I feel like I'm in some fantasy alternate reality, where prison rehabilitation really works, and where the Internet is used for polite, intelligent, and uplifting discussion.
So basically, yeah, it's a fantasy alternate reality. A guy like him is extremely rare. The recidivism rate for robbers is 70%.
Mr. Hopwood's story is an extreme anomaly. Many ex-cons have a hard time finding anything more than menial work, carrying the stigma of their prison records with them through background checks, parole requirements, etc., for the rest of their lives. In fact, I'm surprised Mr. Hopwood's tale didn't take a tragic turn for the worse when his state Bar Association rejected him on the grounds of "moral character."
This is a very uplifting story, but it's also a huge exception to a general rule. Many (most?) convicts and ex-convicts are never given a serious second chance, on the inside or on the outside.
In my opinion, education for prisoners not serving life terms... PARTICULARLY for those with property offenses... should be mandatory. It's a no brainer. I don't understand why we don't mandate that? We should mandate work AND education for prisoners.
If I had my way... your release would be predicated on the achievement educational goals set for you by a warden.
I immediately tried to think of how the incentives could be set up this way and unfortunately couldn't come up with anything that didn't seem susceptible to gaming.
Ie, offer prisons a tasty carrot -- if it's tasty enough to be attractive, you get the same link between sentencing-happy judges and prisons. Sentence people who don't deserve it for a couple of months, they get out and don't reoffend.
In my ideal world the prisons would offer job training/therapy/etc.. and generally just start treating prisons like people, but it probably would be too easy to game. Prisons would probably try to game transfers to move high-risk to re-offend prisoners to other prisons. Sentencing gaming like you mentioned, probably lots of other odd and interesting unethical hacks that I can't even think of.
Just re-enforces my personal belief that for-profit persons are not a good idea at best, and immoral at worst.
Because prisoners being rehabilitated and rejoining society is contrary to the interests of the prison industry.
7/10 is too many.
Hopwood specifically notes — in his second paragraph — that in his experience prison (in the US where he was) does not rehabilitate and that the longer the sentence the lower the chances:
> And to answer Russ’s question, as far as the length of sentencing, I think it had little effect on my rehabilitation. Prison is not the place for personal growth. Very few people come out of it for the better. From my experience, sentences over 5 years do little to help society or the prisoner. Five years is about the maximum amount of time for someone to “get it” and change and create a different life. More than that, and prisoners feel hopelessness and they think “why bother, I just need to get through this and go home.” It’s very difficult to “seize the day” in prison and use every day to prepare for release when you staring at a 10- or 20-year sentence in the face. And like I said, prisons are not designed with rehabilitation in mind. It’s almost solely about incapacitation, which is why the national recidivism rate hovers at 66%.
As far as he's concerned, his rehabilitation are thanks to personal maturation/growth and an excellent support network (family and now-wife), which he was able to use thanks to a "fairly short" sentence. He also links to an article putting his sentence in perspective: he got 12 years (which I don't find short) but notes an other guy sentenced for similar crimes at a similar age got 213 years (the main difference being the other guy was armed, and got hit by the related minimum sentences).
I am struck however by the agreement by the judge and the ex-robber that 5 years is about the max you should give if hoping to reform someone.
> In the “for what it is worth” category, I have thought
> for a long time that 60 months was about the maximum
> sentence one should impose if you were were solely hoping
> to make a positive impact on the prisoner.
It would be interesting if we genuinely tried prison as a reform institution. Stop the violence, stop the drugs, provide real meaningful work, and ... err.
I think it's an unfortunate accident of history more than anything else. When I was growing up in the 1990's, us suburbanites from Northern Virginia would never dream of going to D.C. at night. What took the capital of the country and dragged it down into that sorry state was a combination of economic issues, the drug war, deteriorating race relations, political conflict, etc. But whatever the cause was, it happened, and the end result was that we had an entire generation of people (the boomer generation), that saw the purpose of the criminal law as keeping the criminal element from spilling out into civilized society. Hence, the focus was, through the 1990's, "victims rights" and "tough on crime" not rehabilitation.
The incarceration rate since the 1960s has remained virtually static; but the incarcerees are in prison, where previously they would have been detained in mental asylums:
Also note the strong correlation between falling crime rates since 1970 and the removal of tetraethyl lead as an additive in gasoline:
A punitive prison regime isn't going to cure the sick. What we need is to swing the focus onto mental health issues -- and yes, this may mean building new asylums, to replace the punishment regime of prisons with a medical/treatment oriented system -- and shrink the prison system and re-focus it on actual criminals rather than unfortunates who hear voices in their heads.
