Guest Post: Professor Dwayne Dixon and the death of Heather Heyer

Note: Today we have a guest post.

On August 12, 2017, James Fields’s car plowed into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer. This is well-known, but why did Fields run into the crowd (and the car in front of him)? Was Fields trying to exact vengeance on the crowd for ruining his day, or was he fleeing from a threat in a state of panic?

Fields has been charged with first degree murder, meaning the prosecution will argue that the killing was willful, deliberate, and premeditated. However, evidence has been uncovered indicating that Fields drove the car into the crowd because he feared for his life.

In this video, Dwayne Dixon–speaking on October 24, 2017 at the Carr Center at Harvard–claims to have waved off Fields with a rifle shortly before the crash. During a question and answer section, Dixon elaborates, stating that he “raised his rifle” at Fields in order to get him to “get the fuck out of here”.

In January 2018, Dixon posted a similar statement to his Facebook, which was later deleted.

Many people and cars were attacked that day in Charlottesville, including a car in the following video just 15 minutes before Fields’s crash.

The crowd of counterprotestors was hostile to Fields, and when he was arrested the police noticed a yellow stain on his shirt that smelled of urine. Fields may have feared that if he stopped among this crowd, he could end up like Reginald Denny.

Here is the full, 2 hour video of Dwayne Dixon – You Don’t Stand By and Let People Get Hurt: Antifascism after Charlottesville – posted by Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. From the video’s description:

What does this time of escalating political discord demand of us—our ethics, our social selves, and our bodies? How can communities protect themselves from racist terror when the state is indifferent or hostile? From the perspective of his experiences with Redneck Revolt in Charlottesville, VA, and Durham, NC, anthropologist Dwayne Dixon discusses armed self-defense and the need for a diversity of tactics in anti-fascist resistance.

—-
DWAYNE DIXON is a lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. His research examines the role of media, urban space, and global imaginaries in the lives of young people in contemporary Japan. He is currently studying the ways small arms and their optics are incorporated into bodies through prosthetic practices with specific attention to the influence of the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on firearms theory and training. He is a long-time activist and part of the Durham 15 who are facing charges in North Carolina for removing a Confederate statue and for armed self-defense in the face of the KKK.

Why is Harvard inviting speakers to talk about violent opposition to “fascists”, particularly one who may have illegally contributed to Heyer’s death?

Under the Virginia law on Brandishing, “Pointing, holding, or brandishing a firearm… in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured,” is a class-1 misdemeanor. If it happens within 1,000 feet of a school, it’s a felony.

Raising his rifle at Fields in order to get Fields to “get the fuck out of there” (in fear) easily violates this law, and it would be a felony violation as Dixon appears to have encountered Fields near Market and 4th, within 2 blocks of a school and well within 1000 feet of it.

Less than two blocks from the apparent encounter with Dixon, Fields crashed into the crowd near 4th and Main.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, if in the process of committing a felony, you cause someone else to die, (whether you intended to kill them or not,) you have committed “felony homicide”:

There are further reports that Fields’s car was attacked by the crowd as it was driving on 4th street prior to crashing into the crowd; the banging of a flagpole onto his back bumper could have sounded like gunfire or else made him reasonably afraid he was about to be shot.

If Dixon actually pointed his rifle at Fields, and this caused Fields to fear for his life and accelerate away from the crowd that was bashing his car, crashing into Heather Heyer and the car in front of him, then Dixon committed felony homicide.

[EvX: I would like to add that if you have never had a panic attack, then you likely don’t know what it feels like. A true panic attack is not merely feeling panicky or anxious. They can induce uncontrollable physical reactions like screaming, fleeing, or hiding. For example, after hearing a loud bang, someone who survived a WWII POW camp might be found cowering under a car or desk with no idea how he got there.

So even if Fields had other options besides crashing into the people and car in front of him–like turning onto a side street or hitting the breaks–if he was truly panicking because he thought the antifa beating his car were about to shoot him, he may not have been mentally able to think or act on these possibilities.]

Why would Dixon go on camera and admit to facts that could lead to a murder charge? 5 possibilities:

  1. He’s lying and never actually pointed a gun at Fields. (Of course, it is a bad idea to lie and claim responsibility for a felony.)
  2. He doesn’t know the law and doesn’t realize that brandishing a weapon is a felony, nor does he know of felony homicide.
  3. He believes his brandishing of the rifle was justified self-defense
  4. He regards himself as a hero for chasing off a “fascist”
  5. His insufficient “theory of mind” makes him incapable of realizing that threatening Fields with a semi-automatic rifle made him afraid for his life. Dixon believes that Fields was maliciously looking for someone to harm, that he bravely chased Fields off, and then Fields attacked protesters elsewhere.

Interestingly, in order to convict someone of Felony Homicide, the state does not have to prove that the perpetrated intended to kill anyone. By contrast, in order to convict someone of First Degree Murder, the state must prove that they intended to murder someone–the law specifies thet the act must be “willful, deliberate, and premeditated.”

Further evidence against the killing being willful, deliberate, and premeditated lies in the Preliminary Hearing Transcript. The police officer testifies that Fields repeatedly said he was sorry and said that all medical assistance should be directed to people injured in the crowd rather than himself. Additionally, he appeared shocked and cried when he was told that someone died from the crash. I don’t think this is how people normally react when they intentionally kill someone.

Another point of evidence against the crash being intentional is the fact that Fields crashed into another car, which put him in danger of injury. The street is sloped, so Fields could presumably see the car below him. Had he wanted to injure protesters, he could have plowed into any of the many protesters who were better positioned.

As for Dixon, he is still a professor of “anthropology” at the University of North Carolina.

I would like to know what UNC and Harvard think about employing and endorsing a man who could be charged with felony brandishing and felony murder in the death of Heather Heyer–and why the Charlottesville police have not seen fit to investigate Dixon’s role in the crash.

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Wise Tim, Crime, and HBD: part 5/5

Okay, so we are finally coming to the end of this series. Today we are going to discuss Flaherty and Sethi’s Homicide in Black and White (pdf):

African-Americans are six times as likely as white Americans to die at the hands of a murderer, and roughly seven times as likely to murder someone. Young black men are fifteen times as likely to be murdered as young white men. This disparity is historic and pervasive, and cannot be accounted for by individual characteristics. … We argue that any satisfactory explanation must take into account the fact that murder can have a preemptive motive: people sometimes kill simply to avoid being killed. As a result, disputes can escalate dramatically in environments (endogenously) perceived to be dangerous, resulting in self-fulfilling expectations of violence for particular dyadic interactions, and significant racial disparities in rates of murder and victimization. … Differences in the manner in which the criminal justice system treats murders with victims from different groups, and differences across groups in involvement in street vice, may be sufficient to explain the size and pattern of the racial disparity.

