February 2006 Archives

The Death Penalty in California

What happens when a doctor is needed to execute a condemned inmate, but doctors view it as in conflict with their medical ethics? It is the current recipe for a moratorium on executions by lethal injection in California.

For more information on the death penalty in general and moratoriums in other states see http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/ and http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~critcrim/dp/dp.html. The National Institute of Corrections has just released their study of capital punishment and the alternatives to it, entitled Mandatory Justice: The Death Penalty Revisited. On the latest polls of citizen attitudes toward the death penalty in various countries compared to the U.S. go to this Gallup video/podcast. Beware: question wording dramatically affects responses to death penalty questions, as noted at the Death Penalty Information link above. Finally, Amnesty International just released their latest report, United States of America: Execution of Mentally Ill Offenders.

South Dakota & Abortion

South Dakota has jumped on the opportunity to all but ban abortion by criminalizing it (i.e., by giving doctors who perform an abortion a prison sentence) except in instances where it is necessary to save the mother's life. Both houses of the legislature passed the law, which will now go into effect July 1 since the Governor signed it. While such a law seems to stand in the face of existing precedent, with Sandra D. gone, and proponents of felling Roe hoping that 85 year old Justice Breyer will retire, things might move quickly so it's worthwhile keeping an eye on these developments. NOW's page on reproductive rights in light of changes at the U. S. Supreme Court is worth a look.

All of this has direct implications for criminology since we're basically talking about attempts to recreate a felony offense after its vindication over three decades ago with Roe. Who would have ever thought the field would have to consider re-examining that older literature documenting the horrific consequences of criminalization?

Moreover, we're once again seeing the rise of forced childbirth in America. How many children and women who are raped want to have their rapist's child? Now South Dakota has made their choice for them: the rape victim is forced to have her rapist's child. In other words, giving birth to a rapist's child is now a legal requirement!

For a current look at this problem today in Mexico see the report by the Human Rights Group of New York, which conducted a study available online entitled, "The Second Assault: Obstructing Access to Legal Abortion in Mexico," by Marianne Mollmann. This study deals with the specific topic of girls and women who try to get abortions after they are impregnated by their rapist.

Methamphetamine Controversy

Today there is growing concern that methamphetamine is spreading from the West to the East coast. Although there is minimal hard data on the supposed spread of meth to the East, people are looking at what can be done to manage the production, distribution and sale of the illegal drug. Attention has centered on Oregon's attempt to manage the purchase of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is available over the counter at many stores selling cold rememdies and other products. Now the big enemy appears to be drug companies that refuse to take ephedrine off the market because it is profitable. There is a recent drug, SineOff, that is now being marketed as a way to fight drug dealers because it doesn't contain pseudoephedrine. Is it helpful that advertisers are now one of the biggest operators in the fight against meth?

If you go to most stores today and buy any significant (more than one package) of Sudafed or other "me-too" drugs (with epe)--like a huge number of allergy-suffering people in these parts--and you have to pull out your driver's license, which they use to scan into the statewide data system. The local media has gone mainline on the issue, implicitly accepting the current view on the evils of epe-meth (see, for example, the local alternative rag.

Fortunately, The Sentencing Project has decided to take the methamphetamine controversy by the horns and question the developing panic and response to the issue. In a recent (June 2006) and appropriately titled report (freely available), The Next Big Thing? Methamphetamine in the United States, Ryan King develops a cogent and detailed analysis of data and concludes that there is no basis for the uninformed and misguided course of the present response to methamphetamine issue today. The upsurge of concern and panic appears unrelated to actual methamphetamine usage. The use of fear tactics and disproportionate punishments simply does not work; the current framing of the methamphetamine problem completely distorts what is really happening; it stands in the face of more practical and real world treatment strategies that work far more effectively and cheaply.

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