Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I tried to find something upbeat for a holiday post but couldn't.
Hope everyone is having a safe and happy break.  Tom

Spousal violence costs Canadians billions, study finds

A major federal investigation into spousal violence says it cost society at least $7.4 billion for the thousands of incidents that occurred in just one year.

The Justice Canada study examined a broad range of economic impacts, from policing and health-care to funerals and lost wages, for every incident of spousal violence in 2009.

Drawing on a Canada-wide police database, researchers found almost 50,000 cases of spousal violence reported to police that year, more than 80 per cent of them involving female victims. The cases included 65 homicides, 49 of them women.

The study also mined an annual Statistics Canada telephone survey, which estimated some 336,000 Canadians in 2009 were victims of some form of violence from their spouse. The definition of spouse included married, common-law, separated, same-sex and divorced partners.

Read on...

The Spy State Tightens its Grip

Americans are paying an ever-increasing price, both in dollars and the loss of personal privacy, to maintain the spy state.

Ever hear of Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 20? Bet not. The more you’ve never heard of something, the more worried you should be.
In mid-November , The Washington Post, the first media outlet to report on the directive, noted that it “enables the military to act more aggressively to thwart cyberattacks on the nation’s web of government and private computer networks.” 
 
The Post’s revelation came at the same time that other stories broke pointing to deepening problems with electronic privacy rights in America.  The most sensational story involved the FBI’s snooping the private e-mails of two of the nation’s leading security officers, CIA Director David Petraeus and Gen. John Allen, head of the U.S. Afghanistan war effort.
 
More disturbing but expected, the Supreme Court rejected the ACLU’s challenge to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) use of warrantless wiretaps. And Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed the further loosening of e-mail privacy protection regulations.
 
These are just four examples of an increasing number of efforts among various federal entities, including the Congress and Supreme Court, to expand the power of the U.S. government to spy on American citizens.  Recent initiatives by three of the lead agencies engaged in citizen surveillance -- National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Defense Department’s research arm, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – outline the tightening grip of the spy 
 state. 

5 Senior Citizens Serving Life Without Parole for Pot

Should five non-violent offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

Right now, five adults await death in prison for non-violent, marijuana-related crimes. Their names are John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle, and Charles “Fred” Cundiff. They are all more than 60 years old; they have all spent at least 15 years locked up for selling pot; and they are all what one might call model prisoners, serving life without parole. As time wrinkles their skin and weakens their bodies, Michael Kennedy of the Trans High Corporation has filed a legal petition with the federal government seeking their clemency. Otherwise they will die behind bars for selling a drug 40% of American adults have admitted to using, 50% of Americans want legal, and two states have already legalized for adult use. Since these men were convicted of these crimes many years ago, public opinion and policy related to marijuana have shifted greatly. Should these five non-violent senior-citizen offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

Read on... 

3/4ths of States Ignore Mental Illness Background Checks For Gun Buyers

As the White House eyes new gun-controls following the Sandy Hook school massacre and firearms dealers are seeing guns sales spike, a handful of recent investigative reports suggest that the nation’s state-run system of screening gun buyers for mental illness is mostly a mirage—except in a dozen states where governors want the system to work.
     
Federal prohibits gun sales to anyone who was declared mentally unfit by a court. In Bill Clinton’s first term, Congress passed a law requiring states to report these mental health records to the FBI. But in 1997, the Supreme Court threw out that requirement, saying states could share whatever information they wanted to—or more likely not share it.

Fast-forward to 2012, and as the Wall Street Journal reported, only 12 states account for the majority of mental health records in the FBI database. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, reported that 19 states have each submitted less than 100 mental health records to the FBI database.

Read on...

Women's Incarceration Rate Soars By Over 600 Percent as They Face Abuse Behind Bars

Abuse ranges from outright rape, groping, invasive pat-downs and peeping during showers -- to verbal taunts or harassing comments.

llowing male guards to oversee female prisoners is a recipe for trouble, says former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn. Now a frequent lecturer on incarceration policies and social justice, Whitehorn describes a culture in which women are stripped of their power on the most basic level. "Having male guards sends a message that female prisoners have no right to defend their bodies," she begins. "Putting women under men in authority makes the power imbalance as stark as it can be, and results in long-lasting repercussions post- release."

Abuse, of course, can take many forms, from the flagrant - outright rape, groping, invasive pat-downs and peeping during showers or while an inmate is on the toilet - to verbal taunts or harassing comments. And while advocates for the incarcerated have long tried to draw attention to these conditions, they've made little to no headway. But that may be changing thanks to the promulgation of rules, finalized in June, to stem the overt sexual abuse of prisoners. The nine-years-in-the-making Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is the first law in US history to address the sexual abuse of those in lock-up, and its passage made clear that the sexual abuse of the incarcerated - men and women - is a pervasive problem in prisons throughout the 50 states. But let's hold off on PREA for a minute and first zero in on the reality of female incarceration more generally.

Read on...

The Death Blow for British Coal

New revelations about police brutality under Thatcher in the seminal 1984 battle against striking union miners.

