Re: Making Prison More Unpleasant?

1

A rule of silence. Little to no social contact. Sounds like the idea of a penitentiary. That didn't work out too well.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:41 AM
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So, um, how are prisons supposed to accomplish this? Electric shock collars? Those library posters that say "READ" in big letters? Bolted-on noise-cancelling headphones?

Or maybe just time in the hole for inmates who refuse to sit quietly at their desks reading?

Prisons are loud and chaotic in part because they're full of loud, chaotic people. Controlling loud, chaotic people requires a lot of time, energy, and one-on-one attention. You think prison wardens don't by-and-large want prisons to be orderly and quiet? As far as I can tell, what he's arguing for amounts to vastly increased time in solitary coupled with more funding for prison libraries. Yay?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:44 AM
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Pwned on comment 2. It's sad, is what it is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:44 AM
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Right, that's part of it. If he means actually depriving inmates of social interaction with other people, that's a recipe for driving them nuts -- literally isolating people is very aversive, but also incredibly damaging. For this sort of thing to be productive, there'd have to be a reasonable amount of social contact for the inmates.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:46 AM
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I think part of the problem with the quote is that Kleiman is smart enough to know people aren't stimulus-response machines, but he still can't bring himself to admit behaviorism might not be the appropriate conceptual place to start.

I've read part of the book and liked some of it - some behaviorism might be shown experimentally to work, like shorter-but-surer punishments - but it does still grate a bit.

On preview, yes to what's been said above.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:47 AM
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Where LB's question gets really interesting is when we apply it to the aspect of prison that *really* represents a deterrent to high SES people, namely prison rape. "If we eliminated coerced sex, and violent offenders were faced with the prospect of years of involuntary celibacy, they might find prison less amenable."


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:51 AM
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4: right, but then if you do that, how exactly do you enforce quiet study time? I mean, if he's saying it needs to be more carrot than stick, okay, that's fine, but you're still likely to have a reasonably high proportion of troublemakers in, you know, prison.

In general it seems like a workable idea if you had a really high staff to prisoner ratio, so most of the contact prisoners had with other people was in the context of small classes with multiple teachers or that sort of thing. But you can make the case for higher funding for educational, job-training, and treatment programs in prisons without resorting to punish-the-oafs-with-larnin' pop-sociology. Maybe he's making an argument directed at a certain sort of punishment-first social conservative? It doesn't really sound like it, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:53 AM
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Creepy and patronizing tone, yes. It's partly the "you and me," I think. Because, dude, peeps in this imaginary prison could be reading books like this, no? It's like the convenience stores playing classical music to keep teenagers from congregating outside, existing in part to let people be smug about the very concept. (So I suppose that doesn't extend to the high-pitched noises teens can hear and adults can't, supposedly used for the same purpose but I think something that prompts more wistfulness than pride.)

That said, I should probably hunt down that book. I think I'd find it interesting.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:56 AM
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Maybe he's making an argument directed at a certain sort of punishment-first social conservative? It doesn't really sound like it, though.

That's how I read it, to be honest. The big problem with prison policy is that a lot of people think that vengeance and suffering are the legitimate purpose of the prison system - and even, obscenely, that the infliction of vengeance and suffering is a moral good in itself - rather than protection, deterrence and rehabilitation, so you have to throw these people some red meat or else they'll block everything you try to do to make prison more effective.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:56 AM
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My "could" should have been "should" or "would" instead.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:57 AM
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An orderly, quiet prison where inmates spent much of their time working or studying alone might be less congenial to many offenders postgraduates than the current combination of noise, violence, idleness, and sociability, which has a strong resemblance to many inmates' pre-incarceration social settings undergraduate years.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 6:58 AM
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9: that could be. If the rest of the book is making the point that shorter prison terms combined with effective programs will make for better-adjusted offenders and less recidivism, then saying "but they really won't like it, honest!" could be your only (very, very dim) hope of getting the vengeance lobby to listen to you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:13 AM
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9, 12: I'm not sure it's necessary to stipulate that Kleiman's argument is offered in quasi bad faith to be OK with it. I read him as saying, "Making confinement less pleasant contributes, ceteris paribus, to the deterrent effect of confinement. Ordinarily we technocratic liberals rightly shy away from that course of action because we don't want to treat prisoners inhumanely. But what if making confinement objectively* more humane could make it subjectively less pleasant to certain classes of criminals? Wouldn't that be a win-win?"

I don't have any particular moral problem with that line of reasoning.

*less violent and more conducive to rehabilitation both qualify as objective measures of humanity, by my lights


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:23 AM
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How is silence, solitude, and a big library punishment at all? Add dogs and the internet and you have my life. We must stop coddling criminals.

No. We really haven't ever determined the purpose of incarceration, have we. The idea of forced behavior modification really bothers me, but the idea of punishment beyond limiting movement also bothers me.
I suppose my default notion is to just move the violent and dangerous to a place where they will not harm the rest of us, at minimal expense, and a Club Med with mai tais and bigscreens is just fine.

I mean the Constitution forbids cruelty, dudes. Right there in writing it says the intention can't be to hurt.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:25 AM
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How is silence, solitude, and a big library punishment at all? Add dogs and the internet and you have my life.

Sadly I had this exact same thought.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:30 AM
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I guess it is cruel and unusual, but letting the standard be whatever level and kinds of torture a society deems entertaining is not acceptable to me.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:33 AM
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Maybe somebody should build a giant AOL for prisoners thing and give them all cheap laptops? Being let on the regular internet could be a might big carrot. Or maybe let all prisoners on the internet so that all of the defrauding money isn't going to Nigeria.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:35 AM
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"In the women's prison, there are seventy women/ And I wish it was with them, that I did dwell."
--Dominic Behan

"Prison is only a deterrent to people who have not yet been sent to prison"
--???

"The first day of prison is the hardest, and the last is the easiest, and in between each day is easier than the last."
--Jack Black

Lots to say on this topic, but briefly, before I go to work: I was just speaking with an acquaintance who had been in jail for several months on political charges. She said the difference between being in the general population in a largish jail for an extended period and the experience of being in a holding cell for a day or two (which I, like many of our friends, have experienced) was like night and day. She made friends with the kitchen staff, other prisoners and even some of the guards. She actually felt bad because everyone assumed, based on her case, that she was vegan when she is not, and so served her disgusting prison vegan goop, but she didn't want to complain, for the benefit of future vegan prisoners in those jails.

Anyway, more about prison & punishment in a bit.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:36 AM
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I'll just repeat, with variant. It is not a good thing to encourage in a society the desire to hurt others. I have a book around somewhere that discusses abandoning the very concept of punishment itself.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:37 AM
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Not to hijack this thread, but the UF'ers would be interested in this. The prosecution rests today, the defense begins soon, I think. Short story is three or four or five gay guys in a townhouse, one leaves on a gurney, may have been the only straight there. Or not. Nothing makes sense. Apologize if there's already been a thread.

http://whomurderedrobertwone.com/


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:38 AM
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'll just repeat, with variant. It is not a good thing to encourage in a society the desire to hurt others.

But then how will we get the streets to run red with blood Bob?


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:40 AM
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21: A blood drive with blind folded phlebotomy?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:43 AM
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Maybe somebody should build a giant AOL for prisoners thing and give them all cheap laptops? Being let on the regular internet could be a might big carrot. Or maybe let all prisoners on the internet so that all of the defrauding money isn't going to Nigeria.

Ahem:
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/05/outsourcing_to.html


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:43 AM
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So, you have (1) environments that are pleasant / unpleasant and (2) environments that are improving / non-improving. Further, what gives an environment these qualities, for a given population, can be determined empirically. Kleiman then looks to be saying that prisons are currently centred on the pleasant / non-improving intersection but should be centred on the unpleasant / improving intersection. This is the win-win situation (#13).

However, I'm also picking up an unspoken assumption that if prisoners were improved by their environment, they'd come to find an unpleasant environment pleasant (nice and quiet for reading books, etc.). If this were so, then the win-win situation might be self-defeating, and the argument begins to look unsound. Is this what's making you queasy? Apart from the apparent snobbery, that is.

And I also have to say it looks like an unappealing blend of 'sciency-ness' and creeping authoritarianism, the sort of stuff we got used to seeing from New Labour. Not to mention its roots in the eighteenth century, or whenever it was the ideal prisons started to get designed.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:43 AM
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23: Yes, that problem occurred to me. When I said a giant AOL for prisoners, I was referring to a set aside portion of the internet where maybe those types of problems could be kept under some better control.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:45 AM
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24.last: You do realize that before they started building prisons using 'sciency-ness' that they executed a great many people for some very minor offenses. Much of the past sucked, but let's not forget that creeping authoritarianism was hardly the only motive for change.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:51 AM
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re: 26

At least in the UK the implicit policy comparison isn't between the 18th century and today, but between today and some period a mere couple of decades ago, when sciencey* bullshit was less widely cited in favour of authoritarian repression.

* 'sciencey' here being a term of art. Not meaning 'scientific'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:56 AM
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I like "sciencey" better than "sciency." Somebody tell OED and Webster.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:58 AM
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less violent and more conducive to rehabilitation both qualify as objective measures of humanity, by my lights

But depriving people of sociability is not humane. It is cruel and harshly punitive. I don't see how it could tend toward anyone's rehabilitation.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:03 AM
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21:I do distinguish removing the most powerful and privileged from society in order to make society more egalitarian from hiding the least powerful and privileged from society in order to make society superficially appear more egalitarian. YMMV.

