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Showing posts from 2018
Long-Buried NJ Police Reports Reveal Racial Bias In Use of Force
"African Americans in New Jersey are more than three times as likely to face police force than white people, a news investigation has found.

The conclusions are based on data collected under official state mandate but left in 'filing cabinets and stashed away in cardboard boxes in every corner of the state,' according to a report released today by NJ Advance Media.

The long-buried files are 'a monument to two decades of failure to deliver on a system that promised to provide analysis, oversight and standard practices for using force,' the report said.

'Worse, the central (New Jersey) system that would flag potentially dangerous cops for review was never created.'

A team of reporters at NJ Advance Media spent 16 months examining the data and built  a  comprehensive database of  police use-of-force incidents reported by New Jersey’s 468 local police departments and the state police betw…
Police-Reported Sexual Assaults in Canada Before and After #MeToo, 2016 and 2017
"In 2017, sexual violence and sexual misconduct were the centre of significant public discussion. A number of high-profile cases involving prominent figures and celebrities accused of sexual assault or misconduct received widespread media attention, and many victims’ accounts of sexual abuse and harassment were shared. In response, several social media campaigns were launched, with #MeToo being one of the most prominent, going viral in October of 2017. While most of these social media campaigns and cases originated from the United States, they arguably had an impact on the discussion of sexual violence internationally and in Canada....

The present Juristat article expands on previous analytical reports and focuses on the shifts in police-reported sexual assaults before and after #MeToo, as well as changes in victim characteristics among those who reported to police. It is important to rec…
RAND Study Finds that Bronx Defenders' Holistic Defense Saved Clients 1.1 Million Days Behind Bars
"A new study released today by RAND and the University of Pennsylvania Law School finds that The Bronx Defenders’ unique model of holistic defense significantly reduces incarceration rates, sentence length, and pre-trial detention, saving taxpayer dollars, without harming public safety. In total, the study estimates that The Bronx Defenders has saved its clients 1.1 million days behind bars. 

The study, 'The Effects of Holistic Defense on Criminal Justice Outcomes,' to be published in the Harvard Law Review, examined over half a million cases in Bronx Criminal Court over a 10-year period.

The study found that the implementation of BxD’s holistic public defender model in the Bronx:
helped clients avoid 1.1 million days of incarceration,reduced incarceration rates by 16%, cut pre-trial detention by 9%shortened sentence length by 24%, andsaved New York taxpayers an estima…
Auditor-General of Canada Report: Community Supervision - Correctional Service of Canada
"Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, most offenders become eligible for release before their sentences end. As a result, nearly all serve a portion of their sentences under supervision in the community.

This audit focused on whether Correctional Service Canada adequately supervised offenders in the community, and accommodated them when required, to support their return to society as law-abiding citizens....

The number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing. However, Correctional Service Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community. As a result, offenders approved for release into the community had to wait twice as long for accommodation. Despite the growing backlog, and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful …
The Ungers, 5 Years and Counting: A Case Study in Safely Reducing Long Prison Terms and Saving Taxpayer Dollars
"A landmark court case, Unger v. Maryland, offers powerful lessons for policymakers and stakeholders interested in tackling mass incarceration. The 2012 case centered on remedying improper jury instructions and applied to a cohort of people who had been sentenced prior to 1981. The decision resulted in the potential release of 235 people from Maryland prisons who had served more than 30 years, and their release story created a natural experiment from which other states can learn. What makes the Unger decision particularly unique is that private philanthropy, through the Open Society Institute–Baltimore, provided specialized reentry programming to be made available to those individuals upon release."

Link to Report

A Gun Ban Won't Reduce Violent Crime
"Despite limited press coverage, Border Security Minister Bill Blair continues his countrywide consultations on a possible national firearms ban. While the federal government’s interest in a gun ban is dubious, the demand for such legislation is not.

For ban proponents, their credibility hinges on two case studies: the 1996 Australian gun buyback and the 1997 British gun ban. These events are touted as success stories — examples of how strict gun control can reduce crime.

But have these initiatives actually proven successful?

