Battling the rising crime myth

Help! My insanity level is increasing.  I’ve just written another letter to the editor of the Northern Territory News:

Its understandable when political flacks and criminal lawyer advocates exaggerate the extent of crime in the Territory. Its both disappointing and puzzling when our sole daily newspaper does so.

Your editorial of 16 July castigates both political parties for having “spectacularly failed to address rising crime rates”. However, NT imprisonment rates are actually just about the highest in Australia, our ratio of police to population is the highest, and crime rates are not rising.

In fact crime rates in every category but one have fallen over the last 6 years. The sole exception is non-sexual assault, but the apparent increase even there is mostly the result of police recording domestic violence incidents as crimes where previously they mostly didnt. Moreover, the rate of assaults actually fell last quarter, no doubt in large part due to more intensive policing in remote communities flowing from the federal NT Intervention.

The problem with perpetuating the myth that NT crime is rising is that it leads directly to ill-considered and potentially counter-productive policies, as political parties strive to outdo each other in demonstrating how tough they are on criminals. Although your editorial asserts that all “right-minded” people should generally support such measures, the Labor governments current proposal for mandatory imprisonment of serious assault first offenders is just such a potentially counter-productive policy.

Crime rates actually rose throughout the duration of the former CLP governments mandatory sentencing regime for property crimes. This may have been partly coincidental, but it was also in part due to the well studied “school for crime” effect. The vast majority of first offenders never re-offend, but imprisoning them needlessly leads some of them to learn new techniques while inside and become hardened criminals where that otherwise wouldnt have happened. Mandatory imprisonment of first offenders in any crime category is stupid policy because it tends to increase crime rates rather than reduce them.

Unlike many civil liberties advocates, I am not arguing against mandatory imprisonment of more hardened offenders. Tough approaches to violent crime are well justified. However, despite occasional media publicity of seemingly anomalously lenient sentences, our judges can actually be trusted to get it right most of the time and are subject to appeal when they dont.

Moreover, amidst the pre-election “laura norder” auction we should all keep in mind that, although there are certainly more things than can be done to reduce crime, we will inevitably continue to have a crime problem a little worse than other parts of Australia. The Territory has a higher indigenous population, a younger average age and higher levels of alcohol consumption. All those factors correlate with higher crime rates.

Update – Dave Bath asks for links to stats:

PS – I should also note that those who read the mandatory sentencing paper will see that there are only detailed crime rate statistics for the last two of the four years mandatory sentencing was in operation (1997-2001). Although those years show a clear rising trend (in contrast to the period following abolition), the author notes that the period is too short to draw any reliable conclusions.  Nevertheless the overall weight of evidence shows that mandatory sentencing of first offenders had no deterrent effect and if anything made crime worse.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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49 Responses to Battling the rising crime myth

  1. Dave Bath says:

    Great post Ken!!
    Can you add a comment (or edit the post) to include the links to the statistics (are they at the ABS?).
    If your letter is not published by the paper, I hope you’ll email a copy (with references to the stats) to the pollies who keep parroting the same “laura norder” stuff.

  2. Did you get any joy with your last letter, Ken? I hope you did because this sort of scaremongering is particularly dishonest.

    Crime rates have been dropping like a stone for nearly a decade in most (all?) Western countries. It really is about time the pollies (of all stripes) faced up to this fact – maybe they could claim some credit ;)

  3. Ken Parish says:

    Yes the last letter was eventually published. However, as you can see it has had no effect whatever on the political debate. It seems that people (or politicians and media at least) are determined to continue asserting that crime is rising despite the fact that the opposite is the case!!! Quite bizarre.

  4. Do you think a s.52 TPA action might work? I have always wondered if you could use it against papers that are clearly intentionally misleading their readers, apparently for the purpose of selling more newspapers.
    .
    SL, any thoughts?

  5. I’ll worry when you start letter boxing residents with your letter.

  6. Paul Frijters says:

    nice post Ken. The demand for sensationalist/moralistic news leading to these fabrications is a fascinating phenomenon.

