re the recipient of frequent cheap shots. As the game was structured then, you would have a hard time winning without enforcers.

              I do have a quibble about enforcers not contributing to winning. As someone who grew up watching the old IHL, there was no shortage of knuckleheads. Goons had to have some skills beyond fisticuffs. Semenko, Gillies, Probert were all capable of game winners.

              • Keaaukane

                A discussion of hockey goons without a mention of the Hanson Brothers feels incomplete.

                • Happy Jack

                  I mentioned the IHL, where Jeff Carlson played, if you can call it that. I remember Steve as a coach in the minors.

      • efgoldman

        The greatest NHL players – Gretzky, Orr, and others of their stature — didn’t fight

        Gretzky didn’t (you wouldn’t either, if you had Messier on your wing). Wayne Cashman and Ted Green were mostly Orr’s protectors – O’Reilly didn’t come to the Bruins until 72-73.
        Orr fought some. Seven times in 69-70, six the next year, and scattered other times.

  • Aimai

    I really disliked the Mark Schmitt piece, what I read of it, because of the way it treated Schock’s corruption. It is not true that he engaged in only “victimless crimes” and merely moved money around within legal categories. He accepted the services of the woman who decorated his office suite for free. IIRC he was also a massive fundraiser and gave money to other Republicans in order to gain influence in Republican congressional circles. Schmitt seems to be arguing that Congressmen are generally bought retail by outside money, but there is so much more money sloshing around in Congress than direct billionaire to Congressman donations. There are PACs and there are transfers between Congressmen to increase clout. Nancy Pelosi is an enormous fundraising machine and always has been–for an example from our side–and she has shrewdly used that money to rise in power and to secure power.

    Anyone who thinks that Schock was simply doing what he was doing to become some kind of pop cultural icon is nuts. He had goals within congress but he shrewdly saw that the way to achieve them was not to be an anonymous back bencher but to have a high profile.

    • cpinva

      you and I must have read two different articles. in the one I read, he very specifically pointed out schock’s ability to hand out excess campaign fund contributions to other republicans, for this exact purpose. he could do this because his district is very safe for R’s.

  • Anon21

    I thought the Marie Gottschalk interview was great. Just hitting so many points that are often left out of the conversation when intelligent, engaged lefties talk criminal justice policy. You can’t leave out offenders who have committed “serious,” violent, or sexual offenses–even if they deserve to be punished, they’re being punished far too much under our current policies. You can’t treat conditions of confinement as a wholly separate problem. You can’t blame it all on the private prison companies–even if you shut down all of their facilities tomorrow and released the inmates, it would put only a small dent in the overall incarceration picture.

    I’ll definitely be picking up her book.

    • witlesschum

      Very much agree with this. The point she brought up about trying to end racial disparities in sentencing was especially good. If the solution to black kids get locked up for weed and white kids don’t is to start locking up white kids at comparable rates, we’ve just made society worse.

      I’ve started to read a little bit about prison abolition types and definitely think we need to stop using using prison for everything and stop using the criminal justice system to do so many things in general.

  • so-in-so

    I suspect people figure if you start locking up white kuds at the same rate, that will force the system to change. The problem, you would have to lock up rich kids at the same rate to get real traction, and there are so many points their parents can get them off (and reasons they are less likely to even be apprehended in the first place) that it isn’t a workable strategy.

    • cpinva

      “The problem, you would have to lock up rich kids at the same rate to get real traction, and there are so many points their parents can get them off (and reasons they are less likely to even be apprehended in the first place) that it isn’t a workable strategy.”

      it actually could be. it would require that judges in those cases ignore the plea agreements made between the prosecutors, and the rich kid’s $400 an hour attorney, and sentence them as they would any other kid who was represented by a public defender. it would also require the police to actually arrest those rich kids, instead of just confiscating their drugs (for their personal use later) and letting them off with a “warning”.

      absent this, and you’re absolutely right.

      • Anon21

        it would require that judges in those cases ignore the plea agreements made between the prosecutors, and the rich kid’s $400 an hour attorney, and sentence them as they would any other kid who was represented by a public defender.

        Not gonna work. The first time a judge pulls that stunt, good chance he gets reversed on appeal. There is no second time, because the $400/hour defense lawyer starts demanding charge bargains, with charges that cap the judge’s discretion to sentence.

        Prosecutors completely control our modern criminal justice system. Judges can occasionally evade that in a case or two, but the prosecutor always has more resources to obtain their desired outcome across the vast majority of cases.

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