Following the murder of 35 people by a gunman in Port Arthur in 1996, the Australian government introduced sweeping gun laws under the National Firearms Agreement. In addition to banning all semi-automatic rifles and implementing a strict licensing system for handguns, the NFA introduced a mandatory buyback, requiring all Australians to trade in their firearms for fair compensation.

The claim made by gun-c…
Public Attitudes Toward Computer Algorithms
"...despite the growing presence of algorithms in many aspects of daily life, a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults finds that the public is frequently skeptical of these tools when used in various real-life situations.

This skepticism spans several dimensions. At a broad level, 58% of Americans feel that computer programs will always reflect some level of human bias – although 40% think these programs can be designed in a way that is bias-free. And in various contexts, the public worries that these tools might violate privacy, fail to capture the nuance of complex situations, or simply put the people they are evaluating in an unfair situation. Public perceptions of algorithmic decision-making are also often highly contextual. The survey shows that otherwise similar technologies can be viewed with support or suspicion depending on the circumstances or on the tasks they are assigned to do.

To gauge the opinions of every…
Most Female Murder Victims Worldwide Killed by Partners or Family: UN
"About 58 percent of women killed worldwide last year were the victims of intimate partners or family members, according to a new report by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The study examined available homicide data and analyzed the gender-related killing of women and girls, with a specific focus on intimate partner and family-related homicide.

About 50,000 women were killed by intimate partners and family members, the study said.

Women in Africa are most at risk of being killed by intimate partners or family members. On the continent, the rate was around 3.1 victims per 100,00 female population, according to the report.

Women in the Americas were the second most at risk, with the rate being 1.6 victims per 100 female population."

Link to the Full Report
Can Drug Regulation Help Tackle Organized Crime?
"A recent report argues that regulating illegal drugs can help governments tackle organized crime, adding to a growing number of voices calling for the decriminalization of personal drug use. But can this momentum turn into real change?

The report, by the Global Commission on Drugs, advances the idea that the illegal drug trade only benefits transnational criminal groups while the countries in which they operate suffer the consequences.

The report’s authors argue that criminal organizations take advantage of drug prohibition as they control, and profit from, every aspect of the production and distribution chain.

Link to the Full Report

How "Dark Commerce" Is Making Us Poorer - Sicker
Illicit trade has existed since the earliest establishment of global trade routes, but in the last few years, the sophisticated connections enabled by cyber technology have emboldened criminals from all corners of world and, in the process, are deeply threatening the stability of our planet.
That’s the central argument of a new book by transnational crime expert Louise Shelley, PhD. In her book, “Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy is Threatening Our Future,” Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University, connects the dots between the largely unmonitored cyber marketplaces for drugs, human and sex trafficking, and illicit trade in timber, wildlife and fish, and high-level political and financial corruption.

Asian Nations Among States Moving Toward China Model of Digital Censorship: Watchdog
"Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines were among dozens of countries that moved toward digital authoritarianism this year by embracing a Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance, an independent watchdog group said in its annual report.

The Asian nations were among 36 worldwide that exhibited dwindling freedom online, Washington-based democracy monitor Freedom House reported.

'Democracies are struggling in the digital age, while China is exporting its model of censorship and surveillance to control information both inside and outside its borders,' Freedom House President Michael J. Abramowitz said in a statement, which accompanied the online release this week of the group’s '2018 Freedom on the Net' report.

The group monitored 65 countries to produce the study, which encompassed 12 months up to May this year."

Link to Full Report
With No Laws To Guide It, Here's How Orlando Is Using Amazon's Facial Recognition Technology
"New documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveal the most detailed picture yet of how the Orlando Police Department is using Amazon Rekognition, the tech giant’s facial recognition technology....

In the US, there are no laws governing the use of facial recognition, and there is no regulatory framework limiting its law enforcement applications. There is no case law or constitutional precedent upholding police use of the tech without a warrant; courts haven’t even decided whether facial recognition constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. The technology is still plagued by inaccuracies.

