Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Queen vs Dudley and Stephens (1884) (The Lifeboat Case) -- My Thoughts

Before reading my post it would be very helpful to read this information on the case. If you don't have time to read that though I will quickly summarize the information. In 1884 there were 4 men, Dudley, Stephens, Brooks, and Parker a cabin boy  that got stranded on the open sea with very little food in only an open lifeboat after they had to abandon their yacht. For the first 3 days they ate the only food that they had brought with them, a 1 lb can of turnips. Then on the fourth day they caught a small turtle which they ate until the twelfth day. Then they went 8 days with nothing but the rain water that they occasionally caught. On the Eighteenth day adrift, the 7th day without food, and the 5th day without water Dudley suggested to Stephens and Bradley that they needed to kill one person in order that 3 may live, Brooks didn't like this plan. Then on the Nineteenth day Dudley said that if they couldn't see a ship by the next morning then they should kill Parker, who by this time was extremely weak because he had been drinking the sea water. The next day they couldn't see any ships coming to rescue them so Dudley cut Parker's jugular vein, killing him. They ate Parker until they were rescued four days later. When they got back to England they were arrested for murder, Brooks turned state's evidence, Dudley and Stephens were tried and convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and then their sentences were commuted to 6 months by the Crown. 

Before I read about this case I watched a Harvard lecture by Professor Michael Sandel (he talks about this subject in the second half of the video, but I recommend watching the whole lecture). In the lecture he asks 3 questions about the case which I thought I would answer here.

1. Do we have certain fundamental rights?
Yes, we do have certain fundamental rights and one of those is the right to live until we either die of natural causes or take our own life.
2. Does a fair procedure justify any result?
In this question he is asking if they had drawn lots to see who was going to die would that have made it morally acceptable to kill the person that lost. I would say yes as long as that person was still ready to die for the rest after his name was drawn. If he changed his mind at any time during the process I believe that is his right, but if he was willing to die then I wouldn't believe any crime took place, even if someone else killed him.  However, if after the person's name is drawn they decide that they don't want to die, like they originally agreed to when they put their name in the drawing, then that is their right. If they were killed after saying that they had changed their mind then I do believe that is morally unacceptable.

3.  What is the moral work of consent?
I kind of answered this in the question above. I believe as long as the person is of sound mind they should have the right to end their life, even if they no longer have the physical capability to do so, or don't want to do it themselves. 

In closing, I would say that there were extraordinary circumstances presented in this case and these are just my opinions based on the information I had. I decided not to say if I agreed with the verdict, because I don't know everything that was brought out during the trial. Through these answers you can tell which way I'm leaning.

How would you answer these questions? Do you agree or disagree with my answers? 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Twitter Fun

Today I was excited to see that some of my tweets got some traction and that I got a few new followers.

I made it into an awesome called Criminology Times.

Also, one of my tweets got retweeted a few times.

I find that twitter is a great resource for finding out about new articles, research papers, and studies. Plus, it is a good way to find out about other blogs that are similar to mine and, of course, it is a great way to chat with people.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Joseph Dole's Prison Diary

Photo from How to Survive Life in Solitary Confinement
--Business Insider 
I just finished reading a prison diary that Joseph Dole wrote for The Anne Frank Center USA as part of their Prison Diary Project. I found it posted on The Real Cost of Prisons website while I was researching solitary confinement for a blog post that I am still working on. At the time that Dole wrote the diary (March/April 2011) he was in solitary confinement at Tamms in Illinois. Tamms had two sections a minnimum security housing unit with 200 beds and a 500 bed supermax side called the Closed Maximum Security Unit (CMAX), this is where Dole was living. Tamms was closed in 2013 due to the inhumane conditions that those held in CMAX side of the prison faced. When I looked up Tamms on Wikipedia to find out more about it I was surprised to read this:
 "In 2010, U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy ruled that inmates must be allowed to challenge their transfer to Tamms at a formal hearing and wrote in his decision that "Tamms imposes drastic limitation on human contact, so much so as to inflict lasting psychological and emotional harm on inmates confined there for long periods." 
 With those judges words in mind it is amazing what Dole accomplished from his cell in CMAX, including learning Spanish, French, and Italian, taking college classes, and working on court cases for himself and others at the prison. I was moved by how he described what it is like to know that, unless his case is overturned, he is never going to be released from prison and all the consequences that go along with that. He also gave a very clear picture of what it is like to live in Tamms. The only connection he had to his family was letters that didn't always get delivered to him. His mother and children lived 13 hours from the prison and couldn't afford to visit him and the prison didn't allow inmates in CMAX to use the phone. He says in the diary that terrorists held in other supermax facilities were allowed to use the phone yet those housed at Tamms weren't allow access to phones because the prison administration felt that it was a threat to the security of the facility. Here is just an example of his effective and powerful writing style and a glimpse of the pain that can be felt throughout the diary:
"How can I communicate what it is like to get arrested when you have one four month old daughter and a second daughter on the way, and then be sentenced to a term of life without the possibility of parole after your first felony conviction, by way of a theory of accountability, for a crime you didn’t commit? How can I depict what it feels like now to have two daughters who are twelve and thirteen years old whom I haven’t held in over nine years because I’m confined in a supermax prison for my sole legitimate disciplinary infraction? A prison which Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Tamms Year Ten all condemn because they consider the conditions here as amounting to torture. The English language lacks adequate terminology for such an endeavor."
The only criticism of the diary that I have is that it is only a little over 34 pages long. I finished reading it wanting to know what happened in the weeks, months and years after he stopped writing. According to The Real Cost of Prisons website Dole is now at Stateville Correctional Center, but they don't say if he is still in solitary confinement. Also, on their website is a few other things written by Dole I have saved this page so that I can read them later.

