Chris Uggen's Blog: September 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

multiracial victimization part deux

in response to my why are those of two or more races victimized at such a high level? post, erik larson of macalester college has already come up with at least a partial answer. he explains a large portion of the gap in victimization between multiracial individuals and all other racial groups with a single variable. based on his quick calculations, age seems to account for about 40 percent of the excess victimization over the population as a whole. i think that developing this analysis might make a nice research note when the data arrive in full (just make sure to give erik some authorship credit -- dude is on the tenure track!). it doesn't necessarily kill my discrimination hypothesis, but at least it reduces the magnitude of the multiracial victimization gap from "shocking" to somewhere around "disturbing." thanks erik.

i don't know the literature well, but i'm interested in the social construction of racial and ethnic identity for personal as well as scholarly reasons. people immediately peg me as swedish or norwegian (especially outside of minnesota) because of my physical appearance, and this is generally the way i self-identify. but i certainly grew up knowing that my background was at least somewhat more diverse (e.g., cree (nêhiyawêwin) indian, italian, irish...). if people who self-identify as biracial or multiracial are more likely to be victimized net of age and everything else, this doesn't bode well for the american mosaic. am i really less likely to be beaten or assaulted because i look like i'm from one and only one racial background? i'm not advocating a melting pot or assimilation model, but i can't help thinking we'd be better off if more than .9 percent of us (the figure in the ncvs) self-identified as "2 or more races."

on a much, much, lighter note, erik's response got me thinking about another kind of diversity -- the ability to claim "2 or more methods." since erik is best known for his qualitative comparative work, his sharp quantoid contribution helps make a case that i preach to grad students early on -- that there's no such thing as pure "qualitative" or "quantitative" researchers anymore. i probably look like a quant in the same way that i look like a norwegian and i emphasize quant tools in my work. still, few of the top sociologists i know advocate a "purebreed" approach to methods these days. here's a cheeky take on the advantages and disadvantages of [sociological] purebreeds and mutts, adapted from the "pet library:"

Take two [sociologists], one a [methodological] purebred and one a mixed breed. Which one is more beautiful, smarter, a better companion? It's often a matter of personal opinion as there are those who believe that purebreds are the only choice while others steadfastly stand by the mutt. One of the most appealing features of the purebred is that they have rather predictable [scholarly] characteristics. You more or less know what you're going to get when it comes to appearance and size. They also have a fairly predictable temperament so you can get a pretty good idea of what your [sociologist's] disposition will be. And, of course, if you want to professionally breed or show your [sociologist], a pedigree is your only option.

[Methodological] purebreds are more prone to [career] problems, many of which are often due to overbreeding. It's very important when considering a purebred that you find a reputable and proven [graduate program]. Many purebreds also come with working behaviors that may not fit your ideal of the perfect [sociologist]. Behaviors like digging holes, chasing after things or nipping, which have been bred into certain [epistemologies] for centuries, often prove difficult to change. And, of course, purebreds can be very costly, running anywhere from several hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.

Now for the mixed breeds. One of the most obvious downsides of the mixed breed is that you can't predict what a [new ph.d.] will look like or what size it will be as an adult. However, there are those who actually find this to be a positive, enjoying the surprise of realizing what their mixes grow up to look like. Along the same lines, mixed breeds are less predictable than purebreds when it comes to temperament. However, mixed breeds tend toward the moderate, with their temperaments often proving to be less extreme than those of purebreds. You're less likely to have a [sociologist] who's "very" energetic or "very" demanding or "very" stubborn, with [epistemologically]-based characteristics that often prove difficult to change, and more likely to have a [sociologist] that can adjust to a greater variety of situations. With a greater [methodological] diversity, mixed breeds are less likely to suffer conditions that affect certain purebreds as a result of inbreeding. They also tend to be a lot less expensive, usually costing around $25 to $75 at most [graduate programs]. Furthermore, by opting for a mixed breed, certainly one from the [non-elite departments], you may just be saving a life.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

crime and elective office

when i think of crime and voting, i usually think about felon disenfranchisement. i got word today from a friend in the research triangle on a story involving the criminal records of those running for office.

DURHAM -- Of the 17 candidates on the primary ballot for mayor and City Council in Durham, at least eight have been convicted of criminal charges.
The chairman of the Durham County Republican Party moved on Tuesday to withdraw GOP support from mayoral candidate Vincent Brown, whose extensive criminal record was the subject of an article in Sunday's editions of The News & Observer. The story recounted Brown's felony convictions for forgery and larceny, as well as a stretch served in state prison. Brown vehemently denied that he has ever been arrested...

in many places, a felony conviction formally disqualifies one from holding office, but this story went on to discuss the arrest records of the candidates. and they found plenty -- embezzlement, speeding, lots of bad checks, weapons offenses, petty theft, abortion protesting, failure to pay child support, and others. this one might be the saddest and the strangest:

In light of Brown's rap sheet, every candidate in attendance was asked before a crowd of about 75 people if they had ever been arrested on a criminal charge or had been to jail.
When it was his turn to answer Tuesday, Ward 1 council candidate Joe Williams said: "I don't have any skeletons in my closet."
Records show Williams was convicted in a 1986 trial for a single misdemeanor count of assault on a female. He was ordered by a judge to "pay for damages to teeth" in an amount to be determined by the clerk of court.

ouch. is this further evidence of the carceral state spreading ever outward? i'd hate to participate in such a line-up before a department election. actually, my graduate students tell me that some universities now obtain arrest reports on new faculty -- and i've read enough papers on institutional isomorphism to suspect that this could quickly become standard practice. if it doesn't indicate overcriminalization, do you think the 8 in 17 figure indicates greater criminality among politicians than others? As mark twain's pudd'nhead wilson hypothesized:

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. -mark twain

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

why are those of "two or more races" victimized at such a high level?

the new 2004 national crime victimization survey numbers were released this week. according to this large-scale nationally representative survey, violent crime is holding steady at the lowest levels recorded in the three decades for which we have had reliable data. that's the good news, but there is also some disturbing news regarding race differences.

the ncvs asks respondents to self-identify race, using categories for white, black, other "only," and, since 2003, "two or more races" ("other race" includes american indians/alaska natives, asians, and native hawaiians/other pacific islanders identifying a single racial background). when i first presented last year's numbers, i was depressed to find extraordinarily high rates of violent victimization among persons of "two or more races:" 67.7 victims of violent crime for every 1,000 people age 12 and older, relative to rates of 29 for blacks, 21.5 for whites, and 16 for those of other races. i've always lectured on racial disparities in victimization, but had never seen gaps like this before. this is not my primary area of study, so i may be missing something obvious. still, any good criminologist who does survey work should be able to address such questions.

i first thought it might be an artifact, given that it was the first year that the "two or more races" option was presented, but the same ugly pattern holds for the 2004 numbers (click the graph for a legible version). those reporting "two or more races" were victimized in 2004 at 51.6 per thousand, double the black rate of 26 per thousand, and far exceeding the white and "other" rates of 21 per thousand and 12.7 per thousand, respectively. only about .9% of respondents self-identify as "two or more races," but we're talking about over 1,000 people here, given the NCVS sample size of 149,000. those of hispanic ethnicity are somewhat less likely to be victimized than non-hispanics, but the main difference seems to be between "2 or more" (shown in the red bar) and all of the other bars shown.

several press accounts have reported these differences, but to my knowledge none have printed comments from victimization experts about them. so, my hope-i'm-wrong disturbing hypothesis is that a large portion of the greater violent victimization is due to discrimination. is it the case that multiracial persons are more likely to be victimized everywhere -- in black, white, hispanic, asian, and american indian communities alike? i don't know the census data well enough to comment on response patterns to such questions or even the socioeconomic differences between multiracial families and others. perhaps some of the victimization differences are due to ses or neighborhood poverty or family structure (all of which are no doubt linked to discrimination in some form). but am i missing something else here?

such a large bivariate gap cries out for serious multivariate analysis. does the pattern hold for property victimization as well? what happens when controls for neighborhood and ses are introduced? if we still see disproportionate violence against multiracial persons, it also cries out for targeted policy interventions to address this problem.