But that hasn't stopped law enforcement from piloting these systems. According to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, the city of Orlando — which initially allowed its original Rekognition pilot to expire amid growing public outcry — just embarked on a second pilot that allows for …
Solitary Use Declines in Some States, but for Some Inmates, It Lasts Three Years: Study
"The number of people in solitary confinement has decreased in more than two dozen states since 2013, but increased in 11 states, according to a new nationwide survey.

In the fourth of a series of research projects co-authored by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) and the Arthur Liman Center at Yale Law School, researchers found that the criteria for placing people in solitary—also called 'restrictive housing'—had narrowed since the previous study published in 2013.

About a quarter of the jurisdictions responding to survey questions, found that nearly 27 per cent of inmates were placed in in restrictive housing for three months to a year. Some 3,721 people (9.1 percent of 41,061 people) were held for more than three years, and of that number, 1,950 were reported to have been in restrictive housing for more than six years.

Among the 33 jurisdictions r…
Jail as Injunction
"Half a million people sit in jail every day in America who have not been convicted of a crime but stand merely accused. Detention can cost defendants their jobs, housing, or even custody of their children; detention makes defendants more likely to commit a crime and can harm them mentally and physically; it takes a toll on their families and communities too. Courts simply ignore these serious harms when deciding whether a defendant should lose her liberty because of a mere accusation of wrongdoing. In striking contrast to criminal cases where the government so often succeeds in obtaining before trial the relief that it ultimately seeks—incarceration of the defendant—civil plaintiffs attempting to obtain before judgment the relief that they ultimately seek—by way of a preliminary injunction—face quite a challenge. Civil plaintiffs cannot obtain such pre-judgment relief unless they demonstrate irreparable injury and that denying interim relief would …
New Research Connects Heat, Weekends with Aggressive Crimes and Shootings in Chicago
"...A new Arizona State University and Purdue University research study examines this phenomenon.  In it, the authors sifted through data on almost 6 million reported crimes in Chicago between 2001 and 2014 to try to tease out factors that might promote or suppress various types of crime....

The authors found a strong dependence of aggressive crimes on temperature, where higher temperatures than usual - especially in June and July - were associated with a sharp uptick in those crimes....

'The confluence of hot summer days and weekends is thus a perfect storm that results in spates of shootings,"  ...Conversely, the authors found rainy and windy days tended to suppress crime...

The authors also found that holiday effects are important to many types of crime.  Aggressive crime goes down significantly on Christmas and Thanksgiving."

Link to Complete Study

The Wildly Unregulated Practice of Undercover Cops Friending People on Facebook
"Police have come to recognize the fertilehuntingground of social media and are covertly surveilling people and groups there with little oversight. We don’t know how many people have been targeted for undercover surveillance on social media because police departments don’t keep track in a public manner and prefer, in general, not to discuss it. They’re willing to talk about posing as kids online to snare sexual predators—a relatively uncontroversial undercover practice—but they’re far more secretive about targeting suspected gang members, protestors and other 'people of interest.' We reached out to dozens of police departments around the country to ask what their policies are when it comes to undercover Facebook police work and discovered that very few have any kind of formal rules governing it."

Rethinking Criminal Justice in Canada: Round Table Report
Reforming the criminal justice system has been the subject of intense political debate in Canada in the past decade. Competing ideals related to rehabilitation, punishment and fairness have led to markedly different policy approaches and sharp disagree­ments among political parties on the best way forward.

The Government of Canada has made reviewing the criminal justice system and sen­tencing reform a top priority in justice policy. The mandate letter presented to the Minister of Justice clearly states that a review should be conducted to 'ensure that we are increasing the safety of our communities, getting value for money, addressing gaps and ensuring that current provisions are aligned with the objectives of the crim­inal justice system....'

As part of the review of the criminal justice system, four round table discussions were held — in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton. They brought together academ…
Children and Adolescents in the United States' Adult Criminal Justice System
"The United States has played an important role in promoting and establishing a specialized approach to youth within the criminal justice system, with the aim of rehabilitating, rather than simply punishing, youth who are convicted of a crime. The world’s first juvenile court division was
created in the U.S. state of Illinois in 1899, and within 25 years all but two of the states had followed suit and established similar juvenile court systems....By the year 1990, many states across the U.S. had passed highly regressive changes to their legislation and policy with regard to youth involved in the justice system. The changes varied in the details of their implementation, but the broad theme was the denial of access to rehabilitative juvenile justice systems, and consequent mandatory processing of juveniles in the more punitive adult systems....

