Wednesday, August 6, 2014

faint but pursuing

Short-changed readers of pp will know I spent a long time dealing with a stalker. He was cited for unlawful trespass in May 2013; in criminal justice, the victim of a crime is simply a witness, and I wasn't sure what the legal implications might be of a witness writing about the whole sorry mess online. I had one Victim Advocate after another, and everything the Victim Advocate du jour led me to be believe turned out to -- have been straightforwardly true in a world where English, though indistinguishable from the language familiar to habituates of pp, has a range of vocabulary with widely different meanings from those we think we know.  In other words, I might ASK my VA whether I could write on my blog; I might very well get an answer; acting on this answer would almost certainly land me in the soup.

For better or worse, the legal machinery has run its course. I've published an abridged account of the saga in the LRB

Saturday, May 31, 2014

any states closer to wysiwyg legal system?

I talked to X's caseworker at the work camp.  The camp has 100 inmates, 70 of whom are sex offenders; the other 30 get a special deal under which each day served earns an extra day off the sentence. X had also earned "good time" at Springfield. This was why an additional 2 months were knocked off the sentence on top of the 3 earned at work camp. The system is not set up to inform victims.

I then talked to the Director of Victim Services of the DOC, who was very helpful. She said if the DOC had been aware of the background of the case they would probably not have recommended the work camp. If the State's Attorney's Office had told me to contact the DOC early on the circumstances would have been taken into account. She said they would discuss ways to ensure victims were better informed.

Somewhat the worse for wear.  I managed to get police intervention after X's second act of trespass in May last year; since then, a staggering amount of mental energy has been diverted from work to trying to understand the legal system of Vermont.  One is always in the position of finding out too late that there was something one needed to know -- and the more often it happens, the more the mind is taking up with wondering what it has missed, whether one asked the right questions, whether one asked the right person, and if not what more one needs to do.

The problem is, it's easy enough to comparison shop state laws: one can find the stalking laws of all 50 states and DC, for instance, on the website of the Stalking Resource Center.  With a little effort one can track down the law on trespass in any state.  What one can't so easily find out is whether the laws are implemented in a way that is intuitive to someone seeking to claim their protection - whether there are states which have a fairly transparent system that does not require telepathy to negotiate. (I thought at one point that it might have helped to hire a lawyer -- but when I sounded out a local lawyer he seemed to think there was nothing he could have done to get a better or more intelligible result.)

I wondered whether any readers had experience of other states.  Is it standard for a simple case of trespass to take months, perhaps up to a year, to resolve? Even if this forces the victim to move out in the interim? Is it standard for Victim Advocates to withhold information, even if state law specifies that it should be provided? Are there states where the victim of a crime would in fact be told if a sentence was curtailed? 

Thursday, May 22, 2014


I spent yesterday morning and early afternoon rushing around organizing paperwork for notices against trespass from me and the other neighbors who share my hill, including, most importantly, the neighbor who had let Edmond Arundell stay rent-free at his place in return for work. I went in to the Sheriff's Department to hand in some forms; the dispatcher was on the phone with this neighbor, who was going out of his way to be helpful.

The dispatcher told me my neighbor had talked to a friend of E's; he was in fact due to be the following day (i.e. today), and there was not enough time to get the papers served at his work camp.

The Sheriff's Department contacted the Sheriff's Department in Windsor, closest to the facility; they could not help. I contacted the Victim Advocate at the DOC, the State's Attorney's Office, the work camp. Everyone agreed that there was nothing to be done. No one could really explain why the correct date had not been revealed in time to act on it.

I talked to a man at the work camp, who explained that every day spent at the work camp knocked a day off the sentence. (E had been there 3 months and they had knocked off 5, so there is presumably some other wrinkle to the formula.)

I spent today talking to an advisor at a women's shelter about the benefit of a stalking order, which sounded likely to do more harm than good. She thought I might do best simply to return for a time to my mother's house in DC.

The neighbors up the hill have very kindly let me come to stay for a few days.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


I went to DC in April  to stay with my mother. On May 2 I got an email from VANS, the Vermont Automatic Notification Service, which sends out updates on an offender's status to registered users.

Edmond Arundell was notionally serving 14 months for breaking into my house at night last August and threatening to shoot me, which is to say that, since he was apprehended and taken into custody in early September, the sentence would presumably end some time in November.  When I say "notionally" I mean that this was the sentence agreed in the plea bargain, which conveys to the uninitiated the notion that the time spent in jail will be 14 months.

Before breaking in he had shown a pattern of obsessive behavior which would have been a clear case of stalking in many states; in Vermont it wasn't so clear; he had been charged with two cases of unlawful trespass in early May.  (I have discussed this briefly in an earlier post.)  What he would do upon release was anyone's guess.

The notification from VANS said he was up for parole or a record review next month, and gave a number I could contact if I wished to participate. It looked as though this was the last month when I could live at my place with the guarantee of not being disturbed: if he was under supervision in the community he might comply with the conditions of his parole or he might not. So I went back to Vermont to snatch of a month to work on a book, and when I got back I began calling the number I had been given. If EA was to be let out I wanted some kind of restriction on his movements so that he could not come back to my place.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Too long for Twitter

Agatha Christe once wrote that, as a girl, she (mis)estimated she would never be so rich as to be able to afford a motor car, but never so poor as to be unable to hire servants.

HT Brad DeLong 


Monday, April 7, 2014

spacing effect

The spacing effect essentially says that if you have a question (“What is the fifth letter in this random sequence you learned?”), and you can only study it, say, 5 times, then your memory of the answer (‘e’) will be strongest if you spread your 5 tries out over a long period of time - days, weeks, and months. One of the worst things you can do is blow your 5 tries within a day or two. You can think of the ‘forgetting curve’ as being like a chart of a radioactive half-life: each review bumps your memory up in strength 50% of the chart, say, but review doesn’t do much in the early days because the memory simply hasn’t decayed much!
the whole thing here...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

the irony of Benn

The irony is that, had Benn stuck to the centre ground that he occupied for his first 20 years in parliament, he may* well have become Labour leader and possibly even prime minister. In the end, however, the die was cast in the early 70s when he opted to throw his weight behind the grassroots uprising and against the party establishment. He once explained his disaffection thus: "I was brought up to believe that when you were elected to parliament, you were elected to control the statute book, the purse and the sword. But I have sat in a commons that has abandoned control of the statute book to Brussels, control of the sword to the White House and the purse to the IMF."
Chris Mullin on Tony Benn here

*Brits. Do not argue with a Brit about moods and tenses. DO. NOT. DO. THIS.