Friday, December 18, 2015

How Judicial Elections Impact Criminal Cases
"Over the past 15 years, judicial races have become expensive affairs. Television advertising, much of it from outside interest groups that are more likely to run negative ads, plays a critical role in these high-cost contests. The pressures of upcoming re-election campaigns affect judicial decision-making in criminal cases, making judges more likely to impose longer sentences, affirm death sentences, and even override sentences of life imprisonment to impose the death penalty."

View the Report
 
Judges' Perception on Causes of Criminality and Justifications for Crime
"Judicial decision-making has been long studied, particularly sentencing, from a number of perspectives. Many researches have focused on the factors affecting the decision-making process, analysing from judges' personal characteristics to court context. This article addresses lay theories of crime as viewed by judges. Forty-nine judges participated in this study, answering a questionnaire about causes of criminality and justifications for crime. Results show a large variety of answer with judges positioned in both sides of the scale. Drug abuse is especially relevant when judges assess causes of criminality and justifications for crime. Regarding causes of criminality, the results suggest that judges' rationale is based on a complex set of social environment characteristics, opposing the dichotomy internal characteristics versus external situational causes, identified in previous studies. Justifications for crime were organized into three major groups: drugs, uncontrolled behaviour and survival. Age and political orientation affected these assessments, but gender was found irrelevant."




NYC  Study Finds Decline in Misdemeanor Arrests Following Changes in Policing Strategy
"A survey tracking enforcement rates in New York City found a significant decline in misdemeanor arrests and summonses in what authors suggested was a result of significant changes in NYPD policing strategy, such as a reduction in the use of stop-and-frisk tactics by officers. According to the study, prepared by Prof. Preeti Chaudhan of John Jay College and five other authors, there were 'approximately 800,000 fewer enforcement activities' between 2011 and 2014.

The study by the Misdemeanor Justice Project at John Jay College of Criminal Justice showed that the level of arrests of African-Americans in particular had significantly dropped during that time period. NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton’s strategy of allowing 'police resources to be redeployed to better use' as part of his so-called 'Peace Dividend' from the plummeting crime rates in New York. was a direct  inspiration for the new strategy, which gives police greater discretion in exercising authority, and reduce(s) the number of negative interactions with the public, said the study, entitled 'Tracking Enforcement Rates in New York City, 2003-2014.'"

View the Report
 
U.S. Police Leaders, Visiting Scotland, get Lessons on Avoiding Deadly Force
"The United States and Britain are bound by a common language and a shared history, and their law enforcement agencies have been close partners for generations.
But a difference long curious to Americans stands out: Most British police officers are unarmed, a distinction particularly pronounced here in Scotland, where 98 percent of the country’s officers do not carry guns. For them, calming a situation through talk, rather than escalating it with weapons, is an essential policing tool, and one that brought a delegation of top American police officials to this town 30 miles northeast of Glasgow."

Federal Sentencing Disparity: 2005-2012
"Federal Sentencing Disparity, 2005-2012, examines patterns of federal sentencing disparity among white and black offenders, by sentence received, and looks at judicial variation in sentencing since Booker vs. United States, regardless of race.  It summarizes U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, discusses how approaches of other researchers to the study of sentencing practices differ from this approach, defines disparity as used in this study, and explains the methodology."

Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014
"The Global status report on violence prevention 2014, which reflects data from 133 countries, is the first report of its kind to assess national efforts to address interpersonal violence, namely child maltreatment, youth violence, intimate partner and sexual violence, and elder abuse.

Jointly published by WHO, the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the report reviews the current status of violence prevention efforts in countries, and calls for a scaling up of violence prevention programmes; stronger legislation and enforcement of laws relevant for violence prevention; and enhanced services for victims of violence."

View the Report

Race and the Criminal Justice System: 2014 (U.K.)
"This publication compiles statistics from data sources across the Criminal Justice System (CJS), to provide a combined perspective on the typical experiences of different ethnic groups. No causative links can be drawn from these summary statistics, and no controls have been applied to account for differences in circumstances between groups (e.g. average income or age); differences observed may indicate areas worth further investigation, but should not be taken as evidence of bias or as direct effects of ethnicity.

In general, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups appear to be over-represented at most stages throughout the CJS, compared to the White ethnic group, though this is not universal and does not appear to worsen as they progress through the system. Among BAME groups, Black and Mixed individuals were often the most over-represented. Trends over time for each ethnic group have tended to mirror overall trends, with little change in relative positions between ethnic groups."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Chicago Rarely Penalizes Officers for Complaints, Data Shows
"In 18 years with the Chicago Police Department, the nation’s second-largest, Jerome Finnigan had never been disciplined — although 68 citizen complaints had been lodged against him, including accusations that he used excessive force and regularly conducted illegal searches.

Then, in 2011, he admitted to robbing criminal suspects while serving in an elite police unit and ordering a hit on a fellow police officer he thought intended to turn him in. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. 'My bosses knew what I was doing out there, and it went on and on,' he said in court when he pleaded guilty. 'And this wasn’t the exception to the rule. This was the rule.'

Mr. Finnigan is one of thousands of Chicago police officers who have been the subject of citizen complaints over the years but have not been disciplined by the department, according to data released this month by the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization, and the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School. Such information is rarely made public and has come to light in Chicago only after a decade-long legal battle by the institute and the clinic."
Exploiting Emotions about Paris to Blame Snowden, Distract from Actual Culprits who Empowered ISIS
"Whistleblowers are always accused of helping America’s enemies (top Nixon aides accused Daniel Ellsberg of being a Soviet spy and causing the deaths of Americans with his leak); it’s just the tactical playbook that’s automatically used. So it’s of course unsurprising that ever since Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing enabled newspapers around the world to report on secretly implemented programs of mass surveillance, he has been accused by 'officials' and their various media allies of Helping The Terrorists™....

