Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why does the United States lock up so many people?

Freedom is seldom found
By beating someone to the ground
-- Amos Lee, Freedom

Prisoner sketch, Pelican Bay SHU
The statistics are shocking: One out of every 99 adults quarantined behind bars in the United States, with larger and larger swaths of the civilian work force deployed as a captor class. Although academic scholars have been analyzing the social costs of our 30-year punishment binge for some time, the American public has been oddly disinterested in our de-evolution into a full-blown prison nation.

Finally, that appears to be changing, perhaps in no small part due to the staggering financial costs of mass incarceration during these tough economic times. The direct costs of prisons have quadrupled over two decades, to almost $40 billion a year in the 40 states sampled in a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice's Center on Sentencing and Corrections.

Now, award-winning New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik has stepped up to ask the essential question: WHY do we lock up so many people?

After all, he points out in his essay, "The Caging of America," New York City has managed to buck the incarceration trend, while seeing its crime rate plummet by as much as 80 percent (the topic of criminology scholar Franklin E. Zimring's new book, The City That Became Safe).

Gopnik writes with the outrage of an outsider whose blindfolds were suddenly yanked away to reveal the carceral state in all of its nightmarish savagery:
Death row, Tennessee
Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today -- perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.

The scale and the brutality of our prisons are the moral scandal of American life. Every day, at least 50,000 men -- a full house at Yankee Stadium -- wake in solitary confinement, often in "supermax" prisons or prison wings, in which men are locked in small cells, where they see no one, cannot freely read and write, and are allowed out just once a day for an hour's solo "exercise." (Lock yourself in your bathroom and then imagine you have to stay there for the next ten years, and you will have some sense of the experience.)

How did we get here? How is it that our civilization, which rejects hanging and flogging and disembowelling, came to believe that caging vast numbers of people for decades is an acceptably humane sanction?
To answer his question, Gopnik weaves together two strands of American history, what we might call the Southern and the Northern penal traditions.


The Southern strand, most recently articulated by Michelle Alexander, posits that penal colonies arose to replace the slave plantations in the post-Reconstruction South, with mass incarceration functioning as "The New Jim Crow" for poor African American men in the post-civil rights era. It's hard to argue with the statistics: More than half of American black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives, and more of these men are trapped in today's criminal justice system than were enslaved prior to the Civil War:
Young black men pass quickly from a period of police harassment into a period of "formal control" (i.e., actual imprisonment) and then are doomed for life to a system of "invisible control." Prevented from voting, legally discriminated against for the rest of their lives, most will cycle back through the prison system. The system, in this view, is not really broken; it is doing what it was designed to do.

Procedural justice

Many of you may be familiar with this notion of South's white supremacist contribution to the carceral state, but you may be surprised to learn about the North's major hypothesized contribution: the Bill of Rights.

Wait a minute. Weren't our founding fathers all about protecting our rights, making sure that we were never again victimized by the cruel rule of tyrants?

In blaming the Bill of Rights, Gopnik channels Harvard Law School professor William J. Stuntz, who died just before last fall's publication of his The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, which argues that the Enlightenment era saw the elevation of procedural rights at the expense of moral justice.
The trouble with the Bill of Rights, [Stuntz] argues, is that it emphasizes process and procedure rather than principles…. This emphasis, Stuntz thinks, has led to the current mess, where accused criminals get laboriously articulated protection against procedural errors and no protection at all against outrageous and obvious violations of simple justice.
Thus, in our increasingly impersonal and bureaucratic world, rather than the nemesis of the brutal prison, due process is actually its mirror image:
The more professionalized and procedural a system is, the more insulated we become from its real effects on real people…. Once the procedure ends, the penalty begins, and, as long as the cruelty is routine, our civil responsibility toward the punished is over. We lock men up and forget about their existence.

Gopnik's essay, which I highly recommend, can be found HERE.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Juror’s bad dream becomes defense nightmare

What would you do if you were defending a man accused of bludgeoning someone to death with a baseball bat, and a juror disclosed having a nightmare in which the defendant chased her around with a baseball bat?

