Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or “How did our drug laws get so crazy?”

drug abuse

I wrote this blog four years ago about our ignorant policy and attitudes towards drugs and drug users.  I started it with a satire comparing obese people to drug addicts. You may not like the satire but the problem and analogy is spot on. We have an arbitrary drug policy in this country which hurts millions of people. Witness the incarceration rates for drugs. This article is about the reasons for this stupidity and why we need to change our thinking.

Just this week, I heard two candidates for sheriff in my county talk about the need for stronger drug enforcement and more SWOT teams. The answer is always more police and more arrests. When will we wake up and address the real problems of drug addiction and drug abuse?

Oct-13-Is-Drug-Legalization-the-Answer-Section-2-730x1146

Aging Capriciously

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes  —- (From the Beatles)(Click here to listen)

lucy_in_sky_with_diamonds_by_weirdplushie-d5r2kziHave you ever wondered why we do not arrest obese people?  What if we treated people who abused food like we treated people who abused drugs?  We could argue “Why don’t we arrest obese people since we arrest drug addicts?”  Do not both of them abuse their bodies?  If you look at the five most common reasons given for drug control policy:  Morality, Health, Profit, Discrimination and Social Control, it could be argued that obesity violates at least four of these principles.  As yet, we do not see too many obese people running amok, but who knows, maybe cases of “Crazed” obese people are just being under-reported.

It seems unfair to me that obese people are…

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What the Hell Do We Need Morality For?

morals and ethics

This blog is about the subject of morality.  Once upon a time, they taught morality in school and in church.   The first system of morality that many older Americans were exposed to was probably the “Ten Commandments.”   This was a code of rules given to the Israelites by Moses on Mount Sinai.  I have always thought it ironic that a set of morals from the “Old Testament” was supposed to be the foundation for a Christian America.  Even today, advocates of this code of morality want to hang it in town halls, schools, courts and government centers.  This is a part of the Bible that promoted an “eye for an eye” and stoning adulterers.

Jesus did say “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).  Jesus added at least one commandment to all others that was even more valuable than the ten TenCommandmentsMoses gave.   Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John: 13:34).  I would be much more in favor of seeing this posted in my neighborhood than the Ten Commandments.

Perhaps even more importantly in terms of a system of morality, Jesus gave a sermon where he proposed what has been called:  The Eight Beatitudes:   (Click here to hear the The Beatitudes Song

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  —- Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

It is my opinion that the Eight Beatitudes constitute one of the greatest systems of morality to come out of the Bible.  I would rather see these taught (if we are going to teach a system of morality) than the Ten Commandments.  I would also not mind these being posted in schools and other public places whereas I am sick and tired of those who want to post the Ten Commandments.

I noted that once upon a time, we taught morality in schools and churches.   Actually, we not only taught morality but morality was also imbued in our social fabric by many traditional stories and the media.  Children from an early age were exposed to Fairy tales, Uncle Remus stories, Aesop Fables, and Tales of the Arabian Nights.  These stories were full of morals on how to live and behave properly.  Early TV was also full of morality tales.  Shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and Andy Griffith each week clearly conveyed stories of morality and what was right and what was not right in terms of behavior.

sin-guilt-causes-body-pain-sicknessSomeplace along the way, we started losing our sense of morality.  Some have blamed it on becoming a multi-cultural environment.  Some have blamed it on the decline of religion and church going.  Some have blamed education while still others have blamed progress and a business culture that has no room for strict morality.  I am not sure what the actual cause was.  I am more concerned that it did happen.  Studies have shown that our culture has become more amoral than moral and that narcissism now plays an increasing role in our society.  People are less moral and more self-centered than ever before in the history of this country.  A book by Joel Marks (Ethics without Morals: In Defense of Amorality -Routledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory, 2012) is one of several that makes an argument for amorality:

“In clear, plainspoken, engaging prose, Joel Marks presents the case for abandoning belief in morality. Anyone who wants to defend the practice of making moral judgments will have to confront the issues Marks raises, and the alternative to morality he proposes.” – Mitchell Silver, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA 

In the book “The Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality (2009)” the author Hans-George Moeller advances the following case for amorality:

“Justice, equality, and righteousness—these are some of our greatest moral convictions. Yet in times of social conflict, morals can become rigid, making religious war, ethnic cleansing, and political purges possible.  Morality, therefore, can be viewed as a pathology—a rhetorical, psychological, and social tool that is used and abused like a weapon.”

In an article “Why Is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans?”  by Peter Gray in Freedom to Learn (2014), Gray notes the following:

“For the past three decades or a little more, researchers have been assessing both narcissism and empathy using questionnaires developed in the late 1970s.  Many research studies have shown that scores on these questionnaires correlate reliably with real-world behavior and with other people’s ratings of the individuals.  For example, those who score high in narcissism have been found to overrate their own abilities, to lash out angrily in response to criticism, and to commit white-collar crimes at higher rates than the general population.[1]  Those who score low in empathy are more likely than the average person to engage in bullying and less likely to volunteer to help people in need.[2.]

Over the years, these questionnaires have been administered to many samples of college students, and analyses that bring all of the data together reveal that the average narcissism score has been steadily increasing and the average empathy score has been steadily decreasing ever since the questionnaires were developed [3.]  The changes are highly significant statistically and sufficiently large that approximately 70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago.

What accounts for this historical rise in narcissism and decline in empathy?  There is no way to know for sure, based on the data, but there are lots of grounds for speculation.”

I think we have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  I agree we need to keep the State separate from the Church.  I also agree that we don’t need the Ten Commandments as the foundation for moral thought in America.  Nevertheless, I do believe that we all need a code of morality to live by.  Whether it be Christian, Buddhist, Confucian, Agnostic, Atheist, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Baha’i, or other, we need a set of morals as a template and foundation for our behavior.  We need a baseline that each of us can start from so that we can assess what is good and what is right.  We need to have some system of ideas about what is correct behavior and how we should live in a socially interconnected world.