I can't help thinking that the criminal is always and only a failure of society, and punishment an attempt at blame-shifting.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:05 AM
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Of course the US is already a long way down the 'depriving people of sociability' route, what with all the SuperMax prisons.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:11 AM
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30.2: If society were fairer, Ted Bundy would have been a wonderful head of his local co-op.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:11 AM
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Yeah, the only way to make Kleiman's suggestion work at all is to read his suggestion of limitations on 'sociability' as meaning limitations on 'the ability of prisoners to create unsupervised social institutions within prisons that are inimical to rehabilitation and to the maintenance of order,' rather than suggesting any kind of severe restriction on the amount of contact with other people. Once you're doing the latter, it's my strong impression that you're seriously damaging the people you do it to, and making it more rather than less likely that they'll be unable to function in society.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:17 AM
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Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:21 AM
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However, I'm also picking up an unspoken assumption that if prisoners were improved by their environment, they'd come to find an unpleasant environment pleasant (nice and quiet for reading books, etc.). If this were so, then the win-win situation might be self-defeating, and the argument begins to look unsound. Is this what's making you queasy? Apart from the apparent snobbery, that is.

This, I don't think so. That is, I can imagine an improved prisoner finding Kleiman-style prisons pleasant (I actually looked, when writing this post, for a joke I've seen in a couple of English books about how prison is a homey, comfortable environment for anyone who grew up in the kinds of schools the English upper classes used to send their kids to -- it's in Decline and Fall, for example, but not in quotable enough form to pull out for the post). But I don't think that'd be self-defeating -- I'd assume that a prisoner of that type would be a low recidivism risk regardless of the fact that he'd rather enjoyed prison.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:21 AM
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30: I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame society. Society made me what I am.


Posted by: Duke | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:24 AM
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...rather than suggesting any kind of severe restriction on the amount of contact with other people. Once you're doing the latter, it's my strong impression that you're seriously damaging the people you do it to, and making it more rather than less likely that they'll be unable to function in society.

I would imagine that duration matters. Doesn't Kleiman also suggest putting people in solitary confinement for the last couple of days before release.

I'm completely making up numbers, but I would think that if you replaced a 1-year term in a current prison with six weeks in a slightly more authoritarian prison, ending in 2 days in solitary confinement, you could make the argument that you are inflicting less total harm on the person.

I wonder if I have my copy around, or if I lent it out.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:36 AM
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As somebody who spent an afternoon in the same prison as Judith Miller (not at the same time), I can attest to the fact that it's a real eye-opener. But the food isn't as bad as she says, I liked the cool-aid and there was a kind of sweetbread for desert.


Posted by: b/j/k | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:40 AM
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I liked the cool-aid

Prisoners don't get branded beverages?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:43 AM
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37: Duration matters, but I'd think of depriving someone of human contact as inhumane and counterproductively damaging at anything more than a day or so.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:51 AM
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there was a kind of sweetbread for desert.

Almost certainly not.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:51 AM
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Fried sweetbread was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:54 AM
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Well there was a kind of spongy yellow bread. Oh yes, there most certainly was.


Posted by: b/j/k | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:56 AM
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43: Sweetbread is pancreas. Sweet bread is bread that is sweet. Sweatbread is gross.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:58 AM
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Duration matters, but I'd think of depriving someone of human contact as inhumane and counterproductively damaging at anything more than a day or so.

Sure, at that really isn't the sort of thing that I feel qualified to speculate about beyond the fact that my basic beliefs match what you've said there.

Going back to the OP, I think you picked a good passage, because I don't remember that triggering alarms for me when I read it, but seeing it excerpted here I immediately agreed that it's a weird paragraph.

What I don't remember is how it was presented, whether it was a recommendation, or something more like a thought experiment.

I feel like it's hard to imagine getting from the status quo to the sort of prison described in that paragraph in any easily practical way. But I also think that, of the things that Kleiman talked about that sort of change would be a low priority for him (restructuring the pre-trial and parole systems seemed like like they were issues that he found far more pressing).

So I think part of what's odd about the tone may be that it isn't exactly a proposal but just something along the lines of, "we should be willing to re-conceptualize the prison environment, and here's one idea of what that might look like." On one hand that makes the paragraph read more like what KR suggested in 13, on the other hand it suggests that the image could well be revealing unconscious biases since it isn't coming from existing research.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:00 AM
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44: Sweetbread has always seemed gross too, but that may just be me being uncultured.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:01 AM
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Some more thoughts:

In his memoir You Can't Win, long a favorite of prisoners, Jack Black describes a penitentiary in Canada run on the "silent" system. While he finds it isolating and unpleasant, he admits that it undercuts a lot of the irritations of prison -- stool-pigeons and toadying and prisoners exploiting each other -- plus it makes it easier to sleep. In her auto/biography of her father's life of crime, Flim-Flam Man, Jennifer Vogel quotes her father, who was primarily a white-collar criminal, saying the most irritating thing about prison was indeed the ceaseless noise. Given that many prisoners use excessive sleeping as a defense against prison's many irritations, it does seem like making prisons quieter might be beneficial to certain segments of the population.

In the late Frank Wood's excellent memoir of his time as warden of Minnesota's supermax Oak Park Heights prison The Big House, there's quite a bit of discussion about how prison design can affect prisoner behavior. Much of it focuses on preventing the most obstreperous inmates from damaging the facility, but there's also some thoughts on how to modify the more compliant prisoners' behavior.

Ultimately, I think one of the things people who've never even been to jail need to understand is the feeling of relief when you're actually locked into the cell. At that point (barring prison rape of course), it really can't get any worse, right?

I haven't read Kleiman's book, but I wonder how he looks at the fact that a large percentage of prison inmates have been having their personalities institutionalized long before they actually got to prison. If you want to change prison culture, it seems to me you'll have to change Juvenile Hall culture, foster home culture, HHS culture and frankly, regular public school culture as well.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:01 AM
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I actually looked, when writing this post, for a joke I've seen in a couple of English books about how prison is a homey, comfortable environment for anyone who grew up in the kinds of schools the English upper classes used to send their kids to

ISTR that this is why WW2 British officers coped so much better with captivity than other ranks. There was a psych study done after the war that ruled out intelligence, age, education, general state of health, and hit on boarding-school background; your average squaddie tended to go to pieces when cut off for the first time from his regimental 'family' and penned up with inferior food and stultifying boredom and routine, whereas the average officer just felt pleasantly nostalgic...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:05 AM
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Duration matters, but I'd think of depriving someone of human contact as inhumane and counterproductively damaging at anything more than a day or so.

Dunno about this actually. I've been on solo treks where I had no human contact for several days at a time and I don't think it had any damaging psychological effects (twitch, jerk) - though that of course was voluntary.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:07 AM
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Ultimately, I think one of the things people who've never even been to jail need to understand is the feeling of relief when you're actually locked into the cell. At that point (barring prison rape of course), it really can't get any worse, right?

This can't be universal. I'm sure some people staring down long sentences feel total despair, and other people hold out magical dreams of appeals, and other people are worried about how their family is going to be provided for in their absence.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:08 AM
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Also, have I mentioned the Communication Management Units here before? The federal Bureau of Prisons has a new toy: rather than preventing prisoners from communicating with each other, or preventing the prisoners from reading things that are injurious to the safe and effective management of the prison, they're now preventing prisoners from communicating with the outside world. In the CMU, you can generally receive the normal sorts of things that any other prisoner might -- books, letters, etc. But you're only allowed one letter out per month (if that), and I believe only one visit per month (if that) and it has to be with a close family member or lawyer. The ostensible purpose is to combat terrorism, and so the vast majority of the inmates thus assigned are Muslims, although very few of them have any actual terrorism-related charges or convictions. The BP have added a few non-Muslim white guys to insulate themselves from civil rights lawsuits. It's all very Kafkaesque.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:09 AM
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50: Some people wonder what will happen to the stock price of their media empire.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:09 AM
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Or maybe I form my opinions from movies, and prison is actually largely composed of single men without family or employment opportunities, and who feel a moment of pause to get their composure when they're actually confronted with prison.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:10 AM
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During my brief stay, I met a small-town drug dealer who has reporting for a six year term with his sister. He said that his father didn't age while he was in prison . . . if you get no sunlight, you don't get any sun damage, I suppose.


Posted by: b/j/k | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:10 AM
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50: Maybe it's not universal, but the mood has been palpable when I've been in holding cells with other guys. It's like "here we all are again, door's locked, nothing to do but sit here and talk or try to sleep."

The most irritating thing that's happened to me when I've been detained was the very first time, when the chickenshit suburban filth who nicked me took away my glasses before sticking me in the holding cell. They claimed it was policy, but that's never happened to me again, nor have I heard of it being a common practice in other jurisdictions. So I'm pretty sure they just wanted to fuck with me a little.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:12 AM
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I read it as ajay described in 9. Kleiman's not a dope, so I tend to reject the alternative hypothesis that he's merely incoherent.

Some additional deterrent value might be squeezed out of existing capacity by making confinement more more aversive to those confined. That might well be consistent with making it less horrible, threatening.

No. Sorry. Less horrible and threatening, but more aversive? Whom are we kidding?

I mean yeah, yeah, we've got those prison rape victims who were asking for it - probably with their provocative clothing and flirtiness - but I'm guessing they are in the minority. Likewise those who, all things being equal, prefer horrible, threatening environments are going to be a vanishingly small minority, even in prison.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:12 AM
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What I don't remember is how it was presented, whether it was a recommendation, or something more like a thought experiment.