You might request that the juror be dismissed.

That’s what happened this week in a murder trial St. Lawrence County, New York.

But the judge denied the defense request, despite a plea from the juror's family that she is emotionally overwhelmed by the case. Besides her nightmare, the juror also told the court that she started crying when she saw her father sitting in a recliner that reminded her of the chair in which the dead man was found.

The ruling shocked the defendant.

"I just about fell over," defendant Wayne T. Oxley Jr told a reporter. "I was pretty shocked she stayed on the jury. I kind of lost my breath."

The prosecuting attorney said it wouldn't be fair to discharge a juror just because of what she dreamed. "Dreams are dreams, you can't make them not happen," said the attorney.

Prominent forensic psychologist Saul Kassin of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice disagreed.

"It's clear she has formed a negative emotional opinion," Kassin told a reporter from the Watertown Daily Times. "If I were on the defense team, that would make me nervous. People often have difficulty separating reality from fantasy."

This is Oxley's third trial. The first ended with a conviction for second-degree murder, later overturned on appeal. A retrial ended in a hung jury. If Oxley is convicted and successfully appeals based on the juror's emotional bias, Judge Jerome J. Richards's ruling could end up a nightmare for him as well.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Federal judge tosses hebephilia as basis for civil detention

Hebephilia is too controversial for the government to use it to claim that a sex offender has a serious mental disorder meriting civil commitment in order to protect the public, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Terrence Boyle
In ordering the release of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Neuhauser, the judge also found that the government had failed to prove that the prisoner was at high risk to reoffend or would have serious difficulty controlling his impulses.

"The Court finds that it would be inappropriate to predicate civil commitment on a diagnosis that a large number of clinical psychologists believe is not a diagnosis at all, at least for forensic purposes," wrote Judge Terrence W. Boyle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. "Although hebephilia has been proposed to be included as a mental disorder in the revision of the DSM, it has been rejected as a proper mental disorder by numerous psychologists.”

Two of those psychologists, Diane Lytton and Richard Wollert, were retained in the case by Suzanne Little of the Federal Public Defender. Lytton testified that the residual diagnostic category of "paraphilia not otherwise specified" was never intended to turn criminal behaviors such as sex acts with minors into mental illnesses.

Even the government's own expert, Gary Zinik, conceded that the legitimacy of hebephilia is a hotly contested issue in the mental health community, the judge noted.

The pseudoscientific label is typically assigned by government experts when an offender is neither a rapist nor a pedophile, bur rather has offended against more physically mature minors.

Neuhauser acknowledged a sexual preference for pubescent boys. He served federal prison time for distributing child pornography and two counts of interstate travel with the intent to engage in sex with a minor. He also had previous convictions for contributing to the sexual delinquency of a child and assault and battery in connection with the attempted sodomy of a 14-year-old boy.

Disturbance Control Team patch, Butner prison
Boyle's ruling may impact other federal prisoners facing civil detention, as nearly all of the 130 or so federal prisoners that the government is seeking to detain under the Adam Walsh Act of 2006 are housed at a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, and so are processed through the North Carolina federal court.

Yesterday's ruling follows on the heels of another dismissal of a civil commitment petition by Senior U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman. In a scatching critique of the prosecution's overblown claims of mental illness and risk, Judge Friedman opined that sex offender Markis Revland had fabricated accounts of child molestation in order to placate therapists at the Butner prison.

In Neuhauser's case, Judge Boyle stated that even if hebephilia was a legitimate diagnostic label, the government still did not meet its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the convicted sex offender is at a high risk to reoffend.

He credited the defense experts' analyses of risk as being more accurate than the prosecution's. Wollert relied on an actuarial tool he helped to develop, the Multisample Age-Stratified Table of Sexual Recidivism Rates (MATS-1). (See my review here.) Other actuarial tools used by the various experts included the Static 99-R, the Static 2002-R and the MnSOST-R, which is widely known to overestimate sex offenders' risk of recidivism.

