Criminology and Economic Theory
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OH Union Members Caught with Truckload of Stolen Romney Signs

OH Union Members Caught with Truckload of Stolen Romney Signs | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Four men caught in a Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) truck full of Romney/Ryan signs were issued summons for receiving stolen property early Friday morning in Perrysburg, OH.
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More School Districts Purchasing Active Shooter Insurance - Campus Safety

More School Districts Purchasing Active Shooter Insurance - Campus Safety | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Seven South Florida school districts have bought $3 million worth of active shooter insurance in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
Rob Duke's insight:
This is both good and bad.  It's bad because the kids might, at some point, just become a business decision.  For instance, what if it costs less to insure the school than it would to beef up security.
But, I think overall that it's good, because it monetizes the risk and in search of profits, the insurance companies will go to work figuring out how to make schools that are insured unattractive to shooters.  Over time, this means best practices will not only be discovered, but spread like wildfire to other schools.  Whether the solutions are security based, or governance based, or some combination, rest assured that insurance companies are well-equipped to manage the risk down to something close to its lowest possible level.
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The School Shooting Generation Has Had Enough

The School Shooting Generation Has Had Enough | Criminology and Economic Theory |

It’s lunchtime on a Tuesday, and the kids are piling into a pizzeria booth in Coral Springs, Fla., to plot a revolution.

Rob Duke's insight:
Are these kids who have had enough representative of all the kids who felt like they haven't had a voice?
If there'd been a fat kid and a geeky kid and a kid that the other kids would find homely, then I'd be more persuaded, but I have a feeling that we're still glossing over the real problem and that is how schools are governed and how schools deal with conflict.
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Texas serial bomber made video confession before blowing himself up: police

Texas serial bomber made video confession before blowing himself up: police | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Mark Conditt, 23, an unemployed man from the suburb of Pflugerville, detailed how he made all seven bombs that have been accounted for - five that exploded, one that was recovered before it went off and a seventh that he detonated as officers rushed his vehicle early on Wednesday.

But the video failed to reveal a coherent motive for the attacks spread over the past three weeks, police said.

“He does not at all mention anything about terrorism, nor does he mention anything about hate, but instead it is the outcry of a very challenged young man, talking about challenges in his personal life,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters.

“I would classify this as a confession,” Manley said.

Conditt, who had never before been in trouble with the law, killed two people and wounded five with a campaign of violence that began on March 2, authorities said.

Based on their search of the suspect’s home and his video statement, authorities said they felt confident that there were no other bombs and that the public was safe from further harm.
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Self-Driving Uber Kills Pedestrian In Tempe. What Went Wrong?

Self-Driving Uber Kills Pedestrian In Tempe. What Went Wrong? | Criminology and Economic Theory |
After a woman in Tempe was killed by a self-driving Uber, local law enforcement was quick to absolve the company of blame. Transportation experts aren’t so sure.
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Texas bombs: 5 explosions have police, federal agents scrambling for answers

Texas bombs: 5 explosions have police, federal agents scrambling for answers | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Five bombings in 19 days have left the Texas capital on edge, with Austin police warning the public not to take chances: If it looks suspicious -- whether it's a package, box or backpack -- do not approach it.
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Britain’s stringent rules on medical cannabis harm patients - Chronic problems

Britain’s stringent rules on medical cannabis harm patients - Chronic problems | Criminology and Economic Theory |

SATIVEX comes in a small brown glass vial. Each spray, delivered under the tongue or to the cheek, emits 100ml of a solution including alcohol, peppermint oil and a mixture of THC and CBD, the active ingredients in cannabis. GW Pharmaceuticals, its manufacturer, insists it is a “cannabis-based medicine”, not “medical marijuana”, since it is made to exacting pharmaceutical standards. It nevertheless contains extracts from Cannabis sativa, the cannabis flower and plant, and some users report a mild high. It can be prescribed by doctors, most often to sufferers from multiple sclerosis (MS).

Partly as a result, fuzzy fronds are flourishing in British greenhouses. In 2016 Britain harvested 95 tonnes of legally grown cannabis, twice as much as a year earlier, and more than any other country. The International Narcotics Control Board, an independent monitor linked to the UN, reckons that Britain is the world’s largest exporter of legal cannabis (in the form of medical products). And GW has another product, for treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy, under consideration by regulators in America and Europe.

But, unlike in some American states, those who use cannabis in its most basic leaf form to treat other illnesses run the risk of prosecution. Jon Liebling of the United Patients Alliance, a campaign group, recalls being busted a few years ago for growing a plant for him and his friends to treat illnesses, including anxiety and MS. “The government had taken my medicine,” he complains. Last October MPs joined activists smoking joints at a “cannabis tea party” outside Parliament to call for the legalisation of cannabis for medical use, which some define as having the right to grow their own.

Others hope for regulatory change, arguing that the road to market is too costly and unwieldy for a cheap herbal product. It requires approval by both the medicine authority and the Home Office. One policy adviser notes that GW Pharmaceuticals has an enormous first-mover advantage, having emerged from the process with a number of patents. Gavin Sathianathan of Forma Holdings, a firm that invests in medical-cannabis companies, says that Britain’s restrictive laws are hindering the growth of the next big biotech industry.

The lack of competition not only denies patients access to medicine, it also pushes up prices. Although Sativex is licensed for the treatment of MS, in 2014 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which advises the National Health Service, decided its benefits were not worth the cost (a different decision was reached in Wales, where the drug is still available on the NHS).

Cutting red tape may thus be a sensible move by the government. “If we’re going to fight the war on drugs,” says Mr Sathianathan, “we should at least get the sick off the battlefield first.”

William Kelley's comment, March 19, 5:28 PM
It is certainly an industry on the rise.
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The consensus crumbles - Free exchange

The consensus crumbles - Free exchange | Criminology and Economic Theory |

AFTER the second world war, the leaders of the Western world tried to build institutions to prevent the horrors of the preceding decades from recurring. They sought to foster both prosperity and interdependence, to “make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible”. Their work has borne fruit. There has been no armed conflict in western Europe since. Expanded global trade has raised incomes around the world. Yet, as the Brexit vote demonstrates, globalisation now seems to be receding. Most economists have been blindsided by the backlash. A few saw it coming. It is worth studying their reasoning, in order to work out whether a retrenchment is inevitable or might be avoided.

Even economists realise that free trade can be a hard sell politically. The political economy of trade is treacherous: its benefits, though substantial, are diffuse, but its costs are often concentrated, giving those affected a strong incentive to push for protectionism. Since 1776, when Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations”, those pressing for global openness have won more battles than they have lost. Yet opposition to globalisation seldom disappears, and often regroups. And a position once considered near-heretical, that globalisation itself seems to create forces that erode political support for integration, is gaining currency.

Dani Rodrik of Harvard University is the author of the best-known such critique. In the late 1990s he pointed out that deeper economic integration required harmonisation of laws and regulations across countries. Differences in rules on employment contracts or product-safety requirements, for instance, act as barriers to trade. Indeed, trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership focus more on “non-tariff barriers” than they do on tariff reduction. But the consequences often run counter to popular preferences: the French might find themselves barred from supporting a French-language film industry, for example.

