Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cato Institute Series: Civil Commitments and Civil Liberties - First Essay, Questionable Commitments By Galen Baughman


 Start with the lead essay below. 

Response Essays:
Our Deeply Flawed Civil Commitment System, June 3, 2015
        By David Prescott
The Rise of the Preventative State, June 5, 2015
        By Eric Janus
Let’s Stamp Out Perversion, June 9, 2015
        By Amanda Pustilnik

Original Post: 

Lead Essay:
Questionable Commitments, June 1, 2015
There is a young man in Virginia sitting behind tall fences and razor wire, guarded by men with guns, and never allowed to leave. According to the state, he isn’t in prison, and he is not being punished for a crime. Instead, he’s being held because the government says he might commit a crime in the future. 

Against a backdrop of mass incarceration in America and a growing public understanding that the land of the free locks up more people than any other nation in the world, little attention has been paid to the evolving civil mechanisms that allow the state to deprive individuals of their liberty – often forever – under the guise of treatment. These systems represent a growing medicalization of crime, where criminal behavior is supposed to be caused by a mental problem rather than the person’s free will. If we commit crime because we are sick, then it would make sense for society to help make us better. This is dangerous thinking: It opens a door to a world in which we start to punish the criminal instead of the crime; a world in which the government is justified in imprisoning people because of who they are – and what they might do in the future – instead of only punishing crimes that we can prove they have committed beyond a reasonable doubt. In many ways, that world is already here. 

Civil commitment is the legal practice of detaining individuals who are suffering from acute symptoms of severe mental illness so that they can be treated, often in a secured environment. In this model, the state is providing care for individuals who are unable to care for themselves, while protecting the public from individuals who are dangerous due to their psychiatric condition. Sounds reasonable, right? Over the past 25 years, however, new laws have been created, designed to use the traditional model of civil commitment as a way to create secondary prison sentences for people who have already paid their debt to society, dramatically expanding the power of the state and blurring the lines between civil and criminal law.

Fact Checker: The False Claim that Human Trafficking is a ‘$9.5 Billion Business’ in the United States. Another 4 Pinocchio’s for a Widely Repeated Sex Crime Claim Meant to Create Fear, Hype and Urgency for Harsher Laws, Longer Sentences, More Funding, Civil Penalties and Life on a Registry!

Fact Checker: The False Claim that Human Trafficking is a ‘$9.5 Billion Business’ in the United States, June 2, 2015
By Glenn Kessler
Ruling: Four Pinocchio’s

It’s estimated that child sex trafficking in the United States alone is a $9.8 billion industry.” –Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), statement, May 19, 2015 

“This [human trafficking] is domestically a $9.5 billion business.” –Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), remarks at a congressional hearing, May 14, 2015 

Readers should always be wary of false precision. The sex trade is an underground industry, so on what basis would the revenues from the trafficking of children–or children and adults–in the United States be calculated so precisely, either as $9.8 billion or $9.5 billion? 

That’s what jumped out at The Fact Checker when we first spotted these figures, uttered by lawmakers as the House of Representatives considered the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.  The figures came from two different sources, but it turns out both were practically invented out of whole cloth. Let’s explore. 

The Facts 

For the $9.8 billion number, Goodlatte’s office originally directed The Fact Checker to an informational graphic posted on the Internet by Shared Hope International, which says it aims to eradicate sex trafficking. The graphic indicated that the statistic concerned all human trafficking in the United States—not just “child sex trafficking” as Goodlatte’s statement said.