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Justice Policy Journal - Volume 6, Number 2 - Fall 2009

(ISSN 1530-3012)


From the editor

By Elizabeth Brown, Ph.D. and Randall G. Shelden, M.A., Ph.D.

From the Editors

We are happy to announce the fall, 2009 issue of the Justice Policy Journal.  With this issue we are introducing a new feature that we hope will be permanent: a special commentary.  This commentary is written by one of the co-editors, Randall G. Shelden.  The title tells a lot: "Exit Exams, the Prison Pipeline and Getting Tough Anyway."  In this commentary the author reviews some revealing studies about the growing use of "exit exams" at the high school level and the corresponding decline in graduation rates, which began not too long after the introduction of these exams.  Not surprisingly, the highest rate of dropping out is among racial minorities.  Both are connected to what some researchers are calling the "prison pipeline" -- a direct connection between doing poorly in school, dropping out, getting involved in the juvenile justice system, which in turn leads to adult prisons.  Despite the growing research documenting this phenomenon, politicians continue to ignore the data and continue their "get tough" stance.

We encourage readers of the journal to contribute short commentaries of no more than 2,000 words on any current policy issue for consideration in upcoming editions of JPJ.


This issue continues with four excellent pieces of research on varied topics, beginning with "A Review of Conceptual Contributions to Juvenile Justice and Youth Development Arenas" Morghan Vélez Young. The author, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University's School of Education, has spent the past four years engaged in observational studies in several different juvenile institutions.  In this paper she critically reviews four strategies that have been used to address the problem of juvenile crime.  The first three she reviews are well-known and are (1) juvenile rehabilitation programs (which she categorizes as "well intentioned, but uninformed"); (2) deterrence and incapacitation responses to youth crime; and (3) research-based rehabilitation programs for "vulnerable" youth.  The fourth model is what she calls an attempt to dismantle the "essentualizing" frameworks that see delinquents as a "certain kind of person" (e.g., "bad," "delinquent") by drawing on the research of "ethnomethodologists". These researchers provide detailed observations of what goes on within juvenile institutions and how the daily routine undermines attempts at reforming juvenile offenders.  She argues that this kind of research "can dismantle the taken-for-granted rehabilitation versus punishment dichotomy" and help lead the way to fresh approaches.

The second article is "Public but Opaque: The Problems of Tracking Homicide Charging in a California County," written by Paul Kaplan, Romy Ganschow, Shanda Angioli and Larissa Tabin.  This article offers an informative insight into problems facing researchers when trying to use official data.  In this case, researchers were trying to gather data on active homicide cases in a large California county.  Essentially, all they wanted was to collect basic demographic data that was publicly -- and legally -- available. It turned out to be almost impossible to obtain. Surprisingly, the usually easily available variable of race was recorded in the records for just one-fourth of the offenders and only 36% of the victims out of a sample of 121. They repeatedly ran into one obstacle after another -- mostly related to "bureaucratic overload, indifference, and most importantly, the absence of a systematic data collection and analysis infrastructure in the criminal justice system for tracking active cases."  Their article is a fascinating insight into the hazards of collecting data -- something that all researchers have probably faced and something that policy makers should be addressing (they personally have tried to get a bill passed by the California legislature to address this problem).

The third article is "A Century of Losing Battles: The Costly and Ill-Advised War on Drugs in the United States" written by Arthur J. Lurigio, Mikaela Rabinowitz and Justyna Lenik.  The authors offer an excellent history of the war on drugs in this country, starting with the passage of the Harrison Act in 1914 and continuing through the present day.  They offer an alternative approach, one that deals with drugs as a "public health" issue, which shifts most resources away from the traditional supply-side to demand-side initiatives (e.g., drug treatment programs).

Finally, we have a study that is rather unique to this journal and that presents a critical analysis of preventive detention.  This is undertaken by Bradley Chilton in "The Limits of Preventive Detention: Habeas Corpus, Boumediene v. Bush (2008) and Comparative Preemption Policy."  Chilton presents a review of a Supreme Court decision in the case of Boumediene v. Bush (2008) where the Court found unconstitutional a congressional statute passed in 2006 that tried to forbid federal judges from engaging in a habeas corpus review of the "preventive detentions" of unlawful "enemy combatants." Chilton, with both a doctorate and law degree, does an excellent job of sifting through the precedents of the case and makes some comparisons with other nations, including England, Turkey and Canada.