"It should be noted that results of these assessments depend heavily on the choice of reference group to which the respondent is compared," the judge aptly noted. "Because Drs. Wollert and Lytton analyzed their actuarial results in light of Mr. Neuhauser's advanced age, his ability to control his behavior while in the community, his pattern of offending (in particular, the fact that his first victim was by force and later victims willingly participated even though they could not give legal consent due to their age), and the fact that Mr. Neuhauser had not been subject to any deterrent sanctions until his most recent prison sentence, the Court finds their actuarial assessments to more accurately reflect Mr. Neuhauser's likelihood of recidivism."

Boyle said he was impressed by the offender's honesty, remorse and genuine desire to control his illegal behavior: "He openly discussed his sexual orientation toward pubescent boys but demonstrated a true understanding that boys of that age are unable to legally consent to sexual activity, even if they appear to him to be willing to engage in sexual contact…. Mr. Neuhauser's sexual orientation toward pubescent boys … is, standing alone, insufficient to justify his civil commitment under the Adam Walsh Act.… [T]here must be proof of serious difficulty in controlling behavior."

Boyle, by the way, is no political liberal. A former legislative assistant to arch-conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, he was appointed to his present post by President Ronald Reagan back in 1984. Democrats later blocked President George W. Bush’s attempt to elevate him to an appellate judgeship, citing concerns over his civil rights record.

Neuhauser will be under parole supervision for five years, during which time he must undergo sex offender treatment and polygraph testing, avoid contact with minors, and submit to other special restrictions.

Further information on the hebephilia controversy is HERE.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tearing the child apart: Free training in San Francisco

What motivates parents to -- either consciously or unconsciously -- damage or destroy their own children?

We know the complex psychological effects of high-conflict divorce, but how do we understand the contribution of narcissism, envy and perverse thinking?

This Saturday, Jan. 21, forensic psychologist Michael Donner, a psychoanalyst, child custody evaluator and ethicist, will take an analytic approach to questions usually considered part of the family court system.

Sponsored by the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, Saturday's event features H. Spencer Bloch, MD,  author of Adolescent Development, Psychopathology, and Treatment, as discussant.

The event runs from 10:00 a.m. to noon and is free. To register, call Aaron Chow at (415) 563-5815 or email him HERE. More information and online registration is HERE.

Donner authored an excellent article by the same title in Psychoanalytic Psychology. Contact him (HERE) to request a copy of "Tearing Children Apart: The Contribution of Narcissism, Envy and Perverse Modes of Thought to Child Custody Wars."

Our broken family court system: Free training in Arizona

Another free training geared toward child custody evaluators is coming up March 16-17 in Phoenix, Arizona. Co-sponsored by the National Alliance of Professional Psychology Providers and the Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Foundation, it features a cast of well-known experts, including:
More information and online registration is available HERE.

Monday, January 16, 2012

SEX PANIC: Highly recommended


As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
-- Justice William O. Douglas 


The strands of modern American containment were woven so gradually that today's prison culture has come to feel almost natural. But imagine how the landscape might look to someone who was experimentally cryopreserved in, say, 1981, and thawed out 30 years later:

People cheerfully taking off their shoes and queuing up to be x-rayed by robotic agents of "Homeland Security," GPS satellite monitoring, DNA databases, civil detention for future crimes, online registries of drug offenders, surveillance cameras everywhere, "zero tolerance" schools where children are viewed as pint-sized criminals.

And, underlying it all, the new carceral state: A massive underclass of surplus labor (one out of every 99 adults) quarantined in prisons, with large swaths of the former industrial and agricultural laboring classes transformed into a security force of prison guards, parole agents and police working to generate yet more prisoners.

"By design this penal system churns the poor and marginal, rendering them all but unemployable, thus poorer and ever more marginal," writes anthropologist Roger Lancaster. "No legitimate theory of corrections, crime, or social order justifies this approach, which can only be understood as vindictive."

In Sex Panic and the Punitive State, Lancaster meticulously explains how 35 years of virtually nonstop panics over crime -- urban unrest in the 1960s, street crime in the 1970s, crack wars in the 1980s, predatory gangs in the 1990s, and terrorists in the 2000s -- have congealed into a durable regime dominated by irrational fear: "Power flows through the nervous system of a body politic paralyzed by dread. Ruled and rulers are equally trapped in fear."

