Friday, January 23, 2015

Canadian Law Professors Warn Against Criminalizing Online Glorification of Terrorism
"If someone posts a statement online that 'all real Muslims should engage in military jihad,' should that be enough for police to come knocking?

In a newly published paper, two Canadian law professors are cautioning the government against rushing to criminalize the glorification of terrorism — or 'radicalized boasting' — on the Internet, saying it could undermine freedom of expression and put the country on 'extremely uncertain constitutional terrain.'

Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa and Kent Roach of the University of Toronto write that the causal link between radicalized speech on the Internet and violence is still very tenuous. Government officials are better off using existing laws to target the most dangerous Internet materials — those that have clearly crossed a criminal line and are designed to further the aims of terrorist groups, whether it be recruiting or inciting, they said."

View the Working Paper

The Supreme Court's Massive Blind Spot
"This term, the Supreme Court heard two cases involving the actions of police officers during traffic stops. How the court comes down on the two cases will likely have significant repercussions far beyond the facts of the cases themselves. The court’s decisions could affect how police target motorists, which motorists they target and how often, and how they interact with motorists once they’ve pulled them over. The decisions will likely affect how police profile motorists to look for drug couriers, who gets detained and searched, and who has property confiscated through civil asset forfeiture.

Here’s the problem: You’d be hard-pressed to assemble nine lawyers in America who as a collective are further removed from the realities of the facts of these cases than the nine justices of the Supreme Court. The road from law school to the Supreme Court today starts at Harvard or Yale (all nine of the current justices attended Harvard or Yale for law school, although Ruth Bader Ginsberg later transferred to Columbia). From there the next stop is a clerkship or two with a federal judge, followed by a post in academia, the Justice Department, or a white shoe law firm. Rise quickly and get noticed, and you might eventually earn an appointment to the federal judiciary. From there you’ll want to write strong opinions (but not too strong) that will attract the eye of court watchers, influential ideological organizations like the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society, and the legal media commentators who draw up those Supreme Court short lists.

What’s missing from that career trajectory is any real experience in criminal law...."

Where Do We Go From Here? Mass Incarceration and the Struggle for Civil Rights
"On the surface, crime and punishment appear to be unsophisticated matters. After all, if someone takes part in a crime, then shouldn’t he or she have to suffer the consequences? But dig deeper and it is clear that crime and punishment are multidimensional problems that stem from racial prejudice justified by age-old perceptions and beliefs about African Americans. The United States has a dual criminal justice system that has helped to maintain the economic and social hierarchy in America, based on the subjugation of blacks, within the United States. Public policy, criminal justice actors, society and the media, and criminal behavior have all played roles in creating what sociologist Loic Wacquant calls the hyperincarceration of black men. But there are solutions to rectify this problem.

To summarize the major arguments in this essay, the root cause of the hyperincarceration of blacks (and in particular black men) is society’s collective choice to become more punitive. These tough-on-crime laws, which applied to all Americans, could be maintained only because of the dual legal system developed from the legacy of racism in the United States. That is, race allowed for society to avoid the trade-off between societies 'demand' to get tough on crime and its 'demand' to retain civil liberties, through unequal enforcement of the law. In essence, tying crime to observable characteristics (such as race or religious affiliation) allowed the majority in society to pass tough-on-crime policies without having to bear the full burden of these policies, permitting these laws to be sustained over time."

End of an Era: The Impact of Drug Law Reform in New York City
"In 2009, the latest in a series of reforms essentially dismantled New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of a range of felony drug charges and increasing eligibility for diversion to treatment. To study the impact of these reforms, Vera partnered with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University to examine the implementation of drug law reform and its impact on recidivism, racial disparities, and cost in New York City. The National Institute of Justice-funded study found that drug law reform, as it functioned in the city soon after the laws were passed, led to a 35 percent rise in the rate of diversion of eligible defendants to treatment. Although the use of diversion varied significantly among the city’s five boroughs, it was associated with reduced recidivism rates, and cut racial disparities in half."

View the Report

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

B.C.'s Overcrowded Prisons Endanger Inmates and Staff, Auditor-General Says
"British Columbia’s overcrowded prisons endanger both inmates and staff, and a number of core programs designed to keep prisoners from reoffending have failed, according to a new report by the province’s Auditor-General.

The findings from Carol Bellringer’s audit of provincial adult custody facilities, released Tuesday, echo the calls by the union representing British Columbia’s correctional officers, which has long voiced concerns about the dangerous conditions brought on by overcrowding.

In 2013/2014, nearly 16,000 people were admitted into B.C. correctional centres, divided about equally between those who were sentenced and those awaiting trial or sentencing. Population growth and the closing of 10 provincial facilities in 2002 contributed to 'extensive double-bunking in cells'– almost all of which were designed for single occupancy, the audit found....

'Prison overcrowding increases risk to both inmates and staff and contributes to the potential for conflict,' Ms. Bellringer said in a media conference call after the release of her report.

'Although the adult custody division inspects, assesses risk and monitors and reviews critical incidents regularly, it cannot demonstrate whether operating its prisons at these capacity levels provides for safe custody.'
Safety and security incidents have nearly doubled in the past five years, she noted."

View the Final Report
 

Moral Panic over Sex Offenses Results in Cruel and Self-Defeating Overpunishment
"National Lawyers Guild Review Editor-in-Chief Nathan Goetting has published a thought-provoking piece in the most recent issue of the Review, commenting on America’s 'moral panic' over sexual offenses, which has 'created self-defeating policies, unconstitutional laws, and cruel punishments.'   Among those punishments are a plethora of collateral consequences that stigmatize and shame without regard to actual risk."
Screening Out Family Time: The For-Profit Video Visitation Industry in Prisons and Jails
"Video technology like Skype or FaceTime can be a great way to stay together for people who are far apart. It is not the same as being there in person, but it is better than a phone call or sending a letter.