When I was a kid, (somewhere along the way) I was taught the Seven Deadly Sins.  Sometimes they were called the Seven Deadly Vices or the Seven Cardinal Sins.  I assume that since I attended a Catholic school, it went along with the teaching.  The Seven Deadly Sins included the following:

  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

7 deadly sins

Some of you might think that this list is old fashioned or out of date.  How could this set of implicit moral values make a difference in our society?  They are so old; do they really have any relevance anymore?

Take a close look around you at the world.  You have only to look for a few minutes to persuade yourself that these “sins” are at the top of the list of major problems.  Greed, envy, gluttony and lust appear pervasive in our culture.  (See my series on Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins) TV shows, movies, magazines, radio, supermarkets, superstars, sports, credit services, escort services, pornography, Las Vegas all portray an American brand of materialism that is nothing short of sick.  Get it now, get it fast, and get more and moreMore is better!  Bigger is better!  Shop till you drop!  He who has the most toys wins!

“If necessity is the mother of invention, then surely greed must be the father. Children of this odd couple are named: Laziness, Envy, Greed, Jr., Gluttony, Lust, Anger and Pride.”  ― John R Dallas  Jr.

Black Friday ( The day after Thanksgiving in the USA) is only a small manifestation of the greed, lust and sloth that has infected our society.  How many Americans have a regular exercise schedule?  How many obese citizens can you count on the street each day?  How many Americans spend more each week then they earn?  How many Americans will go in debt this Holiday Season to spend money that they don’t have on gifts and toys?  Where is the self-restraint that is necessary to push oneself away from the table or shut the TV off and say “Enough.”  It barely seems to exist.  Is it any wonder that so many countries have a very negative stereotype of the “average” American?  We appear to be a group of people who have lost our moral compass.

ARTICLE 29 —  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • You have a responsibility to the place you live and the people around you-we all do. Only by watching out for each other can we each become our individual best.

At this point, you well may be asking “What right does he have to be so damn moralistic?”  Didn’t Jesus say “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”  “Are you so perfect that you have a right to look down on other people?”  “Who does he think he is, Jonathan Edwards?”  “I don’t need anyone telling me my faults.”  “I get enough negativity from work without having to get it from you.”

Please allow me to clarify a few misconceptions.  In some religious circles we are all sinners.  Since I am agnostic, I don’t subscribe to a religious view of sin.  My use of the terminology is borrowed from the religious sphere since I think that the concept of sin has a very useful connotation if we can free it from some of the pejorative and negative associations with which it is fettered.  First of all, I do not believe that you will go to hell for committing these Seven Sins.  Second, you will not be a bad or evil person because of them.  Third and accentuating the positive, you may be happier and healthier if you are more aware of these “sins” and can do a better job of examining the role that they play in your life.  My bringing these “sins” out is to help us all become more aware of the morality that we have allowed to become obscured in our daily lives.

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.  —-Buddha

We have had a decline in morality that started over one hundred years ago and it still seems to be declining.  More people are worried about their taxes increasing then the poverty facing many people in this country.  More people are worried about their security then the number of people going to jail every day for victimless crimes.  More people are worried about the price of gasoline then the pollution we send into the atmosphere every day.  Self-centeredness has become a dominant fixture of the American landscape.  “Greed is Good” says Ivan Boesky and everyone applauds.

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.   — C. S. Lewis

Why do I think we should care about morality? 

goodevilWithout morality, we are not even as good as animals.  Animals eat, drink, sleep, procreate and fight when they have to.  They do not do it simply to hurt other animals or to wage war against groups or individuals that they cannot tolerate.  Animals care for their young and exhibit many characteristics of moral behavior.  In captivity, animals may display much more aggressive behavior.  For instance, Orcas in the wild have never been observed to kill other Orcas.  This is not the case for Orcas in captivity.  There is no such thing as civilization without a commitment to moral and ethical behavior.  Even animal societies are proof of this.

“I am Envy, begotten of a chimney-sweeper and an oyster-wife. I cannot read, and therefore wish all books were burnt; I am lean with seeing others eat – O that there would come a famine through all the world, that all might die, and I live alone; then thou should’st see how fat I would be! But must thou sit and I stand? Come down, with a vengeance!”  ― Christopher MarloweDoctor Faustus

Without morality, we have no compass to define what is good behavior and what is bad behavior.  We are reduced to the level of opportunists willing to take advantage of anyone and anything that suits our ends.  Listen to the current debate on the use of torture and the recent CIA report and you will find numerous “experts” advocating that the “ends justify the means.”  One man on NPR noted that he thought we should ask the victims of the Twin Trade Towers what they thought about the use of torture to capture Osama Bin Laden.   John McCain (May he Rest in Peace) once said it best when he opined in Congress (12-9-14) that “”Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”  Nevertheless, he was opposed by his own party in his opposition to torture and in fact to even releasing the CIA Tortmoralityure Report. 

Many Republicans argued against releasing the report, especially as the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria grew and U.S. intelligence officials had warned that its release could cause backlash from nations and groups hostile towards the nation.   American embassies in the Middle East had been put on heightened security alert for its release.

McCain replied that “This report strengthens self-government and, ultimately, I believe, America’s security and stature in the world.”  (CNN 12-9-14)

Finally, without morality, there is no way to transmit values from one generation to another.  A lack of morality has led to the increase in amorality that is now symptomatic of our society.  Amorality is a set of beliefs which deny the value of morality or at best are indifferent to morality.  A rock is amoral.  It is neither good (moral) or bad (immoral) but may be used for either purpose.  Anything or anyone without a conscience is amoral.  It is a fine line and one that is very easy to trespass between amoral and immoral.  Many people today may think their behaviors are amoral when actually they could better be described as immoral.  Harken back to the Seven Deadly Sins and ask yourself, how many of these vices are amoral?  Are greed, gluttony, lust and wrath amoral?   Can anyone with a good conscience say it is okay to partake in these vices?

