Friday, August 17, 2018

A Dangerous Brain: Can Neuroscience Predict how Likely Someone is to Commit Another Crime?
"...a group of neuroscientists at the University of New Mexico propose to use brain imaging technology to improve risk assessments. Kent Kiehl, a professor of psychology, neuroscience and the law at the University of New Mexico, said that by measuring brain structure and activity they might better predict the probability an individual will offend again.

Neuroprediction, as it has been dubbed, evokes uneasy memories of a time when phrenologists used body proportions to make pronouncements about a person’s intelligence, virtue, and — in its most extreme iteration — racial inferiority.

Yet predicting likely human behavior based on algorithms is a fact of modern life, and not just in the criminal justice system. After all, what is Facebook if not an algorithm for calculating what we will like, what we will do, and who we are?

In a recent study, Kiehl and his team set out to discover whether brain age — an index of the volume and density of gray matter in the brain — could help predict rearrest."

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A "Holistic" Approach to Wrongful Convictions
"To set wrongful convictions right, appeals courts need to change the way they review evidence, according to Stephanie Roberts Hartung, a professor at the Northeastern University School of Law.

In 'The Confluence of Factors Doctrine: A Holistic Approach to Wrongful Conviction,' Hartung argues that courts must adopt a holistic approach that accounts for the ways that errors in evidence-gathering often work in concert to obscure innocence.

"'Frequently, it is not a single misstep that causes a wrongful conviction, but rather a ‘confluence of factors,'” she wrote.

But historically, state and federal court’s piecemeal approach to addressing trial-level errors fails to account for the complex ways that seemingly independent errors interact with one another."

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How Slow Motion Footage of Crimes Encourages Juries to Convict
"Research from the University of Chicago has revealed that when juries are shown CCTV footage of a crime taking place in slow motion, they are three times more likely to convict of murder than if the footage was shown at real-time speed. The reason it seems is all to do with the perceived intent of the offender.

Intent is a very important part of understanding the level of aggression behind an act, especially when it involves an act of violence. Whether a person intended to harm another can mean the difference between time behind bars and a death row sentence and it is a question juries often have to consider when weighing up the evidence in a court case."
 

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What We Heard - Transforming Canada's Criminal Justice System
"In November 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined each cabinet member’s mandate in writing. The mandate letter to the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, outlined several tasks. One important task was to review and assess changes in the criminal justice system over the past decade, including sentencing reforms....

The review was also to ensure 'that we are increasing the safety of our communities, getting value for money, addressing gaps and ensuring that current provisions are aligned with the objectives of the criminal justice system.' The mandate letter also directed her to increase the use of restorative justice processes in Canada....

To that end, the Minister of Justice or her Parliamentary Secretary have held roundtable discussions with people who work in the criminal justice system and interested parties across Canada since May 2016. Participants included Crown prosecutors, defence lawyers, academics, victim advocates, restorative justice proponents, representatives of front-line community support systems, and importantly, representatives from areas such as health and mental health, housing, and other social support systems.

In these meetings, participants raised pressing issues about the criminal justice system. They also learned of local justice initiatives that are working well, and spent time discussing why certain approaches were showing success.

This report summarizes discussions held during the roundtables. It highlights best practices, challenges and suggested improvements."

Link to Summary Report

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The New Dynamics of Mass Incarceration
"The rise of mass incarceration, spanning the 1970s to the early 2000s, was characterized by continuous, unified growth in both prison and jail populations across states and counties. In contrast, the past decade has given rise to what is widely recognized as an era of reform, with prison admission rates declining by 24 percent since 2006 and jail admissions rates down 25 percent since 2008. The national declines, however, mask the new dynamics of mass incarceration.

The growth that characterized mass incarceration’s rise has fractured into four dynamics that vary from state to state and county to county. Contemporary decarceration exists alongside continuous growth, stagnation, and jurisdictional shifts between prisons and jails, akin to a shell game. This report provides a first-in-kind look at the state of incarceration by moving beyond the convention of using state prison populations, illuminating both where meaningful change has happened and where true reform has remained elusive."

