Thursday, March 24, 2016

Administrative Segregation in U.S. Prisons
"...Across the political spectrum, there is growing concern about the efficacy and utility of administrative segregation practices, particularly those that involve extended solitary confinement, and growing support for finding ways to safely reduce its use across correctional systems.  In 2006, the bipartisan Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, co-chaired by the Honorable John J. Gibbons and the former U.S. Attorney General, Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, noted that the rapid increase in the use of solitary confinement across the country had outpaced the remarkable growth in overall correctional populations....  The Commission deemed solitary confinement both expensive and counterproductive and recommended limiting its use...."

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Is Proposition 47 to Blame for California's 2015 Increase in Urban Crime?
"In November 2014, nearly 60 percent of California's electorate voted to pass Proposition 47.  This proposition made substantial sentencing reforms by reducing certain nonviolent, non-serious offenses, such as minor drug possession and shoplifting, from felonies to misdemeanors.  Because the changes made by the new law applied retroactively, incarcerated people serving felony sentences for offenses affected by Proposition 47 were eligible to apply for resentencing to shorten their sentences or to be released outright.  Those who already completed felony sentences for Proposition 47 offenses could also apply to change their criminal records to reflect the reforms.

Critics of Proposition 47 contended it would increase crime by releasing those convicted of dangerous or violent felonies early.  Opponents also suggested that reducing the severity of sentences for certain felonies would fail to deter people from committing crimes or completing court-ordered probation requirements....

Is Proposition 47 to blame for the increases in reported urban crimes?  This report tests this question by comparing changes in crime rates, from January-June 2014 and January-June 2015, in California's 68 largest cities to changes in (a) county jail populations and (b) Proposition 47-related discharges and releases from prison to resentencing counties."
 

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Legalize it all. How to Win the War on Drugs
"In 1994, John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results? Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first 'war on drugs' and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues.

...I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. 'You want to know what this was really all about?' he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. 'The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.'”

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Ferguson and the Feds have an Agreement on Policing Reform. Here's Why it Might not Work
"A year and a half after massive protests in Ferguson, Missouri, reacting to the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, Ferguson on Tuesday approved an agreement with the federal government to reform the city's police department and court system.

The agreement comes after Brown's death led to massive protests in Ferguson, helping give rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and its protests against racial disparities in the criminal justice system and police use of force. 

Justice Department and Ferguson negotiators tentatively agreed to policing reforms in January.  But the agreement stalled lathe Ferguson City Council raised concerns about costs.  But the Justice Department threatened a lawsuit, and told Ferguson officials that their cost concerns were inflated, pushing city officials to finally accept the agreement."

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Why the Tech Industry Shuns America's Gun Problem
'"If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?'

President Barack Obama’s question, in a January 5 address on gun violence, echoed the myriad 'if we can put a man on the moon'-style complaints we’re all familiar with — the ones that have bemoaned our failure to solve various stubborn social problems ever since Neil Armstrong’s foot touched the lunar dust.

In this case: If we can put a computer in everyone’s pocket, why can’t we do something about the 300,000 gun deaths in the U.S. over the last decade, or figure out how to make the 300 million guns at large in the country a little bit safer?

Obama’s query was also a nod to the tiny cadre of entrepreneurs and inventors who are developing 'smart guns' — guns engineered to be less likely to cause unintentional or undesirable harm. Smart gun proponents aim to call a technological truce in the United States’ perennially overheated gun debate and apply some good old basement-inventor know-how to the issue. Theirs is a determined effort, but to date an ill-starred one: For two decades, as the gun-violence toll climbed and the gun debate raged, the smart gun effort has only sparked and sputtered."

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How the "Digital Exhaust" of Social Media Data can Predict Gun Violence
"Unveiled at the SXSW technology festival, a group of data scientists and activists have demonstrated for the first time a new way to predict and study gun violence using social media. Scraping Tweets, Google searches, obituaries and local news, they’ve created a livesteam of gun-related discussion and a map of violence and geo-tagged posts. By reading this 'digital exhaust' of data they hope to create 'digital phenotypes' and understand how people are behaving around guns, when and why."

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The Police Chase of the Future is Virtual - and it could Save Thousands of Lives
"...Traffic-related incidents were the leading cop killer during 15 of the past 20 years. Every week, officers spend dozens of hours behind the wheel, often at high speeds. These police chases aren't just dangerous to officers and the people they're after, but to anyone along the roads, in their homes or on the street.