“Seven deadly sins,
seven ways to win,
seven holy paths to hell,
and your trip begins

Seven downward slopes
seven bloodied hopes
seven are your burning fires,
seven your desires…”
― Iron Maiden

Time for Questions:

What is your moral code? What are the three most important morals in your life?  Do you think everyone should have an explicit moral code?  Why or why not?  Do you know many amoral people?  What do you think about amorality?  When is it justified?  What do you think the world would be like if everyone was amoral?  Would it be a better world or worse? Why?

Life is just beginning.

“Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always”  ― Dante Alighieri

Social Legacy Systems: How They Block Change and Prevent Progress: Part 2- The Legal Correctional System

Responsible_Prison_Reform-e1373996928213No set of institutions in America are more in need of reform than our legal correctional systems. No systems in America cost the taxpayer more money with less return or value to the taxpayer than our prisons and correctional related systems. No institutions in American cause more misery and heartache than our courts, legal system and correctional institutions. Together, our courts, legal systems and correctional systems cost the American taxpayer well over $100 billion dollars a year. The Economics of the American Prison System”  (Listen to Wake Up Dead Man) as you read my blog today. 

And what do we get for this “investment?”

  • Within three years of being released, 67% of ex-prisoners re-offend.
  • Within three years of being released 52% are re-incarcerated
  • The rate of recidivism is so high in the United States that most inmates who enter the system are likely to reenter within a year of their release.
  • In 2008, one of every 48 working-age men (2.1 percent of all working-age men) was in prison or jail.
  • In 2008, the U.S. correctional system held over 2.3 million inmates, about two-thirds in prison and about one-third in jail. 450px-Incarceration_rates_worldwide
  • Non-violent offenders make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population. Non-violent drug offenders now account for about one-fourth of all offenders behind bars, up from less than 10 percent in 1980.
  • The total number of violent crimes was only about three percent higher in 2008 than it was in 1980, while the total number of property crimes was about 20 percent lower. Over the same period, the U.S. population increased about 33 percent and the prison and jail population increased by more than 350 percent.
  • Crime can explain only a small portion of the rise in incarceration between 1980 and the early 1990s, and none of the increase in incarceration since then. If incarceration rates had tracked violent crime rates, for example, the incarceration rate would have peaked at 317 per 100,000 in 1992, and fallen to 227 per 100,000 by 2008 – less than one third of the actual 2008 level and about the same level as in 1980.

These facts are from “The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration” by Schmidt, Warner and Gupta, 2010

US_criminal_justice_cost_timeline

These facts have not gone unnoticed by state legislatures and politicians.

“In 2013, 35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes have focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven research and analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers in other states and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in criminal justice policy.” Vera Institute of Justice     US_incarceration_timeline-clean.svg

I have written about this problem before. See my blogs (The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or “How did our drug laws get so crazy?” It is not a new problem and in the years since I published my first article on it, it has only gotten worse. I published my first article on this issue back in 1995. In it, I applied the concepts of process and quality improvement to the criminal justice System. My article was published in a journal of pro’s and con’s on the justice system. Subsequently, I was asked to speak at a correctional conference in Minnesota and to explain the concepts that I had outlined in my paper.

The conference was attended by hard Right and hard Left people: Correctional Officers, Wardens, Prison Reform Advocates, and Relatives of both victims and prisoners. The Right wanted stronger sentencing guidelines and tougher police policies. The Left wanted more humane treatment for prisoners and more focus on rehabilitation. Each group had read my paper and each group thought I was “on their side.” The fact of the matter was, each side was wrong. I was not on either side. Tougher sentencing (which seems to have won out) has only resulted in prison reasonshigher levels of incarceration, less feeling of safety in society, higher costs and no appreciable decrease in drug usage or correctional costs. The Left may have lost in terms of policy but their solutions would not have fixed the system either. You do not get a better system by fixing defects after they are created. Process improvement focuses on going upstream and preventing defects, not warehousing and reworking them. It became clear as I tried to explain concepts of process control, six sigma system capability, rework, redesign and systems analysis, that I was speaking Greek to the participants, both Left and Right. Neither side had a clue as to what I was talking about. I suspect each side was disappointed that they had not found a new advocate.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” ― Max Planck,

People in the old paradigm cannot see the new paradigm. Both sides might as well have been deaf and mute while I was speaking since the concepts I introduced were so foreign to them. I noted that the Correctional System needs reform. This was an understatement. The Correctional and Legal systems in America need nothing less than a major paradigm shift. Or to put it another way, we need a revolution in thinking about crime, incarceration and justice. Einstein noted that: “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We need new thinking and new ideas. We need creative inspired leaders who are willing to break with conventions and boldly go “Where no one has gone before.” This kind of courage is sadly lacking in our political leaders today.

If I had to give my talk over again today, I would not talk about process control or process improvement. I would simply talk about the need for a paradigm shift. I would try with all my might to get the fish to see the water, to get the birds to smell the air and to get the people there to see the failure of the present paradigm. I do not need to recite the facts again. They have been repeated ad nausea. The problem is getting people to open their eyes. More prisons do not mean more safety. Longer sentences do not mean less crime. Tougher policing does not mean less violence on the streets. Witness the wave of protests rocking America today following the Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III shootings by police. Every one of these names represents a killing by a police officer of an unarmed Black man or Black child. To date, not one killing has resulted in the indictment of a single police officer. The apparent message this sends is that: “Black men are guilty until proven innocent and that that they are so dangerous that they need to be shot first and asked questions of later.”

