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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Elinor Ostrom and her 8 principles of Managing A Commons

Elinor Ostrom was a Nobel Prize winning economist who did extensive work on the reality & concept of the Commons. She died in 2012. This post is technical and is meant for wonks and for later reference. I'll be citing it in future posts. [Obituary in New York Times]

The Economist writes a report on her that notes:

"IT SEEMED to Elinor Ostrom that the world contained a large body of common sense. People, left to themselves, would sort out rational ways of surviving and getting along. Although the world's arable land, forests, fresh water and fisheries were all finite, it was possible to share them without depleting them and to care for them without fighting. While others wrote gloomily of the tragedy of the commons, seeing only overfishing and overfarming in a free-for-all of greed, Mrs Ostrom, with her loud laugh and louder tops, cut a cheery and contrarian figure.[The Economist]

Elinor Ostrom did the work that is necessary for real progress. Where others prefer to make heros of heels, mythologize reality and form conclusions and then look for justifications, she used scientific method to analyze reality and draw generalizations that would help confront it. When premises didn't hold, she re-examined them. And the null hypothesis myth of a "tragedy of the commons" turns out to be such a myth.

Years of fieldwork, by herself and others, had shown her that humans were not trapped and helpless amid diminishing supplies. She had looked at forests in Nepal, irrigation systems in Spain, mountain villages in Switzerland and Japan, fisheries in Maine and Indonesia. She had even, as part of her PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, studied the water wars and pumping races going on in the 1950s in her own dry backyard."[The Economist]

She saw examples of how folks used common resources well, and how they used them badly. But she saw commonalities for when it was used well:

All these cases had taught her that, over time, human beings tended to draw up sensible rules for the use of common-pool resources. Neighbours set boundaries and assigned shares, with each individual taking it in turn to use water, or to graze cows on a certain meadow. Common tasks, such as clearing canals or cutting timber, were done together at a certain time. Monitors watched out for rule-breakers, fining or eventually excluding them. The schemes were mutual and reciprocal, and many had worked well for centuries. [The Economist]


"Best of all, they were not imposed from above."

What works best of all is local governance, not central governments:

"Mrs Ostrom put no faith in governments, nor in large conservation schemes paid for with aid money and crawling with concrete-bearing engineers. “Polycentrism” was her ideal. Caring for the commons had to be a multiple task, organised from the ground up and shaped to cultural norms. It had to be discussed face to face, and based on trust. Mrs Ostrom, besides poring over satellite data and quizzing lobstermen herself, enjoyed employing game theory to try to predict the behaviour of people faced with limited resources. In her Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University—set up with her husband Vincent, a political scientist, in 1973—her students were given shares in a notional commons. When they simply discussed what they should do before they did it, their rate of return from their “investments” more than doubled." [The Economist]

The key here is the principle of subsidiarity, but not in the top down hierarchical (and bureaucratic manner) that modern governments have organized by since the days of the Assyrian Empire, but this concept of "polycentrism" is the notion that local people know what is best for local assets and need to be respected.

“Small is Beautiful” sometimes seemed to be her creed. Her workshop looked somewhat like a large, cluttered cottage, reflecting her and Vincent's idea that science was a form of artisanship. When the vogue in America was all for consolidation of public services, she ran against it. For some years she compared police forces in the town of Speedway and the city of Indianapolis, finding that forces of 25-50 officers performed better by almost every measure than 100-strong metropolitan teams. But smaller institutions, she cautioned, might not work better in every case. As she travelled the world, giving out good and sharp advice, “No panaceas!” was her cry.

I suspect her worldview was as informed by the "Small is Beautiful" book by EF Schumacher as mine has been. [Economist] Indeed she was part of a tag team with her husband Vincent Ostrom who died in 2012

8 Principles for Managing a Commons


Ostrom has 8 principles:


Ostrom Principle:The principles restated:
Principle 1:  Well-defined boundaries
Principle 2:  Congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions
Principle 3:  Collective-choice arrangements: Representation and Participation in rules and decision making
Principle 4:  Locally representative Monitoring Officers
Principle 5:  Graduated sanctions; measured and just sanctions for misbehavior.
Principle 6:  Conflict-resolution mechanisms; informal adjudication locally and formal adjudication of disputes available
Principle 7:  Recognition of rights; those involved in managing something have a stake in it that needs to be respected. And people have a right to self government.
Principle 8: Nested enterprises

Principle 1. Define clear group boundaries.

The article "Ecology and Society" [] defines these 8 principles with some detail.

Actual wording: "Well-defined boundaries"
“This principle, as Agrawal (2002) notes, originally stipulated the presence of well-defined boundaries around a community of users and boundaries around the resource system this community uses. Each component helps to internalize the positive and negative externalities produced by participants, so they bear the costs of appropriation and receive some of the benefits of resource provision. Each component was coded separately, with community boundaries coded as principle 1A and resource boundaries coded as 1B (Table 3). There was strong evidence for 1A and moderate evidence for 1B. Pinkerton and Weinstein (1995:25), for example, state, “Exclusion of outsiders from fishing space was the main mechanism used by the villagers to control fishing effort. This is one of the most common and universal mechanisms found in community-managed inshore fisheries.” []

This principle is key to providing orderly and fair access and usage of a common resource.


Principle 2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.

Actual Wording: "Congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions"

The principle restates why we need to have local government involving locals. Ostrom uses technical language to note:

"Ostrom’s (1990:92) second design principle refers to the “congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions.” Like the first principle, this principle stipulates two separate conditions that Agrawal (2002) recognizes. The first condition is that both appropriation and provision rules conform in some way to local conditions; Ostrom emphasizes local conditions of the CPR, such as its spatial and temporal heterogeneity. The second condition is that congruence exists between appropriation and provision rules. We found very strong empirical evidence for both principles." [Ecology and Society Article]

To use legal language local rule is necessary to governing any well managed commons, and that includes local government of neighbhorhoods and business branches. These observations support the principle that local representative (Republican) government should be a right.

Principle 3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.

This too supports the notion that local government should be representative, "with consent of the Governed". Ostrom writes:

Principle 3: Collective-choice arrangements
"Ostrom (1990:90) states, “most individuals affected by the operational rules can participate in modifying the operational rules.” This principle is in the spirit of a large amount of literature on the importance of local knowledge in natural resource management (e.g., Berkes et al. 2000), in which local users have first-hand and low-cost access to information about their situation and thus a comparative advantage in devising effective rules and strategies for that location, particularly when local conditions change." [Ecology & Society]

Principle 4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.

Ostrom's Principle 7: Minimum recognition of rights
In the University article this is labeled as 7 and it "stipulates that external government agencies do not challenge the right of local users to create their own institutions. An external government agency imposing its own rules on a community managing a CPR may suffer from a government failure of the kind discussed by Hayek (1945) and Scott (1998) if the externally imposed rules do not correspond to local conditions." [Ecology and Society Article]

These principles imply that both outside authorities and internal authorities must be accountable to the people of the community.

Principle 5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.

Ostrom: Monitoring
"Principle 4A stipulates the presence of monitors, whereas 4B stipulates the condition that these monitors are members of the community or otherwise accountable to those members. Monitoring makes those who do not comply with rules visible to the community, which facilitates the effectiveness of rule enforcement mechanisms and informs strategic and contingent behavior of those who do comply with rules. Empirically, principle 4A was moderately well supported, whereas 4B was very strongly supported by the case data."

Now "Monitors" is essentially two roles; that of enforcing order, and that of adjudicating minor disputes.

"Monitors may not perform satisfactorily if they do not directly benefit from improved resource conditions. Thus, it may be important that monitors are accountable to those who most depend on the resource. Gautam and Shivakoti (2005), who studied two forest systems located in the Middle Hills of Nepal, found that the ability of local users to oversee monitors’ performance affected resource conditions. In Jylachitti Forest, local users hired two people for regular monitoring and paid them through contributions from each member household. In Dhulkhel Forest, guards were also hired, but they were paid by local authorities. Whereas Jylachitti local users were engaged in supervising the guards’ performance in controlling timber extraction levels, this was not the case in Dhulkhel, where overextraction was becoming an issue by the end of the study." [Ecology and Society Article]

Monitors have to be of the community and benefit in some way from performing their jobs.

