Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Thoughts About a New Jail Part I: Selected Violent Crime, Arrest, Jail Statistics for WA and selected cities

Recently, we have a debate going on in Bellingham and Whatcom County over whether to finance a new jail and what kind of new jail and offender treatment programs to finance. Bellingham and Whatcom County WA are constituted by unlikely combinations of dreamers, humanists, entrepreneurs, individualists, old boys, and (sometimes) schemers. Nobody really agrees upon much politically, which makes every important political decision a big discussion. And we attract people (myself included) who like to discuss. 

Clearly, the population and the various city councils want more discussion on whether or not to use the last 2/10s  of 1% of our state allotted fire and safety sales tax revenue  to build the new jail. There are lots of opinions and lots of people complaining that they don't have enough data. In this blog post, I try to provide more data.  Personally, I am confused as to whether support a new jail or not. I think the old one really does needs to be replaced as a safety issue. Whether funding for Restorative Justice as advocated in Whatcom County by the Reentry Coalition will work to stop crime, I do not know.  But I believe the principles of Restorative Justice are worth considering and I am very impressed by the idealism and compassion of the the advocates of the Restorative Justice movement.

For years, my native city of Oakland, CA has poured hundreds of millions of dollars each year from their general fund and other monies into police department and city jail; fighting what is often a pitched war against narcotics trafficking and the social results of narcotics trafficking. The battle never seems to have  a winner, just brief respites.  A brief respite in Oakland ( a city of 400K ) means 60 - 80 homicides a year. Full pitched casualties in a year of battle delineated by automatic gunfire means 150 - 160 homicides.  To give you some example of what that war feels like to civilians: In 2013, the state of WA (pop then 6.8M) had only 129 homicides.  When you grow up inside such a war, you hear gunfire on a weekly basis. You know what it is like to be shot at with automatic gunfire.  You see guns, drugs, and gang presences frequently enough to know where to walk and at what risk level when. People you know personally  or just those in your neighborhood get shot and die.

Jailing people is not very .... Bellingham. We are an educated, liberal community with progressive, humanist, and sympathetic dreams and pretensions. We have the longest running anti-war protest in the country. We believe in moving toward the light.  And, in truth, even though I am grizzled survivor of an east Oakland youth, I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe in searching for the light as well. It's an easy call to ask for more police and jails.  Sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes it just militarizes society and engages the cartels. Here are some of my (ambivalent) thoughts on this issue and results of about one week of  my spare time in data analysis. I was rushed for time before tonight's council meeting so some error corrections and additions may be necessary. R Code is here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Children in Poverty and Homelessness in Whatcom County School Districts and WA state: A Look at the Numbers and Sources

"It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex."
Article IX Section 1 SECTION 1 PREAMBLE.
Constitution of the State of Washington

Click to Enlarge.

DName Tot_District_ _Pop District_Enrollment ChildinDistrict ChildPov OSPI_K-12 Homeless PCT_Poverty PCT_Homeless
Bellingham 104767 11136 12340 1908 471 15.46% 4.23%
Blaine 16388 2120 2380 420 49 17.65% 2.31%
Concrete 4921 542 717 168 26 23.43% 4.80%
Ferndale 31180 5174 5885 912 126 15.50% 2.44%
Lynden 18863 2842 3612 397 58 10.99% 2.04%
Meridian 10032 1790 1630 249 41 15.28% 2.29%
MountBaker 14724 1880 2573 515 52 20.02% 2.77%
NooksackValley 10317 1574 1996 304 49 15.23% 3.11%
Sedro-Woolley 26646 4305 4491 745 173 16.59% 4.02%
Totals 237,838 31,363 35,624 5,618 1,045 15.77% 3.33%
The chart and table above aggregate 2013 SAIPE Poverty and Income Data with 2013-2014 (School Year) OSPI Student Homeless Data for the 9 School Districts that are in whole or in part inside Whatcom County. Zoom your browser window to enlarge this table.
Some statistical projects are gratifying to work on . This one really was not.  Poverty brackets are exceptionally low household income numbers.  The federal poverty rate for a family of four with two children is less than $24K.  Although the largest school district (Bellingham) in Whatcom County has the highest number school children in poverty in total, the percentage of children in poverty in the more rural school districts is much higher. The data in the post below comes from SAIPE or Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates and OSPI  Homeless Student Data Report for 2013 and 2014.  In the charts below, I detail homelessness and poverty for Whatcom County school children based on SAIPE school district estimates. Code for the charts  can be found here and here.

As a data blogger, I can't vouch for the integrity of the data collections I analyze nor can I provide solutions for the tragedy  of homelessness and poverty it exposes in our county. I can however, find creative ways to quantify their impacts upon our budgets, governments, school systems, communities and  families. I also can point out that a housed and fed population of school children is a not just the moral responsibility of a just world but the duty and mandate of all us and our constructed democratic governments. 

 I can scarcely believe that any of us could imagine all of the deficits poverty and homelessness create for youth in pursuit of their education.  In a state that specifically included the education of children as a 'paramount duty' to be exercised without regard to caste, one could speculate on whether or not a county that does not build adequate affordable housing and provide adequate food banks is interfering with the mandates of McCleary to provide for a "basic education" to all students.