inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #26 of 101: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 14 Jul 07 08:40
I love Free Rnage Kids!

Why is it that so many people are enraged by the consequences of governing
through crime, yet still vote in a way that ensures we will be governed that
way? It is frustrating to know that it will be years before this trend will
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #27 of 101: Jack King (gjk) Sat 14 Jul 07 12:19

You've got it backwards.  People don't "vote" in a way that ensures
governing through crime.  Politicians vote in a way that ensures governing
through crime, and then campaign on a platform that includes, "LOOK WHAT I
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #28 of 101: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 14 Jul 07 14:03
People do vote in a way that ensures it.  They vote for the candidates that
are tough on crime. The candidates, in turn, remain tough on crime to get
elected. Vicious cycle.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #29 of 101: Doug Masson (dmasson) Sat 14 Jul 07 16:36
The Horrible Event is newsworthy and is something voters will remember
(and, if they don't, a challenging candidate will help them.) The benefits
of not being afraid are more subtle.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #30 of 101: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 15 Jul 07 00:48
Any comment on the various theories for why crime is going down? 
There was the theory a couple of years ago in Freakonomics that it was
because abortion was legalized, and now there's a theory that it was
due to the removal of lead from gasoline in the 70's.

inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #31 of 101: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sun 15 Jul 07 13:43
About fifteen years ago, I read *A General Theory of Crime*, which crunched
the numbers to posit that demographics make a whopper of a difference.
Specifically, populations with relatively many young men in their late teens
and early twenties had relatively much crime. It was pretty persuasive at
the time.

Ever since, my thoughts run to demographics and proportion-of-the-
population-that-is-male-and-in-late-adolescence when talk turns to crime
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #32 of 101: "The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sun 15 Jul 07 14:03
The adsolescent male problem has been dealt with traditionally by having
wars.  Alas, the survivors end up having lots of kids that are good at
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #33 of 101: Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Sun 15 Jul 07 22:44
The crime decline is fascinating.  The best book on it at the moment
is by my colleague Frank Zimring, The Great American Crime Decline. 
Zimring spends more time shooting down theories of convenience then he
does asserting any particular alternative, although he concludes that
New York City managed to do something that drove down violence much
more dramatically than practically any other part of the country
(probably policing).  

The real answer is that we do not know what caused the general down
turn (even if Zimring is right that improvements in policing helped
drive it down in NYC faster and deeper).  On my blog I report on one
recent theory that ties it to the abatement of led in gasoline during
the 1980s (lead has a proven clinical effect on human brains, i.e.,
reducing their capacity for impulse control) see,

Two quick points.

First, dropping crime rates will not get us out of governing through
crime.  The vast extension of preventive criminalization means that
prison populations will continue to grow even if serious crime
continues to decline.  New monsters like violent sexual predators will
continue to haunt our television screens no matter how low homicide
rates drop.

Second, reductions in violent crime make it possible to push Americans
to re-evaluate the need for mass incarceration and spatial segregation
strategies of security.  Once people come out of lock down mode the
improvements in their personal quality of life, and awareness of new
kinds of threats will hopefully out weight the continuing salience of
fear signals in our media and institutional environments.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #34 of 101: Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Mon 16 Jul 07 14:44
"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?", said
Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight
that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against -- then you'll
know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power
and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick,
and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men.
The only power that any government has is to crack down on criminals.
Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares
so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live
without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens?
What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that
can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted -- and
you create a nation of law-breakers -- and then you cash in on guilt.
Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you
understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."  -- Ayn Rand's
_Atlas Shrugged_ 

That paragraph was the defining advertisement for Atlas Shrugged in
the Whole Earth Catalog.  

Ayn Rand never admitted that she got her definition of government not
from Locke or Aristotle but from Max Weber: government is that
institution with the moral right to a monopoly on force.  When you talk
about turning governmenance to solving the problem of global warming
or whatever, all you are doing is defining a new class of criminals,
i.e, carbon-emitters or whatever.  

After my career in information systems was globalized, I fished about.
 As an old free trade capitalist, I could hardly complain that I had a
right to a good career.  And it was my second: I had just completed an
associate's in transportation mangement in 1976 when Reagan
decontrolled trucking in 1981 and killed the reading, writing, and
interpreting of ICC Tariffs.  So, I found a new career in security.  In
April, I graduated (with honors) from Washtenaw Community College (Ann
Arbor) with a degree in criminal justice and I am now a senior in
criminology at Eastern Michigan University.  My area of concentration
is police administration.