  7. Andrew, I’d dearly love to subject the media to s52 TPA, but the nasty buggers have bought themselves immunity from ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’ provisions in their role as information providers. I wrote a piece on it for Online Opinion, which gives the legal background.

    Of course, it goes without saying that exposing the media to s52 should be coupled with a relaxation of defamation laws. To my mind, it would be far more productive for media bodies to be hammered on the sort of misinformation Ken’s outlined in this post – imagine, if you will, what would happen to any other corporation who told similar lies about its products or performance. Defamation gets nowhere, and in any case only helps the wealthy.

  8. Geoff Honnor says:

    “Ill worry when you start letter boxing residents with your letter.”

    I’ll put worry on hold until you’ve written several hundred letters and have taken to towing them behind you on a small home-made trolley – adorned with a cardboard placard message, in closely written grievance texta – to the Territory Assembly building, on a daily basis.

    In the meantime, it’s a nice letter and probably singular, in the NT News letters context, for the admirably deft use of “anomalously.”

  9. Thanks SL, I had missed that one. My knowledge of the TPA is distinctly out of date.
    .
    Maybe Ken should just send this one to Mediawatch.

  10. Honnor – I’m obviously more caring than you. Mine is early intervention – yours rehab.

  11. observa says:

    Is it more a case of the brazenness of assaults, robberies, home invasions and kidnappings, rather than the numbers that has the population on edge-
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,24028158-2682,00.html?from=public_rss
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,24029030-2682,00.html
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,24028373-401,00.html?from=public_rss
    We get the usual barrage of local crime with the notable and chilling from all over the place nowadays(Fritzls from Austria, etc) to create an ongoing sense of unease and outright alarm. No amount of well meaning letters and statistics might overcome that heightened perception. As well adolescent villains are only too well aware they’ll get flogged with a feather more often than not.

  12. observa says:

    The viscious adolescent crime problem is perhaps the most poignant point here, if a populace believes that there’s no real attempt being made to head off the inevitable adult problem. The spare the rod and spoil the child critique of current approaches to adolescent crime.

  13. Mandatory sentencing only increases crime if the mandatory sentence is a token one.

    A criminal doing a decent stretch is unable to offend.

  14. wilful says:

    Should transport them, shouldn’t we steve!

    And I hope by a decent stretch you mean life. That’ll teach em. Ever heard of that greek guy Draco?

  15. Ken Parish says:

    Steve

    The American research shows that incapacitation only kicks in as a measurable factor in reducing crime rates where offenders are sentnced to VERY long terms of imprisonment i.e. 15-25 years. With terms less than that, in effect the number of criminals being released from prison balances those going in, and the “school for crime” and institutionalisation effects combine to negate any significant deterrent effect.

    A number of states have systems where such sentences are mandatory for third offenders for reasonably serious crimes. I don’t know of any state that imposes such sentences for first offenders for assault (even aggravated assault), which is what we’re talking about here. I assume you don’t think that would be a good idea.

    Research tends to show that increasing the certainty of being caught and convicted, and the certainty that SOME term of imprisonment will be imposed, are signficant factors in increasing the deterrent effect of sentencing, but the actual length of sentence isn’t a huge factor (as long as it isn’t so short as to be a complete joke). Hence, mandatory imprisonment for first offenders is counter-productive because the vast majority won’t offend again and the “school for crime” effect potentially actually increases rather than reduces recidivism. For second and subsequent offenders, mandatory imrpsionment for some non-trivial minimum term may well have a significant deterrent effect (especially if used in conjunction with policing techniques that increase the certainty of arrest and conviction). Mandatory imprisonment for a long minimum term like some American states (i.e. say 15 years for a fourth or subsequent violent offence) would certainly have a significant incapacitating effect for the reasons Steve gave. I wouldn’t personally be opposed to such a regime: someone who continues to commit significant violent offences four or more times is clearly a menace who needs to be removed from society for a prolonged period irrespective of what social or other factors that might be operative. In other words, my objection is to mandatory imprisonment of first offenders, and on primarily utilitarian grounds: it doesn’t work. Mandatory imrpisonment may well have a valid role in sentencing for more hardened offenders.

