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January 21, 2014

Low-stress, high-learning opportunities via TV, radio and blogs

I made reference to a lot of current events stories to follow at the start of class, in part because the development of these stories highlight how many distinct and distinctive "who"s play a role in criminal justice reforms and ultimately in the operation of modern sentencing systems.

For example, the NFL can have a huge impact on social and political views and developments throughout the United States, especially this time of year.  Thus, I think folks ought to check out tonight's episode of HBO's Real Sports examining pot use in the NFL.

Similarly, doctors and medical groups have come to play a large role in modern discussions of execution methods, and this fact should be on display during the 10am Wednesday morning segment of All Sides with Ann Fisher on WOSU.

And the role of victims in the criminal justice system generally, and especially at sentencing, will be front-and-center before the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow morning during the oral argument in the Paroline case.  This SCOTUSblog post provides a lengthy preview of the issues before SCOTUS in the case.

As the title of this post is meant to highlight, I see watching TV and listening to the radio and reading blogs to be great low-stress, high-learning opportunities.  I hope you all agree.

January 21, 2014 in Class activities, Current Affairs, Recent news and developments, SCOTUS cases of note, Television | Permalink


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Although I am conscious of the various players, actors and undercurrents of the "who punishes" question, the influence of capitalism on this question is something that kept coming to mind in yesterday's class.

When we were discussing why the legal system now uses drugs to execute people instead of a guillotine or death by hanging, I thought of some of the drug companies that have a stake in and thus profit from the modern sensibility that our society has adopted to somehow execute people in a less painful, more humane way. The science, as far as I have heard, is not even certain that execution by lethal injection is less painful...which prompts the question again about why that method is preferred today above others. But then we also must think of the handful of European companies that do not want their drugs to be used for that purpose. I predict the burgeoning of an industry of less moralistic companies that will soon be happy to produce and sell the drugs to our justice system in return for exclusive governmental contracts.

Another dimension of this is the privatization of the prison system, contracting for a certain headcount of prisoners in each private prison, etc. The ACLU has published some reports about all of the problems that private prisons pose, such as higher recidivism rates, more fighting among inmates, poor prison conditions, etc. https://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/private-prisons . I understand that any analysis of the effectiveness of prisons depends on the theory of punishment that underlies the analysis, and that the ACLU advocates certain theories of punishment that may not resonate with everyone. Nonetheless, capitalism may have a big effect on who is sentenced or punished. If contractors are guaranteed a certain headcount per prison, then those contractors themselves become the "who" in "who punishes." Or, when ICE pays for prisoners apprehended under the enforcement of immigration laws under their jurisdiction, and municipalities on the border are vastly funded off of the immigrants that are jailed under those laws, ICE becomes the "who", and the theory of punishment or any ideas of justice matter less and less.

Posted by: Hannah M. | Jan 22, 2014 2:44:54 PM

If marijuana were indeed found to help cure concussions as the HBO program suggested, the NFL would likely no longer penalize its use so severely--if at all. When the President openly says that he would not let his kids play football, and that he views football players assuming risks similar to those tobacco smokers do (http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000315992/article/barack-obama-says-he-would-not-let-son-play-pro-football), the concussion crisis is one that threatens the league’s very existence. Kids (probably with urging from their mothers) will migrate en masse to soccer or other sports if football is too dangerous. Just listening to Nate Jackson list his football-related injuries last night was painful. If they want change, advocates for reform should attempt to conclusively prove a link between marijuana and its capacity to potentially to restore brain health. These days, nothing will compel the NFL to act faster than an opportunity to mitigate the impact of concussions on the game.

Posted by: Adam Philipp | Jan 22, 2014 5:52:55 PM

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