Monday, September 26, 2005

gosh, margy, why don't you tell us what you really think?

when i first began studying the collateral consequences of felony convictions in the 1990s, there were few authoritative sources on the practice. one of the best was a 1996 50-state report by then-U.S. pardon attorney margaret colgate love. margy served from 1990 to 1997 under presidents bush (I) and clinton (I), and she always provides a tough non-partisan critique of any administration's pardon record. more recently, she prepared a great clemency "resource guide" that offers a starting point for anyone seeking to restore their rights after a felony conviction (more personally, i should add, she helped me make sense of the differing rules governing felon voting rights and their restoration in each state).

today's crimprof blog features an op-ed by ms. love on the new national sex offender public registry. Her main concerns are (1) the registry's data quality; and, (2) the absence of controls on its use. while some hail the registry as a "proactive and meaningful step in protecting a child's life," the former pardon attorney takes a different view -- calling it a "half-baked mean-spirited incitement to vigilante justice."

gosh, margy, why don't you tell us what you really think?

Here are some highlights of ms. love's editorial:
... [it] relies entirely upon unvetted state registries that are notoriously incomplete and inaccurate
... most of [the offenders listed] had very dated and minor convictions, and had had no adverse contact with the law for decades...their houses and offices, marked with a little red flag like they used to put on the door of a plague house in the middle ages.
... outrageous that the federal government -- the Justice Department no less -- would rush to publish a list like this without 1) taking any responsibility for the accuracy of the information on it or warning about its shortcomings; or 2) giving the public any guidance at all about how they are supposed to use it.
... the clear suggestion that all 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States are "predators" is one of the most irresponsible I've seen come out of the Justice Department, ever.

... the Attorney General is looking into how the FBI can share its criminal history information ...the FBI’s information is almost as unreliable ... [leading to] the same categorical discrimination
... The Justice Department should be trying to address the important privacy and due process issues raised, rather than leading the charge to stir up a public witch-hunt.
... The people most hurt by it are those who are already down and are easy to victimize.
... There are labor organizations and advocacy groups working on the important privacy and due process issues raised by these initiatives, and Human Rights Watch has written a letter to the Attorney General expressing concern about the Sex Offender Registry. Where are the lawyers?

i have not investigated the registry (beyond looking up my neighborhood), but i am troubled by ms. love's report and opinion on its use. but this is a call-to-arms for lawyers -- where are the sociologists and criminologists? i'm afraid it would be a pretty lonely crusade (that might land one in prison if certain movies are to be believed). i'm revising a piece with jeff manza and melissa thompson on ex-felons as a caste-like status group. it seems far-fetched until you see such registries in action and consider their easy extension beyond sex offenders. are sex offenders so different from, say, murderers that we wouldn't create a more comprehensive registry? it could easily encompass anyone convicted (or arrested -- the private search firms use arrest data) on felonies (why not misdemeanors, as long as we have the data?) as an adult (aww heck, why should the juvenile court hoard all those records down in the basement?). the notion of a permanent stain or stigma seems ever more plausible to me in an age of free-and-easy information.

paradoxically, we now have the technology to apply a permanent mark at the very historical moment that life-course criminology establishes that everybody desists from crime. so, at the risk of oversimplifying, here's how i see the mismatch: there are social, political, and (most importantly, in my view) technological pressures toward treating criminality as a fixed characteristic of individuals, even as the science paints a picture of malleability and movement away from crime in adulthood. such pressures will clearly frustrate reintegrative efforts, but unlike ms. love i don't see a way out of the dilemma -- justice department database or not, the information systems genie seems to be out of the bottle. i think the better long-term plan might be for sociologists and criminologists to attempt to provide an unflinching, evidence-based assessment of risk across different offense groups and the relative costs and benefits of stigmatization and reintegration.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

katrina benefit with some-burbs (and westerberbs?)

when the suburbs played merlyn's, i figured it as the last chance to catch them before they became superenormous international arena-rock stars. from the opening bassline of girlache they were larger and tighter than life and i wrote a breathlessly fawning review for the cardinal. i preferred rougher stuff from husker du and the replacements, but knew deep down that they'd never sell many records. the suburbs had a great logo, an up-to-the-minute 1982 new wave fashion sensibility, and could play pretty and poppy as well as completely nuts. i'd seen REM, elvis costello, and others pass through l'il merlyn's on their way up from the van tours and it felt like the burbs' moment to break nationally as well. they put out two intense records, left local label twin/tone for a big contract with polygram, and started opening for the likes of iggy and the b52s. they were way cooler than duran duran and way hotter than depeche mode. they reminded me of new order, with (apologies to peter hook) an even better rhythm section. their live show was supertight and danceable, but with a half-dose of creepy. sadly, i think they lost both their innocence and their edge in the move to LA. if you have quicktime (and patience to wait for the downloads), however, you can see them in their glory because there is a loving collection of videos and music on the twintone site. judge for yourself: check out the low-budget cows video (i defy you not to smile while watching) or the live-at-the-caboose drinking or even the late-period heart-is-in-the-right-place love is the law.

you can see at least "some-burbs" at the "Restore the Rhythm" benefit for flood victims at 4 this sunday at target center. the lineup keeps changing, but here's the latest:

* violent femmes
* dave pirner (of soul asylum) and "the volunteers" (a pick-up band)
*"members of the suburbs" (rumored to be everybody but beej)
* tim mahoney
* chris hawkey and power play
* maybe paul westerberg (i said maybe -- i'm just repeating a rumor i read here)

i've seen everybody on the list but "power play" and they all play loose and fun. i have heard hawkey's classic rock/sports parodies on kfan. my favorites are "oh randy" about everybody's favorite receiver, "two tickets at twice the price" about a super bowl ticket scandal, and flip's gone about the greatest coach in wolves history.

Restore the Rhythm benefit concert at Target Center
(4 p.m. Sun., Target Center, 600 1st Av. N., Mpls. $29.75, all of which will go to relief efforts. 651-989-5151.)

voting crimes "lack the same gravity as a homicide"

the strib reports that a woman serving a probation sentence for theft voted in a closely contested minnesota mayoral race last year, casting a ballot in a race in which her husband won by a slim 8-vote margin. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, who happens to be running for US senate, has charged Linda Gilbert with a felony for registering to vote while ineligible.