Deeper integration, Mr Rodrik reckoned, will therefore lead either to an erosion of democracy, as national leaders disregard the will of the public, or will cause the dissolution of the nation state, as authority moves to supranational bodies elected to create harmonised rules for everyone to follow. These trade-offs create a “trilemma”, in Mr Rodrik’s view: societies cannot be globally integrated, completely sovereign and democratic—they can opt for only two of the three. In the late 1990s Mr Rodrik speculated that the sovereignty of nation states would be the item societies chose to discard. Yet it now seems that economic integration may be more vulnerable.

Alberto Alesina of Harvard University and Enrico Spolaore of Tufts University presented a different but related view of the trade-offs entailed by global economic integration in “The Size of Nations”, published in 2003. They note that there are advantages to being a large country. Bigger countries can muster more resources for national defence, for instance. They also have large internal markets. But bigness also carries costs. The larger and more heterogeneous a country, the more difficult it is for the government to satisfy its citizens’ political preferences. There is less variation in political views in Scotland, to take one example, than across Britain as a whole. When policy is made by the British parliament (rather than in Edinburgh, Belfast and so on) the average Briton is slightly less satisfied with the result.

Global integration, Messrs Alesina and Spolaore argue, reduces the economic cost of breaking up big countries, since the smaller entities that result will not be cut off from bigger markets. Meanwhile the benefits of separatism, in terms of being able to cater better to the preferences of voters, are less diminished. So the global reduction in barriers to trade since the second world war, the pair contend, at least partly explains the simultaneous growth in the number of countries, even if national fractures often involve, or lead to, political instability and violence.

And then there is the question of how the benefits of globalisation are shared out. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prizewinner, has warned that rent-seeking companies’ influence over trade rules harms workers and erodes support for trade liberalisation. Raghuram Rajan, the head of India’s central bank, has argued that clumsy government efforts to compensate workers hurt by globalisation contributed to the global financial crisis, by facilitating excessive household borrowing, among other things. David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson have documented how the costs of America’s growing trade with China has fallen disproportionately on certain cities. And so on.

Open and shut

Branko Milanovic of the City University of New York believes such costs perpetuate a cycle of globalisation. He argues that periods of global integration and technological progress generate rising inequality, which inevitably triggers two countervailing forces, one beneficial and one harmful. On the one hand, governments tend to respond to rising inequality by increasing redistribution and investing in education; on the other, inequality leads to political upheaval and war. The first great era of globalisation, which ended in 1914, gave way to a long period of declining inequality, in which harmful countervailing forces played a bigger role than beneficial ones. History might repeat itself, he warns.

Such warnings do not amount to arguments against globalisation. As many of the economists in question are quick to note, the benefits of openness are massive. It is increasingly clear, however, that supporters of economic integration underestimated the risks both that big slices of society would feel left behind and that nationalism would continue to provide an alluring alternative. Either error alone might have undercut support for globalisation—and the six decades of relative peace and prosperity it has brought. In combination, they threaten to reverse it.

Rob Duke's insight:
Excerpt: "And then there is the question of how the benefits of globalisation are shared out. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prizewinner, has warned that rent-seeking companies’ influence over trade rules harms workers and erodes support for trade liberalisation. Raghuram Rajan, the head of India’s central bank, has argued that clumsy government efforts to compensate workers hurt by globalisation contributed to the global financial crisis, by facilitating excessive household borrowing, among other things. David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson have documented how the costs of America’s growing trade with China has fallen disproportionately on certain cities. And so on."
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Philippines gives official notice of International Criminal Court withdrawal | News | DW | 16.03.2018

Philippines gives official notice of International Criminal Court withdrawal | News | DW | 16.03.2018 | Criminology and Economic Theory |
The Philippines has officially notified the UN secretary-general that it is quitting the ICC. The move comes after it was announced that the court was investigating killings connected with Manila's war on drugs.
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Berlin police officer arrested on suspicion of working with drug gangs | News | DW | 16.03.2018

Berlin police officer arrested on suspicion of working with drug gangs | News | DW | 16.03.2018 | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Berlin police have carried out a series of raids, only this time against a member from its own ranks. A German officer is suspected of taking kickbacks from drug dealers in exchange for information on police operations.
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Anger in Brazil after prominent police critic is shot dead

Anger in Brazil after prominent police critic is shot dead | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Marielle Franco, 38, a rising star in the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), was killed along with her driver in northern Rio around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night. Her press secretary survived the shooting on Rio's dangerous north side.

The killing comes just weeks after the federal government decreed that Brazil's army would take over all security operations through the end of the year in Rio, where murders have spiked in recent years. Franco had harshly criticized that move on Sunday, saying it could worsen police violence against residents.

"It is far too soon to say, but were are obviously looking at this as a murder in response to her political work, that is a main theory," said a Rio de Janeiro public prosecutor, who spoke on condition that he not be named as he was not authorized to discuss the case.

An investigator with Rio's police force also said that the prime motive appeared to be Franco's calling out police for allegedly killing innocents in their constant battles with drug gangs.
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Why Islam prohibits images of Muhammad - The Economist explains

Why Islam prohibits images of Muhammad - The Economist explains | Criminology and Economic Theory |

LOOK upwards in the magnificent place of worship in Istanbul now known as the Hagia Sophia Museum, and you will see two different ways of approaching the divine, reflecting different phases in the building's history. There are Christian mosaics, among the finest ever made, of Jesus Christ, his mother and other holy figures; and there is swirling Islamic calligraphy, which reflects the idea that God speaks to man through language, whether spoken or written, rather than through pictures or anything physical. For most of its history, Islam has had a deep aversion to the lifelike portrayal of animate beings, especially human beings, and above all to the representation of Muhammad, the messenger of God—or indeed any of the preceding prophets, such as Nuh (Noah) or Isa (Jesus). For an artist, trying to depict the Deity could be more impious only than drawing Muhammad. Why?

Such beliefs are rooted in Islam's horror of idolatry, and generally of anything that could come between man and God, or compromise the uniqueness and indivisibility of God. The Koran does not specifically condemn representative art, but it has a lot to say about paganism and idolatry; and Islam is correspondingly wary of anything that could become an idol or detract from the worship of God alone. The text most often cited in defence of the ban on representation is a hadith, one of the vast lore of sayings about the deeds and words of Muhammad. He is reported to have spoken harshly to a man who made his living through art. “Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and he will never be able to do that.” This is taken to mean that for a human, to try “making” a new being is usurping God's role—and is in any case doomed to fail.

The belief is most strongly held by the Sunnis, who form the great majority of the world's Muslims, especially the more puritanical and zealous groups such as the Wahhabis, who dominate Saudi Arabia. Shia Islam is much more open to the depiction of human beings, up to and including Muhammad himself. This difference fuels the zeal of violent Sunni groups like Islamic State, who have destroyed Shia shrines and images, claiming in doing so to be purifying their religion of idolatrous accretions. By contrast the leading figure among the Shias of Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani, has said the depiction even of Muhammad is acceptable, as long as it is done with proper reverence.

To illustrate that the ban on depiction has not been absolute, it is often pointed out that the portrayal of human figures, including Muhammad, was a central feature of Persian miniatures, under both Sunni and Shia rulers. In more modern times, the theological ban on human depiction has been challenged in many Muslim countries by the ubiquity of human images in films, on television and in political propaganda posters. In Arab countries, ingenious compromises between depiction and non-depiction are sometimes found; on road signs, for example, a headless human figure will show pedestrians where to walk. At a slightly higher theological level, it is sometimes asserted (in the course of Christian—Muslim debates, for example) that Muhammad's aversion to images had exceptions. According to one version of his life, he went into the Ka'aba—the original place of worship in Mecca—and found it full of idols, which he destroyed. But there were two images which he allowed to remain, albeit hidden from public view: those of Jesus and Mary.

