Quote of the day

Obama on the Republican presidential candidates.  Via Steve Benen:

Obama brought this same kind of carefree attitude to a Democratic fundraiser in Manhattan last night, where the president seemed only too pleased to openly mock the Republican Party’s presidential field.
“Have you noticed that every one of these candidates says, ‘Obama’s weak. Putin’s kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he’s going to straighten out’?” Mr. Obama asked a crowd of Democratic donors in New York, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
“And then it turns out they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators at a debate,” he added to huge applause from his partisan audience. “I mean, let me tell you,” he added with gleeful scorn, “if you can’t handle those guys, you know, then I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you.”
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Better not talk to kids!

Via the (awesome) Free Range Kids blog.  As the parent of a very friendly child with special needs who will be an adult with special needs, I find this so upsetting:

A Philadelphia area man with autism is being held on $100,000 bail for talking to some children.

The man, Daniel Lee, 26, of Wayne, PA,  spoke to a group of three siblings, 8, 9 and 10 on Wednesday, asking them about their school and telling them he was on his way to a cabin in the woods. It’s unclear if he told the kids he wanted them to join him or not. (News accounts differ: See this and this.)

He walked off then found and talked to the kids again 20 minutes later near Wayne Elementary School, whereupon the children’s mom saw him and called the police. The police found the man in just two minutes.

Why so fast? My guess is because he was not a crafty creep trying to elude the authorities. He is a man with a disability that makes it hard for him to interact like a “normal” man around kids, which is apparently to never interact with them at all, but run in the opposite screaming, “Get away! I hate kids! I am not a predator!”

Now, WPVI “Action News” reports,  Lee is in jail, “charged with Attempting to Lure Children into a structure, which is in reference to his statements about a cabin, corruption of the morals of a minor, and harassment.”

Corruption of morals? Really? How, exactly? He doesn’t seem to have said anything salacious. And police say that at no time did Lee make any physical contact or even attempt to make physical contact with the children. Yet here’s how the news anchor played up the story:

“The big story on Action News tonight is word of an attempted luring at a Radnor Township school and police have a suspect in custody.”

My God, they make it sound as if the kids just barely escaped a depraved menace. As the “suspect’s” mom explained to the reporter — and police — Daniel has autism, and sometimes likes to talk to kids.

But, WPVI reports, “The police say…they can’t take any chances.” After all, here’s a grown man, living at home, with a part time job at a movie theater. That’s the big time! Why cut him any slack?  [emphases mine]

A psychiatric evaluation will be performed and I guess if it’s determined that Daniel’s parents are not making up their son’s diagnosis, perhaps the charges will be dropped.

But shouldn’t the charges be dropped for anyone facing such an accusation? Is it really a crime to talk to kids about a cabin in the woods if you never touch or attempt to touch or grab them? Wouldn’t that make it a crime to read “Little Red Riding Hood” to a kid who isn’t your own?

Daniel’s mom said that she will teach Daniel that what he did was wrong. Who will teach the police that it’s wrong to throw a man in jail as if he’s a rapist when he clearly has special needs and hasn’t done anything more than talk to some neighborhood kids? – L

Arghh!  This is just as stupid as the moronic zero tolerance(/intelligence) policies in schools.  Just look at the damn context!  I can well imagine my son when he’s an adult enjoying telling some kids that he’s going to look for a cabin in the woods, just as now he will happily tell any stranger that he enjoys going to Grandma’s house or that he really likes opening the garage.  Not taking any chances is doing a very simple investigation, figuring out this is a well-meaning adult with autism, and then spending time and resources on things that would actually keep the community safe.  I’m so sick of this “abundance of caution” crap as if any utterly stupid and inane action can be justified by “caution.”  And to imagine this poor guy with autism stuck in prison when all he did was think he was being friendly with some kids.

Photo of the day

From a recent In Focus photos of the week gallery:

A resident uses an inflated tire interior to bring a pig to safety amidst raging floodwaters brought about by Typhoon Koppu at Zaragosa township, Nueva Ecija province, north of Manila, Philippines, on October 19, 2015

You’re going to die

Recently came across a cool infographic putting various causes of death into perspective (newsflash: cardiovascular disease and cancer).  Also, cool, though, was an accompanying infographic on known risk factors:

UK risks of death infographic - atlas of risk

The failure of our prisons: a view from the inside

Somehow, a former Congressional candidate, state legislator, ex federal prisoner and now public policy professor has written a book about his experiences and our broken prison system and I didn’t know about it until his Monkey Cage post last week.  Good stuff!  This is definitely going on my reading list (and maybe even onto the list for my Criminal Justice Policy class).

