Friday, May 3, 2019

Prosecution and Public Defense: The Prosecutor's Role in Securing a Meaningful Right to an Attorney
"Public defenders have faced mounting caseloads and declining budgets for years. While well documented in court cases and research reports, this crisis has yet to be remedied through adequate
funding or policy and practice change. The insufficient time and resources that public defenders have
undermines representation for, and the life and liberty of, their clients.

All legal stakeholders should be concerned with the state of indigent defense and its implications for
constitutional protections, equality under the law, and justice. In our adversarial system, prosecutors,
in particular, have a role to play in securing a meaningful right to an attorney.

Today there is unprecedented focus on the power of the prosecutor. With discretion to charge,
recommend bail, and condition pleas, prosecutors are amongst the most powerful stakeholders in the
criminal justice system. As communities demand, and prosecutors strive towards, a more equitable
and effective justice system, prosecutors should be prepared to answer: How are you going to ensure
a robust defense for all?"

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Report on Algorithmic Risk Assessment Tools in the U.S. Criminal Justice System
"This report documents the serious shortcomings of risk assessment tools in the U.S. criminal justice system, most particularly in the context of pretrial detentions, though many of our observations also apply to their uses for other purposes such as probation and sentencing. Several jurisdictions have already passed legislation mandating the use of these tools, despite numerous deeply concerning problems and limitations. Gathering the views of the artificial intelligence and machine learning research community, PAI has outlined ten largely unfulfilled requirements that jurisdictions should weigh heavily and address before further use of risk assessment tools in the criminal justice system."

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Do Minimum Wage Increases Raise Crime Rates?
"They do for younger workers and property crimes, finds a new paper by Zachary S. Fone, Joseph J. Sabia and Resul Cesur.

Back in 2016, President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) claimed raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour could prevent up to half a million crimes annually. The basic idea was simple: there is good evidence criminal behavior is negatively related to wages. The CEA thought raising the minimum wage would raise the opportunity cost of low-paid workers engaging in crime.

Implicitly they were saying this crime-reduction effect would dominate any impact of job losses or hour reductions leading to more property crime, for economic reasons, or violent crime, for despair-related reasons. But this new paper suggests the CEA’s intuition on the balance of the effects was wrong, for younger workers especially."

Link to Full Text
 

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Income-Based Fines Could Reduce Justice Debts for the Poor: Study
"Some 300,000 Americans owed nearly $136 billion in criminal debt in 2017, the last year for which data is available, according to a study sponsored by the Brookings Institute.

An astonishing 90 percent of that debt is categorized as unrecoverable by the federal government, said the study authored by Prof. Beth A. Colgan of the UCLA School of Law.

But in the process, the escalating court fees and fines often end up locking low-income individuals behind bars in the modern equivalent of “debtors’ prisons” when they can’t pay, Colgan wrote.

In her study, sponsored by the Hamilton Project of Brookings, Colgan proposed a system of “graduated sanctions” that would be levied according to a person’s ability to pay."

Link to Full Report
 

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New Report: Postsecondary Education In Prison Increases Employment Among Formerly Incarcerated, Cuts Costs & Benefits Businesses
"The Vera Institute of Justice and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality today released a new report, “Investing in Futures: Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Postsecondary Education in Prison.” The first of its kind report found that removing the federal ban on Pell Grants for people in prison would:

  • Increase employment rates among formerly incarcerated students by 10 percent, on average; combined earnings among all formerly incarcerated people would increase by $45.3 million during the first year of release alone;
  • Provide employers with a larger pool of skilled workers to hire; and
  • Reduce recidivism rates among participating students, saving states a combined $365.8 million in decreased prison costs per year.
Link to Full Report
 

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The Criminogenic and Psychological Effects of Police Stops on Black and Latino Boys
"Four waves of longitudinal survey data demonstrate that contact with law enforcement predicts increases in black and Latino adolescents’ self-reported criminal behaviors 6, 12, and 18 months later. These results are partially mediated by psychological distress. The younger boys are when stopped for the first time, the stronger these relationships. Boys’ race and prior engagement in delinquent behaviors did not moderate the effect. These findings fill a gap in the research literature on labeling, life course, general strain, and deterrence theories.... [and] raise policy questions about the influence of proactive policing on the trajectory of children."
 

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The Case for Expunging Criminal Records
"The consequences of a run-in with the law can persist for decades after the formal sentence has been served. People with records face major barriers to employment, housing and education, effectively condemning them to second-class citizenship.

In recent years, criminal justice reform efforts have increasingly focused on finding policy tools that can lower these barriers. The most powerful potential lever is the expungement of criminal convictions, which seals them from public view, removes them from databases, and neutralizes most of their legal effects....

