.December 2016
Methamphetamine
by Peggy Parks, Reference Point Press, I
nc., 2014

Methamphetamine,commonly referred to as “meth,”  has long been known as the drug which most quickly can lead to addiction.  But just how quick?  This book states that not only is meth the most addictive drug but also that persons commonly become addicted after using it only once or a very few times. Meth produces a high several times stronger than cocaine, and the high lasts much longer.  After the high, the meth user becomes extremelydepressed.

Methamphetamine drug abuse use has devastating effects on the body and mind—both short term and long term. 

Some of the short term effects include:  dramatic changes in body physiology, bizarre and sometimes violent behavior, panic and paranoia, and risk of convulsions from high doses.

Some of the long-term effects include:  circulatory system damage (which can lead to heart attacks or death), severe dental problems, psychosis (unable to correctly perceive basic reality), addiction, depression when off the drug, and permanent brain damage.  Long term use of meth damages the brain’s capacity to manufacture dopamine, which is one of the brain’s important neurotransmitters. 

Now only is meth's reputation that of the most addictive drug; but meth addiction to meth has the lowest treatment recovery rate.  There are no medicines approved for treatment of meth addiction.  Most persons who go to drug rehabilitation end up relapsing.  The relapse rate for meth addiction has been said to be 80 to 90%. 

Many experts say that the only way to escape from the power of methamphetamine is to never use it in the first place. 
 
The author of Methamphetamine does point out that meth is a DEA Schedule II drug which means that meth has some medical uses but also has a “high potential for abuse.”

To Be Noted:  There is a similar and more recent book, Downside of Drugs:  Methamphetamine and Other Amphetamines (Rosa Waters.  Mason Crest, Broomall, PA 2015) which makes several strikingly important statements: 

  1. Meth use can cause multiple small strokes in the brain.
  2. Meth could cause permanent damage after only one or just a few uses.
  3. After becoming addicted the average user lives only about five to seven years.


 

November 2016
Courtroom 302:  A Year Behind The Scenes in An American Criminal Courthouse
by Steve Bogira.  Alfred A. Knopf  New York 2005


This very well written book grabs one’s attention and enlightens the reader about two related topics:  (1) How the criminal justice system really works  and (2) Chicago’s uniquely difficult problems.  

Takeaway #1

Although defendants have a right to trial before a judge or jury, few criminal cases go to trial.  It is often said that 90 to 95% of cases are settled by a plea agreement between the prosecutor and defense attorney, an agreement accepted by the defendant and approved by the judge.  Another remarkable and related outcome occurs when a defendant rejects a plea bargain, goes to trial and is convicted.  Then the defendant will likely receive much more jail time than had he plead out. 

Just why defendants usually agree to a plea bargain is explained by Borgia:

“Not many defendants would plead, of course, if they had nothing to lose by going to trial.But a jury trial usually takes two days to a          week, and if the jury convicts, there will be post-trial motions and a sentencing hearing as well.A guilty plea can usually be wrapped up in twenty minutes.The jail behind the courthouse—the most populated single-site jail in the nation, with more than nine thousand inmates in 1998—has always been overcrowded.But its eleven divisions couldn’t possible contain all the defendants if even a tenth of them insisted on a jury trial, instead of the one percent who do.”

So, there are a variety of pressures in the criminal justice system which reduce the number of bench and jury trials in favor of plea bargaining.  This expediency has been attacked for many good reasons and reforms demanded, but it has been typical throughout our criminal justice system, according to Bogira,  since the late 1800’s.   

Takeaway #2

Author Borgia in Courtroom 302 discusses the importance of getting confessions as a primary ingredient in finishing and closing cases.  And, he provides revealing insights into what can make a confession unreliable.  He illustrates the methods by which confessions can be coerced.  He describes several quite different causes or motivations for making false confessions. Aa past presidential panel having to do with mental retardation made the statement, “If a confession will please, it may be gladly given.”  Finally, he suggests a book as the leading authority on reliability problems with confessions:  Criminal Interrogation and Confessions by Fred Inblau and John Reid.

 

April 2016
Indefensible:  One Lawyer’s Journey Into the Inferno of American Justice
by David Feige.  *** Publisher and Date


Feige’s book is a tour of the messy and tragic trenches in the State v. Defendant criminal law battlefield.  Idealistic civil rights are simple and beautiful; but the realities are far different.  Feige tells how he felt deeply compelled to become a public defender in New York City.  Once his book is  started, it’s  very hard to put down.  He narrates a single day in his work as a public defender whose cases he has worked on for months and which are resolved in the space of one frenetic day.  For any lover of nonfiction, this is a must read. 

Takeaway #1


The sheer numbers of criminal cases which must be handled by a large city determines and explains many of the tragic standard operating procedures endured by a large percentage of defendants, most especially the poor.  He wrote that 300,000 persons were criminally prosecuted in New York City in a typical year.  He went on to describe what the defendants endured:

“They are paraded before judges who have seen it all a thousand times and couldn’t care less about the factors that make each case unique and each defendant human.  Many are shuffled through the system so damn fast that no one has time to think about much beyond the docket number stamped on the case files at arraignment.”

The NYC court system could realistically have a trial for only one percent of the cases coming through.  Furthermore, Feige’s experiences showed him that even skilled public defenders generally have little time to create good relationships with their clients; and as a result the attorney-client relationship is often “fraught with contentiousness.” 

Defendants with enough money can hire an attorney and an investigator to work their case with the result that:  “Private clients are far closer to the mythical rational actor.  A private clients looking for criminal representation will usually do all the things public defended clients are often prevented from doing:  They’ll probe and prod, ask questions about the case or predicament, listen for that tone of directness and reassurance that gives a client the confidence and knowledge that although everything might not actually be all right, at least there will be someone to protect them and defend them and try his best to be sure that things don’t get too terrible.”

Takeaway #2

Feige provides many insights into the pressure-filled  moving parts of the criminal court. His explanation of those moving parts makes understandable some of the distressing and bizarre results of that system.  He explains:

  1. Why the truth is a “slippery thing” which nevertheless needs to be created by assembling data from uncertain memories and other questionable evidence.  Whether something is good or bad is not an absolute quality but depends on which side of the accusation one is on.
  2. Why it is understood in the criminal justice system that if one does not take a plea and then loses at trial, the punishment will be much worse.
  3. Why family court is often considered one of the most emotionally difficult areas of law.






GOOD READS IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY AND TAKEAWAYS

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Dr. Massey is located at the Rivershire Plaza Building, Ste. 285, 333 N. Rivershire Dr. , Conroe, TX  77304