Wait, you are telling me that in 1960s we had 1-2% of the population in prison or a mental asylum? Why do no other countries have near that rate?
Mental problems do not need to be inherent from birth; whereas minority groups are highly correlated with crime and low income as a result of American class divisions, at a glance, I can see several ways to argue that minorities are at least more susceptible to mental illness. This isn't ethnic so much as it is environmental living conditions in poverty. For one, you have malnutrition, which is an entire precursor to mental illness in of itself.
Of course you can't reasonably argue that minorities have an inherent predisposition to mental illness (it'd be frankly racist, and without much evidence I believe), but in practice, they probably do have a predisposition to it over the course of their lifetimes from a statistical standpoint.
(Also worth noting: there's a strong correlation between cannabis (marijuana) use and schizophrenia. The drug warriors tend to get alarmed that this means cannabis use causes schizophrenia. But schizophrenics also tend to smoke tobacco, drink, and use other drugs. What if they're really self-medicating, and the cannabis correlation is there because smoking a joint makes the voices go away for a bit? I suspect the answer to this question is again down to cultural norms: privileged white folks determine the norms and set the laws, and this works against underprivileged/minority folks. Oh, and privileged white folks get to pay lawyers to either get them off drugs charges, or get them a lighter sentence. Hence their under-representation in prisons. Full disclosure: I am a privileged white person.)
Also, lead lowers IQ. Various estimates have been in the several point range, but at least one researcher has estimated an increase of 6 IQ points as a result of the lead ban: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/opinion/kristof-its-a-smar....
I imagine it's the former, but I'm wondering if you have any other IQ-related sources.
Everybody involved has been trying to figure out why crime rates dropped so hard when they were expected to grow. There's a ton of proposed reasons, and not much in the way of solid proof behind any of them. Lead in the water is one of them, also legal abortion, drug market changes, gun law changes, and many others. Maybe it was really all one of them, maybe all of them played a part, maybe just a few. We'll probably never know for sure - it's not like you can perform experiments to really isolate one of those variables properly.
Just because Kevin Drum likes it doesn't make it "widely accepted." You oversell his theory. It's proven about as well as abortion reducing crime, which has good evidence behind it but is hardly a slam-dunk case.
Maybe it's a complete coincidence.
Or maybe (keeping in mind that somoene above suggested the correlation has been shown in different countries at different times) -- societies that work to reduce lead also tend to be societies that work on other social issues, and those other social issues reduce crime. So the lead is correlated to crime historically, even though neither causes the other directly.
Now, i think the study showing lead/crime correlation is _awfully_ interesting, and I don't dismiss it.
But "correlation does not prove causation" does not just mean "B could have caused A instead of A causing B." And this is important to understand in order to evaluate statistical findings properly. There are all sorts of things that can cause correlation rather than either A or B causing the other -- including things nobody's actually even thought of yet, but may still be what happened. And complete coincidence is always possible as well.
The word "correlated" means that it is NOT just a complete coincidence. One might not cause the other, they might be correlated because of a separate factor that interacts with both, but if they are "correlated" then complete coincidence can be ruled out.
> [...] So the lead is correlated to crime historically, even though neither causes the other directly.
Yes, this is what I mean by a third factor affecting both. But lead is a physical effect -- there are only certain sorts of things that can cause it. Things like eating lead, breathing lead, or having a diet that causes one to incorporate less lead into neurons. Thinking happy thoughts cannot change your lead levels (directly). So there are only certain categories of separate factors, C, that could be the cause of both A (lead) and B (crime). Where your name comes in the alphabet might conceivably cause crime, but it simply cannot cause lead. C, if it exists, must be a physical effect.
That's why I mentioned controlling for location where people live. That is a likely candidate for C: it is plausible to correlate with crime and it is possible to correlate with lead. If you control for it and still find an effect, then either A causes B, B causes A (not reasonable), or there is a different C'. Perhaps a genetic mutation that increases lead absorption and also alters brain chemistry to increase propensity to crime? That one is already a bit of a stretch.
I guess what I am saying is that it is true that correlation does not imply causation, but that there are reasonableness constraints on the kinds of interactions one can hypothesize, and after a certain point Occam's razor implores us to consider causation.
How do you figure? The word 'correlated' means that a relationship has been shown to be statistically _unlikely_ to have happened purely by chance. It can never be shown to be impossible however. And there can (and often are) subtle mistakes in the calculations that mean even the correlation isn't what one first thought.
And obviously statistics alone can never prove (or rule out)_ a causation, I think we agree there.
I haven't examined the research under discussion in detail enough to know if they controlled for all the things you suggest would be good to control for, etc., I have no idea.
