Five Links from a Criminal Justice System: Corrections and Overcorrections

Five Links from a Criminal Justice System: Corrections and Overcorrections May 21, 2016

“The Myth that Fewer People Are Going to Prison”:

John Pfaff, a legal scholar at Fordham University, pointed out the paradox in a series of tweets on Tuesday. While more people are being sent to prison than in 2010, the total population declined because prisoners are serving shorter terms, partly as a result of lawmakers’ efforts to reduce minimum sentences. The reduced sentencing are welcome for convicts and their families, but incarceration is not affecting fewer lives.

more; also, did California’s drastic reduction of its prison population (mostly to jail or parole, but also due to reclassifying some felonies as misdemeanors) lead to a crime wave? So far no. (Although we understand so little about crime that I hesitate to say more than that.)

“N.C. medical board investigating 60 doctors of drug overdose victims”:

In a move to step up the fight against prescription drug abuse, North Carolina’s Medical Board is investigating 60 doctors and physician assistants with patients who died of overdoses.

By law state officials cannot release the names, but said each physician had two or more patients fatally overdose on prescription painkillers within a 12-month span. The Medical Board is also investigating 12 other doctors and physicians assistants who prescribed high doses or large volumes of opioids. …

Officials said they are already hearing complaints from patients that physicians are arbitrarily reducing the strength and quantity of painkillers that they prescribe out of fear of being investigated.

more (via Maia Szalavitz, who comments acutely: “we are turning doctors into narcs & this doesn’t help either pain [patients] or [people with addiction]. does help dealers though.” Having listened to people discussing whether they can get illegal pot, painkillers, or hallucinogens to cope in some way with debilitating pain, I am inclined to believe her.)

If you’re reading me you doubtless already have strong opinions about how much the 1990s should influence current political debates, but here, turn your watch back:

…A few days later, on April 24, a lesser-known crime law quietly turned 20. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 — or AEDPA — was signed by Bill Clinton in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. While it has been mostly absent from the recent debates over the crime policies of the ’90s, its impact has been no less profound, particularly when it comes to a bedrock constitutional principle: habeas corpus, or the right of people in prison to challenge their detention. For 20 years, AEDPA has shut the courthouse door on prisoners trying to prove they were wrongfully convicted. Americans are mostly unaware of this legacy, even as we know more than ever about wrongful convictions. Barry Scheck, co-founder and head of the Innocence Project, calls AEDPA “a disaster” and “a major roadblock since its passage.” Many would like to see it repealed.

If the Clintons have not been forced to defend AEDPA, it’s partly because neither the law nor its shared history with the crime bill is well understood. AEDPA’s dizzying provisions — from harsh immigration policies to toughened federal sentencing — were certainly a hasty response to terrorism. But the law was also the product of an administration that long before the Oklahoma attack had abandoned its party’s core principles on criminal justice, deciding instead to wield crime policy as political weapon. After the Republicans seized control of Congress in the historic 1994 midterm elections, the Clinton White House sought to double down on its law-and-order image in advance of the 1996 presidential race. In the short term, it was a winning political strategy for Clinton. In the long term, it would help pave the way to one of the worst laws of his presidency.

more–via the gloriously-monikered Shrillary Tintin, long may he wave

And this final story has no easy answers, but necessary questions:

An unusual coalition of largely older and conservative former military men and younger, left-leaning law students are waging a joint campaign for one of the most unlikely causes: clemency for troops convicted of killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

more–a short and powerful read, via the Rattus

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