It really was a sort of tossed off aside -- the quoted paragraph is just about all he says on the subject. I'd agree that's it's very low priority for Kleiman. It just nagged at me, and was an easy post to write.

I feel like it's hard to imagine getting from the status quo to the sort of prison described in that paragraph in any easily practical way.

Sifu said something along those lines above -- I'm not sure that it would be that hard. Some obvious easy things would be to simply take out all the TVs and radios; break up large-scale recreational spaces into smaller group spaces; have required solitary study/reading hours (I don't think there's anything inhumane about putting someone alone in a room with nothing to do but read and write for hours, so long as they do have contact with other people during the day. You could put compliant prisoners in library carrels for that sort of thing, and lock up the non-compliant ones.)

While I don't know much about it, it doesn't seem plausible to me that American prisons are currently run so as to maximize safety and order for the prisoners to the extent possible under their budgets; it's my (admittedly fairly uninformed) impression that disorder and danger are semi-intentionally considered a functional part of the punishment aspect of prison.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:13 AM
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5: Behaviorism appeals strongly to people who have a certain amount of unexamined sadism.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:14 AM
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He said that his father didn't age while he was in prison . . . if you get no sunlight, you don't get any sun damage, I suppose.

Prison pallor is weird looking. I worked on a pro-bono case where I talked to some prisoners we were representing, and no sun for years gets you someone who looks like they're made up as an eighteenth century aristocrat, if you start from average whiteguy skin. It's an odd look.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:16 AM
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9: ...that the infliction of vengeance and suffering is a moral good in itself

I think what's going on there is that inflicting severe suffering on wrongdoers is a way of asserting ones' own righteousness.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:18 AM
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I think what's going on there is that inflicting severe suffering on wrongdoers is a way of asserting ones' own righteousness.

Unless you are going to be more violent than the average person, wrongdoers and fellow bus riders are pretty much the only people you can inflict severe suffering on.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:23 AM
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Likewise those who, all things being equal, prefer horrible, threatening environments are going to be a vanishingly small minority, even in prison.

Well, in a chaotic, violent situation, there are going to be winners and losers. Someone who's confident of his ability to inflict rather than suffer harm might easily prefer prison as it is now to the Kleiman-style monastery.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:28 AM
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61: fellow bus riders are pretty much the only people you can inflict severe suffering on

And how! There's this one fellow I've run into on the bus and the train a few times now, and whoever he's riding with, he insists on have conversations at MAXIMUM CONVERSATIONAL SPEAKING VOLUME. He's not shouting, but he speaks loudly and clearly and enunciates well, so it's pretty much impossible, without headphones, to ignore what he's saying or let it fade into the background noise. And of course his conversations are about as mundane as possible (he's some kind of Jesus-freak skatepunk Christian): "OH, DO YOU KNOW WHAT TAMMY SAID TO ME YESTERDAY? SHE SAID THAT JIM DIDN'T HAVE HIS TRUCK ANYMORE, SO EMILY IS GOING TO HAVE TO GIVE HER MOM A RIDE TO CHURCH NEXT WEDNESDAY." And that sort of thing. Hell is Christians with clear speaking voices.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:30 AM
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62: or to profit from it. There was a recent documentary on TV here about HMP Wormwood Scrubs (real name of prison! Not stolen from Dickens!) and it mentioned people deliberately getting short sentences in order to engage in the immensely-profitable drug and mobile phone businesses inside.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:32 AM
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63: I'd give him points for not being on a cell phone.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:35 AM
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65: No, he does that too, interrupting his face-to-face conversations to have equally mundane and equally loud cellphone conversations.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:40 AM
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The biggest problem with mass transit is the masses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:47 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:50 AM
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I read this as trolling the lock'em up brigade, too. But then, I've been reading his blog since whenever, and I'm well aware he thinks US prisons are horrific, wants to lock fewer people up, and walk back the drugs war.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:52 AM
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63: that sort of explains why Natilo gets a sense of relief on being locked into a jail cell. "At last, freedom from irritating Christians with clear speaking voices!"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:04 AM
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70: At last! Someone who understands!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:06 AM
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"I'm not really an anarchist at all, officer. I just do this because it's the only way to get a bit of peace and quiet."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:15 AM
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Speaking of anarchists and buses, today on the way to work a kid (maybe 20) got on the bus. He had a bike (the buses have a front rack), but was not dressed in cycling clothes. He was wearing jeans. But, to get to the anarchist part, he had a black neckerchief on backwards. Probably to stop eating bugs or something, but the effect was very much like he wanted to be able to hide his face and throw a rock without having to search his pockets for a mask.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:24 AM
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I think what's going on there is that inflicting severe suffering on wrongdoers is a way of asserting ones' own righteousness.

...inflicting severe suffering on nonconformists is a way of justifying ones's own preferences and unifying a society.

I think twisty says that the purpose of the patriarchy is to create an economic sex class.

Thus the purpose of a society in itself, when it reaches the point of laws and punishment, might be to create a criminal class.

PS:It should be unnecessary to even state that only laws and a legal system can create criminals.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:31 AM
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I am thinking that the "criminal" might be a human sacrifice to the religion of enlightenment liberalism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:36 AM
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But only with laws and citizenship cam you have law-abiding citizens! Oh, the dilemmas.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:37 AM
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Instead of "criminals", societies without laws have "outcasts".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:38 AM
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PS:It should be unnecessary to even state that only laws and a legal system can create criminals.

It should also be unnecessary to state that you can have victims without either laws or a legal system.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:42 AM
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Charts like this always astonish me. I want some kind of grand, Foucauldian explanation.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:54 AM
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Beyond the drug war, you mean?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:57 AM
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I just realized that I think of three-strikes laws as being part of the drug war, but I have no idea if that's right.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:01 AM
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80: Well, the jump in incarceration is surprising but so is the gender difference, so, yes. Are there really THAT few women using illegal drugs?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:03 AM
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82: Marketing opportunity?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:06 AM
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82: I think it goes back to the "get-them-in-the-system-young" principle. Boys are far more likely to attract the attention of the criminal justice system, especially for most of the things that get you in deep enough so that you never come out. Girls, of course, have their own pathways to oppression, but it's less likely, for a variety of reasons, to lead to long prison terms.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:19 AM
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but so is the gender difference

End of the draft;rise of the drug war;the pill and contraception;increased relative social opportunities for women, employment and education


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:20 AM
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82: There are fewer female dealers and, more importantly, they are perceived as less threatening by the police. I'd bet usage rates are pretty similar.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:21 AM
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.dnwP


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:22 AM
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[A] prison that resembled a Benedictine monastery rather than an urban street corner might seem more unpleasant to most actual inmates....

It seems time again to recommend Into Great Silence, the really, really terrific documentary about Carthusian monks at la Grande Chartreuse, without belaboring the points that (i) it is very difficult to become a Carthusian (or any of the other hemi-demi-semi-eremitic orders, one should think), while it is very easy to be imprisoned in the U.S., and (ii) what is asked of volunteers is not necessarily an appropriate guide as to what can be demanded of prisoners.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:23 AM
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There are fewer female dealers

Circular if it isn't essentialist;why are there fewer female dealers, sexism internal to the drug trade?

The massive influx of women into the workforce of the last thirty years is a major event, and correlation with the chart in 79 is clear. I am not as sure about an influx in the economic classes who tend to be incarcerated, bottom two quintiles, I would have to look that up.

So I don't know about the freench fry position at MacDonald's, but I am pretty certain that a young man is facing twice as much competition for the scarce manager job (or college slot, or volunteer non-com position) than he faced thirty years ago.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:32 AM
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Ah, guys, our society has already tried this idea. It was called Eastern State Penitentary, and it sent quite a lot of people insane. Possibly even more than our modern-day prison system does.

(The Wikipedia article is all right as far as it goes, but it lets the Quakers off the hook far too easily and frankly minimizes the sheer technocratic brutality of the prison's "enlightened" approach.)

LB is right, that is one seriously creepy paragraph. I don't care if it was a throwaway idea or not, I'm quite willing to hold the guy responsible for actually believing, and publicizing it. Ugh.

The classic discussion is always about whether people are sent to prison as punishment or for punishment. The latter idea has been ascendant in the US since at least the early '80s, as can be seen when you look back at programs of the '70s that now seem almost Martian in their unlikelihood.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:38 AM
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Also, Natilo's 47 makes a very important point that a large percentage of prison inmates have [had] their personalities institutionalized long before they actually got to prison. If you want to change prison culture, it seems to me you'll have to change Juvenile Hall culture, foster home culture, HHS culture and frankly, regular public school culture as well.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:40 AM
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90: That seems a bit unfair as he doesn't call for solitary confinement.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:47 AM
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Ya know, most murders are committed by people known to the victim. After the proverbial man has shot his proverbial wife, he's done killin'. So we should let him go since he is no longer a threat to society.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:49 AM
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He probably just needed a different wife and was too shy to find a lawyer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:51 AM
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94: I'm still reading, bucko!


Posted by: Moby's Wife | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:51 AM
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89: I think sexism internal to the drug trade has a lot to do with it. If you're running a drug operation you need to be able to keep the foot soldiers in line, and a lot of them are going to have serious issues getting bossed around by a woman. It's been speculated by people who ought to know that one of the reasons Griselda Blanco was such a murderous thug was to maintain her status in a drug market that was heavily dominated by sexist men.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:54 AM
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No, he doesn't literally call for solitary confinement, although he does say where inmates spent much of their time working or studying alone.

