How to Cut the Murder Rate in Half by 2016

0

If you’re a believer in the Three Bullet-Point Transition (TM), you know that making deep inroads into Venezuela’s outrageously high murder rate is one of the things any post-Chávez government will have to deliver on.

This will be hard, but it’s easy to overstate how hard it will be. With political will and smart policy-making, there’s no reason why Venezuela can’t cut its murder rate by half in three years. (Shockingly, even then, Venezuela would be left with one of the 10 highest murder rates in the world.)

How do you halve the murder rate? By strengthening the criminal justice system, dramatically raising the probability that, if you commit a murder, you’ll be caught, investigated, prosecuted, convicted, jailed, and, in time, let back out into the community in a way that minimizes the risk that you’ll do it again.

There’s no magic to that; you just need to invest in a balanced way in each of the institutions needed to make each element in that sentence true.

The key point here is that the criminal justice system is a flow process. Like any flow process, it’s subject to bottlenecks. It’s useless to improve any one part of it without improving every other part of it.

It’s crucial to grasp this, because the naïve tendency is to focus overwhelmingly in the most visible, emblematic link in the criminal justice chain: the police. And, certainly, Venezuela’s woeful police institutions need a radical overhaul.

But without a corresponding increase in the Prosecutor General’s ability to lead investigations and present charges, you’ll just add to the already obscene backlog of people detained before trial. And without a strong increase in the courts’ capacities to move expedientes through trial processes, all the new cops and prosecutors in the world won’t improve the conviction rate. And without vastly expanded prison capacity – currently, Venezuela has barely 1.5 prison-places-per-murder-committed-last-year, a crazily FUBAR ratio – investment in the rest of the Criminal Justice system is useless. And if you’re not smart about re-integrating ex-cons into society in ways that manage re-offending risks, much of the rest of the effort is wasted.

In other words, until you’ve fixed all of it, you’ve fixed none of it. So the key to reducing the murder rate in half by 2016 is balanced investment in the criminal justice system.

Balance investment, in this context, means an approach that expands the capacity of each institution in the justice system proportionately to all the others, remaining sensitive to the potential for bottlenecks that could negate the effectiveness of investment in any one aspect. Balanced investment means realizing that a massive, politically appealing increase in policing will do little good in the absence of less flashy investments in things like court bailiffs. It means understanding the need also to invest appropriately in the more often overlooked aspects of the criminal justice system – prison health and rehabilitation services, criminal defense, preventative schemes, and managed community reinsertion for ex-convicts – as part of an overall approach to the problem.

Once you’ve zeroed in on balance as the guiding principle of investment in the Criminal Justice System, your key task becomes identifying bottlenecks.

At the moment, this isn’t especially salient: the system is so sclerotic that there are bottlenecks at virtually every stage. There aren’t nearly enough cops to catch all the criminals, there aren’t nearly enough investigators to investigate what few criminals are caught, there aren’t nearly enough prosecutors to prosecute what few criminals are investigated, there aren’t nearly enough judges to convict what criminals are prosecuted, there aren’t nearly enough prison places to imprison what criminals are convicted and, so far as I can tell, there’s no process to manage ex-convicts’ re-insertion into the community at all.

As you begin to expand capacity in each of these sectors, though, what you will need is an institutional mechanisms to understand where reform is lagging, and the agility to refocus resources on lagging sectors. The challenge isn’t just to invest in every part of the process at the same time, but to coordinate and sequence those investments to minimize bottlenecks.

To my mind, then, what’s needed first is a settled, empirically-grounded understanding of some key ratios:

  • How many beat cops do you need to catch a murderer?
  • How many investigating cops do you need per beat cop?
  • How many Crime Lab technicians, administrative and support staff do you need per investigating cop?
  • How many prosecutors do you need per investigating cop?
  • How many administrative and support Fiscalía staff does each prosecutor need?
  • How many public defense attorneys do you need per prosecutor?
  • How many judges do you need per Prosecutor?
  • How many bailiffs, administrative and support court staff does each judge need?
  • How many Victim-support and retributive justice staff members do you need per judge?
  • How many prison places do you need per judge?
  • How many prison guards, rehabilitation staff, health workers and other supporting and administrative workers do you need per convict?
  • How many probation officers and other managed community re-insertion staff do you need per convict?

Until you have a clear number in mind for each of these ratios, it’ll be impossible to invest in the criminal justice system in a balanced way. So, to me, step one is to get a sense for these ratios, to put a number to each of those bullet points as a guidepost to action in the criminal justice system. With those ratios settled, figuring out the price-tag in new investments becomes, if not easy, then certainly manageable.

More than anything, though, we need to keep our eyes on the prize. A transition government can cut the murder rate in half by 2016. If it manages to do so, to cut inflation to the single-digits and to re-invent Venezuelan social policy through Conditional Cash Transfers, that transition government is going to ensure its own survival through the legitimacy its own performance will generate.

¿Le damos play?

1 COMMENT

  1. Well, here’s a start. The Policia de Investigaciones de Chile has an Academy to train investigative police, 14 criminal labs around the country, and Chile has one of the lowest murder rates in the continent. Here’s a sample of its budget:

    http://www.dipres.gob.cl/574/articles-55373_doc_pdf.pdf

    That turns out to be (roughly) $300 million per year.

    Given Venezuela’s size (double that of Chile) and increased crime rates, you would need, I believe, double that amount to begin tackling the problem from a forensic point of view. Let’s be fiscally conservative and say $500 million, without considering improvements in infrastructure (labs, academy, etc.) which is sorely needed.

  2. A great post. As someone who has worked in the Canadian criminal justice system since 1976, I appreciate your focus on BALANCE. I would add that justice should also be targetted; it is much more important to get the murderers than it is to prosecute those who shoplift or write phony cheques. A good strategy would minimize judicial intervention for non-violent crime, while creating whole new courthouses, prosecutorial, and defence institutions to prosecute murder.

    I will say that your failure to emphasize gun control is inexplicable to anyone outside of the sphere of US intellectual hegemony. There, the “original intention of the Founders” apparently prevents them from banning AK-47s, but elsewhere the question can be addressed on the simple basis that statistics show that, gun control works to substantially reduce the murder rate. It is far harder to kill three, six, or twenty three people with a knife or rope, and it takes far less courage to tell the police about the knife-wielder than the owner of a sub-machine gun.

    I hope someone in Venezuela is thinking about a country-specific plan to choke off the importation of sophisticated weapons primarily useful for drug gang-related enforcement activities and robbery.

    • Yup. Which is why in my version of the Three Bullet Point Transition (TM), the second bullet point deals specifically with the murder rate. Not because other kinds of crime aren’t important, but because to be credible, priorities need to be specific.

    • Don’t mention the war!
      I can already hear the triggers being pulled.

      There is one thing I do want to say here: it should be possible to have an overview of gun “flow”: imagine a national database where we could see how many guns disappear from military and police stations every year. Imagine we can check out how many bullets are used per unit and we could ask why.
      Imagine everyone who loses a gun (every gun user I know in Venezuela has been robbed of his guns at least once) must report what gun he lost within 1 week.