Dig deeper:
As the threat of terrorism is increasing, the ability of Western security agencies to defeat it is declining (Jan 2015)
Could Voltaire be Muslim?  (Jan 2015)
The pleasures and perils of name calling (Jan 2015)

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In case you wanted to know....
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Pakistan’s Murree Brewery shrugs off restrictions on its products - Spirit of the law

Pakistan’s Murree Brewery shrugs off restrictions on its products - Spirit of the law | Criminology and Economic Theory |

QUARTER-LITRE bottles of whisky whizz down a conveyor belt past Mukhtar Ali, a quality-control employee at Pakistan’s Murree Brewery, the only legal beer-and-spirit maker in this Islamic country. Nearby labourers pack Vat No.1, a cask-aged spirit, into boxes. An elderly man with a long beard tapes them up. Asked over the roar of imported German machinery if they have ever taken a sip of the amber liquid, each shakes his head. “It’s haram,” (meaning forbidden), says Mr Ali.

The 155-year-old institution causes some spluttering nonetheless. Founded for British troops of the Raj, it can sell only to the 3% of the 207m-strong population that is comprised of foreigners and non-Muslims. But many of its products end up in Muslim hands, as illustrated by the predilections of the former prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who ordered a nationwide ban on alcohol in 1977. “He was the biggest consumer of Murree in history!” says the company’s boss, Isphanyar Bhandara. Some employees do sneak drinks on the job, he adds.

Shareholders can toast a vintage few years for the firm, whose market capitalisation of $160m makes it one of the largest food and beverage firms listed on Pakistan’s stockmarket. In 2016, it doubled its alcohol-production capacity. Profits have risen by almost 100% since 2012, reaching a foamy $19.6m last year.

One reason is an influx of thirsty Chinese citizens, who clamour for alcohol as they deepen their country’s footprint in Pakistan. An increasingly relaxed officialdom also helps. Government employees work inside Murree’s fortress-like walls and hold the keys to locks on every vat of whisky. Yet in recent years provincial administrations have granted more permits to individuals and upmarket hotels to indulge. Elite Pakistanis, able to afford prices of around $3 for a can of lager, are a reliable source of demand.

It also helps that in 2009 the main sharia court ruled that the official punishment for drinking—80 lashes—was itself un-Islamic; the verdict had never been imposed. Yet Murree’s product remains a touchy subject. In 2016 the Sindh High Court temporarily banned all sales of alcohol in the southern province, a significant blow to profits as it accounts for 60% of Murree’s liquor sales. The case still hangs over the company.

To guard against such headaches in future, Murree is expanding its range of soft drinks, including Murree Sparkletts, a mineral water. Freer liquor markets abroad also appeal. Attempts to brew Murree in neighbouring India (Pakistan’s law forbids exporting it outright) have foundered, the result of sour diplomatic relations. Yet the firm soon hopes to offer British citizens the chance, once again, to “have a Murree with your curry”. A worldwide distribution deal is being negotiated through a Czech brewery that produces its beer. “The Brits started it here, so why not?” says a tweed-jacketed executive, Sabih Ur Rehman, puffing on a Silk Cut cigarette.

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In some countries, killer cops are celebrated - Crime and justice

In some countries, killer cops are celebrated - Crime and justice | Criminology and Economic Theory |

POLICE in the United States kill roughly 1,000 people a year. No other rich country comes close. Finnish police fired only six bullets in 2013, fewer than half the number that one Chicago cop put into Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, in 2014 as he was walking away.

Next to police in some poorer countries, though, America’s cops look almost Nordic. Police in El Salvador are 22 times deadlier. Cops in Rio de Janeiro, a Brazilian state with just 17m inhabitants, killed more people in 2017 than all of America’s police. (In February Brazil’s president ordered the army to take over policing Rio.) In countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and the Philippines it is impossible to say even roughly how many people the police kill, but it is a lot. “Police brutality is as common as water,” says Justus Ijeoma, a human-rights activist in Nigeria’s Anambra state.

Why are some cops so likely to kill? Partly because they fear for their own lives, or for those of bystanders. In general, the more murderous the country, the more deadly are its police (see chart). American cops shoot more people than police in other rich countries largely because more people shoot at them. They are 36 times deadlier than German police officers, but also 35 times likelier to be killed on the job.

The other big difference is incentives. In America, as in Europe, a cop who kills unlawfully can expect to be punished. (The officer who shot McDonald was suspended and has been charged with murder; he has pleaded not guilty.) In many developing countries, by contrast, the authorities encourage extrajudicial executions, either to get rid of dissidents or to suppress crime. Voters often applaud them for it.

In the Philippines, for example, President Rodrigo Duterte openly urges the police to kill suspected drug dealers and even drug users, to fulfil a campaign promise to dump their corpses in Manila Bay and “fatten all the fish there”. Since he became president in May 2016 more than 12,000 people have died in extrajudicial killings, according to human-rights groups. The police give a smaller but still staggering number. They say that 3,850 died in anti-drug operations between July 2016 and September 2017. Another 2,290 drug-related murders are “under investigation”.

Imelda Hidalgo, who lives in a slum of Quezon City, in Manila, says the police gunned down her brother last year, probably because they heard that he took shabu (methamphetamine). Trigger-happy cops sometimes shoot bystanders. “We are scared,” says Ms Hidalgo, “What if a user comes to our local store and then there’s a drug operation right here?”

Elizabeth Mago, a food-seller in Quezon City, says her son “just had a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time”. One evening last year, he asked for 10 pesos ($0.20) to pay for a video-gaming session and headed for the local computer shop. While there he was shot. His mother suspects the police were involved, but cannot be sure. Such confusion is normal. “On operations the first thing the police do is take out the CCTV cameras and the lights,” says a church volunteer who helps those bereaved by violence.

The government insists that killing criminals cuts crime. This is impossible to verify. What is certain, however, is that many of the killings are murder, pure and simple, and that having a licence to kill makes it easier for corrupt police to intimidate civilians. “Extortion now is more rampant somehow, because the police can choose who to kill and who to put in jail,” says a local official.

Still, more than three-quarters of Filipinos approve of the government’s approach. Even those harmed by the brutal campaign sometimes favour it. Both Ms Hidalgo and Ms Mago want it to continue.

A similar drug war in Thailand, which began in 2003, was a fiasco. A public report four years later found that in its initial months about half of the 2,819 extrajudicial killings involved victims who had nothing to do with drugs. Villagers sometimes grumble that addiction is as bad as ever. Yet many long for a return to violence. “If you kill a dog, do you have to apologise to his family?” asks a rice farmer. “No. And it’s the same with drug dealers.”

In 2015 the vice-president of El Salvador told police that they could shoot gang members “without any fear of suffering consequences”. Such “implicit impunity” spurs police over-zealousness, observes Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. After the government announced a mano dura (iron-fist) policy, the number of alleged gang members shot by police and soldiers rose 15-fold, from 39 in 2013 to 603 in 2016. Over the same period, the murder rate doubled. Police are supposed to shoot to wound, but the ratio of suspects killed to wounded jumped from 3.1 in 2015 to 6.3 in the first six months of 2017. The ratio of dead suspects to dead police rose almost eight times, from 15 to one in 2014 to 113 to one in June 2017.