I'm more thinking about how his values would be put into practice. Ted Conover's book on going undercover as a guard at Sing Sing is the best work I've seen on the visceral, aural and olfactory assault that prison can be.

If you take our present-day prisons as a starting point, and imagine Kleiman's suggestions being put into practice, you get very quickly to solitary -- because the numbers require it, because the liability issues require it, and because we collectively don't trust people (again, cf. Natilo's comments above).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:58 AM
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97 was me.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:58 AM
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If you want to change prison culture, it seems to me you'll have to change Juvenile Hall culture, foster home culture, HHS culture and frankly, regular public school culture as well.

It's been my understanding, based solely on various public radio interviews and discussions, that this is slowly but surely being taken seriously, with good results. Again, anecdotally (insofar as I haven't actually looked at any reports on policy changes and their effects), there's more emphasis on maintaining integration with the community -- rather than tearing kids away from whatever extended family connections there may be, say -- and a de-emphasis on the kind of hardcore and inhumane start-all-over-again approach that has previously reigned in foster care and so on.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 11:59 AM
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If you take our present-day prisons as a starting point, and imagine Kleiman's suggestions being put into practice, you get very quickly to solitary
Hmm, that does seem likely and I think you can criticize him for promoting an idea without thinking it through, but it sounded to me like you wanted to hold him accountable for more.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:05 PM
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The classic discussion is always about whether people are sent to prison as punishment or for punishment.

Mark Kleiman takes a relatively strong position on this, saying that as much as possible the prison system should not be run in ways that make it more difficult for people to re-integrate into normal life when the leave.

If you take our present-day prisons as a starting point, and imagine Kleiman's suggestions being put into practice, you get very quickly to solitary

Surely it would be more fair to him to imagine implementing his other suggestions first, which would result in a significant reduction in the prison population and then ask whether this idea would make sense in that context.

I'm not sure that it would make sense, even then, but it seems really unfair to judge him based on taking on throw-away idea, in a book about trying to reduce punishment in general, and saying that it would take an insensitive lout to suggest trying to implement that with the current system.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:08 PM
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99-101: Not ignoring you guys, but I have to go to work, so hopefully this discussion will still be going when I get home.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:11 PM
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Well, the jump in incarceration is surprising but so is the gender difference, so, yes. Are there really THAT few women using illegal drugs?

California polls show a much lower support for legalization among women, so I think there is a verifiable difference in attitudes between the sexes.

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/06/drugs-are-about-sex.html

90: I think that goes way too far in condemning the author. It's not a self-evidently terrible idea, or else this thread would have had a lot more condemnation.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:22 PM
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Well, again, I haven't read Kleiman's book at all, not even a little bit except for the excerpt in the OP, so I'm not critiquing his overall thesis. [Thesis: Prisoners who wear overalls are more picturesque.]

If there are real efforts, per Parsimon, to change the rest of "the system", such that it becomes a less effective conduit to long-term incarceration, then that is all to the good. I'm going to retain some skepticism though, given that it seems like we often hear about these supposedly counter-intuitive, radical new approaches to penology and social work, and yet the prison population continues to rise.

Apparently there are more of my extended network up on charges today, but all I've seen is an oblique FB post, so I don't know what's up.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:23 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:24 PM
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The excerpt is a minor, peripheral comment, and the whole thrust of the book is on how to reduce criminal punishment -- it's right there in the subtitle. I have my doubts about the practicality of his thesis generally, but his goal is unambiguously fewer people locked up for less long.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:26 PM
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103.last multiply pwnd.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:26 PM
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104.2: It could be that the issue is getting a lot of academic attention but there's no political will to implement any of the ideas.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:29 PM
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No time to read all the comments, but it's very important to realize that violence and aggression in prison isn't just a problem for prisoners or guards. Especially in California, but nationally as well, street gangs serve as affiliates of prison gangs, and kick up funds to the prison gang organizations; those funds are basically an insurance policy against getting raped/beaten up/horribly exploited by other prisoners once in prison. The prison gangs then are able to control extensive operations on the outside; the most important gang in California, the EME, is basically run exclusively by people who are already serving life sentences.

The prison guards might prefer a system where this didn't exist, but they are in general VERY averse to handling inmate-on-inmate violence that operates through the gang system; the current system provides a rough order and governance to the system and allows the prison guards to avoid risking their lives. The guards thus have very little incentive to close down a system of oppression operated through other prisoners.

Maybe someone has made this point already.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:31 PM
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109.2: The converse of this is that any sort of prisoner activism which seeks to build solidarity outside the gang structure is stomped down hard.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:33 PM
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105: Some other Raskolnikov! Not the Dostoyevsky character, for sure!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:33 PM
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I have my doubts about the practicality of his thesis generally, but his goal is unambiguously fewer people locked up for less long.

Doubts on the margin, about whether individual changes would be as productive as he thinks, or doubts that a system that was significantly different from the status quo could achieve better outcomes?

I think there's a conservative case for the latter belief -- that it's difficult to predict with confidence what the outcomes will be of making large changes to a complex system, but I also found the book generally convincing that there was enough reason to believe that current inefficiencies are larger than the range of unknowns in making change.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:34 PM
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112: Here I'm cannibalizing the possible future post I was going to write about the book generally, but I thought he had two main points. The first, that swift, certain, mild punishment is much better for deterring criminal behavior than delayed, low-odds, severe punishment, seems very plausible to me, and like a good basis for policy where you can pull it off -- shortening sentences and using the savings to rationalize and improve enforcement sounds very sensible.

The second main point, on the other hand -- the dynamic concentration stuff -- sounded implausible outside of a very tightly controlled artificial situation. It depends so strongly on all the criminals being fully and accurately informed about exactly what the police are doing: I don't know that much about what the bureau I work for does.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:45 PM
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If there are real efforts, per Parsimon, to change the rest of "the system", such that it becomes a less effective conduit to long-term incarceration, then that is all to the good.

If additional information is needed, my recollection of recent discussions about this in Baltimore are these:

The incarceration rate is down. This is good, or is it not good? Are there fewer crimes, or are there fewer arrests for those crimes?

Answer, provided by the Chief Warden, or Prison Commissioner (title escapes me): The latter. The system now has in place more robust and extensive mechanisms for rehabilitation, placing people in various social and community programs, forms of home probation, and so on.

Question: But the prison population remains stable, and in fact a couple of prisons are adding wings! How to explain that?

A: We're having to keep more people in pre-trial detainment than we used to. They can't afford bail, basically. As for the additional wings, that's in response to new federal mandates requiring that juvenile and adult offenders be kept in very separate facilities, with requirements that additional educational and social programs be provided for juveniles. This requires that additional space be built, but the population itself isn't growing.

Q: So what about that pre-trial detainment problem?

A: That's not up to those of us administering the prison system. That's up to the courts and the legislature.

---

In short: it's complicated.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 12:53 PM
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It depends so strongly on all the criminals being fully and accurately informed about exactly what the police are doing

You mean vice versa?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:00 PM
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No, it's complicated, but I meant it the way I wrote it. The idea is that you can greatly reduce the incidence of crime if you can credibly threaten 100% (or pretty close) certain punishment. But you can't make that threat credibly, because you don't have enough cops.

What you can do, is identify a subpopulation small enough to carry out 100% enforcement against, and do that until they accept that if they commit whatever the crime is, they will certainly be punished (Say, criminals whose last names start with A. If your name is Allenwood, and you commit a crime, you're going down.) Once the potential 'A' criminals realize that punishment is certain, they stop committing crimes (or slow way, way down).

Now that the 'A's are all compliant and good citizens, the cops don't have to put any effort into policing them, and can shift the total enforcement to the B's. Then the B's become compliant, and eventually you've worked your way down to Joey Zubotnik.

I could imagine it working under ideal circumstances, but it depends too much on perfect knowledge of what's going on from the criminals.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:12 PM
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Attempts like that in 116 have had reasonable success when focused on individual neighborhoods; move through one, then another. The biggest enemy to the strategy is call-and-response policing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:16 PM
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It would seem to me that what makes the paragraph so offensive is the rather large assumption here:

An orderly, quiet prison where inmates spent much of their time working or studying alone might be less congenial to many offenders than the current combination of noise, violence, idleness, and sociability, which has a strong resemblance to many inmates' pre-incarceration social settings.

So, the inner city is just like maximum security? No, it fucking isn't. This is just a ridiculous statement that bizarrely conflates completely different things.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:30 PM
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118: noise, violence, idleness, and sociability

Yes, this is much more redolent of say, a Duke lacrosse team party.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:31 PM
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99: In theory, things are changing. In practice, foster care is pretty much still fucked nationwide, as far as I can tell, though there are pockets of success. Bear in mind that I'm pausing from writing a letter to 15-year-old Rowan, who stayed with us a while but doesn't want to be adopted and doesn't want to live in a family, though sometime probably this month he's going to have to start doing that anyway I think.

Rowan's been away from his family for 2-plus years now and he'll never be going back to their care. He and his brother had been adopted by relatives as young children per best practices I support, but this ended up being an abusive placement and the school for sure, social services in general, and the prison/parole system should have been able to see something was terribly wrong, but they didn't. In those 2 years, he's had at least 4 placements, all residential treatment centers of various flavors. In the last 1.5 years, he's had ONE visit with his brother, who's only a year apart from him in age and for whom he has powerful protective feelings. When all goes right, they talk to each other 2 or 3 times a week, conversations 10 minutes max. Neither writes well enough to make letters an easy option, and he at least doesn't have access to emaill. His worker visits him ever 3-4 months instead of every month as legally required for his level of care. He went two months right after his time with us without even knowing who his social worker was.