But yeah, in the end we use our judgement as to what statistical correlations actually mean (such as a causation, and what sort through what mechanism). We can also do experiments or analysis to try and rule out (or confirm) other plausible alternate explanations. That's science, yep.
I think we mostly agree. I still object to what I think was an overly facile implication on your part that a few minutes of thinking of alternate explanations and deciding they are implausible -- on your own without seeing what other people's responses to the study in the literature have been, without an in depth analysis and consideration of the original research -- is sufficient to determine that there's "quite strong evidence" for correlation. That's not science.
Yes, until the 70s. People came from all over the world to see the californian prison system.
I believe it had one of (if the the) lowest recidivism rates in the country. Here's some relevant quotes from an article I found, I've heard a few programs about the prison system during that period on the radio:
Before 1977, all California prisoners had an indeterminate
sentence. They were given a range of time in which they
would be imprisoned, with five years to life being a
common sentence. To be freed, inmates had to prove to
the parole board that they deserved it, which could mean
enrolling in reform-oriented programs, learning a trade,
or taking classes. The aim of indeterminate sentencing
was to rehabilitate prisoners and, when they were ready
to reenter society, free them.
Although the system had its flaws, it also had its
successes. According to state statistics, just 15
percent of inmates released in 1977 returned to
California prisons — an extraordinarily low recidivism
rate in comparison to today. Nonetheless, in 1977, then-
Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that completely
overhauled the state's sentencing system, switching the
focus from rehabilitation to punishment.
The Cuban medical system is considered world-class for very similar reasons.
Though another part of the problem is that whenever you have a justice system anyone singled out by it as a criminal is going to have an easier time being trusted by criminals and a harder time being trusted by non-criminals in the future.
There's no incentive for people to reform which is a huge issue with the current prison culture. You're just trying to survive 24/7, align yourself with a gang for protection and hope you can make it without getting caught or extending your sentence.
The whole system is set up for people to go to jail and get better at committing crimes.
Where is the money in that? Your "clientele" numbers might actually go down - less prisoners == less money.
It's always convenient to lay the blame on some corporation, but the fact is that voters wanted long sentences and got them. They would rather spend large amounts of money keeping convicts locked up than have those people walking around in public.
Note the political change that happened in the 1990's. Prior to the 1990's, democrats talked a lot about prisoners rights. Republicans crucified them as "soft on crime" and countered with "victims rights" which was much more popular. As a result, today there is almost no difference between the two parties when it comes to the criminal justice system, except maybe when it comes to the death penalty. Being "soft on crime" is a political non-starter in the U.S.
The internet is more likely to be used for polite, intelligent, and uplifting discussion than for the American prison systems to be used justly.
The title is "Shon Hopwood and Kopf's terrible sentencing instincts".
Choice quote: "Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck. When I sent him to prison, I would have bet the farm and all the animals that Hopwood would fail miserably as a productive citizen when he finally got out of prison. My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk–all mouth, and very little else. My viscera was wrong."
That's quite a stand-up thing to write.
Whilst the article itself is a good read, the comments (which I would have otherwise skipped) are fascinating.
> Hopwood proves that my sentencing instincts suck. When I sent him to prison, I would have bet the farm and all the animals that Hopwood would fail miserably as a productive citizen when he finally got out of prison. My gut told me that Hopwood was a punk–all mouth, and very little else. My viscera was wrong
> I wouldn’t say that your sentencing instincts suck. While I meant what I said at sentencing, I was hardly the person that could back it up. I was a reckless and selfish young man back then. I changed.
> But as a judge, you’re constrained by the system we have. I’ve never believed that it’s up to judges to fix that system on their own. It requires citizens to view criminal justice issues differently (and heck, to view prisoners differently), and a Congress to actually pass some legislation.
Hopwood disagrees that the judge's instincts were off, because at the time of sentencing, the judge was right to see the convict as a "mouth-off". Furthermore, Hopwood disagrees with the Judge Kopf's implication that he, a judge, bears the agency and responsibility of harsh sentencing. The system is not one that judges alone can fix, Hopwood says, and up to the legislature (and the voters who vote in lawmakers) to effectively reform the system.
That last point is, IMO, an extremely important nuance that is often overlooked in debates over controversial judicial matters. It's easy to blame the judge (hence, the focus on the party of the executive who appointed a particular federal judge) because it's the easiest part of the system to personify. Much harder to sustain interest in the chain of laws, voter attitudes, and societal values that puts the buck in the judge's court.