...But now we’ve entered the inevitable 'U.S. Officials Say' stage of the 'reporting' on the Paris attack — i.e., journalists mindlessly and uncritically repeat whatever U.S. officials whisper in their ear about what happened. So now credible news sites are regurgitating the claim that the Paris Terrorists were enabled by Snowden leaks — based on no evidence or specific proof of any kind, needless to say, but just the unverified, obviously self-serving assertions of government officials. But much of the U.S. media loves to repeat rather than scrutinize what government officials tell them to say. So now this accusation has become widespread and is thus worth examining with just some of the actual evidence."

Related Articles:

What Role did Encryption Play in Paris
Another Take on the Lessons of Paris Shootings for Encryption
Declaring War on Terror is Good Rhetoric, Bad Policy
  
New Research: How "Recollection Bias" can Hinder Effective Policy

"The ways in which people subconsciously process group trauma events may impair society’s ability to implement effective public policies for reducing the likelihood or consequence of such events.  That is one conclusion reached in a new Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Research Working Paper titled 'Recollection Bias and Its Underpinnings: Lessons from Terrorism-Risk Assessments,' co-authored by Richard J. Zeckhauser, Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy.

Recollection bias is the phenomenon whereby people hold the same perceptions of a risk following a highly unexpected event as they believe they held prior to it. That is, they fail to recognize the learning that should come from highly unusual happenings. Previous research by the same authors showed that only one in five people do not experience this bias.

In this new study, Zeckhauser and co-author W. Kip Viscusi of Vanderbilt Law School focused on responses to two catastrophic attacks that took place in the United States – the 9/11 attacks that took the lives of almost 3,000 people, and the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 – to determine how recollection bias impacts subsequent mitigation strategies."

International Humanitarian Law and the Challenges of Contemporary Armed Conflicts
"This is the fourth report on international humanitarian law (IHL) and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (International Conference).  The first three reports were submitted to the International Conferences held in 2003, 2007 and 2011.  These reports aim to provide an overview of some of the challenges posed by contemporary armed conflicts for IHL, to generate broader reflection on those challenges and to outline ongoing or prospective ICRC action, positions and interest."

Read the Full Report
The "Psychosocial Stress" of Prison Overcrowding
"Time spent in a crowded prison environment continues to have a negative impact on inmates after their release, contributing to parole violations, according to a study published by the nonprofit advocacy organization PLOS (Public Library of Science). The study, entitled 'Does Prison Crowding Predict Higher Rates of Substance Use Related Parole Violations? A Recurrent Events Multi-Level Survival Analysis,' is based on data collected in 2003 and 2004 from 13,070 California parolees.

'If crowding does increase a prisoner's risk of recidivism, this could be explained by the psychosocial stress associated with adverse prison conditions, which may exacerbate decision-making problems (e.g., impulsivity) and problem behaviors (e.g., drug use, aggression) in prison populations,' write authors Michael A. Ruderman , Deirdra F. Wilson and Savanna Reid. 'The high prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD) in prison populations may also be a factor in the high rates of drug-related recidivism seen among California parolees.'

The rates of parole violations were 2.28 to 2.77 times greater for parolees from highly crowded prisons compared to those from prisons with low levels of crowding, the authors write. They conclude that further research is needed to determine whether prison crowding is associated with recidivism and drug use in particular."

View the Report

 
What do we know about Sex Offending and Sex Offender Management and Treatment: A Webinar Series
"This webinar series, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART), was designed to provide policymakers and practitioners with trustworthy, up-to-date information they can use to identify and implement what works to combat sexual offending and prevent sexual victimization. The webinars below are based on reviews of the scientific literature on sex offending and sex offender management and treatment topics conducted by a team of subject-matter experts and published by the SMART Office in October, 2014, as part of the SMART Office Sex Offender Management Assessment and Planning Initiative (SOMAPI), a multi-year SMART Office project designed to assess the state of research and practice in sex offender management and treatment, inform the federal government’s research and grant-making efforts in this area, and share information about what works with the field.

The series consists of nine webinars focusing on evidence from state-of-theart research, knowledge gaps, unresolved controversies, and the implications of key research findings for policy and practice. Topics include the incidence and prevalence of sexual offending; the etiology of sexual offending; sex offender typologies; internet offending; risk assessment; recidivism; treatment effectiveness, and sex offender management including registration and notification."

Microsoft says its Software can tell if you're going back to Prison
"Microsoft is pitching its software and cloud data storage to law enforcement agencies.  Researchers say that using data to find crime patterns can help stop burglaries, but using data analysis to 'predict' violent crimes is highly problematic.

In a scenario that seems ripped straight from science fiction, Microsoft says its machine learning software can help law enforcement agencies predict whether an inmate is likely to commit another crime by analyzing his or her prison record. 

In a series of videos and events at policing conferences, such as one on Oct. 6 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Microsoft has been quietly marketing its software and cloud computing storage to law enforcement agencies. 

It says the software could have several uses, such as allowing departments across the country to analyze social media postings and map them in order to develop a profile for a crime suspect.  The push also includes partnerships with law enforcement technology companies, including Taser - the stun gun maker - to provide police with cloud storage for body camera footage that is compliant with federal standards for law enforcement data.

But in a more visionary - or possibly dystopian - approach, the company is also expanding into a growing market for what is often called predictive policing, using data to pinpoint people most likely to be at risk of being involved in future crimes." 

Related Article:  Can "Predictive Policing" Software help City Police Prevent Crime? 
 
