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Showing posts from April, 2011

Arrests, but wedding security declared 'huge success'

Royal wedding The biggest security operation in a generation was hailed as a "huge success" today as police delivered on their promise to deal robustly with potential wedding troublemakers. As the royal couple arrived at Buckingham Palace, police revealed they had made 43 arrests among the crowd to ensure the event went smoothly.
Officers swooped on two minor anti-wedding protests in central London but said scenes were calm. A police source said: "It's all gone to plan so far, it's fantastic." The arrests were made "within and outside the event footprint", Scotland Yard said. Offences included an allegation of a sex attack on a 14-year-old girl, criminal damage and 25 breaches of the peace. Ninety nine people were banned from the City of Westminster as more than 5,000 officers ensured the event went like clockwork.
Read on...Borrowed interest. Tom

Companies can block customers' class-action lawsuits, Supreme Court rules

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court gave corporations a major win Wednesday, ruling in a 5-4 decision that companies can block their disgruntled customers from joining together in a class-action lawsuit. The ruling arose from a California lawsuit involving cellphones, but it will have a nationwide impact.

In the past, consumers who bought a product or a service had been free to join a class-action lawsuit if they were dissatisfied or felt they had been cheated. By combining these small claims, they could bring a major lawsuit against a corporation.

But in Wednesday's decision, the high court said that under the Federal Arbitration Act companies can force these disgruntled customers to arbitrate their complaints individually, not as part of a group. Consumer-rights advocates said this rule would spell the end for small claims involving products or services.

Read on...

Yep, corporations have all the rights. Citizens not so much. There are consequences to 8 years of George Bush a…

What the Birthers' Obsessions Say About Identity in America

Many say that birtherism is just racism, but there's more than simple racial animus behind it.

Remember when the media regularly asked if Barack Obama was “black enough” to get the support of African-Americans? In 2007 pundits wondered if a black-identified but technically biracial candidate who came of age in the post–civil rights era, was raised far from traditional African-American communities, was educated in the Ivy League and boasted a foreign name might be more palatable to white voters than black ones. Today this query seems hopelessly naïve and endearingly optimistic about the fluidity of American racial identities. After the secret-Muslim accusations, the witch doctor posters, the “You lie!” shout-down and the chimpanzee e-mails—it is clear that President Obama is certainly “black enough” to experience both racially motivated public attacks and exceptional support among racial minorities.

But the tenacity of the birther movement has revived the issue…

The GOP's Shady Plan to Privatize Prisons

Last August, two prisoners escaped from an Arizona penitentiary and fled to New Mexico, where they ambushed a couple, shot them to death, and lit their bodies on fire inside a trailer.

These fugitives didn't escape from just any facility: They were housed in a privately run prison managed by the Utah-based Management Training Corporation. After the incident, a review by the Arizona Department of Corrections concluded that the prison had poorly trained staff and deficient equipment—including a faulty security system that emitted so many false alarms, the prison staff simply ignored it.

Episodes like this have raised concerns about the privatization of prisons, with critics long arguing that such facilities pose a threat to public safety and don't save states much—if any—money in the long run. They also argue that such facilities pose a perverse incentive to keep people locked up. Still, the nation could soon see a major private-prison boom, as Republican…

Why America Loves Serial Killers

Long Island again. Serial killer(s) again. The media have—a little too overeagerly—been conjuring up the specter of "the Long Island serial killer," even though those five words compress at least two unproven assumptions: There's no proof that the remains of up to 10 victims (so far) found on the sandy barrier island that parallels Long Island's South Shore were killed by a Long Islander, or even by a single individual. Or that they were killed on Long Island. For all we know, they were killed by a Yale comp lit professor, who deconstructed them in Connecticut and carried them to Long Island where he "unpacked" them from the trunk of his Prius.

But even if the perp or perps came from elsewhere, at least one of the presumed murdered prostitutes, Amber Lynn Costello, operated out of a seedy home in Long Island's West Babylon. It was she who was the subject of murderous speculation in a chat room that made the front page of the New York Daily N…

10 Safest States In The U.S.: Institute For Economics And Peace

While the nation as a whole might be in financial disarray, some states have found surprising success in lowering government spending by reducing crime, according to a new report by the Institute for Economics and Peace.When taken together, costs like incarceration, medical, judicial and policing leave the average single American tax payer paying roughly $1,425 per year, the report finds. And that's before taking into account the productivity lost from pulling potential workers out of the U.S. economy and sticking them in prison.But costs range across states by significant amounts. Of the 10 most peaceful states, for example, seven also ranked in the top 10 for lowest cost of crime per person, with safest-state Maine spending just $656 per person. Compare that with Louisiana, which spends $2,458 per person.The safest states in the U.S. not only scored well on the original five indicators, either. They also performed well in areas like education, one factor highly-correla…