Court documents indicate that in July, when authorities interviewed Linda Gilbert about the matter, she admitted to voting even though she knew she had lost her right to do so. Klobuchar said her office usually handles 15 to 20 election crime cases -- involving ineligible voters or people voting more than once -- each year after a major election cycle.

ms. gilbert, the current first lady of long lake, minnesota, must be very honest to admit that she knew she had lost the right to vote and voted anyway. still, it seems hard to believe that a thief who did 60 days in the workhouse is now going to catch a new felony for voting -- in her husband's election. here's the kicker, though:

Such crimes lack the same gravity as a homicide, Klobuchar said, but they still need to be prosecuted. "We have to protect the integrity of our elections."

i'm wondering about that "lack the same gravity as a homicide" quote. is it a joke? nowhere in the story is it mentioned that felony probationers can vote in 19 states or that the minnesota legislature considered enfranchising probationers and parolees this spring (i drafted a short report on the impact of this change in march). minnesota makes heavy use of probation and light use of incarceration, so ms. gilbert and thousands of others would have been able to vote without risking a felony conviction. under the proposal the total disenfranchised would have shrunk from an estimated 55,551 to 13,825, or from about 1.5 percent to about 0.4 percent of the voting-age population (and from about 12 percent to 3.5 percent of the African American voting age population).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

bandwagonesque* lurking

does anyone read this blog but not leave comments? i ask because today is "lurker day" on public sociology and crooked timber -- a time for readers who don't usually comment to say hi, register their likes and dislikes, ask questions, and raise any other issues. anyone can comment anonymously here, so i'm guessing that there aren't many lurkers. still, it seems like a good educative- democratic thing to do, so i'd love to hear from you!

lurking is completely cool here (and actually kind of exciting), but did you know you can be arrested for lurking in minneapolis?

Lurking with the Intent to Commit a Crime. Minneapolis Ordinance 385.80. Lurking, no person, in any public or private place, shall lurk, lie in wait or be concealed with intent to do any mischief or to commit any crime or unlawful act. (Code 1960, As Amend. 870.050).

being charged with "lurking" seems to mean: (a) "you're up to no good;" and, (b) "we don't like the cut of your jib"; and, (c) "that's all we could get on you." online lurking, in contrast, is normatively prescribed behavior rather than proscribed deviance (i know, i'm such a deviance geek when i'm teaching this stuff):

Lurking - The activity of one of the "silent majority" in a electronic forum... posting occasionally or not at all but reading the group's postings regularly. This term is not pejorative and indeed is casually used reflexively: "Oh, I'm just lurking". Often used in "the lurkers", the hypothetical audience for the group's flamage-emitting regulars.Lurking and reading the FAQ are recommended netiquette for beginners who need to learn the history and practises of the group before posting.

actually, i'm betting it is a silent minority with this blog, but i'd love to know if anyone is reading who doesn't often post comments.

*"the bandwagon" is among my favorite adaptable cliches ("bandwagon departs in 5 minutes"; "REO Bandwagon," "rubber bandwagon"...) and teenage fanclub's bandwagonesque a favorite power pop album (after 30 seconds of alcoholiday the world looks a bit brighter to me, both in the "smart" and in the "sunny" sense of the word).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

what was the bellingham murderer thinking?

The seattle times has been following the case of michael mullen, who confessed to killing two registered sex offenders in bellingham, washington. i wrote about the murders last month, suggesting that public availability of specific addresses and offense details might be a net loss to public safety. mullen wrote a letter to reporter mike carter at the times, which (after some hand-wringing) it decided to publish online in mullen's original hand:

"[s]hould we post the letter itself online? Most who had read it said yes. Here's why: Reading the handwritten letter was a different experience from reading the story. It was methodical. The penmanship doesn't change. Mullen thought out the message just as he said he had thought out the crime. If you are concerned, scared or just fascinated, you want to understand what he had to say. ... "Certainly no one in his right mind would agree with vigilante justice," Carter said, "but people are very frustrated about how society deals with sexual predators." He added, "the overarching sentiment (from readers) has been one of people agreeing with Mullen's sentiments, if not his methods."

is there a real danger that publicizing mullen's motivations will lead people to agree with his sentiments or inspire other vigilantes? as "p.s. punk" predicted in a comment to my earlier post, mullen spins a tale of righteous slaughter and wishes to make himself a martyr. he claims that he went to "interview" the three former sex offenders living at the house, checked their IDs to confirm identification, and let one of them go after he "showed remorse or guilt." he claims that the two he killed "blammed [sic] their victims — they showed NO remorse."

such statements show how easily a vigilante assumes the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. i'm most interested in how his comments reveal the dark side of community notification. here's what the confessed killer said on the subject:

"the State of Washington, like many states now lists sexual deviants on the Net. And on most of these sites it shares with us what sexual crimes these men have been caught for, and most are so sick you wonder how they can be free ... In closing, we cannot tell the public so-and-so is 'likely' going to hurt another child, and here is his address then expect us to sit back and wait to see what child is next"

mullen clearly blames the victims for their deaths, but he also implicates institutions that make the information public (i'm sure he'll be pointing other fingers elsewhere as we get closer to his trial). i'm working on a project now coding the information provided by each state on sex offenders and other felons. reading through the individual case records that some states post, one cannot help but see them as "sick" monsters. one sees a bad picture, a horrific description of a crime, and an address. even if the acts are decades old, there is typically little countervailing information that would help us understand their current circumstances or the extent to which they pose a threat to public safety today.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

individual rights and mass incarceration

kai erikson noted in the 1960s that deviant forms of conduct seem to derive nourishment from the very agencies devised to inhibit them. can efforts to inhibit injustice have similarly perverse unintended consequences? a new paper by harvard law professor william stuntz makes the provocative claim that the vigorous pursuit of constitutional rights is partly to blame for mass incarceration. the abstract:

The politics of crime is widely seen as punitive, racist, and inattentive to the interests of criminal suspects and defendants. Constitutional law is widely seen as a (partial) remedy for those ills. But the cure may be causing the disease. At the margin, constitutional law pushes legislative attention - and budget dollars - away from policing and criminal adjudication and toward punishment. The law also widens the gap between the cost of investigating and prosecuting poor defendants and the cost of pursuing rich ones. Overcriminalization, overpunishment, discriminatory policing and prosecution, overfunding of prison construction and underfunding of everything else - these familiar political problems are more the consequences of constitutional regulation than justifications for it.

stultz's basic argument is that constitutional law creates political "taxes" and "subsidies" that make some kinds of crime control cheap and others more costly. for example, the supreme court aggressively regulates policing and trial procedure, but generally leaves the substantive criminal code and sentencing to the politicians -- where they go hog wild expanding the number of laws and raising sentence length. he also argues that prison budgets get a "constitutional subsidy" whereas local police and courts must ante up a "constitutional tax." here's a taste of the argument:

Earl Warren and his colleagues did little to expand due process and even less to guarantee “the equal protection of the laws.” Instead, they used the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to ratchet up regulation of state and local criminal processes. That choice had three perverse consequences. First, it made the constitutional law of criminal justice primarily about criminal procedure. Second, it focused the law’s attention on trial procedure, not on the discretionary processes that actually dispose of most cases.196 Third, the Warren Court’s Bill of Rights-based regulation used constitutional law to protect majoritarian values, not countermajoritarian ones (pp. 47-48).

well, then! stuntz makes clear that he is no proponent of business-as-usual mass incarceration, but he makes a fascinating counter-intuitive proposition: could gideon's trumpet, earl warren, and the aclu have actually increased the levels and inequalities of punishment in the past generation? or is this simply piling on -- another game of "pin the blame upon the liberal?" [realizing, of course, that civil libertarians come in conservative flavors as well]. i'm skeptical of stuntz's claims, but intrigued by the causal chain he hypothesizes.