So in other words, it is a debate, albeit a small one that doesn't catch fire...which makes it so unusual. Also, note the comment thread in which a Huffington Post reporter tries to get Kopf and Hopwood to participate in an online talk, and how Judge Kopf declines: http://herculesandtheumpire.com/2013/08/08/shon-hopwood-and-...
For most people it's not about rehabilitation, but deterrence, retribution, and physically restraining inmates from committing crimes in mainstream society.
I completely agree with Shon about the impact of long sentences. He says:
Five years is about the maximum amount of time for someone to “get it” and change and create a different life. More than that, and prisoners feel hopelessness and they think “why bother, I just need to get through this and go home.” It’s very difficult to “seize the day” in prison and use every day to prepare for release when you staring at a 10- or 20-year sentence in the face.
I would add that many people become institutionalised. After a few years in prison you can become socially important in the community. But on the outside, you are nobody. The longer you're in there, the less attractive it looks to reform and try to build a life on the outside.
The average prison inmate has an IQ of 85. What can you do with that? That is McDonalds or a government-job level human potential. Further, large swaths of criminals come from parts of our society that don't avail themselves of a traditional means of attaining social restraint: marriage. While everyone here on HN has been solving such important world problems as gay marriage, America's underclass has more or less stopped marrying. Bizarrely, the libertine paradise has not ensued.
> government-job level human potential
I'm so fucking sick of hearing (presumably conservative) people badmouth and dismiss all government employees. Are you contemptuous of the law enforcement officers who protect? The firefighters who would risk their lives to save your ass should your home catch fire? The over-worked, underpaid, disrespected teachers like my wife who slave away educating your [God I hope you don't have any] children? The National Guard and FEMA workers who would pick you up off your roof in the event of a flood? The DOT employees who construct the highways you drive on? The FDA workers who make sure that everything you put in your mouth is safe and poison-free?
But no, those whole groups of people are to be held in contempt. They're all incompetent DMV workers unfit for jobs in the private sector.
I'm sorry that I'm kind of losing my shit on here right now. Maybe you don't deserve that, IDK. I've kind of been rehearsing this diatribe since a few weeks ago when my uncles went off on this tangent at a family gathering, even declaring "the only thing a government employee cares about is their paycheck." I said nothing at the time and regretted it later as the arrogance, scorn and fucking vacuity of that comment wormed its way further and further under my skin.
The patently obvious thing to say at that moment would have been something along the lines of "Oh, and are private sector employees not motivated by pay?" What a moronic assertion, that public employees, who are frequently overpaid and certainly not overpaid compared to their private sector counterparts, are somehow more motivated by financial gain than private sector employees. I suppose the firefight working for < $30k/year is just greedy. Same for my wife, who with her Master's in Education pulls in less than a Junior developer at Innitech. Obviously the only reason they do the work they do is for the pay. Whereas the VP of Sales at GE does what he does out of altruism and selflessness.
Are there incompetent, unmotivated government employees? Certainly. Are they more prevalent than disengaged employees in huge private corporations? I'm not so sure. All I know is, with all the shitting on that gets done en masse on government employees, someone needs to defend them.
The person to which you replied mentioned McDonalds and government jobs together, just after mentioning that typical prisoners have low intelligence and so are not qualified for many kinds of work.
It can easily be deduced that they were talking about cashiers and line cooks at McDonalds, and about entry-level jobs in mundane government offices or in low-skill, manual labor. You had no need to defend the writers, artists, managers and scientists McDonalds employs because this was obvious -- and you didn't. Similarly, you don't need to defend the skilled professionals government agencies employ. The person to which you responded, you, me, and every other reader knows that both large public companies and governments hire employees at all levels.
I understand that you are trying to make up for not saying something to your uncle. You are upset that your uncle made a remark arrogantly, scornfully and with vitriol. I believe you. However, I do not see any of that in the post to which you responded and so don't think you have redeemed yourself here. You should talk to your uncle instead.
Plenty of smart talented people work in government, insulting everyone who works in the civil service like that is not only offensive, it is stupid.
I have used stunningly efficient DMVs. They do exist. But the existence of DMVs that do not scrape the bottom of the barrel for hiring, and are more efficient because of it, is proof of my point, if you take a moment to think about it.
Jessed, I can tell that you love your government. I'm going to suggest something that you can listen to or not, as you choose: Part of loving your government means examining critiques and saying "how can this be improved?" rather than wearing your heart on your sleeve about it.
Which speaks to motivation as much as ability anyway. Thorsten Veblen observed that only the lower and upper classes get what work is for -- the middle classes are the only ones stupid enough to apply all their effort grinding through an imaginary career hierarchy. From that perspective the other guy, no doubt you mean to imply he's black given your other statements, is actually executing the superior strategy.