I was talking to him weekly, but he's decided he'd rather talk to his brother on all his three calls and just call us monthly or so when he has updates. We're keeping in touch with him and he knows he always has a place with us if he needs it, but his new worker has never had any contact with me, even though all this is in his file, even though he made disclosures to me that should probably have required followup with both of us when I reported them.

But he's actually in good shape in a lot of ways. He and his brother still love each other and have at least limited contact and hope to have more once they age out. The RTC he's in has been very good for him, and his counselor and key staff clearly care about him and want to see him succeed. It sounds conceited to say this, but I think it's a plus for him that he still has us. But I'm not convinced he's learning what he'll need to live in a family or live independently, how to deal with stress and PTSD outside a facility with staff available at all times. He's still not a fluent reader, though the one-on-one attention has helped him immensely in the last year.

He's smart and tenacious and I'm being honest when I tell him I expect to see him succeed, but life is going to be extremely difficult for him. I would not be surprised to see some prison in his future, and I think it would be particularly terrible for him for many reasons, but that's where the things on Natilo's list (plus trauma history) are steering him.

Sorry this was incredibly long. I'm just angry and heartbroken about this right now. Now back to writing him kind and cheerful things in simple words.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:35 PM
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118 seems right to me. The issue isn't that prison is a lot like the rough and tumble inner city, so that therefore quiet time would deter people from going to prison (and I like M.A.R.K., but that's a pretty unpalatable assumption). It's that prison is full of violent sociopaths, so creating an atmosphere in which violent sociopaths are rewarded and thrive is a problem. But the real issue (on this point) isn't increasing deterrence; it's reducing the absolutely enormous external harms created by the current type of prison conditions.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 1:37 PM
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120: Reading this and your previous updates, it's been hard not to be discouraged. Some people at my parents' church went through a similar process with two brothers they fostered off and on from early childhood. I can't imagine a more loving home for a kid to be placed in, but what with how it all works, the kids got bounced and bounced and bounced. Sadly, the younger one has done a couple of stints in prison for car theft. I really hope that Rowan and his brother are lucky enough to escape that fate. Don't give up!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:02 PM
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I think it's a plus for him that he still has us.

Definitely.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:08 PM
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120: If it's not too nosy, why do you think he prefers a residential facility to a family? Fear of renewed abuse, or something more complicated?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:10 PM
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124: For the peace and quiet.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 2:12 PM
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You think prison wardens don't by-and-large want prisons to be orderly and quiet?

the for-profit prisons almost certainly want some level of intraprisoner violence and crime.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:20 PM
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Er. "ra" s/b "er"


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 4:20 PM
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I just realized that I think of three-strikes laws as being part of the drug war, but I have no idea if that's right.

Nope. The great state of Washington kicked it off by initiative, California followed suit, and now here we are.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:07 PM
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I knew the laws' could be traced back to WA and CA, but I didn't and still don't know if they were linked, from the get-go, to the war on drugs. I've always assumed they were, but I'm not sure why I've made that assumption -- other than the fact that I think many of the worst elements of the criminal justice system spring from the drug war.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:16 PM
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"Three strikes" was a signature initiative of the New Democrats in the Clinton era. The theory was that a disproportionately high percentage of robberies and assaults are commited by career criminals. Take those incorrigibles off the streets, and you've solved a big chunk of the crime problem. What's more, you can shift the rhetoric away from the punishment vs. rehabilitation debate and simply say "incarceration serves to keep dangerous people away from potential victims."

But for the entanglement with drug war politics, it might have made for good policy. Trouble is that a lot of felony convictions on drug charges don't represent enough of a threat to the populace to keep people locked up at taxpayer expense until they die.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:18 PM
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My recollection is that the Washington initiative was fairly narrow and that the campaign focused on violent crime, not drugs, but it's been a long time.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:20 PM
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129: well, any percieved increase in crime in the states where it was enacted could certainly be linked to the drug war.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:23 PM
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120: I can tell you from his mouth that he doesn't want to be adopted because "they could lay hands on me," but I think residential is easier because he has specific rules to follow that are about him as an individual rather than him in relation to a familial role, if that makes sense. Basically, any family where he's not brother and protector to his brother doesn't count as family to him; that's his primary allegiance. (I gather his brother -- who's a year older but fairly severely mentally retarded -- feels the same way about being a protector, and this "enmeshment" was much of what justified their separation.

His opposition to being part of OUR family had to do with not wanting to return to our part of the state, which holds negative family memories and is also a place where he thinks people will remember "bad things" he's done before and he might be tempted back into them, but it was also problematic for him that we're lesbians, even though he likes us very much and even though the chances are good that he'll be gay. He has a lot of mutually exclusive feelings and beliefs right now, and to me it's important that even though I don't think it's his best interests to be emancipated at 16 or to age out of foster care, I do think it's good for him to be able to make a decision about his own life. Part of what was frustrating him was his feeling that no matter how much he followed the rules, he wasn't getting any payoff in terms of what he wanted. Basically, that's a valid complaint.

But to go back to your original question, his goal for his life is that he'll be emancipated when he turns 16 (which is not going to happen) and move into independent living in the same area where his brother is in independent living. That way, as soon as his brother is 18, they can live together and just be a duo against the world and be happy forever. Living in a family while his brother's goal is independent living seems counterproductive to him. He also definitely finds love threatening, though he responds well to it too. Everything he's doing makes sense (at least in terms of the story I tell myself) based on his history.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:37 PM
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That was actually a response to LB in 124, obviously.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:39 PM
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57

While I don't know much about it, it doesn't seem plausible to me that American prisons are currently run so as to maximize safety and order for the prisoners to the extent possible under their budgets; ...

Prison has got a lot safer since 1980. See these charts from this paper . Homicide rates are significantly below what is typical of the communities most prisoners come from.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:54 PM
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heh. indeed.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 7:59 PM
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Homicide rates are significantly below what is typical of the communities most prisoners come from.

Per Kleiman, this no doubt generally aversive for inmates, who would prefer to be in a more homicide-intensive environment.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 8:30 PM
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Warning: Novella alert.

OK, I've now gone back and read the first 15 or so pages of his book via Amazon, and skimmed some reviews. I felt a bit guilty after comments from earlier, and thought perhaps I was being unduly harsh and this was just an example of a thoughtlessly written paragraph that could have used an editor.

Having read a bit of the book itself, I'm finding myself compellingly interested in the topic, but taken aback by the leaps of logic he seems prepared to make. A few thoughts, in no particular order:

- My city has just elected a new DA who is pushing hard on the "Make punishment quick and predictable" aspects of what (I think) Kleiman is arguing, and I don't really disagree with it. Certainly the current system -- where we had one of the worst felony conviction rates in the nation and the previous DA proudly stated that she didn't use data to make decisions -- is a disaster for crime victims, witnesses, defendants and taxpayers alike. On the other hand, I think this approach is primarily valuable because of the emotional, physical and financial burden it removes from victims, witnesses, police and taxpayers. I'm not convinced it's going to deter offenders.

- Kleiman makes some rather strange assertions. Here he is talking about why crime rates rose in the 1960s, beyond just what you would expect from the fact that a lot of people were coming into their teenage (i.e., high-crime-committing) years: "But in fact, age-specific crime rates soared, perhaps because the sheer size of the Boomer generation made it less responsive to its elders." He follows this up with a quip about parents getting outnumbered when they have a third child. Ha ha. Seriously? This is a public policy argument? It sounds absurd to me.

- He also makes some weird suggestions of causation, such as when he talks about why fewer prisons were built in 1960s/early '70s. Plus, the Kerner Commission report made police think that "aggressive tactics against routine street crime might spark more riots"? OK, but aren't there a host of ways for police to respond to routine street crime without amping it all the way up to "aggressive tactics"?

- There's also a peculiar argument on I think pp.12-13 that seems to imply that all people charged with burglary are guilty. He says that with 6 million burglaries committed in 1972, and 60,000 people who were *arrested or convicted* of burglary, the average number of days in jail per burglary was 4. I suppose the argument he's trying to make is that IF you wanted to commit burglary, it was a low risk to take, because even if you got caught you wouldn't get punished very much. But unless I'm missing something, his stats don't do it. Can anyone tell me what I am overlooking? Couldn't this just as easily be an argument for "Burglaries are hard to prove in court" or "Police are sloppy investigators," rather than "We got soft on crime"?

And beyond his actual writing, I have some peripheral concerns:

- Whenever I see a public policy argument that claims to make "both sides equally upset," I figure they're tossing some genuinely valuable liberal beliefs under the bus to try to get conservative buy-in. I'm so jaded based on how this has (not ever) worked on reproductive rights that I immediately discount it as giving away the store -- that is, that you'll end up granting rhetorical/Overton window concessions that three or five or ten years down the road will turn into policy concessions, and in return, not one single conservative of note will give up their PRISONS ARE FOR PUNISHMENT MORE MORE MORE beliefs. So I admit to being generally suspicious of this book.

- I also admit that I have a reflexively negative view of the phrase "game theory." I am prepared to believe I am wrong on this, because it's based on an inchoate aversion that I can't really trace back to a single source. However, I'm generally disinclined to like a public policy book that is touted as using it to help explain the world.