Link to Report

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Prison Nurseries Give Mothers a Chance to Raise Their Babies - Behind Bars
"Bedford Hills has the nation’s longest-running prison nursery. Opened in 1901, it has allowed hundreds of women who have started their sentences pregnant to bond with their babies while behind bars — something advocates say is best for babies and lowers the mothers’ recidivism rate, but some critics argue violates the children’s constitutional rights using taxpayer money, while placing a burden on prison staff by requiring them to double as day care workers.

Bedford Hills is one of eight prison nurseries in the United States. The number of such programs has fluctuated as funding and sentiment toward them has risen and fallen, but now, more than ever, their effectiveness is under scrutiny as the number of women behind bars has skyrocketed."

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The Changing State of Recidivism: Fewer People Going Back to Prison
"The share of people who return to state prison three years after being released—the most common measure of recidivism—dropped by nearly a quarter over a recent seven-year period, according to an analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts of federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data on prisoners released in 2005 and 2012.

Pew analyzed publicly accessible data from the 23 states that reported reliable prison admissions and release data to BJS from 2005 through 2015. Among prisoners released in 2005, 48 percent returned to prison by the end of 2008. By comparison, among those released in those states in 2012, 37 percent had at least one new prison admission by the end of 2015. That translates into a drop of 23 percent. The states included in the analysis accounted for about two-thirds of those released from state prisons nationwide each year."

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Capitalizing on Mass Incarceration: U.S. Growth in Private Prisons
"The War on Drugs and harsher sentencing policies, including mandatory minimum sentences, fueled a rapid expansion in the nation’s prison population beginning in the 1980s. The resulting burden on the public sector led to the modern emergence of for-profit private prisons in many states and at the federal level....

This report provides a portrait of private prisons as a component of the American corrections landscape and assesses its impact on mass incarceration....

Political influence has been instrumental in determining the growth of for-profit private prisons and continues today in various ways. If overall prison populations continue the current trend of modest decline, the privatization debate will likely intensify as opportunities for the prison industry dry up and corrections companies seek profit in other areas of criminal justice services and immigration detention."

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The Curfew Myth: How a 90s Panic Spawned an Anti-Crime Measure that Doesn't Make You Safer
"It’s a summer ritual in many American cities — declaring a juvenile curfew to keep troublemaking teenagers off the streets. This summer at least one city—Austin—has decided not to sound the alarm....

A voluminous body of research has cast strong doubts on the claims that juvenile curfew laws prevent victimization or reduce juvenile crime, but these findings have received scant attention from policy makers or police.

Why are juvenile curfew laws ineffective? For one thing, the studies found that they damage already-strained relationships between police and youth of color and in some instances have 'blowback' effects, increasing juvenile victimization or overall crime.

Another factor is that on empty streets there are no witnesses. Urban activist Jane Jacobs theorized that well-populated streets are safe streets; deserted streets invite crime."

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Why Do We Keep Our Aging Prisoners Behind Bars?
The evolving figures on US prison populations represents both good news and bad news. The good news is that US incarceration rates are no longer increasing, and have even declined slightly.

The bad news is that we still far outpace the rest of the world in unnecessarily locking people up.

We don’t lock up more people because the US is a more dangerous place, we lock up more people primarily because we’ve made policy decisions over the last 30 years that give prosecutors enormous discretion and we have succumbed to cultural and political will for punishment that is closely linked to our continuing struggles with institutional racism and implicit bias.

Our incarceration rates also demonstrate an unwillingness to meaningfully discuss and change our approach to people charged with violent crimes.

But a new report on recidivism data recently released by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) suggests that there are two places we could be making a significant difference, simultaneously reducing future crime and the costs of mass incarceration. The report shows a clear pathway that could create a significantly less expensive system that is fairer, and keeps everyone safer.

Link to Report
 

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