Saturday, February 2, 2013
By JAMES MOSHER
Montville - At least five Montville leaders are planning to attend a hearing next week on a bill that would turn all Connecticut senior citizens centers into “safety zones,” making them off limits to registered sex offenders.
The General Assembly’s Aging Committee is holding a hearing beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
Montville Senior Center Director Kathleen Doherty-Peck said she will be submitting written testimony to the committee and traveling to Hartford with Mayor Ron McDaniel and town councilors Billy Caron and Joseph Jaskiewicz. Doherty-Peck said she hopes to testify before the committee.
Several members of a group of 12 Eastern Connecticut senior center administrators are planning to write to the committee, said Doherty-Peck, who is one of the 12.
“There’s a lot of support for this in the state of Connecticut,” she said Friday during a meeting of the Montville Seniors Organization at the Montville Senior Center. “Anything we can do help all of you.”
Seniors Organization President Sandra Stauffer has written a letter to the committee, citing the fact that Montville is the site of a sex offender facility as a reason the law would be particularly useful to Montville’s elderly.
“Violent sex offenders usually don’t get rehabilitated,” Doherty-Peck said.
The Montville Town Council last month repealed the ordinance that the state legislation, Senate Bill 517 (PDF), is based on. Councilors were concerned about a possible lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union absent a state law. The vote was 7-0. State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, is sponsoring the bill.
Town Councilor Rosetta Jones lead a 537-signature petition drive that called upon the Town Council to have a repeal vote or have a special town meeting. Jones is supporting the state bill and said Friday she will likely attend Tuesday’s hearing.
A majority of members of the town’s Commission on Aging supported repeal until a state law could be enacted. The Commission on Aging, which is chaired by Doherty-Peck, plans to hold a meeting Thursday, Feb. 7, with a vote on a commission position on safety zones among the agenda items.
There has never been a sexual assault at the Montville Senior Center, Doherty-Peck said, but she reports several “incidents” with sex offenders.
A large body of experimental research has sought to determine whether punishment is motivated more by instrumental considerations (deterrence, incapacitation, etc.) or by retributive urges. The various studies, although limited in important ways, have generally pointed to retribution as the primary factor in driving penal decisions in response to hypothetical fact patterns.
Add to this body of research an interesting new study Eyal Aharoni and Alan Fridlund, “Punishment Without Reason: Isolating Retribution in Lay Punishment of Criminal Offenders,” 18 Psych., Pub. Pol’y & L. 599 (2012).
Aharoni and Fridlund presented subjects with various versions of a hypothetical homicide case and then asked how much the killer should be made to suffer and what sentence should be imposed.
In the various versions, they cleverly manipulated the facts so as to add or subtract instrumental justifications for punishment. For instance, in one version, the legal proceedings were conducted entirely in private, thus supposedly eliminating general deterrence as a rational purpose of punishment. They also sought to manipulate the intentionality of the crime, stipulating sometimes that it was deliberate and sometimes that it resulted from a brain tumor. Since intentionality is thought to be a key variable in retributive judgments, this manipulation helps to isolate the effect of retributive purposes of punishment.
Consistent with earlier studies, Aharoni and Fridlund found that their subjects wanted the intentional wrongdoer to suffer and to receive a long sentence, even when punishment was useless (in the sense of lacking a deterrent or incapacitative justification).
The authors reached similar conclusions in a second, related study, in which subjects were presented with a single vignette in which punishment again lacked any apparent instrumental justification. Initially, more than 90% of the subjects favored punishment. An interviewer then sought to determine the reasons for punishment, which the interviewer rebutted. For instance, if a subject provided an incapacitative rationale, the interviewer would remind the subject that the offender had become permanently paralyzed after commission of the crime, which removed any threat of future dangerousness. Even after being talked out of any instrumental value to the punishment, more than 70% of the subjects continued to support punishment.
Prison, for the majority, is not a deterrant, it's just a money making business!
By SHANKAR VEDANTAM
In popular lore — movies, books and blogs — criminals who go to prison don't come out reformed. They come out worse.
Scientists who have attempted to empirically analyze this theory have reached mixed conclusions, with analyses suggesting that activities like drug addiction or gangs are what determines whether the correctional system actually gets criminals to correct their ways.
What else could be at work?
Donald T. Hutcherson II, a sociology professor at Ohio University in Lancaster, recently decided to tackle the question by mining the vast data in the U.S. government's National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
The survey conducts incredibly detailed and confidential interviews, and then repeats those interviews with the same people year after year — often going to extraordinary lengths to track down those who may have moved overseas or ended up in prison.
Included in the survey are questions about how much money individuals make legally and illegally. Because the survey also ascertains whether people have spent time in prison, Hutcherson pored through data from tens of thousands of queries to a large number of young people to establish whether illegal earnings went up or down after individuals served time.
If prison reformed criminals, illegal earnings once people were released ought to have gone down. But if prison was a "finishing school" for criminals, illegal earnings after serving time should have increased.
"Spending time in prison leads to increased criminal earnings," Hutcherson says. "On average, a person can make roughly $11,000 more [illegally] from spending time in prison versus a person who does not spend time in prison."
As to the process by which this happens, he says, "You come in [to prison]. You're 16, 17, 18 years old. You're looking around and you're thinking, 'Listen, I can learn from these seasoned veterans.' And that's exactly what you do. ... Basically, you are spending a lot of time around other criminals, seasoned veterans who know the lay of the land, and they can teach you the mechanisms — ways to get away with crime."
Because the study looks at averages, it's important to note that Hutcherson isn't saying that all criminals come out of prison primed to become bigger criminals. Lots of people, obviously, come out determined to lead law-abiding lives.
Hutcherson pointed to the role of social networks in all of our lives. In the legal economy, being connected to influential people — via networking — is widely seen as a way to get ahead on the ladder.
The same phenomenon appeared to be at work in the illegal economy as well. "You would think that being punished, serving time in prison, for young people would be a deterrent," Hutcherson says. "But look at it this way. When you leave prison, who are you going to hang out with? You're not going to all of a sudden join the chess club."