Crime in 2015: A Preliminary Analysis (U.S.)
"Major media outlets have reported that murder has surged in some of the nation’s largest cities. These stories have been based on a patchwork of data, typically from a very small sample of cities. Without geographically complete and historically comparable data, it is difficult to discern whether the increases these articles report are purely local anomalies, or are instead part of a larger national trend.
This report provides a preliminary in-depth look at current national crime rates. It provides data on crime and murder for the 30 largest U.S. cities by population in 2015 and compares that to historical data. This analysis relies on data collected from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police departments. The authors were able to obtain preliminary 2015 murder statistics from 25 police departments in the nation’s 30 largest cities and broader crime data from 19 of the 30. The data covers the period from January 1 to October 1, 2015. As this report relies on initial data and projects crime data for the reminder of the year, its findings should be treated as preliminary as they may change when final figures are available."
View the Report
 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Public Policy Forum Report Calls for a "Reboot," Smaller Cabinet
"A new report by the Public Policy Forum warns of the weakening of key pillars of the Westminster system, and outlines a number of parliamentary reforms to 'reboot' the system.

The report – made with input from a panel of prominent Canadians that included former Quebec Premier Jean Charest – recommends that governments in Canada adopt smaller and stronger cabinets, reform their committee systems and clarify job descriptions of various public service and government positions. In the case of deputy ministers, that would need to be done with legislation.

A week ahead of the swearing-in of Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau and his cabinet, the report suggests that ministers have lost their influence, that large cabinets are 'generally not in the interests of good governance,' and points to the size of cabinet in the UK government, which has only 22 ministers – roughly half the size of Harper’s last cabinet.

At a news conference the day after the election, Trudeau suggested he was going to appoint a cabinet of 'deciders,' and not just representatives of their ministries. He also said that cabinet would be smaller, although didn’t specify by how much.

The report also decried the 'extraordinary' centralization of power in the PMO and premiers’ offices as a key source of the problem."

View the Report
 
Watching the Watchmen: Best Practices for Police Body Cameras
"Coverage of recent police killings has prompted a much-needed debate on law enforcement reform, and proposals for police body cameras have featured heavily in these discussions.  Body cameras undoubtedly gather valuable evidence of police misconduct, and although research on the effects of body cameras is comparatively limited there are good reasons to believe that they can improve police behavior.  

However, without the right policies in place the use of police body cameras could result in citizens' privacy being needlessly violated.  In addition, poorly considered police body camera policies governing the storage and release of footage might be too costly to implement.
 
This paper examines the research on the costs and benefits of police body cameras, arguing that the devices can, if properly deployed and regulated, provide a valuable disincentive to police abuses as well as valuable evidence for punishing abuses when they occur."

Solutions: American Leaders Speak out on Criminal Justice
"Mass incarceration.  In recent years it's become clear that the size of America's prison population is unsustainable - and isn't needed to protect public safety.

In this remarkable bipartisan collaboration, the country's most prominent public figures and experts join together to propose ideas for change.  In these original essays, many authors speak out for the first time on the issue.  The vast majority agree that reducing our incarcerated population is a priority.  Marking a clear political shift on crime and punishment in America, these sentiments are a far cry from politicians racing to be the most punitive in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mass incarceration threatens American democracy.  Hiding in plain sight, it drives economic inequality, racial injustice, and poverty.  How do we achieve change?  From using federal funding to bolster police best practices to allowing for the release of low-level offenders while they wait for trial, from eliminating prison for low-level drug crimes to increasing drug and mental health treatment, the ideas in this book pave the way forward.  Solutions promises to further the intellectual and political momentum to reform our justice system."

View the full publication

Friday, October 23, 2015

PUNISHMENT: A FAILED SOCIAL EXPERIMENT [FULL AND UPDATED VERSION]



"Coming Home:" Recidivism Rates for Harlem Reentry Court Parolees
"Ex-offenders assigned to the Harlem Parole Reentry Court upon their release from prison had lower recidivism rates than peers who were assigned to traditional parole, according to a study published by the Center for Court Innovation. In 'Coming Home to Harlem: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Harlem Parole Reentry Court,' authors Lama Hassoun Ayoub and Tia Pooler measured the court’s impact on parolees’ employment, school enrollment, interpersonal relationships and criminal activity within 18 months of release, among other outcomes.

Researchers looked at the experiences of 504 parolees who were released from prison between 2010 and 2013, and randomly divided them in two groups: 213 parolees assigned to the reentry court and 291 parolees assigned to traditional parole. Participants in the study  were predominantly male, black and Hispanic, and averaged about 30 years of age. The Harlem Reentry Court was established in 2001 by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Study findings include:
  • Reentry court participants were 22 percent less likely to be reconvicted within 18 months of release, and 60 percent less likely to be reconvicted for a felony).
  • Reentry court participants were more likely to report current employment or school enrollment than their peers (75 percent vs. 45 percent) and were also likely to report a higher income ($15,396 per year vs. $12,477 per year).
  • Only 33 percent of reentry court participants reported criminal activity since their, release compared to 44 percent of their peers.
  • Though both groups had a high incidence of arrest, reentry group participants’ arrest rates were slightly lower (51 percent) than their peers (57 percent).
Reentry court judges generally gave positive marks to the reentry court program...."

 

An Algorithm can Predict Human Behavior better than Humans
"...a new MIT study suggests an algorithm can predict someone’s behavior faster and more reliably than humans can.

Max Kanter, a master’s student in computer science at MIT, and his advisor, Kalyan Veeramachaneni, a research scientist at MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory, created the Data Science Machine to search for patterns and choose which variables are the most relevant. Their paper on the project results (pdf) will be presented at the IEEE Data Science and Advanced Analytics conference in Paris this week.

It’s fairly common for machines to analyze data, but humans are typically required to choose which data points are relevant for analysis. In three competitions with human teams, a machine made more accurate predictions than 615 of 906 human teams. And while humans worked on their predictive algorithms for months, the machine took two to 12 hours to produce each of its competition entries."