Bill James in his book “Popular Crime” provides the following observation:

“What we are doing, in a sense, is making ourselves constantly more aware of the threats and dangers around us, and then erecting security walls as if these threats were closing in on us, when in reality, we are pushing them further and further away.” P-96

James consistently provides evidence that we are safer and crime is lower than it has ever been in the history of this country. A point I made in my blog Are We Living in More Dangerous Times?  , see Part 1 and Part 2 with numerous statistics from the FBI and other agencies. Nevertheless, as the media treats us to a steady crescendo of violence and terror on the news, radio and TV, it is hard for anyone to feel like they are really safer or that they are less likely to be murdered in their sleep. Gun sales, concealed carry weapons and ammunitions sales have increased dramatically in the US in the past ten years. Smith and Wesson’s stock price has gone from 1.65 per share in 2004 to over $9 per share in 2014.

“The “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States” report from the Crime Prevention Research Center released Wednesday (July 10, 2014) analyzed parallels between a 22 percent drop in the overall violent crime rate in the same time period in which the percentage of the adult population with concealed carry permits soared by 130 percent.

The report finds that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, which are up from 4.5 million in 2007. This 146 percent increase parallels a nearly one-quarter (22 percent) drop in both murder and violent crime rates during the same time period.” —  Number of Permits Surges as Crime Rate Drops

Citizens, police, homeowners, retired people, elderly, minorities and even children are walking the streets with their weapons in Condition O. That is cocked and ready to fire. Only the slightest provocation is needed to shoot. A dark figure lurking in a hallway, a man running towards us down the street, someone knocking on our front door late at night and the response is “shoot, shoot and shoot.” The reaction is even more rapid when the “allegorical” assailant is a minority or a stranger.

We need a paradigm shift. We are going in the wrong direction. We are safer and more secure than ever before, but we are walling everyone away who pose even the most minimal threat to our security. We are walling ourselves away behind security fences, gated communities, threat detection systems, private police forces, concealed weapons and reduction of liberty and spontaneity. We don’t feel safer and we are more suspicious of outsiders and strangers. We resent immigrants and foreigners and anyone who is different from us. Send them all back. The hell with sanctuary or diversity! America for people that look like me, act like me and think like me.

Build more prisons!  Invoke the three strike rule!  Make it a two strike rule!  Get tough on crime!  Platitudes like these get voters on the side of security and restraint. No new taxes does not apply to building new prisons. The contradiction between liberty and safety is ignored. Fear drives irrational behavior. Everyone develops blinders as the police go about harassing would be criminals or even suspected criminals or anyone who even looks suspicious.  “Thank God, once we lock them away, we can throw away the key and not have to deal with them anymore!  If only we could put all the “suspects” away, we good people could go about our lives feeling safe and free from the possibility of crime and violence.”

“By age 23, almost a third of Americans have been arrested for a crime, according to a new study that researchers say is a measure of growing exposure to the criminal justice system in everyday life.” — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/us/nearly-a-third-of-americans-are-arrested-by-23-study-says.html?_r=0

Time for Questions:

How safe do you feel: On the street, in your home, late at night, at a movie concert? What makes you feel safe? Have you ever been arrested? Do you know anyone in jail? Can you think of a way that prisons could be eliminated? Do you know how many people are in prison for non-violent crimes? What if they were doing public service instead? What can you do to help bring about prison reform? Are you happy with the present system?

Life is just beginning.

“A moment’s beginning ends in a moment” ― Munia Khan

 

The Sixth Greatest Mystery of All Time:  Who killed the Lindbergh baby, the Black Dahlia, Nicole Simpson and Jon Ramsey Benet?

MurderMysteryLogoAre you a “Crime Voyeur?”  Do you religiously follow all of the “Crimes of the Century?”  Can you hardly wait for the next tidbit of evidence or the suspect interview?  Do you spin your own theories based on conjecture rather than facts?  Do you get exasperated with the police, relatives, witnesses, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and jurors who are all so biased that they would not know the truth if it hit them between their eyes?  Of course, “who done it” is so elementary “My Dear Watson”, that Sherlock Holmes would not waste five minutes on the case.  But even though the case is elementary to all but the blind, you succumb to the newspapers and lurid TV stories with full knowledge that the media is selling RED.  If it’s red, it’s read!  Gore sells more!  When it bleeds, people read!

(Murder Mystery – Scouting For Girls)  Listen to the song as you read my blog.

So okay, I confess, mea culpa, I am a junkie for crime cases.  I too am one of the ones to spin theories and suspects out of thin air and “hardly facts.”  Alas, if only we were forensics specialists or the lead detectives, we could have these cases wrapped up as fast as they do on Glades or Midsomer Murders or Bones.  In less time than it takes to sweat a suspect, we would have the murder weapon, confession, body, motive and a jury screaming for blood.  Hang em high!  If you do the crime, you pay the time!

Why is it that no one else but us (and of course TV detectives) can figure out the obvious?  The clues are staring the police in the face but they don’t see them.  How can they miss the connections that are so apparent to us?  If only they would ask for our help.  We could easily solve the case.  But no, they are the professionals and they don’t want our help.  Thus, the case drags on and on and all the time we sit here knowing full well “who done it.” columbo

So you want to know who killed Nicole Simpson or Jon Ramsey Benet!  Well, you probably already know but either you do not want to believe it or you want Moses to come down with the perps name written on two tablets along with a confession.   If so, you have watched too many TV detective crime solving stories.  Understand that in TV crime solving procedure, everything is black and white.  There are no politics in TV murders or missing bodies.  The suspect only needs a little persuasion done by our intrepid crime fighters and a full confession is forth coming along with the motive and murder weapon.  The body has already been found or you would not have much if any story.  Most TV dramas start off with the discovery of the gruesome remains of a cadaver followed by much flippant analysis between the Medical Examiner and the lead detective or between the lead detective (LD) and the forensic pathologist (FP).

LD – They found the body about 11 PM in the park under the Cypress tree. 