Last year more than 600 Salvadorean officers were arrested for allegedly belonging to death squads, participating in shoot-outs or committing other crimes. Hardly any were prosecuted or even sacked. At one point journalists got access to an elite unit’s WhatsApp chat group where officers shared videos of suspects being tortured, celebrated the “elimination” of gangster “rats” and traded tips on how to plant evidence. The officers in the WhatsApp chat were arrested, but freed three days later.

One-directional shoot-outs

Advocates of mano dura policing in Latin America say it is the only way to deal with drug gangs. In other countries the excuse is terrorism. Consider the case of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 27-year-old aspiring male model in Pakistan. Before his death he posted a video online in which he and a friend dance in a woodland clearing. He smiles, claps and sways. His long hair flicks in the breeze. He does not look like a member of the Taliban, an Islamist movement that abhors music and hairstyles. Yet on January 13th a police team killed Mehsud in what they termed an “encounter” with four terrorists.

“Encounter killings” are common in Pakistan and India. Between 1997 and 2016 some 8,800 cases were tallied in Pakistan. The term implies that suspects perish in shoot-outs. Police seldom die during these battles, however. In the house where Mehsud died, blood colours the floor but bullet-holes pock only one wall.

Mehsud had gone missing ten days before his death. Some people told local media that police had picked him up in an attempt at extortion. A police investigation found no links between him and the Taliban. The encounter, it found, was probably “staged”. Mehsud’s fellow Pushtuns, who say the police have been harrying them for years, held protest marches.

The unit that killed Mehsud has reportedly carried out 262 encounter killings since 2009. Its leader, Rao Anwar, has become a celebrity. Journalists with cameras routinely arrive at the scene of a shoot-out minutes before it begins, says Afzal Nadeem Dogar, of Geo News, a local channel. “It’s like Anwar’s a movie hero,” scoffs Jibran Nasir, a lawyer and campaigner. “Bombs go off all around but he emerges scratchless every time.”

Mr Anwar’s career may now be over. He has gone into hiding to escape an arrest warrant for murder. Yet attempts to root out extrajudicial killing run up against a phalanx of incentives supporting it. Pakistan’s courts are drowning under a backlog of 1.9m cases. Judges fear to try terrorism cases, lest they be murdered by jihadists. Witnesses seldom come forward. Police are tempted to take shortcuts. Worst, officers who rack up “encounters” can expect professional advancement. “I worked hard all my life,” sighs a senior officer, “but I was not part of any encounters, so I was unable to get a promotion.”

One globally popular idea to curb killings is for police to wear cameras. Yet a study in Washington, DC, in which roughly half the cops were given body cameras and half were not, showed no difference in the use of force between the two groups. This might not mean that body cameras are useless. It may be that American police generally follow the rules, and so did not need to change their behaviour when being filmed. Other police forces might be different; and body cameras might make civilians behave better, too.

Technology can restrain cops only if the authorities want to restrain them—someone has to watch the body-camera footage and punish misconduct. Building a culture of accountability takes time and political will, but is not impossible. In the early 2000s Colombia purged 12,000 corrupt officers and taught new ones to be better detectives. In Guatemala a UN-backed team of independent prosecutors secured convictions in 2013 against four cops responsible for systematic killings of prisoners. Such high-profile cases drove down police killings and homicides in general.

In the short term, police need better training in the use of non-lethal means of incapacitating suspects, such as tasers. Franklin Zimring of the University of California, Berkeley, argues that many American lives could be saved if the police reassessed tactics such as emptying a 15-bullet magazine into a knife-wielding civilian standing 20 feet away “just to make sure”.

In the long run, cops in many poor countries need better pay (so they are not tempted to moonlight as assassins), tougher consequences for abusing their powers and a functioning legal system to work with, so they do not face a choice between killing a suspect and seeing him bribe his way out of prison. Most of all, such countries need leaders who think that civilian lives matter, and that punishments are for courts, not cops, to decide.

This article appeared in the International section of the print edition under the headline "Why they do it"

Rob Duke's insight:
In some countries, killer cops are celebrated Even though they are ineffective
Leah Haskell's comment, March 12, 3:18 AM
Interesting article, found a few interesting points. First it is disappointing that American police shoots over 1,000 people a year. The excuse for that number is people shoot back. These last few years cops have shot many unarmed children and adults, therefore the article forgot to mention that some cops kill for enjoyment and are not suited for the job. I do agree that cops kill in fear of their lives and bystanders, it is their job and right to use force necessary to protect themselves and others. I also feel in certain countries if police don't kill they will be killed themselves. I can't imagine all Germans believed in Hitler, they probably feared for their lives. The United States is not the most dangerous country, El Savador , Rio De Janerio, Nigeria, and the Philippines are more dangerous than the US and they don't have a count of how many deaths by cops because it is to high.
William Kelley's comment, March 12, 3:25 PM
We can see this in many other career paths as well when the typical prestige associated with a job is voided from what it's actually like.
katrina watson's comment, March 12, 4:06 PM
Scary places to be
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Man injured after jumping from public gallery of Dutch parliament | Euronews

Man injured after jumping from public gallery of Dutch parliament | Euronews | Criminology and Economic Theory |
A man was injured on Thursday after jumping from the public gallery of the Dutch parliament into the debating chamber below with something tied around his neck, according to police.

In a statement, police confirmed that a 65-year-old man had been taken to hospital following the incident.

They said the man had "an object" around his neck that was tied to a stand.

A public video feed of the speakers’ podium showed lawmakers looking shocked after a loud thump before the session was postponed.

Photos shared on social media showed the man receiving first aid on a lawmaker’s desk and later being carried out of parliament on a stretcher.

De Telegraaf newspaper quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the man had been pacing in an agitated state before tying something to a railing and jumping off.

The paper identified him as an activist who had been camped outside parliament to call for the legalisation of cannabis, which is technically illegal in the Netherlands but widely available.
Rob Duke's insight:
Um? Ok, I'm not sure he's helping his cause by reinforcing the stereotypical "pothead" behavior: "Hey, man! Watch this!"
I'm sure there's more to the story of why he fell, but I know that's where my mind went when I read the story....
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Arrest warrant issued for South Korea ex-president Lee on graft charges

Arrest warrant issued for South Korea ex-president Lee on graft charges | Criminology and Economic Theory |
A South Korean court issued an arrest warrant on Thursday night for former president Lee Myung-bak over allegations he took bribes when he was in office, in the latest top-level political corruption scandal to rock the country.
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Sarkozy given preliminary charges as Gadhafi's son offers evidence

Sarkozy given preliminary charges as Gadhafi's son offers evidence | Criminology and Economic Theory |
The son of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has offered to give evidence against Nicolas Sarkozy, the ex-French president who on Wednesday was slapped with charges of receiving millions of dollars from the strongman's regime.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi alleged that he witnessed part of the funds being delivered to Sarkozy's chief of staff in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

"I can confirm that I still possess solid proof about Sarkozy," he said in a series of WhatsApp messages to Africanews, the sister channel of NBC News partner Euronews. "I saw with my own eyes the delivery of the first sum of money to Sarkozy's man Claude Guéant in Tripoli."

 Saif al-Islam Gadhafi is the second son of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Simon Denyer / The Washington Post Via Getty Images File
He also welcomed Sarkozy's detention and said he would be willing to give evidence against the 63-year-old, who was French president between 2007 and 2012.