      Here a picture of murder rate in Carabobo:
      http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_rZbKKDohSyc/THkzDFx6BNI/AAAAAAAABiA/PwAeKD1DaM0/s400/cara.JPG

      I did not have the location within a municipio. Otherwise I would have shown that. I would say about 95% of the murders in municipio Valencia (60+ murders from Feb to November, up to 120 murders in December) take place in a 10 km radio

      Month by month:
      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rZbKKDohSyc/THj5ZJow-PI/AAAAAAAABh4/nY9FRt3AzN8/s1600/murdercarabobolast.PNG

    • “I would add that justice should also be targetted; it is much more important to get the murderers than it is to prosecute those who shoplift or write phony cheques. A good strategy would minimize judicial intervention for non-violent crime, while creating whole new courthouses, prosecutorial, and defence institutions to prosecute murder.”

      I agree. A judicial system cheapens both human life and justice by having convicts serve more time for possessing a psychoactive substance than for wilfully ending the life of another human being.

      However, the gun control issue in Venezuela is not about submission to the U.S. sphere of influence. If we followed the U.S., there would be an emphasis on enforcement and zero tolerance, like the U.S. authorities do.

      If anything, Venezuelan gun laws are convoluted and onerous in nature compared to U.S., or even Canadian laws.

      It’s about NO laws and no rules applying in practice. Of any kind. About out and out corruption and crime by the people charged with carrying weapons in the name of public safety. The AK-47 and other military hardware are already here, and it’s eerily easy to buy them illegally. I don’t think there is private importation of such weapons.

  3. Good post.

    One of the things we need to start doing NOW is to demand day after day for the regular publication of murder numbers (which cannot be massaged as much as general “crime” cases) for each state. That’s not rocket science and that is data available in any other nation but for Afghanistan and Somalia and some other failed states.

    As reference: Jesse Chacón, as information minister or interior minister, decided to stop sending information about the murder rate to UNODC in 2002 or 2003.
    Since then they only have very conservative NGO information
    http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/homicide.html
    I have been looking for some clear data in UN sites for Venezuela: for forests, education, etc. Since 1999 but increasingly in the latest years the Venezuelan government is failing to deliver those numbers. The regime is afraid of transparency as “the Devil fears holy water”.

    Now, a couple of issues:
    1) it is a complete waste of time to have parallel police corps.
    2) according to El Aissami, 20% of crimes are committed by Venezuelan cops. Given the amount of cops Venezuela has, I calculated a couple of years ago that the average cop is over 150 times more likely to be a dangerous criminal than the average Venezuelan citizen.
    How can you improve quality? How do you do that when a lot of the cops top or down are just other criminals?

    • In this case we are comparing apples and oranges. This discussion is about murder. Most crimes police commit are not murder, but participating in theft in its various forms, extortion, kidnappings, etc., all for money. But then this should be obvious since 70% of venezuelans are thieves and believe those who are well off, made it that way. so its OK to steal from them.

  4. Planning anything at this stage is useless because we do not know what Venezuela will be like when Chavez leaves.Also nobody knows the extent or venues of the sources and manifestations of crime due to lack of omniscience and the fact that information that is TRUE information is not readily available in Venezuela at this time.Even back in the old days there was much missing information, and bad reporting.

    Now taking that into account:

    What comes to my mind is Irene Saez who was successful IN VENEZUELA( very important) in reducing crime.I do not know much about her tactics but as I understood it she hired experts, and listened to their advice about everything.

    Of course I do not pretend to imply that just applying Irene’s methods and voila! No,because Venezuela was a very different country then, and we have the barrios to consider, but the idea of divorcing the solution from too much political bullshit and freeing ourselves to relying on experts when the TIME COMES, should be the way to go.

    My personal intuition tells me that as long as the barrios exist in the physical form in which they do, controlling the murder rate in Caracas after the spoiling of Chavez will have to go WAY beyond any simple improvement of the police department or gun control, or stricter punishment etc.etc.As someone who lived in barrios for many years and knows their ways, I can tell you that barrio people are afraid of their criminals only to the extent that they try to expose them.In the endless twisted alley ways of any Cerro , hiding is a cinch, because if the criminals are not protected they turn their anger onto their neighbors.The actual physical environment has to change.First step.

    • “I can tell you that barrio people are afraid of their criminals only to the extent that they try to expose them.In the endless twisted alley ways of any Cerro , hiding is a cinch, because if the criminals are not protected they turn their anger onto their neighbors.The actual physical environment has to change.First step.”

      … and change as well as the attitudes of barrio dwellers towards crime and malandros. It is really a riddle to me. How do they let these criminals slaughter them (literally)?

      Really! In other places of the world, and in other places of Venezuela, people who have done much less have been known to be expelled, or “fired” from their houses.

      Seems an Herculean task, from my point of view.

  5. I have a question. You freely admit, that there are a number of variables for which we need to determine the answer for before we can start actually contemplating the solutions. Yet you throw this statement as fact: “A transition government can cut the murder rate in half by 2016.” No, you don’t know that for a fact. What if, after studying all the variables, it’s determined you can’t do it by 2016, maybe it’s only feasible by 2018, or 2021.

    What you’ve put forward is a goal, not a fact. Whether the goal is realistically attainable, is yet to be determined.

  6. Question: how do you deal with crooked cops/judges/other_members_of_the_chain?

    What would make a crooked law officer say “Oh my, Im being bad, I guess I better not do bad stuff, like, knowing where the bad guys are, who they are and not say or do anything about it because they’re paying me a vacuna and when those guys steal something and the rightful owner comes to the police, Ill tell him that I know how to solve the whole case but that he has to pay me in order to arrange with the criminals the rescue of the stolen goods”

    Part of it comes from the fact that, a bad socio-economic situation makes it easy for a person to become corrupt in order to get the extra resources that legal ways cant provide and that they “need to survive”. However, due to the svere “moral crisis” in Venezuela, cops may see bribing as an extra income so they’re not messing with it. And it’s just not cops…

    Question: how do you manage to stop criminal organizations with tons of weapons?

    Its no secret that some criminal organizations have heavy weaponry, how would police face them?

    Question: is something like the brazilian BOPE possible on Venezuela? Cuz, if it is, I think that would be a huge plus on crime fighting

    Question: I know this one is a bit over the edge, but, what about death penalty? At least for major crimes (murder, kidnapping, and such). Venezuelas crowded prison system is already saturated and, if by some miracle, all those criminals are caught, what would we do with them? Give them a home (ok, prison cell) and meals (even if they’re bad and insufficient) for free at the expense of the Nation? I think there are other places where that investment would be far far more efficient/necessary :p

    • Kernel_panic,

      You are worse than a Kernel Panic. You are probably a Blue Screen of Death.
      Death penalty does not solve anything. It never has. Quite telling: the countries with more people in gaol and higher murder rates also have death penalty.

      Where are these weapons from? I understand most guns found in Venezuela have their registration numbers deleted, but we do know what types they are.
      We need people to work on those numbers. Most cops are illiterate people. We could use some power from universities. I think mathematicians and specialists in engineering domains that may help in forensics.