In 2005, I was appointed to the City-County Citizens Advisory Board on
Community Corrections.  I am in my second term.

One of my professors is Donna Selman (Killingeck).  I had her for
Community Corrections last semester.  (She is co-authoring a book with
Paul Leighton on the privatization of prisons. Dr. Leighton did not
have to do much to convince me that the purchase and resale of human
beings is generally a bad idea.)  For the community corrections class,
the book we used was BUT THEY ALL COME BACK by Jeremy Travis.  Jef's
remark about long prison terms cuts to the problem:  here is nice
liberal guy who just off the top of his well educated head thinks that
after 35 years in prison, you just cease to exist, instead of being
released to exactly the same spot you were arrested 35 years earlier...
only now, you have been your entire life in the most violent and
oppressive society imaginable...  welcome home, son...  It does not
work because it cannot work.  "Corrections" (so-called) is a
metaphysical impossibility.

One of the challenges to UN peacekeeping is that when the war is over,
crime rises.  For one thing, war _is_ crime, so there is that, and
when life is cheap, enforcement is unremitting,  but, basically, once
the aggressors cannot aggress each other, they find other victims.  

That brings us back to this topic.  Pick your numbers, but two-thirds
of all crimes are committed by one-third of the offenders.

Crime is real.

We have governments in hopes of preventing or minimizing crime.

Those who think that government cannot fight crime because government
_is_ crime are called anarachists.

Funny thing, though, I went to a prisoner art exhibit this winter and
one of the speakers talked about Native Americans in prisons --
reservations and internal colonization, etc. -- and she said, "Every
society has offenders.  We just never had prisons."
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #35 of 101: Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Mon 16 Jul 07 18:23
Great quote from Ayn Rand! Thanks for bringing it in (if there is more
good literary riffs on themes of crime and governance out there please
send me more).  

BTW. Nothing in my position turns on the idea that crime  is not
"real."  I'm interested in what happens when our response to real crime
(whether as state or citizen) increasingly becomes our default
response to the challenges of governing.  We are surrounded by real
risks from cancer, to crime, to global warming.  The questions of which
of those risks we take up as mandates for self and society, is what
gets interesting to me.    

I see libertarian arguments against criminal law, like Rand's, as very
attractive in many respects.  But what libertarians tend to not have a
 vocabulary to talk about is all the space of governance in between
the iconic images of the state defining you as a criminal and taking
direct control of you on one end, and that of freedom or consent and
contract on the other.  
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #36 of 101: Jack King (gjk) Mon 16 Jul 07 19:12

"[I]mprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and
rehabilitation." Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(a).

In reading the chapter on "waste management prisons," I was surprised not to
see that sentiment quoted, from the United States Code.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #37 of 101: Ludo, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Tue 17 Jul 07 05:22
>The questions of which of those risks we take up as mandates for self
and society, is what gets interesting to me.<

This hits it.  

BTW, reading Max Weber should be mandatory so that that all humans may
finally "get real" about life and society. For starters, I recommend
his essay "Politics as a Vocation" which is available on the web by
searching on the title. A note of caution: don't expect anything is the
way of warm fuzzies.    
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #38 of 101: PLEASE GOD, DO NOT GIFTWRAP YOUR ASS (vard) Tue 17 Jul 07 12:46

I find myself thinking about the "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy of 
local TV news. It is well established that people who watch local TV news 
on a regular basis significantly overestimate the prevalence of violent 
crime in their local communities, and are more fearful of personally 
becoming victims. I have certainly observed this in my own parents.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #39 of 101: Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Tue 17 Jul 07 13:45
Great points. 

My wife, the rare death penalty (defense) lawyer who can stomach
television crime shows, points out that as someone who basically does
not watch TV (ok John Stewart in recent years), I have no business
commenting on American culture, and especially the way crime influences
it (or vice a versa).  She's certainly right.

If I were more astute at studying media I would look at the way crime
has led to a nationalization of local media (bleed...lead..), and how
the disappearance of local knowledge generally helps fuel the national
crime imaginary.  ...The deep irony is that crime has been stretched
into a screen for national sovereignty when the best way to actually
fight crime is to localize it as much as possible, a direction that
both community policing (if done right) and restorative justice
projects may help take us but only if the feds (and to large extent the
states) get out of the way

I should have written much more about sentencing law in the book, but
was more interested in the non-criminal justice ways that crime was
influencing government.  The decades in which we moved into GTC are the
same decades we moved from a more or less national commitment to
rehabilitation as the purpose of imprisonment, to an era that is now
referred to as "warehousing" now by Gov. Schwarzenegger and his staff .