Among British ex-miners, the infamous June 18, 1984 battle between striking coal miners and police at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire, is still bitterly invoked as a symbol of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s campaign against union miners, whom she famously called “the enemy within.” The yearlong strike ultimately marked the beginning of the decline of Britain’s nationalized coal industry, and the economic and social deterioration of coalfield communities.

Almost three decades later, a BBC documentary has directed new attention to the 1984 “battle of Orgreave” and to police behavior throughout the strike. Released in October, the documentary presents new evidence indicating that the South Yorkshire police conspired to crush the strike through fabricated arrest reports and systematic brutality.

In response, at the behest of the South Yorkshire police department itself, the U.K. Independent Police Complaints Commission launched an investigation in November into possible police “assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct” during the battle, as the UK Guardian described it. (In December, the Guardian ran a special report on police brutality and false arrests throughout the conflict.)

Read on....

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Judges Needed for Federal Courts

There has been a severe breakdown in the process for appointing federal judges. At the start of the Reagan years, it took, on average, a month for candidates for appellate and trial courts to go from nomination to confirmation. In the first Obama term, it has taken, on average, more than seven months.

Seventy-seven judgeships, 9 percent of the federal bench (not counting the Supreme Court), are vacant; 19 more seats are expected to open up soon. The lack of judges is more acute if one considers the growing caseload. The Judicial Conference, the courts’ policy-making body, has recommended expanding the bench by 88 additional judgeships

President Obama must make fully staffing the federal courts an important part of his second-term agenda — starting with the immediate Senate confirmation of the 18 nominees approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. 


This is an editorial from the NY Times.  Tom

The Courts: How Obama Dropped the Ball

In his novel King of the Jews, Leslie Epstein sets his story in the wartime ghetto of Lodz, Poland, where the Gestapo ruled through an appointed council of Jewish elders. Epstein, researching the book, tracked down the gallows humor of the time. In one such joke, told by a character in the novel, two Jews are facing a firing squad. The commandant asks if they would like blindfolds.  One of the condemned whispers to the other, “Don’t make trouble.”

“Don’t make trouble” could have been the credo of the first year of the Obama Administration. The White House calculated that if the president just extended the hand of conciliation to the Republicans, the opposition would reciprocate and together they would change the tone in Washington. This was the policy on everything from the stimulus to health reform to judicial nominations. It didn’t work out so well.

Now, spurred by the tailwind of a re-election victory and the realization that public opinion is on his side, President Obama has displayed a new toughness in his budget battle. He has declared that he won’t negotiate against himself, and the strategy is working. But the White House is still stuck in don’t-make-trouble mode on the crucial issue of judicial appointments, where the pace of nominations is only now catching up with that of Obama’s predecessors and the strategy for avoiding partisan confrontation gives Republicans something close to a veto over who is nominated.

Read on....

5 Unbelievably Creepy Surveillance Tactics

 
Since the erosion of Americans' civil liberties depends on high levels of public apathy, some of the most dangerous privacy breaches take place incrementally and under the radar; if it invites comparisons to Blade Runner or Orwell, then someone in the PR department didn't do their job. Meanwhile, some of the biggest threats to privacy, like insecure online data or iPhone GPS tracking, are physically unobtrusive and therefore easily ignored. And it'll be at least a year or two until the sky is overrun by spy drones. 

So when a method of surveillance literally resembles a prop or plot point in a sci-fi movie, it helps to reveal just how widespread and sophisticated commercial and government monitoring has become.  Here are five recent developments that seem almost unreal in their dystopian creepiness. 

1. Buses and street cars that can hear what you say .

Read on...

State Prison Spending Is The Fastest-Growing Budgetary Item After Medicaid

As the U.S. system of mass incarceration takes an ever-greater toll on budgets and communities, more social scientists of all ideological leanings are calling for lesser prison sentences and alternatives to prisons. An extensive New York Times report on this phenomenon tells the story of Stephanie George, who is serving a sentence of life without parole for her alleged nominal role in a drug deal. It was a sentence Reagan-appointed Judge Roger Vinson didn’t even want to dispense, but his hands were tied by mandatory sentencing schemes. Aside from making the U.S. the number one jailer in the world, here are some of the other shocking facts about the nature and impact of U.S. mass incarceration featured in the report:
  • Of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S., 500,000 are locked up for drug offenses – ten times more than there were in 1980. Researchers have found that these lock-ups have no concurrent effect on the illicit drug supply, as demand remains the same and replacement dealers are easy to come by.
  • Some 41,000 people in the United States are serving the once-uncommon sentence of life in prison without parole – a harsh punishment that is reserved in many other countries for only the most heinous crimes. In England, only 41 people are serving this sentence.
Read on...

Beyond Fox News: The GOP is realizing it needs to talk to the rest of the media too

Interesting piece in Buzzfeed about the Republicans starting to wake up to the fact that they need to start appearing on other news outlets – real news outlets – than just Fox News.

The thing is, going before real journalists can be hazardous to your health.  Not often.  But it’s certainly more risky than having Hannity brown-nose you for ten minutes.

The argument some conservatives are giving is that they’re only preaching to the choir when they go on Fox.  Yes, but.

