Friday, March 30, 2012

New Bibliography on Felony Disenfranchisement

In the midst of this election year it is important to remind ourselves that a group of five million Americans will not be on the voter rolls this year. This is not necessarily due to their lack of interest in the election, but because these people have had a felony conviction which disqualifies them from participation.

The Sentencing Project's new publication, Felony Disenfranchisement: An Annotated Bibliography, provides an overview of more than 80 journal articles and books on felony disenfranchisement over the past two decades.

The new publication can be viewed here.

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Judge not obliged to view disturbing evidence before sentencing offender, court rules

Ontario’s highest court has split over the question of whether a judge is obliged to view highly disturbing evidence before sentencing an offender.

The 2-1 split in favour of allowing a judge to avoid a full viewing of the evidence sets up the distinct possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The evidence in the case took the form of explicit videotape of a man sexually assaulting his daughter while she begged him to stop.

Ontario Court Judge Stephen J. Hunter declined to watch a compilation of several videos taken by the defendant. He said that he could well imagine what the tape depicted, given his 20 years on the bench and 15 years as a lawyer for a children’s aid society in Eastern Ontario.

“I have seen and been exposed to significant examples of the type of behaviour here,” Judge Hunter said.

Read on...

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"A Picture of Such Horror as Should Be Unrealized Anywhere in the Civilized World"

This week, a federal judge in Southern Mississippi gave new life to the words, "Let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream."

Judge Carleton Reeves — only the second African-American to serve on the federal bench in Mississippi's history — entered a blistering order giving final approval to a consent decree that bans the horrendous practice of subjecting kids convicted as adults to solitary confinement and requires the state to move such kids out of the brutally violent privately run prison where they are currently housed.

The consent decree settles a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of 1,200 Mississippi youth, ages 13 to 22, confined to the Walnut Grove Correctional Center. That prison is operated by the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison operator in the world. The lawsuit detailed monstrous abuses by GEO staff — including peddling drugs to the teenagers in their custody and subjecting them to brutal beatings, sexual exploitation and solitary confinement.

Read on...

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Don't Exert Yourself

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The Money Trail Behind Florida's Notorious Gun Law

The National Rifle Association invested heavily in the legislation that helped keep Trayvon Martin's killer a free man.

On April 26, 2005, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law SB 436, better known as the "Stand Your Ground" law, which gave Floridians the right to use deadly force to defend themselves in public without first trying to flee from a threat. Nearly seven years later, the law has exploded into public view with the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Police released the shooter, George Zimmerman, the night of the killing after he claimed self-defense; ever since, there has been a firestorm of debate over the wisdom of Stand Your Ground laws, also known as "shoot first" laws, which now exist in 24 states.

The money trail leading to the watershed law in Florida—the first of the 24 across the nation—traces primarily to one source: the National Rifle Association. When Gov. Bush conducted the 2005 signing ceremony, standing alongside him was Marion Hammer, a leader and familiar face from the pro-gun lobbying powerhouse. But the NRA's support for the Stand Your Ground law was far more than symbolic. An analysis by Mother Jones of election and lobbying records reveals that the NRA was instrumental in creating Stand Your Ground: Over a nine-year period the organization gave more than $73,000 in campaign donations to the 43 Florida legislators who backed the law. That money was buttressed by intense lobbying activity and additional funds spent by the NRA in support of the bill's introduction and passage.

The NRA's point man in the Florida legislature was state Rep. Dennis Baxley (R). In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Baxley, a card-carrying NRA member and an ally of Bush's, reaped financial support from the NRA's Political Victory Fund. In 2000 Baxley received a $500 campaign donation from the NRA (the state's legal limit per election cycle) on top of nearly a thousand dollars more in independent spending backing him. By 2004, the NRA awarded Baxley its "Defender of Freedom" award. And in 2007, the NRA spent a whopping $35,000 on radio advertising to support Baxley in a primary fight. (He lost.)

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UK Commission on 2011 Riots Points to Poor Parenting Instead of Police Violence

The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel released its final report yesterday, concluding, “after the riots, we must give everyone a stake in society.”

The panel, appointed by British Prime Minister David Cameron to examine the August 2011 riots that Scotland Yard described as the worst urban violence in the UK in living memory, focused on the country’s “500,000 forgotten families,” arguing that a lack of institutional support for young people, as well as poor parenting, were among the factors that led to rioting in Birmingham, London Manchester and other English cities. Darra Singh, Chair of the Riots Communities and Victims Panel, said in a press statement:

There are people ‘bumping along the bottom’, unable to change their lives. When people don’t feel they have a reason to stay out of trouble, the consequences for communities can be devastating – as we saw last August.

The report estimates that up to 15,000 people, most of them under the age of 24, participated in the riots.

On broad youth participation in the riots, the report notes:

Read on....

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Can We Trust the Cops’ New Account of Trayvon Martin’s Killing?

Not as long as they rely on leaks and unnamed witnesses.

George Zimmerman who is a suspect in the shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin.
New information has been leaked about the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman (pictured)


"With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times, leaving him bloody and battered, authorities have revealed to the Orlando Sentinel."

Much of this “has been corroborated by witnesses,” the paper says. Also, “One eyewitness has said he saw the teenager on top of Zimmerman.”

This comes from a leak from the police to the Sentinel. Zimmerman, the 28-year-old who shot 17-year-old Martin to death in February and has not been arrested because he claimed self-defense, still hasn’t spoken publicly. Nor have the unnamed witnesses.

Which makes it very hard to know what to make of this new information. It’s entirely at odds with the account of Martin’s girlfriend, who says Martin was talking to her on his cell phone just before his death. The girlfriend says she heard Martin ask a man, “What are you following me for,” and that the man answered, “What are you doing here?” Then she heard Martin pushed to the ground. To point out the obvious, the police in Sanford, Fla., where the shooting took place, are the definition of embattled. Their chief resigned last week and the decision not to arrest Zimmerman—based on the belief that he reasonably feared bodily harm or for his life when he shot Martin—is a flashpoint for national outcry. No wonder someone in the department got fed up and leaked facts that support the cops’ decision-making.

