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Tommorrow, on Tuesday, September 26, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will have a Committee of the Whole meeting to vote by secret ballot on various anti-crime proposals in order to gain a better sense of which proposals have the best chance of passing the House.

Currently, the Republicans lead in the House by 109 to 94, with Democrat Steve Stetler of York County resigning at the end of this week to take a job as the top leader of the Pennsyhlvania Economy League.  Next year, there will be over 40 new members in the 203 member House of Representatives.

Concepts before the House tomorrow include many versions of toughening minimimum sentences, fighting gun trafficking, targeting social services to those most likely to be criminals or crime victims, and helping local governments and law enforcement officials.  All of these approaches assume crime is a solveable problem.  Is it?

Crime rates clearly fluctuate over time. Prominent people do not publicly engage in duels anymore, such the duel in which Vice President Aaron Burr killed Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.  As divorce has become easier to get and more socially acceptable, the murder and violence against spouses has declined.

Urban gang warfare, in which gangs killed each other over turf, has now been almost totally replaced by fights over drug money.

Murder, rape, and property crimes have clearly gone down over time, although they remain higher in incidence than they were before the massive spike in crime across the country in the 1960's.

In tomorrow's session, I expect to actively debate some of the issues involved.  I have four proposals that I will be introducing myself.  These (1) provide state assistance to school districtds to establish peer mediation and dispute resolution programs, in order to encourage young people to solve problems without violence; (2) support intensive supervision, case management, and intensive aftercare services for juvenile offenders in order to reduce recidivism rates; (3) to create a program through the Department of Labor and Industry to provide grants for training in the construction trades for ex-offenders re-entering society and unemployed persons who come from neighborhoods with high unemployment rates; (4) to comprehensively review and study threats and incidents involving prosecutors and judges who litigate or adjudicate drug crimes, and make recommendations for their protection.

All of the 200 or so legislators who actively participate tomorrow, myself included, will be acting on the assumption
that well-thought legislation can really make a difference in fighting crime.

But others believe that crime is basically an unsolveable problem that will alwasy be with us.  I would deeply appreciate the opinions of the Daily Kos community on this.

Originally posted to State Rep Mark Cohen Dem PA on Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 08:49 PM PDT.


Do You Believe That Legislation Can Make a Meaningful Difference in Fighting Crime?

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| 15 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  I believe that there will always be... (2+ / 0-)

    some people who prefer to make their way by preying on others. Those people see their marks as suckers.

    It’s always been that way and legislation is not going to change that fact. Greater hope and opportunity for for most people is the best way to keep the people who are not “born crooks” from turning to crime.

  •  Yes. (4+ / 0-)

    I don't know if crime will ever be 'solved' per se, but that question is largely academic--the fact is, we can do things that will make a difference. The easiest way to start looking at this in the abstract, IMO, is to look around the world, and see where instances of crime are the highest, and where they are the lowest.

    And this--the failed states index--is only somewhat related, but I think it's interesting, as it's essentially a measure of stability and well-being, which I believe is the larger problem which needs to be solved as well. it's obvious in that index that lawless kleptocracies are the worst of the worst, and first-world European 'socialist' states are the best.

    Crime in general might not be so clear-cut, and of course depending on how you look at it, it can be very regional as well, but I think the general problems and solutions stem from the same roots. Step one: provide security and stability, and make sure that the people are being provided for, and that their basic needs are being addressed.

  •  Yes But Not At This Time-- (5+ / 0-)

    The opposition is executing a conquest of our system.

    Among other things they seek to destroy are the ability of the people to reason together and any interest of government and the economy in reason.

    This is an absolutely terrible time to try to solve a complex problem in the United States. We're seriously lacking in the infrastructure and cultural traits to do that sort of thing very well.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 10:10:38 PM PDT

  •  Get the money out of the drug trade. (6+ / 0-)

    but you'll never get the necessary legislation through.

    51,377 votes for US Senator.

    by ben masel on Mon Sep 25, 2006 at 11:53:16 PM PDT

  •  A difficult question and I don't know (4+ / 0-)

    But trying to alleviate the causes can only help.

    1. Illiterate or low reading levels which could be addressed if teachers had the proper training.
    1. delinquents tend to have a good IQ but it is not rewarded or channelled.
    1. Lots of other thought on this but it is late for me.
  •  the judicial system is ahhh broken (3+ / 0-)

    senator cohen, thank you for your presence here on dKos--i looked at yr diaries and comments: you seem to be a dedicated and well-spoken individual and i wish you good-speaking in tomorrow's debate.

    i think one difficulty is that you are debating "street crime" at a time when governmental crimes make even the most venal crime lord look like an amateur.

    the problem is further complicated in that you are asking a broad philosophical question but framing it carefully as local and urban, primarily centered on violent assault, drugs & property crime laws.

    you know that statistics & experience show that most ordinary urban crime has its foundation in economic disenfranchiement. so, job training would be good. juvenile support would be good. social services, sure! and how about health services? all would be good --

    but i think you have an uphill battle when you present alternatives to prisons and to the revolving door: prisons make money. programs don't. convicted felons keep all too many people busy and well-paid. america LOVES prisons.

    please keep two things in mind, as you conider yet more draconian punishments: firstly, the definition of "crime" is elastic and bush is stretching it [to both enclose previously untouched segments of society and exclude others, like himself], and secondly, please recognize that the corruption at abu ghraib and guantanamo begins in pelican bay.

    •  So much so (2+ / 0-)

      i think one difficulty is that you are debating "street crime" at a time when governmental crimes make even the most venal crime lord look like an amateur.

      So much so that you can hardly expect other than that some of the the economicly disadvantaged turn to crime.  Leaders define a societies morality.

      The way to "eliminate" crime is to make incompatible with a person's moral sense.

      So, I ask does anyone know what the moral sense in toubled areas consists of?  There is always some.  Use what is there on build on it.

      Build, don't break.  You certainly won't preventor reduce crime by merely meeting it close up.

      Best Wishes, Demena

      by Demena on Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 03:08:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Short-Sightedness Doesn't Work (3+ / 0-)

    The rightwing approach is counter-productive, "tough" on criminals, but not on crime.  Harsh sentences and the war on drugs simply breed more hardened criminals.

    If you look at criminal populations, you find a lot of folks who can't think ahead very well--just like rightwing lawmakers.  Because they don't think ahead, harsh deterrents don't really have much impact on them.  What they need are better thinking skills.  What they need is education--long before they get old enough to be doing serious crimes.  And, of course, good, solid rehabilitation programs for juvenile offenders, to straighten them out before they get really dangerous.

    The rightwingers think that this stuff is "coddling" criminals, but it's not primarily about the criminals at all.  (Though, of course, Jesus might disagree--"For I was in prison and you visited me.") It's about methods that actually work vs. ones that satisfy a lust for vengeance.

    One final suggestion along these lines: restitution, rather than incarceration, is a very promising alternative. See the book A Rage to Punish: The Unintended Consequences of Mandatory Sentencing by Lois G. Forer, a former Philadelphia judge, who quit rather than submit to mandatory sentencing.  She recounts her own experience using restitution, which was independently analyzed as well.

    It would be a very good idea, IMHO, to institute a pilot project based on Forer's experience, and have it be evaluated by a panel of academic criminologists as well as law enforcement professionals.  It would probably be pointless to try to rush it, but a pilot program structured so that law enforcement professionals were involved could help to build a foundation for expanding the scope in the future.

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