It’s a complicated question as to when its useful to go on a show that might as you tough questions.  For the left, there really isn’t an alternative kind of show.  Only lately MSNBC has been trying to fill Fox’s shoes – and MSNBC does it with fewer lies and less party loyalty.  But before then it was either go on CNN and the other networks, and face tough questions, or go on Fox and be treated like a subhuman.

Read on....

Private Prison Executive Says Lying To A Federal Agency Is Just Fine

A high-level executive at the nation’s second-largest private prison corporation testified under oath that it would not be wrong to give false testimony to a federal agency, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a video recently posted on YouTube. The testimony came in a case alleging that GEO Group Senior Vice President of Project Development Thomas Wierdsma threatened to use his position at GEO to have his then daughter-in-law’s immigration status investigated by ICE if she spoke out about domestic abuse.
ATTORNEY: You would agree it would be wrong to give false testimony against somebody, correct?
WIERDSMA: Um [long pause]. Yes.
ATTORNEY: Similarly, would it be wrong to give false testimony to a federal agency?
WIERDSMA: No, not at all. Happens all the time.
Watch it:

Read on...

Half of People Shot by Police Are Mentally Ill, Investigation Finds


An investigation by the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram has found that a disturbingly high percentage of individuals shot by police suffer from mental health problems. There are no federal statistics on police shootings of mentally ill people, but according to the investigation  published this week , “a review of available reports indicates that at least half of the estimated 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems.”
 
The newspapers analyzed in detail the incidents of police deploying deadly force in Maine — a state with a comparatively low crime rate — since 2000. The report noted:
42 percent of people shot by police since 2000 — and 58 percent of those who died from their injuries — had mental health problems, according to reports from the Maine Attorney General’s Office. In many cases, the officers knew that the subjects were disturbed, and they were dead in a matter of moments
 Read on...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Anti-Abortion Christian Reality TV Show to Try to Shame Women

As if the world really needs another reality show, a new one about five women who have had abortions is set to debut next month on the Christian Internet television network KnockTV.  “Surrender the Secret” will follow the “five women on their journey together to ... healing and self-forgiveness,” according to pro-life website Live Action News.

“There’s a new trend among abortion proponents—convince the world that abortion is not shameful. Convince post-abortive women that any guilt they may feel is unfounded. Convince post-abortive women who have kept their abortion a secret that they should shout about it from the rooftops with pride,” says Live Action News’ Nancy Flanders. “Post-abortive women do need to talk about their choice. However, they don’t need to be and shouldn’t pretend to be proud of it.” 

Because obviously the best place for these women to go through the healing process is on an online reality show that is publicly shaming them for their life choices.

Read on...

They Can Do That?! 10 Outrageous Tactics Cops Get Away With

Thanks to the war on drugs, the war on terror and general public apathy about civil liberties, police can stomp all over your rights.

Talk to someone who has never dealt with the cops about police behaving badly, and he or she will inevitably say, “But they can't do that! Can they?” The question of what the cops can or can't do is natural enough for someone who never deals with cops, especially if their inexperience is due to class and/or race privilege. But a public defender would describe that question as naïve. In short, the cops can do almost anything they want, and often the most maddening tactics are actually completely legal. 

There are many reasons for this, but three historical developments stand out: the war on drugs provided the template for social control based on race; 9/11 gave federal and local officials the opportunity to ensnare Muslims (and activists) in the ever-increasing surveillance and incarceration state; and a lack of concern from the public at large means these tactics can be applied, often controversy-free, to anyone who resists them.

What follows are 10 of the innumerable tactics the police can use against a population often incapable of constraining their behavior. 

Ontario court reinforces laws to protect women from harrassment

In an important decision for the legal treatment of abused women, Ontario’s top court has found that stalking and verbal threats can be just as severe as physical attacks.

The province’s Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of 5 1/2 years in the case of a man who subjected a woman he had recently met to a barrage of harassing phone calls and letters, including two sent while he was in jail awaiting trial.

Patrick James Doherty argued that, because he did not assault his victim, he should receive a lesser sentence. The court rejected his reasoning.

The victim “suffered mentally and physically as a result of the appellant’s harassment. She lost weight, lost sleep and was anxious and worried about what he may do to her,” wrote Justice Dennis O’Connor of the court’s unanimous decision. “The impact on her was magnified each time he ignored her pleas to stop, the police warnings and the court orders.”

It all began in November of last year when Agnieszka Mikulska posted a classified advertisement online, seeking a roommate for her Kitchener, Ont., apartment. Mr. Doherty responded. Initially polite, he became angry when Ms. Mikulska picked someone else to live with her.

Read on...

Rise in homicides is of ‘no real consequence,’ criminologist says

Don’t panic.

True, the number of homicides in Canada increased this year over last. True, fatal stabbings increased sharply. True, the figures arrive amid a divisive national policy debate over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda.

But, according to the experts, what is the real conclusion to be drawn from the latest Statistics Canada figures on homicides?

Essentially: Take a deep breath. “You can’t infer anything from today’s numbers,” said Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd. “An increase of 7 per cent is of no real consequence.”

To glean broad trends from one year’s stats is equivalent to holding up a cold winter’s day as proof that climate change is a fraud, criminologists say. When experts look for criminal patterns in Statscan numbers, they work with periods of no less than 10 years.