If you would like to read more 1st hand accounts from those in solitary confinement I would recommend Solitary Watch's Voices from Solitary.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Effectiveness of Boot Camps for Women

While reading Correctional Boot Camps: Lessons From a Decade of Research I found the section titled "Females in Boot Camps" particularly interesting. It talks about how one of the issues that makes traditional boot camps less effective for women is that they don't normally allow the participants to have visitors or contact with the outside world and since most women participants are single parents they need to be able to see their children on a regular basis. Along this same line they should also be offered parenting classes while they are in the boot camp program.

Second, female participants are 4 to 5 times more likely to be victims of physical or sexual abuse than the males, according to the research, because of this the language that the staff uses to breakdown the participants can re-traumatize these participants especially those that have been victims of domestic violence. These programs instead should provide intensive therapy to these women to be able to handle the emotions that stem from the abuse. 

Third, the research shows that the female participants are more likely to have been unemployed prior to getting in trouble and normally boot camp programs don't address job training and education that the women need in order to support their families legally once they are released.

Finally, according to the research, boot camps don't work in their current form for women because a woman's addiction to drugs and alcohol is different than a man's addiction and many boot camps are using the same addiction program for the women's program as they do for the men making it less effective. I found this very interesting and I am planning on researching this more to figure out what they mean by this. If anyone has any information on this I would be interested in learning what you know. 

One things that the research said would help on top of correcting the four issues I stated above would be to have strong female instructors to act as role models for the female participants. I also thought that this would help with those that have been abused by men feel comfortable and safe.

I think that the reasons these issues get overlooked when correction departments are planning their boot camps for women are because they are calling them boot camps. I think that it would be better if those planning this called it an intensive rehabilitation program then they would get into the right mindset to plan the program for the women. They could still add in some physical training, but that shouldn't be the focus of the program.

Research also shows that both men and women need to have reentry help after the boot camp is over in order for them to have a better chance at not reoffending. 

The information in this paper will make you look at boot camp programs a little differently. Especially if you are under the impression that they are a good way to turn around the lives of the participants, as long as they are willing to put in the work necessary to complete these intensive programs. Before I read this article, I didn't like that boot camps focused so much on physical exercise and breaking the participants down instead of on addiction issues, therapy, and job training so when I read this I was glad to see that the research backed my views. I am willing to change my views if the research doesn't back them because I just want to see the best policies being enacted throughout the criminal justice system. Since that is the only way that the system is going to be truly effective. 

Hello World

My name is Lisa DeGraaf, I live in Ypsilanti, Michigan and I love to research the American criminal justice system and then write down my thoughts about how our system could improve or change. Until today I was just writing for myself, but now I want to share my thoughts and see what others think. Feel free to comment on anything you want to. I love to hear other opinions and ideas.

I am constantly reading research papers, dissertations, books, and watching documentaries. In an effort to learn anything that I can about gangs, prisons/jails, juvenile offenders, boot camps, recidivism rates, rehabilitation research, false confessions, the death penalty, drug laws, and much more. I will keep updating the list in the right column, what I am currently reading, so that you can enjoy those papers as well. I will also be making a second list of article/papers/documents/websites that I highly recommend.

In addition to criminology I'm interested in politics, photography and sewing. I have been married for a little over five years and I have severe fibromyalgia. I used to be an interpreter for the deaf, but then when I started showing signs of fibromyalgia I couldn't continue to work. Fibromyalgia is a pain disorder where you feel widespread pain.

Well, I guess that is enough about me and my ideas for this blog. I need to get some sleep :)