"We have already seen that people prefer to spend more time negotiating consensus than establishing and imposing sanctions. Solidarity in this case cannot simply be interpreted functionally as being directly about cooperation over the mechanisms of water resource management. It is comprised of complex networks of cooperation based on family structure, labour-sharing arrangements and numerous interrelated associational activities such as church groups, savings clubs, and income-generating groups. The village apparently most successful at collective action regarding water supplies was also remarkable for its other cooperative activities, for its success in agricultural production and for the frequency and cheerful creativity of its public social occasions. Cleaver (2000:374)." [Ecology and Society Article]

Complex networks collaborate and when they do that bonds societies and is not just a business decision.

Principle 6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.

(Study Principle 5): Graduated sanctions
Principle 5 stipulates the efficacy of graduated sanctioning systems. Sanctioning deters participants from excessive violations of community rules. Graduated sanctions progress incrementally based on either the severity or the repetition of violations. Graduated sanctions help to maintain community cohesion while genuinely punishing severe cases; they also maintain proportionality between the severity of violations and sanctions, similar to the proportionality between appropriation and provision rules from principle 2.

Fairness means that you have to give people a chance to participate and measure punishments.

Principle 7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.

[Principle 6 in study]: Conflict-resolution mechanisms
"Principle [7] states that systems with low-cost conflict resolution mechanisms are more likely to survive. Conflict over an exhaustible resource is inevitable in CPR management, necessitating the presence of established mechanisms for conflict resolution to maintain collective action. This principle was moderately well supported by the empirical data. In the acequia irrigation communities in northern New Mexico, for example, there is a long history of recourse to external court systems under different national regimes to resolve inter-community conflicts. Several agreements reached by territorial probate courts more than 100 years ago are the basis for functioning, modern water-sharing agreements today (Cox 2010)."

The purpose of conflict resolution is to "de-escalate" situations and make sure that the system functions in a win/win manner and is not a win/lose conflict situation.

Principle 8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.

Study Principle 8: Nested enterprises
"Principle 8 states that in successful systems, “governance activities are organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises” (Ostrom 1990:90). As for principle 7, which also deals with cross-scale institutional factors, the empirical evidence for principle 8 was moderately supportive."

The idea that power should be centralized is so obviously counter-functional but in most actual governments is subverted by ambitious authorities. The best way to adjudicate this is to ensure that smaller systems are part of larger systems and that the relationships between the parties are well enough defined so that each party involved doesn't have incentive or time to infringe on others.

"Many scholars, particularly those focusing on pastoral and irrigation systems, have stressed the importance of nesting smaller common-property systems in larger and still larger ones, given the high probability that the social systems have cross-scale physical relationships when they manage different parts of a larger resource system and thus may need mechanisms to facilitate cross-scale cooperation (Lane and Scoones 1993, Niamir-Fuller 1998). Part of the motivation for this principle, then, relates to principle 1 (user and resource boundaries) and is stated by Hanna et al. (1995:20) as: “It is important to ensure that a property rights regime has clearly defined boundaries, and that to the extent possible, those boundaries are consistent with the natural boundaries of the ecological system.” It is not just user and resource boundaries that are important; a match between these boundaries may be important as well, and institutional nesting is an important way to accomplish this in many situations." [Ecology and Society Article]

This nesting is necessary in order to maintain proper relationship boundaries and reemphasizes importance of establishing clear ones in the first place. It is a principle of Federalism at it's best.

"One additional clarification regarding principle 8 is that the nesting may occur either between user groups and larger governmental jurisdictions, or between user groups themselves. Many traditional irrigation systems, for example, contain multiple levels of organization that mirror the branching properties of an irrigation system (Coward 1977). This is somewhat different from co-management arrangements between user groups and a larger government body, described in extensive publications (Berkes and Folke 1998, Berkes 2002, Yandle 2006, Cinner et al. 2009). Intercommunity connections can be thought of as horizontal linkages, whereas connections between multiple jurisdictional levels can be thought of as vertical linkages. It is our understanding that, when she formulated this principle, Ostrom (1990) was referring to vertical linkages. We would generalize principle 8 to include both horizontal and vertical linkages because they may accomplish similar functions." [Ecology and Society Article]

Ostrom is laying out a design for confederation, collaboration, constitutionality and republicanism that we need to pay attention to.

Further reading:
Nobel Prize Page
Obituary in New York Times
She taught in Indiana.
I think I met her but I'm not sure. We lost a lot of people in 2011-2012
Paper that illustrates her 8 principles authored by 3 of her students:

Miles to go before I sleep

My Favorite poem, by Robert Frost is this one:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”


I like a lot of Robert Frost's poetry but this one pops up in my mind whenever I feel discouraged, tired, or frustrated. Life isn't easy. Cold winds blow and the snow, or rain, or drought, hot winds or fire, all carry perils. It ain't easy. But life is a journey and we have promises we've made individually and other ones we made implicitly. Promises to our parents, children, grandchildren. Duties to fulfil, obligations to loved ones and friends. Our sense of "mission" or "purpose" is tied up with whether or not we are willing to commit to such promises and take on such duties. Virtue is when people live up to the promises of a role and actually keep those promises.

And so this little poem speaks to the need to go on and to a lot more than the need to go on. It would be easier to stay and sleep in the snow. Or to stay at home and do nothing. But if we did that, we'd never get the chance to stop from time to time and watch the snow fill up the woods with a lovely blanket and fill the world with beauty and wonder.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why My late wife was a Master Teacher

My wife gave me more than 12 years of discoveries, and that is part of why she was a phenomenal teacher. Her students may not have liked everything about her (she was strict) but with her education was a constant discussion. Her way of teaching was to constantly learn. We'd attend conferences and museum presentations, author presentations and seminars; and she'd bring materials back to her classroom from those study venues -- and bring the students to them, when she could, herself. I think of her today as I realize I've learned a lot about learning and education from her. I'm trying to honor her, not just by keeping and sharing what she learned, but by continually learning and sharing what I learn myself. When you stop learning you stop being a master teacher. Long ago I saw that there were three kinds of teachers,

  1. ordinary teachers who teach what some other teacher ordered them to teach.
  2. Teachers who can teach other teachers.
  3. And those who can teach the teachers of teachers.

My Wife was one of the third kind.

We need local community government

Chris Hayes is talking about this general subject right now. In my previous posts I talked about how the facts and observations "Breaking glass" concept (corrupted by Giuliani & Law enforcement) as described in the Atlantic were actually pointing at the need for community policing And before that I've talked about the faulty theories in "Zero Tolerance" policies. But the article also describes the consequences of centralization we see with the Ferguson Murder by Cop incident. Paraphrase "police no longer know the people in the neighborhood." They may know the Church Pastor, the local stores. But they don't know the people. He's suggesting reforming the police, but he's pointing to the difficulty of policing in dangerous neighborhoods, and the Broken Glass story describes how lack of local order destroys neighborhoods. Peter Moskos writes a great book, but reforming the centralized police won't fix the problem. The problem is broader than policing. It is the fact that neighborhoods do not have an automatic right to self rule and an automatic right to representation in the general government. What is needed are local police. I'd even call them constables. We should have local watchmen and the police should be there to respond to calls and come when there is an emergency. We should have semi-volunteer watchmen in neighborhood funded by the city and the local neighborhood. Local neighborhoods need local "judge, jury, police and representation" with local posts where these attributes can be practiced and those local authorities need the power to keep order and represent the neighborhood. Not necessarily to make arrests or even carry a gun.

Local authorities aren't perfect either, and local general government is sometimes necessary to oversee such local government as is devoted to providing order and governing local communities. That general government is needed to provide oversight, guidance, discipline over misbehaving officials and appeal avenues, but they can't do that if they are also wearing local government hats. The conflicting demands of providing order and enforcing general laws creates built in conflicts that gets worked out either in weird legalistic behavior (such as claiming a girl bullied herself for not being willing to throw the book at the bullies under Zero tolerance laws. To deconflict this we need to recognize that local government is a right not a privilege for communities. Therefore it has to be enabled by the general government and the courts. We also have to realize that the principles of republicanism dictate we separate "judge, jury and executioner" roles, and never give them to a single individual by himself.