Happy reading!

The Limits of Preventive Detention: Habeas Corpus, Boumediene v. Bush (2008) and Comparative Preemption Policy

By Bradley S. Chilton

This is a critique of preemption policy involving unlawful enemy combatants, and preventive detention in general in the USA and some comparative settings. It features a close examination of the landmark decision of Boumediene v. Bush (2008), in which the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional a 2006 congressional statute that sought to strip federal judges of habeas corpus review of the preventive detentions of unlawful enemy combatants by the US government. The paper analyzes context of this landmark case, prior precedents, the reasoning of the prior Court of Appeals decision, U.S. Supreme Court decisions and reasoning, and the socio-legal context for a human rights critique of preemption and preventive law enforcement strategies. Finally, the paper compares the critique of preemptive detention in Boumediene with comparative preemption and habeas corpus human rights in Turkey, Canada, United Kingdom, Israel, and other nations with implications for a more adequate and just policy of preemption.

Public but Opaque: The Problems of Tracking Homicide Charging in a California County

By Paul Kaplan, Romy Ganschow, Shanda Angioli, and Larissa Tabin

This article reports on a project to collect and analyze publicly available demographic data related to not yet adjudicated ('active') homicide cases charged in one large and diverse California County.  Much of the desired data, although legally publicly available, turned out to be impossible or practically impossible to obtain.  The obstacles we encountered seemed mostly related to bureaucratic overload, indifference, and most importantly, the absence of a systematic data collection and analysis infrastructure in the criminal justice system for tracking active cases.  Despite gathering or attempting to gather numerous documents from various criminal justice organizations for 121 active homicide cases, after approximately one year of continued efforts by several people with considerable experience in law, criminal justice research, and records requests, we were only able to state the race of 25% of the defendants and 36% of the victims in these 121 cases. We propose legislation to facilitate data collection on homicide cases.

Exit Exams, the Prison Pipeline and Getting Tough Anyway

By Randall G. Shelden

A Review of Conceptual Contributions to Juvenile Justice and Youth Development Arenas

By Morghan Vélez Young

Four conceptual contributions to the juvenile justice and youth development arenas are examined. After outlining early rehabilitation approaches and accompanying disappointments, deterrence and its failures, and the research-based movement, readers are offered alternatives to them. This fourth contribution remains marginalized as attention to the rehabilitation versus punishment dichotomy takes center stage. Deterrence approaches are outmoded by contemporary research on the failure of punitive responses to juvenile crime, but research-based rehabilitation practices can also be understood as detrimental. Ethnomethodological and anthropological research on justice and youth development institutions guides this engagement with the impediments of theoretical and practical norms within juvenile justice. Discussion calls for more qualitative and longitudinal research in juvenile justice facilities and community centers.  Research-based rehabilitation policies and practices will remain within the paralysis of the rehabilitation versus punishment paradigm unless researchers and practitioners contend with normative forces from within the juvenile justice and youth development arenas.

A Century of Losing Battles: The Costly and Ill-Advised War on Drugs in the United States

By Arthur J. Lurigio, Mikaela Rabinowitz, and Justyna Lenik

For nearly a century, the federal government of the United States has engaged in a variety of activities to stem the production, distribution, and sale of illicit substances, known collectively as the "war on drugs." This article chronicles the war on drugs in the United States, from its inception at the federal level, with the passage of the Harrison Act in 1914, through the major laws and policies that have been enacted since the Nixon Administration, the first White House to declare a "war on drugs." This paper also examines the failings of the country's drug policies and recommends a public health approach to addiction that shifts the bulk of resources from supply-side to demand-side initiatives, such as drug treatment programs, which have proven to lower drug use and to be more cost effective than criminal justice responses to America's drug problem. 

Keywords: community corrections, federal, social services, substance use

Posted in Volume 6

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