Monthly Archives: February 2012

Black and Latino: Race to Incarcerate

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn

The number of persons in U.S. prisons is more than 2 million—roughly equal to the entire population of Houston, Texas. The massive U.S. prison population does not mirror the demographic profile of U.S. society, however. The vast majority of U.S. prisoners are poor, uneducated, unskilled, emotionally or psychologically troubled, drug and/or alcohol dependent, and either Black or Latino.

The racial disparity between prisoners and the general population is particularly profound.  Blacks and Latinos together comprise less than 30% of the general population but nearly 70% of the prison population!  How can this be?  Conventional–that is, uninformed–wisdom suggests the reason Blacks and Latinos represent the majority of the prison population is that they commit the majority of all crimes in the U.S.  That is simply not the case.  The reality is that Blacks and Latinos are differentially targeted and processed by the U.S. criminal justice system.

Consider these facts: Blacks alone make up 12% of the U.S. population and comprise 14% of all illegal drug users, but they represent 35% of all drug arrests, 55% of all convictions for drug crimes, and 75% of all those who go to prison for drug crimes!  Disturbingly, racial disparity in justice system processing exists for other crimes as well.  The startling statistics reveal that racially biased processing is common throughout the criminal justice system in the U.S.  Perhaps this should not be surprising, however.  After all, one must remember that the police, district attorneys and judges all have tremendous discretion in whom to arrest, prosecute and sentence.

It is time to pull the blindfold off of lady justice and admit that she is not blind after all. She sees quite well, indeed. Her acute but sometimes prejudiced and biased vision unfortunately leads her to differentially target and process many poor Blacks and Latinos.  The result is a prison population that does not fairly or accurately reflect the true picture or color of crime in the U.S.  Let’s put an end to such practices and deliver justice fairly to all citizens.

Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq,” and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with serial killers. Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter.

No one is Above International Law. Punish War Criminals!

Mass Deception,War Crimes, Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn

 

Listen to my discussion with Burl Barer and Howard Lapides on True Crime Uncensored:


If he truly believes in justice for all, President Obama must align the U.S. with the world community in recognizing the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC was established under United Nations authority in 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands, for the prosecution of the most serious war crimes (i.e., crimes against humanity) in the world.

Despite the fact that 108 nations, including most of Western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan recognize the ICC, the United States has criticized the court and has refused to permit the ICC to have jurisdiction over its citizens.  This places the U.S. at odds with almost all of its staunchest international allies. Ironically, however, it puts the U.S. in alignment with China, a nation that the U.S. has frequently accused of human rights violations.  Similarly, Iran, Iraq and North Korea do not recognize the court’s authority.  The refusal to recognize the ICC thus aligns the U.S. with George W. Bush’s so-called axis of evil in rejecting international consensus on war crimes.

The G.W. Bush administration justified its refusal to recognize the ICC by claiming that the court could be used to pursue politically motivated prosecutions.  In fact, the Bush administration refused to recognize the ICC precisely because the court would make it accountable for illegally invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein from power.  The Bush administration’s rejection of the ICC in 2002 foreshadowed the actions of individuals who would seek to avoid prosecution for war crimes.  As argued by Michel Foucault, nothing is inherently political.  On the contrary, everything can be politicized.

The Bush administration violated both the Nuremberg Charter and the U.N. Charter and committed war crimes when it launched an unprovoked invasion of Iraq.  Throughout its two terms, the Bush administration steadfastly maintained that the invasion was justified on the basis of the Bush doctrine of preemptive self-defense.  However, the Bush doctrine went far beyond any reasonable interpretation of preemptive self-defense which would require that an actual attack was certain.  The Bush doctrine was based on a much broader position that the U.S. was entitled to use force to eliminate any possible future threat to its national security, whether or not a threat was objective or imminent.

The Bush administration sought to preserve self-defense protection for invading Iraq under the U.N. Charter by falsely claiming that Iraq possessed WMD and that it was linked to al Qaeda and involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  Even if Iraq had possessed WMD as claimed, without an actual attack or an immediate threat to use them against the U.S., there would still have been no justification for invading Iraq under the U.N. Charter.