Multiple studies in the United States have shown that adul…
Judged for More Than Her Crime: A Global Overview of Women Facing the Death Penalty
"We estimate that at least 500 women are currently on death rows around the world. While exact figures are impossible to obtain, we further estimate that over 100 women have been executed in the last ten years—and potentially hundreds more. The number of women facing execution is not dramatically different from the number of juveniles currently on death row, but the latter have received a great deal more attention from international human rights bodies, national courts, scholars, and advocates.

This report aims to shed light on this much-neglected population. Few researchers have sought to obtain information about the crimes for which women have been sentenced to death, the circumstances of their lives before their convictions, and the conditions under which they are detained on death row. As a result, there is little empirical data about women on death row, which impedes advocates from understand…
The Color of Youth Transferred to the Adult Criminal Justice System: Policy and Practice Recommendations
"Juvenile arrest rates have fallen sharply in recent years, but black youth are disproportionately sent to adult court by judges at some of the highest percentages seen in 30 years, according to a joint report from the Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

The new report, The Color of Youth Transferred to the Adult Criminal Justice System: Policy and Practice Recommendations, discusses how the egregious practice of prosecuting and incarcerating black youth as adults, which is rooted in our nation’s past and ongoing racism, has had a devastating impact on black youth and the black community. Black children sent to adult jails and prisons are more likely to die by suicide, suffer from mental illness, and recidivate once they return to their communities than their peers in the juvenile justice system."

Safety in America: New FBI Data Show Crime Declines in 2017
"The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), as it is officially known, is an important bellwether for crime and safety in the United States. In recent years, the release of the FBI data has been accompanied by warnings that violent crime is increasing and has been used to call for hard-line policies to combat spikes in offending. However, as Vera has reported in previous years, the overall trend has been (and continues to be) one of a steady decline in crime rates. If we take the long-view, the major crime categories tracked by the UCR that receive the most attention (property crime, violent crime, and homicide) are at much lower rates than their peak in the early 1990s."

Link to: FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Crime in the U.S., 2017

See also:  Brennan Center for Justice: Crime and Murder in 2018: A Preliminary Analysis
Too Big to Jail: Letting White Collar Criminals Off the Hook
"Allowing major corporate wrongdoers to escape criminal penalties by using heavy fines or deferred prosecution agreements makes it harder to deter financial crime and creates 'disturbingly high' rates of repeated white-collar fraud, according to a forthcoming paper in the Yale Law Review.

It also reduces public confidence by creating 'a popular narrative that prosecutors permit (financial) managers to buy their way out of trouble.' wrote Nick Werle of Yale Law School.

The paper, entitle 'Prosecuting Corporate Crime When Firms Are Too Big to Jail,' suggests that the belief that some firms are so critical to the economic system that 'the government cannot credibly threaten them' with criminal sanctions has given those large corporations in turn little incentive to curtail crimes such as fraud, bribery, environmental safety offenses, antitrust violations, and money laundering....

the paper c…
The Incalculable Costs of Mass Incarceration
"Every year states spend about $50 billion to lock up over 1.3 million people, or about $35,000 per prisoner per year. Although individual state averages obviously vary, statistics like these suggest that even small cuts in prison populations could yield significant fiscal returns, and big cuts something massive. The Brennan Center, for example, recently argued that releasing 576,000 low-risk inmates could save $20 billion per year (which is just $35,000 times 576,000—a calculation others make as well).
But this is the wrong way to think about prisoners and costs. Measuring costs this way both significantly overstates what we fiscally save with each person we divert from prison while simultaneously understating the social costs that such a diversion avoids. Fiscal savings don’t come from reducing inmate populations—they come from reducing staffing. And the social costs of prisons and jails have little to do with budgets and fa…
Could Yoga Save Prisoners from a Life of Crime?
"Locked up in a tiny cell in Wayland prison, in Norfolk, detoxing from heroin and methadone, Mike Smith found that bending and breathing his way through a yoga meditation could give him up to three hours without any withdrawal symptoms – even with other inmates hammering on the door yelling 'You’re mental' at him....