Given that there are 2.2 million people who are incarcerated, often many hundreds of miles from their homes, it should be no surprise that prison and jail video visitation is quietly sweeping the nation.

But video visitation is not like Skype or FaceTime. For one, these well-known technologies are a high-quality, free supplement to time spent together, in-person. The video visitation that is sweeping through U.S. jails is almost the exact opposite.

In order to stimulate demand for their low-quality product, jails and video visitation companies work together to shut down the traditional in-person visitation rooms and instead require families to pay up to $1.50 per minute for visits via computer screen."

How Our Brains Perceive Race
“'You’re not, like, a total racist bastard,'” David Amodio tells me. He pauses. 'Today.'

I’m sitting in the soft-spoken cognitive neuroscientist’s spotless office nestled within New York University’s psychology department, but it feels like I’m at the doctor’s, getting a dreaded diagnosis. On his giant monitor, Amodio shows me a big blob of data, a cluster of points depicting where people score on the Implicit Association Test. The test measures racial prejudices that we cannot consciously control. I’ve taken it three times now. This time around my uncontrolled prejudice, while clearly present, has come in significantly below the average for white people like me.
You think of yourself as a person who strives to be unprejudiced, but you can’t control these split-second reactions.

That certainly beats the first time I took the IAT online, on the website UnderstandingPrejudice.org. That time, my results showed a 'strong automatic preference' for European Americans over African-Americans. That was not a good thing to hear, but it’s extremely common — 51 percent of online test takers show moderate to strong bias."

Friday, January 9, 2015

Violence Perpetrated by Ex-Spouses in Canada
"The purpose of this report is to provide an update on the 2001 Spousal Violence after Marital Separation using data from the 2009 GSS.  This report explores Canadians' experiences with violence committed by ex-spouses, including the prevalence of ex-spousal violence, violence experienced after separation and the emotional consequences of ex-spousal violence.  The prevalence of child witnesses to ex-spousal violence is discussed, as is information on the issues surrounding child residence and contact in situations of ex-spousal violence.  Finally, the issue of reporting ex-spousal violence to police is explored."

Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews

"How should the criminal justice system respond to errors?

A common response is to seek out 'bad apples,' apportion blame, and conclude that the error has been dealt with once that individual is punished or a policy is changed.

But errors in a complex system are rarely the result of a single act or event. In medicine, aviation and other high-risk enterprises, serious errors are regarded as system errors or 'organizational accidents.' Organizational accidents are potential 'sentinel events,' incidents that could signal more complex flaws that threaten the integrity of the system as a whole. These other complex systems have developed sentinel event reviews — nonblaming, all-stakeholder, forward-leaning mechanisms — to go beyond disciplining rule-breakers in an effort to minimize the risk of similar errors in the future and improve overall system reliability.

Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews explores the potential to learn from errors in the criminal justice system by applying a sentinel event review approach."

New Perspectives on Policing: Papers from the Harvard Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety Volume 1
"These papers presented in this Volume were published as a result of the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety.

Harvard’s Executive Sessions are a convening of individuals of independent standing who take joint responsibility for rethinking and improving society’s responses to an issue. Members are selected based on their experiences, their reputation for thoughtfulness and their potential for helping to disseminate the work of the Session."

Individual papers are also available in pdf at the NIJ website 
 
The Future of Getting Arrested
"Even the most straightforward arrest is built upon an incredibly complex foundation: the moment the handcuffs go on is the moment some of our society’s most hotly contested ideas about justice, security, and liberty are brought to bear on an individual. It’s also a moment that’s poised to change dramatically, as law-enforcement agencies around the country adopt new technology—from predictive-policing software to surveillance cameras programmed to detect criminal activity—and incorporate emerging research into the work of apprehending suspects."
The Prison State of America
"Prisons employ and exploit the ideal worker. Prisoners do not receive benefits or pensions. They are not paid overtime. They are forbidden to organize and strike. They must show up on time. They are not paid for sick days or granted vacations. They cannot formally complain about working conditions or safety hazards. If they are disobedient, or attempt to protest their pitiful wages, they lose their jobs and can be sent to isolation cells. The roughly 1 million prisoners who work for corporations and government industries in the American prison system are models for what the corporate state expects us all to become. And corporations have no intention of permitting prison reforms that would reduce the size of their bonded workforce. In fact, they are seeking to replicate these conditions throughout the society."
Do Violent Criminals Believe They are Doing the Right Thing?  Many Murderers are "Morally Motivated", Claims Study
"The reasons behind violence are varied, but a common belief is that criminals act from a breakdown of morals.  

But now, researchers in California claim most acts of violence come from a very different impulse - the desire to do the right thing.

Their study argues that many violent attacks are committed as a form of retribution, with the aggressor feeling as though they must commit the crime. 

'When someone does something to hurt themselves or other people, or to kill somebody, they usually do so because they think they have to,' Professor Alan Fiske of the University of California said.

'They think they should do it, that it's the right thing to do, that they ought to do it and that it's morally necessary.'

Co-author, professor Tage Rai, of Northwestern University, added: 'Killings and physical attacks are often committed in retribution for wrongs - real or perceived.

The researchers have written a book, Virtuous Violence, which outlines their controversial beliefs. 

They say they arrived at their conclusion after analysing a wide array of previous research on violence, including thousands of interviews with violent offenders."


Virtuous Violence is available online to the University of Toronto community