World-Murder-Rate-Geocurrents-Map-1024x726Well, I must give this one credit for offering up a new hypothesis: black people murder each other so often because they believe that other black people are murderous and are trying to avoid being the victim by killing the other guy first.

This makes sense in a Hobbesian, Napoleon Chagnon studying Yanomamo tribesmen kind of way. (If only there existed some kind of state-run institution that had historically cut discouraged homicide by punishing murderers so that people could go about their business in the heart of American cities without fear of Amazonian jungle-style violence.)

cobiptaumaactcrThe fact that whites do not go out of their way to preemptively murder blacks to the same degree that blacks murder other blacks suggests that whites don’t think blacks are as violent as other blacks do. This is a curious implication, all things considered, but not unreasonable. Aggressively “paranoid” behavior/belief that one’s neighbors are likely to be violent toward you is probably heritable, itself a result of having ancestors whose paranoia about their neighbors enabled them to survive in a hostile, homicide-ridden environment.

Flaherty and Sethi continue:

The magnitude of the difference in murder and victimization rates far exceeds any difference in characteristics that appear to predispose people to kill and be killed: being poor, being a highschool dropout, living in a dense urban environment, or being raised in a single-parent household, for instance. Blacks are about 2.75 times as likely as whites to be poor, 2.2 times as likely to be high-school dropouts, 2.9 times as likely to live in a large city, and 2.7 times as likely to grow up in a single parent household–all ratios that are far below the observed ratios for murder victimization and offending.

Well, that’s interesting.

Moreover, the racial homicide gap is long-lasting and widespread, and is much greater in cities and among young men than in other places or among other age-gender groups. In rural areas, there is no racial disparity in murder. The homicide gap is also much larger than the racial disparity in aggravated assault–in some ways the crime closest to murder–and there is no racial disparity in aggravated assault among young men.

Oh?

Picture 4

Source: Color of Crime

Okay, so, our authors are clearly lying: blacks commit aggravated assault at 7x the rate of whites, which is not that different from their rate of 8.5x murder rate. (And, in general, the Color of Crime report demonstrates that incarceration rates reflect actual offending rates.)

crdgu1gwgaaycfbUnfortunately, the authors don’t cite any evidence to back up their claim that in rural areas, blacks and whites have equal homicide rates, but as mentioned before, this seems a little problematic, given that the entire continent of Africa has fairly low population density and still has fairly high homicide rates. And why would rural environments make white people more likely to murder each other and black people less likely? Why would cities cool whites’ murderous tempers while inflaming blacks’? Why aren’t any of the world’s most violent cities located in India or China?

Even if we are just looking at selection effects–murderous whites like living in the countryside; murderous blacks like living in cities–we still have to wonder Why?

The Wikipedia page on Statistical Correlations of Criminal Behavior doesn’t mention neighborhood density.

The Atlantic notes:

There’s a big increase in crime as density rises from rural to urban, because crime thrives on anonymity–you don’t rob your neighbors, not necessarily because you like them, but because the likelihood of being identified is very high.  In an urban environment, random assaults like Matt’s are much easier to get away with.

While researching this post, I came across some very interesting thoughts on Density and Human Behavior:

Researchers in the social sciences have long tried to explain the effects of urbanization on the human animal. Of special interest has been the observed rates of crime and deviant behavior found in cities. In the United States city crime rates are higher than suburban rates, which in turn are higher than rural rates. …

Two major theories have developed to explain the effects of density on human behavior. Wirth’s (1938) is the most common with his famous statement that size, density and heterogenity explain the effects of urban life on the human animal.  The experiments done by Milgram (1970) suggest that when people are confronted with a large number of strangers in everyday life, they tend to withdraw and take less interest in the community in order to protect themselves from overload. Wolfgang (1970), among others, suggests that urban withdrawal and anomie resulting from density explains higher urban crime rates.

Animal studies made famous by Calhoun (1962) show that crowding in the animal world results in what he calls the behavioral sink. Normal behavior and reproductive habits fail. Aggressive behavior increases when density passes a certain point as animals compete for resources. In the experience of the reviewer, those who deny any possible connection between any human behavior simply say that humans are not animals so there can be nothing learned from animal experiments. However, human animals do seem to exhibit much lower fertility rates in cities than is true in rural areas. …

Using data from the Toronto Mental Health and Stress study (Turner and Wheaton 1992), Regoeczi looks at crowding in housing using the measure of persons per room. …

There is an optimal relationship between crowding and withdrawal.  The optimal point is 1.18 persons per room. This relationship holds even when the control variables are introduced. “The threshold for aggression is identical to that for withdrawal: 1.18 persons per room. After this point, the deleterious effect of density begins to take off and increased crowding leads to more aggressive responses among individuals.”

Cabrini Green, circa 1960
Cabrini Green, circa 1960

In other words, it’s probably safe to conclude that Cabrini Green and Pruitt Igoe, despite the good intentions behind them, were inhuman hellscapes that would drive any sane person to despair.

On the other hand, Manila, Philippines, is (according to Wikipedia) the densest city in the world, at 41,500 people per square kilometer, (or 107,500 people per square mile,) and it isn’t even ranked in the top 50 most murderous cities.

So while density may cause anomie, despair, plunging birth rates, and even anime consumption, it is clearly not the only ingredient involved in making some people murder their neighbors at higher rates than other people.

The best explanation I’ve come across for why our authors might have found closer to equal crime (not murder, haven’t found that) rates in rural areas than in urban areas comes, again, from La Griffe du Lion’s Politics, Imprisonment, and Race:

We all know that African Americans are imprisoned disproportionately to their numbers in the general population. According to the last decennial census a black man was 7.4 times more likely than his white counterpart to be incarcerated. In the language I’ll use today, we would say that the disparity or incarceration ratio was 7.4. State-by-state, the figures varied widely from 3.1 to 29.3. But contrary to expectation, the highest disparity ratios turned up mostly in politically progressive states, while the smallest ratios were mostly found in conservative states. Though the numbers change a bit from year to year, this racial-political pattern of imprisonment endures. One of the questions I will answer today is, why?

La Griffe’s answer is that more conservative (read, rural) states criminalize more behavior and so put more people in prison. Liberal states are more likely to put only the worst criminals behind bars, resulting in even more disproportionate imprisonment of blacks.