  16. wilful says:

    I’m sorry Ken, you’re treating Steve’s opinion as if it was something that could be reasoned with. Small mistake there.

  17. observa says:

    ‘Should transport them, shouldnt we steve!’
    Perhaps it might be better than going round and round in circles wilful-
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/07/16/2305266.htm?section=justin

    I liked that story about the Texas sherriff that sticks his prisoners out in the desert in tents and deflects the howls from the usual suspects, with- if it’s good enough for ‘our’ troops in Iraq in full battle dress, it’s damn well good enough for his villains. He’s got their tucker down to cheap hard tack rations and when the liberals reckoned he had to give them TV under some UN convention he gave them reruns of half a dozen cartoons to watch over and over. They have to do hard manual labour for nothing on County projects too. His recidivism rates are the envy of the country apparently.

  18. observa says:

    It’s Sherriff Joe Arpaio apparently-
    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=c64_1201827249
    although I got the story secondhand originally. Love that pink underwear guys.

  19. Liam says:

    For you, observa.

    A lesson to us all. Finish your post before you have your wank.

  20. Sherriff Joe has one helluva system. Virtually without exception his detractors are those without whom society would be in every sense a richer and more pleasant place.

    Prison terms should be of sufficient length to be taken seriously, and the time served should be unpleasant. In the current western system jail is most unpleasant mainly for the small, the weak and those not inured to violence.

    By the time someone gets to their 4th offence for violence/burglary they may as well do 15-25 years. Being out of public circulation for their main offending years is the only way to handle persistent acquisitive burglars, or those who cannot control their violence.

    Certainty of being caught & punished is the most effective, true. However this loses all teeth if the punishment is not one to take seriously. Serious time, unpleasant time, deprivation of accustomed pleasures, superior physical force, and shame are the only things understood by those who offend against others.

  21. observa says:

    Here’s the typical backlash you get if you get it wrong pussyfooting about with adolescent crime
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,24040735-401,00.html?from=public_rss
    It has nothing to do with the raw statistics but the visciousness of the outcomes of liberal social experimentation.

  22. Pingback: skepticlawyer » Broken Windows and World Youth Day 08

  23. observa says:

    It’s a good point you make about policing local community standards SL, but perhaps the mobility of villains has the community increasingly concerned, coupled with the total lack of any real sanctions on adolescents who lack the underlying parental reinforcing of those community standards. The broad community then frets increasingly over these sorts of daily reports, irrespective of personal statistical risk-
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24048194-29277,00.html
    Social, wet liberals need to understand that if the parental standards are totally lacking then the backstop must be fear of the community law and retribution. That’s the Borstal schools of last resort and some multicultural application of the rattan, before the inevitable graduation to adult prison schooling.

  24. Just Me says:

    Sheriff Joe does indeed have a hellish system.

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1999-04-15/news/murder-on-madison-the-norberg-remix/

    (The end of the article is particularly informative about the dear sheriff.)

  25. Just Me says:

    Oh this just gets better and better:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Arpaio#Controversy_and_criticism

    Yup, Ol’ Sheriff Joe is a real class act, whose thuggish policies don’t even work:

    Furthermore, in a 1998 Arpaio commissioned study, Arizona State University Criminal Justice professor Marie L. Griffin found that Arpaio’s policies did nothing to reduce recidivism in the Maricopa County facilities compared to his predecessor: “there was no significant difference in recidivism observed between those offenders released in 1989-1990 and those released in 1994-1995.”[

  26. Bill Posters says:

    It has nothing to do with the raw statistics but the visciousness of the outcomes of liberal social experimentation.

    You want viciousness?

    Norberg sees the chair and struggles. The guards swarm and force him into the device, lashing his arms behind him. They surround him, jostling like jackals on a carcass. I see flashes from stun guns. One guard wraps a white towel around the man’s face. I watch in horror as he slowly suffocates.

    That’s from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s system. He’s a nasty, brutish man (and no liberal).

  27. Bill Posters says:

    And here’s a (a href=”http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/120706″>five part series showing Joe has almost unlimited power, keeps basic policing information secret and doesn’t even keep crime down.

