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Pyramid schemes are illegal, but what exactly is a pyramid scheme?  Herbalife will not be called a pyramid scheme, according to its agreement with the FTC, but that will cost it 200 megabucks. That's a lot of protein shakes. 

David Benoit and Brent Kendall report for the WSJ.
Liberals know that it will be harder than ever to sell sentencing reduction and other versions of criminal justice "reform" if crime is heading up.  This is the main reason they lie about our current, quite troubling crime statistics, see Kent's entry here and mine here.

They did it again today.  Washington, DC's police chief, no less, claimed that robberies are down 20% in the District.

The Washington Post looked into it.  The claim is point-blank false.  Robberies are up notably (although probably not as much as murder).

President Obama Quotes Ronald Reagan

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Tear down this wall

CJLF Newsletter

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CJLF's current newsletter, the Spring/Summer 2016 issue, is now available on our website.  The newsletter describes the cases we have been involved in and the outcomes.

Hard copies are mailed to all our contributors, regardless of amount.

Ivy League Nonsense

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A common shtick in academic circles is to say something so counterintuitive, so shocking that it is guaranteed to get you some attention.  That appears to be the angle of Cornell law professor Joe Margulies.   Professor Margulies is very concerned about mass incarceration.  So much so that when asked who should be let out of prison he had this to say:

If the professor could pick one category of the incarcerated population to release today, he said it would likely be the people who committed very serious offenses and have been in prison for a long time.

Margulies didn't name any specific offenses, but if individuals sentenced to more than 25 years in prison were released today, it would certainly include those guilty of such crimes as sexual assault and murder. 

Even though it seems counterintuitive, Margulies insisted that releasing the longtime prison dwellers would not necessarily pose a threat to society. 

"The kind of person they were when they went into prison often just doesn't exist anymore," Margulies said. "Keeping them in prison offers no chance for redemption, and no one is a monster."

They're even the group that's least likely to recidivate, or wind back up in prison, he said. He added this is common knowledge for people familiar with the criminal-justice system -- but not so obvious to the average citizen.

From a 2014 study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

  • About two-thirds (67.8%) of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within 3 years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within 5 years. 
  • Within 5 years of release, 82.1% of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 76.9% of drug offenders, 73.6% of public order offenders, and 71.3% of violent offenders.
  • More than a third (36.8%) of all prisoners who were arrested within 5 years of release were arrested within the first 6 months after release, with more than half (56.7%) arrested by the end of the first year.
So in the technical sense the good professor is correct, violent offenders recidivate less than other types of offenders.  But the logical next question to ask is why might that be? 

That is because violent offenders spend more time incarcerated compared to other offenders and therefore do not have the same opportunity to commit new crimes.   Incarceration has well known incapacitating effects. 

Yet even when they are released, almost three quarters of violent offenders will commit new crimes, often violent crimes - as the BJS study shows.  And that matters.  To have your car stolen is frustrating; to be raped, beaten or murdered is to have your dignity, your humanity, even your life taken away. 

The American Constitution Society hosted a panel that addressed this topic:

Marginalized, disproportionately low-income communities, including communities of color, sexual minorities and transgender people, have a fraught relationship with the criminal justice system. Overcriminalization and overincarceration, the inevitable consequences of our current criminal justice policies, rob marginalized communities of financial and human capital, and exacerbate these communities' lack of political and economic power. Over- and under-policing (in which police aggressively police communities for minor crimes while failing to prevent or investigate major, violent crimes) fail to adequately address threats of violence, both at the hands of criminals and the police. What measures best empower these communities to achieve the political and economic influence to ensure self-determination and prevent continued mistreatment by the criminal justice system?

I am grateful that I was invited to present a dissenting viewpoint, which I started out by noting, in my typically diplomatic way, that I disagreed with the ACS's conclusions, but not as much as I do with their even more misguided premises.

The discussion is here.  I am especially in the debt of the panel's moderator, Kanya Bennett, Legislative Counsel to the Washington Office of the ACLU.
Kent points to an excellent article by Professor Richard Epstein in the current issue of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (vol. 39, no. 3).  The issue also contains an interesting student note on the history of the John M. Olin Fellowship program sponsored by the Federalist Society. 