Read on...

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Silencing the Guns

When Gabrielle Giffords tendered her resignation from the House of Representatives to Speaker John Boehner because she did not feel she could continue to serve at her current level of disability, the entire House erupted in a rare moment of bipartisan unity, supporting their brave colleague who had survived a bullet through the brain at point-blank range.

That was not, however, the first bipartisan moment related to the attack on Gabby Giffords, nor would it be the last. In 2004, Congress let the assault weapons ban Bill Clinton had passed “sunset” despite overwhelming public support. That law limited the number of rounds of ammunition a shooter could fire before having to reload, and letting it die an untimely death allowed a mentally ill young man in Tucson to purchase a handgun with a 33-round magazine. Had the assault weapons ban remained in place, he may well have been able to shoot the congresswoman, but he would not have been able to empty his clip, killing 6 people and wounding 13 others, before being tackled to the ground.

That moment was followed by another bipartisan moment, when President Obama delivered a moving speech on Jan. 12 at the scene of the carnage in Tucson. In it, the president called on the nation to mourn not only the shooting of a beloved member of Congress but the lives of the people who died at the hands of Giffords’ assailant, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. But on neither that national day of mourning nor on any day since has the president or the members of Congress, who are either too frightened or too corrupted by the National Rifle Association, honored Giffords or the memory of those who died in that massacre in Tucson in the most appropriate way: with a return to common sense, like reestablishing the assault weapons ban that might have saved their lives. Later in January, Representative Carolyn McCarthy and Senator Frank Lautenberg proposed legislation to outlaw high-capacity magazines; it has gone nowhere.

Read on...

This is an editorial from the New York Times. Tom

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The New Jim Crow: How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste

Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been celebrating our nation’s “triumph over race.” Obama’s election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.

Obama’s mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that “the land of the free” has finally made good on its promise of equality. There’s an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.

Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand. Racial caste is alive and well in America.

Most people don’t like it when I say this. It makes them angry. In the “era of colorblindness” there’s a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have “moved beyond” race. Here are a few facts that run counter to that triumphant racial narrative:

Read on....

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Prostitution: Ontario court gives OK to brothels

The federal government was reviewing its legal options Monday after Ontario's top court swept aside some of the country's anti-prostitution laws, saying they place unconstitutional restrictions on prostitutes' ability to protect themselves.

"As the prime minister has said, prostitution is bad for society and harmful to communities, women and vulnerable persons," said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson in a statement emailed to Postmedia News. "We are reviewing the decision and our legal options. The Ontario Court of Appeal has affirmed the validity of the ban on solicitation for the purposes of selling sex. We continue to see a social need for laws to control prostitution and its effects on society."

The landmark decision means sex workers in Ontario will be able to hire drivers, bodyguards and support staff and work indoors in organized brothels or "bawdy houses," while "exploitation" by pimps remains illegal. However, openly soliciting customers on the street remains prohibited, with the judges deeming that "a reasonable limit on the right to freedom of expression."

Read on...

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To Build a Better Criminal Justice System

25 Experts Envision the
Next 25 Years of Reform

In October 2011 The Sentencing Project celebrated its
25th anniversary with a forum held at the National
Press Club in Washington, D.C. That event, Criminal
Justice 2036, was designed with two ideas in mind. First,
to celebrate the accomplishments of our organization
over a quarter century, of which we are indeed
proud. Our contributions to public debate and public
policy on issues of crime and punishment during the
period, we hope, have helped in some measure to reduce
harm and improve lives.
Secondly, and more importantly, we used the occasion
to envision what our criminal justice system—and our
approach to public safety—should look like 25 years into the
future, in the year 2036. We did so because we believe there
is a moment of opportunity now, and therefore it is timely
to think broadly about directions for constructive reform.

In order to envision where we might go over 25 years, it is
helpful to assess where we have come from in the last 25
years. In this regard, there are two very different stories we
might tell.
The first is one of a policy climate in which punishment has
been exalted in ways unimaginable not very long ago. The
number of people in our prisons and jails has nearly tripled
during this time, a half million people are incarcerated for
a drug offense, and racial/ethnic disparities within the justice
system are profound. Increasingly, we are gaining new
insight into the varied ways in which high rates of incarceration
in disadvantaged communities affect family formation,
social cohesion, and life prospects.

Read on...

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March 2012 Newsletter of the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto.

*In this issue:**
-The Beginning of Criminological Research At U of T: Fighting For Academic Freedom**
- Centre Librarian Tom Finlay Retires*
*- Hold the Date! Tuesday Novemeber 20, 2012: Centre Anniversary Event
* *- Conference Honouring The Work of Richard Ericson Now Available On Web*
*- Centre Research on Police Racial Profiling Draws Attention
- Interested In An Academic Career In Law and Society?

Here is the link to a pdf of the Newsletter.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Without Parole, Juveniles Face Bleak Life In Prison

We hear a lot about juvenile offenders when they commit a crime — and again, when they're sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison. But not much is known about what happens after the prison gates slam shut.

For the first time, researchers are starting to fill in the blanks — with a survey of nearly 1,600 young people serving life without the possibility of parole. They say the U.S. is the only country that sentences juveniles to life without the chance of release.

Ashley Nellis led the effort for the nonprofit group the Sentencing Project.

"You know, [these offenders are] more than just the worst mistake of their lives," Nellis says. "And it's important to find out what else was going on in their life, before and after."

Read on...

Follow the link and listen to the story. Tom

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Judges must consider history when sentencing aboriginals: Supreme Court

Sentencing judges who do not carefully consider lenient or creative sentences for aboriginal offenders are violating the law, the Supreme Court of Canada said in a major aboriginal law decision today.

Releasing rulings in a pair of much-anticipated cases that go to the heart of separate treatment for aboriginal offenders, the court said that considering factors such as cultural oppression and a history of abuse in the residential school system must be central to the sentencing process.