For many years, debates about expungement laws have been missing something critical: hard data about their effects. But this week, we released the results of the first major empirical study of expungement laws. Michigan, where our data came from, has an expungement law that exemplifies the traditional nonautomatic approach."

Link to Full Text
 

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From Courtesy, to Discretion... to Heightened Police Power
"In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court legitimized pretextual policing. The case of Whren v. United States began when a vice squad officer noticed a Pathfinder SUV with temporary license plates waiting at a stop sign for more than 20 seconds—an unusually long time to pause at an empty intersection—in what the officer considered a 'high drug area' of Washington, D.C. Inside were two young black men. Suspicious, but without any specific reasons that the car’s occupants might be committing a crime, the officer stopped the car for making a right turn without signaling and driving at an 'unreasonable' speed. When the officer stepped up to the driver-side window, he saw two plastic bags of crack cocaine in Michael Whren’s hands.

Whren and his friend in the passenger seat appealed their federal drug convictions to the Supreme Court. They argued that pretextual traffic stops violated the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits 'unreasonable searches and seizures' and generally requires an articulable suspicion to stop—that is, to make a “seizure” of—an individual. Because the officer did not have legal cause to act on his mere hunch that criminal activity was afoot, he relied on minor traffic violations to investigate....

The social and legal developments that have led to the systematic policing of minorities, however, did not begin with an intent to do so. The history of discretionary policing, which today enables racialized policing, actually begins with the mass production of the automobile and the practical need to regulate upstanding citizens."

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The Next Frontier for Juvenile Justice: Reinvest in At-Risk Youth
"There is no scarcity of research concluding that locking kids up for juvenile delinquency does little to teach correct behavior or prepare youth for successful adulthood. It’s not just  counterproductive; national and state-level findings reveal that it is also broadly racially discriminatory and a leech on the public purse.

In a new report, the Urban Institute argues that by repurposing public funds previously used on different elements of youth incarceration, jurisdictions will see decreases in youth delinquency and recidivism while building stronger communities and saving taxpayer dollars."

Link to Full Text
 

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Predictive Policing is Tainted by "Dirty Data," Study Finds
"A new study from New York University School of Law and NYU's AI Now Institute concludes that predictive policing systems run the risk of exacerbating discrimination in the criminal justice system if they rely on 'dirty data.'




Law enforcement has come under scrutiny in recent years for practices resulting in disproportionate aggression toward minority suspects, causing some to ask whether technology – specifically, predictive policing software – might diminish discriminatory actions.

However, a new study from New York University School of Law and NYU's AI Now Institute concludes that predictive policing systems, in fact, run the risk of exacerbating discrimination in the if they rely on 'dirty data' – data created from flawed, racially biased, and sometimes unlawful practices.

The researchers illustrate this phenomenon with case study data from Chicago, New Orleans, and Arizona's Maricopa County. Their paper, 'Dirty Data, Bad Predictions: How Civil Rights Violations Impact Police Data, Predictive Policing Systems, and Justice,' is available on SSRN."

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Justice Denied: The Harmful and Lasting Effects of Pretrial Detention
"The pretrial population—the number of people who are detained while awaiting trial—increased 433 percent between 1970 and 2015. This growth is in large part due to the increased use of monetary bail. But pretrial detention has far-reaching negative consequences. This evidence brief presents information on the way that pretrial detention is currently used and summarizes research on its impacts. These studies call into question whether pretrial detention improves court appearance rates, suggests that people who are detained are more likely to be convicted and to receive harsher sentences, and indicate that even short periods of detention may make people more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system again in the future. The brief concludes by highlighting strategies that some jurisdictions have employed to reduce the use of monetary bail and increase pretrial release."

Link to Full Report

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Inspector General: Chicago PD Gang Database Disorganized, Inaccurate
"The Chicago Police Department’s database of suspected gang members is disorganized, inaccurate and raises questions about fairness, the city’s inspector general said in a highly critical report released Thursday.

The 159-page study offered a number of recommendations to the city on how best to correct the database’s inaccuracies, which the Office of the Inspector General said undermines 'public trust and confidence in the police.'

In addition to containing incomplete and at-times contradictory information, the 'patchwork' of databases involves more than 500 agencies without cohesive oversight and accountability mechanisms, the report said.

'The lack of oversight and transparency for the ‘gang database’ contributes to a variety of negative consequences for both individuals and communities,' Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson wrote.

Among the report’s 30 recommendations, Ferguson calls for requiring evidence before assigning gang designations to individuals, notifying those individuals if they have been designated a gang member, establishing a process by which those individuals can appeal the designation, regularly reviewing the database for inaccuracies and creating a method for purging old or inaccurate information."

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