In Federalist 27 I find the term "Ordinary Magistry" employed at the end of his paper:

"The plan reported by the convention, by extending the authority of the federal head to the individual citizens of the several States, will enable the government to employ the ordinary magistracy of each, in the execution of its laws." [Federalist 27]

To me this indicates that at least one founder intended the constitution to be taken literally in it's guarantees of a "Republican Form of Government" to the States, and based on the principle invoked on a similar guarantee down to the local community. A state is not republican unless it's subdivisions are republican, and they are not republican unless they provide effective representation to the citizens of their subdivisions and that requires respecting local government. The principle of Subsidiarity is not explicit in the constitution but it appears that Hamilton at least assumed that the Federal Government would be collaborative and not duplicative or combative.

All this advocates for the reform of our government to more systematically represent communities bottom up, rather than provide eternal fighting between over-centralized State Governments and an over-centralized Federal Government bureaucracies. The answer to bad government is good government and our constitution embraced the principles it did because they are basic principles of good government.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Neighborhood and the City The Village and The Town

Last night, while the awful news about Ferguson was being broadcast I was researching the "Broken Windows" theory. Reading the original research and articles on the subject in the Atlantic's archives [see] and I saw the same pattern of dysfunction and poor constitution of our Democracy in the way that the information had been applied. I had a "eureka moment" even as I was hearing the anguished cries of youths who feel trapped in neighborhoods where they are treated as colonies of the central government. The Atlantic article was talking about Ferguson! Our neglected towns, villages, countryside and cities all suffer from "broken windows", disinvestment, neglect. And people reacting badly to that sense of despair and abandonment. As the author noted:

"one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing. (It has always been fun.)"

The article was suggesting something that local Police Departments are incapable of meeting. Why? Because they aren't local enough. And also why? Because general governments at the local level can't afford to provide the necessary services, and it requires a community to do so completely. As with everything else in our country what is happening in Ferguson's black neighborhoods and also in Ferguson's white neighborhoods, isn't a breakdown in democracy from too little democracy but a breakdown from a failure to replicate republican principles intelligently and fairly. The article states it:

"From the earliest days of the nation, the police function was seen primarily as that of a night watchman: to maintain order against the chief threats to order—fire, wild animals, and disreputable behavior."[Atlantic article]

We used to do it through informal Government agencies, but that was cludgy. Now we don't do it at all for our poor neighborhoods while the rich hire guards and put gates at the entrance of their neighborhoods.

"For centuries, the role of the police as watchmen was judged primarily not in terms of its compliance with appropriate procedures but rather in terms of its attaining a desired objective. The objective was order, an inherently ambiguous term but a condition that people in a given community recognized when they saw it. The means were the same as those the community itself would employ, if its members were sufficiently determined, courageous, and authoritative" [Atlantic article]

The Need for a Security Militia and Volunteerism

It's not like the need hasn't been identified. The Atlantic Article talks at length about the kinds of policing necessary to establish neighborhood order and create healthy neighborhoods. And he is describing a less professional and more volunteer police force. More street beat than police cruiser. More "Guardian Angels" than Officer Francis Muldoon. They put it in historic terms talking about "public order" versus solving crimes. The folks who created the Guardian Angels had hit on the problem. We need to have local law enforcement of local informal ordinances at a level below that of the general government.

I don't propose a return to older policing models. I have something larger in mind, starting with the creation of a local reserve police constabulary. The Atlantic Article talked about what happened when DC implemented Foot patrols:

"Five years after the program started, the Police Foundation, in Washington, D.C., published an evaluation of the foot-patrol project. Based on its analysis of a carefully controlled experiment carried out chiefly in Newark, the foundation concluded, to the surprise of hardly anyone, that foot patrol had not reduced crime rates. But residents of the foot patrolled neighborhoods seemed to feel more secure than persons in other areas, tended to believe that crime had been reduced, and seemed to take fewer steps to protect themselves from crime (staying at home with the doors locked, for example). Moreover, citizens in the foot-patrol areas had a more favorable opinion of the police than did those living elsewhere. And officers walking beats had higher morale, greater job satisfaction, and a more favorable attitude toward citizens in their neighborhoods than did officers assigned to patrol cars"

The beat officers weren't effective in arresting people. That was the job of detectives and they needed help from backup in cruisers to deal with major crimes or chase down infractions. But what they could do was to establish and maintain local order. The Atlantic article goes at lengths to envision what this order should look like and I talked about this yesterday but what we need are local constabulary. Local officers who can act as neighborhood watchmen, do patrols, and who have the "real police" as backups. We already have this in some suburbs. Trayvon was murdered by such a local constable. But you see that indicates why this needs to be part of a police reserve function. Zimmerman was a poorly trained reserve with no local authority. A young man like Trayvon saw him and he had no local authority, he probably saw him as some stupid punk sticking his nose in other people's business. A local constabulary would be as well trained as the police. Just volunteer, auxiliary and local.

But as the incident with Trayvon last year illustrated. Neighborhood watches aren't enough. The old method of policing where police wore police, judge and executioner hats at the same time was no more just than current policing. The Atlantic Article also notes that the old constables who were in place before "modern" professional policing were often brutal and the rules varied from neighborhood to neighborhood in arbitrary ways. What I'm talking about is applying the principles of replication and subsidiarism. The role of a beat cop is necessary to neighborhoods and local governance. But that should be the province of local governors and neighborhoods. Not the general government. The city "general government" should be there to support local government and to intervene when locals are over their heads, not as first response. The beat cop should be a local militia function not a citywide function. But the local militia should be organized as Hamilton and the constitution suggest:

"provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress"

We need a Judicial Militia, organized on constitutional principles. At the local level we need constables, but we also need volunteer barristers, local justices who can act as either impromptu judges or mediate disputes. No person should combine in their person "judge, jury and executioner" -- that is a constitutional principle that is behind separation of powers. If Ferguson, instead of having a large, scared and "professional" police force who never leave their cars except when arresting someone, had neighborhood watchmen and proctors or informal justices (this is the principle of volunteerism, one volunteers, is trained at State Level and maybe Federal Level, and then released into the local reserves) backed by local informal legislatures each headed by a councilman from that subdivision -- we'd see a different kind of law enforcement and more community participation. We also need a health and ER militia and to bring back volunteer fire and rescue companies, but that is for another days argument. The "Guardian Angels" were on the right path. Instead of the professionals fearing them and marginalizing them we should train them, pay them for "such part as employed" in Governing, and set them up as an auxilliary and adjunct to local police forces.

I have to keep this post short as I want people to read it. So I'll stop now, but we have to reestablish the primary importance and separate role of neighborhoods in governing cities, towns and the country.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Broken Windows Theory was corrupted


I haven't commented on the Broken Windows Theory, despite seeing a marked decline in the quality of Law enforcement in recent years attributed at least in part to the crazy implementation of it. But I remedied that neglect recently when I realized what I was hearing didn't make sense and started digging. I first heard of the "Broken Windows Theory in the context of Rudy Giuliani's crackdown on crime a few years back. The way it was presented, if they catch criminals doing minor crimes they can stop major crimes.

Pre-Emptive Law Enforcement

The result of this theory was that a lot of "criminals" were taken off the street in what seemed pre-emptive enforcement. Like the "Pre-crime" methods of that Awful movie "Minority Report" with Tom Cruise. Of course "pre-crime" violates fundamental principles of justice including 4th and 5th amendment protections. And Giuliani's measures were oppressive in far greater proportion to any benefit from them. Indeed "Broken Windows" philosophy and the related "zero tolerance" attitude has led to jails being filled up with people convicted of minor crimes, while major crimes continue to go unpunished. Major crimes are usually committed in offices of major banks or companies in this country. Despite abundant evidence that Zero Tolerance doesn't work at either the School level or in law enforcement, it is popular among disciplinary authorities.

