Saturday, October 27, 2007

Is Blue Crush Working?

One of the local TV stations asks this question "Is Blue Crush Working?" as a teaser for their news story. They interview some people who live in the "war zone", then the director and district attorney.

The answer is yes, Blue Crush is doing what it was intended to do. There have been and there continues to be a large number of criminals taken off the streets. The issue is the REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT OFFENDER. Director Godwin and Bill Gibbons both understand the issues, but the current law is not having the intended effect. The current law allows the repeaters to continue to repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Until there is a major restructuring of the sentencing guidelines, we will continue to be plagued with a crime problem.

The ONLY way change will come about is if people get motivated and start pressuring the legislature to change things. As I've said for a long time, the repeaters are the ones who are causing Memphis to be a crime center. Roughly less than 1 percent of the population commits 90% of the crime. A sentencing matrix is sorely needed for several reasons.

The matrix should be used to reinforce the idea of a progressive discipline system. The criminals would learn the matrix, just like they have learned the current system. They know what they will get for most any offense. They know that most offenses are negotiated downward to a lesser sentence. The matrix would somewhat nullify that because the second offense would accumulate points that mandate an enhanced punishment. Currently, a prostitute who is convicted of prostitution the 100th time gets the same penalty as one who is a "first offender". Using a sentencing matrix would deal with this issue, so that someone who had been convicted that many times would have been a convicted felon because after (n) convictions, any additional charges could be accompanied with an escalation to Class E felony status. This way, the repeaters will learn to stop what they are doing, or move to a more criminal friendly environment.


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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pardon me, Mr. Harvey, but as someone who works every day at 201, what you say is simply not true.

The laws are in place that do allow for offenders to serve MUCH more time than the amount to which they are usually sentenced, as a result of "No Deals Bill" Gibbons' policies.

Basically, unless someone used a gun in the perpetration of a crime, the office of the District Attorney General is eager to make a deal to have them right back out on the street. This applies to people who commit theft crimes, as well as most any others, so long as no gun was involved.

If Mr. Gibbons wants to keep Repeat Repeat Repeat offenders off the streets, maybe he should start by giving them the maximum time allowed by law on, let's say, maybe the second, or third conviction.

We dont need tougher laws. We need a District Attorney General who puts offenders in jail for the maximum time allowed by law in all cases except "victimless" crimes.

What good would it do if the legislature allowed longer sentences when the District Attorney cuts deals allowing theives, robbers, carjackers, assulters, and most all other violent criminals to do the minimum?

John Harvey said...

As someone who works at 201, I have spoken the truth. The DA deals with volume and they weigh the cases based on how likely it is they will get a conviction.
A lot of what gets prosecuted has to do with the particulars of the case.

You said, "If Mr. Gibbons wants to keep Repeat Repeat Repeat offenders off the streets, maybe he should start by giving them the maximum time allowed by law on, let's say, maybe the second, or third conviction."

Mr Gibbons has nothing to do with the sentence, other than to make some recommendations in some cases. The judges are the ones who hand down sentences. The DA makes recommendations on plea bargains, but the judge has to sanction it and adjudicate it.

My solution would increase the penalty for every conviction. That would nullify plea bargaining. If a person had been arrested 2 times, say for shoplifting, under my proposal; they would have been released on probation the first conviction, but would have likewise accumulated points. The second arrest would net them some jail time, even if it was only one day. The third time, they would get maybe 10 days. So you see, any conviction would automatically escalate the punishment. You couldn't get convicted on a 5th offense and get a lesser sentence than you got before. This is how we can stop the madness!

It's a simple "applied Psychology" system that has been proven to work in the lab! It will also work in the real world. We just need someone to offer up the bill and then get people behind it so the governor puts his signature on it. The alternative, is to keep doing things that don't change people's behavior, but actually facilitate a life of crime.

I appreciate your concern, but trust me, the DA isn't the one we should focus on. The law MUST be written so that it becomes systematic. We already do that in the case of DUI arrests. The penalty for continuing to drive drunk escalates with every conviction. I think ANY conviction should be held against you. If a person wants to be a criminal, they will have to pay the price for doing so in TN under my proposal. I'm betting they will move elsewhere, or stop their criminal conduct.

This has already been exemplified in the "trigger-lock" program. Crooks understand that if they are caught with a gun, there is a different protocol, which carries mandatory jail time. My proposal just carries that idea to it's logical conclusion.

Kristin said...

I came late to this blog comment, but here's my recent experience with criminals, sentencing and the judicial conundrum we have.

My neighbor's grandson(47 years old) recently stole a family member's brand new car and the identities of the couple who owned it. He got caught after attempting to sell the car to buy drugs(I hear the dealer actually mentioned it to a beat cop but I can't confirm that)and he was arrested with an accomplice. 5 months later he, the couple and the attorneys brokered a deal. The attorneys (prosecutor and P.D.) claimed that if the couple would focus on the perpetrator(neighbor's grandson), and drop the weak case on the accomplice, he'd get a stiffer sentence. All parties agreed to the deal...a deal which was assured to the couple to include a 10 year prison sentence given this guy's previous criminal convictions. When it got to the judge however, he got 8 years probation. Needless to say, they were more than a little upset. In fact, they feel betrayed by the judge and prosecutors.

This man had been arrested nearly 50 times. He's been convicted of all manner of crimes, felony and misdemeanor. However, for some reason, he skirts prison time in favor of probation ALMOST EVERY TIME. He always violates, gets a bench warrant and is let out 4 hours later on that too....sigh.

Mr. Harvey, you're correct. The police can arrest them, the prosecutors can suggest a sentence, but it's the judge who chooses what the criminal receives. When they finally decide to start locking up the thugs is when we might see a dent on our local crime figures.

John Harvey said...

Thanks for your comments Kristin. Too often the laws leave too much discretion. I think there should be a little discretion, especially for first offenders, but not so much for these repeaters. A sentencing matrix would obviate the current madness because it would require a stiffer sentence than the previous one.