No Positive Criminal Reform, Please. We’re Liberals.


You’ve probably heard about the case of a man who was sentenced to a handful of months in jail for a sexual assault conviction. You may or may not think that’s a fair sentence, but do please understand that his life is basically over. He’s a convicted felon, and worse, a convicted sex offender. He’ll face massive struggles for the rest of his life because of these two things, so while his sentence may seem brief, bear in mind that it is, in many ways, a life sentence.

“Just like the one his victim has!” you might cry. “Revenge!”

And revenge is what we’re going to get. Not against him, of course, though having a bunch of armed protesters show up at his house is just fucking creepy. Seriously, knock that shit off, you guys.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Revenge. Because of this incident, and a perception, that isn’t entirely accurate, that rich white men get off with much easier sentences than other people do, a new law has been proposed in California that broadens the definition of rape (fine), and mandates stricter minimum sentences (not fine).

This really is a terrible solution to this problem. You know what’s going to happen with stricter laws regarding this? I’ll give you a hint: rich white males will still get around them. Poor black males? Not a chance.

And as liberals, we’re supposed to stand up for the oppressed, right? That feels, at first glance, like what we’re doing; standing up for women. But poor black men will suffer from this law far more than rich white men, and of those two, who do you think is the more oppressed? Anyhow, I thought we were supposed to be against longer prison sentences and against standard minimums.

This is a bad law. This is a bad solution to this situation, as is the recall effort against the judge in this case.

The solution here is a wholesale reform of the legal process to make it fairer. To make it so that poor black men stand the same basic chance in court as rich white men. This law will not do that.

If you believe in reforming the judicial system then you have to embrace logical, rational decisions that will benefit many and harm few. Changing the laws to punish one person (who won’t be punished under these laws), does not accomplish that. This does nothing but make life harder for a people who already have hard enough lives as it is.

 

A Positive Step


The Justice Department has announced that they are putting an end to their practice of using private companies to operate some of their prisons.

Good.

Private prisons are an abomination. The idea that such a place of human misery should be run as a for profit venture is mind boggling. They’re dangerous, they’re wasteful, and they’re simply immoral.

I want the state to pay to have to run our prisons, and I want them to have to pay a fair amount do so. Maybe then, we’ll stop building so many, and maybe then, we’ll stop throwing so many people into them.

How to Waste Time and Money


New York governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill making it illegal for sex offenders to play Pokémon Go. Because they might somehow use it to molest kids. Somehow. In some way. But…how exactly?

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“Who can say?”

Does it even need to be…no, I need to stop asking that question. Yes, it apparently does need to be said that this is a very, very stupid idea. From what I can tell, this sounds like it’s only targeted at sex offenders who are still on probation, but it’s still stupid.

First, by far the vast majority sex offenses against children are visited upon them by friends or family. This does nothing to deal with that.

Second, this is a waste of time and money that I’m sure could be better spent elsewhere.

Third, couldn’t any sex offender simply create a completely different email address from any that the police might have on record and use that to play the game? I have a friend who isn’t on any lists, but he maintains two different game accounts.

Lastly, tell me exactly how this is supposed to work for a sex offender, please. So, what, Herbert from Family Guy goes out to play Pokémon Go, sees some kids doing the same, and…what? What happens here that couldn’t happen if those kids were skating, walking, riding on the bus, or just hanging out in a park? Why is this game different?

One possible problem I’ll admit could come up is that the Pokémon are distributed randomly, so you could easily have a sex offender’s home that features tons of rares right outside. Or a gym across the street. Or similar. But this law does nothing to address that; it’d have to be handled by the game’s publisher. They’re based in California. I’m pretty sure they can just ignore any requests based in New York.

Bottom line: this is pandering to the worst, most baseless fears in our society, does nothing to alleviate those fears, and fails to address any real problems.

So well done, Cuomo, well done.

Die, Robot


The other day, when the shootings happened in Dallas, the police found the alleged shooter and cornered him. He was trapped, with no way out. They brought in a negotiator to talk with him. Hours ticked by.

Then they straight-up murdered him with a bomb attached to a robot.

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The robots were created by man. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.

I’m deeply uncomfortable with this. From what I can tell, the shooter was still occasionally firing off shots at the police. But they had the guy cornered, which means there was plenty of time to get cover so he couldn’t hit anyone. It sounds like all they needed to do was wait until he got very thirsty or ran out of ammo. Or possibly ate his gun.