As a fellow Olin fellow, I can attest to the strengths of the program.  Each year this competitive fellowship places smart, ambitious conservative and libertarian scholars at some of the finest law schools in the country.  My fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School was a time that I treasured, enjoying the privilege of working closely with the keen minds of people such as Stephen Morse, David Skeel, Stephanos Bibas, and Paul Robinson to name just a few. 

But the stark reality is that there is very little intellectual diversity in the legal academy and despite the efforts of the Olin Fellowship, conservative and libertarian thinking is an endangered species among law faculty: 

As Eugene Meyer, the President of the Federalist Society, observed, Dean Kagan both deserved and did not deserve credit for increasing ideological diversity on Harvard's faculty. Meyer posed the following hypothetical to illustrate his point: Say you have a school with 100 members on the faculty, one of whom is conservative. If you hire two more conservatives, do you say that the number of conservatives has tripled, or do you say that only three percent of the faculty is conservative?  It is also notable that in the ten years since Dean Kagan hired Manning, Goldsmith, and Vermeule, not a single conservative has been hired at Harvard (at 918-19). 

It is a real shame that such conditions continue in the Academy because it leads to an intellectual sterility that is at least partially responsible for irrelevancy of legal scholarship.   Judge Posner bemoans the flaccidity of legal scholarship - well when everyone is saying essentially the same thing then there isn't much insight to drive decision making. 

A Clue from Brexit

Everyone writing on a blog will have one take or another from yesterday's vote by the UK to leave the European Union, and I don't want to be an exception.

The thing that most struck me about the backing for remaining in the EU was how much it resembled the backing in this country for undertaking sentencing reform: The "bi-partisan consensus;" nearly uniform enthusiasm from academia, think tanks and those who see themselves as better educated; overwhelming support from the mainstream press; likewise from the urban and the urbane; and the cheerleading from celebrities.

And one more thing  --  the premature, and false, claim of victory.  The most recent British polls showed the public favoring remaining in the EU, just as sentencing reformers claim majority public support for giving judges more discretion (at least until the unwelcome fact comes out of what happens when they use it). 

Our Betters inside the capital city and in academia are not about to take any lessons, either from the Brexit vote or from the fact they can't move sentencing reform.  The idea that "We Know Better than You People with Big Hair," and the silky self-righteousness behind it, are too firmly entrenched.

Those of us favoring the present national sentencing structure and the crime reduction it has helped bring about would be ill-advised to look for any congratulations.  We'll have to be content  --  so it would seem for the moment  -- merely to win.

There are lots of things wrong with the Trump campaign. Most recently, the Pulitzer-prize winning fact-checker Politifact analyzed Trump's warnings about rising crime.  It found them to be distortions, noting that crime has been falling for decades. Politifact rated Trump's June 7, 2016, claim that "crime is rising" to be "Pants on Fire"--their lowest rating.

Someone's pants are on fire, yes, but it's not Donald Trump's. As AEI observes, Polifact checked figures only up to the end of 2014.  That would be a year and a half ago.  Now it's true crime statistics can be slow.  But they're not that slow, as Polifact full well knew when it wrote its article.  As AEI found:

Preliminary figures for 2015 are public but curiously the fact-checker doesn't cite them -- although the data were available in January 2016, well before the post was published. The FBI's preliminary 2015 figures actually do show crime rising in most categories across the country between 2014 and 2015. Violent crime (i.e. murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault) is up. For example, the murder rate rose 6.2% in 2015, while rape rose 9.6%.

Indeed, the 2015 increase in murder is, as the National Institutes of Justice found, "real and nearly unprecedented."

But wait.  It gets worse.

Russian Government Hacks DNC

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Ellen Nakashima reports for the WaPo:

Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.

The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC's system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts.
Hacking is a federal crime, but I doubt the feds are going to prosecute the government of Russia.
A.  Starting in the early to mid-Sixties, and for the next 25 years or so, the country gave judges almost unlimited sentencing discretion and earnestly believed in the possibilities of rehab. The prison population was a fraction of what it is now.  Violent crime surged.  