But returning to our PDF:

We begin with a baseline model in which race is the only visible characteristic, and the distribution of unobserved characteristics may differ across groups. In this setting, we explore two possible mechanisms through which significant racial disparities in homicide rates can arise. First, suppose that the costs of committing murder are contingent on the identity of the victim, with murders less likely to be solved and less aggressively prosecuted if the victims are black. … But this means
that blacks face greater danger in all their interactions, and are more likely therefore to kill preemptively. Anticipating this, whites will be more likely to kill preemptively in interactions with blacks than in interactions with other whites.

ct4h54nviaa6mabWhile it appears to be true that people who murder blacks (primarily other blacks) receive lesser sentences than people who commit similar crimes against whites*,** (which makes the disparities between black and white prison populations all the more concerning,) I don’t think this gets us to “blacks are vastly more likely to murder each other than whites are to murder blacks.” If it’s perceived as “open season” on killing blacks, then blacks and whites will kill blacks. And if blacks are killing back in self-defense (or perceived self-defense,) then they’re going to kill other blacks and whites.

*Note that there is an even greater disparity in sentencing between people who kill men and people who kill women, but no one suggests that this disparity is driving male-on-male violence.

**Note also that this does not imply that “society thinks black lives matter less than white lives,” as these lesser sentences maybe a result of black juries being more sympathetic toward black criminals than white juries toward white criminals.

Back to the PDF:

The second mechanism is based on costs of murder being contingent on the identity of the offender rather than the victim. Systematically lower incomes and higher rates of unemployment among blacks make the penalties for attempted murder or manslaughter lower for blacks relative to their outside options.

source: https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/epr/99v05n3/9909levi.pdf
source

This is an interesting theory, but it’s kind of destroyed by the fact that high-income blacks still have higher homicide rates than lower-income whites.

So, even before we get to the paper’s math (and Flaherty and Sethi certainly do a lot of math,) I have a lot of disagreements with the paper’s basic assumptions. I don’t dispute the authors’ basic Hobbesian sense that your chances of being punished for a crime or your fear of being murdered by someone else can influence behavior, and I agree that black communities would probably be better served by locking away more criminals so that innocent black people can live in peace instead of fear, but I also think they are ignoring some pretty big behavioral correlations (ie, the behavior of people in Africa; the behavior of people in other dense places,) and have failed to ask themselves why they think people got the notion that crime rates are high in black communities in the first place.

In other words, they’re not entirely wrong, but they’re missing some big pieces of the puzzle.

When “Crime” is a Euphemism for “Lynching”

A rare perpetrator’s memoir described one such recent crime in Virginia. The author, at the time a teenager, was hanging out on his neighborhood corner with his friends one afternoon when they saw “a white boy, who appeared to be about eighteen or nineteen years old… pedaling a bicycle casually through the neighborhood.” One of the black fellows pointed him out to the others, called him a derogatory name, and suggested that he must be crazy to have come there. … They ran after the white boy, knocked him, and beat him unconscious while cars drove past. They kicked his head until blood gushed from his mouth… one of his comrades continued “like he’d gone berserk” and even topped off the episode by picking up the bicycle and smashing it down on the victim as hard as he could. …

“Fucking up white boys like that made us feel good inside,” he wrote, adding that as they walked away they laughed… He said that when his older brother got his driver’s license, the gang would cruise around nearby white neighborhoods, picking out vulnerable targets and beating them close to death. — from Evil: Inside human violence and cruelty, by Baumeister

According to the Tuskegee Institute, 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites were lynched between 1882 and 1968.[7] The Equal Justice Initiative counts 3,959 blacks lynched between 1877 and 1950.[8][9]  (I don’t know if this includes the 1868 election massacres.)

Wikipedia estimates that about 50-100 lynchings occurred per year between 1868 and 1923, with a peak in 1892 of 161 deaths.

Most of the folks lynched in the US South had been accused of violent crimes such as rape, assault, and murder; many had already been arrested and were awaiting trial when they were dragged out of jail and killed. Lynching functioned, therefore, not like random crime–a bunch of serial killers run amok–but as a form of extra-legal law-enforcement.

A posse of random citizens stringing up horse thieves makes sense in rural, frontier areas where prisons and courts hadn’t yet been built and the nearest police officer might be hundreds of miles away, but 1890s Georgia was hardly the frontier. Neither can we assume that the mobs were afraid that these (mostly black men) would have been acquitted had they gone to trial–the South’s all-white juries tended not to be favorable to black defendants.

If your desire is simply to get accused criminals off the streets, lynch mobs and courts probably returned similar results. (Note: I am not passing judgment on whether or not the accused were actually guilty.)

But court proceedings are banal; prisons are hidden from sight and executions–at least these days–tend not to be public spectacles. Lynchings were public, almost communal events–people even made postcards out of photographs of lynched bodies.

I have said before that intra-racial killing is crime, and inter-racial crime is war. People who commit crimes are entitled to a lawyer, a fair trial, a jury of their peers, and a chance at rehabilitation if they are not clearly psychopaths. People who commit war (or treason) do not get trials; they get rounded up in a counter-raid and executed back.

We like to think that we enlightened moderns can rise above the level of the raw, primal chimpanzee bashing another chimp’s brains out with a rock for daring to wander near its territory, but much of the time we don’t.

(Really, one wonders how the North thought this would all turn out.)

The media is great for whipping up this kind of sentiment, as seen in the targeting of whites during the recent Milwaukee riots over the death of a black man at the hands of a black police officer.

Furthermore, lynching–or beating random whites who happen across your protest–sends a loud, visceral message to the other side that merely arresting lawbreakers does not: We will kill you.

In 1968 my father was walking home from work through the alley off of Ohio street in downtown Chicago. He had done this for years.

At the time he was 60 years old. One day a group of 7 black teens and young men decided that they wanted to beat a white man to a pulp. He told my mother that they surrounded him and started calling him racial slurs and then proceed to beat him. They did not rob him. Someone found him and took him to the hospital where they had to cut into his eyelid to release the pressure and blood. He had bruises and cuts all over his body, face, and head. …

He made it through, but that was after being in a coma for three weeks and having to have brain surgery to relieve the bleeding on his brain. … He had small seizures and grand mall seizures all of the time until at the end, one took his life. — “Letter from a Dead Father

I bet people in ISIS-controlled territory are very careful about how they act.

I couldn’t find the percent of blacks who were lynching victims, so I used data from the Tuskegee Institute + census to calculate it myself. I went into some detail on my methodology in the previous post.

picture-18

Obviously lynching was not reserved exclusively for African Americans. In the aftermath of the Civil War, angry Southerners lynched many whites suspected of helping helping the Union. Asians, Hispanics, and Indians were also lynched. In one of the largest lynchings, 13 Italians were lynched by New Orleans Irish after an Italian guy killed an Irish guy. But these lynchings died down relatively early, while about 100-50 blacks continued to be killed each year through about 1922.

picture-121 copy

At the height of the violence, just over two blacks per 100k were lynched every year (or 0.002%.) To put that into perspective, the homicide rate in the US (as of 2013) is 3.9 people per 100k. Japan’s homicide rate is 0.3 per 100k, Canada’s is 1.4, Mexico’s is 15.7, and Honduras’s is an astonishing 84.6.