“When sentencing an Aboriginal offender, courts must take judicial notice of such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and of course higher levels of incarceration for Aboriginal peoples,” a 6-1 majority said.

The court said that the promise of a landmark 1998 decision that mandated distinctive treatment for aboriginal offences has not been met.

Read on....

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Eggs Are People Too!

It’s an interesting time to ponder the meaning of life and death in the eyes of the law. On one hand, Christian conservatives increasingly seek to sacralize embryos from the moment of conception. On the other, the Supreme Court just heard a case that, among other things, considers the extent to which the corporeal death of a parent is really the “end of the line” with regard to “survivor” benefits for children conceived by artificial insemination from the frozen sperm of a deceased father. On one hand, Citizens United granted First Amendment rights to corporations that are identical to—and some would say exceed—those of natural persons; on the other, the Second Circuit recently ruled that individuals, but not corporations, can be sued for human rights abuses.

It’s interesting to consider the larger social anxieties at play when it comes to the “right to life” debates. Rick Santorum recently made a great show for personhood amendments, declaring, “Personhood is defined as an entity that is genetically human and alive.” But unfertilized eggs are “genetically human.” And sperm swim, so technically they’re “alive.” (Or, as an irreverent friend suggested: fellatio must therefore be a form of cannibalism.) If egg and sperm are sacralized even before they meet, it goes a long way to explaining why the evils of contraception are back on the table.

But if we push this figuration only a little, “conceptually,” life begins with DNA. Conceivably, every cell in our body is brimming with generative potential, particularly given new technologies of assisted reproduction. Santorum’s stance thus becomes a peculiar cross between the theological imperative to be fruitful and multiply and the fetishism of microbiological cellular promise.

Read on...

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Florida's Stand Your Ground Law

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Meet the Obama Official Investigating the Trayvon Martin Shooting

Tom Perez, the Justice Department's top civil rights lawyer, has investigated hate crimes and police abuses for years. Now he faces one of his biggest challenges yet.

On Tuesday, city officials from Sanford, Florida, trekked to Washington for a meeting on Capitol Hill with a group of black lawmakers and officials of the Justice Department's civil rights division. The topic at hand: the recently announced investigation of the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot in late February by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, while walking back to his father's house in a gated community from a local convenience store.

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplet told the group he'd spent the last few days listening repeatedly to the recording of Zimmerman's 911 call, according to Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), who was present at the meeting. After the shooting, Zimmerman told the police that Martin had attacked him and he had acted in self-defense. Apparently believing his version of events, the Sanford police did not arrest him. But the 911 tape suggested that Zimmerman had pursued Martin, even though he had been warned against doing so by the 911 dispatcher.

When Hastings suggested that Zimmerman might have uttered a racial slur on the call, Triplet pulled a copy of the recording out of a folder and passed it to the DOJ's deputy attorney general for civil rights, Thomas Perez. Sanford's city manager, Norton Bonaparte, implored Perez to probe the conduct of the Sanford police.

The inquiry being conducted by Perez's division and the FBI is focused on the actual shooting, in part to determine whether it was a hate crime. But as questions continue to emerge about the Sanford police department's handling of this and other racially charged cases, civil rights leaders have urged the feds broaden the inquiry to include a civil investigation into possible police wrongdoing. And this is an area Perez knows well. During his two-year tenure at the civil rights division, he has quietly led a federal crusade against police misconduct, pursuing 19 investigations of local police departments—the most in the division's history.

Read on...

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Lawyers Guild Expects More DHS Documents about Occupy Movement

If you want to know where the real government of the United States is located, just check out one of the documents received by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in response to their Freedom of Information Act request to the Dept. of Homeland Security relating to surveillance of the Occupy Movement. That document, from the Secret Service, dated September 17, 2011, the day the Occupy movement began on Wall Street, from the US Secret Service Intelligence Division, titled Prism Demonstrations Abstract, lists the location as “Wall Street Bull” -- a reference to the bronze statue of a bull on Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange, and the “protectee” as “The United States Government.”

As the National Lawyers Guild comments dryly, “American taxpayers might find it odd to learn that the Secret Service was on duty to protect the Wall Street Bull in the name of protecting the U.S. Government. But there it is.”

The trove of 398 documents (many of them heavily censored) received on behalf of thePCJF, the NLG and filmmaker Michael Moore, consists primarily of materials from top Homeland Security Officials, which PCJF Executive Director Mara Verhayden Hilliard says is a deliberate effort by Homeland Security officials to deflect attention from the workings of the mid-level intelligence staff of the various agencies within DHS who do the spying, and the so-called Fusion Centers around the country -- all wholly funded by DHS--which link federal agencies like the FBI with local and state police agencies.

Read on...

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Documents Show NYPD Infiltrated Anti-War, Justice Groups

The Associated Press this morning reveals how undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.

That the NYPD used such tactics made headlines in 2007 after a New York Times report revealed that they had infiltrated protest groups leading up to and during the 2004 Republican National Convention, but the new document (pdf) reveals that the practice continued at least through 2008.

Today's report follows revelations earlier this year that the NYPD had an ongoing monitoring program that spied on Muslims throughout the city and beyond, including college students throughout the northeast. Civil liberties groups demanded investigations and a halt to such tactics.

Read on...

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Supreme Court’s Guide to Good Parenting

When it comes to punishing children, the Supreme Court doesn’t have a clue.

If Americans parented their children the way the Supreme Court parents us, we’d be in deep trouble. If we learned anything at all from Dr. Sears, it was: Be consistent, be coherent, and follow through. Yet over the last few years, as the justices have struggled to figure out whether to treat teenage criminals differently than adults, they have done so with mincing sideways steps, relying on masses of experts at every turn, and laying down markers for the next case that are immediately ignored or contradicted in the next case. I don’t know whether this is the best method for clarifying the Eighth and 14th Amendment prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment, but it’s definitely a violation of the cherished precepts of Dr. Benjamin Spock.