Police Can't Predict The Future: Fortunately, They Don't Have To
"Can computers, fancy mathematics, and big data predict crime, even predict who will commit murder? The New York Times says yes: in a story revolving around Kansas City ('Police Program Aims to Pinpoint Those Most Likely to Commit Crimes,' September 24, 2015), it highlighted the growing use of 'predictive policing': 'complex computer algorithms to try to pinpoint the people most likely to be involved in future violent crimes,' part of a 'larger trend by governments and corporations that are increasingly turning to predictive analytics' for forecasting. The Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) was one example, the Times said, along with others in, for example, the Manhattan DA's office. Attention to factors like 'previous arrests; unemployment; an unstable home life; friends and relatives who have been killed, are in prison or have gang ties; and problems with drugs or alcohol,' processed through sophisticated software, allow police to target those at highest risk.

Civil libertarians predictably take a dim view of such 'Minority Report' policing. Get it wrong and 'you could be reducing civil liberties and Fourth Amendment protections for certain people on bad information and bad data,' law professor Andrew Guthrie Ferguson told Fox News. To many, it sounds like familiar old profiling decanted from high-tech new bottles. 'Our concern is guilt by association,' said the American Civil Liberties Union's Ezekial Edwards. 'Because you live in a certain neighborhood or hang out with certain people, we are now going to be suspicious of you and treat you differently, not because you have committed a crime or because we have information that allows us to arrest you, but because our predictive tool shows us you might commit a crime at some point in the future.'"

Global Prison Trends 2015
"This report is designed to describe key global trends in the use and practice of imprisonment and to identify some of the pressing challenges facing states that wish to organise their penitentiary system in accordance with international norms and standards. Topics include:
  • Prison populations and rates of imprisonment
  • Prison management
  • Prison regimes
  • New technologies
  • Criminal justice, social policy and sustainable development
The report also includes a Special Focus pull-out section on the impact of the ‘war on drugs’ and its implications for prison management. Significant international developments, recent research projects and precedent-setting court decisions are highlighted throughout."

View the Full Report
 

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Harper Record 2008-2015
"This book, which builds on the 2008 collection The Harper Record, continues a 25-year tradition at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives of periodically examining the records of Canadian federal governments during their tenure. As with earlier CCPA reports on the activities of the Mulroney, Chr├ętien and Martin governments while in office, this book gives a detailed account of the laws, policies, regulations, and initiatives of the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper while in minority (from 2008 to 2011) and majority (from 2011 to 2015).

The 36 writers, researchers and analysts who have co-written this book probe into many aspects of the Harper government’s administration over the last two parliamentary sessions. From the economy to the environment, social programs to foreign policy, health care to tax cuts, the tar sands to free trade deals, and many other areas, these chapters dig through the facts and key moments for this government over the past seven years, highlighting in particular its policy response to the global financial crisis and Great Recession."

This book, which builds on the 2008 collection The Harper Record, continues a 25-year tradition at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives of periodically examining the records of Canadian federal governments during their tenure. As with earlier CCPA reports on the activities of the Mulroney, Chr├ętien and Martin governments while in office, this book gives a detailed account of the laws, policies, regulations, and initiatives of the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper while in minority (from 2008 to 2011) and majority (from 2011 to 2015).
The 36 writers, researchers and analysts who have co-written this book probe into many aspects of the Harper government’s administration over the last two parliamentary sessions. From the economy to the environment, social programs to foreign policy, health care to tax cuts, the tar sands to free trade deals, and many other areas, these chapters dig through the facts and key moments for this government over the past seven years, highlighting in particular its policy response to the global financial crisis and Great Recession.
- See more at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/harper-record-2008-2015#sthash.qBN0JWSd.dpuf
Locked In: Interactions with the Criminal Justice and Child Welfare Systems for LGBTQ Youth, YMSM and YWSW who Engage in Survival Sex
"This report focuses on LGBTQ youth who become involved in the commercial sex market to meet basic survival needs, describing their experiences with law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and the child welfare system. Interviews with these youth reveal that over 70 percent had been arrested at least once, with many reporting frequent arrest for 'quality-of-life' and misdemeanor crimes other than prostitution offenses. Youth described their experiences of being cycled in and out of the justice system as highly disruptive and generating far-reaching collateral consequences ranging from instability in the home and school to inability to pay fines and obtain lawful employment. This report is part of a larger three-year Urban Institute study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth; young men who have sex with men (YMSM); and young women who have sex with women (YWSW) engaged in survival sex."

View the Full Report
 
Victim Surcharge won't make Homeless Offender more Accountable, B.C. Judge Says
"A B.C. provincial court judge says violating a homeless man's charter rights by forcing him to pay a $200 victim surcharge won't make impoverished offenders more accountable to victims.

In a ruling released Monday, Judge Donna Senniw said she couldn't find any justification for imposing a mandatory fine on an impoverished man who breached the terms of his release.

The Conservative government made the victim surcharge mandatory in 2013 as part of its tough-on-crime agenda; Senniw ruled last summer that change was unconstitutional.

But in her latest ruling, she found the violation couldn't be justified under Section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that says an infringement of a person's rights may be allowed if it meets the objectives of a law.

'If an offender has no ability to pay the surcharge, it is difficult to envision how it could promote accountability, let alone raise money for victim services,' Senniw wrote.

'It is irrational to impose a mandatory payment on an individual with no prospect of payment, for whom attachment of government benefits would create a hardship and where a government administration would expend time, effort and monies to collect such mandatory payment.'"

Read Judge Senniw's Decision 

Crime and Policing Revisited
"This paper outlines the stark differences in the nature of police crime control conversations between the first convening of the Executive Session on Policing (1985-1991) and the second (2008-2014) resulting from an unprecedented growth in rigorous evaluation research on what works in police crime prevention.