Smith’s certainty about the power of yoga to change his own life is backed by two Swedish studies that found it may reduce reoffending. The new study, led by Professor Nóra Kerekes at University West, Trollhätten, in Sweden, and published last week in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that 10 weeks of regular yoga can lead to a significant reduction in obsessive-compulsive and paranoid thinking, which in turn, say researchers, can make reoffending less likely. This effect is specific to yoga, and not to exercise in general, they found. It can also lead to a decrease in 'somaticisation' (mental d…
This Tool Shows Exactly how to Reduce a State's Prison Population
"In the conversation around lowering the prison population in the United States–which incarcerates people at the highest rate in the world–one solution always floats to the top: decriminalizing drugs. In the U.S., police arrest around 1.5 million people per year on drug offenses, 80% of whom are detained for possession alone. Rolling back penalties for drug-related activities would allow the money saved on incarcerating people to instead go toward rehabilitation programs and mental health assistance, which have shown to be drastically more effective at addressing root causes of drug use than putting someone in a cage. But would drug decriminalization substantially reduce the overall prison population? The question is more complicated than it seems when accounting for the radically different ways individual states incarcerate people....

To help policymakers at the state level understand the various le…
Data on Inmates in Ontario Being Made Available to the Public
"The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has conducted a series of point-in-time reviews which includes inmates in segregation who have possible mental health conditions. The first two reviews examined whether and when various standard procedures such as mental health screening, physician referrals, and mental health reassessments, occurred for the identified inmates. The ministry also committed to doing a further review of screening for mental health with inmates who were segregated, at six facilities chosen by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC)."

Smart, Safe, and Fair: Strategies to Prevent Youth Violence, Heal Victims of Crime, and Reduce Racial Inequality
"The justice system treats youth charged with violent offenses in ways that are unnecessarily expensive, ineffective and unjust.  Although the research is clear that many youth convicted of a violent crime are best treated in a community-based setting, our default response to youth violence is still confinement. In Smart, Safe, and Fair, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) and the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) spoke with members of the victims’ community to further examine the barriers to treating youth involved in violent crime in the community, and to gauge their support for these proposed reforms.

The crime victims we spoke with were consistent in their support for a change from a status quo they see as costly, ineffective, and damaging to youth and their families—all while failing to meet the needs of crime victims themselves. Instead, they …
Getting to Zero Juveniles in Adult Jail is Halfway Home with a Long Way to Go
"A new report finds that while juveniles housed in adult jails have dropped more than 50 percent from a recent peak of 7,600 on a single day in 2010, there are still at least 32,000 — and as many as 60,000 by some measures — youths entering adult jails each year. 

The report from UCLA Law School, 'Getting to Zero,' offers a mix of optimism and alarm: Several states have moved in the last few years to limit sharply the number of youth in adult jails, among them New York, California and North Carolina, but the risks to those who are in adult jails remain shockingly high. Youth under 18 in adult jails are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than youth in juvenile detention — and more than 400 percent more likely to be sexually abused than those in juvenile facilities"

Sharing the Costs of Cannabis in Canada
Cannabis use creates direct costs for governments, especially in the areas of health care and criminal justice. New analysis from the Mowat Centre shows that following legalization, there is a real risk that overall costs could increase. That risk will be borne disproportionately by provincial, territorial and municipal governments. The way cannabis-related tax revenues are shared between governments should reflect this reality.

Prior to legalization, provincial, territorial and municipal governments are estimated to have shouldered just over 70 per cent of the over $800 million in annual costs related to cannabis. Legalization will doubtless lead to lower costs in certain areas. Changes to possession laws alone should lead to a considerably reduced burden on the justice sector. 