Zero Tolerance

I just shared a report that shows how and why Zero Tolerance in Schools is a dysfunctional policy. [] It appears that what makes the broken windows concept a failure is that it too is based on some of the same false assumptions and worse policies as the "Zero Tolerance" policy is based on. I first started writing about that when I remembered my own awful experience with bullying and school dysfunction as a kid that I alluded to back in August: ["Bullying and what to do about it"]. It appears that the schools are even less clueless about dealing with these subjects than they were when I was a kid. And they were pretty clueless then!

But what contributes to the injustice in the Judicial system are two theories entertwined both of which are intensely destructive. If Zero Tolerance is dysfunctional in Schools. The "School to prison pipeline" also includes a "Zero Tolerance" minor crimes to long prison sentences also based on the Zero Tolerance society. This time expressed in "Three Strikes you're out" sentencing guidelines.

What's wrong with "Broken Windows Theory"?

The theories claim t obe based on an article written in the Atlantic in 1983, The author made two observations:

" First, outside observers should not assume that they know how much of the anxiety now endemic in many big-city neighborhoods stems from a fear of "real" crime and how much from a sense that the street is disorderly, a source of distasteful, worrisome encounters. The people of Newark, to judge from their behavior and their remarks to interviewers, apparently assign a high value to public order, and feel relieved and reassured when the police help them maintain that order."

Enforceing a Feeling of Safety

In other words, foot patrols and community policing "helped" best when it made the "regulars" feel safer, from "strangers" as well as from real criminals.

"Second, at the community level, disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones. Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing. (It has always been fun.)" [Atlantic Article page 2]

Misrepresenting the Theory

From reading this article, authorities and Folks like William Bratton decided to interpret the "Broken Windows theory" as a theory of protecting communities by arresting people for petty crimes.

"Bratton and others expanded the meaning of this metaphorical window to include the common, victimless but troublesome crimes that occur every day in urban areas. Order begets accountability, the theory goes; disorder begets crime. So, enforcing the smallest laws could prevent the large ones from being broken. As head of the Transit Police, Bratton had zero tolerance for graffiti and turnstile-jumping. As head of the NYPD, he cracked down on so-called “squeegee men.” (Kelling, one of the authors of the original Atlantic article, had also been earlier hired by New York City as a consultant.) Violent crime dropped 51 percent in New York City in the 1990s, and homicide dropped 72 percent. These impressive results gave both the broken windows theory and the policies it inspired the sheen of unassailability." []

But is this what Wilson and Kelling were talking about?

James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling's article?

The Atlantic article broken Glass Theory was not directly about arresting squeegie men and vagrants, but was about the concept of order and whether communities feel safe or not. When people have a sense of ownership they fix their windows, mow their lawns and take care of their property, because they have a stake in that neighborhood. So the people talking about community policing and empowering citizens took their cues from this article that the way to reduce crime is to give people ownership of their property. Crudely that means moving them to houses with mortgages. But it also could have meant giving people the right to have title to their homes even when someone else owns the building. They do that in Argentina. Here it's confined to Condos. But anyone who studies urban areas knows that owned and occupied buildings are better taken care of than abandoned or rented buildings.

Testing the Theory

"Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford psychologist, reported in 1969 on some experiments testing the broken-window theory. He arranged to have an automobile without license plates parked with its hood up on a street in the Bronx and a comparable automobile on a street in Palo Alto, California." [Atl page 2]

Sure enough the car in the Bronx:

"was attacked by 'vandals' within ten minutes of its "abandonment." The first to arrive were a family—father, mother, and young son—who removed the radiator and battery. Within twenty-four hours, virtually everything of value had been removed. Then random destruction began—windows were smashed, parts torn off, upholstery ripped. Children began to use the car as a playground. Most of the adult "vandals" were well-dressed, apparently clean-cut whites." [Atlantic Article page 2]

Disorderly Conditions invite Crime

Yes, plant an abandoned car in a neglected and blighted neighborhood was seen as fair game. But what happened in Palo Alto was interesting:

"The car in Palo Alto sat untouched for more than a week. Then Zimbardo smashed part of it with a sledgehammer. Soon, passersby were joining in. Within a few hours, the car had been turned upside down and utterly destroyed. Again, the "vandals" appeared to be primarily respectable whites. Untended property becomes fair game for people out for fun or plunder and even for people who ordinarily would not dream of doing such things and who probably consider themselves law-abiding. Because of the nature of community life in the Bronx—its anonymity, the frequency with which cars are abandoned and things are stolen or broken, the past experience of "no one caring"—vandalism begins much more quickly than it does in staid Palo Alto, where people have come to believe that private possessions are cared for, and that mischievous behavior is costly. But vandalism can occur anywhere once communal barriers—the sense of mutual regard and the obligations of civility—are lowered by actions that seem to signal that "no one cares." [Atlantic Article page 2]

People Care About Neighborhoods that are cared for

So far so good. I don't think anyone would disagree that the sociology of crime requires that people care about their neighborhoods and that care be put into them. When a city is disinvested in, such as happening in Detroit, the effects become much the same. It's like breaking a window in an abandoned car. Only it's the whole city. If nobody cares, everyone acts as a pirate. The rules are turned off. Something similar would happen if our country fell apart in say a "Zombie Apocalypse." The default for human society is tribal behavior with families looking out for themselves.

Tended Versus Untended Behavior

The Atlantic article goes on to say:

"We suggest that "untended" behavior also leads to the breakdown of community controls. A stable neighborhood of families who care for their homes, mind each other's children, and confidently frown on unwanted intruders can change, in a few years or even a few months, to an inhospitable and frightening jungle. A piece of property is abandoned, weeds grow up, a window is smashed. Adults stop scolding rowdy children; the children, emboldened, become more rowdy. Families move out, unattached adults move in. Teenagers gather in front of the corner store. The merchant asks them to move; they refuse. Fights occur. Litter accumulates. People start drinking in front of the grocery; in time, an inebriate slumps to the sidewalk and is allowed to sleep it off. Pedestrians are approached by panhandlers."[Atlantic Article]

You'd think they'd prioritize Fixing Broken Windows?

So the Broken Window theory started out as a perfectly valid observation that one would think would lead to community investment, empowering people to stake out empty homes and move in and homestead them.

The article goes on to explain how neighborhoods go downhill:

"At this point it is not inevitable that serious crime will flourish or violent attacks on strangers will occur. But many residents will think that crime, especially violent crime, is on the rise, and they will modify their behavior accordingly. They will use the streets less often, and when on the streets will stay apart from their fellows, moving with averted eyes, silent lips, and hurried steps. "Don't get involved." For some residents, this growing atomization will matter little, because the neighborhood is not their "home" but "the place where they live." Their interests are elsewhere; they are cosmopolitans. But it will matter greatly to other people, whose lives derive meaning and satisfaction from local attachments rather than worldly involvement; for them, the neighborhood will cease to exist except for a few reliable friends whom they arrange to meet." [Atlantic Article]

Why didn't it turn out that way?

The article went on to describe the history of Urban Decay:

"The process we call urban decay has occurred for centuries in every city. But what is happening today is different in at least two important respects. First, in the period before, say, World War II, city dwellers- because of money costs, transportation difficulties, familial and church connections—could rarely move away from neighborhood problems. When movement did occur, it tended to be along public-transit routes. Now mobility has become exceptionally easy for all but the poorest or those who are blocked by racial prejudice. Earlier crime waves had a kind of built-in self-correcting mechanism: the determination of a neighborhood or community to reassert control over its turf. Areas in Chicago, New York, and Boston would experience crime and gang wars, and then normalcy would return, as the families for whom no alternative residences were possible reclaimed their authority over the streets." [Atlantic Article]
"Second, the police in this earlier period assisted in that reassertion of authority by acting, sometimes violently, on behalf of the community. Young toughs were roughed up, people were arrested "on suspicion" or for vagrancy, and prostitutes and petty thieves were routed. "Rights" were something enjoyed by decent folk, and perhaps also by the serious professional criminal, who avoided violence and could afford a lawyer."