Read on...

Today, Remember Hurt Women Near and Far

Though violence lingers, we commemorate those acting to stop it

During supper one October evening while listening to the news on the radio, I suddenly put down my fork and gripped my 10-year-old son's arm. We listened intently to the broadcast. A Taliban gunman had shot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head while she was sitting with her classmates on a bus in Mingora, Pakistan. The Guardian reported that a Taliban spokesman characterized Malala's advocacy work for girls' education as an "obscenity" that had to be stopped. Malala and her family had been targeted because of the blog she had written for the BBC while she was in seventh grade chronicling the effects of Taliban repression in her region, including the burning of girls' schools.

"Why did they shoot her?" my son asked me, aghast. I attempted to explain the attitudes of religious extremists, their desire to maintain social, political and economic control and power by excluding women from education, employment, and equal participation in a community. I reminded him that many cultures throughout time believed women to be inferior to men, just as they believed that certain groups of people were inferior because of their race or nationality. But to him, discrimination and violence against women seem irrational and bizarre. In his mind, women and men -- girls and boys -- have always been equals.

Read on...

Chris Selley: Why there will never be such thing as a good anti-bullying law

On Tuesday, the government of Canada’s fifth-most populous province, Manitoba introduced what it calls a “strong anti-bullying action plan.” It is to include various new resources for parents and teachers and eventually, after public consultations, “strong legislation that would further support students, broaden reporting of bullying and respect diversity.”

In the current anti-bullying climate, where stern legislative fixes are the order of the day, this almost counts as foot-dragging. In Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, students are now threatened with expulsion for any behaviour they intend to, or ought to know is likely to, cause “harm, fear or distress to another individual, including physical, psychological, social or academic harm, harm to the individual’s reputation or … property” — or even just for “creating a negative environment at a school for another individual.”

As of Aug. 15, the Education Act in Canada’s second-most populous province, Quebec, defines bullying (emphasis added) “as any repeated direct or indirect behaviour, comment, act or gesture, whether deliberate or not, including in cyberspace.”

Read on....

The homeless man, the boots and the complex story behind the viral photo

 
 
A picture is worth a thousand words, as the cliché goes. But are a thousand words enough to tell the whole story?

Not in the case of the viral photograph that recently emerged from the streets of Manhattan. The image has now become a familiar one: a New York City police officer kneels beside a barefoot homeless man in Times Square and offers him a new pair of boots.

The officer, Larry DePrimo, did not know an Arizona tourist had captured the moment with her cellphone. The photo was uploaded on Facebook and rocketed around the web, garnering 1.6 million views in 24 hours and riveting the media: The officer bought the boots with his own money! The shoe store employee was so touched he gave a discount! The cop keeps the receipt in his vest as a reminder of those who are less fortunate!

The image was powerful in its simplicity. But as more details emerged, the story grew more complicated — and negative toward the man who asked neither for the boots nor for the attention that came with them.

Read on...

Don't think any of this changes the sentiment of the original story.  Tom
 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Larry DePrimo, NYPD Cop, Buys Homeless Man Boots


As of late Wednesday, the photo had been shared 47,716 times, boosting subscribers to the department's 5-month-old page by 7,000, to 95,000, officials said.
"I had two pairs of wool winter socks and combat boots, and I was cold," DePrimo, 25, said Wednesday, recalling the night of Nov. 14, when he encountered an unidentified, shoeless man on the sidewalk on Seventh Avenue near 44th Street.
DePrimo offered to get him socks and shoes.
"I never had a pair of shoes," the man replied, according to DePrimo, who's assigned to the Sixth Precinct and has been on the force nearly three years.

Read on...

Here’s the ‘extremist’ Pussy Riot video a Russian court wants banned from the web

A Russian court ruled on Thursday that video footage of the Pussy Riot punk group protesting against President Vladimir Putin in a church was “extremist” and should be removed from websites.

The demonstration last February offended many Russian Orthodox Christians. But Putin has been criticized by U.S. and European leaders over what they saw as disproportionate jail sentences imposed on three Pussy Riot members. Their trial was also seen by Putin’s critics as part of a clampdown on dissent.

Read on...


Who, What, Why: What happened to crime in New York City?


Police men and a police dog stand next to a police van 
 
For more than 36 hours in New York City, no-one was shot, stabbed, or otherwise killed. The crime freeze began after 22:25 on Sunday, when a man was shot in the head, and continued until another man was shot at 11:20 on Tuesday.

Though the break in violent crime marked the first time in recent memory such an event had occurred, the figure doesn't surprise criminologists.

"I'm surprised it's just the first day this has happened," says Alfred Blumstein, a professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Considering, says Blumstein, that there were only 472 homicides in New York last year, with this year on track for even fewer, the odds of a violent-crime free day are favourable.

Read on...

This reminds me of the time crime took a holiday in Milan.  Tom
 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"At least 8 shots"

By now you've all heard the story that a middle-aged white man, Michael Dunn, visiting Jacksonville, Florida, for his son's wedding, shot "at least 8 shots" at four African American teenagers in an SUV while waiting outside a convenience store. Dunn killed 17 year old Jordan Davis, allegedly, because he claimed he was in fear for his life after he initiated a dispute with the teens over the loud music they were playing. There were no weapons in the vehicle into which he fired "at least 8 shots" from his gun, bullets that ultimately claimed the life of Jordan. In other words the kids he fired "at least 8 shots" at from his handgun were unarmed. Mr. Dunn was the only one carrying.

