Friday, February 5, 2010

The Bee: Scare tactics and hypocrisy

"The thing that has not speeded up is the capacity to actually think through something."
 ― Ellen Goodman quoted in the chapter "Saving the News" in the book Losing the News.
One day following their scare article about an early-released jail inmate who may have attempted to rape a Loaves & Fishes mental-health counselor, the Bee printed a Board editorial that condemns those resorting to scare tactics relating to the early-release program ― but without mention of their own article which is very possibly the principal scare-mongering source of alarm.

The article about the possible attempted rape is titled "Inmate arrested for alleged rape attempt hours after early release" online.

Kevin Peterson who was released from the downtown county jail facility in the early-morning hours of Jan. 25, sixteen days in advance of the end of his sentence, sought counselling at Loaves & Fishes, where there was a fracas, and Peterson was arrested and later booked on charges of attempted rape, sexual battery, false imprisonment and violating the terms of his probation.

The Bee article about this begins thus:
It was probably just a matter of time. But less than one day?

Sacramento sheriff's officials say that's how long it took for an inmate who was set free Monday under an early-release plan to be arrested again, this time on a charge of attempted rape.

The incident prompted immediate outrage from groups opposed to the new state law aimed at reducing prison populations by gradually releasing nonviolent, low-level offenders who earn extra credits for participating in educational and other programs.

"Our greatest fear has occurred almost immediately after the early release of these inmates," said Christine Ward of the Crime Victims Action Alliance.
The next day's Bee Board editorial, "Editorial: Don't let hype kill options to prison" says this:
A hullabaloo ensued ... when 21 counties, including Sacramento, interpreted the new [early- release] law as allowing them to apply expanded good time retroactively to jail inmates. Given budget constraints and overcrowding, they jumped on this opportunity without preparing adequately for it.

The predictable result: One Sacramento jail inmate who was set free 16 days early made his way to a drop-in mental health program for homeless people, allegedly lunged at a worker and was arrested on a charge of attempted rape. Unfortunately, the usual groups that oppose the new law are using this incident to discredit it.

If this inmate had been released 16 days later, would it have made a difference? Not likely. What might have made a difference: The Sacramento Sheriff's Department should have given a heads-up to city police and others. This didn't happen. Sheriff John McGinness acknowledges the error.

Sacramento County released about 50 more people in a single day than it would have under the old law, a number that officials expect to flatten out over time.

As McGinness told us, "This is not a humongous difference. … The good people of the Golden State ought to get used to the idea of reduced rate of incarceration for lawlessness, because the cost is becoming prohibitive."

Californians need to make better use of cost-effective alternatives to incarceration, such as work release, electronic monitoring, drug court intensive supervision and day reporting. It's time to get smart on crime instead of resorting to alarmism.
While there were individuals and groups, like Christine Ward of the Crime Victims Action Alliance, sounding shrill, unwarranted words of alarm, the Bee served as the megaphone for Ward.   Indeed, the Bee's reporters possibly alerted Ward to the situation and sought an expected (i.e., hyped) quote.

So, instead of being concerned about the dangers of shrill, hype-eager crime-watcher groups, perhaps there is a real danger we should be on guard about: shrill hypocrisy-spewing local newspapers.

How's this for the beginning of a editorial about the Bee editorial?
It was probably just a matter of time. But in just one day?

Sacramento Bee readers noticed that's how long it took for an article printed in the newspaper to raise alarm that the Bee Editorial Board deplored.  But the board conveniently overlooked the elephant in the room:  the Bee article that alarmed citizenry.

The incident prompted immediate outrage from readers opposed to hypocricy in their local newspaper.

"Our greatest fear has occurred almost immediately," said Bee reader John Doe of the Bee Victims of Hypocrisy Action Alliance.



OpenID kek said...

i agree. christine ward and cvaa love to take situations like this to keep the public on edge,to keep us living in fear of all the monsters out there that are ready to prey on us every chance they get.B.S.! christine ward is just another bag of hot air. she is clueless to the reality of crime and the prison system she likes to comment on. she is another one of those peaple who didnt get her way in court. and the rest of the public has to put up with these self appointed gurus on crime. the reason we have overcrowding is because we will lock up anyone for everything. what they dont realize is someday {if wedont come to our senses}they run the risk of being locked up to. just like the cops and politicians, they too think they are above the law. and you best belive she has friends at sac-bee shes the first person they call when this stuff happens. but she never says anything intelligent. just the same old garbage over and over, with no real salutions to the problem at hand. allthese people want to do is lock em up for as long as posable. i dare these people to come up with something original. but they cant, just like our politicians cant. their egos wont allow it. i know christine ward very well. im her ex husband

February 12, 2010 at 2:57 AM  
Blogger Sebas Rocks said...

kek - obviously your personal relationship- and demise thereof - with Ward precludes you from weighing in on this topic with any credibility or objectivity. I happen to know personally that this inmate is a highly volatile and aggressive person who carries around a significant amount of anger. I believe we should leave the determination of incarcerate v commit to the professional clinicians, but either way, this guy should NOT be on the streets, period. It's not even debatable.

February 25, 2010 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Tom Armstrong said...

Aaaarggg, kek & Sebas.

I happen to know, personally, the inmate Kevin Peterson. I don't know his every mood or behavior, but the Kevin I know is gentle and troubled. I hope he gets the help he needs and finds his way to a happy life.

I would guess that Christine Ward genuinely believes that keeping criminals locked up as much as possible and for as long as possible serves society well.

And I would guess that, given time to think about it, she would agree that the Kevin Peterson example is not all encompassing; it is only emblematic.

Unhappily, it is easy to "choose a side" and believe only what evidence supports the chosen side. It is more difficult to see issues, objectively, in all the complexity that is sure to exist.

February 25, 2010 at 12:24 PM  

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