Monday, September 19, 2005

suit alleges prison rapes ignored by officials

The american civil liberties union and talkleft reports on a civil suit that begins today in federal district court. In Johnson v. Wathen, inmate Roderick Johnson seeks damages against texas prison officials, alleging that they ignored his pleas for help and did little to protect him from repeated rape and sexual abuse. According to the ACLU:

Beginning in September 2000, Roderick Johnson was housed at the James A. Allred Unit in Iowa Park, Texas where prison gangs bought and sold him as a sexual slave, raping, abusing, and degrading him nearly every day for 18 months. Johnson filed numerous complaints with prison officials and appeared before the unit's classification committee seven separate times asking to be transferred to safekeeping, protective custody, or another prison, but each time they refused...Instead of protecting Johnson, the ACLU complaint charges, the committee members taunted him and called him a “dirty tramp,” and one said, “There’s no reason why Black punks can’t fight if they don’t want to fuck.”
The suit alleges denial of equal protection based on race and sexual orientation and that administrators could have protected Johnson without compromising "legitimate correctional needs." Although the latter issue might seem paradoxical (how could stopping rape compromise security or legitimate penological objectives?), it is a common defense in prisoners' rights cases. The ACLU shows numerous pages of Johnson's handwritten complaints to officials, such as:

The extent of sexual abuse and rape in prisons is often debated by criminologists and reliable data on the subject have historically been hard to find. In the past five years, however, prison rape has received increasing attention and documentation, with a 2005 bureau of justice statistics study, 2001 and 2003 human rights watch reports, and the prison rape elimination act of 2003. A call for accountability from prison officials seems like a basic step, but complaints from inmates such as Johnson have historically been dismissed as self-serving (the prisoner is "working the system") or exaggerated ("prison is supposed to be hard") and still fall on deaf ears in some prison systems. The Johnson complaint cites Farmer v. Brennen, a 1994 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that "prison officials violate prisoners’ Eighth Amendment right not to be sexually assaulted when, with conscious disregard of a substantial risk that a prisoner will be raped, they fail to take reasonable measures to abate that risk."

It isn't just prison officials, either. People who would never joke about rape outside prisons casually laugh off the idea of prison rape (e.g., when a white-collar offender is sentenced). Either they minimize the harm (as was the case with "marital rape" and "date rape" until recently) or they see inmates as "other" -- so dehumanized that they do not suffer the way the rest of us would. The stigma of a criminal record is part of the reason for such "deliberate indifference" on the part of officials and the public, but an inmate's race, gender, and sexual orientation also appear to play a role in the societal reaction to complaints.

show justin some love

Today seems like a fine day for a minnesotan to geek out on a stat-filled baseball post, so this one's a closed-circuit message for twinkies fans. Minntwins first baseman Justin Morneau has been savaged all summer for not fulfilling the preseason hype. He and Joe Mauer were hailed as the m&m boys, a pressure-packed homage to Mantle and Maris. That's a pretty high bar for near-rookies. Mauer has had a nice season as catcher and will finish around .300, though his power numbers look a bit anemic. Morneau appears to be struggling a bit more. Qualitatively, he looks bad on some at-bats, but the ball still jumps off his bat in "wonderboy" fashion. Hitting is so difficult that I'm always shocked when a player produces an audible "wow" among major league players in batting practice. Both Mauer and Morneau do so regularly, and I'm expecting long and successful careers for them both. In fact, I'm going on record as predicting a long string of at least 30 home runs and 100 rbi years for young mr. morneau. Here are his stats (through Saturday's game) for the past three years:

22 106 _4 16 _9 30 .226 .287 .377 .664
23 280 19 58 28 54 .271 .340 .536 .876
24 442 20 70 42 87 .240 .307 .437 .744

So, he's had 20 home runs this year and about 70 runs batted in thus far. This is about as well as any other twin has managed and doesn't seem so terrible. He strikes out a lot, but not like a lot. I wanted to get some sort of comparison for Morneau and I thought I'd contrast him with about another big swinger who got off to a promising early start but took some time to develop. Here are mystery slugger's early career numbers:

mystery slugger
21 _49 _1 _6 _2 19 .327 .353 .449 .802

22 278 09 46 39 72 .277 .371 .446 .817
23 _20 _0 _0 _5 12 .000 .200 .000 .200
24 415 10 63 57 81 .282 .364 .446 .810
25 303 18 48 40 68 .234 .324 .475 .799
26 412 20 75 43 87 .272 .339 .500 .839

Then somehow the game got a whole lot easier for the slugger. Here's how the next few years went for the mystery dude:

27 448 31 101 58 _83 .288 .369 .592 .961
28 582 41 139 75 133 .301 .380 .603 .983
29 550 43 132 93 108 .296 .394 .602 .996

So, sit tight twins fans and show justin some love. Within the next 3-4 years, there's a non-zero probability he'll be putting up monster numbers. Can you guess the identity of the slugger?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

troubletown, katrina, and felon disenfranchisement

This week's troubletown cartoon is not alone in its race- and class-based critique of the administration's response to hurricane katrina. Nevertheless, troubletown's Lloyd Dangle may be the first to link hurricane non-response to a racially motivated purge of felon voting.* Just a couple weeks ago I was complaining about race and class being ignored in coverage of the hurricane. Today people are using katrina as a node to connect the dots between diverse manifestations of power on one side and distributive injustice on the other. Mr. Dangle (is that a cool name, or what?) points here to the actions of the privileged rather than the powerless. Disenfranchisement is the last dot connected, but an important one when it comes to political inequality. In addition to a website of "politics, fun, and satirical humor" with its own superstore, Dangle also maintains a troubletown ("yeah we've got a @*%$+#") blog.

*thanks for the heads-up, dad.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

my name is ozzy, and i ain't goin' back to hazelden

Minnesota has long been an innovator in the treatment of alcohol and other drug abuse. In fact, I'm ashamed to admit stalking eric clapton during his stay here twenty-some years ago for (what they used to call) "exhaustion." As a criminologist and a person who struggles to make even tiny changes in his own behavior, I'm intrigued with the efficacy of treatment -- which treatment "works" best, when is it most efficacious in the life course, and for whom is a particular approach most successful. Professionals seem wary of simple randomized trials of program effectiveness. Many prefer to cite success rates among program completers, or at least people who at some point want to be in treatment. Two local stories this week raised questions about "attitude effects" on the effectiveness of substance use treatment.

First, the Minnesota Vikings signed wide receiver Koren Robinson, who has a history of alcohol problems. The Seattle Times and Sports Illustrated report that he was released by the seahawks after being charged with driving under the influence:

"Robinson pleaded guilty July 18 and was sentenced to one day in jail with 364 days suspended, but the case was reopened when officers smelled alcohol on his breath when he arrived to serve his day in jail."

Ouch. I'm not completely convinced the account is true, but it sounds as though Robinson either blew off the threat of a year's incarceration or he recognized the risk but drank anyway. Evidently he has since completed a 28-day rehab program. On his sportstalk radio show last weekend, Patrick Reusse quoted Robinson as saying "I don't believe in labels," when asked whether he was an "alcoholic." According to Reusse, himself a recovering alcoholic and twelve-stepper, such attitudes generally don't bode well for treatment success. From a labeling perspective, one might ask how embracing the label affects self-concept and identity and the extent to which "relapse" is a form of secondary deviance.