Dunn's daughter has given an interview in which she claims her father is not like George Zimmerman in any respect. According to her, Dunn is not a racist, is a good man and loving father and is heartbroken at the death of of young Jordan. He's no "vigilante" claims Dunn's lawyer. This was all simply a horrible tragedy and when the truth comes out Mr. Dunn will have been shown to have acted reasonably when he fired "at least 8 shots" into the backseat of the SUV where Jordan was sitting.

Oh and Dunn's attorney has indicated that he plans to rely upon Florida's notorious "stand your ground" law to claim self defense. Now, it's not often that a person can fire "at least 8 shots" at an unarmed teenager and claim he was acting in self defense, but then that's the "beauty" of Florida's Statute Sections 776.012 for criminal defense attorneys. It expands the universe where defense can be used to avoid prosecution or conviction when you shoot someone with your firearm. Here's the text of the law:

Read  on....

It just goes on and on.....Tom

Crazy Making

The Supreme Court is wrong to let Idaho have no insanity defense.

Jared Loughner.
Months of treatment was required before Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people outside an Arizona grocery store, could understand the charges against him Courtesy Pima County Sheriff Forensic Unit.
Earlier this month, Jared Loughner was sentenced to life in prison at a sober proceeding in which survivors of his terrible shooting spree in Arizona, and their families, recognized the role his schizophrenia played in his crimes. They talked about their understandable hurt and anger, and they also recognized that Loughner didn’t get the mental health care he needed. (Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, whom Loughner shot in the head, usefully highlighted the expiration a decade ago of the federal law that banned the sale of the rapid-fire ammunition clips Loughner used.)

It took months of medication and treatment for Loughner to understand the charges against him. That comes as no surprise, given the disturbed-looking photos of him after the crime. And the country got a similar view of violence and untreated mental illness in James Holmes, the 24-year-old who shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in July. Both Loughner and Holmes spiraled out of control while enrolled at a university yet fell through the holes of the health care net that should have caught them. This is a story we’ve been hearing since at least the 2007 mass killing by a student at Virginia Tech.

Read on...

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mississippi County Jails Kids For School Dress Code Violations, Tardiness, DOJ Alleges

In Meridian, Miss., it is school officials – not police – who determine who should be arrested. Schools seeking to discipline students call the police, and police policy is to arrest all children referred to the agency, according to a Department of Justice lawsuit. The result is a perverse system that funnels children as young as ten who merely misbehave in class into juvenile detention centers without basic constitutional procedures. The lawsuit, which follows unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with the county, challenges the constitutionality of punishing children “so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience” and alleging that the city’s police department acts as a de facto “taxi service” in shuttling students from school to juvenile detention centers. Colorlines explains:
Once those children are in the juvenile justice system, they are denied basic constitutional rights. They are handcuffed and incarcerated for days without any hearing and subsequently warehoused without understanding their alleged probation violations.
To illustrate how this system works, Colorlines provides the example of Cedrico Green. When he was in eighth grade, he was put on probation for getting in a fight. After that one incident, every subsequent offense was deemed a probation violation — from wearing the wrong color socks, to talking back to a teacher – and the consequence was a return to juvenile detention. He couldn’t even remember how many times he had been back in detention, but guessed 30 times – time when he wasn’t in school, fell behind in his schoolwork and subsequently failed several classes, even though he said he liked school.

Read on...

Welcome to "Crime," Slate's New Crime Blog About Crime

Hi, I'm Justin Peters, intrepid freelancer and general liability. Earlier this month, I wrote about my efforts to infiltrate the ranks of Manhattan hipster circles by growing a beard and shaving my pubes. Now, I'll be your guide to another seamy, amoral underworld.

Welcome to Slate's new crime blog, which we’ve imaginatively titled “Crime.” Consider it your cheerful, insatiably curious guide to everything illegal. I'll be examining the wide world of crime, punishment, and recidivism on a daily basis, writing about the most murderous gatmen and the most devious yeggs.

Why a crime blog? Mercy, everyone loves crime. More to the point, though, there's a dearth of smart, non-sensationalistic crime coverage on the Internet these days. I plan to write about horrible things in a non-horrible manner.

What are my qualifications? Well, I was burglarized last year, which was unsettling. (As it turns out, I have nothing of value to steal, which was even more unsettling.) I was a background extra in the movie Curly Sue, so I've got unparalleled insight into crimes involving homeless grifters with hearts of gold and their adorably sassy adopted daughters. I've read everything ever written by Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, and Franklin W. Dixon. And, of course, every Christmas I go down to the homeless shelter and distribute cakes laced with arsenic.

Read on...

Marijuana Decriminalization Drops Youth Crime Rates by Stunning 20% in One Year

Arresting and putting low-level juvenile offenders into the criminal-justice system pulls many kids deeper into trouble rather than turning them around.

