Friday, September 01, 2006

How Do We Know it's Working?

An editorial in today's St. Pete Times says that this summer the St. Pete police department made 226 referrals of black youths to social programs. Under normal circumstances, these referrals would usually have been arrests.

The St. Pete Times applauds this, but why? There is certainly no evidence that this is working. It's way too early in the game. Instead of taking an objective "wait and see" approach, the Times is gambolling about like a happy puppy.

"Such referrals are good news because many of the cases involved substance abuse problems, some of them minor, that professionals can help with if not solve," the editor intones.

But I wonder: if these cases would normally have resulted in arrests, why are we thumbing our noses at justice? Why do we choose to reward these young thugs? And how do we know it's working? When will we ever know?

Mayor Rudy Giuliani was famous for cleaning up the streets of New York when no one else could do it. How did he do it? He got tough on every crime, no matter how small. He sent the message that he had zero tolerance. What message is the city of St. Petersburg sending?


Paul said...

Amazing little post--at least for me. I'm working on a new program right now with a group of men who work with fatherless, inner city boys. Time will tell. I'll let you know--someday.

As far as your question goes: there are many ways to deal with problems. There are many kinds of discipline. They don't all have to be rough and tough. And kids who get into trouble once will not necessarily be in trouble forever. (Voice of experience here.)

A spark is not a raging fire. With a little discipline and training, it will become a benefit to everyone around it. Without positive discipline and training, it will become a halocaust to those same people.

That'll be two cents, please.

Tabasamu said...

What message is St. Pete sending? The same message that allowed our riots to happen here. That it's ok to be bad if you're black. But maybe this WILL be the better alternative to jail or prison. That's a badge of honor in most of our neighborhoods (especially in South St. Pete). As you say, it's just too early to tell.

Redneck Nerdboy! said...

Absolutely! Tough on crime, and consistency. It's just like raising kids! You must be consistent.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Paul, but these aren't just mistakes... these are crimes that would normally have resulted in arrests. That makes it more serious than a youthful peccadillo to me.

TC, ;o)

Redneck Nerdboy, you're right. It's consistency!

Scott said...

The city of St Petersburg is acknowledging that crime is a social problem that in some cases has social solutions as opposed to Criminal Justice solutions. By integrating them together some people who need help can be helped.

I worked for a program here in Toronto for two years that was a referral program operated in cooperation with the police and was for non violent crime. After a five year study, individuals who were in a referral program reoffended about 7% of the time, in a study looking at similar crimes dealt with through the court system the recidivism rate was almost 20%.

It is not appropriate in all cases, but trying to help people is a postive sign. Keep in mind that the US has one of the highest incarceration rates in the First World ( i believe the highest actually ) and yet the crime problems that many areas face have not changed a bit by mandatory minimums and three strike laws.


Heather said...

Did you happen to see the season finale of "30 Days"? Morgan Spurlock spent the time in jail and it was interesting to see how they spend their time and how little motivation there is for them.

We have overcrowded jails because we have gotten tougher on crime but we then don't do anything to stop the cycle of it. Hopefully this new program will get some kids off of drugs, out of a life of petty crime and onto something more productive and beneficial to society.

But there's no reason to crow about it until you have some results.

Miss Cellania said...

What message is the city of St. Petersburg sending?

That they are trying to do something different? Because what they were doing before didn't work?

Ellen said...

As usual, the media has placed the cart before the horse again. It will be interesting to see what the stats will be like a year or two from now.
As for them starting this new program, bravo to new techniques, but please hold the back-patting till we see the results.

Senor Caiman said...


It's so sad.

Just 2 hours ago they found the remains of a woman killed by a young black man in Raleigh. I didn't know the woman but I had met her husband.

This 48 year-old woman was kidnapped from a parking garage at 6:40am, raped and murdered and left in a field.

The black male had a history of crime.

Mr. Althouse said...

It used to be so straight forward. There were good guys and there were bad guys. The criminal justice system has become so convoluted and top heavy that we end up with all these "misunderstood" guys or "abused as a child" guys or "my mommy or daddy wasn't there for me" guys. Essentially we're telling them it's not there fault and the best part - that we're there to help. Spare me!

On another note, I competeing in a blog competition... here's the canned spielo I through together, sorry.

Sorry I don't get a chance to comment much anymore, life got exceedingly busy in a short period of time.

I'll be honest in that this is not entirely a social call. I have been selected to compete in a local blogging competition on the isssues facing America. It's sponsored by a business-lifestyle magazine linked to an event put on ny the Sac Chamber of Commerce.

The event is probably geared towards a slightly right-of-center audience (business people), but I'm ok with that. I posted today about it with all the appropriate links. I'd appreciate it if you would take a look - it kicks off on Tuesday.



been punished and learned said...

excellent post, excellent thoughts, as always.
If punishment isn't fast, harsh and assured then it isn't effective.

KristieD said...

i am currently taking a juvenile deliquency class at school right now. I think these sort of programs are a good thing to try. Especially for minors. It has been shown that recitivism rates for minors is much lower than for adults. Prisons do not rehabilitate, they are purely punitive. I dont know if i would agree with a program like this for repeat adult offenders, but for first timers and youths, i think its a good idea. Our jails and prisons are overcrowded and our justice system is overworked. Maybe this is something worth trying. OF course, until real results can be seen, the paper should probably bite its tongue with the praiss. unless it is praising only the new take on the problem and not the results.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Is Senor Caiman the biggest racist I've met here for some time? I think so, you can't say: "The black male had a history of crime" on my watch and get away with it!

That is the statement of an ignorant bigot, of a fool, utterly untrue, utterly simplistic, utterly offensive.

Saur, I'm not clear what your point is although it seems like you have an issue with black young men. I'm not going to re-churn out points on the matter but as someone who has been working with both yougn black and young white men from disadvantaged backgrounds for a decade, the clue is in the title: DISADVANTAGED BACKGROUNDS.

It's not the colour of the skin but the poverty they come from, and in the US which is still a nation with serious racial issues, more black people are in poverty than white, thus more black people commit crime BUT that doesn't make black people inherently criminal, that is the thinking of an idiot and a bigot.

Social programmes are always more effective than criminalising behaviour.

jj mollo said...

IMO, tough on crime means much nastier, but much shorter punishments. Petty crimes should be pursued as vigorously as more serious ones. We should be trying to get the criminally tempted into the system when they steal their first bicycle, not when they start violent crimes. These young criminals should also never be exposed to a criminal population. Short terms with solitary confinement, visits allowed from counselors, release into distant halfway houses, seems about right. The Singapore approach of physical punishments also appeals to me. Our biggest problem is the drug laws, which have filled the jails and burdened the system to such an extent that we can't really control the true criminals. There's no money left, for one thing.