Posts Tagged ‘crime and punishment’

Crime and punishment roundup

  • “Regulatory Crimes and the Mistake of Law Defense” [Paul Larkin, Heritage]
  • Victims of sex offender registry laws, cont’d [Lenore Skenazy]
  • James Forman, Jr.: case against mass incarceration can stand on its own without flawed Jim Crow analogy [Boston Review and N.Y.U. Law Review, 2011-12]
  • “For-profit immigration jails, where the inmates — convicted of nothing — work for less than peanuts.” [@dangillmor on Los Angeles Times]
  • “The New Science of Sentencing: Should prison sentences be based on crimes that haven’t been committed yet?” [Marshall Project on statistically derived risk assessments in sentencing]
  • Group of 600 New England United Methodist churches issues resolution calling for an end to Drug War [Alex Tabarrok, who was also profiled the other day]
  • Prison guard in Florida speaks up about witnessing abuse of inmate, and pays a price [disturbing content, Miami Herald]

An observation on the $135,000 cake refusal

Has anyone noted that the “Ferguson syndrome” of ruinously escalating fines for petty violations [covered widely in the liberal press, and here previously], and Oregon’s ordering of a couple to pay $135,000 for not complying with a request to bake a cake (being covered at AP, widely in the conservative press, and here previously, with related], might actually amount in part to the same issue?

P.S. On Twitter, colleague Jason Kuznicki and I discuss the issue a little further. He writes: “Can’t say I agree. Punitive fines are really hidden taxes. The bakery issue is about punishing crimethink.” I respond: “But with sensible damages calculation (i.e. circa zero) the bakery action would lose much of its power to intimidate. Also, there’s debate: are oppressive local fines ‘just’ a revenue abuse (typically our side’s view) or a wider #NewJimCrow? Or to put it yet another way: once you allow oppressive fines, don’t be surprised if they are used to oppress.”

143 Texas bikers in jail

Some of the 143 jailed bikers no doubt played a guilty role in a spectacular motorcycle club shootout that left nine dead at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco. Some say they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, including a 30 year old volunteer firefighter who says he has no criminal record and tried to hide during the violence. In either event, no one important seems to care, although some defense-lawyer and civil-liberties types grouse about an “unprecedented…wholesale roundup of people” for “being at the scene of a crime” under a principle of “Let’s arrest them all and sort it out later.” Bail for many has been set at a prohibitive $1 million apiece, and no formal charges have been brought. “Under Texas law, a grand jury has 90 days to indict those in custody before they are entitled to reduced bonds.” Police say they consider the matter to be one of organized crime and that an investigation is ongoing. [Molly Hennessy-Fiske, L.A. Times] More: Scott Greenfield. Update: Texas Tribune (bail process crawls forward, more commentators raising questions about process).

Jailed for missing school: the problem with truancy laws

My new piece at Reason begins:

We’ve seen it happen again and again: libertarians are derided over some supposedly crazy or esoteric position, years pass, and eventually others start to see why our position made sense. It’s happened with asset forfeiture, with occupational licensure, with the Drug War, and soon, perhaps, with libertarians’ once-lonely critique of school truancy laws.

In his 1980 book Free To Choose, economist Milton Friedman argued that compulsory school attendance laws do more harm than good, a prescient view considering what’s come since: both Democratic and Republican lawmakers around the country, prodded by the education lobby, have toughened truancy laws with serious civil and even criminal penalties for both students and parents. Now the horror stories pile up: the mom arrested and shackled because her honor-roll son had a few unexcused sick days too many, the teenagers managing chaotic home lives who are threatened with juvenile detention for their pains, the mother who died in jail after being imprisoned for truancy fines. It’s been called carceral liberalism: we’re jailing you, your child, or both, but don’t worry because it’s for your own good. Not getting enough classroom time could really ruin a kid’s life.

My article also mentions that a bill to reform Texas’s super-punitive truancy laws has reached Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, following the reported success of an experiment in San Antonio and pressure from a Marshall Project report. Finally, truancy-law reform is looking to become an issue across the political spectrum — but libertarians were there first. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty).

Banking and finance roundup

More riot notes

From Twitter, some further thoughts on the Baltimore riots and their implications:

In response, Twitter user @hamilt0n cites this NBER paper by William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo on the (very harmful) labor market effects of the 1960s riots, adds: “Riots=more spending, higher taxation, rich are mobile and flee, poor get stuck with the bill”

Sweetness and light in a New York Times “Crips and Bloods gangs come together to save Baltimore” story:

More from Liz Mair on how the rights just go to show what you already believed; Cathy Young (arguing, inter alia, that any system is going to accord police suspected of wrongdoing some advantages over other citizens in those circumstances and we might just as well accept this). Meanwhile, the seven-day 10 p.m. curfew threatens the livelihoods of thousands of Baltimoreans and small businesses [New York Times, Baltimore Sun]

The economics of rioting

Following the outbreak of serious riots on the streets of Baltimore, I wrote a post yesterday at Cato:

…More than twenty years ago in the Cato Journal, distinguished law and economics scholars David Haddock and Daniel Polsby published a paper entitled “Understanding Riots” that’s still highly relevant in making sense of events like these. Employing familiar economic concepts such as opportunity cost, coordination problems, and free-rider issues, Haddock and Polsby help explain why riots cluster around sports wins as well as assassinations, funerals, and jury verdicts; the group psychology of rioting, and why most crowds never turn riotous; the important role of focal points (often lightly policed commercial areas) and rock-throwing “entrepreneurs” of disorder; the tenuous relationship between riots and root causes or contemporary grievances; and why when a riot occurs the police (at least those in places like the United States and United Kingdom) seldom manage to be in enough places at once, more or less by definition.

I conclude that pundits and the news media are continuing to get the story wrong about riots like those in Baltimore, and link to the Haddock and Polsby article itself. The post is here.

P.S.: This is neat: Jack Shafer at Politico takes and runs with some of the paper’s analysis about prevention strategies and the spread of information about riot locations. And Jesse Walker looks further at the role of “outside agitators.”