Laying the groundwork for wave after wave of panics, Lancaster convincingly argues, is a synergy between deeply ingrained (but now covert) fears of black criminal-rapists and homosexual child molesters:

Sexual anxieties and fear of crime have come to form a dynamic feedback loop. On the one hand, it seems unlikely that revived sex panics would have put down such deep social roots except in the context of a wider war on crime. On the other hand, it also seems unlikely that crime fears could have become so finely woven into the fabric of everyday life without the element of sex panic.

The resulting system of social control is an amalgam of old and new elements. Its Puritanism, its paranoia about strange outsiders, its enactment of dramas of peril and rites of protection are as old as the United States itself; they are deeply embedded in the national psyche…. At the same time the resulting system of social control departs from long-standing liberal traditions that begin with a presumption of innocence, restrain the reach of law, defer to zones of privacy, and resist the application of excessive punishments or the tacking on of ex-post-facto provisions.

Lancaster sees the creation and privileging of a novel social category -- "the victim" -- as a powerful force in this new social order. In the name of this iconic crime victim, the enormously successful Victim's Rights Movement has led the charge to dismantle traditional legal protections, a trend that may be difficult if not impossible to ever reverse.

Perversely, increased repression of the American citizenry has arisen in tandem with the loosening of economic restraints on "capitalism’s most predatory forms" -- privatization, globalization and the corporations' relentless squeezing of what we now call the 99 percent.

In Lancaster's dystopic vision, America has degenerated into "a broken social order based on mistrust, resentment, and ill will," manifested in a mass addiction to dumbed-down, commercialized vengeance spectacles. We need look no further for evidence of this grim state of affairs than the vitriolic comments of YouTube viewers beneath the video of U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of murdered Afghanis.

As with Abu Ghraib, we can safely bet that the four Marines will be sanctioned, while the structures that fostered their callous behavior will remain untouched. As Lancaster notes, this is all par for the course: "Any cultural system that equates punishment with justice will foster complicated forms of sadism. And any institutional system that inculcates intense fear and rage will produce technicians who periodically depart from standard operating procedures."

Many of you blog readers will have read other fine books on sex panic and the carceral state. But this meticulously researched and eloquently written analysis goes deeper and wider, masterfully integrating disparate historical, economic, religious and social trends. Lancaster delves at length into the complex interplay of racism and homophobia, even weaving in personal experiences as a gay man that helped to shape his thinking.

Bottom line: Read this landmark book; I guarantee it will enlighten.


A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
-- Martin Luther King Jr. 


MANY THANKS TO BLOG READER JAMES H. FOR DONATING THIS BOOK.
AND THANKS TO THE ANONYMOUS BLOG READERS FOR THE OTHER BOOK DONATIONS.

As usual, if you appreciate this review, I will greatly appreciate your visiting the Amazon site (HERE) and clicking on "yes" (this review was helpful). 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. on maladjustment

Last year, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, I excerpted a large portion of a keynote speech the visionary civil rights leader delivered at the 1967 convention of the American Psychological Association, just seven months before he was gunned down and at a time when he was drawing larger connections between racial oppression and the Vietnam War. This year, I am excerpting only one short section, but I have made the entire speech, "The Role of the Behavioral Scientist in the Civil Rights Movement," available for download (HERE). It's 45 years old, but still remarkably relevant today.

There are certain technical words in every academic discipline which soon become stereotypes and even clichés. Every academic discipline has its technical nomenclature. You who are in the field of psychology have given us a great word. It is the word maladjusted. This word is probably used more than any other word in psychology. It is a good word; certainly it is good that in dealing with what the word implies you are declaring that destructive maladjustment should be destroyed. You are saying that all must seek the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.

But on the other hand, I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence....