Warehousing made it easier to build a national consensus behind mass
imprisonment because it was cheaper and fit with a victim centered
emotional anger about crime that politicians have learned to thrive in
over the last thirty years.  It also seemed, until recently, relatively
free of empirical challenge since the logic that crimes cannot be
committed by people actually in prison seemed irrefutable (now we've
rediscovered recidivism as a problem and dubbed it re-entry).

But watch out for any attempt to re-qualify our increasingly crisis
ridden system by restoring rehabilitation to an official purpose of
punishment here in California.  We still don't know much about how to
treat most of the complex web of pathologies that streamline a path
toward state prison.  

The first recourse should be shutting down the flow to state prison of
people convicted of most property crimes, violations of parole or
probation technical conditions, and virtually all drug crimes not
linked to violence.  

Then lets remove those "violent" offenders  who are psychotic and can
be dealt with by a refunded mental health system.  Once we are down to
a prison population well south of half our current size, then we can
start talking about whether "punishment" or "rehabilitation" or some
combination of the two should be our objective for the rest.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #40 of 101: Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Tue 17 Jul 07 14:22
The question is "Who benefits from crime?" and obviously, the criminal
justice community is the stakeholder.  We can widen that to include
not just the cops and prosecutors and judges and prisons, but the
caseworkers and social workers and then on to the news media who make
an easy living from basically videotaping the police blotter.

Here at Eastern Michigan University, we just lost three people (fired
or resigned, take your pick) over a homicide.  When the body was found,
no one asked for a criminologist.  Yet colleges and universities
profit from these training programs.  We like to believe that police
officers with degrees seem to find other solutions to problems than
those without, though I wonder if there is any statistically relevant
empirical evidence.  

When crime rises, the criminal justice system demands more resources
to fight crime.  When crime falls, they do not give up resources.

Tangentially about television and this topic, is a work done by one of
my professors, Young S. Kim on the "CSI Effect" (see Wikipedia).
Donald E. Sheldon, Young S. Kim and Gregg Barak A Study of Juror
Expectations and Demands Concerning Scientific Evidence: Does the 'CSI
Effect' Exist? Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law. 

Angela Davis has a little book on why we do not need prisons.  She was
thinking ideologically, but today, with GPS, etc., it may be just as
effective to release all but the smallest number back into the
community and just track them better and give them support.

I note, however, that "back into the community" does not mean back
into the SAME community.  That does them no good and only endangers
their victims.  (Our community corrections program calls domestic
violence a non-violent crime for structural reasons.)  Release them to
_a_ community, but not the old one.

Again, however, this would mean identifying or creating resources and
that brings us back to the problem that of people profiting from the
creation of crime.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #41 of 101: Doug Masson (dmasson) Tue 17 Jul 07 18:22
Any sense of what, if anything, increased security measures at school might
be doing to kids' perspective on civil liberties?

It feels like we're teaching kids to live like slaves and to take the
security state for granted. But, maybe I'm just being dramatic.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #42 of 101: Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 18 Jul 07 05:43
I don't think you're being dramatic. I think kids know that they're
being watched/monitored at all times. Mostly to protect them from
evil-doers, but also to keep them from doing anything wrong. 
Personally, I think this is the worst offense.  Kids need to learn how
to make those judgment calls for their own lives. Which means they have
to make mistakes and do stupid and dangerous things.  Not all of the
time, and certainly when they're caught they should be punished.  But
not giving them the freedom to *have* to make an independent decision
doesn't prepare them at all for adulthood. 

The fact that there aren't even that many evil doers out there
targeting our kids (unless you happened to be related to one) makes it
all the worse.  Our kids are afraid of being abducted when fewer than
1% of all kids in the nation have this happen to them.  
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #43 of 101: Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Wed 18 Jul 07 07:49
Schools have been one of the "nodes" of society most invested with GTC
practices and logics.  I was just blogging about the terrible EMU
situation referred to above at
and would invite more comment from mercury about the perception on the
ground at EMU.