The author provides an overview of what was known about the police and crime prevention at the time of the first Executive Session; what was proposed then as promising new ways for the police to reduce crime; and the research conducted during the 1990s and 2000s that examined the efficacy of these ideas. Finally, the paper concludes by offering two central ideas on continuing effective police crime prevention policies and practices suggested by participants of the second Executive Session and supported by existing research evidence."


View the Full Report
 
The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act
"More than 20 years after the 1994 'Crime Bill' directed federal funds toward building new prisons across the country, this report urges Congress to pass legislation that would do the reverse — use federal dollars to reward states that successfully reduce both crime and incarceration."

Download the Full Publication
Drone Papers: Leaked Military Documents Expose US "Assassination Complex"
"A stunning expose by the Intercept, which includes the publication of classified documents leaked by an intelligence source, provides an unprecedented look at the U.S. military's secretive global assassination program.

The series of articles, titled The Drone Papers, follows months of investigation and uses rare primary source documents and slides to reveal to the public, for the first time, the flaws and consequences of the U.S. military`s 14-year aerial campaign being conducted in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan - one that has consistently used faulty information, killed an untold number of civilians, and stymied intelligence-gathering through its 'kill/capture' program that too often relies on killing rather than capturing.

'The series is intended to serve as a long-overdue public examination of the methods and outcomes of America's assassination program.' writes the investigation's lead reporter, Jeremy Scahill.  'This campaign, carried out by two presidents through four presidential terms, has been shrouded in excessive secrecy.  The public has aright to see these documents not only to engage in an informed debate about the future of U.S. wars, both overt and covert, but also to understand the circumstances under which the U.S. government arrogates to itself the right to sentence individuals to death without the established checks and balances of arrest, trial, and appeal.'"




Caring Potentials in the Shadows of Power, Correction, and Discipline - Forensic Psychiatric Care in the Light of the Work of Michel Foucault
"The aim of this article is to shed light on contemporary forensic psychiatric care through a philosophical examination of the empirical results from two lifeworld phenomenological studies from the perspective of patients and carers, by using the French philosopher Michel Foucault's historical–philosophical work. Both empirical studies were conducted in a forensic psychiatric setting. The essential results of the two empirical studies were reexamined in a phenomenological meaning analysis to form a new general structure in accordance with the methodological principles of Reflective Lifeworld Research. This general structure shows how the caring on the forensic psychiatric wards appears to be contradictory, in that it is characterized by an unreflective (non-)caring attitude and contributes to an inconsistent and insecure existence. The caring appears to have a corrective approach and thus lacks a clear caring structure, a basic caring approach that patients in forensic psychiatric services have a great need of. To gain a greater understanding of forensic psychiatric caring, the new empirical results were further examined in the light of Foucault's historical–philosophical work. The philosophical examination is presented in terms of the three meaning constituents: Caring as correction and discipline, The existence of power, and Structures and culture in care. The philosophical examination illustrates new meaning nuances of the corrective and disciplinary nature of forensic psychiatric care, its power, and how this is materialized in caring, and what this does to the patients. The examination reveals embedded difficulties in forensic psychiatric care and highlights a need to revisit the aim of such care."


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Impact of Harper's "Tough on Crime" Strategy: Hearing from Frontline Workers
" Crime rates in Canada have been steadily dropping for over a decade, while prison populations have been increasing in recent years.  Commentators have attributed this disconnection between falling crime rates and increasing incarceration numbers to the Harper government's 'tough on crime' strategy.  Since coming to power in 2006, the Harper government has implemented a host of legislative and policy changes designed to 'tackle crime,' 'hold offenders accountable,' and 'make communities safer.'  At the same time, the government also enacted significant budget cuts that have affected the ability of the correctional system to uphold its mandate."

Friday, September 25, 2015

No Hope: Re-Examining Lifetime Sentences for Juvenile Offenders
"In a handful of U.S. counties, teenagers are still being sentenced to a lifetime in prison with no chance of release.  This harsh and increasingly isolated practice falls disproportionately on black and Hispanic youth and is a remnant of an earlier period of punitiveness based on an unfounded prediction of a new class of superpredators that never actually materialized."

View the Full Report  
In a handful of U.S. counties, teenagers are still being sentenced to a lifetime in prison with no chance of release. This harsh and increasingly isolated practice falls disproportionately on black and Hispanic youth and is a remnant of an earlier period of punitiveness based on an unfounded prediction of a new class of superpredators that never actually materialized. - See more at: http://www.phillipsblack.org/juvenile-justice/#sthash.jDo5alnX.dpuf

In a handful of U.S. counties, teenagers are still being sentenced to a lifetime in prison with no chance of release. This harsh and increasingly isolated practice falls disproportionately on black and Hispanic youth and is a remnant of an earlier period of punitiveness based on an unfounded prediction of a new class of superpredators that never actually materialized. - See more at: http://www.phillipsblack.org/juvenile-justice/#sthash.jDo5alnX.dpuf




Recidivism of Adult Sex Offenders
"This Research Brief reviews the scientific literature concerning the recidivism of adult sex offenders.  It presents findings about recidivism generally and sexual recidivism specifically because many sex offenders engage in both sexual and nonsexual crime.  It also addresses the recidivism rates of differnt types of sex offenders."

Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults

"In this new report by Executive Session members Vincent Schiraldi, Bruce Western, and Kendra Bradner, the authors note that the human brain has been clinically shown to not fully mature prior to the mid-20s and suggest new institutional methods and processes for young adult justice that can meet the realities of life for today's disadvantaged youth involved in crime and the criminal justice system.

They envision a system that extends the reach of the juvenile court to reflect a modern understanding of the transition into adulthood, and their primary recommendation is that the age of juvenile court jurisdiction be raised to 21, with additional, gradually diminishing protections for young adults up to age 24 or 25."