    • While the death penalty may not be the solution in Venezuela, I think our prison terms are far too lenient. There are horrendous crimes committed in Venezuela, and people walk (if they are unlucky enough to be convicted) after fifteen years or so.

      We should definitely add the possibility of life in prison without parole.

    • The problem that I see with discussing the death penalty is the existence of two worlds:

      1. An imaginary world where all convicts are responsible for the crimes they have been sentenced for. In this world I personally would agree to a death penalty and, more globally, it would become an issue that can be justly discussed.

      2. The real world, where it may very well be that murderers deserve to be killed by our government, but the fact is that there is no way of proving a person’s guilt with 100% certainty.

      The point I am trying to make is that discussing the utility and moral implications of killing killers is idealistic and could end up getting guilty-looking innocent people executed.

  7. JC,

    Interesting.Anything that can help is good.I personally find it logical to assume that toxicity in the air could have a negative effect.I remember when I lived in Washington DC. ,every August the murder rate would soar.They often contributed it to the inversion layer and heat that held in air pollution.The physical environment has an enormous impact on behavior, feelings, mood etc, not to mention the effects on the physical brain.When people are already compromised by disease, mental deficiency,personality disorder, dysfunctional family , gangs etc, you get a Molotov cocktail.

  8. I think I missed something… what I thought I read was a proposed plan to manage the out-of-control criminal system. That does nothing to address why crimes are committed. The threat of jail, being warehousing humans in horrendous conditions, likely beatings by police and inmates, has done nothing to suppress the exploding crime rate.

    IMO, it due to the lack of opportunity and loss of hope. Other than sociopaths the average person does not grow up planning to be a criminal. The crimes are committed, for the most part again IMO, because of the lack of jobs, suppressed wages (much in part due to suppression of all prices, to prevent “speculation”), suffocating inflation, etc.

    To reduce crime, create jobs that provide the opportunity for feeding families, potential to grow skills and find a future.

    • Lazarus,
      With all due respect, you’re viewing the world through pink-colored lefty glasses. Putting people who murder in jail is necessary … to prevent them from murdering again!

      Furthermore, saying that to reduce crime you have to create jobs is sort of like saying that people murder other people because they just don’t know any better, or they have no choice. I just don’t think it’s that simple. Loving the crime away is simply not going to work.

    • Indeed.

      Cocaine addiction has skyrocketed in Venezuela since the mid nineties.
      I happen to know quite some physicians in Venezuela and they work with people from the barrios (but they are not Chavistas) and they have been telling me that time after time.

      Little points to ponder:
      Parish Miguel Pena has half the population of Valencia. Half a million people live there. There is not one general hospital (Valencia has one general hospital only) and there is not one public library. Most people who do have some real work – a minority- have to travel to Northern Valencia and a few to the Zona Industrial to work.

      Bogota’s government started to build very nice public libraries in the middle of the worst slums. Public libraries are not a luxury and they are not, as most Venezuelans think, just for pupils to do their homework. They did a lot for the identity of those inhabitants.

      If you live like pigs, if you have no job, if you have loads of cocaine, if you think the people elsewhere treat you like scum and if there is no police to control you, what do you expect?

    • “If you live like pigs, if you have no job, if you have loads of cocaine, if you think the people elsewhere treat you like scum and if there is no police to control you, what do you expect?”

      I guess we’re the real criminals, right? I mean, these poor, neglected people, what else are they going to do? When they come and rape and kill your wife, why … they just don’t know any better!

      You people have no clue as to how to deal with this problem. This is a civil war and you want to give the other guys flowers.

    • Juan,

      No, we are not criminals, but we don’t get a medal for being “soo good”
      and your position is not just explained because you are not like “them, lazy poor”. Geez…no wonder Chávez is in his 12th year.

      It seems you never got even close to a slum and you haven’t got a clue about the dynamics of misery. You cannot just kill them all.

      And even though I reject Chávez’s thesis that “they are just victims”, I do not think it is simply repression, plomo con todos.

      You need both approaches.

    • I think people make a simple, often implicit, cost-benefit analysis.

      “If I shoot this guy, what are the chances I’ll spend the next several decades in jail?”

      In Venezuela, the chances are low, very low. If you make a minimum of effort – i.e., if you don’t do it on tape, or in direct view of a cop – there’s a very high chance you’ll get away with it. Everybody knows this. It’s part of pop wisdom by now.

      Within 3 years, you can radically alter that calculus. Make serious, massive, coordinated and balanced investments in the institutions that punish people for committing murders, and the cost-benefit balance starts to tip. Suddenly, out of the last 5 murders in your neighborhood, you’ve seen serious sustained efforts to investigate all five, and you’ve seen, say, 4 people face trial and be convicted for long periods. The folk wisdom starts to shift. Suddenly, solving problems by shooting the people causing them doesn’t look so consequence free.

      My point is that the Culture of Violence is a child of the Fact of Impunity. End that fact and you start to shift that culture.

    • I think this is a deeply uninteresting debate.

      It’s trivial to show that Lazarus-style paleo-liberal accounts of crime are wrong: it just takes a quick glance at murder stats in a dozen Latin American countries.

      In all kinds of countries that share FAR more similarities than differences with us, you have murder rates that are 50-75% lower than ours.

      In many countries that are poorer and just as unequal as Venezuela, murder rates are a tiny fraction of what they are in our country.

      It’s an argument that doesn’t stand up to even a little bit of scrutiny.

    • Of course it doesn’t have a simple solution. Of course attacking drug trafficking is part of the equation. But your emphasis on “they’re criminals because they don’t have jobs” is misguided and ineffective.

      First you attack the impunity, and you set a justice system that deals with an overwhelming crime wave. Then you can deal with the root causes of crime. But focusing on the root causes, as diffuse as they are, ensures another ten to twenty years of crime.

      If you can name me one country that has tackled an enormous crime wave mainly thanks to policies aimed at providing opportunities for the poor, then I’d be all ears.

    • The other point here is that this is part of the patented Three Bullet Point Transition Program – the other two points of which deal directly with the root causes I’m being accused of ignoring!

      First you tackle the inflation that decimates the living standards of the poor, then you ensure people who send their kids to school and to health check-ups are never critically poor, then you ensure you have a criminal justice system that ensures most murderers end up in jail.

    • Well, Quico, Lazaru’s points are as “uninteresting” as yours.
      Your study about “Law and Order” doesn’t stand any proof either.
      Anyway, what do we say now? Zzzzzzz?
      Be it.
      Do you have any idea of what is happening in El Salvador, in Guatemala, in Jamaica? Why is it happening there?
      By the way: you don’t seem to know Latin America very well. Yeah, they do speak Spanish or Portuguese as well and are underdeveloped nations, but there are differences gallore and others than Chávez. The murder rate has vastly worsed since Chavez came to power but a huge hike started to take place from 1993 approx, the murder rate increased from less than 5 to 19 murders per year in 1998. The same murder rate started to go ballstic in the countries I mentioned before: Trinidad, then Jamaica, El Salvador, etc. And after that it spread to Guyana.

      Ah…and population distribution? Apart from a couple of big cities in every country in Latin America, the population distribution in Venezuela is quite different from that of Colombia, Bolivia or Peru and the economics as well. Most people in Bolivia are not living in the main cities pretending to do some work but are cultivating some plot of land. We do not have that anymore in Venezuela.
      Take a look at a density map of Latin America.