  28. Ken Parish says:

    That is just appalling. I hope observa reads it and immediately retracts all the ignorant garbage he’s been spouting on this thread. Otherwise let me be blunt. No-one who supports or condones someone like this thug Sheriff Joe is welcome to comment here, ever and under any circumstances.

  29. JC says:

    This ‘ sheriff’ shows up again.

    I recall seeing this terrifying idiot on a few US tv shows about a decade ago obviously doing the media circuit babbling on about how he made prisoners wear pink prison garb when they got into trouble.

    One station was ready for him. They had Harvard law prof Alan Dershowitz as his opponent. Dershowitz tore strips into the prick about how his treatment would easily be seen as unconstituional. Dershowistz even publicly decelared he would defend any prisoner against this abuse free of charge anytime.

    It left the “sheriff” speechless.

    And he appears again….on an Australian blog.

  30. JC says:

    Observer

    I have a friend who “graduated” from emergency room doctoring to eventually becoming a prison psychiatrist. He once explained that violence or bad treatment of prisoners gets absolutely no gain and in fact the opposite happens. Respect -treated with distant respect and human dignity earns the bigger points by far. And never ever be violent even when restraining an individual.

  31. JC, Respect shown to prisoners in no way demands that they be indulged or mollycoddled. Spartan facilities, a regime of hard labour and strict penalties for infringements are all perfectly compatible with respect.

    How many cases of abuse against Sherriff Joe has this Dershowitz (or anybody else) fought and won?

    What level of support does Sherriff Joe enjoy? (why does he win elections?) How has his penal system impacted upon recidivism in his jurisdiction?

  32. JC says:

    Steve:

    It’s not too hard to understand that respect doesn’t mean indulgence. Perhaps you think it does? How so?

    An example given is that if a prisoner is acting violently the guards should attempt to constrain him rather than kick the shit out the guy. Most of these people are mentally ill. In other words the objective of the force used is to stop the violence not to mercilessly inflict it. There is a difference.

    And please explain what dressing grown men in pink garb with the intent to demean does that would change behavior? Would it change yours or make you even more pissed and resentful?

    The US constitution holds out against cruel and unusual punishment. Dressing people in garb meant to demean seems to me that it would easily fall into that category.

    How many cases of abuse against Sherriff Joe has this Dershowitz (or anybody else) fought and won?

    I don’t know because I never heard anything more about this prick until now. However reading about him from the links above indicates he’s nothing more than a disgusting thug in uniform. Furthermore, according to one link he doesn’t run penitentiaries, he runs prisons that act like remand centers. You think prisoners in remand should be treated the way he does? I thought there is a presumption of innocence prior to trial. No?

    What level of support does Sherriff Joe enjoy? (why does he win elections?.

    Hugo Chavez got elected too. Elections aren’t fool proof. Bad eggs or dimwits make it to elected office at times.

    How has his penal system impacted upon recidivism in his jurisdiction?

    See my earlier comment about what this thug in uniform is supposed to be running.

    I might add he seems to spend an awful amount of time (and getting his kicks) chasing illegal immigrants proving he’s more of a huckster thug than anything else.

  33. JC, The link in a comment above is to an article that uses prejudicial, inflammatory and emotive language. Biased ain’t the half of it.

    For a more objective lowdown on Sherriff Joe it may be more advisable to start by reading his (extensive) wikipedia listing.

  34. Liam says:

    Just Me’s already linked it, steve, and it doesn’t support your claims about crime rates or recidivism.

  35. JC says:

    Steve:

    Do you have any comment to the points and questions I raised about this thug?

    J

    C, The link in a comment above is to an article that uses prejudicial, inflammatory and emotive language.

    You mean the piece that mentions he runs remand centers and talks about the drug addict that was brutally murdered by thugs under his watch? That piece?
    I would call it emotive and I’m sure the writer couldn’t help but feel anger at what had been done. It doesn’t take anything from what happened.

  36. Gummo Trotsky says:

    How many cases of abuse against Sherriff Joe has this Dershowitz (or anybody else) fought and won?