Marijuana — it’s one of the primary reasons why California experienced a stunning 20 percent drop in juvenile arrests in just one year, between 2010 and 2011, according to provocative new research. 

The San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice (CJCJ) recently released a policy briefing with an analysis of arrest data collected by the California Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center. The briefing, “ California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low ,” identifies a new state marijuana decriminalization law that applies to juveniles, not just adults, as the driving force behind the  plummeting arrest totals.

After the new pot law went into effect in January 2011, simple marijuana possession arrests of California juveniles fell from 14,991 in 2010 to 5,831 in 2011, a 61 percent difference, the report by CJCJ senior research fellow Mike Males found.  

Read on....

Does Ritalin Reduce Crime or Does it Help Criminals Avoid Getting Caught?

We all know that Ritalin is great for calming unruly children and helping college students cram for their midterms. But does it also help fight crime? The New York Times recently wrote up a study that purportedly showed that those who suffer from “serious attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” are less likely to commit crimes when they’re taking their medication. Pam Belluck reports:
Of 8,000 people whose medication use fluctuated over a three-year period, men were 32 percent less likely and women were 41 percent less likely to have criminal convictions while on medication. Patients were primarily young adults, many with a history of hospitalization. Crimes included assault, drug offenses and homicide as well as less serious crimes. Medication varied, but many took stimulants like Ritalin.
Though the study is preliminary, the results make some sense, if you assume that at least some criminal behavior stems from chemical imbalances in the brain. But the most interesting question raised by the Times story came from a Yale School of Public Health professor, who wondered if “[ADHD] medication is reducing crime or ‘making better criminals,’ who avoid arrest.”

Read on...

The Reality of Life Inside Immigration Detention


 
 
In the last 15 years, we've witnessed a dramatic expansion in the jailing of immigrants, from about 70,000 people detained annually to about 400,000.  In the mid-1990’s, during the height of an anti-immigrant backlash, Congress passed a series of harsh measures that led to a vast increase in unnecessary detention. This trend has been exacerbated by the private prison industry and county jails looking to exploit immigrant detention for profit.

The cost of this system today is 1.7 billion dollars at taxpayer expense.

In detention, immigrants continue to be subject to punitive treatment, and are denied basic needs, such as contact with lawyers and loved ones, inadequate food and hygiene, and access to fresh air and sunlight. They continue to get injured, sick, and die without timely medical care. They continue to endure racial slurs and discriminatory treatment by prison staff, and are vulnerable to rape and assault.  Since 2003, a reported 131 people have died in immigration custody.

These conditions are unacceptable and not in the spirit of the Administration’s promised reforms.

 Read on...
 

Why Are Police Allowed to Break Into Your Phone?

A New York Times review of court cases and legislation around the country shows that there are no uniform rules when it comes to whether law enforcement can search cell phone records and use the data as evidence. 

The judicial system around the country is sharply divided on the legality of searching cell phone records and using that evidence for the prosecution of criminal suspects. A New York Times review of court cases and legislation shows that there are no uniform rules when it comes to whether law enforcement can search cell phone records and use the data as evidence. 

In Rhode Island, a judge threw out evidence used to convict Michael Patino, a 30-year-old resident of the state, because, according to the judge, the police obtained cell phone data improperly. But a Washington court said that cell phone text messages are similar to voice mail messages that can be heard by anyone in a room, and are therefore not subjected to privacy laws.

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Alito Rising: What to Expect From the Supreme Court’s New Alpha Conservative

“The Supreme Court follows the election returns,” or so opined satirist Finley Peter Dunne in 1901 in language purged of its original Irish brogue (see Chapter 3 of Dunne’s Mr. Dooley book). Back then, the court was headed by Melville Weston Fuller, its eighth chief justice, under whose enlightened stewardship it handed down Plessy v. Ferguson, the infamous decision that upheld the constitutionality of state laws requiring people of different races to use “separate but equal” public facilities.

What Dunne meant, of course, was that the court was a partisan political institution, often less dedicated to following constitutional values than currying favor with the nation’s elites, and that it was also capable of responding to shifts in public opinion. So it was at the turn of the last century and so it is today. 

But exactly how the court reads and reacts to elections is by no means a given. Thus we must ask whether the court’s current ultraconservative Republican majority will interpret Barack Obama’s re-election as a call for reflection and moderation or as a signal to lurch even harder to the right. At least one member of the Republican majority—Justice Samuel Alito—has answered that he sees no reason to do anything but double down on past practices.  

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Engaging Police in Immigrant Communities: Promising Practices from the Field

Today, approximately 40 million foreign-born people live in the United States, seven million of whom arrived within the past eight years. Because very little is known about how most police agencies nationwide work with immigrant communities, in 2010, Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to identify and disseminate information on law enforcement practices that cultivate trust and collaboration with immigrant communities and merit replication. Staff from Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice solicited information from more than 1,000 agencies in jurisdictions with large immigrant populations and evaluated nearly 200 agencies’ practices. The resulting multimedia resource—report, toolkit, podcasts— features the efforts of 10 law enforcement agencies of different sizes, capacities, and circumstances. Engaging Police in Immigrant Communities is a practical, field-informed guide for community policing professionals seeking to begin or build upon their work with immigrant communities and immigrant community leaders looking to collaborate effectively with law enforcement.