    • Juan, I am not saying mainly. It does not have to be “either or”. It is the same thing as in Afghanistan: you cannot just bomb the Taliban to hell while half the population is living worse off than 50 years ago, when half the girls die out of malnutrition or stupid diseases.

      Regarding the case of crime reduction, we do have two good cases: Brazil and Colombia. They both were tackling both issues at the same time.
      You have heard of what has happened in Colombia. It was not just Santos killing them all. I know quite a lot of Colombians who have told me how people have invested in barrios that were so completely disgusting before. They have done it.

      Please, show me one country where crime reduction has just worked via “law and order” alone.

      What I find pointless is a discussion of “we need to focus on one method only”.
      Rubbish.
      Those magic restrictions “it’s two/three points only” are just rubbish. That’s for books on “how to do a nice presentation that everyone remembers or how to do a cool add”

      Real life is more complex.

    • Sorry if I was not clear, but didn’t want to go into a long rant. I am a dyed in the wool Capitalist. Nothing pinko here, no rose colored glasses here.

      Agreed, all murders, thieves, thugs, rapists, whatever need to be dealt with judiciously, efficiently, repay society for their crimes, and rehabilitated, if possible. If they can’t be rehabilitated then keep ’em locked up until their too old to cause harm.

      But then what? What do you do with the next generation. Have them wait for government handouts which are underfunded and unsustainable?

      After living for years in Venezuela I was appalled at the lack of opportunity for college graduates, much less los coliegos (sp?). The underemployment, lack of challenge or opportunity is the #1 cause for the crime wave, IMO. Stagnant wages with the suffocating inflation, a direct result of bad governing.

      The government wants to be in control of everything, they have control of almost everything, and it has all gone to hell.

      An example, is the housing issues, which have been blogged about ad nauseum. This is a great source for creating employment, creating security, creating wealth (read here, a save haven for the poor to create wealth in capital where the value of the BsF in your pocket shrinks daily). Instead the government takes control, suffocates competition, drives out anyone who has the capacity to construct. eliminates JOBS, and creates more reliance on the government.. which cannot and will not deliver.

      My point was, this was great blog to discuss the creation of a system to deal with crime, a “flowing process”. But there is no discussion on the cause for criminal behaviour other than “they are bad people” and “narcoterrorists”. IMHO, besides the sociopaths, a 5 year old does not dream of being a drug runner, car jacker, bank robber, street thug, because as a career it doesn’t have much of a future, and typically a painful outcome for all.

      So why are the crimes, the normal petty daily crimes, and the horrendous daily murders (which I witnessed), committed? A “flowing process” judicial will not stop new entrants, it will only be able to process them more efficiently.

    • Maybe we coin a phrase:

      Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.

      I bet that would focus-group well!

      Listen, in the mid-to-long term, I think you’re absolutely right. The point of this post, though, is that we need a short term strategy as well. That is, in his 2016 State of the Union, the first post-Chavez president needs to be able to point to concrete achievements over his first few years in power.

      We don’t just need a Development Strategy, we also need a transition strategy, and the time to formulate it is now.

      A major push to invest in the institutions that raise the cost of crime is something you can make real progress in in three years.

    • Who said anything about “killing” the criminals, Kepler? So hard to have a discussion when you invent straw men.

      All I’m saying is that emphasizing the apparent root causes of crime takes emphasis away from law and order, and it’s completely ineffective. Yes, you need both, but law and order is a necessary condition, and it may well be sufficient in the short term.

      Case in point: Petare. They’ve reduced the murder rate by somewhere between 25 and 40%, and it’s not like the barrios of Petare are suddenly magical places where people have jobs and opportunities. It’s still the same shit-hole, if not worse, and still, thanks to effective policing, they’ve reduced the murder rate.

      If we wait to solve the poverty, inequality, and jobs problem for crime to go down, we might as well give up.

      There’s another thing that annoys me about the emphasis on the apparent root causes: it leads to more lenient sentencing. When society is inundated with the conventional wisdom that thugs happen because they never had a chance in life, then judges start handing out pats in the back of the hand to mass murderers.

      • Juan,

        I mostly read this site and seldom comment but reading your post above I felt that a missconception had to be corrected:

        Sucre has invested like no other municipality in outreach activities. Perhaps you remember reading about the Youth Symphonic Orchestra playing there for free. They also have communal spaces that are better patrolled than parks and squares in other municipalities (the park next to millennium mall is only a very visible example). And that is only what permeates from the news which I read from a distance and what I see when I go back home every couple of years.

        Now, I am not an economist but I don’t understand how you can disregard the potential benefits of these strategies and claim that the murder rate in Petare has been reduced solely because of law and order?

        You simply cannot say ‘it’s still the same shit hole if not worst’. You just don’t know that.

        I, like others here, find the short term emphasis on law and order short sighted and submit that it would create a very adverse environment for law enforcement officers to work in: In the end that malandro is someones son, friend, cousin etc. and the ripple effect that simply putting a large part of a community in jail should be considered if you want to lay claim to being a conscientious policymaker. Alternatively, a tough on crime but also tough on the sources of crime policy deployed jointly and in the short term would go some way into preventing the adverse effects of a tough-on-crime-only approach.

        • I shouldn’t put words in Juan’s mouth, but my sense is that his frustration is with people who start to look at the fifth and sxth and seventh pata del gato when we write that if you kill someone, you should expect -as a normal part of the way the world works- that you’ll spend the next several decades in jail.

          A state that can’t deliver on *that* is really no state at all. We’re talking about the very, very, very basics of what a state is supposed to do/be about. From then on out, we can have a very serious conversation about all kinds of other social issues. This blog has gone a considerable ways towards providing a space for those conversations as well. And, once again, this is just one of three bullet-points in our Minimalist Agenda for Transition.

          But we need to screw our heads on straight and get back to basics. If you kill a person you go to jail. Since when s that such a radical idea!?

          • Quico,

            It is not a radical thought at all but the problem is serious enough that it seems many here do not agree with the one pronged approach you guys propose. Community investment, at least in my mind, has to be the other side of the coin of tough law enforcement. It may not directly solve the murder rate problem, as many have rightly pointed out, but as stated above it does go to the source of problems that already exist and it should alleviate some of the effects that strong law enforcement would create.

            Doing it otherwise would entail, at least in the short term, having people (not the murderers mind you) living in extremely oppressive conditions.

            When you see people not agreeing with you right of the bat and looking for the fourth, fifth etc. cat’s leg perhaps you should stop and reconsider your position. Maybe the cat-leg-seekers are onto something.

    • The control approach is needed now, but the development approach is needed now as well unless you want a social explotion in 1 year or so. Development projects won’t bring about kids discussing Proust or designing engineering projects in 5 years, but they can help reduce the social tension in two years’ time.

      And it’s not that we have to select either or. We need to do more with the same money. The problem is that so far every single group has favoured
      their “experts” or amigos without public tenders and transparency.
      Chavistas are so bad that they cannot finish up anything and have to pay Chinese or Turks or anyone else to byuild a single house. Oppos are much better, but they still get into the amiguismo (Juan has mentioned a couple of cases here, I could mention more). If less than that happened, they would have the money for both approaches and more chances of overall success.