    At least one. Here’s that link again:

    http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1999-04-15/news/murder-on-madison-the-norberg-remix/

    Quote:

    Scott Norberg’s death–murder, the way I see it–became The Norberg Case, settled out of court in January for $8.25 million. Maricopa County’s insurance carrier laid that number on the table after receiving a package from the Norberg family’s attorney, Mike Manning…

    The insurers didn’t want this package [of evidence] in a jury’s hands.

    Settled out of court, granted, but given the evidence described (which you discount as ’emotive’) what civil litigation lawyer wouldn’t take the chance to cut a settlement?

  37. Liam, what claims have I made about crime rates or recidivism?

    The link was to only the bottom section of the wikipedia entry. The entire entry should be read.

    It would be interesting to see a similar report for some comparable counties in the USA, as Maricopa county is far from the only one where deputies have worked over a suspect in questionable circumstances. (meaning surely Sherriff Joe isn’t the only Sherriff to have been lawsuited)

  38. Gummo Trotsky says:

    It would be interesting to see a similar report for some comparable counties in the USA, as Maricopa county is far from the only one where deputies have worked over a suspect in questionable circumstances.

    I quite agree, steve. Get back to us when you’ve done the research.

  39. JC says:

    It would be interesting to see a similar report for some comparable counties in the USA, as Maricopa county is far from the only one where deputies have worked over a suspect in questionable circumstances. (meaning surely Sherriff Joe isnt the only Sherriff to have been lawsuited)

    So what? We’re talking about this nasty piece of work because someone brought him up as some sort of good example of what law enforcement could “achieve”. Are there other bad apples? You want us to answer that question for you?

  40. Okay, (sketchy) research done!

    Whenever Sherriff Joe is mentioned in the media the focus is usually (sensational) on the more colourful aspects of his jailhouse regime.

    The internet has revealed some rough statistics, sufficient to put Sherriff Joe into perspective.

    Maricopa County (where Joe is Sherriff) has a population of 3.8 million people. (Qld has 4.1 million)

    Maricopa County has a prison population of circa 10,000 inmates. (Australia has circa 25,000 inmates)

    Sherriff Joe is no backwoods small county yokel presiding over 2 half-witted deputies, so we can all drop the Dukes of Hazzard/Sherriff Roscoe picture we have formed.

    Sherriff Joe is one man wearing the hats of the Qld Commissioner of Police and the Qld Commisioner of Corrective Services. Throw in the personality and political skills of an Independant who keeps getting elected to the Senate, and you’ve got Sherriff Joe.

    A population of 3.8 million should yield a voting age population somewhere just above 2million. At the last Maricopa Sherriff election 1.1 million voters turned out. In a 3-horse race, Sherriff Joe was returned with 650,000 votes, the runner up recieved 350,000 votes.
    Double the number of votes of his nearest challenger, (in a western democracy sample size of 1.1 million) this is a resounding mandate in anybody’s language.

    Since 1992 Sherriff Joe has been winning elections by roughly this margin. For this many people to keep voting him in by that margin, he is unlikely to be a nutter.

    The size of his police force I can find no hard data for. But for back-of-envelope calculations, the size of the Queensland Police will be a template for Maricopa County Sherriff’s Department.

    For the period since Sherriff Joe has been elected, my (admittedly shallow) search reveals 5 lawsuits over death in questionable circumstances of Maricopa County inmates.
    IMHO, considering he presides over a uniformed service comparable to Queensland Police, the personal involvement of Sherriff Joe in any of these cases is highly unlikely. No more likely than it would be for the Qld Commissioner of Police to be in a watchouse dealing personally with an individual inmate.

    Sherriff Joe, as man at the top, carries the can for these death in custody cases. To the same degree as Commissioner Bob Atkinson carries the can for the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee in Palm Island watchouse.

  41. Umm, Jacques Chester.. is that a serious attempt at debate?

  42. Ken Parish says:

    “Sherriff Joe is one man wearing the hats of the Qld Commissioner of Police and the Qld Commisioner of Corrective Services.”

