Category Archives: crime and punishment

Why “defunding the police” won’t work

Since the summer, there have been increasing efforts to “defund the police” (DTP), both in cities like Seattle and Minneapolis, and on many college campuses. This mantra can mean different things: reducing the money given to police departments, paring the size of the force, diverting some police funds to social workers who could do some […]

Trump presides over a spate of federal executions, including three in his lame-duck period

Executions are prescribed by the laws of some states (25 out of 50, to be exact), but also by the federal government for federal crimes. The federal government can execute you if you commit more than 60 crimes, including treason, terrorism, espionage, using a weapon of mass destruction, first-degree murder, murder of government officials, some […]

The humane prisons of Finland

I’ve maintained that becoming a determinist leads many people to promote criminal-justice and prison reform. This comes from realizing that people have no choice in their actions—including committing crimes—and so criminals should be treated as if they were broken machines to be fixed (if possible) rather than as “people who made the wrong choice.” Readers […]

The Breonna Taylor mystery

UPDATE: My Chicago colleague Brian Leiter has a short post on his website about the indictments, which he thinks constitute a fair resolution. He blames the death of Taylor not on the involved cops, but on the system, which includes guns, a history of racism that leads to poverty and crime, and no-knock warrants. A […]

Steve Bannon among four people indicted in New York for fraud

Athough Steve Bannon was scheduled to speak here a while back, that never took place, though the University refused to ban him. Now it looks as if he won’t be here for a long while. Hot off the press (click on screenshot for details): Bannon, of course, was Trump’s former campaign manager. He and three […]

The insanity defense: is it sane? Thoughts from the Leopold and Loeb case.

I’m reading the book below, which I found in a free book box, about the famous Leopold and Loeb murders of 1924.  The murders took place in Hyde Park/Kenwood, just a few blocks from where I sit. Nathan Leopold (left on the cover below) and Richard Loeb, once University of Chicago students, 19 and 18 […]

The complications of assessing racism in police departments

In a few previous posts (e.g., here and here), prompted by claims of African-American linguist John McWhorter, I examined the various biases and difficulties that plague attempts to see if police kill black suspects at a higher rate than whites. This new article in FiveThirtyEight, though not providing an answer to the problem, shows further […]

McWhorter on police violence

Although John McWhorter, a professor of English and linguistics at Columbia University, is also a contributing editor at The Atlantic, his new essay on police violence was not published there. Rather, it’s in Quillette. Given that in length, style, and quality (it’s very well written and makes cogent points) it would be suitable for The […]

Calls to literally abolish the police

There’s been some discussion about what the demand for “defunding the police” really means. To some it means cutting police budgets in ways to minimize their brutality, and the example often used is their acquisition of discarded equipment from the U.S. military, or more training in social work by cops. To others it means deeply […]

All officers in George Floyd murder now to face charges, with Derek Chauvin’s charge raised to second-degree murder

Senator Amy Klobuchar tweeted this out: This is the on-line story: Attorney General Keith Ellison to elevate charges against officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck; also charging other 3 involved | Star Tribune — Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) June 3, 2020 And the Minnesota Star-Tribune article says this: Attorney General Keith Ellison plans to […]