      We need more transparency with the way in which different “consultants” and providers of support for the projects compete for those projects. And then we will have money for the cops, for the jails, but also for a couple of projects that start improving life in, say, parroquia Miguel Peña, in 1 to 2 years.

      I don’t expect them to be reading Proust there in that time and generating cool projects on water processing, but they are not stupid, they are not idiots and they can start doing something in little time if given goo d support. The construction of one hospital in the middle of an area with no hospitals could provide work and vision for thousands of people there. The construction of one library where hands on course for youngsters (with police guards if need be) would make wonders in a country where we think the poor cannot do that.
      I know a couple of schools now in that area where children “have classes” just in a yard because they have no school! (meanwhile Chávez’s former liceo has air conditioning everywhere and looks more like a private school)

    • Juan, I do not want them to be given lenient sentences and a diploma of good conduct. Still, you need to keep them busy now if you want things to be more sustainable. I say: you don’t have to choose between two approaches. If we do not start with the other approach now, we will never start because there will be a Caracazo to the square in no time. Chavistas will see to it.
      They did it already once and they will do it much more easily now.

    • “Maybe we coin a phrase” Toro?

      You seem to like to lift stuff from other people and claim it as yours. I still remember the bit about being “in las antipodas…”

    • Lazurus,

      you say:

      “has done nothing to suppress the exploding crime rate. ”

      You are probably right, but you are forgetting the most important reason for tough punishment( long term incarceration or the death penalty), which is to keep innocent people safe.Japan has a low murder rate and institutes the death penalty, which may or may not be a solution for Venezuela.However if we don’t want to execute vicious murderers then we have to plan on spending the amount of money needed to keep the streets safe.

      Most people who murder( not all) have personality disorders of a nature that will not respond to an increase in income.Jails are filled with psychopaths,and sociopaths; people who are not motivated by the same things than motivate most of us.

      Our primary duty is ALWAYS to protect the innocent.Only in this context can we afford to take a look at possible futures cures for sociopathy, and or psychopathy.

      There are 2 many people living on the margins of society economically and socially whose personalities are intact,and who do not resort to murder as a solution.

      Drugs are a big contributor to crime, but here again there is a much higher incidence of drug abuse among sociopaths.Not all sociopaths become murderers but many murderers are sociopaths.

      We have a duty to protect those whose innocent lives that are at risk by predatory criminals.

  9. Every single problem regarding politics, crime, etc, can be summarized with the following sentence: “Invent an idiot-proof device (or system), and they’ll invent a better idiot.”

    Human beings, for the most part, are “Clever Idiots”. That means than when confronted with a problem with two possible solutions, they’ll invariably choose the easiest, least complicated solution even if, in the long term, it would prove to be the worst solution of the two. So when murdering someone becomes the easiest, least complicated solution to a problem, they’ll have no problem committing murder.

    What you’re trying to do is to make murder the hardest, most annoying of the possible solutions in hope that nobody will think it’s the best solution, so they try something else. And that would work wonders to prevent murders committed in the middle of a crowded mall with 10000 witnesses, but it’s about as useful in preventing all other types of murder as showing ads on TV telling people that they’re going to end up in hell if they murder someone.

    Like every single psychologist will tell you, using negative reinforcement to try to make one possible solution seem less attractive than the others doesn’t really work unless you make the other possible solutions more attractive. Remember, the issue is that the person still has a problem he/she needs to solve. And it happens to be the kind of problem where murder seems like a good solution. So simply telling people not to murder because they’ll end up in jail, only makes them work harder not to get caught.

    So unless you give people better solutions to their problems than murdering each other, you’re not going to be lowering the crime rate any time soon.

    • Right, so that explains why in other countries with better Criminal Justice Systems, people work harder not to get caught but murder rates are identical to ours, right?

      Oh, wait, in virtually every other country in the region, places with a similar culture, similar economic circumstances, similar social systems, similar job prospects, similar food, similar pop culture, similar patterns of urbanism and similar media, murder rates are a small fraction of what they are in Venezuela!

      Ermmmm…but you’re sure that has nothing at all to do with our Criminal Justice System being a catastrophe…ok!

    • It has a lot to do with our judicial system and our absolutely criminal police apparatus. Still, it has to do with more.

      Perhaps people don’t get that in posh catholic schools in Venezuela, but cocaine IS a big problem in some places, more than others. It has been a big problem in Rio and other Brazilian cities and see the murder rates there. It has been a problem in Colombia’s main cities. And if you do your homework and try to find out about cocaine routes in Latin America you will see the whole trail exactly in the countries with the higher murder rates: Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, etc…and yes, the trail spreading to Trinidad and Guyana since the early 2000.

      You cannot just tackle it with cops and jails, even if that is indeed necessary as well. Take a look at the solutions they found in Bogota. They were shooting criminals for decades before that.

  10. C´mon JC. No need for such disdain. Kepler makes a great point, and I think that they are not mutually exclusive. Remember the Metro de Caracas back in its heyday? Remeber how people would not pollute, would not even sware and would gracefully even give up their seats to the elderly and such? That display of great civility made it an island of civilisation inside Caracas. Of course we need cops, and judges, and investigators and prisons and funds all troughout, but we should not forget to add the carrot along with the stick.
    If this is indeed a civil war, then we have to win the war for the hearts and minds as well. we want people to “want” to be good, and not just afraid of the consequences of being bad. Throw some incentives out there. Libraries and hospitals could go a long way towards establishing a foothold for civilisation inside those god-forsaken barrios.

    • Empirical question: Are barrios with a working Barrio Adentro module less violent than those without?

      How about those with working sports fields and teams?

      I don’t really know the answer to those…but it’d be interesting to find out.

  11. Here’s a thought: In this case the “Stick” (of carrot and stick fame) of going to prison, is mighty expensive and difficult to implement. As Quico explains in his post an efficient criminal justice system is not something easy (or cheap) to set up, there are too many moving pieces and conflicting priorities.

    On the other hand, a low fruit to pick (and achieve visible results fairly quickly) might be to offer a carrot as part of the Conditional Cash Transfer program.

    If most crimes are committed by men ages 18-34 (Making up #s here) then give those men a considerable amount of cash for: 1. Staying out of trouble (as in not being convicted of a crime), 2. Holding a job, etc…

    If you are convicted of a crime (any crime) you automatically lose your eligibility to participate in the CCTP for life, like you do your right to vote today.

    The stick (going to prison) is still there as a potential punishment for your crimes, but the removal of the carrot is added to the equation. You are adding a very powerful disincentive to crime at a reasonable cost and low level of complexity.

    That should create an interesting dilemma for a potential thug.

