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."