FP – You mean with anyone else but me? (Laughs)

LD – That mean you want to tell me where you were between 10 and 12 PM last night? (Smirk)

FP – If you don’t remember, I’m not telling you. (Giggles)

LD – I suppose we should go over that again tonight, but right now we have a murder mystery and only 60 minutes minus 30 minutes of commercials to solve it.  (Serious)

FP – You bet.  Don’t think our advertisers and sponsor would want us to go over our time slot.

Did you pick up the “subtle” innuendoes about sex between our crime fighting team?  Did you notice how nonchalant they were over the body that was torn limb from limb or left in a reeking vat of sulfuric acid?  It takes a lot of fortitude to be a TV dick.  I am sure that most real life detectives wish they had these abilities.  Of course, if they did, they would be making closer to a million dollars a year and not under a hundred thousand dollars a year.  Real life is not fair.  Not only do TV dicks solve crimes faster they make a whole lot more money doing it.

off_beat_detective_stories_195905It seems like in the “good old days” (Whenever they were), it was much easier to solve crimes.  You did not have to waste as much time on procedure, facts, evidence and suspect rights.  Things started going south when the Miranda decision was rendered and suddenly suspects were entitled to their rights.  It is a lot easier to solve crimes when you can bypass this legal roadblock.  I mean really, why should I need a search warrant to look through your house or car?  Why should I need probable cause to wiretap your phone?  Why can’t I search you without consent or your lawyer being present?  How can anyone expect me to solve the crime if these legalities are tying my hands?  What ever happened to good old country justice?  Back when we knew they were guilty but couldn’t prove it and hung em anyway?  What a waste of time these trivial legalities are.  Real cases take years to solve and on TV they do it in less than 60 minutes and that often includes the trial.  Maybe we should be hiring more TV detectives on the real police force.

TV detectives are able to get warrants in less than five minutes and when they don’t have them, they break in anyway.  Ever notice how good TV dicks are at picking locks?  Real detectives never come out of a suspect interview with a confession whereas TV dicks get full confessions in less time than it takes for their coffee to go cold.

TV Dick:  We know you did it. (Nonchalant)

Suspect:  You can’t prove a thing. (Smug)

TV Dick:  You think you are clever, but you left the coffee pot on right after you stabbed your ex-wife to death. (Smile)

Suspect:  So what? (Perplexed)

TV Dick:  Well the water ran out and the butler had to refill the pot (Serene)

Suspect:  You don’t mean to say? (Worried)

TV Dick:  Right, he found the gun in the bottom of the coffee pot that you stashed there when you heard him coming and it had your finger prints all over it. (Resolute)

Suspect:  Dam – never thought anyone would look in the coffee pot.  (Chagrined)

TV Dick:  Next time you murder your ex, turn the coffee pot off.  (Fading laughter)

Did you notice a disconcerting fact that was overlooked during this repartee?  The wife was stabbed to death but the gun was the murder weapon.  Well, such contradictory facts often come up in TV dramas but you need to suspend belief or least put all logic on hold while you watch these crime stories.  Better to save your logic for the real life crimes.   Let’s look at a few of the most famous cases from the last century.  We will thus put a lie to the idea that there is ever a single solitary “crime of the century.”

Who killed Nicole Simpson? 

Well, we know from the facts (Forget the DNA) that he was big, strong, fast and angry.  That rules out just about everybody but O. J. Simpson.  Now if you are a White person you are puzzled by the fact that so many Black people felt O. J. was innocent.  Actually that was not the case.  Every Black person I knew thought O. J. was guilty.  The real question was who was guiltier:  The Police, Nicole or O. J?  Simpson represented a good many things to the Black community.  He was successful, good looking, famous and rich.  He was a Black man who had become respectable and admired in White society.

Oj and GloveThe L.A. Police department was racist, racist and more racist.  Nicole was a White woman taking advantage of her looks to marry a rich Black man and then trying to take him to the cleaners for alimony and child support while screwing as many other guys as she could.  So we have a three way triangle here.  Who is guilty?   Who was in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Who falsified evidence and clearly overlooked any semblance of objective police procedure?  The answers to these questions are as obvious as the lines in your palm.  The MAN who killed Nicole is now doing time for another crime.  Justice will out one way or another.

Who killed the Lindbergh baby?

What wonders about the conflict or confusion in this case?  You are found with the money.  You are spending the money.  You have motive and opportunity and ability.  You have wood from a ladder used in the murder.  You have a witness who recognized your voice.  What is the problem?  Bruno Hauptmann was so guilty it was a crime to even have a trial.  However, did he do it himself or have an accomplice?

The evidence suggests someone else got away scot free.  But I suggest you not worry about it.  Detectives are out to close cases not necessarily find all the guilty parties.  You cannot bring back Baby Charles by finding the other killer.  The parents were satisfied that justice was done.  The courts were satisfied.  The cops were satisfied, so what is the problem?  People seem to hate cases where conspiracies and great complexity do not exist.  Perhaps we are watching too many TV shows where the TV dicks generally have a dozen or more suspects and through mind boggling forensic and analysis techniques gradually narrow it down to the one whom you least suspect.  In real life, the one who you most suspect is probably the guilty party.

Who killed the Black Dahlia?

black_dahliaLong before Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, we had the Black Dahlia:  Beautiful aspiring actress trying to break into stardom by spending time in bed with the right people.  Was the killer a jilted boyfriend or simply some sick psycho?  Her body was found cut in half and posed in a manner either to provide ultimate humiliation or ultimate revenge.  There was no shortage of suspects or people who confessed to the murder.

“The Black Dahlia murder investigation was conducted by the LAPD. The Department also enlisted the help of hundreds of officers borrowed from other law enforcement agencies. Owing to the nature of the crime, sensational and sometimes inaccurate press coverage focused intense public attention on the case.

