Friday, July 21, 2017

Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' Use of Restrictive Housing for Inmates with Mental Illness 
 "The Federal bureau of Prisons (BOP) is responsible for confining offenders in environments that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure.  To do so, the BOP utilizes various forms or Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) to confine certain inmates, including those with mental illness.  However, according to recent research and reports, as well as the BOP's own policy, confinement in RHUs, even for relatively short periods of time, can adversely affect inmates' mental health and be particularly harmful for inmates with mental illness....

 The Office of the Inspector General conducted this review to examine the BOP's use of RHUs for inmates with mental illness, including trends in the use of restrictive housing and the screening, treatment, and monitoring of inmates with mental illness who are housed in RHUs.  We found significant issues with the adequacy of the BOP's policies and its implementation efforts in this critical area."
 
More than Half of Black Residents in GTA have been stopped by Police in Public, new Report says
"A new report is shedding light on the types of interactions members of the black community in the GTA have with police officers.

One of the themes in 'The Black Experience Project' explores relations with police services, highlighting both negative and positive interactions with officers.

More than 50 per cent of those surveyed said they have been stopped by police in public places and that number jumps to nearly 80 per cent among males between the ages of 25 and 44....

After more than seven years of research, interviews, and community engagement, 'The Black Experience Project' study released its findings, aiming to answer the central question: 'what does it mean to be black in the GTA?'"

View the Report 

Just Launched: Toronto Police Public Safety Data Portal

Provides access to detailed crime datasets compiled by the Toronto Police Service
 
Online Harassment 2017
"Roughly four-in-ten Americans have personally experienced online harassment, and 62% consider it a major problem. Many want technology firms to do more, but they are divided on how to balance free speech and safety issues online.

To borrow an expression from the technology industry, harassment is now a 'feature' of life online for many Americans. In its milder forms, it creates a layer of negativity that people must sift through as they navigate their daily routines online. At its most severe, it can compromise users’ privacy, force them to choose when and where to participate online, or even pose a threat to their physical safety.


A new, nationally representative Pew Research Center survey of 4,248 U.S. adults finds that 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and an even larger share (66%) has witnessed these behaviors directed at others. In some cases, these experiences are limited to behaviors that can be ignored or shrugged off as a nuisance of online life, such as offensive name-calling or efforts to embarrass someone. But nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) have been subjected to particularly severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, harassment over a sustained period, sexual harassment or stalking....

For those who experience online harassment directly, these encounters can have profound real-world consequences, ranging from mental or emotional stress to reputational damage or even fear for one’s personal safety...."

Nine Lessons about Criminal Justice Reform
What Washington can learn from the states.

"Since November, a kind of fatalistic cloud has settled over the campaign to reform the federal criminal justice system. With a law-and-order president, a tough-on-crime attorney general, and a Congress that has become even more polarized than it was in former President Barack Obama’s time, most reform advocates say any serious fixes to the federal system are unlikely....

Here are a few lessons Washington can learn from the states...."

Whose Speech is Chilled by Surveillance?
"Women and young people are more likely to self-censor if they think they’re being monitored.

Earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats backtracked on a promise to disclose how many Americans’ communications have been swept up in warrantless mass surveillance of foreign targets. In fact, Coats admitted that even 'Herculean' efforts by the NSA would be unable to the determine the number, which Reuters reports 'could be in the millions.'

...Activists and rights experts have long argued that such state activities and threats can have a significant chilling effect on our rights and freedoms. Though skepticism persists about the existence of such chilling effects—they are often subtle, difficult to measure, and people are unaware how they are impacted—several recent studies have documented the phenomenon. My own research, which received media coverage last year, examined how Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance chilled people’s Wikipedia use.

Yet significant gaps remain in our understanding, including how certain people, groups, or specific online activities may be chilled more so than others, or the comparative impact of different state activities or regulatory threats.

As it turns out, these threats likely do have a chilling effect on things we do online every day—from online speech and discussion, to internet search, to sharing content. And certain people or groups—like women or young people—may be affected more than others.

These are among the key findings I discuss in my new chilling effects research paper, published in the peer-reviewed Internet Policy Review, based on an empirical case study from my doctorate at the University of Oxford...."

View the Full-Text Article
 

The Biometric Frontier: "Show me your Papers" becomes "Open your Eyes" as Border Sheriffs Expand Iris Surveillance
"Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has found little funding for his 'big, beautiful wall.' In the meantime, however, another acquisition promised to deter unauthorized immigrants is coming to the border: iris recognition devices. Thirty-one sheriffs, representing every county along the U.S.-Mexico border, voted unanimously on April 3 to adopt tools that will capture, catalogue, and compare individuals’ iris data, for use both in jails and out on patrol. Biometric Intelligence and Identification Technologies, the company behind the push, has offered the sheriffs a free three-year trial, citing law enforcement’s difficulties in identifying unauthorized immigrants whose fingerprints can be disfigured through manual labor or self-inflicted wounds.

Iris recognition is just the latest surveillance technology helping fortify what the White House hopes will make up a 'digital wall,' a concept that many border sheriffs view as less intrusive than Trump’s envisioned 30-foot barricade stretching from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California. For law enforcement, the tool promises to help identify people without reliable fingerprints and to deter repeat border crossers. And for Biometric Intelligence and Identification Technologies, which frequently goes by BI2, rapid border expansion means its existing national iris database will receive a huge influx of biometric information on unauthorized immigrants, boosting its product’s capabilities to potential law enforcement clients across the country."