Sarkozy was handed preliminary charges after two days of questioning, according to The Associated Press, meaning he is under formal investigation by judges.

Sarkozy is accused of financing his successful 2007 presidential bid with 50 million euros (about $62 million) from Moammar Gadhafi. The sum would be more than double the legal campaign funding limit at the time.

According to the AP, the charges include illegally funding his campaign, passive corruption, and receiving money from Libyan embezzlement. Sarkozy has repeatedly and vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Soon after winning the election, Sarkozy invited Moammar Gadhafi for a state visit to France. But in 2011, the French leader was at the forefront of NATO-led airstrikes on Libya that helped rebels topple the leader.

Moammar Gadhafi was killed in violence the engulfed the country in 2011, and now Libya is still split between rival governments in the east and west while ports and beaches are largely in the hands of armed groups.

After this military intervention, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi gave an interview to Euronews in March 2011 alleging that Sarkozy had received money from the Libyan government.

"The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people," he said at the time.

 Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. Joel Saget / AFP - Getty Images
Al-Islam again referenced France's involvement in the NATO-led bombing in his WhatsApp messages to Africanews this week.

"Ex-president Sarkozy is responsible for the chaos, the spread of terrorism and illegal immigration in Libya," he said.

Saif al-Islam was Gadhafi’s most prominent son and the family’s most Westernized face. Although he held no formal position in the regime, he was seen by many as a reformer and the heir to his father’s power.

After the toppling of his father, he was jailed by rebels for seven years during which time images appeared showing he was missing several fingers. He was freed last year, his whereabouts are unknown, and remains wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity relating to the Libyan uprising in 2011.

Sarkozy has faced other campaign-related legal troubles in the past.

In February 2017, he was ordered to stand trial after being handed preliminary charges for suspected illegal overspending on his failed 2012 re-election campaign. Sarkozy has appealed the decision.
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The triumph of America’s companies - Friends in high places

The triumph of America’s companies - Friends in high places | Criminology and Economic Theory |

THE Citizens United ruling in 2010 was one of the most controversial in the history of America’s Supreme Court. The judges affirmed that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend their money to influence elections; the decision seemed to extinguish any hope of serious campaign-finance reform. As Adam Winkler’s fascinating book recounts, this was only the latest in a long line of corporate legal victories.

The rights of corporations were not debated in the state conventions that ratified the constitution, nor were companies mentioned in the Federalist Papers, the essays largely written by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. But corporations have repeatedly been able to exploit laws meant to benefit others. In 1819 a landmark Supreme Court decision regarding Dartmouth College limited the rights of states to interfere in businesses set up by charter; private contracts, it held, should be sacrosanct. That was followed by a jump in the creation of chartered corporations. They were viewed with suspicion by Andrew Jackson, the populist president, who thought they took rights away from the people and gave them to a few.

In 1882 Roscoe Conkling, one of the drafters of the 14th Amendment—designed to give equal citizenship to freed slaves—persuaded the Supreme Court that it had also meant to protect companies. He misrepresented the contents of a journal to help clinch the argument. Sure enough, between 1868 (when the amendment was adopted) and 1912, the justices decided 28 cases asserting the rights of African-Americans, almost all of which were lost. They decided 312 cases on the rights of companies, which succeeded in striking down minimum-wage and child-labour laws. “For most of American history,” Mr Winkler remarks, “the Supreme Court failed to protect the dispossessed and the marginalised, with the justices claiming to be powerless in the face of hostile public sentiment.” By contrast “the court has insisted that broad public sentiment favouring business regulation must bend to the demands of the constitution.”

One tricky issue has recurred. Are companies citizens in the same sense as individuals? Or are they different entities with different rights and responsibilities? The Citizens United case was much criticised by Democrats for treating companies as people. But the politics of corporate personhood are complex. For much of American history, left-leaning activists argued in favour of it.

For example, in the 1930s the case of Grosjean v American Press Company involved Huey Long, the governor of Louisiana, who wanted to tax awkward newspapers. The Supreme Court said that “A corporation is a ‘person’ within the meaning of the equal-protection and due-process clauses.” It was the first time the Court had decreed that corporations had the right to freedom of speech under the constitution. Later extensions of corporate free-speech rights flowed from left-wing initiatives, too. In the 1970s a consumer-rights group linked to Ralph Nader tried to tackle the cost of prescription medicines. Pharmacists were forbidden from advertising their prices, making it difficult for patients to shop around. Mr Nader’s lawyers argued for the rights of customers to hear what the pharmacists had to say.

A focus on the rights of the listener, not the speaker, was at the heart of the Citizens United case. Nevertheless, commentators were right to see it as a striking victory for corporate rights. It was followed, in 2014, by the Hobby Lobby case, which gave the company an exemption from a federal rule requiring large employers to include birth control in their employees’ health plans. This established that businesses enjoyed religious freedom.

Critics such as Leo Strine, chief justice of Delaware’s Supreme Court, have pointed out that, in aggregate, court rulings on corporate rights do not make sense. Companies are obliged to prioritise the profits they make for shareholders, rather than seeking to benefit employees or the wider community; that sits oddly with the notion that businesses also have political and religious freedom. The owners of Hobby Lobby affirm that their religious beliefs cannot be separated from the ethos of the business. But they might well insist on a strict boundary between themselves and the firm were a customer to fall in a store and sue them personally for damages.

Mr Winkler shows admirable command of detail in tackling a topic that ought to be at the heart of political debate. Anyone interested in American history, law or politics should read his book.

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As China tightens rules on religion, unregistered churches wince - New commandments

As China tightens rules on religion, unregistered churches wince - New commandments | Criminology and Economic Theory |

XU YONGHAI’S flock gathers weekly to worship in his small studio apartment in west-central Beijing. On a chilly winter morning a dozen people climb the concrete stairs to his door, dump their coats on his Snoopy bedsheets and gather around a table laid with tea and Bibles. The service begins with some devotional songs, accompanied by music from a battery-powered speaker. The pocket-sized gadget packs up halfway through the medley, forcing the pastor to dig out a spare.

Many tight-knit services such as this one take place across China each week. The small congregation meets without the permission of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a government umbrella under which all China’s Protestant congregations are supposed to huddle. It meets on Fridays rather than Sundays, an arrangement considered less likely to provoke officials. Authorities know what goes on and occasionally post a watchman to a security box outside the building. But they tend not to interfere, says Mr Xu, because they know that all his congregation does is “read the Bible”.

Chinese Christians were thought to number about 70m in 2010 and are probably more numerous now. Perhaps only a minority of them worships in government-sanctioned churches, in which the party vets both clergy and services. Most attend unregistered ones, which vary from cramped house groups such as Mr Xu’s to thriving congregations of hundreds—and in a few cases thousands—of believers. Some of these churches are aggressively persecuted, their ministers imprisoned. But most persist, watched warily by officials but not exactly clandestine. Gatherings in this “grey zone” are where China’s Christians may worship most freely, says Fenggang Yang, a scholar of religion at Purdue University in Indiana.

God- and state-fearing

Although Christians are growing more numerous, the wriggle room allowed to them is shrinking. Of most recent concern is a revised set of religious regulations that came into force in February. The old rules had stopped short of explicitly outlawing informal religious gatherings, but the new ones state more clearly that unregistered churches are beyond the pale. Fearing a clampdown, some bigger churches have split their congregations into small house groups that they think officials will find less bothersome, says Fan Yafeng, a pastor and legal scholar. Others are appointing chains of substitute ministers and managers to keep things running should the main ones be arrested.