In 2005, in Roper v. Simmons, the court ended the death penalty for any minor convicted of murder, partly relying on the existence of the alternative sentence of life without parole for those juveniles. Five years later, in Graham v. Florida, the court did away with the life-without-parole sentence for juveniles who were guilty of any crimes other than homicide. It was only a matter of time, therefore, before lawyers for juvenile offenders were back at the court asking to eliminate life without parole for kids who had in fact committed murder but were only 14 at the time of their crimes. Indeed Bryan Stevenson, the lawyer for a pair of 14-year-old defendants appealing their sentences at the court today, seems to be tiring of this gradual approach. In his argument this morning, he urges the justices to save themselves—and presumably himself—some time and do away with the life-without-parole sentence for all juveniles under 18 today.

Read on...

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Supreme Court Revisits Issue of Harsh Sentences for Juveniles

At a pair of Supreme Court arguments on Tuesday, the justices returned to the question of what the Constitution has to say about harsh sentences imposed on juvenile offenders.

A majority of them appeared prepared to take an additional step in limiting such punishments, but it was not clear whether it would be modest or large. The court’s precedents have created so many overlapping categories — based on age, the nature of the offense and whether judges and juries have discretion to show leniency — that much of the argument was devoted to identifying the possible lines the court could draw.

In 2005, in Roper v. Simmons, the court abolished the juvenile death penalty, a decision that affected about 70 prisoners. “It is worth noting,” that decision said, “that the punishment of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is itself a severe sanction, in particular for a young person.”

Read on...

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Cruel and Unusual Punishment for 14-Year-Olds

The Supreme Court in 2005 justly banned the death penalty for minors convicted of murder. In 2010, it banned life without parole for youths convicted of crimes other than murder. In two cases argued before the court on Tuesday, the justices should take the next step and ban life without parole for youths convicted of murder.

In an Alabama case, Evan Miller, a 14-year-old, and a friend stole a collection of baseball cards and $300 from a neighbor. They attacked the man with a baseball bat, and killed him when they set fire to his home. In an Arkansas case, Kuntrell Jackson, also 14, tried to rob a video store with two friends. When the clerk said she was going to call the police, one of the other youths shot and killed her with a shotgun. Both Mr. Miller and Mr. Jackson received mandatory sentences of life without parole for murder.

Alabama and Arkansas asked the court to allow them to continue to impose a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile who has committed murder. But the Supreme Court has found that there are critical differences between adolescents and adults in maturity and susceptibility to peer pressure and other forces. Relying on that insight in its 2005 and 2010 cases, the court concluded both times “it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult.” It would be as misguided to equate young adolescents with adults in cases of murder.

Read on....

This is a New York Times editorial. Tom

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Trayvon Martin’s Killer Remains Free

Florida’s self-defense laws have left Florida safe for no one—except those who shoot first.

The story of Trayvon Martin’s death is heartbreaking. If you have missed the facts: The 17-year-old, who is black, was walking to a friend’s home in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., when a white neighborhood-watch volunteer, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, spotted him. Zimmerman called the cops to report a suspicious person. They told him not to follow. “They always get away,” Zimmerman told dispatch in a 911 call released Friday, and he kept tracking Martin. Zimmerman had a gun. Martin was carrying only an ice tea and the Skittles he’d just bought at the store. The two had a struggle that no one saw. Hearing shots, neighbors called 911. In one call that’s hard to listen to, a woman anxiously says she can hear someone calling for help while in the background, a terrified, wailing voice pleads, "No! No!"

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, but he said he did so in self-defense. The shocker of this case so far is that the Sanford police say they don’t have enough evidence to dispute Zimmerman’s claim and arrest him. Martin’s mother told the Today show Monday morning that her son was killed “because of the color of his skin,” and his parents want the FBI to investigate. With these facts, you can see why.

How did we get to a place where Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, which seems barely plausible, could prevent his arrest? The answer starts with the “Stand Your Ground” law that Florida passed in 2005. The idea was to give people who think they are being threatened the right to use force: They can protect themselves without first trying to retreat. The history behind that controversial idea is actually about gender, not race. It involves the intersection between the fight against domestic violence and the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

Read on...

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You Can’t Occupy This

The government says the anti-protest bill was just a small tweak of the existing law. Don’t believe it.

In post-Occupy America, it’s often hard to know whether new citizen protest laws signal the end of free speech or a mere tweak of the machine. That looks to be the case with the new anti-protest bill that passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly two weeks ago and was signed into law by the president soon thereafter. On its face, the new legislation doesn’t change a whole lot. Yet the Occupy protesters are in an uproar that the bill both targets them and also signals a radical shift in free speech law. Almost nobody else seems to have noticed it at all. Who’s right?

That all depends on what you want to protest and where.

H.R. 347, benignly titled the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, passed the House 399-3. Such a lopsided vote suggests that nobody in Congress is bothered by this, on either side of the aisle. When President Obama signed it on March 8, almost nobody seems to have cared.

Simply put, the way the bill will “improve” public grounds is by moving all those unsightly protesters elsewhere. The law purports to update an old law, Section 1752 of Title 18 of the United States Code, that restricted areas around the president, vice president, or any others under the protection of the Secret Service. The original law was enacted in 1971 and amended in 2006. At first blush, the big change here is that while the old law made it a federal offense to "willfully and knowingly" enter a restricted space, now prosecutors need only show that you did it "knowingly"—that you knew the area was restricted, even if you didn’t know it was illegal to enter the space. This has been characterized in some quarters as a small technical change that hardly warrants an arched eyebrow, much less a protest.

Read on...

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Monday, March 19, 2012

This Investor Presentation For A Private Prison Is One Of The Creepiest Presentations We've Ever Seen Read

This morning we came across a rather interesting piece of research.

It was from Barclays' analyst Manav Patnaik, and it was on the private prisons business.

Specifically, it was a "virtual tour" of the Metro Davidson County Detention Facility, which is managed by Corrections Corp of America (CXW) one of two companies that that has a "duopoly" on the private prisons business.

