More crime!

I don’t know whether to be pleased or dismayed at this story of an obsessed Minnesotan who turned to crime for petty revenge. Barry Ardolf got mad at his neighbors, the Kostolniks, because they reported him to the police for kissing their 4-year-old child on the mouth, which is already a bit creepy, and then he got really creepy.

The man, a Medtronic computer technician, downloaded a Wi-Fi hacking program to tear into his neighbors WEP encryption. Ardolf created a fake Myspace page as well as several fake emails for Matt Kostolnik. The hacker then posted child porn on the Myspace page and emailed the same child porn to co-workers at Kostolnik’s law office.

To top it all off, the Blaine hacker sent death threats to Vice President Joe Biden and other politicians from Kostolnik’s Yahoo account. This granted Kostolnik a visit from the secret service who had traced the emails back to his IP address. One of the emails told Biden, “I swear to God I’m going to kill you!”

The good news: Ardolf was caught, tried, and convicted. That’s one lunatic punished and off the streets.

The worrisome news: he got sentenced to 18 years in prison with a further 20 years of supervision and restriction from computer access. That seems excessive for a non-violent crime, and for an individual who seems to need psychological help. But then, read this story of another grudge-bearing, angry, vindictive man…do we wait until the guy crosses the line into physical violence?

(Hi, Dennis Markuze! For some reason, these stories made me think of you.)


  1. Walton says

    This individual is a repeat offender, he is likely one of the few who must be so detained, to the best of our severely limited ability to know such things.

    Indeed, I don’t necessarily disagree. I wasn’t talking about this specific case; I was responding to Marc Abian’s question to me, which was couched in general terms.

    Sometimes it may be necessary to imprison someone. But it’s never something to be happy about.


    Citations needed and thresholds defined please.

    What about the ones that aren’t, as you define, mentally disordered?

    In the US federal prison system, in 2009, around 51 percent of the sentenced inmates in federal prisons were imprisoned for drug offences, while 35 percent were imprisoned for various “public order” offences, and another 5 percent for property offences. Only 8 percent were imprisoned for violent offences. From 1972 to 2009, the total federal prison population grew by 705 percent (far more than the growth rate of the general population), with the major growth category being non-violent drug offences. Clearly, there is absolutely no need for most of these people to be in prison; if anything, they should be in treatment centres.

    Similarly, in England and Wales, in 2001, out of a total of 50,446 male sentenced prisoners (as opposed to prisoners on remand), only 22 percent were imprisoned for violence against the person (of varying degrees of seriousness), and only 10 percent for sexual offences. Conversely, 8 percent were imprisoned for theft and handling, 2 percent for fraud and forgery, 15 percent for drug offences, and 5 percent for motoring offences. The great majority of those in the latter four categories are not dangerous to the public, and shouldn’t be in prison to start with. For female sentenced prisoners, 15 percent were imprisoned for theft and handling, and a staggering 40 percent for drugs offences (far more than for any other offence category). These figures are 10 years out of date, and in the intervening 10 years, the prison population in England and Wales has grown from 66,000 (itself a record high) to more than 85,000 – despite the fact that there has been no significant increase in violent crime. Most of the increase in the prison population consists of people given harsher sentences for petty theft, drugs offences, motoring offences, and the like.

    As for mental disorder: in England and Wales, 72 percent of sentenced male prisoners and 70 percent of sentenced female prisoners suffer from two or more mental disorders. Most also have serious problems with alcohol and drugs. In England and Wales, 63 percent of sentenced males were classified as “hazardous drinkers”, for instance. The figures are very similar in the US. As of 2005, it is estimated that around half of sentenced inmates in the US have a diagnosable mental health problem, with 20 percent meeting the criteria of a psychotic disorder; and as of 2004, an estimated 53 percent of state prisoners and 45 percent of federal prisoners met the DSM-IV criteria for drug dependence.

    Prisoners are a highly vulnerable population. Most are poor, of limited education, and suffering from mental disorder and drug dependence. Many are themselves victims of abuse in childhood or adulthood. When imprisoned, most lose their jobs and their homes, and are unable to rebuild their lives on release – making them more likely to reoffend. If we stopped imprisoning people for non-violent property offences and drug offences, we would likely reduce the rate of crime, and avoid ruining hundreds of thousands of people’s lives into the bargain.

    Decriminalization of drugs, and taking a treatment-based rather than a punitive approach to drug use, has actually reduced rates of drug use in Portugal since the reforms were implemented in 2001. Prison doesn’t work; treatment does. The facts are clear.