Then he makes this point:

"This pattern of policing was not an aberration or the result of occasional excess. From the earliest days of the nation, the police function was seen primarily as that of a night watchman: to maintain order against the chief threats to order—fire, wild animals, and disreputable behavior. Solving crimes was viewed not as a police responsibility but as a private one. In the March, 1969, Atlantic, one of us (Wilson) wrote a brief account of how the police role had slowly changed from maintaining order to fighting crimes. The change began with the creation of private detectives (often ex-criminals), who worked on a contingency-fee basis for individuals who had suffered losses. In time, the detectives were absorbed in municipal agencies and paid a regular salary simultaneously, the responsibility for prosecuting thieves was shifted from the aggrieved private citizen to the professional prosecutor. This process was not complete in most places until the twentieth century." [Atlantic Article]

He goes on to say that as important as the role of solving crimes is in modern policing, the primary role of police traditionally has been in order maintenance:

"A great deal was accomplished during this transition, as both police chiefs and outside experts emphasized the crime fighting function in their plans, in the allocation of resources, and in deployment of personnel. The police may well have become better crime-fighters as a result. And doubtless they remained aware of their responsibility for order. But the link between order-maintenance and crime-prevention, so obvious to earlier generations, was forgotten." [Atlantic Article]

All true and he goes on:

"That link is similar to the process whereby one broken window becomes many. The citizen who fears the ill-smelling drunk, the rowdy teenager, or the importuning beggar is not merely expressing his distaste for unseemly behavior; he is also giving voice to a bit of folk wisdom that happens to be a correct generalization—namely, that serious street crime flourishes in areas in which disorderly behavior goes unchecked. The unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window. Muggers and robbers, whether opportunistic or professional, believe they reduce their chances of being caught or even identified if they operate on streets where potential victims are already intimidated by prevailing conditions. If the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying passersby, the thief may reason, it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugger or to interfere if the mugging actually takes place." [Atlantic Article]

The Atlantic Article was not advocating arresting vagrants and squeegie men

So we can see how this article spawned both the community policing model and more nasty policies. If the theory is that the way to reduce crime is to remove the panhandlers, lock up the vandals and thus make the neighborhood feel safer from crime -- then that becomes the focus of law enforcement. But the fact is that the Atlantic argument was not endorsing the policies that cite it. On the contrary the author noted:

"Some police administrators concede that this process occurs, but argue that motorized-patrol officers can deal with it as effectively as foot patrol officers. We are not so sure. In theory, an officer in a squad car can observe as much as an officer on foot; in theory, the former can talk to as many people as the latter. But the reality of police-citizen encounters is powerfully altered by the automobile. An officer on foot cannot separate himself from the street people; if he is approached, only his uniform and his personality can help him manage whatever is about to happen. And he can never be certain what that will be—a request for directions, a plea for help, an angry denunciation, a teasing remark, a confused babble, a threatening gesture." [Atlantic Article]

But a police officer with a cruiser can come in shoot unarmed teenagers or the local vagrants. And can't tell the difference between "neighbors" and "strangers." Those who practice "Broken Window" policing ignore the core of what Broken Window theory was about. The author could have been describing events in Ferguson or any town where people feel the police as oppressive:

"In a car, an officer is more likely to deal with street people by rolling down the window and looking at them. The door and the window exclude the approaching citizen; they are a barrier. Some officers take advantage of this barrier, perhaps unconsciously, by acting differently if in the car than they would on foot. We have seen this countless times. The police car pulls up to a corner where teenagers are gathered. The window is rolled down. The officer stares at the youths. They stare back. The officer says to one, "C'mere." He saunters over, conveying to his friends by his elaborately casual style the idea that he is not intimidated by authority. What's your name?" "Chuck." "Chuck who?" "Chuck Jones." "What'ya doing, Chuck?" "Nothin'." "Got a P.O. [parole officer]?" "Nah." "Sure?" "Yeah." "Stay out of trouble, Chuckie." Meanwhile, the other boys laugh and exchange comments among themselves, probably at the officer's expense. The officer stares harder. He cannot be certain what is being said, nor can he join in and, by displaying his own skill at street banter, prove that he cannot be "put down." In the process, the officer has learned almost nothing, and the boys have decided the officer is an alien force who can safely be disregarded, even mocked." [Atlantic Article]

Worse the Officer in a cruiser is an outsider. He is the stranger. Talking to the officer no longer becomes talking to a familiar and trusted figure:

"Our experience is that most citizens like to talk to a police officer. Such exchanges give them a sense of importance, provide them with the basis for gossip, and allow them to explain to the authorities what is worrying them (whereby they gain a modest but significant sense of having "done something" about the problem). You approach a person on foot more easily, and talk to him more readily, than you do a person in a car. Moreover, you can more easily retain some anonymity if you draw an officer aside for a private chat. Suppose you want to pass on a tip about who is stealing handbags, or who offered to sell you a stolen TV. In the inner city, the culprit, in all likelihood, lives nearby. To walk up to a marked patrol car and lean in the window is to convey a visible signal that you are a "fink."

The authors next point is just as important:

"The essence of the police role in maintaining order is to reinforce the informal control mechanisms of the community itself. The police cannot, without committing extraordinary resources, provide a substitute for that informal control. On the other hand, to reinforce those natural forces the police must accommodate them. And therein lies the problem"

The authors then ask an important question:

Should police activity on the street be shaped, in important ways, by the standards of the neighborhood rather than by the rules of the state?

"Over the past two decades, the shift of police from order-maintenance to law enforcement has brought them increasingly under the influence of legal restrictions, provoked by media complaints and enforced by court decisions and departmental orders. As a consequence, the order maintenance functions of the police are now governed by rules developed to control police relations with suspected criminals."

And this leads to the police treating entire neighborhoods as if everyone in that neighborhood was a criminal with the result that instead of a "serve and protect" attitude police come to treat such neighborhoods as occupied territory where everyone is suspect.

"For centuries, the role of the police as watchmen was judged primarily not in terms of its compliance with appropriate procedures but rather in terms of its attaining a desired objective. The objective was order, an inherently ambiguous term but a condition that people in a given community recognized when they saw it. The means were the same as those the community itself would employ, if its members were sufficiently determined, courageous, and authoritative"

But the police cruiser ensconced, occupying policeman is not concerned with order. He's concerned with survival, with procedure, with arresting and prosecuting "perpetrators". They go on to detail their own opinions about what was happening. And I suggest people read the Atlantic article before judging it on the basis of what folks have done with their recommendations. Because their warnings are cogent:

"Above all, we must return to our long-abandoned view that the police ought to protect communities as well as individuals. Our crime statistics and victimization surveys measure individual losses, but they do not measure communal losses. Just as physicians now recognize the importance of fostering health rather than simply treating illness, so the police—and the rest of us—ought to recognize the importance of maintaining, intact, communities without broken windows"

Rudy Giuliani and other police officials don't seem to have read this report carefully. Or disregarded it. Because the report recommended community policing and other policies aimed at fixing the windows and making people feel at home. Not what these people have done with the term. Which has been conflated with "Zero Tolerance" and "profiling" nonsense -- and essentially doing the opposite of what the Atlantic recommended. In the name of the "Broken Windows Theory the Article "Breaking down the Broken Window Theory" Police commissioners like William J. Bratton stripped the heart out of Broken Window Theory by reductio ad absurdum. Rather than involve officers in establishing order and community policing they decided that the way to reduce crime was to arrest the folks who broke the windows. For example he says:

"We are not targeting communities of color, we are targeting behavior," Bratton said. "And the behavior is things that are prohibited by law, breaking the law." []

But you see, he's not making the community feel safer, fixing broken windows, or restoring what the community would consider order. He's imposing a rule from outside very much like the kind that Wilson and Kelling warned about.

Ferguson is an example of what happens when officers aren't part of community order.

Who rules America

I'm just writing this post so I don't have to duplicate anything. Someone has done the work and consolidated in nice presentations:

This image says it all:

Unfortunately the chart shows -- it's not "we the people" ruling our country.