World-Murder-Rate-Geocurrents-Map-1024x726The “Great Migration” is a little-known part of American history in which millions of black people headed north. Wikipedia, like many others, asserts that lynching was one of the prime motivators that inspired blacks to move:

In the Great Migration, particularly from 1910 to 1940, 1.5 million African Americans left the South, primarily for destinations in northern and mid-western cities, both to gain better jobs and education and to escape the high rate of violence. From 1910 to 1930 particularly, more blacks migrated from counties with high numbers of lynchings. …

800px-Percentage_of_African_American_population_living_in_the_American_SouthThe industrial buildup to World War II acted as a “pull” factor in the second phase of the Second Great Migration starting in 1940 and lasting until 1970. Altogether in the first half of the 20th century, 6.5 million African Americans migrated from the South to leave lynchings and segregation behind. Unlike the first round, composed chiefly of rural farm workers, the second wave included more educated workers and their families who were already living in southern cities and towns. In this migration, many migrated west from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to California in addition to northern and midwestern cities, as defense industries recruited thousands to higher-paying, skilled jobs. They settled in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland.

To unpack this for a second, we can identify three important economic factors that prompted the Great Migration:

  1. The continuing mechanization of agriculture meant that fewer workers were needed to produce the same quantity of crops, and wages for agricultural workers in the South subsequently dropped;
  2. WWI and WWII triggered the creation of massive numbers of manufacturing jobs in the North;
  3. And the Immigration act of 1924, which massively cut the number of immigrants allowed into the country (particularly from southern and eastern Europe,) forced factory owners to pay their workers better wages.

(We may also add that the hookworm eradication campaign started around 1910 improved the health of Southern whites, who who were more vulnerable to the parasite than blacks, making them better workers.)

By 1910, the lynching rate had fallen bellow 1 per 100k, and by the 20s it had fallen to less than 0.25 per 100k, which suggests to me that people were more motivated more by the overall unpleasantness of Jim Crow and segregation than the lower-than-your-chance-of-being-murdered-in-Japan chance of lynching.

Unfortunately, the Great Migration appears to have triggered its own crime wave:

I stole this graph from Steve Sailer
Well, at least we have less Italian crime these days.

CNyyQS7VEAIRGCY

 

According to Baumeister’s book on Evil:

The lynch mob is still the most vivid symbol of hate crimes in America, but lynchings are largely a thing of the past. There are still plenty of hate crimes today, but they take a different form. Indeed, the very racial direction of hate crimes has seen a fundamental reversal. According to an FBI report on violence during 1993, black people were four times more likely to commit hate crimes than white people.

NYC had 7.3 million people and 2,605 murders in 1990, or a homicide rate of 35.7 per 100k. If NYC were a country, it would have been one of the most violent places in the entire world, but “white flight” remains a mysterious phenomenon wherein evil white people, for no rational reason, suddenly become afraid of black people moving into their neighborhoods and move away.

Belle Isle Park, Detroit, 1905--h/t Photos of Detroit's Golden Age
Belle Isle Park, Detroit, 1905–h/t Photos of Detroit’s Golden Age

Few people today seem to remember that Detroit was once one of the country’s richest, most innovative cities. Employment in Detroit’s auto and war-production factories created economic prosperity for millions of people. According to Barry Bluestone, co-author of The Deindustrialization of America:

In the 1950s and ‘60s, when I was growing up in Detroit, it was one of the richest cities—if not the richest—not only in the United States but in the world. The city had the most powerful industry in the world—the auto industry. The General Motors Corporation itself was so huge that its total annual revenue in the mid-1950s was larger than the gross domestic product of Belgium. That made it the 18th largest country in the world—not just company. … That created tremendous wealth and then that wealth was spread at least somewhat more equally because of the powerful auto workers’ union, the UAW, which was able to win at the bargaining table both wage increases and benefit increases—pensions and health care and life insurance—that made auto workers some of the highest-paid workers in the world. The gains made by the UAW not only benefited white workers but also provided black auto workers with the ability to join America’s middle class.

Detroit Book Depository
Detroit Book Depository, today

Obviously many factors contributed to Detroit’s decline, but today we’re concerned with crime. According to Wikipedia:

Ethnic whites enjoyed high wages and suburban life styles. Blacks comprised 4% of the auto labor force in 1942, 15% by the war’s end; they held their own and were at 16% by 1960. … a large well-paid middle class black community emerged; like their white counterparts, they wanted to own single family homes, fought for respectability, and left the blight and crime of the slums as fast as possible for outlying districts and suburbs.[71] …

The Model Cities Program was a key component of President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s Great Society and War on Poverty. Begun in 1966, it operated five-year-long experiments in 150 cities to develop new antipoverty programs and alternative forms of municipal government. The ambitious federal urban aid program succeeded in fostering a new generation of mostly black urban leaders. Detroit was one of the largest Model Cities projects. … Detroit received widespread acclaim for its leadership in the program, which used $490 million to try to turn a nine-square-mile section of the city (with 134,000 inhabitants) into a model city. … The Model City program was terminated in Detroit and nationwide in 1974 after major race riots in most of its target cities. Detroit witnessed growing confrontations between the police and inner city black youth, culminating in the massive 12th Street riot in July 1967. Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan National Guard into Detroit, and President Johnson sent in U.S. Army troops. The result was 43 dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. Thousands of small businesses closed permanently or relocated to safer neighborhoods, and the affected district lay in ruins for decades.[76]

Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, explained the long-term impact:

“The heaviest casualty, however, was the city. Detroit’s losses went a hell of a lot deeper than the immediate toll of lives and buildings. The riot put Detroit on the fast track to economic desolation, mugging the city and making off with incalculable value in jobs, earnings taxes, corporate taxes, retail dollars, sales taxes, mortgages, interest, property taxes, development dollars, investment dollars, tourism dollars, and plain damn money. The money was carried out in the pockets of the businesses and the white people who fled as fast as they could. …[77]

Scholars have produced many studies documenting the fall of Detroit from one of the world’s premier industrial cities in 1945 to a much smaller, weaker city in the 21st century, struggling to survive against the loss of industry and population, against crime, corruption and poverty. …

While Detroit was still 55 percent white according to the 1970 census, by 1980 whites only made up 34 percent of the population. The population shift was even more stark considering that Detroit was 83 percent white at the time of the city’s all-time population high in 1950. The migration of whites to the suburbs left blacks in control of a city suffering from an inadequate tax base, too few jobs, and swollen welfare rolls.[83] According to Chafets, “Among the nation’s major cities, Detroit was at or near the top of unemployment, poverty per capita, and infant mortality throughout the 1980s.”[84] …

Several times during Young’s tenure Detroit is named the arson capital of America, and repeatedly the murder capital of America. Often Detroit was listed by FBI crime statistics as the “most dangerous city in America” during his administration. Crime rates in Detroit peaked in 1991 at more than 2,700 violent crimes per 100,000 people.[91] … the arson rate in Detroit was 6.3 times the national average in 2003 and the murder rate was 5.1 times the national average.[92]

Detroit
Modern Detroit

Around Halloween, a traditional day for pranks in late October, Detroit youth went on a rampage called “Devil’s Night” in the 1980s. … Over 800 fires were set in the peak year 1984, overwhelming the city’s fire department. Hundreds of vacant homes across the city were set ablaze by arsonists….