Restrictions on religious practices in China have ebbed and flowed since 1979, when the officially atheist Communist Party began reopening churches, mosques and temples that had been shut down under Mao. When Xi Jinping became the party’s general secretary in 2012, optimists dared to wonder if further loosening was on the cards. Instead Mr Xi’s administration has emboldened an intolerant party faction that was already dominant before his elevation, whom Mr Yang describes as “militant atheists”. At a big conference in 2016 Mr Xi warned that some religious beliefs could be a conduit for “foreign infiltration”. Party bigwigs have taken to insisting that religions in China must be “sinicised” and occasionally wheel out pliant bishops, imams and monks to echo that view.

One result has been a series of harsh crackdowns on the religious, especially in a handful of provinces where informal worship is most common. Top of the party’s concerns are creeds it does not consider indigenous to China and which it blames for fuelling secessionism among ethnic minorities. Uighur Muslims in the western province of Xinjiang are suffering especially egregious security measures—ostensibly aimed at fighting terrorism—that include high-tech surveillance and sweeping detentions of men deemed dangerously spiritual (pettier restrictions have included a ban on religious-sounding names and the wearing of “abnormal” beards). Increasingly, intolerance is also affecting better-integrated Muslims, such as the Hui. Last summer Global Times, a state-owned newspaper, reported that officials in Qinghai province had stripped loudspeakers from more than 350 mosques, apparently to tackle “noise pollution” caused by the call to prayer.

Christians are also under suspicion, though for slightly different reasons. They are many times more numerous than Muslims and are predominantly drawn from the Han, China’s majority ethnicity. The party worries that Protestantism is spreading quickly among young, educated urbanites whose talents it needs to help modernise the country, says Ian Johnson, author of a recent book about religion in China. A few years ago authorities tore down vast numbers of crosses from both registered and unregistered churches in Zhejiang, a relatively devout eastern province. At least one big church has lately been dynamited, ostensibly for lacking the proper planning permission. Last year officials undertaking poverty relief in Jiangxi were reported to be urging locals to replace pictures of Jesus in their homes with portraits of Mr Xi.

Some of the new regulations look designed to account for changes to society since 2005, when the previous version was promulgated. They tighten control over religious content online, for example, and seek to make it more difficult for China’s increasingly wealthy believers to go to religious conferences or workshops abroad. But they also impose stiff fines on people who organise unregistered religious gatherings, and on landlords who allow their properties to be used for them.

How much difference this will make in practice remains a matter of much debate. The likelihood is that enforcement will vary greatly by province, and that the largest unregistered congregations are the ones most at risk. Wang Yi, the outspoken pastor of a big Protestant church in the south-western city of Chengdu, says that in recent months police have been dropping in more often than usual, and that about 20 congregants have been invited to “have tea” with the authorities (a polite form of intimidation). Ezra Jin of Zion Church, a middle-class congregation of about 1,600 in Beijing, says that officials have become fussier about old but rarely enforced rules prohibiting under-18s from receiving religious instruction.

Not everyone stands to lose out. Carsten Vala at Loyola University in America says the new rules clarify that some registered religious groups are allowed to do social work, such as running nursing homes. And nothing in the revised regulations limits or extends the vast extralegal powers that officials have always been able to wield by invoking national security. Yet as Mr Xi consolidates his power over the party, and the party’s power over government, nervousness is growing. No one is as sure as they used to be about the direction China’s religious life will take.

William Kelley's comment, March 19, 5:20 PM
What a significant deviation from the norm here in the states. This really makes you appreciate your rights as an American citizen.
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Desperately seeking young people - Japanese demography

Desperately seeking young people - Japanese demography | Criminology and Economic Theory |

MIEKO TERADA moved to Tama in 1976, at about the same time as everyone else there. Back then, the fast-growing city in Tokyo’s suburban fringe was busy with young married couples and children. These days, however, the strip of shops where Ms Terada runs a café is deathly quiet, her clientele elderly. The people of Tama and their apartments are all growing old and decrepit at the same time, she says.

In the mid-1990s Japan had a smaller proportion of over-65s than Britain or Germany. Thanks to an ultra-low birth rate, admirable longevity and a stingy immigration policy, it is now by far the oldest country in the OECD. And senescence is spreading to new areas. Many rural Japanese villages have been old for years, because young people have left them for cities. Now the suburbs are greying, too.

Between 2010 and 2040 the number of people aged 65 or over in metropolitan Tokyo, of which Tama is part, is expected to rise from 2.7m to 4.1m, at which point one-third of Tokyo residents will be old. In Tama, ageing will be even swifter. The number of children has already dropped sharply: its city hall occupies a former school. Statisticians think the share of people over 65 in Tama will rise from 21% to 38% in the three decades to 2040. The number of over-75s will more than double. 

The city’s inhabitants have already been spooked by an increasing number of confused old people wandering around. By 2025, officials in Tama predict, almost one in four elderly residents will be bedridden and one in seven will suffer from dementia. And the city is hardly ideal for old people. It is built on steep hills, and the five-storey apartment blocks where many of the residents live do not have lifts.

For Tama, though, the most worrying effects of ageing are fiscal. Two-thirds of the city’s budget goes on social welfare, which old people require lots of. They do not contribute much to the city’s coffers in return. Although Japan’s central government redistributes money between municipalities, much of what local governments spend comes from local residency taxes, which fall only lightly on pensioners. In short, says Shigeo Ito, the head of community health in Tama, it pays for a place to avoid growing too old.

Tama’s enticements

So, as well as providing more in-home care and laying on aerobics classes to keep people fit enough to climb all those stairs, Tama is once again trying to lure young families. With a developer, Brillia, it has already razed 23 five-storey apartment blocks and put up seven towers in their place. The number of flats in the redeveloped area has almost doubled, and many are larger than before. That has attracted new residents: although the poky 40-square-metre apartments in the old blocks were sufficient for the post-war generation, modern Japanese families demand more space. Tama’s authorities intend to transform other districts in a similar way.

This is smart policy, but there is a problem with it. The number of 20- to 29-year-olds in Japan has crashed from 18.3m to 12.8m since 2000, according to the World Bank. By 2040 there might be only 10.5m of them. Cities like Tama are therefore playing not a zero-sum game but a negative-sum game, frantically chasing an ever-diminishing number of young adults and children. And some of their rivals have extremely sharp elbows.

Follow the Tama river upstream, into the mountains, and you eventually reach a tiny town called Okutama. What Tama is trying to avoid has already happened there. Okutama’s population peaked in the 1950s, as construction workers flocked to the town to build a large reservoir that supplies water to Tokyo in emergencies. It has grown smaller and older ever since.

Today 47% of people in the Okutama administrative area—the town and surrounding villages—are 65 or older, and 26% are at least 75. Children have become so scarce that the large primary school is only about one-quarter full. Residents in their 70s outnumber children under ten by more than five to one (see chart).

And Okutama’s residents are as stubborn as they are long-lived. Some of its outlying villages have become so minuscule that providing them with services is difficult, says Hiroki Morita, head of the planning and finance department. It would be better for their residents, and certainly better for the local government, if they consolidated into larger villages. But old people refuse to leave their shrunken hamlets even during heavy snowstorms, and are unlikely to move permanently just to make a bureaucrat’s life easier. The internet and home delivery help them cling on, points out Mr Morita.