At the same time, there is a real risk that overall costs to government will increase post-legalization, primarily due to the impact of cannabis-impaired driv…
It Can be Stopped: A Proven Blueprint to Stop Gang Violence in London and Beyond
"In the near-decade since Dying to Belong was published in 2009, gangs have remained a part of life in Britain. At the time, we estimated there were 50,000 gang members across Britain, today that number is estimated to be closer to 70,000.
In London, the focus of this report, the police estimate that there are up to 250 gangs and 4,500 members. While gangs are not responsible for all serious violence, they commit far more than their fair share. It is estimated that gangs are responsible for as much as half of all knife crime with injury, 60 per cent of shootings, and 29 per cent of reported child sexual exploitation....
Based on extensive polling, statistical evidence, and case studies of outstanding practice, this paper proposes a new system that would focus on both law enforcement and community support."
Link to Full Report
Here's Who Stands to Gain from a Radical Policing Approach in Canada
"A Canadian alliance of police, academics, corporations and entrepreneurs is promoting a controversial pre-crime policing model, with key players in the movement poised to gain financially from the policies they’re advocating for.

The first concerns about conflicts of interest related to the so-called "Hub model" were raised in 2016 by an RCMP commander who resigned from an organization that was established to promote it.

Now a VICE News investigation has outlined potential conflicts surrounding the people and organizations encouraging communities to adopt the Hub model — conflicts that experts in ethics and public policy say suggest a lack of accountability in the burgeoning field."

Police Militarization Fails to Protect Officers and Targets Black Communities, Study Finds
"Police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed, according to a study of 9,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. The study is arguably the nation’s first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force.

In at least one state — Maryland — police are more likely to deploy militarized units in black neighborhoods, confirming a suspicion long held by critics, the study found.

The study found that merely seeing militarized units can erode public confidence in law enforcement and give off the impression that a police department is overfunded.  Many police leaders view their SWAT teams and other militarized units as a necessity for police and public safety, especially for 'high-risk' hostage situations or active shooters. Between 1997 to 2014, the Department of Defense transferred $4.3 bil…
A Dangerous Brain: Can Neuroscience Predict how Likely Someone is to Commit Another Crime?
"...a group of neuroscientists at the University of New Mexico propose to use brain imaging technology to improve risk assessments. Kent Kiehl, a professor of psychology, neuroscience and the law at the University of New Mexico, said that by measuring brain structure and activity they might better predict the probability an individual will offend again.

Neuroprediction, as it has been dubbed, evokes uneasy memories of a time when phrenologists used body proportions to make pronouncements about a person’s intelligence, virtue, and — in its most extreme iteration — racial inferiority.

Yet predicting likely human behavior based on algorithms is a fact of modern life, and not just in the criminal justice system. After all, what is Facebook if not an algorithm for calculating what we will like, what we will do, and who we are?

In a recent study, Kiehl and his team set out to discover …
A "Holistic" Approach to Wrongful Convictions
"To set wrongful convictions right, appeals courts need to change the way they review evidence, according to Stephanie Roberts Hartung, a professor at the Northeastern University School of Law.

In 'The Confluence of Factors Doctrine: A Holistic Approach to Wrongful Conviction,' Hartung argues that courts must adopt a holistic approach that accounts for the ways that errors in evidence-gathering often work in concert to obscure innocence.

"'Frequently, it is not a single misstep that causes a wrongful conviction, but rather a ‘confluence of factors,'” she wrote.

But historically, state and federal court’s piecemeal approach to addressing trial-level errors fails to account for the complex ways that seemingly independent errors interact with one another."

How Slow Motion Footage of Crimes Encourages Juries to Convict
"Research from the University of Chicago has revealed that when juries are shown CCTV footage of a crime taking place in slow motion, they are three times more likely to convict of murder than if the footage was shown at real-time speed. The reason it seems is all to do with the perceived intent of the offender.

Intent is a very important part of understanding the level of aggression behind an act, especially when it involves an act of violence. Whether a person intended to harm another can mean the difference between time behind bars and a death row sentence and it is a question juries often have to consider when weighing up the evidence in a court case."