    • You can make it into something more respectable.
      I use the example of Miguel Peña, but it is basically the same in Caracas and elsewhere.
      The main jobs those people have in said parish and in Libertador (Carabobo) are construction jobs and vigilante jobs and stuff like that in Northern Valencia or San Diego. There is only so much for that. Those people spend a lot of time in buses trying to get to work there. Try to be standing in two shitty buses to go from Southern Valencia to a construction in Prebo or Camoruco. I know a few of them. Then they go home as soon as they can because when the sun sets, it is shooting time in Miguel Pena and Tocuyito (where we have one of Venezuela’s infamous jail, Campo Carabobo and one of the worst and largest landfils of Venezuela).
      Those are the lucky ones…or the ones who go to the Plaza Bolivar to collect some money for a “bequita”.

      Imagine instead the government started to offer some jobs in construction and else improving their areas, not just collecting rubbish, but actually building schools, parks, etc.

      The problem right now is that in the best case scenario, the amigo of a mayor gets the project and most of the money and let’s some people clean a street and pave 20 metres…and in the worst case scenario (Chavistas puros) they just keep the money.

    • Pixar,

      You are ignoring the nature of the criminal mind here.This might work for some non violent petty criminals, but it would do nothing to motivate the truly disturbed, who murder and rape.

      If criminals had the same personality make-up as we do,which would imply the same basic motivations and desires , they would not be criminals.It is highly dangerous and does not correlate to psychological findings to put everyone in the same category.Even within normal people there are big differences.I for one would never accept a cash hand out unless I were starving and had children to feed,but there are many normal people who would.

      In order to solve complicated problems, we have to to see differences as well as similarities.We have to accept that it is unfortunate but true that so far we have no cure for the criminal mind and we need to separate them from others to protect the innocent.Making a list of priorities is basic here.First things first.Many Venezuelans seem to have trouble with this task of ordering priorities.

      Innocence deserves more protection than does criminality.It is the same operating principle behind our need to protect children.It is the innocence of children that give them first priority and it is the innocence of mature adults that we have to protect first as well.

      • Completely off subject, but: Am I the only one who finds the statement ‘many Venezuelans seem to have trouble with this task of ordering priorities.’ offensive?

        Name a society that doesn’t? ‘Humanity’ would have been a smarter choice but perhaps your self proclaimed mastery of the English language has the unintended consequence of allowing you to take too many linguistic liberties 😉

        On subject now: perhaps it would not dissuade the mentally ill from committing atrocious crimes but it would help his/her piers conciliate with the fact that someone has been taken to prison. The barrio mentality of us v. them also has to be changed and Pixar’s proposal seems to attack that problem at least.

  12. Here’s an example of why I think the emphasis on the “environment” is misplaced.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/1025/Medellin-once-epicenter-of-Colombia-s-drug-war-fights-to-keep-the-peace

    This CSM story is about Medellin, how local governments transformed the barrios by creating public spaces, libraries and all that. It also coincided with lowering crime rates, but the article makes it sound more like the lower rates were a consequence of investing in the communities.

    Turns out: crime rates in Medellin are soaring. Really soaring. Is it that the beautiful parks, libraries, and commercial areas have disappeared?

    No. It’s gang warfare, and it’s flaring up again.

    In fact, hidden in the middle of the article, you sort of find the truth:

    “While increased security and local planning played a role, a bigger reason for reduced violence was that former paramilitaries began to demobilize in 2003 and made a truce to gain legitimacy during dialogue with the government.”

    “The groups never disbanded, however, which allowed for the recent flare-up in violence.”

    After the article has spent entire paragraphs praising the local government for parks and libraries, it gets to the important stuff: how gang warfare went down, and how it’s going back up again. It’s a shame that’s not the main story here.

    As I said – parks and libraries are nice, and they certainly help, but law and order is key here.

    • I am not saying they will drop their guns when they see a library from where they can borrow all Harry Potter’s books. It needs to be a comprehensive process: send cops, send order, but at the same time keep them busy building something that is sustainable and durable. When I say “sustainable” I don’t mean trees, even if a couple of them would be good. I mean building some centro médico, some little school, using that kind of stuff to generate some little business there with empanadas and perhaps some other that becomes a repair shop and and. Don’t just send the cops and expect them to wait watching TV until the right investment situation is rife somewhere else for companies and jobs to pop up.

    • I am with JC on this one. To stop the war you don’t need libraries. Right now we need a crack down on crime. I think I have used the term before, I don’t want to repeat myself, but a lot of the criminals are sociopaths, they don’t kill because they have a problem to solve or because they are poor, they do it because they can.

      Parallel to the crack down we need some sort of emergency plan to expedite trials, a massive gun recovery and a tough stance on corruption.

      I know this is not an easy problem, but this goverment is not even trying to solve it (I have always believed that’s because Chavez counts on armed groups to come to his rescue if he is ever ousted). With a goverment that gives a damn about it and works in an orchestrated way, I think we could see changes faster than we dare hope.

  13. Murder has become a preferred way to solve disputes. Disputes involve legitimate business disputes and criminal activity disputes(for example drugs and crooked syndicalism) as well as neighborhood rows. It is relatively unlikely that you will be caught and tried for murder. Jails are still horrendous.

    The troubles a criminal might incur for committing murder are not that much greater than those they might find for trafficking drugs, smuggling other items or stealing/burglarizing property. They would end in exactly the same jails. So why not kill?

    I agree that murder and violent crime should be punished harshly because a threshold is crossed when you do deadly violence. The dead cannot be brought back. In fact I think that intentional murder should be a one way ticket out of society forever; pick some not-nice equivalent of Devil’s Island and put them there.

    The question is, why the rest of offenses should be punished just as harshly? Why should we put addicts and smugglers, even robbers, alongside actual murderers? Why should we treat people who have done something delinquent alongside real criminals?

    Why should we even bother to pursue certain activities like growing psychoactive plants, if they are not violent?

    Reserve the stick for people who deserve to be beaten with it.

  14. Hey guys!

    You’re mixing up the short-term and the long-term measures to fight crime, and they are very different.

    Currently, Venezuela needs to apply very short-term (I’d say crash-term) measures to barely manage the crime wave. AFTER THAT, other important measures must also be taken. Therefore:

    a) I believe that the proposed full overhaul of the justice system proposed in this post is a must.
    b) Let’s start by doing a little more emphasis on police expansion, equipment and training than at the other parts of the system. To start, strong deterrence is needed.
    c) The gun control laws at Venezuela are relatively tough, the problem here (as in almost all other areas) is lack of enforcement.
    d) Some crimes must have their jail terms highly increased, in particular: Murder, rape, abduction, having an illegal gun, using an illegal gun to commit any crime, and corruption by members of the justice system.
    e) In Venezuela the death penalty would surely do more hurt than good, but life in prison without parole must be seriously considered.

    Once these measurements are in place, long-term crime-control measurements must also be developed, like:

    f) Empowering poor women on family-control issues.
    g) Improving education standards and facilities.
    h) Improving living conditions on depressed areas.

    And from here, a long, long list of good deeds…

    • I can understand the sentiment, Dago, but stop and think. There is zero spare prison capacity in Venezuela right now. None. Jails are filled to the gills. Your added cops are going to be catching people they have no place to jail.

      Why are the jails full? Because the courts are so sclerotic, that people spend years on end waiting for a trial. In fact, over half of the people in prison in Venezuela are AWAITING TRIAL…and that’s not counting the thousands that might easily have been convicted if it wasn’t because every single prosecutor in Venezuela has a backlog of several hundred expedientes waiting to go.