In September 2008, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (who had served for six years) resigned following felony convictions. In 2013, Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 federal felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering,[103] and was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.[104]

In July 2013, Michigan state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr asked a federal judge to place the city of Detroit into bankruptcy protection.[105]

In March 2014 the indebted Detroit Water and Sewerage Department began cutting off water to customers homes with unpaid bills over $150, or if the payment was more than 60 days overdue. As of the 15th of July, more than 15,000 homes had been cut off.[106]

Whew. Sorry that quote was so long; I just couldn’t decide what to cut.

Apologists are quick to present excuses for crime, but I note that Kentucky has also been facing economic difficulties, and yet Kentucky’s homicide rate is far lower than Detroit’s.

Cn_DWIVXEAITNt8Of course, crime rates have been going down since the early 90s, but how much of this is improvements in medical care?

Looks like a lot of it.

By the way, if all of those stabbed and shot people died, as would be more likely if you were shot in a third world country with little medical care, our homicide rate would shoot over 20/100k.

(How much of our soaring healthcare costs are trauma-related?)

According to Color of Crime:

  • In 2013, a black was six times more likely than a non-black to commit murder, and 12 times more likely to murder someone of another race than to be murdered by someone of another race.
  • In 2013, of the approximately 660,000 crimes of interracial violence that involved blacks and whites, blacks were the perpetrators 85 percent of the time. This meant a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. A Hispanic was eight times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. …
  • Picture 201In 2015, police killings of blacks accounted for approximately 4 percent of homicides of blacks. Police killings of unarmed blacks accounted for approximately 0.6 percent of homicides of blacks. The overwhelming majority of black homicide victims (93 percent from 1980 to 2008) were killed by blacks.
  • Both violent and non-violent crime has been declining in the United States since a high in 1993. 2015 saw a disturbing rise in murder in major American cities that some observers associated with “depolicing” in response to intense media and public scrutiny of police activity. …

Picture 17 Picture 16New York City, for example, does not participate in NIBRS but it records the races of arrested offenders, and consistently distinguishes between whites and Hispanics. In 2014, 374 people were arrested for murder. Their races were as follows:

White: 2.9 percent
Black: 61.8 percent
Hispanic: 31.8 percent
Asian: 2.7 percent
Other: 0.8 percent …

Given a population (page B1 of report) that was 32.8 percent white, 22.6 percent black, 28.9 percent Hispanic, and 13.0 percent Asian, a black was 31 times more likely than a white to be arrested for murder, a Hispanic was 12.4 times more likely than a white, and an Asian was twice as likely.

Approximately 12.5% of modern Americans are black and 63% are white. If an equal percent of whites and blacks were criminals, and if criminals chose their victims at random, we would expect about 12.5% of white victims to have been harmed by a black criminal, and 63% of black victims to have been harmed by a white criminal.

In 2013, there were 4,091,971 violent crimes against whites and 955,800 against blacks. A rate of 12.5% and 63% would result in 511,496 black on white crimes and 602,154 white on black crimes.

In reality, there were 560,600 violent black on white crimes, and only 99,403 white on black crimes. And as noted above, this means that 85% of b-w crime is committed by the group that is only 12.5% of the population.

Continuing:

When whites commit violence they target other whites 82.4 percent of the time, blacks 3.6 percent of the time, and Hispanics 7.8 percent of the time. In other words, white violence is directed overwhelmingly at other whites. When blacks commit violence only a minority — 40.9 percent — of their victims are black. Whites are 38.6 percent and Hispanics are 14.5 percent. Hispanic assailants also attack their own group less often than they attack others. Their victims are: Hispanics — 40.1 percent, whites — 50.7 percent, and blacks — 4.7 percent.

Finally, interracial crime can be expressed in terms of the greater or lesser likelihood of a person of one race to commit violence against a member of the other. In 2012/2013, the actual likelihood of attack was extremely low in all cases, but statistically, any given black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white and six times more likely to attack a Hispanic than vice versa. …

The Department of Justice keeps national records on murder. In 2013, it reported 5,621 single-offender, single-victim cases in which the race of the murderer was known. Like most federal statistics, there is no clear distinction between whites and Hispanics, so the only meaningful racial categories are black and non-black. Blacks killed 2,698 people — 48 percent of the total — and non-blacks killed 2,923 or 52 percent. Since blacks were just 13.3 percent of the population, it meant a black was six times more likely than a non-black to commit murder. Although most murders are within the same race, blacks were 13.6 times more likely to kill non-blacks than non-blacks were to kill blacks.

And don’t give me some bollocks about poor people being more likely to commit crime. I know homeless people who don’t commit crime. No one here is committing violent crime to save themselves from starvation.

If the Great Migration was a sensible response to lynching, then White Flight is a sensible response to black homicide.

Edit: an astute reader pointed out that some of the quoted data was wrong and I have removed it.

Anthropology Friday: Aboriginal Witchcraft

Another installment of Smith’s Aborigine:

“… it may be said that a rain-maker may neither have, nor profess to have, any skill outside of his own profession of rain-making. A medicine-man is generally one who uses the pointing-stick or the pointing-bone, the wirrie, the crystal, or the thumie, or the ngathungi. He professes to point the stick or bone at a person and to cause it to enter the body; and it is he who takes it or extracts it from the body, sometimes with the help of Puckowe [footnote: Known as the Grandmother Spirit. She is supposed to inhabit the dark spot, the Coal-sack, in the Milky Way.] …”

The author has very little respect for the rain making profession, which he believes is trickery practiced on the gullible:

“On some clear morning there may be no cloud in the sky, … But the rain-maker notes indications that a thunderstorm is coming, and that it will arrive, say, in three hours. He begins his incantation, and his wife advises all present that to warn their children that a storm is coming. … After a while black clouds appear in the distance, followed by a flash of lightning. … the storm is all around them. The rain-maker leaps out of his wurley, chanting his song of invocation to the spirits of the lightning, the thunder, the rain, and the wind, … ‘You have heard my call… you have come at my bidding.’ The children and youths and maidens are astounded at what they consider a wonderful performance.”

