Monday, August 3, 2015

Light Beach Reading

Better to be on vacation and zoning out on your ipod than reading these articles, but if you need a few things to raise you out of beach-reading stupor and get your blood flowing, check these out.

First, a lurid tale of a wackadoodle judge and the abuse of probation

In Maryland, many first-time drunken-driving defendants are released on their own recognizance, particularly if no one was hurt. But Mrs. Hall’s bail was set by a court commissioner at $25,000.
A bail bondsman charged Mr. Hall $2,000, payable in monthly installments, to post bond, and Mrs. Hall was released in less than 24 hours. Everyone assured her the case was minor.

Drunken-driving penalties vary widely depending on the judge, but Mr. Stamm said a typical sentence for a first offense might be a year of unsupervised probation. Most judges will offer what in Maryland is called “probation before judgment,” or P.B.J., in which a defendant’s guilty plea is set aside. If the defendant violates probation, the judge may reimpose the conviction and sentence the person under the original offense — in Mrs. Hall’s case, up to 60 days in jail. If the defendant is successful, she avoids a criminal conviction.

As expected, the prosecutor offered Mrs. Hall probation before judgment in exchange for a guilty plea. But Judge Joan Bossmann Gordon of Maryland District Court in Baltimore balked over what she viewed as Mrs. Hall’s lack of cooperation with the police. After taking a recess to consider the matter, she agreed to the plea deal “against my better judgment.”
Typically, drunken-driving defendants get a professional assessment to determine what kind of treatment they need: a 26-hour class for “problem drinkers” or a 12-hour class for “social drinkers.” Mrs. Hall denies having a drinking problem, and there is nothing in her record to suggest otherwise.

But Judge Gordon did not wait for an assessment. She sentenced Mrs. Hall to 18 months supervised probation, costing her $105 a month in fees for probation and drunken-driving monitoring. She also ordered Mrs. Hall to attend 26 weeks of alcohol education at $70 a week and three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week.

All told, Mrs. Hall was looking at fees of $385 a month, her lawyer’s fee of $1,500, fines and court costs totaling $252.50 and the $2,000 bail bond.

Still, her financial situation was about to get worse — in April, the Motor Vehicle Administration suspended Mrs. Hall’s driver’s license for 14 days. The suspension contributed, Mrs. Hall said, to the loss of her job at a rehabilitation center 20 miles away.
Read the whole article. I had to read it twice to believe it wasn't out of Texas somewhere. And how this "judge" or whatever she is hasn't been removed from the bench and disbarred for abuse of office beggars insanity.


Speaking of insanity, there's this guy who makes a living providing "pseudoscience" to juries who exonerate cops who kill.

Training Officers to Shoot First, He'll Answer Questions Later:
When police officers shoot people under questionable circumstances, Dr. Lewinski is often there to defend their actions. Among the most influential voices on the subject, he has testified in or consulted in nearly 200 cases over the last decade or so and has helped justify countless shootings around the country.

His conclusions are consistent: The officer acted appropriately, even when shooting an unarmed person. Even when shooting someone in the back. Even when witness testimony, forensic evidence or video footage contradicts the officer’s story.

He has appeared as an expert witness in criminal trials, civil cases and disciplinary hearings, and before grand juries, where such testimony is given in secret and goes unchallenged. In addition, his company, the Force Science Institute, has trained tens of thousands of police officers on how to think differently about police shootings that might appear excessive.

A former Minnesota State professor, he says his testimony and training are based on hard science, but his research has been roundly criticized by experts. An editor for The American Journal of Psychology called his work “pseudoscience.” The Justice Department denounced his findings as “lacking in both foundation and reliability.” Civil rights lawyers say he is selling dangerous ideas.

“People die because of this stuff,” said John Burton, a California lawyer who specializes in police misconduct cases. “When they give these cops a pass, it just ripples through the system.”
It also shows the inherent subjectivity of psychology in general. The fact that you can find an "expert" in the field who produces diametric conclusions to settled research illustrates its inherent arbitrariness. 

But I guess if you paid me enough, I could provide you with all kinds of junk science showing that Leprechauns and Unicorns are real too. Just write the check.
Speaking of shrinks, this article illuminates Cook County's newest chief jailer...a clinical psychologist.
Instead, she became fascinated by psychology and earned a doctorate. She began working at Cook County Jail in 2006, and this spring became its unlikely warden when she was promoted to executive director — one of the first clinical psychologists to run a jail, underscoring how much the country’s prisons have become holding centers for the mentally ill.

“It’s a national disgrace how we deal with this,” said Sheriff Thomas Dart, who appointed Dr. Jones Tapia to the post and who refers to the jail, a place notorious for its history of violence and overcrowding, as the largest mental institution in the country. He said that as many as one-third of the jail’s 8,600 inmates were mentally ill.

Before becoming warden, Dr. Jones Tapia oversaw mental health care at the jail, and under her guidance, Cook County began offering services that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. All inmates upon arrival now see a clinician who collects a mental health history to ensure that anyone who is mentally ill gets a proper diagnosis and receives medication. The jail then forwards that information to judges in time for arraignments in the hope of convincing them that in certain cases, mental health care may be more appropriate than jail.
The jail also enrolls arriving inmates in health insurance plans, then helps arrange basic case management upon their release.

“We’ve started to focus on the entirety of the system, from the point of arrest through discharge, and really forcing the whole system to take a look at the people that we’re incarcerating,” Dr. Jones Tapia said.
While I applaud Dr. Jones Tapia's efforts, it's sad that it took a psychologist becoming a warden to somehow give voice to what others have been saying for decades: that our jails and prisons have become the new asylums; that these people need help and treatment, not punishment and incarceration; that isolation invariably makes mental illness even worse; and that a lack of follow-up care virtually guarantees the turnstile will spin again with said mentally ill individuals' incarceration (see also: this blog and its posts for the past 8 years as well).

It's also, I confess, a bit troubling, "the first clinical psychologist to run a jail" in the U.S. Actually she'd be the second. The first was Zimbardo and his colleagues 40+ years ago, and we all know how that turned out.

And given that psychology and its main organization the APA is still under fire for their role in punishment and torture during the War on Terror, putting a psychologist in charge of an incarceration facility should give everyone pause.

You may now return to sand and surf (and Leprechauns).

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