Also, the killing, torture and inhumane treatment of Iraqi citizens and prisoners, particularly at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, and the wanton destruction of property resulting from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq constitute war crimes as defined by the Geneva Conventions.  As a measure of the carnage, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies places the Iraqi death toll in excess of one million, including several hundred thousand civilians, while countless other have been maimed or injured.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely for several reasons that the Bush administration will ever be charged by the international community for its war crimes.  First, no state has ever voluntarily agreed to subject itself to international prosecution, and President Obama notoriously decided not to investigate the Bush administration for war crimes. Moreover, Obama has perpetuated the war crimes of the Bush administration and initiated his own (e.g., drone launched missile attacks in Pakistan).  Second, unless a referral is made by the U.N. Security Council, the ICC can exercise jurisdiction over international crimes only if they were committed on the territory of a state party or if they were committed by a state party.  As mentioned above, neither the U.S. nor Iraq recognizes the jurisdiction of the ICC.  Third, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. has the ability to veto any move by the Council to punish its illegal behavior.  Thus, it is unlikely that the Bush administration will ever be charged with war crimes by the ICC in The Hague because it enjoys both political and bureaucratic exemptions from prosecution under international law.

President Obama promised a new, more inclusive U.S. foreign policy—one freed from President Bush’s aggressive and simplistic us-versus-them ideology.  By recognizing the ICC, President Obama can send a powerful signal to the world that the U.S. is not above international law.  Can the U.S. move beyond the hegemonic policies and actions of the Bush administration and make itself, including its leaders, accountable for war crimes?  Yes, and for the sake of humanity it must!


Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Mass DeceptionScott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.”  Order from Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/081354789X

The Public’s Guilty Love Affair with Serial Killers.

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Serial Killer Expert

Those of us who have been properly socialized to respect life and possess the normal range of emotions, including kindness, empathy, pity and remorse, cannot comprehend the workings of a mind that would compel one to abduct, torture, rape, kill, and sometimes mutilate or even eat another human being.  Serial killers elicit a morbid fascination from us that we also have for terrible calamities such as train wrecks and natural disasters.  Simply put, we are compelled to understand why serial killers do such horrible things to (generally) complete strangers.

Many of us can’t help watching the spectacle of serial killers, and we receive a rush of adrenaline from their deeds, although it is often difficult for us to admit, and we may feel a bit guilty about the inappropriate thrill that their horrible acts offer us.  Serial killers seem to appeal to our most basic and powerful instinct—that is, survival.  Serial killers have a visceral appeal that is fueled by our adrenaline, a hormone that has a powerful, euphoric and even addictive affect on our brains.  Just ask any child who will ride a roller coaster until he or she becomes physically ill.

Perhaps it should not be surprising that serial killers have become fixtures in our popular culture.  Our fascination with them is fueled by the massive news media attention they receive.  One may recall the “Son of Sam” murders during the summer of 1977 in New York City and the relentless media coverage of those events throughout the so-called summer of Sam.  Similarly, fictional serial killers are glorified and even romanticized in the accounts of characters such as Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter in the wildly popular movie “Silence of the Lambs” and Dexter Morgan in the hit TV series “Dexter.”

Regardless of whether they are real or fictional, many of us just can’t seem to get enough of serial killers.  We are their captive audience despite or perhaps precisely because of the chills they send down our spines.

Listen to my discussion about the public appeal of serial killers on Strange Frequencies:


Why Does the Long Island Serial Killer Prey on Sex Workers?

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,Long Island Serial Killer

The unknown predator who haunts Long Island, NY, is hardly unique in his choice of sex workers as victims.  Serial killers often select prostitutes precisely because they are marginalized members of society who do not cause much of a stir when they disappear.  Joel Rifkin, the most prolific serial killer in New York history, who murdered 17 prostitutes in the early 1990s, has stated from his prison cell that he knew his victims’ murders would not generate much initial attention. In fact, Rifkin has said prostitutes are the perfect prey for a serial killer because, first, they are willing to meet strangers alone in isolated settings, and, second, their disappearances can go unreported for weeks or even months since they are often estranged from their families and friends.

Tragically, as discussed with human trafficking expert, Dottie Laster, on The Roth Show, female victims of violence and sexual assault, especially when they are identified as sex workers, are generally portrayed in unflattering terms by the news media and sometimes are even blamed for their own victimization. Such negative media depictions are part of a patriarchal and often brutal value system in our society which assumes that a murdered sex worker should have known better and was simply “asking for it.”  Implicitly the message is that such victims are not really victims at all and, therefore, are not entitled to the normal amount of concern or media attention that a so-called decent person deserves. For example, the recent death of Whitney Houston garnered far more national media attention than the 10 tragic victims of the Long Island serial killer.  This is a sad and callous truth in our society.

