Recently in General Category

To listen to BLM and its allies, Amerika is hellbent to imprison those it "dislikes," with African Americans heading the list.

Like so much the Left says, it's simply false.  As the Washington Post writes in an article by Stanford Professor Keith Humphreys, "Black incarceration hasn't been this low in a generation."

Th[e] heated debate about whether the 1994 [Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act] is responsible for African Americans increasingly being behind bars can never be resolved, for a reason that may surprise many observers: The African American imprisonment rate has been declining for many years. Indeed, the likelihood of African American men and women being in prison today is lower than it was a generation ago when the law was passed...

I would love to think (but don't) that the Left is merely behind the times rather than deceitful.  Unfortunately, since it has spent years falsely claiming that more incarceration doesn't contribute significantly to decreasing crime, and months falsely claiming that violent crime is at "historic lows" (it's been rising since 2014), belief in its mere failure to keep up has become impossible.

I should note that the decrease in the rate of black incarceration began on approximately the day George W. Bush became President, and has continued under his successor.  In addition, the amount of the decrease in the incarceration rate for black males over that time is an amazingly large 23%, and the decrease for black females more than twice that much.

You Only Have to Connect Two Dots

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Let's see if liberals who would end "criminalization" of what they call "minor" offenses can see any relationship between these two stories.  The first is from May 27:

New York City formally passed legislation this week that steers punishment for offenses such as public urination, littering, and drinking in public away from criminal court....[The bill's main sponsor] said on Wednesday that the reform "is going to change trajectories for countless New Yorkers," according to an [AP] report.

The second, from yesterday, is titled, "Crackheads, Bums and Hookers Rule Washington Square Park":

Just three weeks before NYU's newest class moves into the area, a group of junkies and crackheads has turned a leafy pathway in Washington Square Park into an open-air drug den -- and the NYPD is doing nothing about it.

As many as 20 strung-out vagrants have taken over several benches in the park's northwest corner, where they openly consume hard drugs just steps from the children's playground, outraged neighbors said.

Those who forget the past, etc.

From an essay in the current Claremont Review of Books by John Marini:

[Today's] intellectuals have pronounced their historical judgment on America's past, finding it to be morally indefensible. Every great human achievement of the past--whether in philosophy, religion, literature, or the humanities--came to be understood as a kind of exploitation of the powerless. Rather than allowing the past to be viewed in terms of its aspirations and accomplishments, it has been judged by its failures. The living part of the past is understood in terms slavery, racism, and identity politics. Political correctness arose as the practical and necessary means of enforcing this historical judgment. No public defense of past greatness could be allowed to live in the present. Public morality and public policy would come to be understood in terms of the formerly oppressed.

The entire essay (not short) is here.

I bring this up because, ultimately, the problem we are having with fidelity to law  -- what with, among many other things, the surge in violent crime and the denial and cluelessness we see in response  --  reminds me of what we saw in the Seventies.  It was another time of cultural rot impersonating advanced thinking.

In academia, then as now, the professoriate was an accomplice when it wasn't a ringleader.  From my minor post at Georgetown Law, I respectfully dissent.
We don't need to guess about what liberal policies like widespread sentencing reduction and less proactive policing will do to our citizens, and minorities in particular.  We already have a good deal of evidence.

The most recent is yesterday's story out of a one-party, "progressive" city, Chicago:  "Homicide Rate Surging for Black Chicagoans, Report Finds."  Mayor Rahm Emanuel told us why in a moment of remarkable candor last fall.

Then there's the murder wave overtaking another one-party, "progressive" (and largely black) city, Baltimore. I covered that story a couple of days ago, with special thanks to "space to destroy" Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and "plenty-of-talk-but-no-convictions" State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Then there's the national picture on murder, a picture uglier and more ominous now than it has been for decades.  It is true, as former Attorney General Eric Holder said last night, that "violent crime has gone down since President Obama took office." What Mr. Holder neglected to mention was that (1) it has gone down in significant measure because of policies he, the President, and Hillary Clinton are doing their best to reverse, and (2) since his successor was installed in April 2015, the murder rate in America's largest cities (where blacks tend to be concentrated) has skyrocketed.  If the trend that has been in place since Loretta Lynch took the reins continues, by Christmas, we will have lost six years of gains against violent crime.

If this is what you want for America's future, you know where to throw your support.

The Wall Street Journal carries an article of considerable concern.  It's titled, "Murders Rise in 29 of the Largest Cities in First Half of 2016."  It starts:

The number of murders in 29 of the nation's largest cities rose during the first six months of the year, according to the results of a survey released by the Major Cities Chiefs Association on Monday.

Overall, homicides jumped 15% in the 51 large cities that submitted crime data, compared with the same year-ago period. 

The article notes that the 15% figure is artificially high to some extent because of Chicago's out-of-control violent crime and the gruesome Jihadist attack in Orlando. What it fails to note is that murder rose by 17% in the 50 largest cities last year. An increase of 17% in 2015, combined with (even an inflated) increase of 15% so far in 2016, is shocking.  There's no other way to put it.

Shocking, that is, unless, like the Major Cities Chiefs  --  an overwhelmingly liberal group that marches arm-in-arm with the Brennan Center  --  you have a stake in minimizing the problem.

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.

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