A pricey gadget called StarChase could put an end to police chases entirely. It's a launcher that fires a GPS-tracking device from the front of a police car and onto another vehicle. As long as an officer can get close enough to fire the launcher once, the tracker eliminates the need for a high-speed chase."

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A Shocking Glimpse Inside America's Privatized Detention Facilities for Immigrants
"The opening of Maribel Zelaya’s letter was bleak.

'I cannot bear this punishment any longer,' she began. 'I’m dying of desperation, of this injustice, of this cruelty. We are immigrants, not criminals. To treat us like this, it’s as if they must not have hearts, as if we weren’t human. They treat us like dogs.'

Zelaya was fed up. For more than six months, the 29-year-old asylum seeker had been locked inside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, an immigrant detention facility in rural Texas. The building, formerly a medium security prison, is a bleak concrete complex surrounded by a wall of chain link fence. Zelaya found the conditions inside the center disturbing; her health began to deteriorate and she fell into a deep depression. At the end of October, she released a searing letter in Spanish describing life inside Hutto, the nation’s only all-women’s detention center.

Like so many of the women at Hutto, Zelaya — whose attorney asked that her full name not be used to protect her safety — was fleeing abuse and a city held hostage by gang violence. But she soon became disillusioned with the grim reality of detention, and decided to stop eating in protest. 'I am glad to participate in this hunger strike,' she wrote. 'It’s an insult, I came here to find shelter but what I got instead is punishment.'”


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Friday, March 11, 2016

Young Adults in Court: Developing a Tailored Approach
"The Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance, a coalition of criminal justice, health and youth organisations, has helped to establish a growing consensus that criminal justice system responses to the behaviour of young adults should reflect their variable developmental maturity and make allowances for their specific age-related needs.  This consensus is underpinned by research on brain development in young adulthood suggesting that impulse control, reasoning, and decision-making capacities are in formation through the mid-20s.

Aspects of justice system practice in England and Wales have adjusted in recognition of this evidence.  Adult sentencing decisions have, since 2011, included maturity as a mitigating factor.  From 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service began taking maturity into account as part of its public interest test.  However, the allocation of people within the court system continues to be driven purely by the chronological age of the defendant.  The separation into youth and adult courts was established with the Children Act 1908, recognising that children and young people needed to be treated differently from adults.  We now know that young adults are a developmentally distinct population.  A chronological split between jurisdictions based on Edwardian evidence no longer reflects contemporary understanding of the evidence base."

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We now have Algorithms to Predict Police Misconduct
"...Many police departments have early warning systems — software that tracks each officer’s performance and aims to forecast potential problems. The systems identify officers with troubling patterns of behavior, allowing superiors to monitor these cops more closely or intervene and send them to counseling.

...a mixed group of graduate and undergraduate students working together at the University of Chicago with backgrounds in statistics, programming, economics and related disciplines, are trying to build a better kind of early warning system. They began their task last summer with a request from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department: Predict when police officers would participate in adverse interactions with civilians."

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Incorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer Turns Care into Confinement
"As criminal justice reform sweeps the nation, an alarming trend has emerged tat could mean private prison profiteers control a person's fate for life, not just the term of a prison sentence.  The same private prison profiteers who built billion dollar empires as partners in tough on crime policies are adapting to reforms by rebranding themselves as humane treatment providers.  The criminal justice system has created ample opportunities for their expansion, including mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers, correctional healthcare, and community corrections.  This report will look specifically at one segment of their expansion: mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers, facilities that represent the potential for lifetime confinement and long-term guaranteed profit."

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Recidivism among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview
"This report provides a broad overview of key findings from the United States Sentencing Commission’s study of recidivism of federal offenders. The Commission studied offenders who were either released from federal prison after serving a sentence of imprisonment or placed on a term of probation in 2005. Nearly half (49.3%) of such offenders were rearrested within eight years for either a new crime or for some other violation of the condition of their probation or release conditions. This report discusses the Commission’s recidivism research project and provides many additional findings from that project."

View the Report
 

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The Supreme Court and the Transformation of Juvenile Sentencing
"In the past decade, the Supreme Court has transformed the constitutional landscape of juvenile crime regulation. In three strongly worded opinions, the Court held that imposing harsh criminal sentences on juvenile offenders violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In combination, these cases create a special status for juveniles under Eighth Amendment doctrine as a category of offenders whose culpability is mitigated by their youth and immaturity, even for the most serious offenses. The Court also emphasized that juveniles are more likely to reform than adult offenders, and that most should be given a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that they have done so. In short, because of young offenders’ developmental immaturity, harsh sentences that may be suitable for adult criminals are seldom appropriate for juveniles.