    Not true. Sheriff Joe, like other US sheriffs, fulfils a policing role. He does not run prisons. The people in county jails have not been found guilty of any offence and are entitled to the presumption of innocence. It is clear from any number of Sheriff Joe’s pronouncements that he sees his function as inflicting punishment on them just the same. If they weren’t guilty, well, they wouldn’t have been arrested, would they? The presumption of innocence has not been abolised in the US. Like Sheriff Joe, Steve and observa seem to be congenitally incapable of understanding it.

    As for Steve’s statistic of “5 lawsuits over death in questionable circumstances of Maricopa County inmates”, even assuming it’s accurate it’s a fairly remarkable one. Maricopa County has a population smaller than Queensland. In Australia we had a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which investigated claims/suspicions and found not a single one to have been caused by police or prison officer violence throughout the entire nation. I’m not sure how many of those suspicious cases resulted in lawsuits despite those findings, but five lawsuits in a place a fraction of Australia’s size does not appear to be a statistic that necessarily bears out the innocent intepretation of Arpaio that Steve urges.

    As for the bashing death of Scott Norberg, it wasn’t so much that he was killed by rogue officers. As Steve suggests, isolated events of that sort can happen in any police service. It was the fact that Arpaio defended and condoned them in the face of overwhelming evidence of the most gross form of wrongdoing and thuggery. The evidence in the Doomadgee case was much more equivocal. Defending officers in these circumstances further entrenches the conviction that Arpaio sees himself as above the law, someone justified in exacting punishment on people in custody notwithstanding that they haven’t been convicted of any criminal offence.

    Finally, I note that this thread has gone completely off the rails. Not only does a US sheriff have no role in punishing or deterring offenders (as opposed to the earlier task of investigating and arresting them), but the figures suggest that his high-handed and almost certainly unconstitutional methods don’t in fact reduce crime anyway. This post was about the deterrent effect of sentencing, an area in which a sheriff by definition has no role.

  43. Ken, I’m not suggesting that Sherriff Joe is perfect, nor do I seek to defend him. He may be guilty of robustly covering for his juniors (not the first senior cop to aggressively cover for his men) I am prepared to view his actions in context, the USA is perhaps an environment of a far more commercially based adversarial plaintiff litigation than is Oz.

    I have endeavoured to delve past the sensationalist snapshot of him, and put into perspective some of the (as it turns out, clearly uninformed) comments made above about him.

    Maricapo county does have a population less than Queensland, but at a hundred thousand or so less in populations of 4 million, an insignificant difference.

    Ken, I must respectfully disagree with your statement that I am wrong about Maricopa jails. Sherriff Joe’s wikipedia listing states that the Maricopa prison system houses sentenced inmates, as well as pre-trial detainees. This is supported by the Maricopa Country Sherriff’s Office website, which states the counry jail system houses convicted criminals, and has an inmate population of 10,000.

    Both of these facts may be incorrect. I am open to a dissenting evidence.

    If you are going to disagree with something I state, please have the courtesy to first research evidence which contradicts what I have stated. I am prepared to be corrected, however, not by somebody who is using opinion projection as a substitute for research.

  44. JC says:

    Steve:

    Sherriff Joes wikipedia listing states that the Maricopa prison system houses sentenced inmates, as well as pre-trial detainees.

    It may have been me that incorrectly steered the discussion. I rechecked the Phoenix times link and rather than ALL the prisoners it says Most of the inmates are pre- trial.

    Most of the prisoners in his custody are being booked or awaiting trial; they are presumed innocent).

    However it may mean that the inmates in his custody are actually the ones waiting for the court case. I don’t know it wasn’t clear.

    In any event mistreating prisoners and placing them on second rate food rations with moldy food is a thug mentality of running a holding prison. The guy’s a thug.

    In any event there is an attempt for a recall election for his position in November and it will be interesting to see how it goes.

  45. Jacques Chester, I was not jesting. Your statement was so far off the money that it wasn’t clear if you were joking or being serious. I apologise if I assumed you had academic/univeristy or debating experience. Your statement above makes it likely you do not. Sorry.