As he notes, tours of facilities are often useful for investors, but a prison tour is unusual, since investors aren't typically inclined to do wander into a prison.

So he did it for them and described the experience.

When he entered, it was greeted by the prison's VP of operations, Steve Conry, who was a 23 year veteran oof Rigers Island. Panaik then points out that there are 173 sets of "eyes" (cameras) on the prison at all time.

While in the prison he saw that prisoners got drug and alcohol abuse prevention training, a dog training program, a new LEED certified wing for women, GED programs, and a faith-based program. Maybe it's not so horrible!

Read on...

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Poll: Fewer Americans Than Ever See The Supreme Court Positively

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear one of the most politicized lawsuits in decades, a new poll finds that public support for the nine justices has cratered:

[F]ewer voters than ever view the high court positively. . . . The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters shows that 28% give the Supreme Court good or excellent ratings. Nineteen percent (19%) rate the highest court in the land as poor.

Admittedly, this poll was conducted by Rasmussen Reports, a conservative polling firm with a history of inaccuracies. Nevertheless, Rasmussen’s finding is consistent with other polls showing that Americans increasingly believe that, despite the fact that the justices’ very legitimacy stems from their ability to apply the law fairly and independent of partisan concerns, the Court’s decisions are driven in large part by politics.

Certainly, the Supreme Court’s five conservatives have done nothing to disabuse the American people of this unfortunate perception. To the contrary, the Roberts Court has consistently pushed an ideological agenda from the bench — often despite decades of precedent to the contrary:

Read on...

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What Everyone Should Know About Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)

On February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white man. Zimmerman admits killing Martin, but claims he was acting in self-defense. Three weeks after Martin’s death, no arrests have been made and Zimmerman remains free.

Here is what everyone should know about the case:

1. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was in his car when he saw Martin walking on the street. He called the police and said: “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… These a**holes always get away” [Orlando Sentinel]

2. Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher:

Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Zimmerman: “Yeah”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

[Orlando Sentinel]

3. Prior to the release of the 911 tapes, Zimmerman’s father released a statement claiming “[a]t no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin.” [Sun Sentinel]

Read on...

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5 Freedom-Killing Tactics Police Will Use to Crack Down on Protests in 2012

Across America many cities and police forces are eyeing new ways to crack down on protesters.

The First Amendment right to assemble and protest is going to get a black eye in 2012—as it has every time there has been an upsurge in America’s social justice movements.

Already in city after city, protesters and civil rights lawyers are troubled by proposed and newly enacted anti-protest rules, many of which are likely to be found unconstitutional if they have their day in court. In the meantime mayors, police and in some cases federal agencies are making detailed plans to thwart protests at local and national events.
In many cities, ordinances aimed at Occupy protesters are emerging to restrict protests and anything resembling camping on sidewalks, streets and parks. New fees are being drawn up to discourage large demonstrations. Anti-leafleting and postering rules are also muzzling people trying to spread the word about events. And all of that is being shepherded with a new pretext for using paramilitary tactics, replacing last year’s "health and safety" excuse for sweeping away Occupy sites with the rationale of protecting "national security" in a presidential election year.

Read on....

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Known to police: Chief Bill Blair releases crime hot spot maps used to focus Toronto policing efforts

Begin by plotting reports of violent crimes, add pinpoint locations of shootings and finally layer in the homicides.

The maps are telling, instantly readable, and Toronto police use se them to choose where to deploy officers and concentrate their efforts, including the documenting of citizens in mostly non-criminal encounters.

Chief Bill Blair released a set of internal crime hot spot maps to the Star this past week following a Star series on race, policing and crime that examined who police stop, question and document the most.

The series, which examined police data, found that people with black and brown skin are stopped and documented at a high rate, even more so for young black and brown men.

Most have done nothing wrong.

Read on...

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Too young for life without parole

It's time for the United States to take a new look at imposing this too-harsh sentence on children who commit major crimes.

In 1646, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony passed the Stubborn Child Law, decreeing that teenage boys who disobeyed their parents could be put to death.

What a difference 3 1/2 centuries make. In our enlightened age, mothers and fathers study manuals for techniques to make children more compliant. And many of us are well acquainted with the critical mass of neuroscience establishing that adolescence constitutes a time of diminished responsibility, when the brain's frontal lobes — the seat of judgment and impulse control — are still developing.

All too many U.S. criminal courts and state legislatures, however, have yet to get this memo.

Today, according to Human Rights Watch, 2,570 U.S. prisoners convicted of major crimes committed when they were 14 to 17 years old are serving sentences of life without parole. (Some 300 of them are in California.) In recent years, as other industrialized nations have adhered to international human rights conventions, the United States has become the world's only nation to impose such sentences for minors, say researchers at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"You're Gonna Feel It:" U.S. Military Unveils New Crowd Control "Heat Ray"

Marine Col: "I think our forces will figure out the many different applications that it would have.”

The U.S. military has unveiled its newest approach to crowd control, the Active Denial System, a heat ray that sends out a high-frequency electromagnetic ray. People hit with the ray feel an intense, unbearable heat. The military touts the ray's "far-ranging" capabilities and is looking at "many different applications" for its possible use.

(photo: still from NMANewsDirect video) Marine Col. Tracy Taffola said at the public unveiling of the system at a U.S. Marines base near Washington, D.C.:

"You're not gonna see it, you're not gonna hear it, you're not gonna smell it: you're gonna feel it."

In a video to demonstrate the new weapon, USFORCESTV explains that the heat ray "boasts a reach far beyond any other non-lethal system" -- a reach of "about 7 footballs fields."

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Crowd control systems are a definite growth sector. The police are drooling. Tom

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Among Rising Taser Fatalities, 'Safer' Model Promises Fall Short

Besides a new safety feature, the X2, which replaces the X26 can be used against two targets without reload

New taser technology was announced in Texas this week, as the Fort Worth police department expressed a desire to phase out lethal taser incidents. The new T2 taser model, produced by Taser International, is promised to prevent sustained shocks to victims, as apposed to the widely used T26 model which allows unlimited shock time.