The Neilyeri … If, for instance, the Frilled Lizard totem tribe is desirous of doing an injury to the Carpet-snake totem tribe, one of its members would seek the aid of another person, say, a member of the Opossum totem tribe. The Frilled Lizard man would instruct the Opossum man to make the acquaintance of a Carpet-snake man. This he would do by asking a Tortoise totem tribe man to effect a meeting.”

The Opossum man goes and hangs out with the Carpet-snake guy for a week.

“… one night the Opossum man would whisper into the ear of the Carpet-snake man a word of warning, saying that the Frilled Lizard man was in possession of a great number of neilyeries, and was preparing them for use. Furthermore, he would say that he had heard that one of the neilyeries was to be used on a member of the Carpet-snake totem family…”

At that point, the Carpet-snake man looks across the fire and sees a Frilled Lizard man making weird hand motions with a pointing-bone, which causes the Carpet-snake man to become anxious and worried and have bad dreams, and the Opossum man keeps saying things to make him more paranoid.

“So the Carpet-snake man decides to consult the doctor, but the cunning Lizard man has already seen the doctor, and has retained his services with bribes.”

A big show is made, and the medicine-man says he has partially healed the man but cannot do it completely, because the spirits are hanging onto his sickness because they want him to die.

“The medicine-man … begins to cry softly, the tears flowing down his cheeks, and then he bid his patient good-bye. After his departure the relatives and friends congregate at the sick man’s wurley, and the latter tells them that the medicine-man is unable to cure him, and that he must submit to the wishes of his loved ones, who are standing beside him ready to welcome him to the Spirit World. So he turns his face toward the west, that mysterious land, and allows his spirit to take flight… Thus the soul passes away through the power of suggestion.”

I know that the “power of suggestion” is suspected to be the mechanism behind which many curses are supposed to work, but I still find the whole scenario rather over-complicated and far too prone to the intended victim deciding not to go along with it, especially compared with the rather fool-proof method of punching the guy you’re mad at.

“The wirrie is a charm stick of wood or bone … It is placed inside a dead human body, and is allowed to remain there until the corpse is decomposed. It is then removed and wrapped in emu-feathers, and surrounded by kangaroo or wallaby skin. Thus prepared, it is regarded as the most dangerous instrument of death. It requires very careful handling, as a prick from the point of it is capable of causing blood-poisoning and death. It may be, and usually is, thrust completely into the body of the victim while he is fast asleep.”

It’s amazing how many people think hunter-gatherers were all non-violent pacifists who never killed anyone or had any wars and, of course, were all nature-loving feminists.

The other amazing thing is that doctors in the 1800s couldn’t figure out that inadequate hand washing was behind the correlation between dissecting corpses in one’s spare time and one’s patients dying. Surely “dead things magically spread death” is just some dumb superstition.

Argh I a am still mad about that.

“The thumie is another death-dealing instrument. It consists of a rope or string made from human hair that has been taken from hundreds of people, alive or dead. It is believed that the minds of these people and their desires, loves, and hatreds are contained in the hair. …

“When one of the elders of the tribe is sick unto death the maker of this thumie asks a brother or a son of the sick one if he will take it to the sick man’s bed and place it under his body, and let him lie on it until he passes from this life into the Spirit Land. Thus his spirit will be absorbed by it. … he gives consent… the rope is wound about him, first at the hips, then round the trunk several times, and up under the arms, then loosely over the back of the neck and the head. One end is placed in the dying man’s hand, and the other is given to a person standing outside the wurley. …”

Australian Aborigines posing in front of their wurley.
Australian Aborigines posing in front of their wurley.

“The rope is left for several weeks twined about the corpse, and by this time the body is putrefied or decomposed. Meantime the thumie has absorbed into itself the strength of the spirit of the departed. The thumie is considered to be sensitive to a wish or a desire on the part of the person who makes use of it… ”

“When many persons communicate to the hair rope a wish that some one shall give himself up as a victim to the ceremony that will cause death the sacrifice is willingly made without any effort to resist the demand. So it is thought that not only does the spirit assist in capturing a victim, but that in the pursuit it guides the operators through the forest of scrub, over mountain-tops, into fern-covered valleys, and across rivers, until they reach their destination. They say they walk on air, and that the spits have made or caused the air for a foot above the earth to become solid and soft. The air is moving, and they are being carried along with it in a direct line toward there victim.”

Then there is also dancing around and ritual chanting and drawing of effigies and declarations that the guy to be murdered must die. There follows a very long and much more mundane description of the murderers tracking down their victim on foot, taking lots of care to be extremely quiet and sneaky.

“At about three or four o-clock in the morning all the others arrive separately, one after another, until the whole twelve are assembled. Then the medicine-man unrolls the hair-rope, and places it upon a null-nulla, and the person holding the nulla-nulla wind the hair several time round it, and then creeps along toward the victim in the wurley, who, of course, is sound asleep. They wind the hair rope round his arms and neck in such a manner that they themselves shall not be exposed to the danger of allowing the sleeper to hold the rope with his hand. … Those holding the rope are unanimous in their thought-suggestion. [The victim] arises from his bed as if awake, and comes toward the men who are sitting upon the ground. he walks forward of his own accord, and lays himself upon their knees, with his face turned toward the sky, as if about to rest upon his bed. He remains in this position, and the medicine-nan comes forward, holding in his hand a flint knife made expressly for an occasion like this. He draws the skin of the victim from the hip toward the small rib. He makes a small hole in the body, and thrusts his little finger through it, and scoops out a small portion of the kidney-fat. Then the skin is allowed to return to its original position. The wound is pressed with smooth pieces of wood made for the purpose of keeping the edges together. …”

Nulla-nulla, with thanks to
Nulla-nulla

“Puckowe comes and heals the wound so that o one might be able to see the cut, and she takes from the man all consciousness of what has happened a few hours before

“Puckowe also goes to the place whee the ceremony was performed and removes all signs of the enemy and blood, and make the grass or broken twigs appear undisturbed. Then she returns to her home int he dark spot in the Milky Way. The medicine0man and the other men return to their homes, happy that they have secured their revenge and taken a life for a life.”

Meanwhile, the victim feels awful,  and his tribe decides that clearly he has been bewitched with a thumie and had a piece of his kidney removed, so they call upon their medicine man to get their thumie and go take revenge on whichever tribe did it to them.

 

 

Quotes from Kabloona (Also, Moby Dick)

I finished Moby Dick. It was actually very good–a pleasant surprise. I don’t really know why I was surprised; after all, Moby Dick is commonly ranked as one of the best books of all time. Perhaps it is just because I hated Hawthorne so much, or my generally dismal memories of English class. Either way, if you are the sort of person who likes reading books, you may like it. If you’re the sort of person who says, “that looks like too many pages,” you might not like it.

On to Kabloona.

Kabloona continues to be excellent. (Those of you who have not suffered through mountains of university-level drek do not know how wonderful it is to read a well-written ethnography.) Since your library probably doesn’t have a copy, I have decided to periodically post a few excerpts.