Birtherism Is Expensive

David Ariosto at CNN writes about the rift in the Republican party as the four-in-ten Republicans who can be classified as "birthers" are starting to conflict with the party elites who rightfully see birtherism as electoral poison in general elections. At the center of the conflict this week is Jan Brewer, who vetoed a bill passed by wide margins in the Arizona legislature that would require presidential candidates to produce proof beyond just their birth certificate that they were born in the U.S., since Obama has a birth certificate, and the point of the law is to try to force him out of office. Brewer forcefully denounced the birther bill in her veto, thus the theory that she's trying to distance herself from the craziness.I would argue that while Brewer might have her eye on mainstream credibility (though that didn't stop her from signing overtly racist laws meant to harass people walking around while Hispanic in Arizona), I'd argue there's …

The Death of Roe v. Wade

Supporters and opponents of abortion seem to agree: It's no longer the law of the land.By Dahlia Lithwick

Supporters and opponents of abortion agree on nothing. One side says this is a conversation about fertilized eggs; the other says it's about fetuses. One side says the debate is about personal autonomy; the other says it's about murder. One side sees exceptions to abortion restrictions for reasons of maternal life or health as necessary to protect life; the other sees them as cunning "loopholes."

Increasingly, however, there is a fundamental assumption both sides seem to share, even if they don't say so, and it may well shape the future of abortion rights in America: Opponents and supporters of abortion appear to have taken the position that Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land.

Since the start of this year, 916 measures seeking to regulate reproductive health have been introduced in 49 states. According to the Guttmacher Institute, by the e…

Community-based violence prevention: An assessment of Pittsburgh's One Vision One Life Program

In 2006, more than 6 million individuals were victimized by violent
crimes in the United States. Although violence is below levels of the
early 1990s, it remains high. The extent of violence and its impact highlight
a critical need to develop and implement effective programs to
reduce violence and victimization. Communities have initiated a wide
range of such programs, and scholars have conducted numerous evaluations
of varying quality of them. Reviews have found certain types of
strategies and specific programs to be promising, but additional critical
evaluations are needed to plan violence-reduction programs.

This monograph assesses the implementation and impact of
the One Vision One Life violence-prevention strategy in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. In 2003, Pittsburgh witnessed a 49-percent increase in
homicides, prompting a “grassroots” creation and implementation of
the One Vision One Life antiviolence strategy. This initiative used a
problem-solving, data-driven model, including street-level inte…

Getting It Wrong: Convicting the Innocent

How Eyewitnesses Can Send Innocents to Jail
When he recently signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn noted a "grave danger" that the innocent could be executed. This past March, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in Skinner v. Switzer, to expand the right to access DNA testing that could potentially prove a defendant's innocence. Last week the New York Times published a firsthand account by John Thompson, an innocent man who came within hours of his own execution. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a $14 million jury award compensating him for the years he spent in prison. Public opinion surrounding the death penalty has been shaped, in recent years, by the possibility of innocents being executed. And DNA exonerations continue to regularly occur, although with little rigorous assessment of what went wrong.In my new book, Convicting the Innocent, I conducted the first empirical study of the first 250 wrongful convict…

California's Attempt at Prison Reform Looking Like an Attempt to Pass the Buck

All California has done is shift the burden of the state's corrections overcrowding to the counties, fails to fund crime prevention services like drug treatment, and more.

Faced with a staggering budget deficit and a prison overcrowding crisis, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the state legislature have approved legislation that would shift responsibility for low-level, nonviolent offenders and parole violators from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to the state's counties. But sentencing and drug reform advocates say the measure merely shifts the burden of the state's corrections overcrowding from the state to the counties, fails to fund crime prevention services like drug treatment, and fails to include real sentencing reforms.On Monday, Gov. Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, the law shifting responsibility for many low-level offenders to the counties. The law is designed to stop the "revolving door" of low-…

Teenagers Now Look Favorably On Torture Because The Media Taught Them It Was Morally Acceptable