These opinions announce a powerful constitutional principle—that 'children are different' for purposes of criminal punishment. In articulating this principle, the Supreme Court has also provided general guidance to courts sentencing juveniles and to lawmakers charged with implementing the rulings. At the same time, the Court did not directly address the specifics of implementation and it left many questions unanswered about the implications of the opinions for juvenile sentencing regulation. In the years since Roper, Graham, and Miller, courts and legislatures have struggled to interpret the opinions and to create procedures and policies that are compatible with constitutional principles and doctrine.

This report addresses the key issues facing courts and legislatures under this new constitutional regime, and provides guidance based on the Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment analysis and on the principles the Court has articulated."

View the Report

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Natasha Madon and Anthony Doob: The Retention of Women in the Private Practice of Criminal Law: Research Report
"Between 2005 and 2008, the Law Society of Upper Canada conducted an extensive study on the retention of women in private practice in Ontario.  That work culminated in a report, which was released on May 22, 2008.  The Law Society study found as follows:
  • Women have been entering the legal profession and private practice in record numbers for at least two decades.  However, they have been leaving private practice in droves largely because the legal profession has not effectively adapted to this reality.
  • The departure of women from private practice means that the legal profession is losing a large component of its best and brightest in core areas of practice
The Law Society also noted that, through their consultations, it became clear that women in criminal defence practice may face more and different obstacles to remaining in practice when compared to their colleagues in other areas of practice...

...In 2014, the Women's Committee commissioned a study to look at whether women are leaving defence practice in greater numbers than men and, if so, to identify why that was the case and what can be done to reverse the trend.  This report provides the first systemic look at the data on women in defence practice in Ontario.  It provides qualitative information about the experience of women in private practice and sets out a number of recommendations for systemic changes to ensure women remain in defence practice."

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"Ghettoside" Author Jill Leovy on what we have Learned since Rodney King
"...The safe take safety for granted. They assume that they are safe because safety is a state of nature, and that violence is an aberration. They fail to realize that, historically, it’s the safe people who are the strange ones.... They don’t have to negotiate with killers. Their neighbors don’t coerce them. Their living rooms are not firebombed if they break ranks with the community. They are the beneficiaries of institutional progress that has shifted the burden of conflict resolution from individuals, families, clans or sects to a highly developed criminal justice system, rooted in democratic processes, controlled by an independent judiciary, and governed by the rule of law. They don’t know how lucky they are....

...So before we talk of addressing legitimacy, we have to be clear about the problem we are trying to fix. The real problem is that formal justice is materially lacking among populations that suffer high rates of violence. It’s missing, and it must be supplied.

That means no amount of warm and fuzzy talk will fill the bill. More than half of killers of black men go free in cities all over the country. The unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County posted solve rates for homicide in the thirty-percent range through some of the most violent periods of the eighties and nineties. This translates to thousands of killers operating with impunity over decades in America’s poorest urban enclaves – dozens per square mile in South Los Angeles over just a few years. And that’s just a glimpse of the uncharted depths of the impunity problem, a statistical dark zone, where no good information exists on the frequency of non-lethal crimes, assaults and threats. The resulting lawlessness is a cruel form of deprivation afflicting tens of thousands of mostly poor, minority residents of America’s inner-cities, who get roughed up, robbed and raped with appalling frequency and live in daily fear that their sons might be killed. Its remedy must be to supply official justice, not just engage in “dialogue.” Violence is not a problem for coaches and pastors to solve; the state must do its job."

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Canada's Prisons are the new Residential Schools 
"Canada’s crime rate just hit a 45-year low. It’s been dropping for years—down by half since peaking in 1991. Bizarrely, the country recently cleared another benchmark, when the number of people incarcerated hit an all-time high. Dig a little further into the data, and an even more disquieting picture emerges.

While admissions of white adults to Canadian prisons declined through the last decade, Indigenous incarceration rates were surging: Up 112 per cent for women. Already, 36 per cent of the women and 25 per cent of men sentenced to provincial and territorial custody in Canada are Indigenous—a group that makes up just four per cent of the national population. Add in federal prisons, and Indigenous inmates account for 22.8 per cent of the total incarcerated population."

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