Let’s not forget, no human life is disposable.

Listen to my interview, along with Dottie Laster, on The Roth Show with Dr. Laurie Roth

and Susan Murphy Milano:


Dexter: The Avenging Angel Serial Killer

Dr. Scott Bonn, Doc Bonn,Serial Killer Expert

 

Is Dexter, the lead character in Showtime’s hit TV series, a good guy or a bad guy? The answer is that he is both and it is that factor that drives his public appeal. He is a sociopathic serial killer who lives by a moral code instilled by his father: he only kills really bad guys who the criminal justice system seems unable to prosecute.

Therefore, Dexter is quite similar to the enigmatic vigilantes played by Clint Eastwood in movies like “High Plains Drifter.” The public loves to root for the troubled and damaged vigilante who breaks the law, and even kills, but does so in the name of justice and the common good. Dexter has a powerful visceral appeal and the public loves to eat popcorn and cheer him on, much as our parents and grandparents cheered on the Lone Ranger in movie theaters as children on Saturday afternoons. Go Dexter!

Listen to my interview about Dexter and Serial Killers on LifeBites with host Nina Boski:


Website is Officially Launched!

Dr. Scott Bonn,Doc Bonn,ImaginePublicity

New York City, NY– Dr. Scott Bonn, PhD “Doc Bonn” launches his new website, DocBonn.com on Monday, February 13. The website is devoted to Doc Bonn’s expertise in the motivations and behavioral patterns of criminals, especially serial killers.  Bonn also has expertise in domestic violence, white-collar crime, terrorism, criminal profiling and how the media shape crime stories.

In addition to being Professor of Criminology at Drew University, Dr.Scott Bonn is a media analyst and commentator who frequently consults the press on high-profile cases. Doc Bonn is currently researching and writing a popular book on the public’s interest in serial killers that is tentatively titled, “Monster Dearest: Our Fascination with Serial Killers and Why We Need Them.” His research includes interviews and discussions with a few of the nation’s best known incarcerated serial killers. He is also the author of “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq,” the critically acclaimed book on propaganda and war crime.

Doc Bonn’s new website showcases his recent articles and media appearances that offer commentary on important and far reaching subjects such as the Long Island serial killer, medical negligence, prescription drug abuse, state crime and terrorism. He examines the causes, motivations, behavioral patterns and official responses to serious crime.

Doc Bonn has been quoted in numerous leading publications and has appeared on important programs to lend his expertise to crime stories making headlines. He has appeared as an expert crime analyst on a number of popular news programs such as Dr. Drew on HLN.

Prior to his academic career, Bonn held senior executive positions in media, including Vice President at NBC Television Network and Executive Vice President at SonicNet, an award-winning, Internet-based music
service that is now part of MTV Networks.

To meet the general public’s fascination with real crime stories and the motivations and often bizarre behavior of criminals, Doc Bonn’s new blog has a question and answer section to enable readers to interact with him. The public can submit questions on the site and they will be answered in subsequent blog postings by Doc Bonn.  Open discussion of the questions is encouraged by readers through the comments section on the blog.

The website and blog were created and designed in collaboration with ImaginePublicity a social media marketing firm specializing in assisting individuals with their online presence through networking in related social media sites and enhancing their marketing strategies.

ImaginePublicity

Prescription Drug Addiction and Medical Negligence are a Deadly Combination

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Contrary to popular mythology, prescription drugs can be more lethal than illegal or street drugs.  In fact, prescription drug abuse and addiction kill far more people in the U.S. every year than all illegal drugs combined!  And, unfortunately, the problem is getting worse.

Late last year, the murder trial of Dr. Conrad Murray brought global attention to the connected problems of prescription drug abuse and medical negligence.  Dr. Murray was found guilty of negligent manslaughter in the wrongful death of pop music icon Michael Jackson. Murray was given the maximum sentence of four years in prison by a no-nonsense judge who expressed moral outrage at the doctor’s callousness and lack of remorse.

I believe that Conrad Murray, who was paid $150,000 per month by Michael Jackson to be his only patient, allowed greed to compromise his medical training and ethics.  It was financial greed that persuaded Murray to reject his Hippocratic Oath and professional standards, and thereby enable or promote the drug addiction of Michael Jackson.  Stated differently, Dr. Murray was a highly paid, live-in drug dealer for Jackson.

