I just listened to this episode of "This American Life" on the radio.
It originally aired on the 4th of June, 2010.
Though the whole thing is interesting, and it could go in other categories besides "Social Issues," this thread is about Act Two - Misdeeds.
Here we have, aired as a somewhat entertaining, somewhat disturbing, story about some people who had "problems" with some tax auction
they bought in New Orleans, raw data about who criminals are and how they operate.
This is a little bit unusual, as criminals don't usually write autobiographies.
You can read the section and see what you think.
Towards the end, it infers that this man ordered a killing, or himself committed murder.
But he was finally jailed for committing fraud, and will probably be back on the streets by 2013 or so.
Here is some background on this person, as taken from the transcript of the show:
Under the advice of his attorney, Dowl refused to talk to me, but here's what we know mostly through public records and court documents. Throughout
much of his life, Dowl ended up in court for stumbling on to the wrong side of the law, for car theft, for pot, for unpaid debts. In 1988, he was
sentenced to three years in prison for using bogus money orders. We also know Dowl used to own several houses, places he apparently inherited from his
father who invested his longshoreman salary in properties.
Somewhere along the line, Dowl started teaching himself law. He enrolled in a correspondence program and got his paralegal certificate. He learned the
basics, what legal documents do, how to file them, what size the paper should be, how to make them look official. In fact, he learned enough that he
could produce fake documents pretty easily.
This guy used his "smarts" to harass various people who he didn't like. A friend of one such person died from a gunshot wound to the head. Case of
This is criminal insanity. It's smart. It's obsessive. It's totally illogical. If you thought of it as a disease, our planet is suffering from an
The justice system is helpless
This guy has spent some time in court and some time in jail. But it sure didn't "reform" him any!
However, since he has been locked up, he has not been able to harass his "enemies."
That's a real benefit to society.
The first article I found on the cost of prison uses 2007 figures. In the US, this cost is about $80 per day.
That's about $29,000 a year. Right now, I'm living on half that much.
Criminal reform would be good economics
So, why don't more justice systems implement workable reform programs?
The only answer I can come up with: Those systems are being RUN by criminals!
Same basic operating basis as Mr. Dowl, just on a bigger scale.
We have a long way to go
We need a system that:
1. Is honest, and won't destroy basic human rights in the name of "justice" or "public safety."
2. Truly understands criminality.
3. Actively seeks out the criminally insane in order to separate them from society.
4. Knows how to reform people who have come under the influence of real criminals.
5. Actively works to reform such persons and return them to society.
6. Actively works towards curing real criminals of their sickness, but in a way that is not very costly.
The radio story ends saying that one person who was involved is planning to leave New Orleans before Dowl gets out of prison. That's sad.
But: We can't do that as a planet!
So, we have to confront and solve this problem if we want things to get better in the long run.