    Sherriff Joe has put himself to more than a million voters in several consecutive elections, he attracts more than half the primary vote, and roughly double his nearest runner up.

    For that many people to overwhelmingly support him continually, 2 things are likely;
    1/. That he is proactively doing things they approve of, and;
    2/. That he is well adjusted, not prone to ratbaggery (think Mark Latham)

    You offer up, implying there are some similarities, the votes cast for the One Nation as an example that my broad assumption need not apply. This is apples with oranges. In the 1998 Qld state election the One Nation party attracted at best 1/4 of the vote, unlike the 1/2 that Sherriff Joe routinely attracts when he wins. One Nation did not win, did not get double the votes of everybody else.

    One Nation did make quite a mark. 1/4 of the voters in Qld are not raving lunatics supporting someone they believed to be equally as fringe as themselves. One Nation was a flash in the pan, their electoral success was uanble to be replicated at subsequent elections. The voters knew a dud when they saw one, and didn’t vote for them again. One Nation failed to stand the test of time over even one electoral cycle. They scared the horses pretty quickly.

    Sherriff Joe however, has maintained his overwhelming support through several consecutive elections.

    He is a lot of things, including the anti-christ in the mind of urban white liberals, but he clearly doesn’t scare the horses for the 4 million people in Maricopa County.

  46. JC @ 46: A re-read of that link doesn’t reveal to my ageing eyes any mention of the inmates being pre-trial. Perhaps I missed it. Never mind, it isn’t a crucial point.
    The lockup the dear departed was banged up in is a receiving centre, able to cope with about 300 prisoners. It seems to be where the bulk of arrestees are taken. Thus quite likely the bulk of prisoners in that jail will be unconvicted.

    The county prison population is 10,000 (spread over many jails, many of which are multi-thousand prisoner facilities). In rough numbers, this is the same number of inmates as Qld & NSW combined. Thus I assume (perhaps unwisely) that over such a large number of inmates, it is unlikely that most of them will be pre-trial (remand). It is very plausible that most of them are cons.

    That newspaper, upon reflection, is perhaps an unreliable source. Skimming some of the articles reveals some clues to this. How seriously should one take a purported newspaper, which in news articles (“news”, not “op-ed” or “opinion”) routinely uses phrases such as “the fat one with stupid eyes” to describe public officers? Even the most fringe of opinion columns in this country would resile from the use of such language.

    Sherriff Joe seems to have a rather unhappy relationship with many newspapers, undoubtedly this rag is one of them. A quick trawl of their other news reveals plenty of articles in which Sherriff Joe is portrayed as a cowardly, shallow, craven type. The kindest I can be to the Phoenix Times is to say that within their pages one is unlikely to find objective news coverage of Sherriff Joe.

  47. Jacques, Godwin’s law should really only apply to one party in an online thread calling an opponent “nazi”. Not to use of circumstances of the Third Reich to illustrate or aid discussion.

    The (repeated) election of Sherriff Joe is in a western democracy with a stable economic base and a press which can investigate/report without fear or favour. A circumstance which did not apply to Germany in the 1930’s. Nor did that fellow face as many elections as Sherriff Joe.

    If Sherriff Joe was handling his electoral opponents in Phoenix Arizona 1992-2008 in a manner similar to the way the Nazi party dealt with electoral dissent, he would have been lucky to remain on the ballot paper for even one election, never mind being resoundingly voted in, and be keeping it up for 16-odd years now.

    I wasn’t pointing to electoral success (of Sherriff Joe) as a gauge of Sherriff Joe’s policy. Just considering that the number of voters and the size of his (repeated) overwhelming mandate, in a liberal western democracy would indicate that he is unlikely to be prone to erratic or unacceptable behaviour.

    Digressions such as the sanity or otherwise of One Nations & it’s voters aside, the purpose of the exercise was to put Sherriff Joe into perspective.

    Hardcore Law and Order types cheer and see a Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry type, teaching criminals a lesson by making them work on chain gangs in pink pyjamas & eat weevilly porridge. Assisted by a handful of hardworking deputies.