Over at the Daily Beast, Daniel Stone dives into a study on torture conducted by the American Red Cross. "Americans' opinions on torture seem to have fractured," the report said, "largely on generational lines."So, who are the biggest supporters of torture? "A surprising majority -- almost 60 percent -- of American teenagers thought things like water-boarding or sleep deprivation are sometimes acceptable," the study found. Overall, teens are "significantly more in favor of torture than older adults."It's a dispiriting result, and Stone does a fine job taking on the reasons why these results came down in this fashion. As he relates, there's been a general uptick in the visibility of torture (er..."enhanced interrogation techniques") in the media. Along with that comes the effort undertaken by the Bush administration to normalize torture, despite its attendant lack of success as an intelligence gathering techniq…

10 Most Violent States In The U.S.: The Institute For Economics And Peace

We've all heard that crime doesn't pay. Peace, it turns, out does. The newest edition of the U.S. Peace Index, developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranks states by level of peacefulness. The index is based on five primary indicators: (1) number of homicides per 100,000 people, (2) number of violent crimes per 100,000 people, (3) number of people in jail per 100,000 people, (4) number of police officers per 100,000 people and (5) general availability of small arms.Combining these figures, the U.S. Peace Index calculates a number summarizing the overall peacefulness of each state, with low numbers being safer. Currently, the national average is 2.056.Since 1995, the U.S. has become 8 percent safe, according to the index. Not all states have improved, though. New York's become 32.3 percent safer since 1991, but other states have actually become more dangerous, like North Dakota (47.7 percent more dangerous) and Tennessee (9.3 percent more dangerous). …

Ontario court strikes down Canada’s pot laws

An Ontario court has struck down Canada’s laws against possessing and growing cannabis as part of a ruling that found the country’s medicinal marijuana program is failing to provide access to the drug for those who need it.Smoking up, however, is not legal just yet: the federal government has three months to launch an appeal or change its regulations to fix the problems identified by the court.Mr. Justice Donald Taliano of the Ontario Superior Court struck down the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations, arguing they aren’t doing enough to ensure patients can obtain the necessary approvals to use the drug. Simultaneously, he ruled two sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act – those that prohibit simple possession and cultivating marijuana – are unconstitutional, since they can be used to criminally charge medicinal users who haven’t been able to obtain such approval.Read on....

Arizona Defies Public Opinion, Passes Guns On Campus Bill

Two days after the Jan. 8 Tucson shootings, as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords lay in a medically induced coma, Arizona's House of Representatives introduced the session's very first piece of legislation: a bill allowing college professors to carry concealed weapons on campus.A similar bill, SB 1467, which would allow anyone to carry a gun on the sidewalks and roads of public universities, sailed through the House last Thursday, despite the fact that the majority of Arizonans oppose sending guns to college."The legislature is being very extreme on gun issues, and it couldn't be more opposite to what the public wants," said Hildy Saizow, President of Arizonans for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group.Nearly 70 percent of Arizonans and 56 percent of gun owners did not want to expand gun rights on college campuses, according a February poll by American Viewpoint, a Republican-leaning research company.
Read on....

B.C. boy youngest Taser recipient: professor

The West Vancouver Police Department is investigating the circumstances that led to an 11-year-old boy being stunned with a Taser by a Mountie in Prince George, B.C.RCMP in Prince George said Friday that the device was used on the boy after a 37-year-old man was allegedly stabbed by the boy on Thursday evening.Police found the boy inside a group home next door and, when the boy came out, he was shocked with a stun gun.The RCMP wouldn't release any new information on the boy's case on Saturday, and said the incident is under investigation by the West Vancouver Police Department, whose officers will be flying to Prince George on Monday.Read on...86 year old bed-ridden grannies are fair game and now 11 year old kids. Who isn't fair game? TomUpdate: Retired justice Thomas Braidwood, who investigated the taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski comments on this case. Tom

Tories misinformed Parliament on G8 fund, may have broken law: auditor general

OTTAWA - The Harper government misinformed Parliament to win approval for a $50-million G8 fund that lavished money on dubious projects in a Conservative riding, the auditor general has concluded.And she suggests the process by which the funding was approved may have been illegal.The findings are contained in the draft of a confidential report Sheila Fraser was to have tabled in Parliament on April 5. The report analyzed the $1-billion cost of staging last June's G8 summit in Ontario cottage country and a subsequent gathering of G20 leaders in downtown Toronto.It was put on ice when the Harper government was defeated and is not due to be released until sometime after the May 2 election. However, a Jan. 13 draft of the chapter on the G8 legacy infrastructure fund was obtained by a supporter of an opposition party and shown to The Canadian Press.The draft reveals that a local "G8 summit liaison and implementation team" — Industry Minister Tony Clement, the mayo…