About 60 people confessed to the murder, mostly men. Of those, 25 were considered viable suspects by the Los Angeles District Attorney. In the course of the investigation, some of the original 25 were eliminated, and several new suspects were proposed. Suspects remaining under discussion by various authors and experts include Walter Bayley,[14] Norman Chandler, Leslie Dillon, Joseph A. Dumais, Mark Hansen, George Hill Hodel, George Knowlton, Robert M. “Red” Manley, Patrick S. O’Reilly, Woody Guthrie, Orson Welles, and Jack Anderson Wilson.”   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Dahlia

Which one of her many boyfriends could it have been?  Which one of the many “Avengers” could have done it?  Since she was a gold digging fame seeking femme fatale, each of them probably had plenty of motives.  The evidence suggests that whoever did it had a very sick mind and enjoyed the mutilation more than the murder.  Will we ever know?  Experts say probably not.  But that will not keep us from speculating.

Nothing is more fascinating that a sexy woman, lurid killing, and plenty of suspects.  Once upon a time, we had the antics of the Gods to keep us engrossed.  Greek God stories abound with twisted tales of murder, incest, rape, infanticide, parricide and imaginative revenge.  Today, we have serial killers and an endless series of stories about them.  There are biographies, autobiographies, TV shows, interviews, documentaries, movies and a zillion fictional novels about serial killers.  Type in “serial killers” on Google and you will get over one million hits. Type in “serial killer books” and you will get over two hundred thousand hits.  Who killed the Black Dahlia? Who really cares?  As long as the murders keep coming we can stay glued to the tabloids.  Next please!

Who Killed Jon Ramsey Benet?

Jonbenet-ramseyJon Ramsey Benet was a cute little six year old girl; beauty queen pageant winner at the age of five.  She was found strangled and bludgeoned in the basement of her own upper middle class home.  Suspects:  Parents or Kidnapper?  Initial police investigation focused on parents.  Shoddy forensic work, poor crime scene investigation and perhaps two killers smarter than the police all lead up to a tangled web of “who done it.”  Accusations went back and forth and forth and back.  Parents or kidnappers, kidnappers or parents, parents or kidnappers?

Let’s start from the three basics:  Motive, opportunity and ability.  Who had the motive?  Was it the parents or the kidnappers?  Jon’s mother was said to be high strung and pushy.  She had no apparent motive to kill her daughter but if it was an accident she did not seem like the kind of person to just admit it and take the consequences.  Together with her husband, they had plenty of motive to hide the crime and try to make it look like someone else did it.  The ransom note seems like a pretty farfetched piece of logic for any real kidnappers to have written.  It seems highly unlikely to have been written by anyone who did not know the family well.  If it was a kidnapping and they knew the family well, it stretches the imagination to think that they could have believed they could get away with it.  If Jon knew them and they needed to kill her then how could they follow up the ransom demand for the money?  The kidnappers would only have one motive and that was money.  But money was never taken or put on the table and how could they expect to get any money once Jon’s body was found?  If the kidnappers were really killers solely out for revenge, then why the bit with the ransom note?  Not a good way to get revenge. If you are out for revenge, you want the victim to know it.

Let’s move on to opportunity.  Kidnappers would have had far less opportunity for this crime than the family had.  They would have had to burglar the house, find their way around in the dark, make little or no noise and kill Jon silently so they did not wake her parents up.  If they were going to kidnap the child for money and by some unlucky chance they accidently killed her, then why not take the body and at least go through the charade of ransoming the child for money?  They did not take the body and it does not make sense to think that if they were prepared to take a live child away that they could not have taken her dead body.

Finally, who had the ability to kill Jon?  This is an easy question.  A six year old child could easily be killed by either a male or female adult.   Either by intention or accident, small children or killed every day by negligent parents.

Approximately fifteen children under the age of fourteen die every day in this country as a result of unintentional injuries, totaling more than 5600 children per year.  Although surely not all, many of these deaths were undoubtedly caused by parental negligence.  Yet despite the prevalence of these fatalities, almost no research explores the treatment of these cases by the criminal justice system.  Commentators often assert that parents are rarely prosecuted in cases involving deaths due to parental negligence, but they completely fail to cite any authority for that proposition.  In addition, prosecutors are relying on the common perception that a failure to prosecute is the norm when making charging decisions in individual cases. — CRIME AND PARENTHOOD: THE UNEASY CASE FOR PROSECUTING NEGLIGENT PARENTS Copyright 2006 by Northwestern University School of Law, Northwestern University Law Review, Vol.  100, No. 2

According to data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), 49 States reported a total of 1,593 fatalities.  Based on these data, a nationally estimated 1,640 children died from abuse and neglect in 2012.  The disparity in numbers between the two studies is created by the different definitions of negligence.  It would seem the 2006 study includes potentially accident deaths whereas the 2012 study only includes confirmed reports of abuse or neglect.

Given the large number of children either accidently or otherwise killed by parents, it does not seem far afield to think that either Patsy or John might have accidently killed Jon and then together engaged in an elaborate cover up.  This seems a more likely scenario then either of them calling the police and saying that they killed Jon by accidently hitting her in the head.  However, since the coroner ruled the main cause of death to be strangulation and asphyxia, it is harder to believe that any loving parents could resort to such a cold blooded method of murder, particularly when any actual motive by her parents to kill her did not exist.

Finally, complicating the question of “who done it” is the DNA found on two separate pieces of Jon’s clothing.

“The match of Male DNA on two separate items of clothing worn by the victim at the time of the murder makes it clear to us that an unknown male handled these items. There is no innocent explanation for its incriminating presence at three sites on these two different items of clothing that Jon Benét was wearing at the time of her murder.”  —- Mary T. Lacy, District Attorney (2008-07-09). “Letter from DA to John Ramsey”.  District Attorney’s Office, Twentieth Judicial District, Boulder, Colorado.  Retrieved 2008-07-09.