What We Heard - Transforming Canada's Criminal Justice System
"In November 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined each cabinet member’s mandate in writing. The mandate letter to the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, outlined several tasks. One important task was to review and assess changes in the criminal justice system over the past decade, including sentencing reforms....

The review was also to ensure 'that we are increasing the safety of our communities, getting value for money, addressing gaps and ensuring that current provisions are aligned with the objectives of the criminal justice system.' The mandate letter also directed her to increase the use of restorative justice processes in Canada....

To that end, the Minister of Justice or her Parliamentary Secretary have held roundtable discussions with people who work in the criminal justice system and interested parties across Canada si…
The New Dynamics of Mass Incarceration
"The rise of mass incarceration, spanning the 1970s to the early 2000s, was characterized by continuous, unified growth in both prison and jail populations across states and counties. In contrast, the past decade has given rise to what is widely recognized as an era of reform, with prison admission rates declining by 24 percent since 2006 and jail admissions rates down 25 percent since 2008. The national declines, however, mask the new dynamics of mass incarceration.

The growth that characterized mass incarceration’s rise has fractured into four dynamics that vary from state to state and county to county. Contemporary decarceration exists alongside continuous growth, stagnation, and jurisdictional shifts between prisons and jails, akin to a shell game. This report provides a first-in-kind look at the state of incarceration by moving beyond the convention of using state prison populations, illuminating both where meaningful change…
Prison Nurseries Give Mothers a Chance to Raise Their Babies - Behind Bars
"Bedford Hills has the nation’s longest-running prison nursery. Opened in 1901, it has allowed hundreds of women who have started their sentences pregnant to bond with their babies while behind bars — something advocates say is best for babies and lowers the mothers’ recidivism rate, but some critics argue violates the children’s constitutional rights using taxpayer money, while placing a burden on prison staff by requiring them to double as day care workers.

Bedford Hills is one of eight prison nurseries in the United States. The number of such programs has fluctuated as funding and sentiment toward them has risen and fallen, but now, more than ever, their effectiveness is under scrutiny as the number of women behind bars has skyrocketed."

The Changing State of Recidivism: Fewer People Going Back to Prison
"The share of people who return to state prison three years after being released—the most common measure of recidivism—dropped by nearly a quarter over a recent seven-year period, according to an analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts of federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data on prisoners released in 2005 and 2012.

Pew analyzed publicly accessible data from the 23 states that reported reliable prison admissions and release data to BJS from 2005 through 2015. Among prisoners released in 2005, 48 percent returned to prison by the end of 2008. By comparison, among those released in those states in 2012, 37 percent had at least one new prison admission by the end of 2015. That translates into a drop of 23 percent. The states included in the analysis accounted for about two-thirds of those released from state prisons nationwide each year."

Capitalizing on Mass Incarceration: U.S. Growth in Private Prisons
"The War on Drugs and harsher sentencing policies, including mandatory minimum sentences, fueled a rapid expansion in the nation’s prison population beginning in the 1980s. The resulting burden on the public sector led to the modern emergence of for-profit private prisons in many states and at the federal level....

This report provides a portrait of private prisons as a component of the American corrections landscape and assesses its impact on mass incarceration....

Political influence has been instrumental in determining the growth of for-profit private prisons and continues today in various ways. If overall prison populations continue the current trend of modest decline, the privatization debate will likely intensify as opportunities for the prison industry dry up and corrections companies seek profit in other areas of criminal justice services and immigration detention."

The Curfew Myth: How a 90s Panic Spawned an Anti-Crime Measure that Doesn't Make You Safer
"It’s a summer ritual in many American cities — declaring a juvenile curfew to keep troublemaking teenagers off the streets. This summer at least one city—Austin—has decided not to sound the alarm....

A voluminous body of research has cast strong doubts on the claims that juvenile curfew laws prevent victimization or reduce juvenile crime, but these findings have received scant attention from policy makers or police.

Why are juvenile curfew laws ineffective? For one thing, the studies found that they damage already-strained relationships between police and youth of color and in some instances have 'blowback' effects, increasing juvenile victimization or overall crime.