Kabloona is the tale of a French man, de Poncins, who decided in 1939 to go live among the Eskimo (Inuit) of the Canadian arctic. (“Kabloona” is Eskimo for “white man”.) Though these Eskimo now regularly traded with whites and had things like metal runners for their sleds, they still basically lived their ancestral lifestyle–one that has all but disappeared today.

I had been under the impression that the whole “Eskimo live in igloos” thing was a myth–that they actually lived in more permanent structures most of the time, and only built igloos as temporary shelters while out hunting or traveling.

It turns out that I was wrong. Perhaps some Eskimo lived in more permanent structures for part or all of the year, in different times or places, but the folks de Poncins lived with actually lived in “permanent” igloos made of snow for most of the year and tents made of animal hides during the summer. (They also built smaller, “temporary” igloos while out hunting or traveling. But I should let De Poncins speak.

The sea:

The sea does not freeze solid in a single night. Day after day I watched it, and I saw how, helped by the shifting winds, the grainy-surfaced mirror would crack and break, the water would flow fee, and then the struggle would begin again. Something more powerful than the demonic power of the sea was vanquishing its impetuousness, curing its restless spirit. Little by little it was forced to yield, and the waves flung by it against the already frozen shore would stop in mid-air, defeated, crystallized.

Numbers:

…he told us that the snow was of a good sort, travelling would be easy now, and they had already built igloos on the big lake. The fishing? Very good. Many big fish–e-ka-luk–in the lake. As a matter of fact, he had brought in a couple of sackfuls to trade–handsome, red-fleshed, thick-lipped fish, frozen stiff. Seals? His son had killed “three of the left hand,” which is to say, added to the fingers of the right hand, eight of them.

In The Universal History of Numbers, Ifrah documents a lot of cultures that form numbers this way. Cultures that have not historically been engaged in very much trade or had need to count large numbers of discreet objects tend not to have numbers for those things. Some cultures literally have no words for numbers over three.

Population:

Twenty-five men, women, and children made up the entire population of King William Land, a territory ten thousand miles in extent.

Does a population of 25 people lead to inbreeding? Yes, it probably does.

…Utak brought another Eskimo into the Post, a slack and shiftless ne’er-do-well, a man perpetually destitute. He had arrived from ten days off to trade–a single fox. We were in mid-December and the man had not yet got round to mudding his runners, so that his wretched sled was next to useless. One mile out from the Post he had dropped a caribou-skin, had not missed it (proving he could not count up to four); and when, later, I told him that I had picked it up, he forgot to come to my quarters to fetch it. Each year this man and his wife had a child; and as his wretched wife had no milk, each year without fail the child died. But they, the Eskimo man and his wife, did not die. There was always an Eskimo to lend them a snow-knife, another to repair their sled for them on the trail, a third to house them because the man could not build a possible igloo. And never–it was this that was so admirable–never would you have heard a single impertinent or angry word spoken about these two. Of course they were teased a bit at night in the igloo, and great tales were told of the man’s comical futility; but they were unfailingly taken care of. The others would say, “He couldn’t get here because of his sled”: they would never say, “That man doesn’t know how to get over a trail.”

In addition to the regular difficulties of having a very tiny, thinly dispersed population, I must suspect that a lot of Eskimo were half-siblings without realizing it, due to the habit of wife-swapping.

… the exchange of wives was common among the Eskimos. It is not, as with certain other primitive peoples, a token of hospitality. … This was different, was a simple matter of sociability, a courtesy not to be refused between friends or visitors. Among hunting partners–the Eskimos often hunt in pairs—it was automatic, a relief from the monotony of existence.

…Among other articles of the code there was one that was absolutely rigorous: the privilege of disposing of the lady belonged exclusively to the husband. The man who mad his request directly of the wife committed a grave infraction of the code and serious trouble would certainly ensue.

To ask an Eskimo to lend you his wife is a thing so natural that no one will hesitate to put the question in a crowded igloo within hearing of a half a dozen others. It dos not so much break the thread of conversation, and the husband will say ye or no, according to hi momentary mood,with entire casualness.

The rest takes place as casually as the demand itself…. the husband will slip peacefully into his krepik, his deerskin bag, while his wife lets herself down into yours. And the presence of the husband in the same igloo need not intimidate you: he knows nothing of jealousy and is asleep before you have settled yourself in the company of his wife.

…Again and again I was to be baulked in my understanding by the 20,000 years of evolution–or is it more?–that separate the Eskimo and me. … Here sits a human being in one room while in another room sit his wife and a passive, a most casual, lover. And what does he do? He laughs. About what is going on in the other room? Not a tall. He laughs because it is fun to play at hiding things with a friend.

He is not jealous, then? No. And the reason ay be that jealousy is a function of the sense of individual property, and he has this sense, if at all, in the very faintest degree. You enjoy his wife? What harm can come to him of that? …

Relatedly:

There were Eskimos who had no food. No one said of such a man,”He was too lazy to do any trapping.” What people said was, “He did not trap this season.” Why he should not have trapped was nobody’s affair. I remember the case of a native who had an ample cache of fish and was well provided against the winter. While he was at the post, Two Eskimo families camped at his cache. Being without grub, they opened it and lived on it; when he arrived the cache was empty. Pity! But it couldn’t be helped.

De Poncins attempts to reassure us that Eskimo women are not only just fine with the wife-swapping situation, but actually the ones really in charge behind the scenes. But this situation is perhaps not so great:

There is a good deal of killing among them, but in their eyes it is always just and often an act of communal devotion.

! De Poncins has described 5 (technically, six) murders so far; three of them were due to sexual jealousy/competition for women. Here’s one:

Among the Eskimos, meanwhile, the mystery of the white man’s justice remained. There was the case of Agil-ha-ak, “The Ptarmigan.” This case was hardest of all to understand. For in the first place, Agil-ha-ak had merely killed a young man who had sought to run off with his wife. The fact that, in the way of hunting partners, the man had enjoyed Agil-hi-ak’s wife offended nobody’ but to want to take her away, have her to himself, was criminal and deserved death. Secondly, what did they [the Canadian police] do by way of punishing Agil-hi-ak? hey housed him warmly; they gave him clothes to wear’ they fed him well and brought him all the tobacco he could smoke. Everybody was kind to him. They took him off on a long wonderful journey to Aklavik [the prison], over a thousand mile away, where he saw more white men’s houses (igloo-pak) than could be imagined. Precisely because he had killed a man he was freed from every hardship. …

It was four years before Agil-hi-ak came back. … he had lost his taste for the open life, yearned to return to Aklavik, where the white man was through with him since he had “expiated his crime.” Agil-hi-ak was not a better Eskimo for having submitted himself to the white man’s justice.