Starting in roughly 1990, and for about the 25 years after that (up to 2015), the country reined in sentencing discretion and became skeptical about rehab.  It also adopted aggressive, pro-active policing.  The prison population ballooned to record levels.  Violent crime rates decreased by half, the largest drop over the shortest time in American history.

B.  In August 2014, after Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, MO, was falsely portrayed as a murderer for acting in self-defense against a 292 pound small-time thief who came at him, academia and the Left have routinely portrayed police as pigs, and the "sentencing reform" (i.e., mass sentencing reduction) movement has started to succeed, now having reduced the overall prison population for several years.

As Kent notes, violent crime is  --  guess what!  --  spiking.  No serious person any longer denies this.  But the "experts" tell us the whole thing is a big mystery, and, whatever the cause, certainly there is no relationship between A and B.  

This stance actually conveys considerable information.  It tells us a good deal about how "expert" they are, and how completely they take the rest of us for fools.

A Swiss Army Dagger?

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Not in California.

People v. Castillolopez, S218861, decided by the California Supreme Court yesterday:
"Criminal Justice Reform" is the name usually given to the movement to reduce incarceration.  Sometimes, although less frequently, it denotes efforts to scale back proactive policing.

I've spent a good deal of time opposing these efforts, for pragmatic reasons if for no others.  The fact is that increased use of incarceration and more aggressive policing are two of the principal causes of the huge decrease in crime victimization over the last generation.  I don't know of any serious person who denies this fact.

Today, I saw in the (very) liberal journal ThinkProgess an article titled "North Carolina's Bathroom Law Is Invigorating the Push for Criminal Justice Reform." Down the page, I found this sentence:

Criminal justice reform is a critical issue for the trans community. From the time they are stopped until they land behind bars, trans people experience violence and discrimination at the hands of the system every step of the way.

It is, I suppose, possible this sweeping claim is true, but.....ummmm.....I have my doubts. In the 18 years I was an AUSA, not once did I even encounter anyone hinting that he or she was "trans," and still less did I see, or hear of, "violence and discrimination" against a transgendered person. Nor did sex per se have beans to do with whether a person would "land behind bars."  That was a function of their behavior.

Still, if this is the kind of over-the-moon support criminal justice "reform" is getting, I think I'll be able to relax my efforts.  With friends like this..................

I Am Not Making This Up, Either

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In my entry here, I insisted that I was not making up the story that, while President Obama labors to reduce the sentences of heroin dealers in the midst of a heroin epidemic, he was meeting with rappers  --  yes, rappers  -- to plumb the depths of criminal justice issues.

Hey, look, people, this is one serious administration when it comes to dealing with crime.

The ankle bracelet is a condition of [Ross's] release after his 2015 kidnapping charge.

The U.S. Marshals Service picked Ross up in Georgia last June and collared him for kidnapping, aggravated assault and aggravated battery after a dispute between the rapper and a man working on one of his homes.

Ross and a bodyguard allegedly forced the worker into a guesthouse bedroom and pistol-whipped him with a .9-mm Glock, according to police.

Though he was initially held without bail, in July TMZ reported that a judge allowed him to be released on $2 million bail with a GPS ankle monitor.

The reason you know I am not making this up is that no one could make it up.

I Am Not Making This Up

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This is the headline in today's The Hill:  "Obama, Rappers Meet on Criminal Justice Reform."

The story starts:

President Obama is meeting with a group of music stars on Friday to discuss his push for criminal justice reform and his initiaitve dedicated to helping young men and boys of color.

Rappers Busta Rhymes, Common, J. Cole, Wale, Ludacris and Chance the Rapper are all attending the meeting, according to a senior administration official. 

"Many of these artists have lent their voices and platforms to promoting these issues," the official said. "Through their own nonprofit work or artistic commitment, many of these artists have found ways to engage on the issues of criminal justice reform and empowering disadvantaged young people across the country."

The President's meeting with "Ludacris" says nearly all I am capable of writing about this, within the bounds of the polite discussion we like to maintain on C&C.

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