The Economy and Crime: Briefing Note
"Criminal justice policy throughout the 1980s and 1990s was defined by two prominent trends: rising rates of offending and rising rates of imprisonment.  This briefing presents evidence to consider what gave rise to these dynamics, and to what extent they were interrelated."

Friday, September 4, 2015

How a Dubious Statistic Convinced U.S. Courts to Approve of Indefinite Detention
"In the 2002 case McKune v. Lile, the Supreme Court upheld a Kansas law that imposed harsher sentences on sex offenders who declined to participate in a prison rehab program. The substance of the Kansas law the court upheld isn’t as important as the language the court used to uphold it. In his opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy reasoned that they pose 'such a frightening and high risk of recidivism' which he wrote 'has been estimated to be as high as 80%.'

In a forthcoming article in Constitutional Commentary, Ira Mark Ellman and Tara Ellman note that Kennedy’s magic words about the recidivism rate of sex offenders — frightening and high — have been cited 91 times by courts around the country, most in the course of upholding state laws allowing for severe ex post facto punishments that can last from years, to decades, to a lifetime....

The scary thing is, as the Ellmans explain, there’s no empirical data to support Kennedy’s oft-cited phrase, and the statistic Kennedy himself cited is paper thin."





Private Conflict, Not Broken Windows
Why community policing should focus on helping to resolve personal and domestic disputes, not signs of physical decay.

"More than three decades ago, The Atlantic published a path-breaking essay that introduced the theory of 'broken windows' to a broad audience. Its authors, James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, advocated for a fundamental shift in law enforcement: away from simply apprehending criminals and toward mitigating the visual symbols of urban disorder like loitering, public drunkenness, panhandlers, 'squeegee men,' run-down buildings, and litter- and graffiti-strewn neighborhoods. Their basic metaphor was captured in a simple phrase: 'One broken window becomes many.'

The latest study by criminologists Daniel Tumminelli O’Brien and Robert J. Sampson, published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, adds yet more nuance to the critical debate that continues to surround broken windows theory today. The study poses three key questions: To what degree does disorder contribute to the ongoing decline of a neighborhood? If so, what features of it matter? And what are the major pathways that connect disorder to neighborhood decline and, ultimately, to crime?"

First State Legalizes Taser Drones for Cops, Thanks to Lobbyist
North Dakota police will be free to fire ‘less than lethal’ weapons from the air thanks to the influence of Big Drone.

"It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.

With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with 'less than lethal' weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.

The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones.

Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. 'Less than lethal' weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones."
 
Why the British Prison System Massively Fails Women Criminals
"A recent report from the Prison Reform Trust has revealed the sharp disparity between male and female offenders. Women prisoners are twice as likely as men to have no previous convictions. As such, the vast majority of female inmates are imprisoned for non-violent, low-level crimes, with theft and handling offences being the main driver to custody. In short, women ultimately receive harsher treatment from the Criminal Justice System than men for equivalent crimes.

This is all the more shocking when you consider the life circumstances of female prisoners. According to stats from the Prison Reform Trust, not only have half of women in prison experienced domestic violence, 53 percent suffered abuse while they were children. On top of this, they are nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression as men in prison. Almost a third of female inmates had a psychiatric admission prior to entering prison."

The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls' Story
"This report exposes the ways in which we criminalize girls - especially girls of color - who have been sexually and physically abused, and it offers policy recommendations to dismantle the abuse to prison pipeline.  It illustrates the pipeline with examples, including the detention of girls who are victims of sex trafficking, girls who run away or become truant because of abuse they experience, and girls who cross into juvenile justice from the child welfare system."


Friday, August 21, 2015

Studying Deterrence Among High-Risk Adolescents
"...In this bulletin, the authors consider - based on their review of recent evidence from the Pathways to Desistance study, a multisite, longitudinal sample of adolescent (primarily felony) offenders... several questions regarding how juvenile offenders assess sanctions and the threat of sanctions.  Unlike most other research on serious adolescent offenders, the Pathways study draws from both interviews and official records from adolescence and early adulthood.  The authors examine several questions related to deterring juveniles:
  • Do their offending and punishment experiences mold offenders' perceptions of risks and consequences of offending (which relate directly to their propensity to be deterred from crimes)?
  • Does placing offenders in a correctional facility have any tangible deterrent effects?
  • Does longer placement have a more deterrent effect on juveniles?
The authors conclude with a discussion of directions for future applied research into deterrence and consider some broader implications for juvenile justice policy and practice."

Is Harm-Focused Policing the Future?
"Police chiefs across the country are considering how new approaches to law enforcement could better serve the needs of their communities, according to a paper published in the Police Foundation’s journal, Ideas in American Policing.

Instead of continuing their traditional focus on combating violent crime, police departments are looking at methods to address other related community concerns such as behavioral health, drugs, environmental issues and gang recruitment, writes Jerry Ratcliffe, a professor of criminal justice at Temple University. He describes this approach as 'harm-focused policing.'"

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Police Foundation (UK): Safe as Houses?
"New research from the Police Foundation suggests that conditions in the private rented sector (PRS) are exposing tenants to an increased risk of crime. In Luton, where the PRS doubled between the last two Censuses, neighbourhoods with greater concentrations of private renting were found to have higher burglary rates, (and this remained the case when factors such as unemployment and deprivation were taken into account). Taken with other findings, this indicated that inadequate household security in the local rental sector (where high demand and low regulation provide little incentive for landlords to make improvements) was an important (and potentially fixable) driver of burglary. Additionally, high-burglary neighbourhoods tended to be places of ethnic diversity, transience and rapid population growth; suggesting that disparate, churning tenant population (and others who live alongside them) may be unable to develop the community resilience to resist criminal predation."