- I am not holding the poor guy responsible for who got assigned to review his work, but a purportedly evenhanded book that has approving/neutral reviews from Ross Douthat, David Frum and the National Journal does raise my eyebrows.

LB, looking forward to your longer post!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:40 PM
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138

There's also a peculiar argument on I think pp.12-13 that seems to imply that all people charged with burglary are guilty. He says that with 6 million burglaries committed in 1972, and 60,000 people who were *arrested or convicted* of burglary, the average number of days in jail per burglary was 4. I suppose the argument he's trying to make is that IF you wanted to commit burglary, it was a low risk to take, because even if you got caught you wouldn't get punished very much. But unless I'm missing something, his stats don't do it. Can anyone tell me what I am overlooking? Couldn't this just as easily be an argument for "Burglaries are hard to prove in court" or "Police are sloppy investigators," rather than "We got soft on crime"?

If some the people imprisoned for burglary were innocent then the odds were even better for the actual burglars.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:54 PM
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also admit that I have a reflexively negative view of the phrase "game theory." I am prepared to believe I am wrong on this, because it's based on an inchoate aversion that I can't really trace back to a single source.

Me too. I think it's because it most often turns up with a smirk that we've proved with Science! that human beings do not behave the way that you always thought they did. See, we designed a model and had our mock people maximize their utility and they ended up selling their youngest children for stock in Enron. So that's what people do.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:56 PM
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I took a game theory class. I thought it was a bit pointless as finding of the equalibria for the games was fairly easy but setting the proper assumptions for the game was not easy nor was it covered much.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 9:58 PM
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Not that game theory doesn't have some uses as it does force you to state your assumptions in a way that is fairly easy for everybody else to understand.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:03 PM
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Into Great Silence really is a fascinating movie. And speaking of movies,

I just realized that I think of three-strikes laws as being part of the drug war, but I have no idea if that's right.

Old crime movies often reference n-strikes laws in the 30s and/or 40s. Usually 3 or 4 felonies, then life. The example I've seen most recently is You Only Live Once. I think those laws were revised, then brought back in the 80s and 90s. But it really depends on the state.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 06-17-10 10:09 PM
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Behaviorism appeals strongly to people who have a certain amount of unexamined sadism.

This. The whole conceit of the paragraph is that you can come up with a treatment that is both consistently more painful / unpleasant to the subject (even in memory!), yet also improves the subject and is "better for him". That's just classic self-righteous sadism, and the insistence throughout that the offender will find the experience even worse than our current horrible prisons makes it hard to ignore the sadism.

Of course, the other possibility here is that social engineering real people requires a certain amount of sadism, that would be the true conservatives perspective on it. Perhaps a bit of such conservatism is inherent in the decision to study criminal justice (from any but a radical/revolutionary perspective).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 12:28 AM
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To stand up for behaviourism, it must be said that Skinner (frex) didn't really believe in punishment.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 12:34 AM
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punishment is more effective on the neurotic and nonextroverted. which are qualities enhanced by immiseration.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 1:17 AM
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we did a game theory role playing thing in psych class. since i had read about this in high school, i was totally sure of how to approach it (a counterintuitive strategy i convinced the rest to go along with) and as a result the girl in our group was totally into me

oh we lost though


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 1:20 AM
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147: the team lost, yoyo. Sounds like you won.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 2:14 AM
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Sometimes prison is seen as relatively desirable given the alternatives on the street. My godmother supported a prisoner through BU's college behind bars program. She got out and lived in a sober house, but those are time-limited (around 6 months). She couldn't get a job, partly because the economy wasn't great, but mainly because it's nearly impossible to get a job when you have a CORI. Her only choice, being barred from public housing, was to go to a shelter. So, she went out and got some drugs and turned herself in to her parole officer.

The guy I visit is lucky. He has a life of job skills, he can move in with his parents in their western MA house, and they're getting old enough to need his help, and he has plans to open his own business doing computer repair and providing loaner laptops to individuals and small businesses.

The dumb thing that I heard is that to go to a church service you have to sign up in advance and for him to do that he has to miss a whole day of work.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 5:46 AM
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... But I'm still wondering if there's something else wrong with it that's underlying my hostile reaction -- any ideas?

In my experience liberals often have a hostile reaction to any attempt at rational or objective analysis of what they see as moral issues. Hence distaste for cost/benefit analysis, economics, discussion of incentives etc. Examining the underlying facts too closely might cloud their righteous moral fervor so they avoid it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:21 AM
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Examining the underlying facts too closely might cloud their righteous moral fervor so they avoid it.

This isn't a problem for conservatives, because there generally aren't any underlying facts.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:28 AM
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Damn, you're right. Inviting an extended discussion of the possible bases for my reaction might expose them as lacking in rationality, and should therefore be avoided at all costs.

Whoops.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:28 AM
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In my experience liberalspeople often have a hostile reaction to any attempt at rational or objective analysis of what they see as moral issues.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:37 AM
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Needless to say, but that is a silly description of LB.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:39 AM
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James, oftentimes when people observe a trait they disapprove of demonstrated by a member of a different social group they attribute that trait to the entire group, whereas similar demonstrations by members of their own group will be dismissed as exceptions.. Have you considered that you are not immune to this tendency?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:49 AM
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155.last to the internet.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 7:28 AM
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but mainly because it's nearly impossible to get a job when you have a CORI.

Don't take your dog out job hunting. Also, spelling please.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 7:29 AM
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There have been a fair number of very effective programs at reducing recidivism.

As far as I am aware, none of them involve treating prisoners like animals. Yet, people always seem to have this belief that prison is too easy and that crime would stop if only prisoners were treated like dogs.

A similar thing is used with divorce: If only divorce were made difficult, people wouldnt get divorced.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 7:35 AM
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If only divorce were made difficult, people wouldnt get divorced

OH, I BEG TO DIFFER.


Posted by: OPINIONATED HENRY VIII | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 8:13 AM
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Plus, the Kerner Commission report made police think that "aggressive tactics against routine street crime might spark more riots"? OK, but aren't there a host of ways for police to respond to routine street crime without amping it all the way up to "aggressive tactics"?

Policing has gotten much better recently, rather than in the 60's and 70's, where it had only just come out of the "pitting ethnics against each other" mode.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 12:09 PM
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155: Anyone know of research into the formation of stereotypes? Is there some minimum percentage of an identifiable population that must exhibit some characteristic before it can become identified with the whole population? Are the percentages different for positive, neutral, or negative stereotypes?

Anyone know what percentage of sheriffs wear mirrored aviator sunglasses? Are those only in the South and Southwest?


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:28 PM
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but mainly because it's nearly impossible to get a job when you have a CORI.

forgot which thread this was, and when i saw this i wondered what sort of graduate degree a "cori" was


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 6:28 PM
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155

James, oftentimes when people observe a trait they disapprove of demonstrated by a member of a different social group they attribute that trait to the entire group, whereas similar demonstrations by members of their own group will be dismissed as exceptions.. Have you considered that you are not immune to this tendency?

Probably not. However I think reflexive opposition to cost/benefit analysis, economics, tradeoffs etc is more characterstic of liberals than conservatives. Conservatives seem more willing to make such arguments albeit often in a fallacious way. It is true that members of both groups often aren't very interested in the underlying facts.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 8:33 PM
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... any ideas?

Kleiman is an economist, economists have a way of thinking about things that many people find alien and which seems to particularly grate on liberals. Here is Kleiman explaining his 2005 decision to sell his LA house and rent instead. While Kleiman was correct about house prices there is arguably something cold and unnatural about deciding your living arrangements on this basis. Certainly it is not typical.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 11:42 PM
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However I think reflexive opposition to cost/benefit analysis, economics, tradeoffs etc is more characterstic of liberals than conservatives.
It probably depends on the issue. To be topical, do you think conservative opposition to rehabilitation over punishment is realistically factors in cost benefit analysis? How about the drug war? Or most wars, for that matter. I think that, along with selection bias, your falling into the aforementioned trap, but it's a pretty common failing. I know I have observed this tendency in myself with regard to racial and cultural differences.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 11:53 PM
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162: Criminal Offender Record Information. It's a Massachusetts usage.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 06-18-10 11:58 PM
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165

It probably depends on the issue. To be topical, do you think conservative opposition to rehabilitation over punishment is realistically factors in cost benefit analysis? How about the drug war? Or most wars, for that matter. ...

Conservatives might try to fudge the factors in a cost benefit analysis to make it come out the way they want but in my experience they are less likely to dispute the very concept.

Similarly arguments get dismissed on this group with some crack about economics 101 or on the veldt as if that is all that needs to be said.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 8:02 AM
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As if that is all that needs to be said.com


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 8:07 AM
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Here is Kleiman explaining his 2005 decision to sell his LA house and rent instead. While Kleiman was correct about house prices there is arguably something cold and unnatural about deciding your living arrangements on this basis.

This is silly. Liberalism does not make you suspicious of a desire to sell at the peak of a housing bubble. Dean Baker, one of the most liberal economists around, did exactly this and brags about it regularly.

Liberal and conservative attitudes toward punishment differ because conservatives are tempermentally authoritarians and get pleasure from vicariously participating in the punishment/discipline of deviants. As I said in 144.2, depending on one's view of human nature that does not necessarily mean they are wrong.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 8:16 AM
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169

This is silly. Liberalism does not make you suspicious of a desire to sell at the peak of a housing bubble. Dean Baker, one of the most liberal economists around, did exactly this and brags about it regularly.