Zero Tolerance is a Failed Concept

"Zero tolerance" ideology has been a disaster. It has led to jails being filled up with people convicted of minor crimes, while major crimes continue to go unpunished. It also has impacted our education system awfully. I talked about fighting bullying in a previous post "Bullying and What to do about it". But that post only illustrated how much a loser zero tolerance education is. Further support comes from research.

Zero Tolerance Fails

Evidence shows that Zero Tolerance policies in schools have major issues.

[This section quote references a paper by the APA: [ ( "Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools? An Evidentiary Review and Recommendations" )]

Question: "Have zero tolerance policies made schools safer and more effective in handling disciplinary issues?"

"In general, data tended to contradict the presumptions made in applying a zero tolerance approach..."

The paper notes that most of Zero Tolerance concepts are based on faulty assumptions.

Faulty Assumption 1. Violence out of control

"School violence is at a serious level and increasing, thus necessitating forceful, no-nonsense strategies for violence prevention."


"the evidence does not support an assumption that violence in schools is out-of-control."

Faulty Assumption 2. Zero Tolerance improves Discipline consistency

"Through the provision of mandated punishment for certain offenses, zero tolerance increases the consistency of school discipline and thereby the clarity of the disciplinary message to students."


"The evidence strongly suggests, however, that zero tolerance has not increased the consistency of school discipline. Rather, rates of suspension and expulsion vary widely across schools and school districts. Moreover, this variation appears to be due as much to characteristics of schools and school personnel as to the behavior or attitudes of students. "

Faulty Assumption 3. Removal of Students will improve learning environment for remaining students.

"Removal of students who violate school rules will create a school climate more conducive to learning for those students who remain."


"data ... have shown the opposite effect, ... schools with higher rates of school suspension and expulsion appear to have less satisfactory ratings of school climate, less satisfactory school governance structures, and to spend a disproportionate amount of time on disciplinary matters."


"research indicates a negative relationship between the use of school suspension and expulsion and school-wide academic achievement..."

Not only are the expulsed impacted negatively, but the reality turns out that the remaining students also receive a poorer education than expected.

Faulty Assumption 4. Swift and certain punishments of zero tolerance is a deterrent

"The swift and certain punishments of zero tolerance have a deterrent effect upon students, thus improving overall student behavior and discipline"


"Rather than reducing the likelihood of disruption however, school suspension in general appears to predict higher future rates of misbehavior and suspension among those students who are suspended. In the long term, school suspension and expulsion are moderately associated with a higher likelihood of school dropout and failure to graduate on time."

It doesn't work as intended.

Faulty Assumption 5: Parents Support Zero Tolerance and Students Feel Safer

"Parents overwhelmingly support the implementation of zero tolerance policies to ensure the safety of schools, and students feel safer knowing that transgressions will be dealt with in no uncertain terms."


"The data regarding this assumption are mixed and inconclusive. Media accounts and some survey results suggest that parents and the community will react strongly in favor of increased disciplinary punishments if they fear that their children’s safety is at stake. "

But on the other hand:

"On the other hand, communities surrounding schools often react highly negatively if they perceive that students’ right to an education is being threatened. Although some students appear to make use of suspension or expulsion as an opportunity to examine their own behavior, the available evidence also suggests that students in general regard school suspension and expulsion as ineffective and unfair"

Question 2: What has been the impact of ZT on students of color and students with disabilities?

Part of the appeal of zero tolerance policies has been that, by removing subjective influences or contextual factors from disciplinary decisions, such policies would be expected to be fairer to students traditionally over-represented in school disciplinary consequences.

Reality about Minorities:

" Rather, the disproportionate discipline of students of color continues to be a concern and may be increasing; over-representation in suspension and expulsion has been found consistently for African American students and less consistently for Latino students. The evidence shows that such disproportionality is not due entirely to economic disadvantage, nor is there any data supporting the assumption that African American students exhibit higher rates of disruption or violence that would warrant higher rates of discipline. Rather, African American students may be disciplined more severely for less serious or more subjective reasons. Emerging professional opinion and qualitative research findings suggest that the disproportionate discipline of students of color may be due to lack of teacher preparation in classroom management or cultural competence."

Reality about children with disabilities:

"students with disabilities, especially those with emotional and behavioral disorders, appear to be suspended and expelled at rates disproportionate to their representation in the population. "

Question 3: To what extent are zero tolerance policies developmentally appropriate as a psychological intervention, taking into account the developmental level of children and youth?


"Children are not developmentally mature enough to respond to Zero Tolerance as ASSUMEd

"Research relevant to juvenile offending has found extensive evidence of developmental immaturity. Particularly before the age of 15, adolescents appear to display psychosocial immaturity in at least four areas:"

  1. poor resistance to peer influence,
  2. attitudes toward and perception of risk,
  3. future orientation,
  4. and impulse control.

Evidence from Neuroscience

"The case for psychosocial immaturity during adolescence is also supported by evidence from developmental neuroscience indicating that the brain structures of adolescents are less well-developed than previously thought. Developmental neuroscientists believe that if a particular structure of the brain is still immature, then the functions that it governs will also show immaturity; that is, adolescents may be expected to take greater risks and reason less adequately about the consequences of their behavior."

Secondary Schools have structural Challenges

"a growing body of developmental research indicates that certain characteristics of secondary schools often are at odds with the developmental challenges of adolescence, which include the need for close peer relationships, autonomy, support from adults other than one’s parents, identity negotiation, and academic self-efficacy."

And those Structural Challenges are Aggravated by Zero Tolerance, not moderated

"Used inappropriately, zero tolerance policies can exacerbate both the normative challenges of early adolescence and the potential mismatch between the adolescent’s developmental stage and the structure of secondary schools."

Zero Tolerance doesn't do justice to the learning ability of young people and their immaturity:

"There is no doubt that many incidents that result in disciplinary infractions at the secondary level are due to poor judgment on the part of the adolescent involved."

If we were dealing with adults "zero tolerance" might be more plausible, but we are dealing with children and:

But if that judgment is the result of developmental or neurological immaturity, and if the resulting behavior does not pose a threat to safety, it is reasonable to weigh the importance of a particular consequence against the long-term negative consequences of zero tolerance policies, especially when such lapses in judgment appear to be developmentally normative."

Instead of punitive, arbitrary enforcement of rules in an extreme manner. it looks like our High Schools ought to be using the Secondary School system as a means of coaching, mentoring and also leverage peer group influence by involving them in their own government and making htat a teaching opportunity. [See my post: Bullying and What to do about it (near end of post) where I talk about setting up courts in the High Schools. Given this reports recommendations that is not a crank idea.] Let the kids run their own justice and make it a teaching opportunity with some justice and forgiveness involved.

Question 4. How has zero tolerance affected the relationship between education and the juvenile justice system?


"There is evidence that the introduction of zero tolerance policies has affected the delicate balance between the educational and juvenile justice systems.

Increased reiance on Security personnel, technology and profiling

Zero tolerance policies appear to have increased the use and reliance in schools on strategies such as security technology, security personnel, and profiling.


"there is as yet virtually no empirical data examining the extent to which such programs result in safer schools or more satisfactory school climate."


Zero tolerance may have also increased the use of profiling, a method of prospectively identifying students who may be at-risk of violence or disruption by comparison to profiles of others who have engaged in such behavior in the past. Studies by the U. S. Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and researchers in the area of threat assessment have consistently found that it is impossible to construct reliable profiles that can be of assistance in promoting school safety. Rather, best-evidence recommendations have consistently focused on the emerging technology of threat assessment, which can assist school personnel in determining the degree to which a given threat or incident constitutes a serious danger to the school"

Profiling has tended to be unprofessional (seems professional but is usually based on assumptions equally fallacious to those listed above) and discriminatory. Those engaging in it aren't always professional (or as professional as they think they are) and thus tend to behave in racist, xenophobic, religoiusly chauvinistic, or in other culturally biased ways. Talking about profiling has come to be seen as synonymous to racism in most quarters outside those wedded to these faulty ideas.