A recent interview with Ozzy Osbourne offers a second celebrity example. In discussing the pros and cons of various rehab centers, he gave special attention to Hazelden, Minnesota's best-known recovery facility. According to the Star-Tribune, ozzy told Playboy that:

"Hazelden, in Minnesota, is a really hard one. They do not [bleep] around. I checked out because it scared me. They use a thing called tough love, where they're like, 'You [bleeping] piece of [bleep]!' I was like, 'I felt like a piece of [bleep] before. That's why I am paying you all this money. You don't need to tell me every day.' "

It sounds as though hazelden offered too much "tough" and not enough "love" to suit mr. osbourne. How much does "attitude" affect drug and alcohol treatment success? President Bush has almost 20 years of sobriety under his belt, but apparently never uttered the phrase "my name is George and I'm an alcoholic." On the other hand, I spoke with a prisoner who claimed to have been in treatment 40 times -- solemnly approaching each program with great resolve. If I could design a study, I'd try to control for attitude effects this way: ask the professionals to identify the attitudes most conducive to change, screen for them prior to treatment, and then randomly assign people with similar attitude scores to various treatment modalities (tough love, nice love, AA/NA, naltrexone, etc.). With the same design, one could also identify attitude effects within each modality.

These sad and/or funny stories also raise another question: is it more difficult for public figures such as football players or rock stars to maintain sobriety? When I'm trying to lose weight I'll often tell everyone I know, just to put a little extra pressure on myself. Others have had demonstrable success by going public with their goals. Still, I bet I'd wither under the public scrutiny and the temptations that ozzy osbourne must face.

*Speaking of ozzy, 1971's "war pigs" must be the most durable heavy metal protest song ever. The vocal is tough and no one can sing it like ozzy, but hundreds of earnest kids still make valiant efforts. There's also a hayseed dixie bluegrass variant, jazzy, loungey, electronic, and southern-fried versions, and myriad others.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

ex-felon voter registration in nebraska

Until this spring, former felons in Nebraska were permanently disenfranchised unless they received a formal pardon. Now, people who have completed their felony sentences are eligible to vote after a two-year waiting period. According to the York News-Times (which sort of sounds like another paper, doesn't it?), the League of Women Voters and the Nebraska Voting Rights Coalition are trying to register these newly-enfranchised ex-felons.

Getting the word out is a real problem. Even in Minnesota, where ex-felons can vote, I found that few of those I interviewed knew whether or when they'd become eligible. A Minneapolis man on probation told me how he went to the polls with his family and tried to vote, but was turned away as ineligible. If there's even a chance of this happening in view of one's friends and neighbors, who would even try? In some states, one must also pay off all outstanding financial obligations to the state (e.g., fines, court fees) before regaining eligibility, adding a further disincentive.

Jeff and I have some proposals for improving information and access for newly eligible voters exiting the justice system, but special efforts are required to reach those released years ago. That said, names of releasees are publicly available by cohort and there's little to stop an organization from obtaining a list of names and birthdates, looking up current addresses or phone numbers with peoplesearch engines, and doing some direct outreach.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

zoinks! perceived deviance and looking like a pot dealer

My undergraduate students complete notecards the first day of class telling me about their hometowns, interests, work experiences, goals, and a description to help identify them. This year, one student wrote "I look like a pot dealer" in the description section because he had been approached twice by people looking to buy marijuana. Just to be absolutely clear, the student was not, nor had he ever been, a pot dealer. So what does a stereotypical pot dealer look like? My personal little thought bubble calls to mind somebody who looks like this and sounds like this but I'm sure there are other models.

Is this a common experience? It brought to mind my first days at college, when two instructors asked me for drugs (one of them calling me at home). Just to be absolutely clear, I was not, nor have I ever been, a pot dealer. I was really spooked both times. My reaction was probably a "lite" version of what women feel when solicited for prostitution when pushing a stroller on their way to the grocery store -- fear, anger, then confusion (what could you possibly have been thinking?). Today, drug convictions can make one permanently ineligible for student financial aid in addition to serious jail or prison time. Of course, marijuana is common on campus (the prevalence rate was 76% in one of my recent upper division classes) and it wasn't as though they asked me to be a hit man. Still, the incidents told me I was sending the wrong signals -- I wanted an "A" and a letter of recommendation, not a mandatory minimum sentence. I never discussed drugs and certainly didn't carry any signs of substance use other than bloodshot eyes from studying too late and concert t-shirts. At 18, I could have been arrested for impersonating a musician but never a drug dealer. At the time, I was trying to make friends and present myself as a bright-eyed, creative, and hardworking young hipster -- I talked excitedly and goofed around in class, visiting every TA and prof in their office hours.

In retrospect, they probably didn't approach me (or my student) because we gave off "dealer vibes" or showed signs of drug use. Instead, they probably just thought we'd be safe to ask. That is, the instructors figured I was "cool" and they could trust me not to report them as potheads to their departments or university administration. Plus, they didn't ask whether I could sell them pot, but instead asked whether I knew where to get some. So it's a network thing: instructors sized me up as nonconforming and trustworthy, and thought that my social networks might include people (or people who knew people) who might be in the business. Crudely put,

P(asked) = f(style cues, interpersonal trust, perceived networks)

Bruce Jacobs has some fascinating work on the "perceptual shorthand" and cues used by street dealers and undercover officers. Here's a partial abstract from a 1996 piece on undercover high school officers (e.g., Johnny Depp in Jump Street) in Soc. Quarterly (37: 391-412):

...Officers must move from new student to peer to drug purchaser without any informant assistance and with severe time constraints. Three specific techniques are used to trigger this process: class clowning, retreatism, and troublemaking. Each is a variation on the single theme of rebellion...these techniques generate interpersonal familiarity from a distance by creating reputations that drug dealers identify with and vest legitimacy in. Reputation substitutes for introductions informants could otherwise give, establishes a pretransaction comfort zone, and lays the interpersonal groundwork officers need before they can solicit drugs. Officers' behavior is conceptualized through the notion of a cognitive bridge, a hybrid of interactionist and microstructural principles. ...

Now that's interesting. In my early college days, I was inadvertently sending the same signals that undercover narcotics officers use to gain trust -- establishing a comfort zone by clowning in a mildly rebellious way and hanging out with instructors. I still try to lay an "interpersonal groundwork" with people, but fortunately (in the drug-free workplace of today) nobody asks me to help them score weed. If they did, I'd panic -- I wouldn't even tell them about students who look like pot dealers. The last time I was approached as anything other than a professor was last year, when a Nashville boot salesman asked "are you an entertainer, son?" Now that's what I was after all along. Too bad he probably asks it of all the tourists and conventioneers...

Monday, September 12, 2005

physical size, violence, and culpability

The minneapolis strib and ap reported this weekend that Kevin Williams, the minnesota vikings all-pro defensive lineman, is charged with fifth-degree domestic assault. Domestic violence is horrible, whether it involves enormous athletes or anyone else, but we're especially outraged when a 6'5" 304 pound football player ends up in a physical altercation with a 5'7" woman. According to police reports, Tasha Williams had blood on her shirt and lacerations on her forearm when officers arrived. Her husband told police she had grabbed a knife -- of course she did, and I probably would too when facing someone twice my size (not that it would do me much good).

