Author: Bill Otis

Drugs, Arrest, Incarceration, Responsibility and the Resurrection of a Life

This country has been having a seemingly endless debate about drugs.  Although there are gradations in between, there seem to be two mostly opposing camps, to wit, those who would treat drugs as a law enforcement problem, and those who would treat them as a public health problem.

I spent four years as Counselor to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Drugs are both a law enforcement and a public health problem, and we aren’t going to solve it either by dismissing law enforcement as mere latter day Puritanism, nor by dismissing the opportunity for treatment as mere mush-minded coddling.  But what’s getting overlooked is that no part of the system can be the foundation for a solution.  The foundation for overcoming drugs, as with so much else, is the individual’s understanding that he is responsible for his life and behavior, and his determination to own that responsibility every minute of every day.  This post is about the story of one young lady, Ginny Burton, who resurrected her life with the indispensable help of law enforcement, incarceration, and coming to terms with her failings  —  and then, wonderfully, her potential.

Continue reading . . .

The Stench Gets Some Air Freshener

Yesterday, I wrote that the stench of politics had taken hold at the Justice Department when, at the last minute, it decided to deep-six a brief supporting the sound analysis of the Eleventh Circuit in a crack cocaine sentencing case and argue instead that the overall “intent” of two leniency-oriented statutes, the Fair Sentencing Act and the First Step Act, should displace their plain text.  A unanimous SCOTUS made short work of DOJ’s lame appeal to duck the words Congress chose in favor of a more Oprah Winfrey-like approach.  The only conceivable reason for the Department’s unprincipled, embarrassing and (fortunately) futile action was politics  —   specifically, that pro-drug and pro-criminal elements in the President’s political base simply wanted what they wanted.  That DOJ at its highest levels would so easily be chased away from a sober approach to its legal obligations is alarming.

I’m happy to report that, today, we saw a different face.

Continue reading . . .

The Stench of Politics at DOJ

Remember all the stuff we were hearing during the Presidential campaign about how we needed to make a change in order to get politics out of the Justice Department?  It was all a joke  —  on us.  Ed Whelan has the story today of what would surely be a scandal if Bill Barr tried it, and is a scandal today, squarely on the plate of Merrick Garland  —  a man I’m sure knows better.

Continue reading . . .

Should Cities Use Mounted Police?

The police have long since become the favorite punching bag of BLM, Antifa and, of course, liberal mayors and “progressive” DA’s.  The complaint is that cops are “overmilitarized,” insufficiently accountable, and too ready to use force, among other things.  I have not yet heard specifically an attack on the idea of mounted police, but you don’t have to be a genius to know it’s coming:  The use of horseback policing is too intimidating and too likely to panic the ubiquitous “mostly peaceful” protester.

On the other hand, a sufficiently amiable stallion might be able to get this dour opinion turned around.

Continue reading . . .

“Building Trust” in the Police through Non-Enforcement Is Also Baloney

In my last entry, I noted that the routine, caustic phrase pasted on the United States by “criminal justice reformers”  —  “incarceration nation”  —  is hogwash.  Ninety-nine and a-half percent of the population is not incarcerated, and the fraction of one percent who are generally did quite a bit to earn it.

I now want to address another whooper told by the reformers:  That the police can “build trust” in the community by taking a more relaxed attitude toward crime, and generally by “de-escalating” enforcement.  This argument is all the rage in faculty lounges in Palo Alto, New Haven, Cambridge, etc.  But, as the Baltimore Sun tells us, it’s anything but the rage with the actual communities that have been the unwilling experimental rats of dumbed-down policing.

Continue reading . . .

The “Incarceration Nation” Narrative Is Pure Baloney

One of the most unfortunate features of the national discussion about criminal justice is that the vocabulary in which it’s conducted has been hijacked and tortured beyond recognition by the “reform” forces.  How many of their articles start out by blasting the United States as “incarceration nation” and then go on to heap yet more scorn on America, the “carcereal state”?  You can’t look through “reform” literature for five minutes without getting beaten over the head with this stuff.

Only one problem.  It’s bunk.

Continue reading . . .

Pew Research Has Big News on the Death Penalty

Here are the opening paragraphs of this story, reported by the NYT:

For the first time in almost half a century, support for the death penalty has dipped below 50 percent in the United States.

Just 49 percent of Americans say they support capital punishment, according to a Pew Research Center poll … That represents a seven-point decline in about a year and a half. Support peaked at 80 percent in 1994.

The death penalty has had majority support among Americans for 45 years. The last time support was as low as it now stands was in 1971.

Not good news for the folks on my side of the issue.  But wait, there’s a catch.

Continue reading . . .

Will the Violent Crime Surge Spark Electoral Pushback?

Rich Lowry writing in Politico thinks so.  His piece is titled, “Democrats Ignore the Crime Spike at Their Own Peril.”

On the anniversary of the death of George Floyd, dozens of gunshots rang out in the middle of the day at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, forcing reporters and bystanders to duck and cover.

The symbolism was unmistakable—the yearlong bout of protest and activism after Floyd’s killing has coincided with a surge of urban crime that has made gunplay dismayingly common.

Will the electorate react in next year’s elections?

Continue reading . . .

The Lethal and Racist Dishonesty of the Defense Bar

In the post immediately preceding this one, Amber Westbrook wrote of “Another Violent Felon Released from Prison Early to Commit More Crimes.”  The piece I bring you now is in the same vein but much worse.  It’s from the pro-criminal justice “reform” Washington Post.  Its title is, “Released early after a murder conviction, D.C. man is charged in new homicide.”  It’s yet another story of dishonest lawyers, both white, one an advocate and one a judge, who worked hand-in-hand to secure the early release of a violent thug in the prime of his criminal life.  The released convict, Darrell Moore, went on to commit another murder a scant nine months later, by shooting his victim six times in the chest.  The evidence suggests that the victim was black, as Moore’s first victim was.

What we have here is the nauseating combination of the poisons that have been taking over our criminal justice system  —  strutting elitist attitudes and shameless lying masquerading as compassion.  But it’s not compassion.  It’s the opposite.  It starts with self-congratulatory virtue-signalling by elite-type lawyers (the great majority of whom are, as in this case, white).  The next step is pro bono representation of a violent hooligan to obtain early release, thus to shortcut his supposed accountability for an earlier brutal crime.  It proceeds by patently false representations about his New Life and Now Peaceable Character.  The final chapter is another black man in the morgue.  The white lawyers who made it all possible have  —  you guessed it  —  no comment.

Continue reading . . .

The Death Penalty Is Dying…….Oh…….Wait………………

For years, we’ve been told that “the death penalty is dying.”  And it’s true that, as the murder rate fell by more than 50% over a generation (1990-2014), support for death sentences likewise fell substantially (although not as much, from 80% in the mid-Nineties to 55% today (still a bigger share of popular support than Joe Biden got)).  The number of executions also substantially fell, but is hardly disappearing, since over the last five years, we’ve averaged one execution every 17 days (see this bar graph).

So it’s just not true that the death penalty is dying.  It became less frequent as the need for it became less frequent, sure.  This is news?  But the reason for its persistence is no big mystery.  It’s not that America is a primitive, vindictive country.  It’s not that we are callous or sadistic.  It’s that there continue to be gruesome, atrocious murders for which a jail sentence, no matter what its length, would not strike a normal person as fitting the crime.  The most recent example comes from a county and state that were crucial in President Trump’s defeat.

Continue reading . . .