If the DNA rules out family members (seems like this is logical to assume), if the kidnappers did not seem to want the child and if we rule out revenge on Jon as a motive, we are left with no suspects.  No suspects, unless, the DNA evidence, handwriting analysis and medical examiner’s report are wrong.  If any of these are wrong or all are wrong, the logic of the case points right back to the family.  Either brother, father or mother may have had the Motive, ability and opportunity.  If the evidence is incontrovertible, then as Simpson’s attorney said “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.”  If the evidence is valid, then Jon’s parents are not guilty and we can assume that another motive which has not been uncovered was the reason.  Perhaps some nutcase parent thought Jon was too much competition for her daughter and decided to take matters in her own hands.  Sounds unlikely, but it has been known to happen.

Time for Questions:

Who do you think did it?  Why?  Can you provide Motive, ability and opportunity or just conjecture?

Life is just beginning.

 

The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex

The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex is an interlocking and interdependent set of institutions whose avowed purpose is to 1. Protect Americans from crime.   2. Fairly punish wrong doers.  3. Provide rehabilitation for errant citizens and 4. Return them as productive members of society.  If we take these as the four main objectives of the system, in actuality, the system accomplishes very little of these objectives.  What it does accomplish, it does so at a high cost to our country.  The system is a gross miscarriage of justice whose complexity, cost, processes and outcomes cost Americans billions of dollars of year with little appreciative results for the money.  True, crime is down in the US for the past ten years but at what cost?  Furthermore, do you or any other Americans actually feel safer in your home or on the streets at night?  In what large American city would any man or women simply take a walk at 10 or 11 PM?

In this blog, I want to dissect each of the components of what I am calling our Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex to demonstrate the monstrous dysfunction of the system and to show how each part feeds off of and helps to sustain dysfunction in the other parts.  Let’s start with the Correctional System.  No doubt you have heard some of the statistics that demonstrate how expensive this system is but a short review might help.

The Correctional System:

The following table shows the number of Americans in jails in the US as of 2010:

Image

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

“The cost of the American prison system is enormous.   It is estimated that the yearly cost of over $74 billion eclipses the GDP of 133 nations. What is perhaps most unsettling about this fact is that it is the American taxpayer who foots the bill, and is increasingly padding the pockets of publicly traded corporations like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group. Combined both companies generated over $2.53 billion in revenue in 2012, and represent more than half of the private prison business.”   http://www.smartasset.com/blog/news/the-economics-of-the-american-prison-system/

The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world (743 per 100,000 population),  Russia has the second highest rate (577 per 100,000), followed by Rwanda (561 per 100,000). The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but 23.4% of the world’s prison and jail population.  As far as rehabilitating prisoners, a 2002 study survey showed that among nearly 275,000 prisoners released in 1994, 67.5% were rearrested within 3 years, and 51.8% were back in prison.  Most studies support a high recidivism rate.

What are you going to do in today’s recession era economy with no job skills, a felony conviction and the past four or five years out of the labor market?   If you tell me you are going to get a job, I will give you one hundred to one odds against it.

However, we are simply looking at one part of the dysfunctional system that I am labeling as the Law Enforcement Legal Judicial Correctional Complex.  The costs of the Correctional system alone are staggering both in terms of financial costs and human lives not to mention human spirits.   But the system is interlocking and like the military industrial complex, each part feeds into and off of the other institutions. Most studies do not show the true cost to the American taxpayer since few take into consideration the cost of courts, lawyers, judges, parole officers, correctional officers and police departments.

The Legal-Judicial System:

Americans are treated almost monthly if not weekly to a real life courtroom drama.  The trial of OJ Simpson and other high profile cases has catapulted crime front and center into part of the American entertainment experience.   There is hardly a day that goes by when we cannot follow a new courtroom drama.  Trials such as the Casey Anthony case, Travon Martin case or the Jodi Arias case occupied front page news and TV time for months.  Even as I write, I am sure that some new bizarre case will soon grace our TV and newspapers.  Judges, lawyers and defendants become actors and Hollywood entertainers as they sacrifice justice for ratings.  The trials may go on for months and the news is quick to pounce on the most titillating and sensationalist elements of the trial in their efforts to increase ratings and advertising revenues. Where once sex reigned supreme to sell ad space and capture viewers, real life crime (often with elements of both sex and violence) are guaranteed to keep viewers welded to their couches.  The secondary effect of this massive bombardment of crime and court time is to persuade us that we are surrounded with and inundated with crime.  Go to Amazon.com and type in Serial Killers and you will find a total of 14.460 books dealing with the subject. Go to your local supermarket and look at the paperback books on the rack. Probably a third will deal with some aspect of murder or mayhem.

What does all this cost Americans in dollars?  It is estimated that the high profile murder case of Jodi Arias has reportedly cost Arizona residents well over $1.5 million to finance her aggressive state-appointed legal team, as well as the continuance of her extensive trial.  Ironically, after months of witnesses in what most thought would be a “slam dunk” case, the jury deadlocked on a verdict and now there must be a retrial.  If you were running the courts and making a fortune off of the advertising, news and TV broadcasts can you think of a better outcome?  More testimony from witnesses, more nude pictures, more sex and more violence; is anybody concerned about justice or the obscene costs of such performances.

Most costs that we associate with these “Hollywood” trials primarily calculate the costs of lawyers, but to obtain “Total Judicial Costs”, we must also include the costs of the courtrooms, the bailiffs, the juries and the judges as part of the entire system.  According to the US Chamber of Commerce, America’s civil justice system is the world’s most expensive, with a direct cost in 2010 of $264.6 billion, or 1.82% of U.S. GDP.  Add to this cost, the cost of the US criminal justice system (well over 300 billion by many estimates) and you now have $76 billion dollars for prisons, $265 billion dollars for civil trials and $300 billion dollars for criminal trials for a total of $641 billion dollars.  BUT WAIT!  We have not included the cost of the US Law Enforcement System.

