Friday, July 1, 2016

Brad Schimel says WI is safer with 5 years of concealed carry, but forgets murder rate is up 72%

The idea that more guns make us safer is flawed -- and Wisconsin is a case study in it

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel seems to think Wisconsin is safer today than it was five years ago. He doesn’t base this assumption on stats or figures. He bases it on the fact that, five years ago this week, Wisconsin passed a concealed carry bill into law that was meant to allow citizens the right to carry guns in public places.

The justifications back then for passing the bill were simple: if the criminals in our state didn’t know whether you had a gun or not, they’d be more hesitant to approach you with a weapon themselves.

“Criminals in Wisconsin are going to have to start asking themselves if their potential crimes are worth the risk encountering someone ready to fully defend themselves,” Rep. Jeff Mursau (R-Crivitz) said in 2011.

Gov. Scott Walker similarly promised that our state would be safer with concealed carry when he signed the bill passed by the legislature. “By signing concealed carry into law today we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens,” he said then.

And the way Brad Schimel gushes about the law today, you’d think that Wisconsin vigilantism is a successful part of our law enforcement system. “Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites hold a concealed carry license, making our state a safer place to live, work, and raise a family,” he said recently.

So obviously our state is much safer today than it was back then. Right?

Nope. We’ve actually gone the wrong way -- murder and violent crime rates have gone up since 2011, not down. Wisconsin has become less safe since that time.

Based off of 2015 crime and population growth estimates, Wisconsin’s violent crime rate has gone up by more than 22 percent since concealed carry was passed and implemented (all crime stats are derived from the FBI and state DOJ sites). Wisconsin has seen a 71 percent rate increase in murders since then as well.

And it’s not just in Milwaukee, as some are too quick to suggest. The argument that all the crime in Wisconsin can be attributed to our largest urban center is an appealing one to make for Republicans. But while a lot of crime does occur there, the rise in crime is pretty consistent across the state: outside of Milwaukee, our state’s murder rate is up 62 percent since 2011 when compared to the most recent estimates from 2015.

These rates don’t by any means indicate that concealed carry is responsible for the rise in crime. But they do bring to light one core problem with Schimel’s recent statements: concealed carry cannot be depended on as a way to deter criminals, and we cannot assume that we are safer for having it in place than we were before. While the idea of criminal deterrence may seem appealing to argue, it’s clear that the evidence suggests otherwise.

More guns don’t make us safer. And there’s ample evidence available to suggest more guns makes people less rationale, too. The Mutual Assured Destruction theory of self-defense that too many Republican state lawmakers are endorsing is a dangerous path to take us on -- and one that undoubtedly won’t result in a safer Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Restorative justice should become the new norm for young offenders

Alternative sentencing guidelines should be offered for young adults as old as 21

The way in which Genele Laird, the 18-year old African-American teen whose arrest video went viral last week, was treated during her ordeal will likely remain controversial for quite some time.

But the way in which Dane County authorities, including District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, City of Madison Police Chief Mike Koval and Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney (among many other leaders) handled how to respond to Laird’s actions deserves to be commended. Laird will be entered into a restorative justice program, where she’ll have engage in a process dedicated toward demonstrating her social behavior is adequately adjusted through communications with her victims and law enforcement officials.

Laird’s actions that day warranted her arrest. She allegedly threatened the lives of other individuals, presented a knife to those she threatened, spit on officers and refused to comply with their orders.

That doesn’t necessarily justify the way in which she was treated during her arrest. An ongoing investigation into the actions of the officers needs to be completed by an independent authority.

But the best solution for Laird herself, with regards to her own actions, has likely been found. The restorative justice program that she is now a part of will provide her with an alternative to being tried as an adult in court.

For young people especially, restorative justice can do a lot of good. Restorative justice “emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior...through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders,” including victims. Repairing harm done to victims is just one of the benefits -- restorative justice programs have also been found to produce outcomes that reduce recidivism.

One study in Barron County, Wisconsin, found that young people entered into these types of programs had a much lower recidivism rate. Juvenile crime in the county was reduced almost in half just five years after the restorative justice program began there.

At a time when Wisconsin’s juvenile justice program is being questioned on how it treats youth in corrections facilities, restorative justice programs can offer an alternative that puts focus on correcting bad social habits that an individual may engage in, rather than doling out punishment through imprisonment and strict procedures.

Indeed, Wisconsin’s youth are facing some difficult situations in the troubled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities, including some recent accounts allegedly witnessing...
...staff's use of racial slurs to youth; lack of therapy provided to at least one youth who has repeatedly requested it; overuse of solitary confinement, particularly for youths with mental health issues; lack of timely medical attention; and inappropriate use of restraints.
In Genele Laird’s case, a youth sentencing option wouldn’t have ordinarily been offered to her -- 17-year olds and older are automatically charged in adult courts unless all parties involved can agree to a different set of guidelines. Fortunately, that opportunity presented itself to her, and the restorative justice program she now enters gives her another shot to correct her behavior and personally repair the damage done to her victims.

That sort of option ought to become the norm in these situations rather than the exception. Too often we’re quick to punish rather than seek options that will correct behavior of youth in the long-run.

One option could be arranging for older individuals, like Laird, to be considered for youth sentencing programs more regularly. In some countries, juvenile justice extends to age 21 with successful outcomes for those who enter into them. Wisconsin could set an example for the rest of the nation and adopt such standards in the Badger State.

Whatever approach Wisconsin does take, it needs to center around providing more options for youth offenders. Our youth should not be forgotten after they commit a crime, and emphasis should be on correcting their behavior rather than punishment whenever possible.

Memo to Walker -- unlike teachers, NFL players DO get better pay for working more years

The governor tries to make a point on teacher pay, forgetting NFL players have a union that helps them get minimum salaries

While speaking with reporters in western Wisconsin this week, Gov. Scott Walker made some interesting comments on education, specifically on teacher pay.

Walker said that teachers, like NFL players, should be treated like free agents, and paid based on merit, not how long they’ve been teaching.

From the La Crosse Tribune (Emphasis in bold mine):
When asked whether he thought such incentive-driven salary programs would be a hindrance to allowing school districts to keep quality teachers, Walker compared teaching to being a player in the NFL.

“If the Green Bay Packers pay people to perform and if they perform well on their team, (the Packers) pay them to do that,” Walker said. “They don’t pay them for how many years they’ve been on the football team. They pay them whether or not they help (the Packers) win football games.”
Except that’s not true. The NFL does set a minimum wage for players based on the number of years they’ve played. Players in their fifth season, for example, are paid 64 percent more than what players in their rookie seasons earn, if we’re looking at minimum income levels.

It’s true that NFL players receive incomes based on their performances as well. But that isn’t the sole measure of how income is derived. Their seniority is taken into consideration also, thanks to the NFL Players Association.

If it’s good enough for the Green Bay Packers, it’s good enough for Walker...except when it comes to union-negotiated minimum wage seniority pay. The Packers have that; Wisconsin teachers, however, do not.