Liberals are always complaining that Homo economicus is an unrealistic model of how people behave. In this matter Kleiman (and presumably Baker) were acting as calculating, hyper-rational economic actors in a way that is atypical.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 8:49 AM
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169

Liberal and conservative attitudes toward punishment differ because conservatives are tempermentally authoritarians and get pleasure from vicariously participating in the punishment/discipline of deviants. As I said in 144.2, depending on one's view of human nature that does not necessarily mean they are wrong.

You have any actual evidence that authoritarians are more likely to be conservative? Aren't radical left wing parties prone to show trials and drumming out deviationists? For that matter is there a rigorous definition of authoritarian temperment?

In my experience personality traits and political views are pretty uncorrelated.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 8:58 AM
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Conservatives might try to fudge the factors in a cost benefit analysis to make it come out the way they want but in my experience they are less likely to dispute the very concept.
I would need examples or evidence to be convinced of this. My experience tells me that when confronted with a cost/benefit analysis that runs counter to preconceptions nearly everyone attempts to dispute the analysis itself; I don't remember ever seen anyone explicitly argue that tradeoffs don't need consideration.
If your argument is that conservatives are more likely to model human behavior with Homo Economicus style models, as suggested in 170, I'm not going to disagree, but this is a separate issue.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 11:10 AM
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172 was me.
You have any actual evidence that authoritarians are more likely to be conservative?
PGD's 169.2 was probably more charged than it needed to be (though I agree with it). I don't think one can disagree that conservatives prefer harsher punishments, and are more likely to attack those who seem to express empathy with the condemned. Deciding if this means they get pleasure out of the process or are simply trying to deter others is harder to decide.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 11:23 AM
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Ever get to the end of a sentence and forget how you started it?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 11:27 AM
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173

... I don't think one can disagree that conservatives prefer harsher punishments, and are more likely to attack those who seem to express empathy with the condemned. ...

Depends on the situation. Conservatives feel empathy for different classes of people than liberals. Consider the trouble Barton just got into for empathizing with BP.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 12:19 PM
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175: Exactly, conservatives feel empathy for corporate persons, while liberals feel empathy for natural persons. Comity!


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 12:58 PM
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U:"Pe,tgi"[(9) beat me to it, but it's a great setup for a link to Al Franken's speech to the ACS (which I am listening to right now).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 1:10 PM
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-[


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 1:11 PM
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177: You've been pwned.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 1:15 PM
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I never read the posts.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 1:18 PM
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Eh, who does?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 1:39 PM
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NickS, apparently.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 1:41 PM
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You have any actual evidence that authoritarians are more likely to be conservative? Aren't radical left wing parties prone to show trials and drumming out deviationists? For that matter is there a rigorous definition of authoritarian temperment?

There's a long history of investigation. Adorno's work that led to The Authoritarian Personality correlated a number of traits into the F-scale, which was seen as a measure of the population's likelihood to support fascism. The work was roundly criticized by social scientists, and refined by Robert Altemeyer.

Authoritarian personalities aren't necessarily supportive of any politics at all, but when they are, the high value they place on tradition and, well, authority lends itself to support of right-wing politics.

A couple of Maoist assholes in charge of fringe groups don't really change that. Yes, you would have to revise the political affiliations in different contexts, but in today's West, authoritarians flock towards conservative political parties and churches and militarism.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 1:56 PM
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176

Exactly, conservatives feel empathy for corporate persons, while liberals feel empathy for natural persons. Comity!

Liberals didn't exhibit a lot of empathy for the Duke lacrosse team as I recall.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 2:30 PM
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Aren't radical left wing parties prone to show trials and drumming out deviationists?

To be clear, I was talking about the liberal vs. conservative spectrum in the U.S. Clearly history offers many examples of left-wing authoritarians. The Bolsheviks were enormously authoritarian and presumably some of their Western Communist supporters were attracted by this. Political ideologies are not natural kinds like species but need to be interpreted within their culture, which is why Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" was so completely ignorant and inane as a piece of history (although it was a good piece of propaganda, given the stupidity of the intended audience).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 2:37 PM
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183

A couple of Maoist assholes in charge of fringe groups don't really change that. Yes, you would have to revise the political affiliations in different contexts, but in today's West, authoritarians flock towards conservative political parties and churches and militarism.

This isn't really evidence. I was looking for something more like "the x,y and z tests measure authoritarianism reliably and repeatably on a 10 point scale and population surveys in the United States show self-identified conservatives, moderates and liberals have average scores of 6.7, 5.4 and 3.7 respectively". With references.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 2:42 PM
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186: They you'd better hop down to the library.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 2:45 PM
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Liberals didn't exhibit a lot of empathy for the Duke lacrosse team as I recall.

all right, I have to admit this is a good point -- there are some vestigial "class enemy" tendencies from authoritarian movements around on the liberal side as well. But they are way less powerful within liberalism than conservatism.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 2:46 PM
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186: K-sky provided you with exactly that in 183, but apparently you don't follow links.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 2:49 PM
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185

To be clear, I was talking about the liberal vs. conservative spectrum in the U.S. ...

Still plenty of examples of liberal authoritarianism. The whole PC movement for example. Sure looks like a lot of it is deriving "... pleasure from vicariously participating in the punishment/discipline of deviants. "


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 2:53 PM
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189: I've actually used that scale, years ago. I recall that most of the work used undergrads as participants. I'm not sure if anybody has tried it in a more general sample.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 2:53 PM
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190: There was a cultural moment about 15-20 years ago when it looked like "PC" might actually get some real authoritarian clout behind it. But that passed pretty quickly and since then threat of political correctness has mostly existed in the paranoid projections by conservatives. (It does help to realize here that being an asshole toward you coworkers, even if they are blacks or women, is likely to bring reprecussions in any social arrangement). Political correctness scares on the right have even less validity than accusations of "McCarthyism!" by the left.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 3:05 PM
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189

K-sky provided you with exactly that in 183, but apparently you don't follow links.

Actually I did follow the first link which was just a stub without much content. The second link is more substantial but it is not too surprising that a trait named "Right-wing authoritarianism" is found more on the right. Even so the article cautions that " ... Although authoritarianism is correlated with conservative political ideology, not all authoritarians are conservative, and not all conservatives are authoritarian. It is also worth noting that many authoritarians have no interest in politics."

The article also claims that attempts have been made to identify a corresponding "left-wing authoritarian" trait but that they have failed and that most psychologists believe authoritarianism is predominantly right wing. I am unconvinced and think that this may just reflect the fact that most psychologists are left wing.

The article is also not very specific about how great these putative correlations are.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 3:13 PM
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I don't have access to the social science articles and books that are listed in the Wikipedia entry. I think the assertions therein and herein come with proper caveats, and the slightest familiarity with politics and history should be sufficient to show that authoritarian tendencies are heavier on the right wing.

Approach this through the history of anti-authoritarian movements. I don't know of any right-wing movements that opposed authoritarian fascism. I do know that left-wing movements opposed authoritarian communism.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 3:32 PM
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Another way to look at this is to ask what forms of institutional expression people with authoritarian tendencies find. Right-wing authoritarians can participate in the Republican Party, the Catholic Church, the institutional evangelical right, the military, the police, and many corporations.

Left-wing authoritarians can join the Spartacists and picket the DSA.

More seriously, they can find some purchase in secular bureaucratic organizations--some governmental and corporate organizations--and exert dominance over people directly under their command, but I can't give you an example of how they can push an authoritarian agenda over those not under their control.

I suppose if you had this tendency you could join a regulatory agency and make people's lives miserable. I bet that's what Stuart Alexander thought was happening.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 3:46 PM
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I don't know of any right-wing movements that opposed authoritarian fascism.

The Churchill wing of the Tory party and various groups of Prussians lead by people with "Von" at the start of their name.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 3:49 PM
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194

I don't have access to the social science articles and books that are listed in the Wikipedia entry. I think the assertions therein and herein come with proper caveats, and the slightest familiarity with politics and history should be sufficient to show that authoritarian tendencies are heavier on the right wing.

The article itself says:


"The "right wing" in right-wing authoritarianism does not necessarily refer to someone's politics, but to psychological preferences and personality. It means that the person tends to follow the established conventions and authorities in society. In theory, the authorities could have either right-wing or left-wing political views.

and that:

... For example, during the Cold War, authoritarians in the United States were usually anti-communist, whereas in the Soviet Union, authoritarians generally supported the Communist Party and were opposed to capitalism.[10 ...


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 3:55 PM
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Like most Wikipedia articles, you have to follow through the links. This is the most useful link out of the article, it has a complete introduction to and discussion of the empirical evidence. The author points out that left-wing authoritarianism can exist but it is simply very rare in the U.S. and Canada (related to the reason why there is no substantial left wing authoritarian tendency among U.S. liberals).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 4:11 PM
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162 and 166: And it sucks ass too--unless the recent act changed it enough. Any arrest, even if no charges are filed is on it, and it can screw your life.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 4:33 PM
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198

I read the article. I scored 93 on the test slightly above average (90) for parents. I have some doubts about validity. I found the statements worded in a way that tended to prompt me to disagree (so I had total negative responses of 29 and positive responses of 5). Also the directions left something to be desired. They said mutiple reactions (to different parts of a statement) should be combined giving for example -3 from -4 and +1. This was apparently obtained by addition but this of course is not the correct way to compute an average (you also have to divide by 2).

In general the author had a rather hostile attitude towards people with the RWA trait which is undesirable for a scientist.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 5:32 PM
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I found the statements worded in a way that tended to prompt me to disagree

Statements can be worded in a way that doesn't tend to prompt you to disagree?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 5:52 PM
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which is undesirable for a scientist.