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Following Obama’s Victory, Wisconsin Governor Proposes New Limits On Voter Registration

Two weeks after Barack Obama and Sen.-elect Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) carried the state of Wisconsin with the support of minorities and young voters, Gov. Scott Walker (R) announced one of his major policy proposals for the upcoming session: ending the state’s 40-year old law that allows citizens to register to vote on Election Day.

And with Republicans now back in control of the Wisconsin state legislature, Walker may well get his way next year.

In 2008, Wisconsin enjoyed the second highest turnout of any state in the nation (72.4 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot), due largely to the fact the Badger State law allows residents who aren’t registered or have recently moved to register at the polls. That year, approximately 460,000 people used Election Day Registration, 15 percent of all Wisconsinites who cast a ballot.

Walker pressed his case for ending same-day registration during a speech at the Ronald Reagan Library in California on Friday:

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Florida Lays Off State Workers After Outsourcing Prisoners’ Health Care To A Private Company

Now that Florida’s Department of Corrections has auctioned off the job of providing state inmates with health services to the highest-bidding companies, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is moving ahead with his controversial plan to privatize prisoners’ health care. Since Florida is now locked into a contract with Corizon Healthcare of Nashville, and plans to sign a second contract with Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources, Gov. Scott’s administration has already begun to lay off nearly two thousand state workers whose jobs have now become obsolete.
As the Miami Herald reports, nearly 2,000 state workers are beginning to receive notices that their jobs are ending, as part of the nation’s biggest push to outsource prisoners’ health care to private companies:

“Due to the outsourcing of this function, your position will be deleted,” reads a dryly worded dismissal notice from the Department of Corrections, sent to 1,890 state employees in the past two weeks. [...]
In the dismissal letters, prison officials emphasize that dismissed workers will get first consideration for new jobs at one of the two for-profit vendors, though with fewer benefits. The workers also expect to pay more out of their pockets for their own health insurance.
Many make less than $35,000 a year, have not had a raise in six years and live in economically distressed areas home to many state prisons, including Bradford, Dixie, Levy, Suwannee and Union counties.
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Marco Rubio Is ‘Not a Scientist’

Marco Rubio in Altoona, Iowa. Marco Rubio is a Republican senator from Florida. He is sometimes called the “crown prince” of the Tea Party movement. He will likely run for president in 2016. He sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He is not a scientist.
As has been widely re-reported, the December issue of GQ features an interview with Mr. Rubio in which Michael Hainey asked, “How old do you think the Earth is?”

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This is from the NYTimes.  Tom

Portraits of Addiction

A Manhattan banker shoots portraits of drug abuse, sex work, and homelessness in the Bronx.


vanessa-arnade.jpgIn his portraits of sex workers and the homeless struggling with addiction, photographer Chris Arnade is neither demanding an increase in social services or gawking from the sidelines at others' degradation. At their core, his "Faces of Addiction" portraits are simply about watching and listening to other people. Arnade repeatedly declares his one simple objective at the end of each detailed photo caption: "I post people's stories as they tell them to me. I am not a journalist. I don't try to verify, just listen."
 

Aboriginal sentencing rules ignored due to lack of funding, interest

Thirteen years after the Supreme Court of Canada issued a demand for information that would enable trial judges to pass more culturally sensitive sentences for aboriginal defendants, its edict has been largely ignored in much of the country.

In most regions, a lack of funding or a lack of interest has meant that detailed reports delving into the background of offenders are simply not prepared.

Yet, these documents – named Gladue reports after the defendant in the 1999 Supreme Court’s decision from which they evolved – are a vital aid to judges considering the impact on a defendant of the historical mistreatment of aboriginal communities. At the core of the Gladue decision was a deep concern with the over-representation of aboriginal people in jail. When judges are deprived of rich, case-specific information, aboriginal offenders are much more likely to be thrown in jail at a disproportionate rate.

“The reports are indispensable,” said Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. “If you don’t get the best information with respect to the individual background and sentencing options, the judge is not in a position to come to the fit and proper sentence that Gladue requires.”

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How California’s Three-Strikes Law Struck Out

It was slain by a couple of professors, their students, and a district attorney who wanted reform.

In last week’s election, California voters made a decision that was at once historic and obvious: They reformed the state’s infamously harsh three-strikes law. Proposition 36, the ballot measure that passed with an amazing 69 percent of the vote, changed the state’s three-strikes law so that offenders who have committed no serious and violent crime will no longer go to prison for life. The vote was historic because when voters see crime measures on the ballot, they almost always pull the lever in favor of retribution, not mercy. And yet this time the result was also a no-brainer: The state was locking up petty thieves and shoplifters for life, and given the chance to stop this, the voters resoundingly did.

The original three-strikes ballot measure passed in California in 1994, following the terrible murder-kidnapping of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, who was snatched from her own slumber party. The killer turned out to be a criminal with a violent past who was out on parole. That was all voters needed to hear to pass a measure that said it would keep “career criminals who rape women, molest children and commit murder behind bars where they belong.”