Thus, it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women should be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream'; or as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who in the midst of his vacillations finally came to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free; or as maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, could scratch across the pages of history, words lifted to cosmic proportions, 'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

I have not lost hope. I must confess that these have been very difficult days for me personally. And these have been difficult days for every civil rights leader, for every lover of justice and peace.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Emboldened DSM-5 critics issue public challenge

In October, I reported on the Society for Humanistic Psychology's online petition urging the American Psychiatric Association to reconsider the mental illness expansions and biomedical emphasis proposed for its new diagnostic manual, due out in 2013.

Since then, the effort has taken off like wildfire. More than 10,000 people have signed the petition, and the fledgling Coalition for DSM-5 Reform has mushroomed to include 41 concerned mental health organizations in the United States, Britain and Denmark.

Now, the Coalition has posted an open letter calling upon the developers of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to submit controversial proposals in the DSM-5 to an independent group of scientists and scholars with no ties to either the DSM-5 Task Force or the American Psychiatric Association for an independent, external review.

"We respectfully ask that you not respond again with assurances about internal reviews and field trials because such assurances, at this point, are not sufficient," says the letter. "We believe an external, independent review is critical in terms of ensuring the proposed DSM-5 is safe and credible."

As the critics gain ground and the battle heats up, it will be very interesting to see how the beleaguered DSM-5 Task Force responds.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

More developments on the sex offender front

Study finds problems with real-world reliability of Static-99

Evaluators differ almost half of the time in their scoring of the most widely used risk assessment instrument for sex offenders, the Static-99, according to a report in the current issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior. Even a one-point difference on the instrument can have substantial practical implications, both for individual sex offenders and for public policy. In by far the largest and most ecologically valid study of interrater agreement in Static-99 scoring, the research examined paired risk ratings for about 700 offenders in Texas and New Jersey. The findings call into question the typical practice of reporting only a single raw score, without providing confidence intervals that would take into account measurement error. The study, the latest in a line of similar research by Marcus Boccaccini, Daniel Murrie and colleagues, can be requested HERE.

California reining in SVP cowboys

Psychiatrist Allen Frances has more news coverage of a memorable state-sponsored training at which Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) evaluators were cautioned to be more prudent in their diagnostic practices. Ronald Mihordin, MD, JD, acting clinical director of the Department of Mental Health program, warned evaluators against cavalierly diagnosing men who have molested teenagers with “hebephilia” and rapists with “paraphilias not otherwise specified-nonconsent,” unofficial diagnoses not found in the current edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. California evaluators have come under fire in the past for billing upwards of $1 million per year conducting SVP evaluations of paroling prisoners. The PowerPoints of the 3-day training are now available online, at the DMH's website.

The neuroscience of sex offending

In preventive detention trials of sex offenders, forensic evaluators often testify about whether an offender lacks volitional control over his conduct. But how much do we really know about this? In the current issue of Aggression and Violent Behavior, forensic psychologist John Matthew Fabian explores the neuroscience literature on sex offending as it applies to civil commitment proceedings. The article can be viewed online, or requested from the author HERE.

Challenge to sex offender registry

Although the sex offender niche is by far the most partisan and contentious in forensic psychology, one thing that just about all informed professionals agree about is that sex offender registration laws do more harm than good. By permanently stigmatizing individuals, they hamper rehabilitation and reintegration; as Elizabeth Berenguer Megale of the Barry University School of Law explores in an essay in the Journal of Law and Social Deviance (full-text available HERE), they lead to a form of “social death.” Now, the California Coalition on Sexual Offending (CCOSO) and the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) have filed a joint amicus brief in a challenge to California's "Jessica's Law," which bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school or park. The amicus contends that the restriction is punishment without any rational purpose, in that it does not enhance public safely or deter future criminality. The challenge was brought by Steven Lloyd Mosley. After a jury found Mosley guilty of misdemeanor assault, a non-registerable offense, the sentencing judge ordered him to register anyway, ruling that the assault was sexually motivated. The 4th District Court of Appeal granted Mosley’s appeal, and the California Department of Corrections has appealed to the state's supreme court. We'll have to wait and see whether the high court will tackle the issue of registration laws directly, or will sidestep with a narrow, technical ruling.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Civil commitment petition against Butner, NC prisoner dismissed

 Federal judge discounts sex offender's confessions as fabricated

Sex offenses are upsetting, and their perpetrators creepy. Understandably, it's easy for jurors and even judges to brush aside legal technicalities and burdens of proof in the interest of keeping women and children safe.