Okutama has tried to promote agriculture: wasabi, a spicy vegetable that is ground up and eaten with sushi, grows well there. It hopes to appeal to families by offering free vaccinations, free school lunches and free transport. None of that has staved off ageing and decline. So now it is touting free housing. Mr Morita estimates that the town has about 450 empty homes. He wants the owners to give their homes to the town government, which they might do in order to avoid property taxes. The government will then rent the homes to young couples, the more fecund the better. If they stay for 15 years their rent will be refunded.

Although its setting, amid steep hills, is spectacular, Okutama is not a pretty town. Its houses are neither old enough to be considered beautiful nor modern enough to be comfortable. Some feature post-war wheezes like plastic siding. Still, the prospect of free accommodation some two hours’ journey from central Tokyo might tempt some young families. And in the meantime, Okutama has another plan.

A building once occupied by a junior high school, which closed for lack of pupils, is becoming a language college. Jellyfish, an education firm with tentacles in several countries, will use it to teach Japanese to young graduates from East and South-East Asia. It hopes to enroll 120 students, plus staff, which ought to make a notable difference in a district where there are now fewer than 350 people in their 20s. Some of those students might even decide they like the place, and settle down. Whisper it, but this sounds a little like a more liberal immigration policy.

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Banks need not address women as females, says court | News | DW | 13.03.2018

Banks need not address women as females, says court | News | DW | 13.03.2018 | Criminology and Economic Theory |
A German woman sued her bank after it refused to call her "Kundin" (female customer) rather than "Kunde" (male customer). But Germany's highest civil court has said the bank did not discriminate against her.
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Philippine′s Rodrigo Duterte urges nations to abandon International Criminal Court | News | DW | 18.03.2018

Philippine′s Rodrigo Duterte urges nations to abandon International Criminal Court | News | DW | 18.03.2018 | Criminology and Economic Theory |
After his decision to quit the International Criminal Court, Philippine leader Duterte has called upon other nations to follow suit. The ICC announced last month it was launching a probe into Duterte's brutal drug war.
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Politics at play as Temer hands control of Rio police to army

Politics at play as Temer hands control of Rio police to army | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Brazilian President Michel Temer signed a decree on Friday handing the military full control of security in Rio de Janeiro, in the wake of a rise in crime and violence in the state.
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20% of women prisoners in Japan are senior citizens —

20% of women prisoners in Japan are senior citizens — | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Shoplifting has become something of a lifeline for Japan’s elderly population.

As Bloomberg reports, nearly one in five women in prison is 65 or older. These elderly women commit minor crimes in order to escape poverty and solitude. Often, women are repeat offenders so that they can return to prison once they are released. To serve this group, the government is constructing prison wards specifically for elderly inmates and increasing nursing staff.

A 78-year-old inmate referred to as Ms. O has stolen energy drinks, coffee, tea, a rice ball, and a mango. She told Bloomberg: “Prison is an oasis for me—a place for relaxation and comfort. I don’t have freedom here, but I have nothing to worry about, either. There are many people to talk to. They provide us with nutritious meals three times a day.”
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School Shootings Are Still Rare — And That Makes Them Hard To Stop

School Shootings Are Still Rare — And That Makes Them Hard To Stop | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Mary Ellen O’Toole calls the teenagers who murdered 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999 by their first names — Dylan and Eric. O’Toole did not personally know Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, but she’s thought about them for decades. At the time of the Colorado shootings, O’Toole was a profiler for the FBI and had been tapped to write the bureau’s report on how to prevent mass shootings in schools. What began as a research project has become a life’s work — and a deep source of frustration.

O’Toole is part of a small group of academics, law-enforcement professionals and psychologists who published some of the first research on mass shootings in schools. She and other members of this group began paying attention to the phenomenon in the late 1990s. Two decades later, some of them say not much has changed. The risk factors they identified back then still apply. The recommendations they made are still valid. And, as we saw last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students are still dying. “On the news, people are saying we should be concerned about this and that,” O’Toole said, “and I thought, ‘We identified that 20 years ago. Did you not read this stuff 20 years ago?’ … It’s fatiguing. I just feel a sense of fatigue.”

It’s difficult to say definitively how many school shootings have happened in the years since Columbine — or in the years before it. It’s harder still to prove how many would-be shootings were averted, or how many others could have been if additional steps had been taken. But the people who have spent the last two decades trying to understand this phenomenon are still here, and still trying to sell politicians and the public on possible solutions that are complicated, expensive and tough to sum up in a sound bite.

Any research into school shootings is made more difficult by how uncommon such shootings are. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight wrote about the more than 33,000 people killed by guns in America every year. Of those deaths, roughly one-third — about 12,000 — are homicides, but hardly any are due to mass shootings.1 If you define mass shootings as as an event where a lone attacker indiscriminately kills four or more people, in a public place, unrelated gang activity or robbery, then mass shootings account for a tiny portion of all gun homicides — probably a fraction of a percent.
William Kelley's comment, March 19, 5:17 PM
Reducing casualties all boils down to prevention and reaction. Prevention begins in the home with morals and early detection. Reaction begins on the training grounds, in the gym, and on the range.
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The troubling spread of plea-bargaining from America to the world - A deal you can’t refuse

The troubling spread of plea-bargaining from America to the world - A deal you can’t refuse | Criminology and Economic Theory |

A PROTEST in Madrid about the cost of the pope’s visit in 2011, when Spain’s economy was moribund, was not the first Flavia Totoro had attended. Marching alongside families, she was unconcerned about her safety. But after an altercation with police she and seven others were arrested. She was charged with assaulting an officer. Just before her trial she was offered the chance to plead guilty, in which case she could avoid a possible 18-month prison sentence and merely pay a fine. If all the defendants pleaded guilty, none would be imprisoned, the prosecutor said. But if she insisted on going to trial, the others would go, too. Unwilling to jeopardise other people’s freedom, she accepted, though she still maintains she was innocent and could have proved it in court.

In plea-bargaining, as the promise of a lesser penalty in return for a guilty plea is commonly known, prosecutors offer to drop some charges, to replace the original charge with a less serious one or to seek a lower sentence. It has long been central to America’s criminal-justice system. But over the past three decades it has spread across the world. A study of 90 countries by Fair Trials International, a campaigning group, found that in 1990 just 19 used some form of plea-bargaining. Now 66 do.

Plea-bargaining took off in America around 1920 with Prohibition, which led to a steep increase in the number of criminal offences. By 1930 the number of federal prosecutions under the Prohibition Act alone was eight times the total figure for all federal prosecutions in 1914. Bargaining with defendants to plead guilty in return for lighter punishment seemed like the only way to cope. Prohibition ended in 1933, but plea bargains did not. Since 1970, when the Supreme Court ruled that they were permissible, they have become ubiquitous. In 1980 some 19% of federal defendants went to trial. In 2010 the share was below 3%, where it remains.

Practice in other countries varies widely. In Australia, England and Russia more than 60% of cases are resolved with plea bargains. In Chile, India and Italy, the share is less than 10%. Some recent converts to plea bargains have adopted them with vim. In Georgia, which has allowed them since 2004, the share of convictions that involved a plea bargain rose from 13% in 2005 to 88% in 2012.