However, due to lack in funding for the new technology, the Fort Worth police force, among most departments around the country, will continue to use the older, more lethal, technology.

According to Amnesty International there have been at least 500 'energy device' deaths in the United States since 2001, with the largest number (92) in California, followed by Florida (65) and Texas (37).

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

"The voltage is the same and the darts themselves had no major design revision. The main two points we were looking for was the automatic cut off at five seconds after being deployed, even if an officer holds the trigger down. That was a safety issue that was very important for us." [...]

The older model did not prevent a longer shock. In 2008 in North Carolina, a teenager died of cardiac arrest after a police officer shocked him twice with a Taser, first for 37 seconds, then for five. [...]

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Reallocating Justice Resources: A Review of 2011 State Sentencing Trends

Most states are facing budget crises, and criminal justice agencies are not exempt. With fewer dollars available, they are challenged to increase public safety while coping with smaller budgets. This report distills lessons from 14 states that passed research-driven sentencing and corrections reform in 2011 and is based on interviews with stakeholders and experts, and the experience of technical assistance staff at the Vera Institute of Justice. It is intended to serve as a guide to policy makers and others interested in pursuing evidence-based justice reform in their jurisdiction.
Legislatures throughout the United States enacted sentencing and corrections policy changes in 2011 that were based on data analysis of their prison populations and the growing body of research on practices that can reduce recidivism. Although this emphasis on using evidence to inform practice is not new in criminal justice, legislators are increasingly relying on this science to guide the use of taxpayer dollars more effectively to improve public safety outcomes.
In highlighting important legislative changes enacted in the past year, this report documents a new approach to reform in which bipartisan, multidisciplinary policy groups are using analysis of state population and sentencing data, harnessing the political will emerging from the budget crisis, relying on decades of criminal justice research, and reaching out to key constituencies. The result is legislation that aims to make more targeted use of incarceration and to reinvest the cost savings into community programs geared toward reducing recidivism and victimization.
Three distinct themes emerged from this year’s legislation:

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Quebec refuses to implement Harper’s crime bill

The debate isn't over yet for the Conservative government's criminal justice legislation – at least not in Quebec.

The province announced Tuesday that it would do everything in its power to limit the clout of the legislation that passed a day earlier.

Because the provinces are responsible for applying the laws passed in Ottawa, Quebec says it will work to soften Bill C-10 where possible.

The provincial minister said he will issue a directive to various players in the justice system to avoid applying the strictest provisions of the crime bill – particularly when it comes to youth offenders.

“It is not a plan to abolish C-10,” Jean-Marc Fournier told a news conference Tuesday inside a courtroom at Montreal's youth courthouse.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

What If the “Broken Windows” Theory Were Applied to Wall Street?

James Q. Wilson's famous “broken windows” theory led to strict policing of working class behavior. What if his ideas were applied to Wall Street?

James Q. Wilson, who died recently, was a political scientist who often studied the government response to blue collar crime. The public knows him best for his theory called "broken windows." The metaphor explains what happens to a vacant building when broken windows are not promptly repaired. Soon, most of the windows in the abandoned building are broken. The criminals feel little compunction against petty destruction because the building’s owners evince no concern for the integrity of their building. Wilson took social norms, community, and ethics seriously. He argued that as community broke down, fewer honest citizens were active in monitoring and policing behavior. The breakdown in community lled to widespread serious blue collar crime. Wilson urged us to take even minor blue collar crimes and breaches of civility seriously and to demand that they be contained through social pressure and policing.

New York City’s police strategy embraced “broken windows,” making it a priority to respond to even minor offenses that upset the community – like “squeegee men,” graffiti, and street prostitution. Reported blue collar crime fell. It also fell sharply in most other cities, which did not implement “broken windows” programs, but Wilson and the NYPD got the credit and popular fame. Wilson became one of the most famous blue collar criminologists in the world.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System

AFTER years as a civil rights lawyer, I rarely find myself speechless. But some questions a woman I know posed during a phone conversation one recent evening gave me pause: “What would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial? Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?”

The woman was Susan Burton, who knows a lot about being processed through the criminal justice system.

Her odyssey began when a Los Angeles police cruiser ran over and killed her 5-year-old son. Consumed with grief and without access to therapy or antidepressant medications, Susan became addicted to crack cocaine. She lived in an impoverished black community under siege in the “war on drugs,” and it was but a matter of time before she was arrested and offered the first of many plea deals that left her behind bars for a series of drug-related offenses. Every time she was released, she found herself trapped in an underclass, subject to legal discrimination in employment and housing.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The World’s Most Secure Prison: ADX Florence

ADX Florence, built south of Florence Colorado in 1994, is the most secure prison in the United States prison system. Commonly called a “Supermax” prison, it has 490 beds in a compound which encompasses 37 acres. The prison was designed to house prisoners deemed too dangerous or high-profile for regular incarceration and nearly 95% of all inmates that have been sent to Florence were transfers with histories of violent behavior in other prison facilities. Guinness World Records acknowledges ADX Florence as being the most secure prison in the world.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Known to police: Toronto police stop and document black and brown people far more than whites

In a cramped office in the Weston-Mt. Dennis neighbourhood, this question is put to young men taking part in a program designed to keep them from the trouble that comes with gangs, guns and drugs:

Do you think police have stopped, questioned and documented every young man of colour in this neighbourhood?

To a one, the young men agree that is the case in their part of town, one of 13 designated by the city as priority districts, and one where there had been a spate of homicides. (Scroll down for supporting graphics.)

“I am sure of it,” says Arnold Jeyabalan, 25, a case manager and employment counsellor with Prevention Intervention Toronto, the federally funded pilot project operating in this office off the lobby of an apartment building. The project closes at the end of March.

“At least once,” continues Jeyabalan, who grew up in Malvern, another of the city’s at-risk neighbourhoods, and has worked with youth in Weston-Mt. Dennis since 2007.

