maarmie's musings

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Let the punishment fit the crime

First of all, I want to express my shock regarding the articles in Time. It's been many years since I have read this magazine, but it doesn't seem to be of the same quality as the Time magazine I remember. What I remember are articles that more closely resemble those in The New York Times Magazine instead of USA Today . I might be wrong. I might be glorifying the past, but the Time of today reminds me more of a picture book than a novel. Lots of glossy photographs and charts and illustrations but not much content, not much digging. In short, a near-total disappointment.

One article caught my eye, however. A story about the New Orleans refugees who are criminals and how their exodus has affected other cities, what the rate of violent crime has been like in New Orleans since criminals have evacuated and how the crime rate has fluctuated since criminals have started moving back in. Why is the rate of violent crime in New Orleans so high compared to any other city in the country, including New York and Los Angeles? The answer is simple. New Orleans, says the article, is soft on criminals.

According to the article, "What Happened to the Gangs of New Orleans" by Amanda Ripley, New Orleans murderers and drug dealers know they can commit their crimes without the threat of pesky investigations and jail sentences. People don't trust the police there, the article says. That means potential witnesses refuse to cooperate. No witnesses, no prosecution. No prosecution, no jail sentence. No jail sentence equals a green light for criminals to be more brazen the next time and the next time and the next time knowing the chances of punishment are near zilch.

Used to this system, criminals who fled New Orleans are setting up shop in other cities. In Houston, where a large number of refugees have landed, the murder rate has gone up drastically, more drugs are being sold and other refugees are being preyed on for their FEMA checks, the article says. The one difference? Suspects are being held in jail when they refuse to talk as opposed to being set free, the New Orleans way. The longer they sit, says the article, the more they talk.

The article paints a grim picture of the future of New Orlenans by predicting that, in time, criminals will once again take over their old haunts and continue doing what they do best.

Is New Orleans forever destined to be a poor and violent city?

I have been to New Orleans twice. The first time, I was 15 and on vacation with my parents. Fun. They went out at night to drink Hurricanes and watch the mayhem, and I got to stay in my Bourbon Street hotel room all night and watch TV - which was OK with me because at least I was on my own.

The second time I visited, I went with a boyfriend and his friend from Germany. At the time, we were destitute college students, so we had no choice but to stay at a seedy hotel outside the French Quarter in a part of town populated by drunks and bums and dealers and alive with the sound of sirens. Because I am an idiot, I decided I wanted to hang out on the sidewalk outside the hotel while the bf and his friend lounged in the uber-cooled room watching some kind of bad kung-fu movie. I brought my camera with me to photograph the overpass, the trash on the ground, ramshackle buildings and homeless people during the time of the day where the sun almost touches the horizon.

I was outside for not even five minutes before what looked like a homeless man approached me and started talking to me. I suppose he throught I was either a prostitute (I used to dress rather skimpily in those days) or that I was looking for drugs. He was friendly, but I got nervous when his eyes hit my camera and stayed there. I tried to hold my camera tighter without appearing as if I was holding my camera tighter. I didn't want to offend the poor guy if his intentions were harmless.

About 10 minutes into the conversation, he tried to sell me crack. I told him no and that I hoped he didn't sell drugs to kids. He got all offended and said he would never, ever in a million years sell drugs to kids. I made him promise he never would. He promised, but how can a desperate man ever be believed? My bf came looking for me then. I went back to my room for the night and watched TV, the dialogue of the show punctured by the incessant wail of sirens.


Annie said...

As I was reading your entry about the New Orleans justice system of old, it made me think about what's going on in Iraq with their new justice system. The former Baathists are masquerading as police and perpetrating all kinds of mayhem. It's another version of justice-not.

Chris said...

I did a blog entry not to long ago comparing Time Magazine to People Magazine. Time has slipped quite a bit and my wife informs me that People is owned by Time. This would explain the slip in hard news.

I've often wondered what the Mayor of Atlantis was doing when the waters overtook the city. Probably what Ray Nagin is now doing; running for office.

The Misanthrope said...

I canceled my subscription to Time after the Judith Miller nonsense. I regret that I had never been to New Orleans.

maarmie said...

OK. I'm not doubting that I'm way, way out of the loop. I've been living mostly in my own head for quite a while now. So, pray tell, what is the Judith Miller nonsense? I probably should know this, but, I confess, I don't....

The Misanthrope said...

Judith Miller is the former reporter for the NYTimes who received the classified info from Scotter Libby. She did a few months in jail because she wouldn't rat him out. It turns out she wrote about WMD on the front page of the Times using wrong info because it all came from Libby and Dick Cheney. Rather than do jail time, the Time Magazine reporter talked and TimeWarner turned over its reporter's notes because they didn't want to pay the huge fines as shareholders would have been upset. That is a very short version of what happened.