Making the probation department into a halfway decent parent

Why HOPE isn’t just a deterrence program.

Glenn Loury and I discuss crime and punishment. I’m trying to understand the dramatic success of swift-and-certain sanctions regimes such as HOPE, and coming to think that “deterrence” isn’t really the right category.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

7 thoughts on “Making the probation department into a halfway decent parent”

  1. This seems of a piece with what The Last Psychiatrist seems to believe. Good parenting is, in part, about being consistent in your discipline. It’s not the type of discipline necessarily, but how it is meted out. Is it meted out for clearly laid out reasons? And in consistent fashion? Or is it meted out randomly and without any regard for the offense? The goal is to help the child develop a super-ego that will govern behaviour. So the goal of the state here, is yes, to be a good parent, to help the person develop a super ego and teach them to govern their own behavior. If you let someone get away with constant parole violations, and then send them away for another year or two based on something small like a shoplifting charge, or failing a drug test, that doesn’t train the person to behave differently; it teaches them is that the state is irrational, unpredictable, unreliable, and capricious in its assertion of power. And that would be a fair lesson to learn in that case. To the extent we’re going to use the state apparatus to govern behaviour, it would, I hope, be done in a fashion that ultimately encourages people to govern their own selves.

  2. Great conversation. I think the Focault/Sade observation is brilliant, as was the observation that criminals were all victims first. In my classroom, I routinely have to mete out “punishments” to kids who were never given “the gift of self-control”, and so it feels terribly unfair to cause them even more anguish. But in the end, it is for their own good, as well as the rest of us. The larger problem is whether there is actually a support system that is there for them, that believes in them, on the other side. But as you point out, this is only part of a larger response that needs to happen, so that the self-efficacy is built from the beginning.

  3. “halfway decent parent” – Exactly right. When I was working in substance abuse with adjudicated teens (and adults), it became clear as day to an object relations oriented therapist that what we were doing – myself, the courts, probation departments – was re-parenting. The best results I got was not through the mandated CBT programs, but through the parenting groups (where I ditched the standard drug abuse horses**t and worked on parenting skills and building the relationship) and intensive individual therapy, where again I eschewed the ‘drug treatment’ playbook and worked on building life skills and ego strength. Drug abuse is a symptom, not a cause (in terms of core functioning); that this essential truth has been inverted in treatment and cultural perspective is itself a crime.

    In my opinion this is the frame (re-parenting), the lens that must be adopted if there is to be any hope of showing lasting results in changing destructive behavior. This includes adults. I don’t know how ready our society is to drop millennia of cultural programming and recognize the long reach of childhood into adult behavior, but for adolescents it’s a no brainer. Reading the research on HOPE was incredibly satisfying, in that it validated my perceptions of how badly we misappropriate the resources of society’s behavior response system (i.e., legal system). Hillary Clinton was right about community, and the necessity of community engagement. Maybe HOPE and 24/7 will catalyze this necessary shift. I did my best to change my little corner.

  4. “To no man will we .. delay justice” – Magna Carta. Mediaeval criminal justice tended to be expeditious anyway, but I’m wondering if positing speed as a value of justice is original to Anglo-Norman law. Is it in the Pandects of Justinian say?

    1. I left my Justinian in my other jacket, but the Sixth Amendment orders that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.”

      1. Ecclesiastes 8:11- “because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” Or a more modern paraphrase of the same scripture from the GLT translation says “when a sentence against a crime isn’t carried out quickly, people are encouraged to commit crimes.”

  5. Here are people working a similar vein but from the other end, Mark. Check out David Kirp’s NYT op-ed piece from yesterday, “The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools.”

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