Does a large person have an even greater responsibility to avoid violence than a small person? Does an athlete have a greater responsibility than a non-athlete? I think so. As the parent of a son who approaches Williams' size, I've always taken the position that he should be held to a higher standard. Well, I'm not actually that noble. I've told him that he will be held to a higher standard. There are both humanitarian reasons for him to avoid violence -- he could really hurt somebody -- and labeling effects that will make violence an especially poor choice for him. I've always wanted to study the relationship between physical size and punishment severity -- my working hypothesis is that big kids tend to be waived into adult court and they tend to get tougher, more secure placements, all else equal. I can also hypothesize some race*size interactions and gender*size interactions that might be interesting to test.

Any aggressive move made by a burly 6'4" man (or mannish boy) looks and feels a lot different than someone 5'10" making the same move. Simply standing up quickly attracts a lot of attention in the former case but few would notice in the latter. Child A (lg.) once lamented that child B (sm.) never gets into trouble for her own violent behavior "because she's supposedly harmless," and I guess A has a point. But it is different -- a bigger person can generally do a lot more damage. So, in any serious fight, he'll be the first attacked and likely the first arrested. That said, I've been stoked about him playing football because it gives him a safe place to cut loose and (finally!) throw his body around with abandon. I always loved going full-tilt in contact sports, and I was really a pretty awful football player. Still, I liked the idea of testing physical limits and think I learned something from the experience, especially as an adolescent. Reading about football players and domestic violence obviously tempers this excitement, even if such violence turns out to be less common among athletes than non-athletes (frankly, I don't know the literature on this question, but I suspect that a number of good statistical controls would be needed to make a valid comparison).

I guess the danger is spillover -- if football somehow supports a culture of off-field macho/violent behavior then the risks outweigh the benefits. Plus, I'd wager that sociology professors tend to be some of the least physically aggressive people on the planet, so it seems especially deviant to celebrate violence in any form -- no matter how contained or institutionalized. Whenever I read something like the Williams story I want to start yelling at my son ("DON'T YOU EVER...), but he didn't do anything wrong. It is almost an involuntary reaction -- I see the story and start sputtering, until I'm quickly dispatched with a snarky comment (e.g., "yeah, dad, that's exactly what I was planning to do today before you read me that article"). So, I'll try to explain this one to him when I can be cooler about it. He's heard it all a hundred times before and he has a nice arsenal of conflict resolution skills -- he says things like "I'm too mad to talk to you right now, so I'm going to come back when I'm calmed down" (heaven knows, he didn't get that from me). Still, I just can't ignore something like the Kevin Williams story -- especially when Williams is playing the same position and when others seem all-too-eager to look the other way on what they'd euphemistically call "off-field problems."

Maybe there's a way to put a positive spin on it. Alan Page (#88 above) was a defensive tackle too. He was one of the most dominating and aggressive football players in history -- the first defensive MVP in national football league history. Now he's the first African American Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court (and, of course, a fine distance runner). I suspect that Justice Page didn't simply morph from being a fierce and aggressive young man into a thoughtful and reflective middle-aged jurist, but that he carried both capacities within himself throughout both careers. Perhaps he just knew where to draw the lines.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

shelter benefit, fogerty, and future fogerties

Last night's shelter benefit for hurricane survivors featured two creedence clearwater revival songs. Hearing "who'll stop the rain" and the fighters of foo version of "born on the bayou," it amazes me how well john fogerty's song catalog stands up today. Recall that fogerty's "fortunate son" was the anti-war showstopper at "vote for change," and "proud mary" and "green river" hold up as exemplars of american roots music. The shelter benefit didn't just feature fogerty because ccr was a gulf coast band (in fact, all four members are californians). Instead, fogerty's songs have enterered the canon of "american music." I see ccr as a river stop -- up around the bend from woody guthrie, leadbelly, hank williams, chuck berry, loretta lynn, and bob dylan and downriver from bruce springsteen and (if its my canon) paul westerberg. In my view, all had the remarkable ability to weave broad statements about human connection, conflict, and inequality into stories about people who seem as real as one's own family.

Should fogerty really be mentioned in the same breath as woody guthrie and bob dylan? Critics surely wouldn't have placed him in such company when his work emerged from '68 to '72. CCR was viewed as overly simplistic and inauthentic am-radio fodder: nice craft, no gift. For the record, I don't find anything necessarily inauthentic about a guy from berkeley playing swamp music (or a white female rapper or new jersey country singer or a Brazilian hair metal band or ...). Due to record company disputes (and perhaps other things) fogerty only made 3 records from 1975-2004, so his legacy isn't a product of relentless touring and recording. Yet everybody covers his work today and it remains ubiquitous on the radio. His voice is an agreeably gruff baritone, but he couldn't shout with mccartney and wouldn't strut like jagger. The band clearly lacked jimmy page- or jimi hendrix- or john entwistle-style musicianship too, but in some ways its limitations may have helped its legacy. As for the foo fighters, dave grohl's got a ton of soul but the highlight for me was seeing taylor hawkins' restraint; he reduced his athletic drumming and quick fills to "cosmo" clifford's ccr beats (think of a large and furry version of meg white, hold the irony). I guess this is example #15,973,842 of the virtues of keeping it simple.

When I was a pre-schooler, fortunate son (b/w "down on the corner") was one of my first 45s. I remember wondering how the singer could sound so angry on one side of the record and so happy on the other. Truth be told, I also remember snarling "it ain't me -- I ain't no millionaire's son" into a hairbrush in front of my dresser mirror. So here's the big question: who is this generation's fogerty/ccr? There are tons of great songwriters in this tradition (e.g., Ani Difranco, John Prine, Tom Waits), but few reach a mass audience. Let's see, what unpretentious artist has a bunch of top-10 hits, writes both angry and joyous three-chord-and-a-cloud-of-dust songs, and takes on the major dilemmas of contemporary American life with an earnest simplicity? Here's my vote for the most-likely-to-enter-the-canon class of 2035.

You can link to the emotionally-charged shelter concert in its entirety, and make a donation if you like, from yahoo's main page.

Friday, September 09, 2005

a piece of furniture consisting of a seat, legs, back, and often arms, designed to accommodate one person

My proseminar on sociology as a profession is supposed to sensitize first-year graduate students to career issues such as collaboration, publication, the job market, and department and university administration. Enjoying our first class together yesterday, I realized my impending administrative responsibilities will color the tone and content of anything I say in public, including op-eds and blog entries. I explain this to first-years and advisees using the (trite and true) "hat" metaphor. Faculty wear several different hats -- as "citizens" with moral and political thoughts and beliefs, as "experts" in our area of research and teaching, and as representatives or spokespersons for our departments or universities. We try to keep track of which hat(s) we're wearing, but the lines sometimes blur. Even when I'm writing as an "expert" I get nervous appending "University of Minnesota Department of Sociology" to, say, an opinion piece or essay on felon disenfranchisement.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this summer on three cases in which speech that would likely be "bad but permissible" for regular faculty seemed especially ugly and really problematic coming from a department head. According to Scott Jaschik's article, "chairs are more vulnerable to having their statements scrutinized and their rights to speak out on certain issues curtailed by virtue of their positions. They have academic freedom, but they are demoted over controversial statements -- even though those statements wouldn't cost them their tenure." The best chairs act as honest delegates and effective representatives for their departments. I'm not worried about being "demoted" but wouldn't want anything I say to reflect poorly on my department or colleagues. I'm not planning to write anything hateful (as appears to be the case in a couple "demotions"), but I can't be sure that I won't right something dumb. See what I mean? Mistyping "write" as "right" makes me look sloppy and reflects poorly on the department. Fortunately, I've got until June to sort these issues out (and, who knows, I may be blogged out by then), but I can think of a few "don'ts" or "scrupulously avoids" already:

  1. scrupulously avoid airing departmental dirty laundry
  2. scrupulously avoid anything hateful (or anything likely to be interpreted as same)
  3. scrupulously avoid speaking as a department representative (unless authorized and encouraged to do so)
  4. scrupulously avoid sitting around blogging all day while one is supposed to be out hustling for one's colleagues
  5. scrupulously avoid b.u.i. and b.w.i. (blogging while intoxicated)

On the other hand, I could see how blogging (professors who also happen to be) chairs could be an asset to their departments. They might attract some positive attention to the department, perhaps by reflecting some of the intellectual or creative energy in the air. And, while there are things that chairs can never discuss or only discuss with other chairs, the position might offer a cool viewpoint on big-picture issues such as interdisciplinarity, funding grad students, and other weighty matters. Done properly, it could also provide a decent example of free and creative expression and the good-humored exchange of ideas. Still, depending on the audience, I worry about the "goofball" problem -- would you be more or less likely to attend grad school in a department in which a goofy chair pitches movies, discusses hookah pipes or repeats bad drummer jokes? OK, but what about taking a professorship in such a place? Awarding a multi-million dollar center or large grant? What kinds of posts would be really problematic to such audiences?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

hookah pipes

Hookah pipes have clearly hit minneapolis, as described by Erin Adler in today's student-run Minnesota Daily and last week's Rake. According to the story, University senior Rudy Nautiyal organizes Saturday night hookah-smoking on the patio of a popular club. “We wanted to mix the traditional aspect with a nightclub environment,” he said in the article. “The main group (of hookah smokers) here is part of a cosmopolitan, jet-set crowd.” Given the indignities of air travel these days, I'm surprised 22-year-olds still use "jet-set" so approvingly.

But why are the jet-setters going for hookahs in 2005? It seems a fascinating appropriation of middle-eastern culture. Is the popularity a product of the increasingly stigmatized status of cigarette smokers? Is it a more social way to smoke? Is it a soft form of deviance that offers entre into the rituals, pleasures, and paraphernalia of the drug culture? Or are they smoking something other than tobacco in said hookahs? It is tough to predict the half-life on a trend like this -- its hipness likely depends in part on its status as an exotic or esoteric taste. I'm not a smoker, but I have to admit that sidling up to a four-headed hookah pipe with my close buds does seem kind of cool. Maybe I'll bring one in for a grad seminar...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

oh my - wwjd/wwjk

I've tried to avoid trite statements of righteous indignation over responses to hurricane Katrina, but some reactions provide ideal-typical examples that can be useful in teaching. I took a break from putting together a powerpoint slide on "deviance and morality" for my second lecture on "defining deviance," only to see this item (from the American Family Association's Agape Press by way of Volokh):

Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina... Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city. The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" -- an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week -- God's judgment would be felt. “New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."

Am I correct to assume that Rev. Shanks' statements would be considered deviant and negatively sanctioned in most churches? They seem to be cited approvingly in Agape Press. I'm aware there is an old (testament) tradition supporting some variant of them, but I'm surprised to see a local pastor make such points. I thought the "Who Would Jesus Kill" bumperstickers were cheap religion bashing, but Rev. Shanks seems to have some clear answers to this question. I'll use the quote in class tomorrow, but only alongside a humanitarian statement from a religious leader to balance the presentation. Here's one from Catholic Relief Services:

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

safer in prison? death rates declining

A new Bureau of Justice Statistics report by Christopher Mumola discusses suicide and homicide in jail and prison. As summarized in the chart and table (click chart), there has been a steep drop in both types of death for both types of inmates. Remembering the old Kitsuse and Cicourel Social Problems article that I force-feed every grad student (1963's "A Note on the Uses of Official Statistics"), I thought that perhaps officials had changed reporting practices or the way they classified causes of death. Yet deaths by all causes are under 3,000 annually in prisons and under 1,000 in jails. More precisely, 3,924 died in 2002 in an incarcerated population of 2,085,620 -- less than two-tenths of one percent per year (.00188). Mortality rates for all causes have also declined precipitously for jails since 1980 and stabilized after a mid-1990s peak in prisons. So, I suspect there are real declines here, rather than simple changes in recordkeeping.

Who dies in prison? Suicides tend to be white, male, and very young or older inmates. Homicide victims tend to be white or Hispanic males. Perhaps the most intriguing finding is that homicide rates are significantly lower in prison and jail than among the general population. When Mumola standardizes the rates to match the age, race, and gender composition of inmates, the pattern is even stronger: "the resident population had a homicide rate (35 per 100,000) nearly 9 times the rate of homicide in State prisons (4) and nearly 11 times higher than the rate in jails (3).

I'm still trying to get my head around this paradoxical finding. Are we really less likely to be murdered in prison than on the street? Here are four hypotheses, and four "yeah buts." (1) Is it a stark indictment of our ultraviolent society? Yeah, but violence has been trending downward since the early 1990s, and the 2002 homicide rate is identical to the 1966 rate; (2) Is it proof of the improved safety of our correctional facilities? Yeah, but prisons and jails clearly remain very dangerous and unhealthy places; (3) Is it evidence of the greater efficacy of the panopticon's formal social control over the street's informal controls? Yeah, but the streets upon which most of the general population walk are aready quite safe; (4) Is it a reflection of the not-so-great-as-one-might-think differences between the general population and the inmate population? Yeah, but a good portion of inmates have, after all, committed homicide and other violent crimes. My guess is that there's some truth in each hypothesis, and in the labeling or reporting artifact explanation as well. Nevertheless, I find myself convinced that, to some extent, prisons and jails are becoming safer. I'll have to adjust the hyperbole in my lecture about prisons being "crucibles of intimidation and violence" until I see evidence of deeper flaws in this analysis.

amy's runners

Amy Blackstone has done some heavy lifting in recent years, raising my consciousness on gender issues. My good friend and collaborator took me to task last month for my male-dominated list of summer songs and my exclusively male list of running songs (yes, Ursula 1000 is actually a male dj). Thanks, Amy, for once again pointing out some all-too-casual sexism. I invited her additions, but (having some idea of the differences in our musical tastes) warned her that I would not, could not, run to earnest folk duos strumming acoustic guitars campfire-style. She graciously provided the following recommendations, which I include as friendly amendments to the previous lists:

I tried my darndest to remove most of the folksy/granola stuff (but yes, it IS possible to run to Peter, Paul, and Mary) and the bad 80's songs (and that's no easy feat for me!) but I'm sure a few gems survived my editing attempt.