      When you get to the nitty gritty of it you start to grasp why coordinated investment is needed. With multiple bottlenecks in place already, any overhaul that doesn’t attack on several fronts at once just exacerbates other pre-existing bottlenecks. In these circumstances, just hiring more cops will lead to nothing beyond more extra-judicial killings.

  15. Cost of building prisons:

    http://www.pottsmerc.com/articles/2009/02/19/news/srv0000004735038.txt

    $350 million for a prison for 4,000 inmates. Roughy $87,500 per inmate.

    http://realcostofprisons.org/blog/archives/2006/06/theres_a_boomin.html

    $70 million for the cost of building a prison for 1,500 inmates. Roughly $46,000 per inmate.

    Let’s take the hig-end estimate for Venezuela, $87,500. Let’s suppose that, with our current murder rate, and with the current over-population of our prisons, you need 10,000 more prison spaces.

    Tally for the construction costs alone: $875 million.

    • Now we’re talkin’…

      To get to the prison-places-per-head-of-population rate of Brazil, though, we’re talking more like 50,000-60,000 extra prison places needed. A fourfold-increase in the current capacity.

      So 4-5 billion dollars…

    • There is also alleviation:

      -Find alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders.

      -Degrade some offenses to misdemeanors and exact fines or community service.

      -Stop enforcing narcotics possession laws.

    • What I like about these numbers is how they show the level of impunity there exists in Venezuela. If Venezuela had a justice system like Brazil, 50,000 people who are currently on the street would be in jail, where they deserve to be. That’s a lot of criminals roaming the streets!

  16. – How many picos and palas are needed, for the thousands of inmates locked up awaiting trial and doing sweet FA, to fix every road in the land?

    In this, I am both with the editors and with Kepler. Crime levels in Venezuela are extraordinarily high for many reasons, chief among which the confidence of a given thug that he can commit a crime KNOWING that he can get away with murder, if he pays the right people.

    Secondly, why are crimes being committed? As I’ve said elsewhere, if Venezuela has become that paradise that fucking Wilpert and Weisbrot would have us believe, how come crime levels have shot through the roof since Chavez came to power? Forget about what’s happening in other countries for a minute, and take a look at our own past. Notice that when the State started relaxing policing, administering justice, and punishing methods, post 1958, la vaina se volvio una guachafita.

    I wouldn’t place entirely on drug consumption, at the thug level, but rather at the non thug end user level. MOre demand, bigger market, more money to be earned…

    Gun control needs to happen. Cash for guns needs to happen. Hefty penalties for carrying a gun without permit needs to happen. For in a place where everyone carries a gun, and knows that it can shoot anybody without much ado, it is insane to even consider a policy without doing away with the very thing with which crimes are committed in most cases. Let them do their crimes without guns, or with a substantially lower number of guns, while fixing administration of justice. Do like Chavez, he picks his target randomly. We don’t need a police force of 3 million to make exemplary cases of the few that are unlucky enough to get caught with a gun without permit in redadas de barrio.

    As per prison capacity, I’ve always thought it would be a good deterrent to build prisons in tierra llana, middle of nowhere kind of thing, similar to the supermax facilities in the US. If criminal have the balls to do the crime, they may as well be prepared to spend the rest of their lives doing time, in extremely harsh conditions.

  17. By itself, ‘Mano Dura’ is actually a very effective tactic. As a citizen of a country that regularly vies with Venezuela for the top murder rate in the Americas, I can tell you that more cops and harsher penalties make me feel a little more at ease. However, it’s not as easy as simply building more prisons and hiring more police. An impoverished nation usually has impoverished institutions, and these facilitate criminality through corruption and incompetence. Hiring more judges that will spring drug traffickers for a hefty payoff is a terrible waste of tax money. Likewise, police commit crimes on their off time or look the other way and receive payments because their salary only goes so far. Cops in richer countries don’t shake down motorists for pocket change, whereas in Latin America this is commonplace due to the fact that no institution works as it was intended to. While I agree that beefing up the judicial system will put a stop to the complete anarchy in Venezuela, there has to be real political will in addition to some sort of accountability system which just doesn’t seem to exist right now.

  18. Reduce the murder rate in Venezuela. Simple, take all the police, national guard, army and all the secret police units that work mostly to keep the central government in power and have them fight crime. Not just shootum up murderers but the big ones that deal drugs, sell rotten food or extort money from people who try to live on a dollar a day!

  19. Venezuelans should pay attention to the fact that 30% of the birthrate is due to teenage mothers. Too many Ik children are being born in Venezuela.
    If you don’t know what I am talking about take a look at a book called the Natural History of Love. The children of the dispossessed Ik grew up in utter abandonment for at least two generations to become people who look human but are not psychologically structured like normal humans. Among the Ik it was normal to see a new mother and her family make merry if a predator ate her newborn baby saying “good, she (the lioness) will be fatter when we hunt and eat her”. Remember that book Y Salimos a Matar Gente? The friars make the same point about children growing up in modern Venezuelan barrios. Their conclusion was not very christian: Ik children in Venezuela are simply not redeemable by the state or even by the Church. Once your children become monsters, they stay that way forever, as the Ik discovered after they were relocated. Though I seem to recall that a strong love affair during the critical adolescent period can have a positive impact.
    Let’s face it: the availability of abortion seems to cause a drop in crime according to studies in the U.S.
    However the impact of abortion availability is visible after about 15? years. Something like that. Too long for you?

    • I read the 62 comments and I was missing this point. While (for some) a taboo thema, there is evidence that the availability of *anticonception* methods (and sexual education, of course) (abortion is only a secondary option!) reduce the teenage motherhood and subsequently the violence rate. (I think that the detrimental effects of teenage motherhood on the childs and mothers alone should be enough to act against it).

    • I agree. This is also a point María Corina Machado was mentioning in her speech. Early in the year I posted about this: the news on “primer caraqueño”, “primer valenciano”, “primer m irandino” caught my eye specially because the vast majority of those mothers were underage and had already more children.

      We need to have a strong sexual education programmes everywhere.
      Here neither the Catholic church nor Chavez will help much, for different reasons.
      The abortion issue is, in my opinion, not the real thing in Venezuela. You won’t control births like that. You do need young people learning about birth control methods AND you need girls to learn somehow to “do it” never under pressure. Yeah, it is insticts, but I have the impression Machista pressure goes a long way to rushing the time when young girls have sex in Venezuela.

  20. You may not need to do anything to see crime figures drop. I would argue that once fat-boy leaves and takes his rhetoric with him crime would reduce significantly. Quite apart from Chavez general lack of interest security infrastructure and ruinous acts on Venezuelan institutions, he has been actively promoting more criminality through his polarized discourse by offering tacit approval to criminals (i.e. “If you are hungry, it’s ok to steal” etc.). Reducing murder by 50% in 3 years post-Chavez could be a weak target.

