Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Relationship between Criminal Justice and Joblessness

I have a post up today at the Washington Post's Post Everything that looks at some of the many ways the criminal justice system helps drive poverty, joblessness, and further incarceration, particularly through collateral consequences:
In some jurisdictions, ex-offenders can never hold certain jobs. According to a 2007 article in Criminology and Public Policy, there could be as many as 800 occupations nationwide that automatically disqualify people with felony convictions for life.

Some of these restrictions make sense. Bank teller is probably not the best first job for someone who got out of prison on a bank robbery conviction. Likewise, a serial arsonist probably shouldn’t be a fireman.

Others make no sense at all. In some jurisdictions, a criminal conviction may prevent someone from obtaining a license to cut hair or be a beautician. Sweeney Todd aside, it’s hard to fathom how public safety is enhanced by prohibiting someone from earning a living at a job unrelated to someone’s past crime.

It’s not that certain crimes shouldn’t carry extra burdens, at least for a short time. But any restrictions should be tied directly to public safety or have some clear, offense-related justification.
You can read the whole thing here

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Rethinking Civil Rights as Property Rights

My latest over at Rare is an attempt to couch the importance of race-conscious policing within a libertarian framework:
As we’ve seen over the years, property rights, even more than tax rates, are more important to the development of markets and growing economies. Simply, if a nation-state wants investment—of both capital and effort—people who make those investments must have a reasonable belief that a return on that investment is possible in a successful venture. A state with shaky property rights—whether expropriated by the state, such as Venezuela, or seized and distributed to the kleptocratic oligarchy, like Russia—is much less likely to draw foreign capital because property can be seized at the whim of the elites. Places where investments are protected by the rule of law, on the other hand, attract capital because investments are protected from state-sanctioned theft.

Civil rights are really no different.

If civil rights protections are widely denied, particularly to one group of people, because they are routinely ignored and capriciously violated by police officers, those rights lose all tangible meaning to that population. Mistreatment by authorities—whether official policies like Stop and Frisk, or tolerance of police brutality, corruption, or homicide—corrodes the integrity of a community. The government loses credibility by effectively nullifying its own authority by arbitrary enforcement of laws (government powers) and the protections for citizens (civil rights).
Read the whole thing here.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lessons from Ferguson

The quote that has been the subhed of this blog for years is Robert Nozick's "Only the refusal to listen guarantees one against being ensnared by the truth." In a world in which people of color feel mistreated because of their race, supported by mounting evidence supporting those claims, ignoring or simply waving away those problems is just that sort of deliberate ignorance. Someone who comes to public policy from this perspective needlessly undermines their own message because their worldview doesn't comport with the realities faced by many people.

That is why I was so excited about a recent event at Cato, and was even more pleased with how the event went.  The event was called "Lessons from Ferguson," and it featured a number of voices across the spectrum dealing with race and American policing.

Moderated by my colleague Tim Lynch, the panelists included Professor Alice Goffman, author of On the Run, a sociological narrative about her observations in a black Philadelphia neighborhood; Ethan Brown, author of Snitch, a history of the infamous and widely misunderstood "Stop Snitchin'" movement; Neill Franklin, retired Baltimore police officer and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Lauren Victoria Burke, journalist and creator of the blog Crewof42.

I highly recommend you watch the event in full. I enjoy many Cato events, but it is rare when we have a collection like this. I'm not sure anyone on the dais (besides Tim, of course) would self-ID as libertarian, but these are problems everyone should recognize regardless of party or ideology.

Of particular note, I found Neill's comment about his run-ins with the police as a black child in Baltimore, as well as his admission that, even as a black police officer, you just become accustomed to treating black kids differently. That is what institutional racism is all about. 

It's all worth watching as I thoroughly enjoyed each presentation. I cannot say enough about how glad I am that Cato hosted it.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

DISCLOSURE: As most people who read this know, I work at Cato, but this is my personal blog. I wasn't asked to promote this event, it's just a topic that is near and dear to me and I'm so happy we're bringing in people--scholars, practitioners, and writers, including people of color--who can talk about what is going on in America. Also, I make a brief cameo near the end.