School to Prison Pipeline

Consequently the article notes:

"The increased reliance on more severe consequences in response to student disruption has also resulted in an increase of referrals to the juvenile justice system for infractions that were once handled in school."

This is "termed the school-to-prison pipeline.

"Research indicates that many schools appear to be using the juvenile justice system to a greater extent and, in a relatively large percentage of cases, the school-based infractions for which juvenile justice is called upon are not those that would generally be considered dangerous or threatening."

This has a number of issues;

"questions... about whether or not these referred youths’ constitutional rights have been respected fully."

The authors of course call for more research, but the impact of this is to damage the folks demonized by prison, and also lead to corruption of the system as some judges have been convicted of profiting from that "school to prison" pipeline through kickbacks or investments in privateering Prison Industries.

Question What has been the impact—both negative and positive—of zero tolerance policies on students, families and communities?

They believe that there is negative influence on the mental health of youth subject to Zero Tolerance:

"there are a number of reasons to be concerned that such policies may create, enhance, or accelerate negative mental health outcomes for youth."

Zero Tolerance is not cost effective:

"preliminary estimates suggest that the extensive use of suspension and expulsion and increased reliance on the juvenile justice system for school misbehavior may not be cost effective. To the extent that school infractions lead to increased contact with the juvenile justice system, the cost of treatment appears to escalate dramatically."

Question 6. What are the Alternatives to Zero Tolerance?

The report notes that there are a number of alternatives. And the authors recommend a "three level model of primary prevention"

  1. Primary prevention strategies targeted at all students,
  2. Secondary prevention strategies that are targeted at those students who may be at-risk for violence or disruption, and
  3. Tertiary strategies that target those students who have already engaged in disruptive or violent behavior.

And three levels of intervention:

  1. Bullying prevention (primary)
  2. threat assessment (secondary)
  3. restorative justice (tertiary)

I'll skip the Recommendations (they're at the end of this post). But essentially we need to fix the disciplinary system in our schools. I think this can be done in a way that makes discipline part of the education process. But most important that treats children with respect and understand that their personae and moral stance is not fixed and that they should not be judged in a prejudiced manner.

Study recommendation

"The accumulated evidence points to a clear need for a change in how zero tolerance policies are applied and toward the need for a set of alternative practices. It is time to make the shifts in policy, practice, and research to implement policies that can keep schools safe and preserve the opportunity to learn for all students."

Zero tolerance doesn't work.

Study suggestions

Read the report at:

A. Reforming Zero Tolerance Policies
A.1 Practice
A.1.1 Apply zero tolerance policies with greater flexibility, taking context
and the expertise of teachers and school administrators into account.
A.1.2 Teachers and other professional staff who have regular contact with
students on a personal level should be the first line of communication with
parents and caregivers regarding disciplinary incidents.
A.1.3 Define all infractions, whether major or minor, carefully, and train all
staff in appropriate means of handling each infraction.
A.1.4 Evaluate all school discipline or school violence prevention strategies
to ensure that all disciplinary interventions, programs, or strategies are
truly impacting student behavior and school safety.
A.2. Policy
A. 2. 1 Reserve zero tolerance disciplinary removals for only the most
serious and severe of disruptive behaviors. Zero Tolerance Task Force Report 13
A.2.2 Replace one-size-fits all disciplinary strategies with graduated
systems of discipline, wherein consequences are geared to the seriousness
of the infraction.

A.2.3 Require school police officers who work in schools to have training in
adolescent development.
A.3 Research
A.3.1 Develop more systematic prospective studies on outcomes for
children who are suspended or expelled from school due to zero tolerance
A.3.2 Expand research on the connections between the education and
juvenile justice system and in particular empirically test the support for an
hypothesized school-to-prison pipeline.
A.3.3 Conduct research at the national level on disproportionate minority
exclusion, or the extent to which school districts' use of zero tolerance
disproportionately targets youth of color, particularly African American
A.3.4 Conduct research on disproportionate exclusion by disability status,
specifically investigating the extent to which use of zero tolerance increases
the disproportionate discipline of students with disabilities, and explore the
extent to which differential rates of removal are due to intra-student factors
versus systems factors.
A.3.5. Conduct research to enhance understanding of the potential
differential effects of zero tolerance policies by student gender.
A.3.6 Conduct econometric studies or cost-benefit analyses designed to
explore the relative benefits of school removal for school climate as
compared to the cost to society of removal of disciplined students from
B. Alternatives to Zero Tolerance
B.1 Practice
B.1.1 Implement preventive measures that can improve school climate and
improve the sense of school community and belongingness.
B.1.2 Seek to reconnect alienated youth and re-establish the school bond
for students at-risk of discipline problems or violence. Use threat
assessment procedures to identify the level of risk posed by student words.

B.1.3 Develop a planned continuum of effective alternatives for those
students whose behavior threatens the discipline or safety of the school. Zero Tolerance Task Force Report 14
B.1.4 Improve collaboration and communication between schools, parents,
law enforcement, juvenile justice and mental health professionals to
develop an array of alternatives for challenging youth.
B.2 Policy
B.2.1 Legislative initiatives should clarify that schools are encouraged to
provide an array of disciplinary alternatives prior to school suspension and
expulsion and, to the extent possible, increase resources to schools for
implementing a broader range of alternatives, especially prevention.
B.2.2 Increase training for teachers in classroom behavior management and
culturally-sensitive pedagogy.
B.2.3 Increase training for teachers, administrators and other school
personnel to address sensitivity related to issues of race.
B.2.4 Increase training on issues related to harassment and sexual
harassment for teachers, administrators and other school personnel.
B.3 Research
B.3.1 Conduct systematic efficacy research including quasi-experimental
and randomized designs to compare academic and behavioral outcomes of
programs with and without zero tolerance policies and practices.
B.3.2 Increase attention to research regarding the implementation of
alternatives to zero tolerance. What are the best and most logistically
feasible ways to implement alternative programs in schools?
B.3.3 Conduct outcome research focused on the effects and effectiveness
of various approaches to school discipline, not only for schools, but also for
families and the long-term functioning of children. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Democratic Process

The people who oversee elections are usually called "Election Judges" for a week. Elections have to be adjudicated by non-partisan, neutral, professional people who either have no stake in the outcome and can weigh facts or can set aside their feelings and behave judiciously. The problem with our current election systems is that the neutrality of this election process is often a sham. Not just between the parties in the main election but from beginning to end and top down. We use a privateering corporate approach to elections that subverts efforts to protect process and ensure that everyone in the country is represented. Our politicians are mostly in it for themselves, and that is okay. We who aren't running for office should provide the checks and balances on their behavior, because otherwise they'll fight about everything except when they pause to loot us.

I'm working on an alternative that will work. And I've examined the glossy offerings so far and see that none of them are adequate. I've got ideas for improving them, but if I have to I'll compete with them. One such offering is: I'm looking for others, and allies. Potential allies would be Move On, Netroots, and other groups. I'm not interested in helping Republicans but we'd be better off if they did the same thing. We need communities with two way communication, regression in sub-chaptering, standardized charters and the ability to share information broadly and accurate.

Spencer versus Locke & Henry George

What we find are many folks in our history who paid lip service to John Locke's thinking but actually tried to subvert it. I wrote about Burke's subversion of Locke in "Burke Versus John Locke" a while ago. But I have Henry George to thank for attacking Spencer's attack on the notion of property as an equal right.