What I really enjoyed reading, was this excerpt from the book in Politico:

But the campaign had a dark underbelly the filmmaker hadn’t seen. A few weeks before Election Day, two of my aides had been approached by a shadowy man who wanted to produce a postcard highlighting my leading opponent’s dismal legislative attendance record in the state legislature. I was pretty sure campaigns couldn’t legally coordinate with an outside party. I was also pretty sure it happened every day, without consequence. After a brief discussion, my aides asked if they should move forward.

Whatever you guys do, I said, I don’t wanna know the details. Understand?

They nodded.We agreed to never speak of the matter again.

The postcard dropped in the campaign’s last week. It was a 3×5 picture of my opponent on a milk carton. “MISSING: RUSS CARNAHAN,” it read, and in tiny print detailed his absenteeism. The design was totally amateurish—a joke, really. We laughed and shook our heads. ButCarnahan filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that my campaign illegally coordinated with the postcard’s producer.

Long story short: Five years after losing the election, I pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice for impeding the federal investigation Carnahan had initiated…

Upon release, 650,000 men show up each year on America’s doorsteps to try to succeed in communities where they once failed—now with the added baggage of prison records. Two-thirds will re-offend within three years, and the main reason is financial struggle. Most are unemployed, and are far more likely to commit a crime than are those with jobs. Seeking legitimate work can seem laughable when most employers won’t hire ex-offenders—state-sanctioned discrimination in jurisdictions without “Ban the Box” laws.

Prison education programs can help overcome this. The natural ingenuity of prisoners makes entrepreneurship education particularly ideal. But only when society stops seeing prison as a warehouse for society’s throwaways and starts seeing it as a costly waste of human potential will the status quo change. In B.J., in K.Y. (whom I helped with a business plan for a trucking company), in ’Ville (a former male exotic dancer who aspired to own a similar business that would cater to bachelorette parties) and in so many others, I saw an entrepreneurial passion that embodied the best of America—but was all too likely never to see daylight…

I spent less than a year in prison. In the words of my first cellie, I had less time in prison than he had done on the prison toilet. I had every advantage upon re-entry: I was a white guy with a Ph.D. from a top school, community and family support, and financial savings. Yet getting a decent job was a struggle. I often think about the re-entry of the guys I was locked up. Most had a GED earned in prison; some hadn’t had a visit in years, or even a decade, and had no one to call on the phone; few had savings to fall back on. They would be coming home to a world in which four of five landlords and nine of 10 employers run criminal background checks on prospective tenants and employees to screen out felons; a world in which many are not allowed to vote or use food stamps; and must immediately find money to pay for housing at a halfway and urinalysis tests even as they cannot afford clothes for a job interview.

Mass incarceration is driven in large part by sky-high recidivism rates, and when one contemplates the myriad obstacles to successful prisoner re-entry, one grasps that the system is not, as many claim, broken at all; rather, it appears to be a well-oiled machine, keeping millions of people out of our economic mainstream. And only a shift in our cultural mindset—a realization that people who are incarcerated could, to paraphrase President Obama after his recent prison visit to a federal prison, be our brothers, our sons, our mothers, or ourselves—will change that. [emphasis mine]

Also, a really good interview in Vice:

Part of the problem seems to be that we don’t care about what happens to criminals and we don’t see the behavior that’s visited on them as having a chance of rebounding onto us.
The mentality is very slowly changing in this society, but for decades at the highest levels of policymaking you couldn’t be too tough on criminals. You saw governors getting elected by advocating chain gangs. Before [Former Florida Governor] Charlie Crist was a Democrat, he cut his political teeth by running for attorney general as “Chain Gang Charlie.” I think that from the highest levels of policymaking, it was impossible to be too tough on criminals. And that caused us to increase our prison population fivefold from 1985 to now. And we didn’t really make society safer.

How do we make prison less criminogenic?
First we adopt some Western European models of prison where prison is seen more like putting your kid on a break to think about what they did, but not to dehumanize your child by beating them or exposing them to violence or psychological torture like solitary confinement—which is a key tactic that prisons use to control people and to discipline them for small infractions, even though solitary confinement is a huge driver of PTSD. But it’s a routine method used in prisons all around the country, and that’s a real problem. We should treat prisons much more like Western Europe does which is like, “OK, why did you get here? What were your problems on the outside? And what can we do to address them from a therapeutic perspective, from a vocational training perspective, from an holistic human perspective to say how can we make sure you don’t come back?” That’s what the mentality is as opposed to, “You’re here to be punished,” which is the American prison mentality.

There’s so much wrong with our prison system and seems like Smith is definitely on top of a lot of it (I didn’t even paste in his very thoughtful comments on prison rape).  Let’s hope our politicians start paying attention.

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