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by Peter Moskos

July 29, 2011

...Stop Digging!

From the AP:
The number of homicides in Mexico rose by nearly a quarter in 2010 compared to the year before as the drug war intensified across the country, Mexican statisticians said Thursday.

The National Institute of Statistics and Geography recorded 24,374 homicides over the course of last year, a 23 percent increase from 19,803 in 2009. Last year's figure represented 22 killings for every 100,000 residents in the country.
Another way to look at this: Mexico's homicide rate is still about half of Baltimore's.

July 28, 2011

"Justice? Vengeance? You Need Both"

Thoughtful piece by Thane Rosenbaum in today's New York Times:
It’s difficult to have honest conversations about revenge. Seeing someone receive his just deserts often feels righteous and richly deserved, and yet society regards vengeance as primitive and barbaric. Governments warn citizens not to take justice into their own hands, insisting that the state alone has the duty and right to punish wrongdoers — pursuant to the social contract.

...statements of unvarnished revenge make many uncomfortable. But how different is revenge from justice, really? Every legal system, however dispassionate and procedural, must still pass the gut test of seeming morally just; and revenge must always be just and proportionate.

July 15, 2011

The Real Life Omar

Omar from The Wire, that is. The story from the Balto Sun.

[thanks to a reader]

Ways to Fix Prison

USA Today has five ways to fix our prison system. I have a sixth.

The California Prisoner Hunger Strike...

...enters it's second week. From the S.F. Weekly:
Activists and inmates say the strike is meant to call attention to inhumane conditions in Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit (SHU), where dangerous prisoners are lodged in small, windowless cells, often without access to other people or open space for extended periods. Critics of the SHU say that solitary confinement is equivalent to psychological torture, a position that is buttressed by recent scientific research.
Here's a more current update from The Nation.

Or, as Johann Koehler relates it to In Defense of Flogging in a thoughtful blog post:
The question of whether you’d prefer flogging instead of prison is nowhere near as grotesque as whether you’d prefer to starve yourself to raise awareness than tolerate another day of institutionally sanctioned torture. One is a fanciful thought experiment. It’s fiction. For 400 people, the other is acutely real.

July 9, 2011

We got another kingpin!

Those Mexican drug kingpins are dropping like flies. By my count this makes eight! Let me know when the violence stops.

July 2, 2011

Flogging in CT

Gregory Hladky of the Hartford Advocate writes one of the better pieces on In Defense of Flogging (not that I like to pick favorites, because like the children I don't have, I love them all). But this one is more interesting than many.

July 1, 2011

While I'm out...

Play with these census data.

In the past, to gather data like this (change in neighborhood population and demographics over 10 years) used to be so much work and take so long.

From 1990 to 2000, the Eastern District lost about 30% of its population. (In 2002 it took me days of work to figure that out.)

Between 2000 and 2010 the population of the Eastern decreased another 18%, bringing its population to roughly 37,750. (In 2011, it took me about an hour to figure that out.) With 39 homicides in 2010, the Eastern has a homicide rate of 103 per 100,000. Some things never change.

(And it seems worth pointing out that there were another 7 murders just south of the Eastern in the Southeast, north of Patterson Park and south of Monument Street.)


I'm off to New Mexico for a few days. Don't expect much action here till next weekend.

Happy 4th! Don't forget to read the Declaration of Independence.

"A bargain like that is a bargain for me!"

The good people at Basic Books have been kind (or clever) enough to put the first part of In Defense of Flogging up on the book's website...

For free!

"Free," you ask, "why would they do that?" Duh... So you love the start, get the cliffhanging end, and buy the book!

Download the pdf file. Link to it. Email it to friends. Seed illegal downloads with the file. Print out the pages and scatter them from planes on the 4th of July weekend. Staple the pages to trees. Paste them to lampposts. Go guerrilla and project the images onto large urban walls. The possibilities are endless.

Police Lay Offs

I still find it a bit shocking that cities big and small are laying-off police officers. The latest is San Jose, which laid-off 66 police officers with the least seniority:
In addition to the cops let go, the city cut nearly 100 police positions left vacant by recent retirements and departures The police force shrunk from 1,271 to 1,106 officers, fewer cops than the city had two decades ago,http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif when San Jose had 200,000 fewer people. Police Chief Chris Moore called it "one of the saddest days I've had in my career."

Collar for Dollars

My article is in the July issue of Reason is available online:
When I was a police officer in Baltimore, one sergeant would sometimes motivate his troops in the middle of a shift change by joyfully shouting, “All right, you maggots! Let’s lock people up! They don’t pay you to stand around. I want production! I want lockups!” He said this while standing in front of a small sign he most likely authored: “Unlike the citizens of the Eastern District, you are required to work for your government check.”

In the police world, there are good arrests and better arrests, but there is no such thing as a bad arrest. In recent years, measures of “productivity” have achieved an almost totemic significance. And because they are so easy to count, arrests have come to outweigh more important but harder-to-quantify variables such as crimes prevented, fights mitigated, or public fears assuaged.
The drug war, because it can’t be won, encourages outward signs of police effectiveness at the expense of good old-fashioned policing. Hard-working cops, especially those who ask for little more than a middle-class income in return for the dangerous work they do, turn to drug arrests to make ends meet. The Baltimore sergeant was right: Police officers do need to work for their government check. It’s a shame “collars for dollars” has become the easiest way to do it.
Read the rest here.