Attacking Locke

Herbert Spencer like many Cons before and after him, subverts the basic conception of human rights in property by first doing a linguistic shift that appears to affirm that right and then using sleight of hand to subvert it. In "A Perplexed Philosopher" by Henry George, in "Part I, Chapter IV: Mr. Spencer's Confusion as to Right" in Property ownership:

"in Section 5, he proposes to Proudhon; for if, as in this chapter he asserts [the strawman that] no one can equitably become the exclusive possessor of any natural substance or product until the joint rights of all the rest of mankind have been made over to him by some species of quit-claim" [Chapter 4]

Henry George then notes that Spencer uses this strawman to advance a reductio ad absurdum argument that because such clear title, or complete "quit claim" is an absurdity that can never be achieved so he finishes:

..."—has no more claim to his own limbs than he has to the limbs of another—and has as good a right to his neighbor's body as to his own!" [Ch 4 continued]

Spencer, Henry Notes is advancing a "joint property claim" in chapter 5. But his real purpose is to sabotage Locke's concept. Locke (and Henry George) advanced that people have an equal right to property but Spencer is taking aim at that because as he notes:

"That there is a difference may be seen at once. For joint rights may be and often are unequal rights." [Ch 4 continued]

George explains the distinction between Joint Rights and Equal Rights as follows:

"When men have equal rights to a thing, as for instance, to the rooms and appurtenances of a club of which they are members, each has a right to use all or any part of the thing that no other one of them is using. It is only where there is use or some indication of use by one of the others that even politeness dictates such a phrase as "Allow me!" or "If you please!"[Ch 4 continued]

Then in Chapter IX, section 1 George quotes Spencer directly contradicting Locke trying to nullify equal rights using his absolutist "joint right" argument:

"No amount of labor, bestowed by an individual upon a part of the earth's surface, can nullify the title of society to that part"..."whether by labor ... made his right to the thing ...greater than the preexisting rights of all other men" [Ch 4 continued]

Thus shifting the standard of right from an equal right to one requiring a burden of proof that few people can prove:

"unless he can prove that he has done this his title to possession cannot be admitted...but [only] conceded ground of convenience." [Ch 4 continued]

Henry George then cuts into this argument:

"Here the primary right—the right by which "each of them is free to use the earth for the satisfaction of his wants "—has been dropped out of sight, and the mere proviso has been swelled into the importance of the primary right, and has taken its place." [Ch 4 continued]

Henry George notes that Spencer was actually attacking John Locke's ideas:

"And, from this [] shifting of ground, he is led, not only into hypercritical questioning of Locke's derivation of the right of property, but into the assumption that a man can have no right to the wild berries he has gathered on an untrodden prairie, unless he can prove the consent of all other men to his taking them."

Reckless, Feckless but on purpose, I would say. But Henry George was politer and doesn't have my hindsight. And Henry George was making a larger point too. He restates the essential point of Locke's Two Treatises in [George's] own words:

"Locke was not in error. The right of property in things produced by labor—and this is the only true right of property—springs directly from the right of the individual to himself, or as Locke expresses it, from his "property in his own person." It is as clear and has as fully the sanction of equity in any savage state as in the most elaborate civilization. Labor can, of course, produce nothing without land; but the right to the use of land is a primary individual right, not springing from society, or depending on the consent of society, either expressed or implied, but inhering in the individual, and resulting from his presence in the world. Men must have rights before they can have equal rights. Each man has a right to use the world because he is here and wants to use the world. The equality of this right is merely a limitation arising from the presence of others with like rights. Society, in other words, does not grant, and cannot equitably withhold from any individual, the right to the use of land. That right exists before society and independently of society, belonging at birth to each individual, and ceasing only with his death." [Ch 4 continued]

Henry George also explains the role of Governments in all this:

"Society itself has no original right to the use of land. What right it has with regard to the use of land is simply that which is derived from and is necessary to the determination of the rights of the individuals who compose it. That is to say, the function of society with regard to the use of land only begins where individual rights clash, and is to secure equality between these clashing right of individuals." [Ch 4 continued]

He concludes:

"Thus, instead of there being no right of property until society has so far developed that all land has been properly appraised and rented for terms of years, an absolute right of property in the things produced by labor exists from the beginning—is coeval with the existence of man."

For more suggest you read his series. I just wanted to note that Right Wing folks only quote John Locke in order to subvert his writings. Even now Libertarians take the above quotes about individual rights to assert similar arguments to Herbert Spencer.

Subject continued:

The Target of progressive taxation and LVT is unearned land rents/income []
Further reading
Common Property and the Commons []
Related Articles Locke (and some Henry George References"
Commonwealth according to Locke []
Locke on the importance of the Collective []
Progressive Taxation principles and Picketty []
Postal Banking, Stamp Scripts and fixing our economic system []

Importance of "Ordinary magistracy"

In Federalist 27 I find the term "Ordinary Magistry" employed at the end of his paper:

"The plan reported by the convention, by extending the authority of the federal head to the individual citizens of the several States, will enable the government to employ the ordinary magistracy of each, in the execution of its laws." [Federalist 27]

This goes back to the question raised in my earlier post of whether the Federalist system was ever envisioned to be two separate governments or not. Clearly Hamilton thought not. he saw a fundamental principle of Federalism as being collaboration and the use of "ordinary magistracy" ("ordinary courts" is the term I hear from English legal experts). I don't think that Hamilton at least envisioned two separate court systems but rather a unified court system. As realistic as he was I don't think he'd have been surprised by what has actually happened but I think that all the founders would be dismayed, because there are huge benefits to collaboration and a need for a unified government that outweigh any supposed benefits from competition and rivalry:

Collaborative Government

"It is easy to perceive that this will tend to destroy, in the common apprehension, all distinction between the sources from which they might proceed; and will give the federal government the same advantage for securing a due obedience to its authority which is enjoyed by the government of each State, in addition to the influence on public opinion which will result from the important consideration of its having power to call to its assistance and support the resources of the whole Union."[Federalist 27]

In the Federal vision that we see here, it seems Hamilton at least, hoped that Federal Judges would also be State Judges and that State Judges would be able to weigh in on Federal Law. In this vision, only the clearly Federal only courts such as the Supreme Court and Federal Appellate courts would have been in separate bodies and functionally the court system would have been an integrated whole. In principle the courts were to be collaborative.

Integrated Government

It merits particular attention in this place, that the laws of the Confederacy, as to the ENUMERATED and LEGITIMATE objects of its jurisdiction, will become the SUPREME LAW of the land; to the observance of which all officers, legislative, executive, and judicial, in each State, will be bound by the sanctity of an oath. Thus the legislatures, courts, and magistrates, of the respective members, will be incorporated into the operations of the national government AS FAR AS ITS JUST AND CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY EXTENDS; and will be rendered auxiliary to the enforcement of its laws."[Federalist 27]

Now we know from history that elements of his vision ended up being in contravention to the vision of the early Republicans (Democratic-Republicans but often just plain Republicans). But these arguments were about the scope of Federal Power not this concept.

That the courts have evolved the way they did, originally could be excused by the vast distances between localities and central locations, and conflicts between State Law and Federal Law that reflected different interpretations of what the "enumerated and legitimate" objects of each should be. I don't believe however, that Hamilton's vision was too idealistic or radical not to inform our own times. I think he saw "constitutional" as being about the organization needed for good government and never expected it would be so hard to amend the constitution to keep the government well constituted. With a well constituted government one can pretty much agree:

Any man who will pursue, by his own reflections, the consequences of this situation, will perceive that there is good ground to calculate upon a regular and peaceable execution of the laws of the Union, if its powers are administered with a common share of prudence. " [Federalist 27]

I believe that one of the constitutional issues of our own time. Not from the perspective of being "unconstitutional" in the sense of the parsed and political interpretation of our current SCOTUS, but poorly constituted in the sense of our myriads of courts and local governments each with overlapping, duplicated, conflictive, and sometimes arbitrary laws, sometimes perched to prey on travellers, and sometimes set to exploit the peccadilloes of their own ordinary citizens. I think we need to reconstitute our court system to reflect this original vision. And also to once again separate "Judge, jury and executioner" and restore the role of "ordinary courts", "ordinary process" and citizens in their appropriate Judicial roles. Our current system, where it is illegal in some states to marry, smoke pot, or vote, in some states and legal in others, is crazy as much due to drift from the vision described here as from any deliberate insanity. Judges are professional Jurors who know the law well enough that they should be able to act as jurors about it's constitutionality and appropriateness in concert with legislature, executive and ordinary people-jurors. That is where we should be setting up processes for better adjudicating issues.

In this post I'm wearing my student hat.