Export deals

The central role of plea-bargaining in America goes some way to explaining its spread elsewhere. America’s criminal-justice system has a big influence globally, with legal training often forming part of its foreign-aid efforts. The Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT), part of the Department of Justice, was established in 1991, after the break-up of the Soviet Union and as the war on drugs in Latin America intensified. Among the countries where America helped new governments with legal reforms are Bolivia, Colombia, Poland and Russia. Plea-bargaining was often among the suggested reforms.

OPDAT is now helping to write guidance on criminal procedures, including plea-bargaining, in Croatia and the western Balkans. In Ukraine it trains justice officials in the system. Last year it started work with Guatemala on introducing plea-bargaining to clear a backlog of cases.

American influence, however, is not the only reason for plea bargains’ spread. Transitions to democracy often involve shifting from “inquisitorial” systems associated with discredited regimes, in which judges play an investigative role, says Rebecca Shaeffer of Fair Trials International. As countries adopted adversarial systems, in which judges act as referees between the prosecution and defence, they also sought to expand capacity—and introducing plea-bargaining enabled them to handle more cases.

More broadly, plea-bargaining can cut costs and delays. Without an incentive to plead guilty, even defendants facing overwhelming evidence may decide to take their chances in court. Finland brought in plea-bargains in 2015 after a series of cases in which the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it had violated citizens’ right to a timely trial.

A plea bargain can even offer an immediate route out of jail. Around the world almost 3m people are held in pre-trial detention. Many defendants spend longer in pre-trial detention than the maximum sentences they face. At that point, “of course they want to plead guilty to get out of prison,” says Isadora Fingermann, a Brazilian former criminal lawyer who now works in criminal-justice reform.

Another benefit of plea-bargaining is that it helps to tackle organised crime. A law passed in Brazil in 2013 allowing public prosecutors to slash sentences for defendants who made full confessions and provided detailed evidence against their accomplices was essential to Operation Lava Jato (Car Wash), an investigation into graft at the state-controlled oil firm, Petrobras. It has since cut a swathe through the country’s once-untouchable politicians, thanks to the evidence provided by bribe-paying businessmen desperate to stay out of jail.

The strong arm of the law

When America’s Supreme Court gave its seal of approval to plea bargains in 1970, it did so on the understanding that they would not be used to press innocent defendants falsely to admit guilt. But since then a series of miscarriages of justice and new psychological research suggest that, all too often, that is what happens.

In 2002 Brian Banks, a high-school football player, was accused of rape and kidnapping by an acquaintance. After his arrest, prosecutors offered him the chance to plead guilty and spend just a few years in jail, or to go to trial where he could face up to 41 years if convicted. He took the deal. After he was released, his alleged victim contacted him. They met and, in a conversation which he recorded, she admitted that she had invented the incident. In 2012 he was exonerated.

Mr Banks is not alone in pleading guilty to a crime he did not commit. Of the 149 Americans absolved of crimes in 2015, 65 had pleaded guilty. The Innocence Project, an organisation that uses DNA evidence to re-examine convictions, has proven the innocence of 300-odd people, most of them convicted for rape and murder. At least 30 had pleaded guilty. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a collaboration between several law schools, a quarter of Americans cleared of murder between 1989 and 2012 had confessed. But such figures only hint at the scale of the problem. Often, plea bargains are conditional on giving up the right to challenge a conviction later. And exoneration efforts focus on serious crimes, where sentences are long and there is more likely to be forensic evidence.

Researchers are starting to demonstrate how common false confessions are likely to be. In a study in 2013 by Lucian Dervan of the Belmont University College of Law, together with Vanessa Edkins, a psychologist at the Florida Institute of Technology, students were asked to solve logic problems, first in a team and then alone. An accomplice of the researchers asked half the participants for help on the second set. All were then accused of cheating and offered a “plea bargain” to avoid penalties that could include losing the payment for participation and having their supervisors notified. Nearly 90% of those who had aided the accomplice confessed. But so did a majority of those who were innocent.

Mr Dervan is now running studies in Japan, which is introducing plea-bargaining, and South Korea, which may do so. Japan, where criminal suspects may be held for 23 days without charge, often with only minimal contact with a lawyer, perhaps deprived of sleep, is already worryingly good at extracting confessions. Plea bargains are being brought in as part of the horse-trading over a larger criminal-justice reform, in which prosecutors opposed to routine recording of interrogations have managed to limit it, in exchange for formal recognition of plea-bargaining and other aids to investigating complex crimes.

Early results suggest that the “innocence issue” is universal, says Mr Dervan. Differences in legal systems do not change the rate of false confessions much. Another study he is conducting suggests that guilty participants are no more likely to plead guilty if offered a big incentive rather than a small one. Innocent ones, however, become more likely to make false confessions as the incentive—in other words the penalty for rejecting the deal—rises.

The fear that plea bargains may induce false confessions means many countries have strict rules regarding their use. Japan will limit them to serious crimes where the accused informs on someone else. In Germany, South Africa and Spain defendants are shown all the evidence to be presented against them before they decide whether to accept a deal. In Germany, the discounted sentence cannot be less than the statutory minimum for that crime. In England, sentences can be cut by at most a third.

In America, by contrast, prosecutors have broad freedom to slash sentences, including for crimes that carry the death penalty. Extremely long sentences, mandatory-sentencing rules and untrammelled prosecutorial discretion add up to a system that almost seems designed for abuse.

And yet so entrenched are plea bargains in America that the occasional attempts to do without them have failed. Between 1975 and 1990 they were banned in Alaska. Even then, they happened informally. Judges made implicit deals with defendants who pleaded guilty. One study found that sentences after trials for violent crimes were, on average, 445% longer than those given after pleas. For fraud, they were 334% longer. The Texan city of El Paso banned plea-bargaining in 1975. During the following two years the trial rate doubled and the two judges assigned to criminal cases could not cope. Ten more were assigned to help them, but even so prosecutors started to strike secret bargains, with judges’ encouragement. The ban was eventually rescinded.

The extensive use of plea-bargaining can reshape an entire criminal-justice system. By definition, it means fewer trials—and therefore fewer occasions on which police and prosecutors must make a solid case in an open courtroom. The ability to carry out investigations can atrophy. And statutes that are vague or unjust may go unchallenged because so few cases go to trial.

For defendants who plead guilty, the consequences go beyond any (reduced) sentence they must serve or fine they must pay. In Europe criminal records are usually wiped clean of all but the most serious offences after some time, provided people do not re-offend. In the meantime, however, sensitive jobs such as teaching or public administration are likely to be off-limits. And minor transgressions, such as traffic offences, may be punished more harshly.

In many American states the consequences are more severe and long-lasting. Criminal records may never be expunged and may mean being barred from voting, evicted from public housing, denied welfare or turned away when applying for a job. The extra legal restrictions placed on people with criminal records, some bizarrely specific, mean they are more vulnerable to future charges. In Illinois, for example, it is a crime to own a dog that has not been spayed or neutered—but only for people with a criminal record.

Tilting the scales

All this suggests that defendants should carefully weigh the long-term consequences of a guilty plea. But it seems they do not—even when explicitly nudged to do so. In a separate study, Mr Dervan found that informing participants about those consequences made little difference to the likelihood that they would accept a deal. “If pleading guilty means you get to go home, most will plead guilty,” he says. When the justice system is stacked against defendants, they are unlikely to gamble their futures for its greater good.

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