But it is disturbing when forensic psychologists collude in this endeavor, disregarding the limits of science by overstating the accuracy of risk assessment instruments, inventing pretextual disorders to justify preventive detention, and even claiming omniscient truth-telling powers regarding ancient, unprosecuted allegations.

In an environment replete with such folie à plusieurs, it was refreshing to read the recent federal decision in the case of Markis Revland, a habitual criminal who faced civil detention after serving time for child pornography possession.

Senior U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman systematically analyzed and rejected the evidence as failing to meet the government’s burden of proof. Not only did the government fail to show that Revland had a serious mental disorder that put him at high risk of molesting children if released, it even failed to prove that the convict had engaged in any hands-on child molestation in the past, the judge ruled.

Child abuse claims imaginary

In addition to his conviction for child pornography, Revland had two prior convictions for indecent exposure. But the most damning evidence against him was his own admissions, made during sex offender treatment at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, that he had committed 149 additional incidents of sexual abuse of children of various ages.

However, the keen-minded judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina wasn’t buying those confessions:
The court finds that all of the 149 incidents reported by respondent … were the product of his imagination, not actual events.
He explained that Revland was desperate to enroll in Butner’s treatment program in order to escape the infamous federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he feared for his life after being beaten and raped at knifepoint by fellow prisoners. Once at Butner, he felt compelled to fabricate “a long list of sex offenses,” lest he be deemed uncooperative and returned to Leavenworth.

The offenses that he described in great detail were implausible, in that he was serving a prior, 10-year prison term for cocaine at around the same time that he claimed to be running around molesting children, the judge determined:
The reported incidents were not only too numerous to believe but also recounted – years afterwards – far too precisely, with respondent providing the age of the victim, the time of day … when each offense occurred, and the location where each incident allegedly occurred…. And yet the government offered no evidence to independently verify that any of these incidents occurred or that any of them – even one – ever resulted in investigation or prosecution.
As a group, Butner offenders – most of them incarcerated on child pornography charges -- have confessed to an unusually high number of undetected sex offenses, leading many observers to suspect that the widely publicized numbers are unreliable. Critics say treatment providers at the federal institution pressured prisoners to report as many offenses as possible, lest they be accused of not cooperating.

No bona fide sexual disorder

Likewise, Judge Friedman was unconvinced by the government's claim that Revland suffered from a mental disorder, pedophilia, that would justify civil commitment by making him likely to engage in future child molestation if released.

Friedman conceded that the convict met the criteria for antisocial personality disorder. But he found that such a diagnosis was irrelevant:
The essence of this disorder is that the patient “fail[s] to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.” Dr. [Jeffrey] Singer testified that the vast majority of prison inmates have this disorder, as they are in prison for breaking the law and failing to conform to social norms. Dr. [Joseph] Plaud testified that there is no documented causal link, in this case or in general, between antisocial personality disorder and sexual dangerousness. The court credits these experts' opinions.
Finally, the judge rejected the claims of two government psychologists that two so-called actuarial instruments, the Static-99R and the MnSOST-R, showed Revland to be at high risk for recidivism.

Judge Friedman said the risk assessments by both Dr. Manuel Gutierrez, a Board of Prisons employee, and contract psychologist Jeffrey Davis were "particularly unreliable in the present case because they both assumed that [Revland] is a pedophile with numerous 'hands-on' victims, whereas the court has rejected both of these premises."

Increasingly, cutting-edge researchers are coming to the consensus that by and large, with a few exceptions at the extreme end of the continuum, sex offenders are not a distinct group worthy of the level of special attention they are getting these days. Rather, they are garden-variety criminals who violate social norms, take what they want, and eventually burn out as they enter middle age.  

The judge's bold language in cutting through the empty psychobabble about mental disorder and risk harkens back to the little boy in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Emperor's New Clothes, who was not afraid to declare out loud that the emperor was naked.

 
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