New rules urged for SIU probes

Officers under investigation in incidents of serious injury or death must not communicate with each other or share a lawyer, former chief justice Patrick LeSage has recommended.LeSage issued a three-page report Thursday after a 15-month review of relations between police and the Special Investigations Unit, which probes such incidents. The review was triggered when Ian Scott, director of the civilian watchdog agency, criticized Ontario’s police forces and unions for allowing officers to collude and conceal incriminating evidence in criminal investigations.Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park, LeSage said he hoped his review will address concerns that the system is failing.“I think it will perhaps at least put aside some of the suspicions that I have heard that have occurred in the past,” he said.
Read on...

Legislative Victories from 2005 to 2010. Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System

Stemming from one family’s individual case,
we launched the Campaign for Youth Justice
(CFYJ) five years ago to respond to a crisis throughout
the country: an estimated 250,000 youth under
18 are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system
every year.

A spike in youth crime during the 1980s and 1990s
prompted state policymakers to expand laws to put
more children in adult court, implement mandatory
sentencing policies for certain crimes, and lower
the age at which a child could be prosecuted as
an adult. State policymakers
believed their efforts would
improve public safety and
deter future crime. However,
studies across the nation have
consistently concluded that
state laws prosecuting youth
in adult court are ineffective
at deterring crime and reducing

Four years ago we issued
our first national report, The
Consequences Aren’t Minor,
documenting the multiple
unintended consequences of
these laws. With the help of the National Council
on Crime and Delinquency and the Justice Policy
Institute, we …

Prison reform advocates press states to shift money out of corrections system

Advocates of overhauling the U.S. criminal justice system see a bright spot in the dire financial straits that states are facing: Politicians eager to trim budgets are willing to cut spending on prisons and corrections programs.

Several liberal and conservative groups have joined together to take advantage of the moment. A coalition that includes the evangelical Prison Fellowship Ministries, the NAACP, the American Conservative Union and the American Civil Liberties Union is working to push changes that they hope will lower the U.S. prison population.“We find ourselves with a new crop of allies,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. “This is a place where we’ve found commonality.”His organization is to release a report Thursday, endorsed by conservative activists Grover Norquist and Pat Nolan, calling on states to cut spending on corrections and to direct that money to education. The study, which bemoans the increasing amount of money spent on incarceration, notes that stat…

Juvenile Detention Reform in New York City: Measuring Risk Through Research

Executive Summary

The January 2006 closure of New York City’s only alternative to juvenile detention brought the city close to a crisis: family court lost its only alternative pretrial supervision option and the population in local detention facilities was at its highest in three years. This situation also presented an opportunity for the city’s juvenile justice system to take stock of how and when it was using detention—equivalent to jail in the adult context—for youth facing
delinquency charges. The Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator in conjunction with a variety of agencies and entities involved with the juvenile justice system seized this occasion to explore new methods for responding to young people awaiting sentencing that would be more effective at producing positive outcomes for youth and enhancing public safety.

They embarked upon a two-phase reform process, with assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice. First, they conducted a research study and designed an empiric…

RCMP implicated in Harper’s closed-to-public campaign

Allan Woods and Joanna SmithOttawa Bureau Mounties assigned to protect Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have turfed young voters with suspect partisan leanings from campaign events, putting the national police force at the centre of the most disturbing incidents to emerge so far in the federal race.The Royal Canadian Mounted Police admitted Wednesday that the phalanx of officers assigned as the Prime Minister’s bodyguards overstepped their bounds to enforce Harper’s closed-to-the-public re-election bid. Their transgressions include blocking and ejecting those whose only crime is to seek out the Tory chief’s election message without advance notice or sufficient party glee.“The RCMP assisted the party organizers in restricting access to persons not registered for the private event,” the Mounties said in a written statement. “This was not in accordance with the RCMP’s mandate and RCMP members have been reminded of our responsibilities.”But the force pointedly refused to s…

More Black Men Now in Prison System than Were Enslaved

Law Professor Michelle Alexander says the shocking incarceration rate is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color.

More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library this past Wednesday, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation.Alexander, currently a law professor at Ohio State, had been brought in to discuss her year-old bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Interest ran so high beforehand that the organizers had to move the event to a location that could accommodate the eager attendees. That evening, more than 200 people braved the pouring rain and inevitable traffic jams to crowd into the library’s main room, with dozens more shuffled into an overflow room, and even more latecomers turned away al…