Either way, it seems very odd and inappropriate that they made the choice to kill the guy.

I mean, it seems like if you have a robot you can attach a bomb to, then surely you can attach other things, right? Like maybe a tear gas canister, or similar? Or possibly a tear gas canister in conjunction with a stun grenade?

Of course the guy had just killed five police officers. There was no way he was likely to survive the night. Even if he hadn’t died then, he would have died “resisting arrest” or would have “accidentally” fallen down some stairs. This is not a good thing, but it’s likely what would have happened.

I’m not entirely sure what other options the police had here, but I’m not at all happy with the idea that they can just kill someone who is cornered and poses no immediate threat. This bothers me greatly, and I dislike the precedent set here.

#blacklivesmatter


So the other day, a black man selling CDs was wrestled to the ground by a pair of cops. They had him basically prone, and shot and killed him. The governor of Louisiana, where this took place, has sensibly realized that the fed need to handle the investigation, and has turned it over to the Justice Department.

Meantime, in Minnesota, which one hardly thinks of as a hotbed of racism, police pulled over an armed black man. He told them he had a gun, asked if it was ok to get his ID, and was shot as he tried to do so. He died, though not before his girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting.

Does it need to be said-wait, yes, of course it needs to be said. The police have way too much power and discretion in this country. They’re allowed to kill pretty much anyone with very few consequences. Police departments in general have an “us vs them” mentality that’s made worse by militant images and military styles of law enforcement (though to be fair, the military usually has more stringent rules of engagement).

Yes, #notallcops, but also, yes, #adisturbinglylargenumberofcops. This shit needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

I think the best way is to go back to what I’ve said before; disarm the police. The vast majority do not need their guns. The few situations where they do can, in general, be resolved by special armed response units, similar to what other countries have. Yes, this will likely result in more cops being shot and killed. That sucks. But the safety of the public, including the safety of suspects, must take priority over the safety of the police.

Oh, and on a final note to the #alllivesmatter crowd: grow the fuck up. Black people face special circumstances in this country that make it more likely they’ll be killed by a police office than a white person would be.

Several months ago, I was watching a TV show where someone offered the following example, which I think is informative. He basically said that suppose you to go a doctor’s office with a broken leg. You tell the doctor it hurts, and that you need your leg; your leg matters. The doctor says, “Well, yes, your leg matters. All bones matter.” That’s technically accurate, but the one bone that’s having the issue is the one that needs to be addressed.

And so it is with this.

#blacklivesmatter

An Important Step


An important step forward has been taken in the realm of helping prison inmates to avoid going to back to prison when they get released. That step? The federal government will no longer ask about felony convictions on job applications. They only get to ask about it after considering all the applicant’s actual qualifications.

This only affects potentially about 600,000 jobs, but it’s an important step. It’s good that the federal government is paving the way for this, because really, employers shouldn’t be able to ask about felony backgrounds unless it’s in regard to something related to the job. Did someone steal from their employer and are now looking to apply at a bank? The bank should know.  But if that person stole from their employer and isn’t looking for a job that involves handling money, maybe the prospective new employer doesn’t need to know.

It’s been shown time and again that one of the best ways to keep people from reoffending and going back to prison is through good, stable jobs. Those, along with stable housing and education, will generally keep people out of the legal system much more effectively than any “tough on crime” bullshit. So I’m very, very pleased that this step is being taken.

Another Fire Fail


So it looks as though faulty arson science resulted in yet another likely innocent person spending almost three decades behind bars. At least in this case, unlike in the Willingham case, the person in question wasn’t murdered by a state more obsessed with revenge than justice.

I’m to the point now where I think the government should have to go back to every arson conviction that was issued prior to 2000 and review them; possibly with new trials for all. Yes, this would be expensive, but so what? We know that much of the evidence used to convict people of arson prior to about 2000 or so was extremely faulty and not worthy of being called “science-based” in any way. It is therefore worth it to go back and look at every case.

There’s really no down side here. If the new science upholds convictions then great; we know we got it right despite the faulty science that existed before. But if even only a handful of convictions turn out to be wrong, well, at least we’ve done what we can to fix the situation and can hopefully make it up to the victims.