Laubvia Katie Kaukinen: President Obama announced his intent to nominate the great life course criminologist John Laub to head the National Institute of Justice. I can’t imagine a better candidate for NIJ director.

John H. Laub – Director, National Institute of Justice, Department of Justice.
John Laub is the Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also an Affiliate Faculty Member in the Department of Sociology at the University and a Visiting Scholar in the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard. Dr. Laub was previously a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts from 1981 to 1998. He has served as the President and as a fellow of the American Society of Criminology, which awarded him the Edwin H. Sutherland Award. He was also named a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland for the 2006-2007 academic year. Dr. Laub was the Editor of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology for five years and currently serves as an Associate Editor of Criminology. From 2002 to 2008, Dr. Laub was a member of the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Academies of Science. He has published two award winning books and many research articles in the areas of crime and the life course, juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice, criminal victimization, and the history of criminology. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in criminal justice from the State University of New York at Albany.

lastwords2claire cameron of the times reports on the last words of texas prison inmates prior to execution.

Nothing I can say can change the past.

I done lost my voice.

I would like to say goodbye.

My heart goes is going ba bump ba bump ba bump.

Is the mike on?

I don’t have anything to say. I am just sorry about what I did.

I am nervous and it is hard to put my thoughts together. Sometimes you don’t know what to say.

Man, there is a lot of people there.

I have come here today to die, not make speeches.

Where’s Mr. Marino’s mother? Did you get my letter?

I want to ask if it is in your heart to forgive me. You don’t have to.

I wish I could die more than once to tell you how sorry I am.

Could you please tell that lady right there — can I see her? She is not looking at me — I want you to understand something, hold no animosity toward me. I want you to understand. Please forgive me.

I don’t think the world will be a better or safer place without me.

I am sorry.

I want to tell my mom that I love her.

I caused her so much pain and my family and stuff. I hurt for the fact that they are going to be hurting.

I am taking it like a man.

Kick the tires and light the fire. I am going home.

They may execute me but they can’t punish me because they can’t execute an innocent man.

I couldn’t do a life sentence.

I said I was going to tell a joke. Death has set me free. That’s the biggest joke.

To my sweet Claudia, I love you.

Cathy, you know I never meant to hurt you.

I love you, Irene.

Let my son know I love him.

Tell everyone I got full on chicken and pork chops.

I appreciate the hospitality that you guys have shown me and the respect, and the last meal was really good.

The reason it took them so long is because they couldn’t find a vein. You know how I hate needles. … Tell the guys on Death Row that I’m not wearing a diaper.

Lord, I lift your name on high.

From Allah we came and to Allah we shall return.

For everybody incarcerated, keep your heads up.

Death row is full of isolated hearts and suppressed minds.

Mistakes are made, but with God all things are possible.

I am responsible for them losing their mother, their father and their grandmother. I never meant for them to be taken. I am sorry for what I did.

I can’t take it back.

Lord Jesus forgive of my sins. Please forgive me for the sins that I can remember.

All my life I have been locked up.

Give me my rights. Give me my rights. Give me my rights. Give me my life back.

I am tired.

I deserve this.

A life for a life.

It’s my hour. It’s my hour.

I’m ready, Warden.

Yahoo news is reporting on Texas exonerees, who receive $80k for each year behind bars and a lifetime annuity. Exonerees can spend years or decades in prison before authorities are finally convinced that it would have been completely impossible for them to have committed the crimes that put them behind bars.

As the story (and a 2008 Contexts feature) makes clear, Texas is the most generous state in compensating those wrongly convicted. I can’t imagine thinking that $80k/year is “generous” compensation for a year in a maximum security prison, but I suppose it beats a firm handshake and $50 gate money.

The exonerees I’ve met have all been more concerned with clearing their names than with financial compensation. Think about it: it is one thing to spend years or decades locked up for a crime you didn’t commit; it is quite another to spend years or decades with the knowledge that your friends, family, and neighbors all consider you to be a rapist or murderer.

hochuliA recent AP article by Rachel Cohen compares the sentences of National Football League players Plaxico Burress, Donte’ Stallworth and Michael Vick.

Burress, the one-time Super Bowl star, accepted a plea bargain Thursday with a two-year prison sentence for accidentally shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub. The former New York Giants wide receiver pleaded guilty to one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon… Stallworth, the Cleveland Browns receiver, served 30 days in jail for running over and killing a man while driving drunk. Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons star quarterback who recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, served 18 months in prison for torturing animals and running a dogfighting ring for years.

Although people tend to rank the seriousness of crimes in roughly the same order, I’d wager that there is a higher-than-usual standard deviation around citizens’ preferred sentence lengths for these three offenses. Felony DUI manslaughter has been very lightly punished in the United States relative to, say, Sweden; folks disagree on whether animal cruelty and gambling conspiracy should be felonies or misdemeanors; and, Mr. Burress actually pled out to “attempted weapons possession in the second degree.” It is hard to say whether such a crime merits two years of hard time, though I generally favor vigorous enforcement of weapons offenses.