The Law Enforcement System:

To obtain “Total Costs” we must also include the costs of state, county, municipal police departments, security departments and also such Federal Agencies as the FBI, ATF, and ICE which perform law enforcement activities.  Let’s look at the annual budgets of the three largest Federal agencies first:

  • ICE requested an annual budget of more than $5.8 billion for FY 2012.    ICE
  • The FBI’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget request includes a total of $8.1 billion in direct budget authority.  FBI
  • ATF had a fiscal year budget of $1.2 billion dollars.  ATF

Now to include costs of police departments across the US: 

According to the Bureau of Justice, the operating budgets of local police departments totaled $55.4 billion for fiscal year 2007—14% more than in 2003 after adjusting for inflation (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

A more recent report by the Justice Policy Institute for 2012 notes that:

“Despite crime rates being at their lowest levels in more than 30 years, the U.S. continues to maintain large and increasingly militarized police units, spending more than $100 billion every year.  Police forces have grown from locally-funded public safety initiatives into federally subsidized jobs program, with a decreasing focus on community policing and growing concerns about racial profiling and “cuffs for cash,” with success measured not by increased safety and well-being but by more arrests.”

So to our former Total Costs of $641 billion dollars we must now add:

  • $5. 8 billion dollars for ICE
  • $8.1 billion dollars for the FBI
  • $1.2 billion for the ATF
  • $100 billion dollars for police departments across the USA

This brings our Total Costs for The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex to $756 billion dollars and I have not calculated the costs of private security systems or private security agencies which by some estimates now include more total employees than in the US Law Enforcement system.  I have also not included other government agencies or state agencies such as Natural Resources which also have a law or code enforcement function.

$756 billion dollars is admittedly a rough estimate.  I would not stake my name or reputation on this figure.  However, the point of this exercise is to demonstrate that we are looking at a huge cost to achieve the aforementioned objectives of:

1. Protect Americans from crime.

2. Fairly punish wrong doers.

3. Provide rehabilitation for errant citizens

4. Return criminals as productive members of society.

At a rough cost of $5000 dollars per every America taxpayer per year, this might not seem like such a high cost if we could actually say that we are achieving our objectives.  But by no stretch of the imagination could anyone think we are actually doing a good job on any of the four objectives I described.  I could write volumes on the unfairness of prison sentences, the injustices in the court system, the unfair rates of incarceration for minorities, the lack of effectiveness of capital punishment to deter crime and the useless war on drugs which nets billions for the Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex but has been zero percent effective in decreasing drug use.  No doubt though, you have heard these statistics and facts over and over again.  So the question really is where can or should we go from here. We know the system (if not irreparably broke) is in need of major repair.  What should these repairs be and how do we go about instituting them?

Caveats:

I want to clarify a few issues before I move onto my suggestions for change.  First, I do not want to nor do I think it possible or desirable to eliminate police, FBI and even the ICE group.  We need protective services and the world will never be a perfect place with perfect people. There are too many immoral and unethical people to expect that society will self-organize into peaceful crime free communities.

Second, the workers in the system are doing their best but as Deming often said, it is the fault of the system not the employees. The police, judges, lawyers, correction officers, parole officers, administrative people and security services are all doing the best they can in systems that are basically dysfunctional.

Third, we need to change the hearts and minds of Americans who stubbornly think that more prisons, more police, more trials, stricter sentencing and more guns will lead to a safer community.  This is a fallacy that empirically has little support. Wherever it is true, the cost in human lives and spirit not to mention the costs in dollars is not worth the results.

We need to fundamentally change our attitudes about the causes and solutions of crime.  We need to take the same scientific approach to crime that we take to physics, biology, chemistry and genetics.  Too much of our criminal justice system is based on superstition, intuition and emotions.  No doubt crime is a tragedy but the solution must be as analytic as Sherlock Holmes.   Punishments and sentencing based on political and emotional appeal to the populace have no place in the system.

Changes Needed:

 There are a plethora of crimes that need to be decriminalized.  Many crimes should not be felonies and could be resolved with the use of fines or some type of community service.  Once we stamp someone with the mark of felon, we can almost guarantee that we will create someone who can no longer fit into society.  Some types of crimes that could be dealt with without resort to prisons or felony convictions include prostitution, drugs, white collar crimes, domestic and sexual abuse crimes.  In cases where the offenders pose no threat to the physical well-being of others, we should avoid prison sentences and felony convictions at all costs.  Think of a system wherein we declared “War on the Abuse of Women” and put the same amount of money into efforts to stop violence against women as we presently are spending to stop drugs.  We need a multi-national and multi-cultural offensive against the abuse of women which (while needing funding) also needs intelligent interventions to stop abuse.   We do not need most of the men involved in violence against women labeled as felons and sent to prison for long sentences.

Do away with mandatory sentencing guidelines.  These guidelines increase the incarceration rate without any real impact on long-term crime.  Drug sentencing is one example where mandatory sentencing laws have had little or no impact on drug use in this country.

Review trial and court records for evidence of adverse impact and discrimination against minorities.  Change laws and policies which show a disproportionate number of convictions or longer sentences for any income, ethnic, age, or gender groups.

Eliminate the use of past criminal records in hiring for Federal, state, county and municipal jobs.   Allow ex-felons the same voting rights as regular citizens in all states.  Once a person has served his/her time, they should be allowed the same rights that all other citizens have. Their past records should not be used against them.  The only exception I can make here would be in cases involving child abuse and jobs wherein the ex-offender would potentially be working with or around children.

 Time for Questions:

Do you feel safer today than you did ten years ago?  How much are you willing to pay for more security?  Are you willing to give up your freedom for security?  Do you know any criminals? Have you ever been convicted of a crime?  What “second” chance do you think you should have been given?  Do you think others deserve a “second” chance?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

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