Its not surprising.  If two of the biggest things driving the whole
trend are anxiety among parents who increasingly have little time to
actually raise their kids, and mistrust of government, schools are
bound to absorb at lot of that concern.  This has been intensified by
the federal government.  Since 1998 the Jeanne Clery Act (yes named
after a murdered student) mandates that most colleges and universities
report crime information.

I can't prove this empirically, but the securitization of schools has
had to come at the expense of education, unless being routinized to
comply with constant security procedures is education.  The message to
kids who walk into schools ringed with menacing signs warning that
those violating its status as a drug free school zone will face
mandatory prison, is a bit different then in France where "libertie,
egalitie, fraternitie" are inscribed among most entrances to schools.

Don't get me wrong.  When gang violence threatens schools,
administrators and teachers have little choice but to act.  Most of the
actual violence in high gang activity communities, however, takes
place outside schools where it is far harder to guard against.  What is
more pernicious is how the vague possibility of drugs and crime leads
many schools with no evidence of either to adopt intrusive security
regimes.  See, William Lyons and Julie Drew, Punishing Schools: Fear
and Citizenship in American Public Education (University of Michigan
Press, 2006)
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #44 of 101: Joe Ehrlich (static) Wed 18 Jul 07 09:15
Spend a week at Richmond High School and then tell me that.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #45 of 101: Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Wed 18 Jul 07 09:45
The blog has a couple of problems.

The EMU police chief resigned and then was fired.  The suspect Orange
Taylor III has not confessed, but has plead not guilty to both sexual
assault and murder.  The cause of death -- asphyxiation or whatever --
was withheld as undetermined for about eight weeks, with possibilities
circulating as rumor (drugs, e.g., and she was on the crew team and you
get these athletes with hidden cardiac problems or whatever), and so
it was left in the air until the medical examimer could make a
determination.  In that time, they found semen on her and IDed it to a
known offender.  They got a warrant, went to his home and found her
clothing.  The problems begin with the chief of police either not being
able to identify a murder scene or not wanting say it out loud.  She
told the VP for public affairs that the cause of death was uncertain
and perhaps not violent and the Veep assured the president who went
public with those statements.  Going back over the records, the DoE
decided that EMU had been unreporting crime for some years (violent
sexual assaults reported as nonviolent; Michigan has four classes). 
Also in those eight weeks, the suspect was back on campus several
times.  Tangentially, it is important to understand that EMU is an
urban school.  We do not have 90%+ of our students in dorms or housing
close to campus in a college town 20 miles from nowhere.  My six-digit
student number starts with a 7.  Half a million people have come
through the doors in 20 or 30 years -- and the school goes back to
1849.  Lots of people pass through the doors here.  (And that is true
in many schools, actually.)  So, to say that the perpetrator was "a
fellow student" is a misnomer.  

1% of children being abducted is a problem when it is YOUR child, and
it still comes to 1.5 million per year, granted that many are
"abducted" by their parents.  Does it become a "real" problem when it
is 2% or 20% or what?  How much suffering is tolerable to those who do
not suffer?

In aviation, I collect old materials from first flight to 1940.  The
first Pilot's Handbook was about 40 pages.  Everytime someone screwed
up, they passed a rule against doing that.  Now it is so big you cannot
buy it conveniently and the typical private pilot's tests are limited
to about 400 or 500 pages of material.  We went from "keep the nose
down in a turn" to being responible for knowing the whereabouts of the
President.  (When you see fighter planes off your wing, make no
mistake: they're for you.)

But our government -- no government, really, but ours least of all --
comes from MARS.  These laws are what "we the people" demanded. 
Environmental protection, greenhouse gasses, pollution controls, food
and drug laws, which ones do YOU want to live without?  Everyone thinks
that someone else's priorities are wrong, but their own are
appropriate.  I just read a book called BLUE COLOR ARISTOCRATS by E. E.
LeMasters.  These were your typical 60s hardhats: racist, misogynist,
anti-progressive (though, oddly, anti-Vietnam War) and interestingly,
all in favor of conservation laws because they loved to hunt and fish. 
Fear of "lost wildernesses" led to the governmentalization of open
spaces: no drinking, no camping, no swimming, have fun.  Really, I
understand conservation and its enforcement.  I only point out that
everyone thinks their needs are appropriate whereas other people have
opened to door to "too much" government.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #46 of 101: Jonathan Simon (jonathan-simon) Wed 18 Jul 07 18:58
Thanks to both recent posts.  Local knowledge is always better.  When
dealing with crime it is crucial to ask what is happening in Richmond
and it Ypsilanti, because the national frame almost always creates a
more alarming and distorted image. 