Why is it that so many people think "scientist" is supposed to equate to "robot"?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 6:10 PM
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Do you want me to find somebody to teach you about this thing we call "love?"


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 6:12 PM
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201 is particularly funny considering some of the LB/JBS arguments-about-technicalities that have occurred.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 6:19 PM
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201

Statements can be worded in a way that doesn't tend to prompt you to disagree?

You have a point of course, but the statements were full of things like "have to", "no doubt" and "always" which aggravated my nitpicking tendencies. And the general tone was one which I am prejudiced against.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 6:27 PM
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202

Why is it that so many people think "scientist" is supposed to equate to "robot"?

Because there are numerous examples where lack of objectivity has produced erroneous results. Hence the invention of double blind experiments and other measures intended to prevent scientist's human emotions from fouling up the data.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 6:32 PM
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oh, sigh, I both want to inject some knowledge I have but don't want to seem "back". but oh well:

James, there are test construction principles that explain the features you noticed. Questions that use mild or qualified wording tend to get a lot of assent, and therefore low variance in responses, so they don't do well predicting anything. (For non-stats/math people: you have to have reasonable variation on any kind of variable for it to correlate well with any other.) You are supposed to word questions very strongly on Likert type scales (which that was).

I didn't count whether it was truly half and half (ideally it should have been), but it looked like the test authors tried to construct it so that the sense of disagreement (whether it meant "more authoritarian" or "less authoritarian") was balanced across questions--it's known to test authors that there's a personality variable on a quibbly/agreeable scale that they have to correct for.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 6:46 PM
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"(For non-stats/math people: you have to have reasonable variation on any kind of variable for it to correlate well with any other.)"

This was imprecisely stated--I'm excepting improbable-in-the-natural-world-of-psychology-and-neuroscience cases where two variables you're measuring have precisely the same kind of scrunched up, restricted distribution in your sample.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 6:50 PM
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Do you want me to find somebody to teach you about this thing we call "love?"

Wouldn't want people coming after me with chainsaws and electrodaggers.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 8:00 PM
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Of course, I'm sort of sniping at James for no reason, because "there are numerous examples where lack of objectivity has produced erroneous results" is totally fair. What I'm actually disagreeing with is a sentiment I've heard crop up in a few places lately, notably in discussion of climate change, that once scientists work to produce their objective results, they shouldn't then advocate based on the outcome of those results. Which, fuck that. But I don't think it has any obvious relation to the survey design in this case, so I'm picking on James as a stand-in for other people arguing something different, without even making it clear what I'm thinking of. Sorry for that.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 8:39 PM
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Wouldn't want people coming after me with chainsaws and electrodaggers.

It's a beautiful thing, emotion is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 8:43 PM
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Circling back to my comment about how different the debate about prisons in the 1970s was, I was reminded tonight in a conversation with a friend about a truly remarkable event that occurred in Massachusetts in 1973:

On March 9, 1973, the guards at Walpole State Prison in Massachusetts walked off their jobs to protest prison reforms. The governor declared a state of emergency. And the inmates were left in control of the maximum security prison with the highest murder rate in the nation.
What happened during the next three months--or rather, what did not happen--is one of the most important stories in the history of the U.S. criminal justice system. That story is told in When the Prisoners Ran Walpole....
What did not happen at Walpole was what everyone feared: murder, rape, violence, and chaos. Instead, with the prisoners in charge, incidents of violence dropped to zero.
Inmates moved about freely. They got the prison industries up and running again. They created a part-time work schedule so that men could both work and attend the new education programs they started. They invited in outside observers and the media to monitor their actions. And through their union, a chapter of the National Prisoners Reform Association (NPRA), they held ongoing negotiations with the administration for improved living conditions and won concessions that are, in some cases, still in effect today.
But in the end, the prisoners ran the prison too well. Again and again the guards' union was humiliated by the successes of the inmates. Finally, on May 18, the administration succumbed to intense political pressure to "take back control," and the guards re-entered the prison, this time for good.

I've been a bear to Kleiman in this thread and it's probably partially unfair; he is after all writing in a context of a society that is far removed from the world in which the phrase "prison abolition" was in live circulation.

But it appalls and saddens me that the idea of self-regulation is still so foreign, that the Olmstead ruling notwithstanding we seem to be getting farther and farther away from it, always narrowing the group of people who can be trusted to make decisions on their own behalf.

I'll believe that there are wholesale changes happening when school children don't have to ask permission to fulfill basic bodily functions.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 9:52 PM
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Oh, and just in case any of you see the profile on our new DA in the NY Times, it's not a very good article. You'll get more substantive examples about his data and policy changes in hometown articles.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 10:03 PM
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James, there are test construction principles that explain the features you noticed. Questions that use mild or qualified wording tend to get a lot of assent, and therefore low variance in responses, so they don't do well predicting anything. (For non-stats/math people: you have to have reasonable variation on any kind of variable for it to correlate well with any other.) You are supposed to word questions very strongly on Likert type scales (which that was).

I think this depends on how the average person rates a statement like "A is always true" when they believe it is usually but definitely not always true. I would tend to rate it -1 which I think would mess up correlations. But perhaps the average person rates it positively as long as they think A is true more often than not.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 11:08 PM
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"(For non-stats/math people: you have to have reasonable variation on any kind of variable for it to correlate well with any other.)"

This was imprecisely stated--I'm excepting improbable-in-the-natural-world-of-psychology-and-neuroscience cases where two variables you're measuring have precisely the same kind of scrunched up, restricted distribution in your sample.

I have some doubts about this even as restated. Certainly you want your sample population to cover a reasonable range in the variable of interest as this reduces the importance of noise. So you don't want to try to correlate IQ with something else based on a sample population with IQs in a restricted range like 99-101. But I am not convinced quantizing a wide range into many pieces is required to get significant correlations with other variables. If IQ is strong correlated with variable X I would think this would often be apparent even if we quantize IQ as 1 (above 100) and -1 (below 100). I suppose there are theorems about this.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 11:36 PM
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... What I'm actually disagreeing with is a sentiment I've heard crop up in a few places lately, notably in discussion of climate change, that once scientists work to produce their objective results, they shouldn't then advocate based on the outcome of those results. ...

Actually I tend to agree with this as well in that science and political advocacy seem to have differing and rather incompatible moral norms making it difficult to be effective at both.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-19-10 11:52 PM
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If IQ is strong correlated with variable X I would think this would often be apparent even if we quantize IQ as 1 (above 100) and -1 (below 100). I suppose there are theorems about this.

Ok, the magnitude of the correlation is reduced, but might still be significant. If you're quarreling with "for it to correlate well" in my restatement, I suppose that was poorly stated too. What I should have said is that restriction of range in a variable will reduce the magnitude of its correlation with another--unless they have the same scrunched up distribution. Dichotomizing a variable in the way you suggest could either make a relationship with another contiunous measure drop below a significance threshold or allow it to persist at a lower magnitude, depending on the various other factors.

It's still the case that the scale authors are doing well to write it in a variance-maximizing way.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 06-20-10 9:32 AM
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all right, I have to admit this is a good point -- there are some vestigial "class enemy" tendencies from authoritarian movements around on the liberal side as well. But they are way less powerful within liberalism than conservatism.

Not a lot of liberal empathy for Roman Polanski either, at least judging by the other thread.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-20-10 11:10 AM
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It's still the case that the scale authors are doing well to write it in a variance-maximizing way.

Well as long as the variance is coming from the thing they are trying to measure. Introducing variance from other factors or random noise can't be good. At least for me I don't think the test is very good because it is introducing noise. Part of the problem is, he is trying to load three different traits into each question. It would seem better to measure the traits separately and then combine the scores in some nonlinear (to reflect the fact that he is defining RWA to require the presence of all 3 traits) way at the end.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-20-10 11:20 AM
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Not a lot of liberal empathy for Roman Polanski either, at least judging by the other thread.

This is at least the third time you've made a similar assertion, and although I've been ignoring it as trolling, I'd now like to go on record as disputing it. It is possible to both feel empathy for someone and to believe that they have behaved badly, immorally, or even illegally. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.

I don't like what I've heard of Polanski and I think what he has actually admitted to doing (much less what he has been accused of) is odious. This doesn't mean that I think he's undeserving of humane treatment.

Indeed, my deep and abiding attachment to little things like equal protection under the law, due process, right to counsel, etc., is in part because of my empathy for people in terrible situations of their own making.

But to recognize that it's humiliating and horrible to be publicly shamed in the press, and to have your life's work be forever overshadowed by your worst act, is not the same as saying those things shouldn't happen. Yes, it's humiliating. But someone I was close to were in a similar situation, I would want them to face the music. Not just for the victim's sake, but for their own self-respect and their future relationship with me.

There's a big difference between "I did something terrible, and I take responsibility for it," and "Why are you making such a big fuss over this little sin I committed?" Empathy is not a get-out-of-jail-free card -- it is in part a recognition that we are all better than our worst acts.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-20-10 11:48 AM
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I agree with James: conservatives identify more with sociopathic corporations, child rapists, and bros.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-20-10 11:58 AM
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Witt, 212 is amazing. Thanks for posting. As soon as I get out of library jail I'm going to read it. (If anyone has a hardcover copy of Barry Hannah's Bats Out Of Hell, check to see if it's the LAPL's.)


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 06-20-10 12:08 PM
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