But as the Los Angeles Times pointed out in an editorial this week, it’s not clear that Californians intended to go beyond the rapists, murderers, and molesters to permanently lock up offenders like Norman Williams, whom I wrote about for the New York Times Magazine two years ago. Williams’ third strike was a conviction for petty theft in 1997: He stole the floor jack of a tow truck when he was homeless and addicted to drugs. His earlier crimes also weren’t the work of a hardened and dangerous career criminal: In 1982, he burglarized an empty apartment while it was being fumigated. After he was robbed at gunpoint on the way out, he helped the police find the stuff he’d stolen. In 1992, he tried to steal tools from an art studio. When the owner confronted him, he dropped everything and ran.

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Google: Government Surveillance Requests Are Way Up—and the U.S. Is the Leader

Skeptics often dismiss those concerned about growing levels of surveillance as paranoid conspiracy theorists. But Google’s latest transparency report, released Tuesday, shows the fears are grounded in reality: Government surveillance is on the rise.

Every six months Google publishes transparency reports to disclose how many requests it has received from government agencies to hand over user data or take down content. Yesterday's figures reveal Google received 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world for user data in the first half of this year—a 55 percent increase in requests received during the same period in 2010. The United States by far made the most requests for user data, submitting more than one-third of the 20,938 received. India was second, followed by Brazil.

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Rethinking Prison through Art and Research



Sarah Armstrong is a visiting scholar at the Centre and is working on this project. She will be giving a talk on it at the Centre in January. Sarah is also a contributor to a great blog about this research.  Here is a link to her blog.  

And here is the press release describing an exhibition about this project.



Rethinking Prison through Art and Research

A unique collaboration between art and academia offers new insights into what punishment is and how it works. Glasgow-based artist Jenny Wicks spent nine months working alongside criminologists from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR), University of Glasgow.

The results will be showcased at HMP Barlinnie and The Briggait Gallery in an installation/exhibition that incorporates film broadcast on surveillance monitors, audio and large format fine art photography.

Wicks gained unprecedented access to prisons across Scotland including HMP Low Moss, Scotland’s newest prison, prior to its opening for ‘business’. Through photographic imagery and audiowork Jenny’s collaborative project discovers and explores some of the hidden parts of punishment. 

Wicks commented, “Much of the work on prisons, what influences our understanding of what they are like, is a kind of gritty realism found in stereotypical pictures of cell doors or exercise yards.”

She continued, “I was interested to see that both myself as an artist and the criminologists who research this stuff wanted to challenge these stock images and show the experience of punishment in a different way.”

A unique aspect of this project was its inclusion not just of prisoners but also prison staff, governors and criminologists in a series of ‘mugshot’ portraits. These were made using traditional photography techniques that required subjects to sit without moving for an extended period. The result are a set of peaceful faces any of which might be of a criminal, a guard or a scientist. Set alongside images of the prison’s interior, the viewer is asked to think about whether this is the place of someone’s sentence, day at the office or research site.

Professor Fergus McNeill, a leading expert on rehabilitation, and one of the mugshot subjects, noted, “So much of how prisons are presented in society make prisoners out to be different from ‘normal’ people. But you can see in these photos a gentleness and even sadness or innocence in them. All of us do harm and all of us can help or heal. I really believe that the effectiveness of criminal justice depends on breaking down the barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Jenny’s art goes some way towards doing this.”

Senior Research Fellow Dr Sarah Armstrong, another criminologist involved in the project, said, “We are limited as researchers in how we communicate. We can write any number of reports and point to statistics about the effectiveness of prison sentences. Jenny’s project transcends paperwork to show vividly how prison can be so many things at once – terrifying, boring, punitive and rehabilitating. This project makes clear how much potential there is for research in looking at things more creatively.”

Wicks said: “As the residency progressed I was constantly struck by the co-existence of the shocking and the ordinary that marks the experience of punishment.

“Suicide watch cells, the back of a prisoner transport van, a storage room holding physical restraint chairs and Zimmer frames mark sites of extreme human experience, and yet at the same time are part of someone’s day at the office. Exploring this dynamic tension was a key aim of the project.”

The project, entitled ‘Working Spaces, Punishing Spaces: The Meaning and Construction of Place through Criminological Research’ was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and Creative Scotland.

After launching at HMP Barlinnie on 7 November the exhibition will travel to a number of other prisons prior to its public show at The Briggait Gallery, Glasgow 27 February – 3 March 2013. An ongoing project blog seeks to involve anyone interested in these issues: http://punishingphotography.wordpress.com/

ENDS


For further information / Use of pictures / Interviews: nick.wade@glasgow.ac.uk – 0141 330 7126 – 07837 097 159



EXHIBITION VENUES AND DATES

Private Showings:       HMP Barlinnie*  7-21 November 2012
        HMP Greenock    early 2013
        HMP Shotts      early 2013
        HMP Low Moss    early 2013

        *Press access can be arranged.

Public Exhibition:      The Briggait (Glasgow)  27 Feb-23 Mar 2013
        Opening Night (all welcome)     1 Mar 2013, 6:30-8:30

The Briggait is located at 141 Bridgegate, Glasgow G1 5HZ. Opening hours are Mon-Fri from 10 am to 6 pm; Saturdays from 12 pm to 6 pm. Admission is free and open to all.