  21. A way to help pay the cost of maintaining prisoners and create a useful role for criminals:

    The prison system here in the US has become way too parasitic.Some time ago prisoners would work on the roads, sew clothes, and generally contribute to society through useful labor.Prisoners should not be the burden of the society. They should work in the prison to pay for their own costs. They should work to pay for what they eat. They should work to pay for what they wear. They should work to pay for all their daily expenses. They should be responsible for their own behavior.

    I would like to see the prisoners work again. Perhaps we could bring back the old chain gang as this would also serve as a deterrent for potential criminals. The ACLU needs to understand that though prisoners are people too, they are people that owe a debt to society and should have to pay that debt through hard labor.Actually it is BECAUSE they are human beings, we should expect something out of them.

    My daughter in law is attorney general for the State of North Carolina and she has worked for years with the prison population.I was shocked to find out that they not only get free health care but also many of them spend their time suing the State for frivolous happenstance , and as a consequence, are a major reason for the bankrupting of our State.

    Venezuela should take heed, and make the prison population become productive members of society.

  22. Half Empty,

    No I am not thinking of that( punitive labor).Punishment is being in jail.I don’t consider work a punishment.

    I believe they need to work to pay for their own upkeep.Here in NC they are spoiled rotten,and bankrupting the State.Why should criminals be given free health care and free food when others have to work?Why should they be allowed to make frivolous law suits against the State.The lawyers who defend the State are terrified of retaliation.

    I have friends who teach meditation to prisoners.They are involved with the spiritual lives of those shattered beings.This is good.But it is not good to remember that they have hurt society and we need to make them become more responsible.

    Perhaps the Florida system is working out.You tell us more.

  23. thank you, Quico, for your rational, balanced and careful analysis of a topic that needs better attention. Post equilibrium, it appears, brings out the best in commenters.

  24. That would work as intended as long as prison is reserved for the really serious crimes that are undoubtedly, crimes, not because there is a law, but because they violently smash the rights of other citizens. The loss of voting and labor rights as well as freedom is fine with me when the culprit has not respected other people’s rights. For example, with organized crime, extortion, kidnapping, robbery, home invasion, assault and/or manslaughter/murder, attempted or not.

    When say,drug possession gets to be comparable, sentence-wise to manslaughter, there is an ethical, legal, practical and logistics problem problem. The extremely high incarceration rate of the U.S. is telling in that regard.

    For my part, I would completely oppose to have any one of my cents used to lock drug pushers/consumers, most smalltime fraudsters (a hefty fine, reparations and public exposure could work much better) and tax evaders. And would refuse to have anything to do with it. Particularly when a violent and dangerous criminal will not be locked because finite resources are misspent.

  25. Welcome post by JC, supplied with a refreshingly new source of good news, the Chilean case. From my standpoint, as a de facto “alien” who lives near Los Angeles, our former chief of police Bratton reduced the crime rate to an amazing new low. From a gang ridden city to cleaner downtown, less graffity, and entire cities where gang members became invisible, at least during the day. In my own little city (90,000 people) there was only one murder in 2009, not a single serious scare from Sangra, the San Gabriel Valley gang, and lower counts in every single crime index. I got lost some months ago around the hills of Highland Park, and was pleasantly surprised not to find any graffiti, no cholos hanging around corners, and even the little group in the dead end street seemed inocuous (they even gave me directions to get back to the “galleries street”). Even in Mayor Villaraigosa’s East L.A., where his office is, things are looking on the brighter side, and it was thanks to Bratton, for I never once found Villaraigosa at his desk, his office was always empty, whenever any of our reporters dropped by unannounced.
    There were some cases of excessive use of force by the cops, some quite lamentable, but the over all effect was good, for L.A. and suburbs. Bratton’s prior experience as “cleaning man” was none other but the very combat zone of New York City.
    His formula pretty much the same: more cops, better paid, nice cars and motorcycles, more respectful interaction with the community so as to gain their trust and their crime tips, a hard hand with gangs and drug deals, a police force that is visible everywhere constantly, and elimination of those units like the Rampart one which were packed with crooks regardless of their ethnic affiliation.
    As my friends and relatives tell me, when they come back from Venezuela, its main problems are crime and drug related crime (synonyms).

  26. Racial justice in the prison system is a key factor to consider: in the US, the prisons are packed with minorities, whereas the whites that commit the same crimes are less often taken to trial and much less often incarcerated (I don’t have my statistics at hand, having just tossed out the journal I was reading). The so called “Russian” maffia, which has cornered the Ecstasy market, enjoys a higher degree of judicial protection than any other ethnic group. I have witnessed, both at USC (Los Angeles) and Duke (N. C.), how black students are thrown in jail under the “3 Strikes You’re Out) laws, for something as writing a bad check, stealing a pack of cigarettes, and being accused of “rape” by 2 white girls (who later on recanted on their own admission that well they were all a little high when he convinced to go upstairs and have some fun); he’s still rotting in jail after 15 years, while the girls post their sexual antics on Facebook.
    Another Latino student did six months at Twin Towers, our state prison, under the so called “Anti Terrorist” laws, for screaming at his girlfriend at her job place, when he found out she was sleeping with his best friend. I accompanied his mother to prison. He has not been able to find a job. The feminist judge who sent him to prison, got many browny points.
    Meanwhile, which other minor crimes perpetrated by whites or something akin, are going on? Well, for starts there are crimes of LESA PATRIA (as in spionage, Pollard, Perle) still going on, and our likudite ex senator Lieberman (the one who wants to palestinize US) wants to implement the “kill switch” on our internet access, just in case the natives get restless if they see the bloodbath that is going to take place in Egypt today after Hilary said that the torture general Mubarak appointed as his successor IS TO BE Egypt’s new ruler in the “transition” process… 30 mo’ years?

  27. No US comments here Francisco? You do not object to Pillette’s comments on North Carolina, that nice confederate state. Cherry-picking, but yes it’s your turf

  28. Any system’s throughput is constrain by the largest/bigger bottleneck. Theory of ocnstrains (Read “the Goal”) states, identify this bottleneck, change the ocnditions for its dyanmics (release the constrain) and the system will find a new equilibrium, i.e. a new #1 Constrain. bottleneck. Repeat approach.

    The problem in Venezuela is that nothing has been done in the last 12 years besides embezzleling and saqueo. The 12 years before that, not much either. Quein le pone la cascabel al gato? To know waht need to be done is one thing, to have the political will, and power, to carry it out something different.

    Regards,
    LuisF

  29. @Luis, esa pregunta se la hizo Cervantes en El coloquio de los perros, y recientemente se la vuelve a hacer la película Wall Street

    http://www.traileraddict.com/clip/wall-street-2/piece-of-work

    I was horror-struck, when I saw that the shepherds themselves were the wolves, and that the flock was plundered by the very men who had the keeping of it. As usual, they made known to their master the mischief done by the wolf, gave him the skin and part of the carcase, and ate the rest, and that the choicest part, themselves. As usual, they had a scolding, and the dogs a beating. Thus there were no wolves, yet the flock dwindled away, and I was dumb, all which filled me with amazement and anguish. O Lord! said I to myself, who can ever remedy this villany? Who will have the power to make known that the defence is offensive, the sentinels sleep, the trustees rob, and those who guard you kill you? (Colloquy of the Dogs_ Cervantes)

Leave a Reply