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Professor Emeritus Anthony Doob on "The Harper Decade: The Conservative Take on Crime Policy
"There is no question that Harper’s Conservatives have talked tough about criminal justice, departing from the more moderate tone that has characterized Canada’s history on this topic. Before Conservative rule, Canada had a long tradition of allowing criminal justice experts – like judges and prosecutors – to make decisions in ways that were largely insulated from politics.  One result is that Canada has been able to sustain a stable, moderate rate of imprisonment. Even during decades when violent crime was much higher across North America – when the US was busy generating the policies that would deliver its current situation of ‘mass imprisonment’ –  Canada relied on imprisonment comparatively sparingly. Since 1950, imprisonment rates have varied between about 81 and 116 adults per hundred thousand Canadian residents. In 2005 the rate was about 104. Currently it appears to be about 115.

This tone of moderation in crime policy has changed. With the Conservative politicization of the field of criminal justice we have seen an uptick in rates of imprisonment, an increase in the severity of the punishment experience, and a new reliance on crime as a salient topic with which to mobilize political support. Harper’s Conservatives have overseen decisions to close prison farms, fire prison chaplains, strip judges of sentencing discretion, and increase the use of solitary confinement. The overrepresentation of indigenous people in our jails and prisons – already a problem under past governments – has also become worse during Conservative rule."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


The War on Drugs and Prison Growth: Limited Importance, Limited Legislative Options
"The dramatic rise in imprisonment in the United States over the past forty years is hard to understate.  Decades of stable incarceration ended suddenly in the mid-1970s, as the U.S. prison population soared from about 300,000 to 1.6 million inmates, and the incarceration rate from 100 per 100,000 to over 500 per 100,000....

Not surprisingly, academics, policymakers, and journalists alike have attempted to ferret out the causes of this carceral explosion.  Though explanations differ, almost all analysts agree that a major cause has been the 'War on Drugs.'...

Yet despite its widespread popularity, the argument pinning prison growth to the War on Drugs oversimplifies the connection between the two.  This article starts to develop a more sophisticated analysis of how the War on Drugs shapes prison populations, and examines its implications for the options available to legislatures seeking to better manage prison growth.  My conclusions run contrary to the conventional wisdom and, when it comes to reform, will not be particularly optimistic: the role of the War on Drugs is greatly exaggerated, and the areas where it matters most are likely the ones over which legislatures have the least control."

Facial Recognition Software Moves from Overseas Wars to Local Police
"Facial recognition software, which American military and intelligence agencies used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify potential terrorists, is being eagerly adopted by dozens of police departments around the country to pursue drug dealers, prostitutes and other conventional criminal suspects. But because it is being used with few guidelines and with little oversight or public disclosure, it is raising questions of privacy and concerns about potential misuse."
More than 80% of the Thousands Held at the Chicago Police's "Black Site" were Black
"The Guardian has uncovered arrest records revealing that 82% of the more than 3,500 Americans detained at a secret police facility in Chicago over the past decade were black.

About 8.5% of those held at the site were white. According to the 2010 census, Chicago's population is 32% non-Hispanic white, 33% black, and 29% Hispanic (of which 13.5% identify as racially white) .

In February, The Guardian reported that the Chicago Police Department was holding US citizens for days on end at the facility known as Homan Square. Suspects had no contact with the outside world and were treated and interrogated like terrorists at so-called US black sites."

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Report: Economic Costs of Youth Disadvantage and High-Return Opportunities for Change
"A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers explores the barriers that disadvantaged youth face, particularly young men of color, and quantifies the enormous costs this poses to the U.S. economy. In particular, this report focuses on the significant disparities in education, exposure to the criminal justice system, and employment that persist between young men of color and other Americans.

The report highlights the economic costs of youth crime stating, 'The average annual cost of incarceration for a single juvenile is over $100,000—far more costly than the sticker price of tuition at the most expensive college in the country or a year of intensive mentoring. This suggests that government expenditures on crime could be redirected toward higher-return investments that generate larger benefits for the wider economy.'"

View the Report

 
GPS Supervision in California: One Technology, Two Contrasting Goals
"Two NIJ-supported studies with very different results show that GPS technology may be used to help prevent crime in various ways.
Using sophisticated technology to control crime generally appeals to both the public and policymakers because it prompts visions of reduced crime and improved safety. GPS technology can track an offender's movements in real time and is designed to reduce crime by enhancing the likelihood that law enforcement will detect criminal behavior. For the public, this conveys the notion of a virtual prison, in which offenders are prohibited from engaging in any wrongdoing. Critics, on the other hand, maintain that the idea of pervasive and constant surveillance offers a false sense of security and does little to actually prevent crime; they often point to horrific crimes that have occurred while offenders were under GPS supervision.[1]
 
Despite the absence of solid evidence for either position, the potential benefits outweighed the criticism and spurred many communities across the country to invest in GPS supervision equipment in the mid-to-late 2000s. Among these were two California counties that initiated programs that were structurally similar but conceptually quite different...."







Monday, July 27, 2015

UN  Human Rights Committee Slams Canada's Record on Women
"The UN human rights committee is accusing the Canadian government of failing to act on missing and murdered aboriginal women, violence against women generally, and numerous other matters, ranging from refugees to Bill C-51, the new anti-terror law.

The UN's first report card on Canada in 10 years was released Thursday, and measures whether the country has met its human rights obligations.

At least 26 human rights organizations, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Watch, submitted their own separate reports to the 18-member independent committee on the various issues.

Overall, the report took exception to Canada's failure to set up a way to implement some of the committee's recommendations.

'It should take all necessary measures to establish mechanisms and appropriate procedures to give full effect to the committee's views so as to guarantee an effective remedy when there has been a violation of the covenant,' the report said."