Liz Phair (anything! but here are two that i've been running to lately... )
Liz Phair, Extraordinary
Liz Phair, Rock Me All Night
Sinead O'Connor, Mandinka
Sinead O'Connor, The Emperor's New Clothes
K's Choice, Not an Addict
Eurythmics, Would I Lie to You?
Eurythmics, Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves
Sara McLachlan, Possession
Helen Reddy, I am Woman (just kidding! sort of.... )

Garbage, Special
Red Delicious, Want Me
Lucious Jackson, Naked Eye
Cyndi Lauper, Money Changes Everything
Dee Lite, Groove is in the Heart
Dido, Sand in My Shoes
Dido, Take My Hand
Holiday Ranch, Wish for a Holiday
Indigo Girls, Chickenman
Madonna, Into the Groove
Madonna, Beautiful Stranger
Joan Osborne, St. Teresa
Siouxsie & the Banshees, Kiss Them for Me
B-52's (I know, the lead singer is a guy, but still...), Rock Lobster
The Muffs, Red Eyed
'Til Tuesday, Love in a Vacuum
Olivia Newton-John, Physical (this time I really AM just kidding)
Kate Bush, Running Up That Hill
Katrina & the Waves, Walking on Sunshine
Rilo Kiley, Portions for Foxes

I better see at least one of these on your blog list the next time I check!

Consider it done! I don't know how I missed Liz Phair (esp. "never said nothing"). What other female artists should I be listening to/running to now? I need some new music to play before my deviance class. Today's selection was "Voodoo Cadillac" by Southern Culture on the Skids (it is a deviance course, after all), with Muddy Waters lined up for Thursday's lecture. Any ideas?

Monday, September 05, 2005

new student weekend

I always enjoy new student weekend at the minnversity. The past couple days I've shared a parking lot with freshparents loading belongings to the middlebrook hall dorms. I try to point them in the right direction and offer a friendly face (though parents can be a little suspicious of helpful but shabbily-dressed strangers claiming to be professors). Seeing parents on campus reminds me of Garrison Keillor's bit on his minnversity move-in day in the 1960s. He described a bunch of funny looking people packed into an old car, carrying him along with a mix of excitement, embarrassment, and sheer terror. My dad drove me to Madison in the 1980s, towing a u-haul full of guitars and perkins dinnerware in his trusty ford fairmont. Dad was cool, but I was a wreck anyway.

I hope my kids will attend college and, if so, I'm looking forward to gently humiliating them as they try to cultivate an image with their new roommates. Think about it. Move-in day is really a parent's last crack at embarrassing their children before they become full-fledged adults -- by the time they return home for Thanksgiving, that ship has sailed. So, I'm going to savor the moment. I've already got the outfit: bright yellow boots, perhaps paired with "obscene" running shorts from the 1970s. I'll be singing "All You Need is Love" in my karaoke voice -- which went over really well on a recent family trip to Wendy's -- happily carting boxes past the polo-shirted normal parents. Nah, I wouldn't do that... I promise to be cool, guys. :)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

civic reintegration in a disaster zone

Amid the reports of misery and lawlessness following hurricane katrina, one can also find civic contributions made by prison inmates. The Reuters pic below shows prisoners who filled 8,000 sandbags (no, that's not cocaine) last Saturday. Today, inmates in Alabama and Mississippi distributed ice and supplies at roadside aid stations.

As with other institutions, the criminal justice system is stretched to the breaking point. In New Orleans, pending criminal case files remain submerged, police officers are resigning and worse, and about 5,000 inmates were herded onto a half-submerged freeway ramp for days. In some jurisdictions, non-violent prisoners have simply been released en masse.

Aside from the desperate conditions in jails and prisons, however, many inmates are eager to load supplies and sandbags for another reason: they know that they can do nothing for their families in this time of crisis. They can't even write a check to the Red Cross. So, many cherish the opportunity to make some positive contribution to others. Tellingly, it is often the inmate elite and trustees who first step up to offer whatever help they can give (and, of course, to get outside for a few hours). In my view, stepping up as a citizen and as a positive force in one's community offers one pathway toward reintegration and away from crime. Some inmates are likely cheering the looters as they watch things break down on television, but many others will be searching desperately for ways to lend a hand. I am certain their work will be needed (and hope it will be valued) in the months of rebuilding to come.

Friday, September 02, 2005

paranoid rantings or high-concept movie pitch?

Ripped from a criminologist's self-absorbed nightmares... Comments on recent writing and sex offending posts brought to mind the plot of my yet-to-be-written novel and film. Here's my pitch:

A crusading public criminologist challenges the irrational crime policies of a ruthless (Bush-esque or Clinton-esque) presidential administration and gets close to discovering a Stalinesque gulag archipelago-like system of punishing political dissenters. A (Rove-like or Reno-like) cabinet member who knows how to play hardball thus masterminds a plot to plant DNA from said criminologist onto the personal belongings of children who had been sexually assaulted and murdered. The criminologist is cast out of the university, vilified by the masses, and subject to the hyper-stigma of the "sexually violent predator" label. He is assaulted by some inmates but befriended by others, challenging and complicating his ivory tower understanding of crime and punishment. He also fully uncovers the gulag system, meeting other political prisoners who have been set up in similar ways. Once dubbed "sexually violent predators" they are civilly committed and held permanently for treatment (see Kansas v. Hendricks). Our criminologist tries to send word to former friends and students, but his story seems self-serving and, after all, DNA evidence is virtually incontrovertible. His only hope is a second criminologist who interviews him in prison for a study on heinous criminals' vocabularies of motive. She distrusts him at first, but ultimately risks her life to expose the nefarious deeds and free the poor wretch. Together, they foil a frame job on her -- this one involving an inappropriate relationship with an undercover operative posing as an undergraduate student. Of course, our criminologists fall madly and passionately in love, but only after an epic courtroom battle and heaps of dramatic tension in which she's not completely certain that he's not a rapist-pedophile-murderer.

I'm thinking of a title that involves words like Incontrovertible Evidence, Gulag, and/or Criminologists in Love (I'm kidding!). Any preferences? Jeff thinks we can work up a screenplay and retire to LA. Can you get me a lunch with Paramount? What about casting ideas? Thus far, Ralph Fiennes and Jodie Foster (above) are my favorite nominations for the criminologists, but I can hear arguments for Paul Giammatti.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

katrina, police, and social control

Some of the saddest reports from Hurricane Katrina involve looting and a breakdown in informal social controls and public safety. While no law enforcement agency could efficiently operate in such disastrous conditions, New Orleans is especially poorly positioned. Long before the hurricane, the city had an extremely high and rising rate of homicide and gun violence, a long record of corruption, and too few officers and staff in both the police department and prosecutor's offices. They were also poorly paid: according to Law Enforcement Management Administrative Statistics for 2000, starting pay for a new officer in New Orleans was $25,164 and the only educational requirement was a high school diploma (by way of comparison, St. Paul, MN, starts officers at $37,860 and requires at least a two-year degree at entry). Similarly, Louisiana State Patrol officers start at $22,716 and lack collective bargaining for both sworn and civilian officers (relative to $38,252 with collective bargaining in Minnesota).

I do not point this out as a hindsight critique or an insensitive shot at the many good officers working around the clock in New Orleans. It is just disheartening for a criminologist to watch other cities laying off officers or stretching their forces to the breaking point while law enforcement is so overwhelmed in New Orleans. Is it unreasonable to think that such cutbacks will put public safety at risk elsewhere in coming years? Or to think that we might make a more rational allocation of our existing public safety dollars?