A Star analysis of Toronto police stop data from 2008 to mid-2011 shows that the number of young black and brown males aged 15 to 24 documented in each of the city’s 72 patrol zones is greater than the actual number of young men of colour living in those areas.

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If Prison Is the Disease, Not the Cure, How Do You Treat It?

The breathtaking premise of Ernest Drucker's new book is that mass incarceration is an epidemic ravaging the country -- not a solution to a problem, but a problem in itself.

A longtime practitioner and scholar of public health, Drucker observed the explosive growth and unprecedented number of Americans being sent to prison beginning in the late 1970s and recognized the familiar characteristics of the spread of an epidemic disease: outbreaks and contagion, patterns of transmission, and human impact – tens of millions of years of life lost to incarceration.

"The paradigm shift here is really from looking at mass incarceration as a solution to social problems like crime and drugs to saying that that level of incarceration is itself a public health problem," Drucker says.

Once that happens, "then the objective shifts from 'how do you decrease crime and drugs?' to 'what can we do to have fewer people in prison?'" he says. "That's a totally different goal."

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

The War on Women in the Courts

In 2007, five men on the Supreme Court told Lilly Ledbetter that she was out of luck. Ledbetter, after two decades working as the only female supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama, had sued her employer for wage discrimination–she had discovered that for all those years she had been paid less than male colleagues doing the same job. But the Supreme Court told her that the way they did the math it was too late for her to sue.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at that time the only woman on the Supreme Court, took the unusual step of reading her dissenting opinion from the bench, accusing the five-Justice majority of not understanding the reality of Ledbetter’s situation. She declared, “In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.”

The Ledbetter case was a stark example of what it means to have women judges and justices on the bench. Many great pro-equality decisions have been made by male judges, and women judges are by no means guaranteed to rule in favor of female litigants. But having women on the courts means that women’s voices are heard in the halls of justice.

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Rightwing Hate Groups in US on the Rise: Report

Fueled by superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, and the reality of an African-American president in Barack Obama, radical hates groups and antigovernment groups grew explosively in 2011, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This year's report, The Year in Hate and Extremism (pdf), follows past work where the SPLC catalogs the number of 'hate groups' and other radical rightwing movements in the US and gauges their motivations and the size of their membership.

"The SPLC counted 1,018 hate groups operating the United States last year, up from 1,002 in 2010. That was the latest in a string of annual increases going all the way back to 2000, when there were 602 hate groups," reads the report. Exploiting the issue of "non-white immigration" by such groups was cited as the driving force behind such growth.

The most stunning growth among all groups came among the rightwing anti-government "Patriot" groups, which the report classifies as those groups which perceive the "federal government as their primary enemy." The "Patriot" groups grew from 149 groups in 2008, skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, jumped to 824 in 2010, and last year continued to surge to 1,274. That's a 755% growth spurt in just three years.

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Why Can’t You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on Drugs

Why we still put hundreds of thousands of people in steel cages for pot-related offenses.

John Lovell is a lobbyist who makes a lot of money from making sure you can’t smoke a joint. That’s his job. He’s a lobbyist for the police unions in Sacramento, and he is a driving force behind grabbing Federal dollars to shut down the California marijuana industry. I’ll get to the evidence on this important story in a bit, but first, some context.

At some point in the distant past, the war on drugs might have been popular. But not anymore — the polling is clear, but beyond that, the last three Presidents have used illegal drugs. So why do we still put hundreds of thousands of people in steel cages for pot-related offenses? Well, there are many reasons, but one of them is, of course, money in politics. Corruption. Whatever you want to call it, it’s why you can’t smoke a joint without committing a crime, though of course you can ingest any number of pills or drinks completely within the law.

Some of the groups who want to keep the drug illegal are police unions that want more members to pay more dues. One of the primary sources for cash for more policing activities are Federal grants for penalizing illegal drug use, which help pay for overtime, additional police officers, and equipment for the force. That’s what Lovell does, he gets those grants. He also fights against democratic mechanisms to legalize drugs.

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New Study Confirms Cruelty, Racial Bias of Juvenile Justice System

More than 2,500 juveniles in the United States are serving life in prison without possibility of parole. The U.S. is the only country in the world where this sentence is handed down to minors, and a new report from The Sentencing Project confirms what prison reform activists have long argued: These individuals, who were as young as thirteen when they committed the crimes for which they are incarcerated, are likely to have lived in poverty, witnessed violence and been the victims of physical and sexual abuse as children.

The report, "The Lives of Juvenille Lifers," is derived from the first-ever national survey of juvenile inmates serving life sentences. Almost 1,600 individuals responded to questions about their circumstances prior to conviction and their experiences in prison.

Among the report's findings were that:

  • One in three of the respondents were living in public housing prior to incarceration.
  • 79 percent reported witnessing violence in their homes.
  • Almost half (46.9 percent) of those surveyed experienced physical abuse, including almost 80 percent of girls.
  • One in five reported histories of sexual abuse, and 77.3 percent of female prisoners reported abuse as girls.

Read on...

Here is the link to the report: The Lives of Juvenile Lifers Tom

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Ayn Rand became the new right's version of Marx

Her psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as "refuse" and "parasites", and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt.

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How a Student Run Database is Changing the Way Universities Respond to Rape

Justice for survivors of campus rape is often hard to come by. Now, an online database compiled by students is pushing universities to shift their policies on sexual violence.

Is there at least one full-time person working on campus sex-assault? May rape survivors report their attack confidentially and-or anonymously? Does the school's policy cover the sex assault of a man? Is emergency contraception available in the school health center?

These are the questions that students across the country are answering through the Campus Accountability Project, an open-access database designed for students, applicants and parents.
The database ranges in alphabetical order, beginning with the University of Alabama and ending with Yale University. It finds plenty of schools failing to present friendly survivor policies.
Of about 250 schools now in the database, 19 don't cover the cost of counseling after a sexual assault or rape, including such well-known universities as University of California-Berkeley and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Only 30 offer victims amnesty from punishment for offenses surrounding the assault, such as violating school policy against underage drinking. The fear of being punished for such offenses is considered a major deterrent to bringing a report.