I urge those of you who have personal experience with governing
through crime in the school, at your work place, or elsewhere to
contribute your stories.  The way to check the escalating tendency of
governing through crime is to subject media based moral panics to
serious discussion based on local knowledge (rather than abstract
expertise, including my own).

The EMU story gets more interesting.  That a college president had to
resign notwithstanding (if we take our correspondent's report) that he
was reasonably responding to actual uncertainty in the investigation,
demonstrates the power of crime as governing principle.  
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #47 of 101: Doug Masson (dmasson) Thu 19 Jul 07 04:46
It's interesting how technology creates its own need. When you don't have
various security devices, somehow you manage to get along with out them.
When new security devices become available, they become essential -- either
right away or after a tragedy. So, necessary security expenses rise with
available security technology -- taxation either rises or the money for
other purposes gets reduced.

I'm not sure how relevant it is to this discussion, but I had a
telecommunications professor who taught us about a prison design theory
called the Panopticon. Basically, prisoners were kept in cells formed in a
circle around a central guard tower. The prisoner's cells were backlit so
that the guards could see in and the prisoners wouldn't necessarily be able
to tell if the guards were looking in at any given time. The idea was that,
even if they weren't actually being watched, the prisoners would be more
likely to behave themselves if they thought the possibility of being
observed at any given time existed.

So, now we live in a world full of cameras that can be viewed remotedly; 
heading toward something of a global panopticon. I'm not sure if that's 
changing anybody's behavior, however.
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #48 of 101: Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Thu 19 Jul 07 05:18
>Local knowledge is always better.<

In this vein, there has been some attempt over the years to have
juries go beyond finding of fact to having some role in interpreting
the law. A search on jury nullification and or George Shiras will bring
up the substance and history of the matter.  I understand that some
attempts to convict local bootleggers were thwarted by juries that
couldn't see the sense of such local application of the law regardless
of the facts established in the courtroom. 
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #49 of 101: Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Thu 19 Jul 07 05:28
re: 46 from our Guest Host, allow me to suggest that we would like to
hear more from him.  We all know each other, already, and we can visit
in a wide range of conferences.  I understand that he does not want to
give away the book here, but, basically, there are unanswered

For myself, I pointed out that he wants the government to occupy some
sort of "middle ground" between enforcement and laissez faire in which
the government addresses environmentalism or other social needs.  My
question is: How do you do that without further manufacturing crime? 
What power does any government have as a government per se (govt qua
govt) except to enforce laws.  Dr. Newt Gingrich once reminded a
Republican dinner party that "SPEED LIMITS are not an advisory from the
chamber of commerce, yet Americans see them as a benchmark of
opportunity."  His point was that Americans respond to incentives
better than to laws.  My question here is, if the goverment does not
have enforcement power to fix social problems -- i.e., to allow
Greenies to govern through crime -- then it becomes just another
Non-Govermental Organization.  (As an anarchist, I support that, but is
our guest host an anarchist?)

Panopticon (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Panopticon blueprint by Jeremy Bentham, 1791.  The Panopticon is a
type of prison building designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham
in the late eighteenth century.
Panopticon-inspired prisons
Chi Hoa – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 
Old Provost - Grahamstown, South Africa 
Panóptico - Bogotá Prison (today the National Museum of Colombia) 
-->  What better use for a prison than to be turned into a
museum?Pelican Bay State Prison – Del Norte County, California, USA. 
Presidio Modelo – Isle of Youth, Cuba 
inkwell.vue.303 : Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime
permalink #50 of 101: Doug Masson (dmasson) Thu 19 Jul 07 06:03
Government has some other tools at its disposal besides criminal sanctions
-- though, at the end of the day, the ultimate effectiveness of any
government tool tends to be that there are guys with guns, authorized to use
force to obtain compliance if necessary. But, aside from just making
something a crime, government has regulatory powers -- say, the power to
withhold building permits (yes, I know, building without a permit is a
crime, but it seems to be a little different than just saying "doing X is a
felony.") There is also the power to tax and then offer tax money as an
incentive to take a certain course of action, or using the tax money to hire
people to perform particular tasks.


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