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The New and Dangerous Junk Science -- Criminology

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Kent noted two weeks ago an article showing that the conclusions of the academic "experts"called criminologists tend to be skewed by their leftist tendencies.  One could hardly imagine a better example than the "report" noted this morning here at Sentencing Law and Polcy. The title of the entry is, "Jeff Sessions's evidence-free crime strategy." It's by John Jay College Professor David Kennedy.

I won't try to gussy it up:  Jeff Sessions should be flattered to be criticized by an article so thoroughly truth-free as this
The article's excerpt, presented by Prof. Doug Berman, goes on at greater length than I am inclined to answer in full, but a few juicy tidbits will suffice. I'll take it from the top.

The emerging Department of Justice crime-control strategy is a criminologist's nightmare. Over the last thirty years researchers, law enforcement leaders and communities have pushed for smarter, better violence prevention -- spurred in large part by the incredible violence and community destruction of the crack era, and the utter failure of existing approaches to do anything about it.

When the first paragraph concludes with a point-blank lie, you know you're in for a humdinger.  Over the last 30 years (26, actually), "existing approaches" have had astonishing success against violent crime, sending rates down by approximately half.  

Only in the nose-in-the-air world of legal academia does astonishing success count as "utter failure." 

The article then notes, correctly, that it's only a tiny percentage of the population that accounts for the lion's share of violent crime (oddly, it fails to note that an even smaller percentage of the population, less than 0.7 percent, is in prison for violent and every other sort of crime).

So what should we to do about this "small group of criminals?" It's a critical question. Sessions has called for a return to the "war on drugs" menu -- more law enforcement, mandatory minimums and long sentences, even the anti-drug D.A.R.E. program -- plus a new focus on heavy immigration enforcement and a withdrawal from DOJ attention to police misconduct. But we now know for a fact that these things don't work, and can actually make matters worse.

Good grief.  First, Sessions has called for  --  ready now?  --  enforcing existing law. I mean, how could he?  He has also re-instituted the policy begun by Jimmy Carter's Attorney General (Ben Civiletti) and followed for most of the Obama Administration, to wit, charging the defendant with what he actually did  --  or, as DOJ has aptly put it, with the most serious readily provable offense.

Oh, the inhumanity of it.  Not hiding the ball (i.e., the true drug drug amount) from the court when writing the indictment  --  surely a return to barbarism if ever there was one!

And yes, Sessions also believes that the Executive Branch should enforce laws against illegal immigration as Congress has put them on the books (even while President Trump has asked for a more practical re-writing).  This might be because Sessions read the part of the Constitution directing the Executive to "faithfully execute" the law. Perhaps the Attorney General missed the next phrase that reads, "faithfully execute the parts of the law presently approved by Manhattan liberals but otherwise take a hike."

Finally, the notion that more enforcement, more police, more proactive policing,more rule-guided sentencing, and more use of incarceration  --  in other words, the bi-partisan policies of the Bush-Clinton-Bush era  -- "don't work, and can actually make matters worse" is such a complete and demonstrable flight of fancy as to make one wonder less about the article's honesty than its basic grasp of reality.

To understand why, and to see what does work, we should look to the groundbreaking front-line police and community actors who have been developing creative solutions that are more effective, less harmful and profoundly more respectful of traumatized and alienated communities than the old and demonstrably ineffective and discredited menu. 

The goo-goo vocabulaty in which this is written ("groundbreaking front-line...community actors..."  "developing creative solutions..."respectful of traumatized and alienated communities...") is tip-off enough  --  but again, it's less the gusher of ooze than the pure mendacity that jumps out at you.

The "groundbreaking" recent work apparently refers to (what I concede is) the success over the last two to three years of state-oriented sentencing reduction efforts.  This coincides exactly with the recent increase in violent crime across America, the first such two-year increase in decades and a sharp one at that  -- but an increase the author nowhere mentions.

At some point, Leftist legal academics might come to understand that, while it might like seem otherwise from their $900,000 homes in Scarsdale and Bronxville, what traumatizes minority communities is not the policing and incarceration policies that made their neighborhoods so much safer over the last generation, but the restoration (with fanicier, diversionary names) of the disastrous policies of the Sixties and Seventies that made them so much more dangerous.

If the Left would ever look at the data it falsely claims to value (e.g., the copious evidence set forth for months in the Washington Post's series "Second Chance City"), it might awaken to what actually does work and what actually does fail  --  or, for example, to the fact that black communities, like every other, will respect the police for doing the job they're paid to do, rather than staging Very Sensitive Community Gatherings at Starbucks.

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Were President Obama's commutations based on "best practices",
or thoughtless indulgence?

Syracuse crack dealer freed by Obama faces jail over missed drug tests
September 22, 2017
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Dewayne Comer, 47, will appear in federal court Friday
to ask a judge not to send him back to prison.
Probation officials said in court papers that Comer failed to report for 4 drug tests, most recently over Labor Day Weekend. Testing was required as part of Comer's supervised release.

Nine people, including Common Councilor Helen Hudson, Centerstate CEO Deputy Director Dan Cowen and Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County head
Sally Curran, wrote letters of support on behalf of Comer ahead of Friday's

Ringleader in huge 1997 drug trial to be freed early by Obama vows to
make amends

August 8, 2016
A federal courtroom was packed with 11 criminal defendants in March 1997.
They were all on trial at once for their roles in a million-dollar drug ring.

It was then and likely still is the most defendants to stand trial at the same time
in the 32-county Northern District of New York, which includes Central N Y.

"You're going to get out before Christmas," Peebles told him.
Peebles gave his mother the news too. "I just started shouting,"
Mary Comer said. "I started thanking Jesus.''

Mary Comer pleaded guilty in 1997 to letting her son use her home to sell crack cocaine. Most of the phone calls police intercepted came from her home. She
was sentenced to probation.


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