And actually, here's another thought: it's a good thing for society that we have a place for iq 85 people to contribute and earn a living. I don't hold it against people for having an 85 iq, just like I don't credit people with 150 iqs with an achievement. Those things are largely determined before you're aware of them anyway.
Also: which states have private DMVs with 5-minute waits?
The government does need rubbish collectors, DMV personnel, and cleaners, all the way up to engineers, accountants and lawyers. Not to mention policemen, teachers, the defense force.
BTW the DMV is smart enough to realise voters don't care and can save money by having extremely long DMV lines. People working at a DMV can't change anything, and probably care even less.
"The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you're not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one."
You'll never find that a government worker refuses to show up to do some essential work, even though overtime is not approved. I mean, they are on salary, so it would be crazy of them to demand overtime pay when in any non-government job they would be considered exempt salaried employees and would not qualify for overtime.
Besides these great qualities, government employees are known for how much they try to make the system work for people despite silly bureaucratic rules.
Finally, they treat each other well and respect the institutions they work for. You certainly wouldn't find that government workers routinely sue their employers when they are passed over for promotions with cause. And it would be crazy to imagine a world where hiring and firing were purely seniority based, all government workers want the government to have the best team possible, and they wouldn't support a union contract that put their own job security in front of all semblance of meritocracy.
>The average prison inmate has an IQ of 85.
where'd you find that one? Assuming you've got a solid cross-section of tests to average, what kind of motivation do you think those prisoners get to score highly on THAT test? Maybe they were their school tests... What kind of motivation do you think those students had to score highly on those tests?
>What can you do with that? That is McDonalds or a government-job level human potential.
Ever seen that Undercover Boss show? The CEO of Waste Management was fired for being inept as a menial trash collector and laborer. I've seen electrical engineering students (good ones!) get fired as custodians, for much of the same.
I met an ex-CPA with a rocketing hobby working at a DMV in Arizona over a cigarette outside. He was QUITE good at his job, and intelligent and thoughtful to boot. There are many many others like him.
You really shouldn't group people into big lumpy categories, and you really shouldn't look down on people or positions. It's rude for one, but it will also severely detriment your understanding of people. I could give a damn either way, but you'll be worse off for it.
>Further, large swaths of criminals come from parts of our society that don't avail themselves of a traditional means of attaining social restraint: marriage. While everyone here on HN has been solving such important world problems as gay marriage, America's underclass has more or less stopped marrying. Bizarrely, the libertine paradise has not ensued.
Wait... What? did you just draw a correlation between an abandonment of the institution of marriage, and criminality?
Let me put this in terms you may understand:
"In God we trust; all others must bring data"
I have the bizarre feeling I'm feeding a troll.
A lot of research is now pointing to lead being the cause of a decent amount of crime. Children who grow up exposed to lead have much lower impulse control which ends up being at the root of a lot of crime.
See here for a story on how the murder rate in Jamaica has dropped as a generation grows up without lead paint.
I'm a Gov employee and I'm not certain how to take this comment. Is my IQ no higher than 85? There certainly are plenty of Gov employees with an IQ of 85 but there are also many jobs in Gov that only require that.
So, um...that was a hell of a stealthy dog-whistle there. Congratulations, I guess.
There are a great many intelligent black people. Christians in America's underclass are just as likely to cohabit without marriage as non-Christians. If gay people, as a class, are really excited about taking up the burdens of marriage, I have no objection. They can't change their sexual preference, after all.
Oh, must be a Tuesday.
It has been going on for ages actually. We just didn't want to spoil it by letting you know where it is.
In all seriousness, point out the racism, please?
The above statement implies that if you let smart people out prison, the racial makeup of prisons would change. This indicates a position of assigning a pretty high correlation to intelligence and race; ie, a prejudice based on ethnicity. Seems pretty clearly racist to me.
In the 1990s, Congress passed several get-tough-on-crime mandatory minimum sentencing bills. One of those laws requires a judge to impose an additional 25-year sentence for anyone convicted of a second or subsequent firearm charge. Without these laws, Adam may have received the same 12-year sentence I did. Instead, mandatory minimums allowed prosecutors to transform a crime that averages a 10-year sentence into life imprisonment.
Savor your third year! Luxuriate,now,in your incredible success.Keep a daily journal–30 years from now it will amuse you while giving your grandchildren warm insights into who you were and how you became the distinguished lawyer that you will become.
Most of all, be happy. All the best.
Do you have any evidence for this claim? My limited personal experience with criminals and from what I've read is that many are highly intelligent individuals who don't care about hurting other people (sociopaths), don't think the rules apply to them and have a deep and abiding grudge against society.