One can’t say for sure whether star athletes tend to get lighter sentences (ala Stallworth) or heavier sentences (ala Burress), but ol’ Ray Lewis seems to be rolling along just fine. The real punishment, of course, will be meted out by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The Commish can just toss a handful of grass into the air, check which way the wind is blowing, and determine whether Messrs. Burress, Vick, and Stallworth will be NFL princes or bounced-from-the-league paupers.

Newsweek follows up on an earlier story of sex offenders forced to live under a bridge in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Local residency restrictions bar them from living within 2,500 feet of any place where children might gather, which effectively kept them from living anywhere else in the city. To comply with the conditions of their release, however, registered sex offenders must list an address where a P.O. can quickly find them, which put them on a concrete slab beneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

The Newsweek site offers some new video interviews with people subject to the restrictions and with experts who’ve written on the subject. I’m reposting the original CNN report below, since folks who haven’t followed the story will probably need to see it to believe it.

mussehlA bartender learns a thing or two about conflict after three or four decades on the job. The Star-Tribune offers this gem from Mikey Mussehl of Nye’s:

“When guys come in and you know they’re just looking to get in fights, I go into the kitchen and get some onion rings and fries and give ’em to the guy. As soon as they bite into their second onion ring, they’re thinking of ways to go home. That grease puts ’em right to sleep.”

Food for thought, I suppose, as President Obama sits down for his beer with Officer Crowley and Professor Gates.

gun sales continue to rise, with april marking the sixth consecutive month of big increases in use of the fbi’s national instant background check system. since some attribute rising gun sales to fears of gun control, i wanted to know how much sales have risen since president obama was elected in november.

firearms sales are seasonal, typically peaking in december and bottoming out around may. since i was interested in the post-election period, i plotted sales from november to april of each year since the nics system came online.
there were about 8.1 million background checks from november 2008 to april 2009, an increase of 29 percent over the previous period from november 2007 to april 2008. this was by far the largest increase of the past decade, though i can’t really tell whether it was due to president obama’s election, a deepening recession, or some other factor.

background checks are closely but imperfectly related to gun sales, since some checks never result in a purchase and others result in multiple purchases. nevertheless, the sheer number of nics checks is impressive, if not astounding. in a nation of 218 million adults, i count 8,097,100 background checks in the past six months alone.

how can that figure be correct? i know that not every check represents a single individual, but i’m still having trouble getting my head around the idea of 8 million in just 6 months. it would be as if every single adult resident of wyoming, vermont, north dakota, south dakota, alaska, delaware, montana, rhode island, hawaii, new hampshire, and maine all walked into bill’s gun shop to plunk down five hundred bucks for a glock 19. i wonder what the next six months will bring…

next thursday’s join for justice event will be part fundraiser, part research release, part networking event, part entertainment, part cocktail party, and part documentary film. my research team is opening for the band, so the talk might be a bit livelier than the one we’ll give at ASA. we’ll also hear from council president judge pamela alexander — a wise and gracious leader, known to criminologists for her pioneering role in challenging gross sentencing inequities for crack and powder cocaine. all are welcome.

Join for Justice: a community gathering around issues of social and criminal justice
May 21 3-6 PM
Downtime Bar and Grill
1501 University Avenue Southeast
Minneapolis, MN 55414

3:00-3:30: Collection of donations at the door
3:30-4:00: Presentation of research (Chris Uggen, Ebony Ruhland, Hilary Whitham)
4:00-4:15: Presentation of CCJ’s work and requests for donations (Pam Alexander)
4:30-6:00: Live entertainment, networking, cocktails

o CCJ mailing list
o Felons for Felons
o Americorps VISTA mailing list
o KFAI Community Radio
o Twin Cities Daily Planet
o Hope Community
o Yo! The Movement
o Goodwill/Easter Seals
o Amicus
o St. Stephens
o University of Minnesota student groups and social science depts

according to the financial times, the sicilian mob is muscling its way into the renewable energy sector:

“Operation Wind” revealed Mafia promises to local officials in Mazara del Vallo of money and votes in exchange for help in approving wind farm projects….Prosecutors suspect the hand of the Mafia in fixing permits and building wind farms that are then sold on to Italian and eventually foreign companies. In an effort to assert its control over the sector, the Mafia is suspected of destroying two wind towers that were in storage in the port of Trapani after their delivery by ship from northern Europe, local officials told the FT.

why would organized crime get involved in clean-n-green alternative energy? because they’d like to be involved in all transactions in which large amounts of money will change hands. plus, the mobsters already have the social connections, control over territory, and “friends” in local government. from the times piece:

“It is a refined system of connections to business and politicians. A handful of people control the wind sector. Many companies exist but it is the same people behind them,” said Mr Scarpinato, whose investigations have focused on the evolution of the Mafia into a modern business organisation … Sicily’s Cosa Nostrais evolving and finding new business opportunities, including the renewable energy sector, by exploiting its historic grip over territory, construction and ability to corrupt local officials.

via utne and we are supervision: a nice selection of chicago gang calling cards from the 1970s and 1980s.

i don’t recall any mention of these in thrasher or
short and strodtbeck, but i remember seeing similar cards on st. paul’s west side in the early 1980s.