However, to what extent was Michael Jackson, as a prescription drug addict, responsible for his own death?  Jackson knew exactly what he was doing when he hired Murray and literally begged the doctor to prescribe Propofol, the high-powered surgical anesthesia that Jackson depended on to sleep.  Yes, Murray was a negligent and selfish doctor who should have known better than to prescribe lethal anesthesia as a sleep aid, but Michael Jackson was also a manipulative and desperate drug addict. Wasn’t Jackson  ultimately responsible for what he put into his own body?

In the end, the pathological and codependent relationship of Conrad Murray and Michael Jackson provides a vivid example of how prescription drug abuse and medical negligence can lead to unintended, tragic results.  In combination, prescription drug addiction and medical
negligence create a “perfect storm” of crime, personal disaster, and even death in the U.S.  As a society, we must address these growing and interconnected social problems before more lives are destroyed.

Scott Bonn, PhD, is a professor at Drew University in Madison, NJ.  He is currently writing a book on the public’s fascination with serial killers and he is the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.”  He can be reached @DocBonn on Twitter.

Profile of the Long Island Serial Killer: One Killer, Maybe a Seasonal Visitor

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Unless you have been living in complete seclusion, you know that a massive serial killer hunt is taking place on the South Shore of Long Island where ten bodies were found on a deserted area of Gilgo Beach along Ocean Parkway between December, 2010, and April, 2011.  These facts, provided by law enforcement, have been consistent.  What has not been consistent is the number of killers sought or the theories about the profile of the killer(s). I maintain that there is one killer who is becoming bolder and taking more risks, and he may be a seasonal (summer) visitor to the area.

Ever since the serial killer hunt began a year ago when the bodies of four female sex workers lured online from Craigslist were first found, I have believed that only one killer is responsible for the murders, even after additional human remains were located this April which included a female toddler and a young Asian adult male.  In recent weeks, law enforcement authorities have stated that they are now searching for only one killer and all of the victims are believed to be linked to the sex trade.  The toddler has been DNA matched to one of the female sex workers (probably her child) and the Asian male was found cross-dressed in female clothing and is also believed to be a sex worker.

The profiling of serial killers—that is, predicting their characteristics and behavior, while not an exact science, is well established among criminologists and investigators, especially the FBI.  Based on profiling principles, my own expertise, and the help of an incarcerated serial killer “muse,” I believe this killer is intelligent, middle-aged, a perfectionist and disarming, perhaps even charming. He is likely married or has a girlfriend. He is financially secure, has a reliable job, and owns a car or truck. Although he does not currently live on the South Shore (despite law enforcement claims to the contrary), he is intimately familiar with the area and probably once lived there.

Most significantly, he is coldly psychopathic and he is evolving—that is, transitioning from a highly meticulous “organized” killer into a more risk-taking “disorganized” killer in terms of his homicidal behavior and practices.  The bodies of the killer’s first victims—prostitutes whose murders date back as far as 15 years—were deliberately dismembered and scattered to avoid detection.  The bodies of the 4 prostitutes killed more recently (but who were actually found first) were intact and dumped in burlap sacks.

Given that his earliest murders went unsolved and even unreported for years, the killer has learned that meticulous dismemberment and disposal of the bodies is unnecessary.  Perhaps, too, it did not gratify his fantasy needs, which all serial killers have in one form or another.  This is a patient but brutal and unremorseful control killer who is becoming more daring over time. His increased risk taking intensifies the excitement that he experiences through his killings.  Like an addict, he needs progressively more of the drug to achieve the same high.

Significantly, the killer may be transient and perhaps an annual summer visitor to the South Shore beaches.  This is suggested because all of the prostitute victims identified were reported missing between Memorial Day and Labor Day over the years.  This is not really surprising.  Two of the characteristics of organized, psychopathic serial killers are repetitious, compulsive or cyclical behavior and the ability to blend back into their seemingly normal lives between killings.  It is also possible that the killer resides in Manhattan because seven calls made over a 6-week period to the sister of his victim, Melissa Barthelemy, using the victim’s cell phone in the summer of 2009 were traced to Manhattan.

Can there be any prospect more frightening than that of a careful and compulsive sexual killer who is compelled to murder, becoming bolder and who absolutely will not stop until he is apprehended?  Although it seems unlikely given the apparent lack of progress made by law enforcement, let’s hope that he is apprehended quickly and before another innocent victim is found on the beach.

Scott Bonn, PhD, is a professor at Drew University in Madison, NJ.  He is currently writing a book on the public’s fascination with serial killers and he is the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq.”  He can be reached @DocBonn on Twitter.

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