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Drones in Texas and Tanks in Tampa: Inside the Out-Of-Control Weaponized Homeland Security State

Government budgets at every level now include allocations aimed at fighting an ephemeral “War on Terror” in the United States.

At the height of the Occupy Wall Street evictions, it seemed as though some diminutive version of “shock and awe” had stumbled from Baghdad, Iraq, to Oakland, California. American police forces had been “militarized,” many commentators worried, as though the firepower and callous tactics on display were anomalies, surprises bursting upon us from nowhere.

There should have been no surprise. Those flash grenades exploding in Oakland and the sound cannons on New York’s streets simply opened small windows onto a national policing landscape long in the process of militarization -- a bleak domestic no man’s land marked by tanks and drones, robot bomb detectors, grenade launchers, tasers, and most of all, interlinked video surveillance cameras and information databases growing quietly on unobtrusive server farms everywhere.

The ubiquitous fantasy of “homeland security,” pushed hard by the federal government in the wake of 9/11, has been widely embraced by the public. It has also excited intense weapons- and techno-envy among police departments and municipalities vying for the latest in armor and spy equipment.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Mass Appeal to Governors: Don't Privatize Prisons

The private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America has made states an offer they can—and should—refuse. That's the message that went out to state governors on Thursday in letters signed by 60 policy and religious groups. The letters urged the governors of all 50 states not to take up a blanket deal CCA has put forth to buy and privatize their state prisons in return for a promise to keep those prisons filled.

Two weeks ago, the Huffington Post revealed that CCA was reaching out to states, offering to buy their prisons as a way to deal with their "challenging corrections budgets." The company is proposing that it receive, in exchange for the cash, a 20-year management contract that would require the states to keep their prisons at least 90 percent full for the duration.

This power play by the private prison firm may indicate some anxiety in what has historically been a growth industry. (See charts below.) Beginning in 2009, for the first time in nearly 40 years, the overall US prison population declined slightly. And in several states, plans to privatize prisons have been scaled back, stalled, or rejected.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Outcry at betrayal of domestic violence victims

Spending falls by one-third as a result of Coalition cuts

Women's lives are being put at risk as the spending squeeze cuts deep into the help offered to victims of domestic violence, campaigners warned last night.

Refuges for women suffering physical and mental abuse from partners are closing and specialist counsellors are losing their jobs following a 31 per cent cut in their funding.

Requests under the Freedom of Information Act have discovered that funding from local authorities to organisations working with domestic-violence and sexual-abuse victims fell from £7.8m in 2010-11 to £5.4m in the current financial year. The cuts come despite a severe shortage of refuge places and official estimates of almost 400,000 incidents of domestic violence in the year 2010-11. The figures will prove embarrassing to ministers as they attempt to rebut accusations that their policies are penalising women. David Cameron has urged advisers to pursue female-friendly policies after a leaked Downing Street document warned that the Government was "seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately".

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Revealed: government plans for police privatisation

West Midlands and Surrey police offer £1.5bn contract under which private firms may investigate crime and detain suspects

Private companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects under a radical privatisation plan being put forward by two of the largest police forces in the country.

West Midlands and Surrey have invited bids from G4S and other major security companies on behalf of all forces across England and Wales to take over the delivery of a wide range of services previously carried out by the police.

The contract is the largest on police privatisation so far, with a potential value of £1.5bn over seven years, rising to a possible £3.5bn depending on how many other forces get involved.

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This doesn't sound like a great idea. Tom

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Japan invents speech-jamming gun that silences people mid-sentence

TOKYO (Newscore) - Japanese researchers have invented a speech-jamming gadget that painlessly forces people into silence.

Kazutaka Kurihara of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and Koji Tsukada of Ochanomizu University, developed a portable "SpeechJammer" gun that can silence people more than 30 meters away.

The device works by recording its target's speech then firing their words back at them with a 0.2-second delay, which affects the brain's cognitive processes and causes speakers to stutter before silencing them completely.

Describing the device in their research paper, Kurihara and Tsukada wrote, "In general, human speech is jammed by giving back to the speakers their own utterances at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds. This effect can disturb people without any physical discomfort, and disappears immediately by stopping speaking."

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No doubt the police will find more creative uses of this weapon than silencing noisy library patrons. Tom

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D.C. homicides: When is a murder case ‘solved’?

Ilook closely at investigative stories written by The Post. Investigation is a key competency of The Post and should remain so, not just because of the Watergate legacy but because this is one of the prime functions of newspapers — holding government and institutions accountable. I hear this from readers all the time; they want fact-based, hard-hitting investigations that keep people honest.

One recent investigative story was Cheryl W. Thompson’s front-page article on Feb. 19, “The trick to D.C.’s homicide closure rate.” It had no factual inaccuracies — all the statistics in it are true — but in its language and tone, it seemed to tell a story more of gotcha than of scandal. I don’t think D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier used trickery in her reporting of statistics to mislead the public about the solving of homicide cases.

Rather than suggesting that Lanier was fudging numbers, I think the story would have worked far better as a straightforward explanation of how the Metropolitan Police Department, other major police departments and the FBI keep homicide statistics — and of some of the pitfalls in that method.

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James Q. Wilson dies at 80; pioneer in 'broken windows' approach to improve policing

A social scientist, James Q. Wilson helped launch a revolution in law enforcement with the idea that tackling signs of community decay was crucial to making neighborhoods safer.

UCLA Professor

James Q. Wilson, a social scientist who helped launch a revolution in law enforcement as the co-inventor of the "broken windows" theory — the idea that eradicating graffiti, public drunkenness and other signposts of community decay was crucial to making neighborhoods safer — died Friday in Boston. He was 80.

The cause was complications of leukemia, according to his son, Matthew Wilson.

Often called the "father of community policing," Wilson, who taught for many years at UCLA and Pepperdine University, was a widely admired public intellectual who wrote more than two dozen books on American government, criminal justice and moral issues. Former Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York once called him "the smartest man in the United States."

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