    Others see Roscoe P. Coletrane straight out of Duke of Hazzard, riding around on a horse cracking a whip, deliberately brutalising by putting them on a chain gang, half-starving them and forcing them to wear pink frillies in public. Assisted by a handful of half witted deputies sporting names like Billy-Bob and Jim-Joe

    The actual Sherriff Joe Arpaio is nothing like either group imagines, something which is not made clear when he is profiled overseas. For a start, the man has thousands of deputies, many of whom would have degrees in criminology, and many of whom would be specialising in a range of different areas of police work.

  48. Gummo Trotsky says:

    #50:

    A re-read of that link doesnt reveal to my ageing eyes any mention of the inmates being pre-trial. Perhaps I missed it. Never mind, it isnt a crucial point.

    Much as I hate to be doing this, I’ve gone back to some of the original Newspaper reports of those abuse cases listed in Joe’s Wikipedia entry.

    Charles Agster:

    According to court documents, on Aug. 6, 2001, Carol and Charles Agster Jr. were taking their son, who had the mental capacity of a 12-yearold, to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital because he was exhibiting paranoia.

    They stopped at a Phoenix convenience store and had to call police because he wouldnt leave it.

    But when police arrived he didnt recognize them as officers.

    They handcuffed him and hog-tied him before taking him to Madison Street Jail, where detention officers placed a spit mask or spit hood over his face and strapped him to the restraint chair.

    Result: death in custody. It’s clear that Agster was a pre-trial inmate.

    Scott Norberg:

    He was … arrested in Mesa … after police received reports of a delirious, hostile man wandering a neighborhood…

    Norberg spoke gibberish to the police who approached him, and popped one of them in the head when he was being handcuffed. At the Mesa police station, he shouted nonsense. One officer testified that when he told Scott to shut up, Scott dropped to one knee, bowed and begged the cop’s forgiveness.

    Basically, Norberg was wacked out of his head.
    But–and I want to nail this point, because Joe Arpaio has misrepresented it–Norberg was not high on crystal meth at the time of his death. He was transferred from Mesa to the county’s Madison Street Jail about midnight, and was killed 15 hours later.

    Another pre-trial inmate killed in custody.

    Richard Post:

    Richard Post spent only a few hours in Madison Street Jail, but in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s penal colony, no stay is too short to avoid abuse. Especially for inmates like Post, who make demands on their captors. For those kinds of troublemakers, Arpaio’s jailers reserve a special form of treatment…

    Post, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, had pounded on his cell door demanding that a jail nurse give him a catheter so he could urinate.

    For Arpaio’s jailers, it was an easy call: Post needed “chairing.”
    So they crammed him into the device and left him in it for six hours.
    They ignored his pleas that such treatment of a paraplegic would cause serious injuries. In fact, the lower, paralyzed portions of his body were severely damaged, and Post would spend four months in bed, convalescing.

    But Post’s protestations fell on deaf ears. Jailers intended to teach Post a lesson he would never forget. So they strapped him down roughly into the metal contraption, and tightened its leather straps with all their might.

    And broke Post’s neck.

    That last article gives accounts of other inmates who’ve reported abuse in Sheriff Joe’s jails.

    … the man has thousands of deputies, many of whom would have degrees in criminology, and many of whom would be specialising in a range of different areas of police work.

    Pure supposition – the reported facts suggest otherwise.

    Finally here’s an interesting contrast from the MCSO’s official site: between Tent City and this animal shelter.

    Long story short: Joe Arpaio is a whacko and a thug, he employs thugs and we don’t need his approach to law enforcement anywhere in Australia. A lot of people in Arizona want to be rid of him too – with bloody good reason.

  49. Up until you posted that Gummo, I had believed you had some reasoning skills. It is quite a shock to discover these reasoning skills are quite inferior.

    Sherriff Joe may be disliked, though not by enough of the 4 million in his county for people to vote against him in serious numbers at any time over the past 16 years.

    Some wrongful deaths in custody were of people who are not convicted? How interesting! Would it be more palatable to you if they had been sentenced?

    In your opinion he is a whacko and a thug, however that is only your opinion, nothing more. How interesting!

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