View the Report


Friday, July 24, 2015

Study: Fixing Up Vacant Buildings May Reduce Crime
"The rehabilitation of abandoned buildings may be associated with reductions in certain crime categories, according to a University of Pennsylvania study in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study focuses on a Philadelphia city ordinance passed in 2011 that called for building owners to fix the broken doors and windows of vacant buildings. Of the 2,356 buildings cited by city officials as in need of remediation, 29 percent were fixed up between January 2011 and April 2013, according to the study.

Researchers compared crime rates near remediated buildings to unmediated ones within half a mile. They found a significant decrease in both serious and nuisance crimes in areas near remediated buildings. In particular, gun assaults decreased by 39 percent near remediated buildings.

Assaults overall were reduced by 19 percent. So-called nuisance crimes, such as vandalism, public drunkenness and illegal dumping, dropped by 16 percent, according to the study.

Researchers noted that the ordinance impact varied from neighborhood to neighborhood."

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A Theory of Civil Disobedience
"From the streets of Hong Kong to Ferguson, Missouri, civil disobedience has again become newsworthy. What explains the prevalence and extremity of acts of civil disobedience? This paper presents a model in which protest planners choose the nature of the disturbance hoping to influence voters (or other decision-makers in less democratic regimes) both through the size of the unrest and by generating a response. The model suggests that protesters will either choose a mild 'epsilon' protest, such as a peaceful march, which serves mainly to signal the size of the disgruntled population, or a 'sweet spot' protest, which is painful enough to generate a response but not painful enough so that an aggressive response is universally applauded. Since non-epsilon protests serve primarily to signal the leaders’ type, they will occur either when protesters have private information about the leader’s type or when the distribution of voters’ preferences are convex in a way that leads the revelation of uncertainty to increase the probability of regime change. The requirements needed for rational civil disobedience seem not to hold in many world settings, and so we explore ways in which bounded rationality by protesters, voters, and incumbent leaders can also explain civil disobedience."

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New Working Paper Offers a "Transatlantic Perspective" on Capital Punishment
"How is it that most 'western' industrialized, democratic nations have succeeded in abolishing the death penalty, while executions continue to take place in 31 American states? That is the question underscoring a new Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Research Working Paper authored by Associate Professor Moshik Temkin.
'The Great Divergence: The Death Penalty in the United States and the Failure of Abolition in Transatlantic Perspective' provides an historical perspective on national-level efforts to eradicate capital punishment over the course of the past 100 years."




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Imprisonment in the U.S. in the Era of "Black Lives Matter":
A Summer Event at the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies

Thursday, August 13, 4 to 6:30 pm
2nd Floor Ericson Seminar Room, Canadian Gallery
14 Queen's Park Crescent West

Michelle Brown, from the University of Tennessee, editor of Crime, Media, and Culture, will give a talk on "the problem of life and death in American criminal justice", based on ethnographic and media analysis research on local and national community-based movements such as Black Lives Matter.  Her question is: "What does it mean to theorize mass incarceration through its counter-movements?"

Then, filmmaker and PhD candidate Brett Story will show an excerpt from her film-in-progress "The prison in twelve landscapes", described as "a non-fiction film about the prison from the places we least expect to find it: an anti-sex offender pocket park in LA, a congregation of ex-incarcerated chess players shut out of the formal labor market, the overnight buses that carry visitors to far-away prisons, and an Appalachian cola town betting its future on the promise of prison jobs."

Moderator: Phil Goodman

Monday, July 20, 2015

Maltreatment of Youth in U.S. Juvenile Corrections Facilities
This report, released as a follow-up to No Place For Kids, introduces new evidence on the widespread maltreatment of youth in state-funded juvenile corrections facilities. It tells of high rates of sexual victimization, the heavy-handed use of disciplinary isolation and a growing roster of states where confined youth have been subject to widespread abuse. The four-year update is in — and the news is not good.

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Childhood Trauma and its Effects: Implications for Police
"For children, repeated exposure to violent trauma, particularly in the absence of parental nurture, support and protection that might mitigate the impact of such trauma, can have devastating effects on their psychiatric and neuropsychiatric development. This paper summarizes current understanding of the effects of ongoing trauma on young children, how these effects impair adolescent and young adult functioning, and the possible implications of this for policing.

The author argues that while children from any neighborhood can be exposed to violent trauma, children from poor communities of color are particularly at risk for such exposure. Because these communities are often the focus of police attention, it is important that police be aware of the high prevalence of severe childhood trauma in such communities, appreciate its effects on the developing child, and understand its impact on adolescent and adult functioning. With this knowledge, police officers have a greater capacity to help decrease the prevalence of this major public mental health problem."


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HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2014-2015
"Commenting on the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons annual report 2014-15, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
'No mystery that violence, self-harm and suicide rise when you overcrowd prisons, reduce staff by almost one third, cut time out of cell and purposeful activity. The backdrop is a more punitive climate, increased injustice and uncertainty which have sucked hope out of the system for prisoners and staff. Solutions lie in good strong leadership from the new Secretary of State through to prison governors, a commitment to treat people in prison with humanity and respect and a determination to make prison an effective place of last resort.'"

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The Impact of Drug Policy on Women
"Across the globe, the failure of the war on drugs has come at an enormous cost to women. Punitive drug laws and policies pose a heavy burden on women and, in turn, on the children for whom women are often the principal caregivers.
Prohibitionist policies impede access to and use of HIV and hepatitis C prevention and care services for everyone, but women and girls virtually always face a higher risk of transmission of these infections. Men suffer from unjust incarceration for minor drug offenses, but in some places women are more likely than men to face harsh sentences for minor infractions. Treatment for drug dependence is of poor quality in many places, but women are at especially high risk of undergoing inappropriate treatment or not receiving any treatment at all. All people who use drugs face stigma and discrimination, but women are often more likely than men to be severely vilified as unfit parents and 'fallen' members of society."
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