Such stories as Agil-hi-ak’s made the trip to Aklavik popular amongst the Eskimos. One or two might have been hanged there, but the mot of them had merely been housed and fed. To think that one had only to kill a man in order to receive the gift of this great excursion! One day an Eskimo came to the police and told them that he had killed two Indian near Bear Lake. There had been no witnesses, unfortunately, but the Eskimo insisted, was positive that he had killed his Indians. His face was so filled with glee, he looked so much like a kid about to be fed his favorite candies, that the police were suspicious.

“Too easy!” they said. “He thinks he is going to get a round-trip ticket to Aklavik for this story; but you don’t catch us out, my lad. For once the police are not going to be done in the eye. Clear out, now and leave us be!”

A year went by, and a white trapper arrived at the police post. He had come in from Bear Lake, and there, in a shack, he had found two dead Indians.

These incidents may not have occurred among the group of 25 our author lodged with, but recall that the entire population of Eskimo in the area was never very large. Even today, there are only about 50,000 Inuit in all of Canada (about half of whom live in Nunavut, the 725,018 square mile territory that corresponds to the area where de Poncins lived.

Greenland, which is largely Inuit/Eskimo, has a homicide rate of 19.4 people per 100,000.

The US has a homicide rate of 4.7 / 100,000 people, Sweden has a rate of 0.7, and Japan has a mere 0.3. [source]

 

I’ll post more later, when I have a chance to type it up. Oh, and Happy New Year.

Man arrested more than 70 times; released again

Nicholas Limpert from Spokane has been arrested more than 70 times. Now charged again, prosecutors are working to find a way to keep a career criminal off the streets. 

His first offense? Murder, at the age of 15.

“Prosecutors told KREM 2 News on Wednesday that they plan to get tough on Limpert with his latest trial.”

“Larry Haskell, the Spokane County prosecutor, said Limpert’s history of crimes could final[ly] be catching up to him.”

70th time’s the charm, right?

“”I think every day what I could’ve done to prevent myself from getting into trouble,” Limpert told a judge.”

Not get caught; clearly this man needs to work on his skills at not getting caught.

It is possible that Limpert actually has some desire to not get into trouble, but simply lacks any ability to control his actions and act in a non-criminal manner. It is also possible that Limpert just doesn’t want to go to jail for his criminal activities. Either way, nothing’s going to change.

Sorry, Les Mis: Criminals gonna Criminal

“3 in 4 former prisoners in 30 states arrested within 5 years of release” (from the Bureau of Justice Statistics press release, April 22, 2014.)Inspired by my recent musings, I thought I would refresh my memory on recidivism stats–I have a vague memory that murderers tend not to recidivate, (murderers tend to stay in prison for a very long time) and that car jackers do, but it’s a bad idea to make claims based on vague memories of old data.

So here’s what the press release has to say:

“An estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years…

More than a third (37 percent) of prisoners who were arrested within five years of release were arrested within the first six months after release, with more than half (57 percent) arrested by the end of the first year.”

We could probably save some time and effort if we could effectively identify those third before releasing them. HOWEVER, I don’t know what percent of these people are being re-arrested on parole violations that the rest of us might not really consider “crimes”, like missing a meeting with one’s parole officer or forgetting to register one’s address.

“Recidivism rates varied with the attributes of the inmate. Prisoners released after serving time for a property offense were the most likely to recidivate. Within five years of release, 82 percent of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 77 percent of drug offenders, 74 percent of public order offenders and 71 percent of violent offenders.”

I’m guessing violent offenders spent longer in prison, and thus were older when released.

“Recidivism was highest among males, blacks and young adults. By the end of the fifth year after release, more than three-quarters (78 percent) of males and two-thirds (68 percent) of females were arrested, a 10 percentage point difference that remained relatively stable during the entire 5-year follow-up period.

Five years after release from prison, black offenders had the highest recidivism rate (81 percent), compared to Hispanic (75 percent) and white (73 percent) offenders.”

So, while while the chances of being a criminal vary widely between groups, criminals from all the groups recidivate at fairly similar rates. This suggests that we are probably actually arresting the subset of people who are criminals most of the time.

“Within five years of release, 61 percent of released inmates with four or fewer arrests in their prior criminal history were arrested, compared to 86 percent of those who had 10 or more prior arrests.”

Maybe guys with 10 prior arrests shouldn’t be released until they’re well over 40?

Some finer grain on recidivism by specific crime, after five years (note: this does not tell us the new offense,) from the PDF:

Violent: 71.3%
Homicide: 51.2
Murder: 47.9
Nonnegligent manslaughter: 55.7
Negligent manslaughter: 53.0
Rape/sexual assault: 60.1
Robbery: 77.0
Assault: 77.1
Other: 70.4
Property: 82.1%
Burglary: 81.8
Carjacking: 84.1
Fraud/forgery: 77.0
Drug: 76.9%
Possession: 78.3
Trafficking: 75.4
Public order: 73.6%
Weapons: 79.5
Driving under the influence: 59.9

Looks like my vague memories were correct. Murderers are the least likely to recidivate, probably due to the personal nature of many murders (you’ve got to really hate that guy,) and murderers being older when released, but they are still folks who aren’t great at solving inter-personal problems or running their lives. Rapist probably figure out non-illegal ways to have sex, or else get old enough to be less interested in it. Drunks probably learn to call a cab when drunk.

Relatively speaking, of course. A 50 or 60% recidivism rate still isn’t something that inspires great confidence. To be clear, again, this is not data on how many released murderers commit another murder or how many released rapists commit another rape–this is arrest for any crime. A further breakdown of re-arrest by new crime vs. old crime would be interesting.Carjacking, by contrast, looks like the Xtreme sports of crime–people attracted to this form of violent thrill-seeking seem unlikely to change their spots or find more legal alternatives.

On a related note, The role of parenting in the prediction of criminal involvement: findings from a nationally representative sample of youth and a sample of adopted youth.

From the abstract: The role of parenting in the development of criminal behavior has been the source of a vast amount of research, with the majority of studies detecting statistically significant associations between dimensions of parenting and measures of criminal involvement. An emerging group of scholars, however, has drawn attention to the methodological limitations-mainly genetic confounding-of the parental socialization literature. The current study addressed this limitation by analyzing a sample of adoptees to assess the association between 8 parenting measures and 4 criminal justice outcome measures. The results revealed very little evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal behavior before controlling for genetic confounding and no evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal involvement after controlling for genetic confounding.

In other words, looks like my basic thesis is holding up. Overall, I suspect it is far easier to fuck up a kid so they don’t meet their full potential (say, by abusing/neglecting) than to get rid of the effects of negative traits. It’s probably best to try to work with people’s inclinations by finding them life-paths that work for them, rather than trying to mold them into something they aren’t.