Follow-Up on CA Prison Reforms

We had a nice discussion last night, I thought.  Thanks to Linda for doing the research and walking us through the issue. By way of follow-up, here are two things.

  • We’ve had two other recent discussions of crime issues.  Here are the “Monday’s Mtg” post for each.  Among the many good links in the first post is to a book on the ABCs of criminal justice reform that I was alluding to all last night.  His name is Mark Kleiman, and I read his  criminal justice-oriented website (actually, it’s a group blog written by a dozen crime and health policy experts) all the time.  One of them, Keith Humphries, contributed to the comment thread on another issue, our discussion of marijuana legalization.
  • Also, here is a quickie description of the amazing idea that our crime waves were caused directly by lower IQ and other brain damage from widespread post-War use of lead in gasoline (note: NOT lead paint, as I stated at the meeting).
    • Article.  This is a serious argument, not some statistical correlation coincidence.
    • Links to many more aspects of the lead debate, including some partial rebuttals.
    • Does lead paint also cause crime?  Yeah, but not nearly as much as the omnipresent lead from gasoline before they banned it.
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2 responses

  1. While I agree that lead poisoning may be a significant contributing factor to violent crime, I think the idea that it is THE prime factor is seriously overstating the case. For example, it does not explain why cities in different countries, such as NYC, London and Tokyo have vastly different violent crime rates in spite of having had similar amounts of lead fumes. So I think that there are other factor(s) which are much more important.

    One such factor I would propose is the use of harsh, especially physical, punishment for relatively minor infractions. On an individual basis, this sort of treatment in children has been shown to be a major factor in predicting later violence. I also note, which has been mentioned in the meetings in various forms, that harsh punishment by government agencies is most often imposed on the lowest classes in that society. So countries which have a relatively uniform and cohesive population, such as Japan, would have a much lower rate of violence than countries which have a diverse population which includes a long-standing and easily identifiable underclass, such as the USA or India.

    As an aside, I would note that the acceptance of physical punishment by parents and schools in the US has also been dropping significantly since WW2, which may be a big part of the crime drop in the US.

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