How Strategic is Chicago's "Strategic Subjects List"?
"For the past four years, the Chicago Police Department has been working with researchers to build a system for judging which city residents are most likely to be involved in a shooting — either pulling the trigger, or getting shot. The resulting 'heat list' — officially called the Strategic Subjects List (SSL) — has, for the most part, been shrouded in secrecy and speculation. What we’ve known is that everyone on the list gets a risk score, reflecting their predicted likelihood of being involved in a shooting.

The list is, to our knowledge, the highest-profile person-based predictive policing system in use across the United States. Perhaps that’s why it has attracted significant press attention — often including overstated comparisons to Minority Report — even though little is known about how it works. Most predictive policing systems fielded by major U.S police departments today are 'place-based,' meaning they attempt to forecast when and where future crime may occur. Chicago’s system, by contrast, tries to forecast who will be involved."

Creepy ways Companies are Spying: New Privacy International Database Reveals Disturbing Details
"Human rights advocacy group Privacy International (PI) has launched a new searchable database that aims to map and highlights all the creepy technology solutions being sold around the world to enable surveillance on citizens, the companies that sell these solutions and the agencies they are selling them to.

The Surveillance Industry Index database, co-developed with pro-transparency software group Transparency Toolkit, features information on over 520 surveillance companies in the world, together with more than 1,500 brochures on surveillance technology solutions.

There are also 600 reports detailing where specific surveillance technologies were exported to that have been compiled by activists, journalists and researchers from looking at open source records, as well as investigative and technical reports, and government licensing data."

"Wireless Prisons" Exploit Inmates with High Users Fees, Claims Study
"Prisons should be wary of private communications firms that 'exploit' incarcerated individuals by charging high fees for the use of their services, the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) warned in a report today.

In a study of a contract awarded by the Colorado Department of Corrections to GTL (formerly Global Tel*Link) to provide computer tablets to inmates of the state’s prisons, PPI charged prisoners would be forced to pay 'exploitive pay-to-play' and subscription-based fees far higher than they would pay outside.

For example, inmates would have to pay 49 cents per electronic message or $19.99 a month for a music subscription. The contract gives GTL the power to raise prices when it suits the company’s interests, or 'to back out of the contract if it doesn’t make as much money as it hopes to,' wrote Stephen Raher in the report, entitled, 'The Wireless Prison: How Colorado’s tablet computer program misses opportunities and monetizes the poor.'”

View the Report
 
Does Military Equipment Lead Police Officers to be more Violent?
"When law enforcement agencies are increasingly militarized, do officers become more violent?

...The 1996 National Defense Authorization Act allows the defense secretary to give local law enforcement the Defense Department’s  excess military equipment at no cost under the 1033 Program created by the act  — and the department increasingly made such transfers over the subsequent two decades....

In 1998, about $9.4 million in equipment was transferred to 290 law enforcement agencies. That amount began to jump dramatically after the 9/11 terrorist attacks....

Even controlling for other possible factors in police violence (such as household income, overall and black population, violent-crime levels and drug use), more-militarized law enforcement agencies were associated with more civilians killed each year by police. When a county goes from receiving no military equipment to $2,539,767 worth (the largest figure that went to one agency in our data), more than twice as many civilians are likely to die in that county the following year."

View Full-Text Article  

California Supreme Court makes it harder for Three-Strikes Prisoners to get Sentence Reductions
"Judges have broad authority in refusing to lighten the sentences of 'three-strike' inmates, despite recent ballot measures aimed at reducing the state’s prison population, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a 4-3 decision, the court said judges may freely decline to trim sentences for inmates who qualify for reductions under a 2012 ballot measure intended to reform the state’s tough three-strikes sentencing law.

Justice Leondra R. Kruger, an appointee of Gov. Jerry Brown, joined the more conservative justices to reach the result.

The decision aimed to resolve questions posed by two ballot measures in recent years to reduce the population of the state’s overburdened prison system."

Behind the Curtain: The Illicit Trade of Firearms, Explosives and Ammunition on the Dark Web
"The potential role of the dark web in facilitating trade in firearms, ammunition and explosives has gained increased public attention following recent terrorist attacks in Europe. However, the hidden and obscure parts of the web are used also by criminals and other types of individuals to procure or sell a wide range of weapons and associated products through cryptomarkets and vendor shops.

While the use of these platforms as facilitators for illicit drug trade has been increasingly researched by a number of academics, little has been done to investigate the role of the dark web in relation to the illegal arms trade.

To address this gap, and with a view to supporting policy and decision makers, RAND Europe and the University of Manchester designed this research project to explore the worldwide illegal arms trade, with a focus on the role played by the dark web in fuelling and/or facilitating such trade....

The overall aim of the study was to estimate the size and scope of the trade in firearms and related products on cryptomarkets, including the number of dark web markets listing firearms and related products and services for sale, and the range and type of firearms and related products advertised and sold on cryptomarkets."

View the Report
 
Doctors Raked in Cash to Push Fentanyl as N.J. Death Rate Exploded
"The most powerful opioid ever mass-marketed was designed to ease cancer patients into death.

It's ideal for that: the drug is fast acting, powerful enough to tame pain that other opioids can't and comes in a variety of easy delivery methods -- from patches to lollipops.

But a dose the size of a grain of sand can kill you.

Meet fentanyl. It's heroin on steroids. It's killing people in droves. And, in New Jersey, you can get it after having your tonsils removed.

In fact, doctors who treat children's colds and adult's sore knees are prescribing it with alarming frequency, far more than oncologists easing end-of-life cancer pain.

The surge is stoked by companies that shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to doctors, wining and dining them in hopes of convincing them that their particular brand of fentanyl is the solution to all their patients' pain problems."