Another factor is that on empty streets there are no witnesses. Urban activist Jane Jacobs theorized that well-populated streets are safe streets; deserted streets invite crime."

Why Do We Keep Our Aging Prisoners Behind Bars?
The evolving figures on US prison populations represents both good news and bad news. The good news is that US incarceration rates are no longer increasing, and have even declined slightly.

The bad news is that we still far outpace the rest of the world in unnecessarily locking people up.

We don’t lock up more people because the US is a more dangerous place, we lock up more people primarily because we’ve made policy decisions over the last 30 years that give prosecutors enormous discretion and we have succumbed to cultural and political will for punishment that is closely linked to our continuing struggles with institutional racism and implicit bias.

Our incarceration rates also demonstrate an unwillingness to meaningfully discuss and change our approach to people charged with violent crimes.

But a new report on recidivism data recently released by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) suggests that there…
Black Canadians and the Justice System
"Black people are dramatically over-represented in Canada’s prison system, making up 8.6 of the federal prison population, despite the fact they make up only 3 percent of the population. What is more, between 2003 and 2013, the incarceration rate among Black people increased by nearly 90 percent.

Anthony Morgan says the targeted policing of Black people in Canada isn’t only happening through the justice system. It’s also taking place in our education, child welfare and health care systems."

Part of an ongoing feature series Widening the Lens on Criminal Justice Reform

One in Five Young American Adults Felled by Opioids: Study
"One in five deaths among adults aged 25-34 is due to opioid-related causes, according to a study published this month in JAMA Network Open, an online journal published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Currently, the chance of dying in the US due to an opioid overdose is higher than that of dying in an accident, but the burden falls heaviest on young adults, the study found in a 15-year analysis of US mortality numbers through 2016."

Link to Study
Statistics Canada: Violent Victimization of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals in Canada 2014
Canadians who self-identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) were more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to experience violent victimization in the previous 12 months.

Today, a Juristat article focusing on the self-reported experiences of "Violent victimization of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in Canada, 2014," is available. The article uses data from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians' Safety (Victimization).

Among Canadians aged 18 and older, there were more than 100,000 self-reported incidents of violent victimization—that is, physical assault, sexual assault or robbery—involving a bisexual victim. In addition, there were more than 49,000 violent incidents involving a lesbian or gay victim. That corresponds to rates of 267 violent incidents per 1,000 population for bisexual victims, and 142 per 1,000 population for lesbian or gay victims.

By comparis…
Smart Guns Exist. Why Aren't They On The Market?
"As a high school science fair project, Kai Kloepfer developed a handgun that can only be activated by its owner’s fingerprints. He was 15 at the time. His goal was to reduce deaths by creating a gun that won’t function in the hands of toddlers, suicidal teens, or anyone without permission to use it.

Now, six years later, that project has evolved into the startup Biofire Technologies, which is poised to put its first smart gun on the market. The startup is part of a small but motivated group of companies that are racing to launch the country’s first smart gun.

There’s a problem though: even if the gun is developed, gun shops aren’t likely to sell it. There’s a problem though: even if the gun is developed, gun shops aren’t likely to sell it. This is due to a combination of factors, namely a New Jersey law requiring that any handgun sold in the state must be a smart gun, as soon as smart guns are commercially available…
Spending on Inmate Mental Health Cuts the Cost of Crime: White House Study
"Programs that focus on addressing mental health and substance abuse issues of inmates can reduce the burden of crime on American taxpayers, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

In a policy brief issued this month, the CEA suggested that every dollar spent on prison reform in these programs could save between $0.92 and $3.31, and up to $1.96 on long-term incarceration costs alone.

The study was undertaken as part of the Trump administrations efforts to improve prison reform and re-entry programs that would result in lower recidivism."

View the Policy Brief
What Impact do Public Sex Offender Registries Have On Community Safety?
"Sexual offending has a significant impact on victims and can cause considerable angst within the community. The effective management of sex offenders in the community is of paramount importance. 
This paper reviews the latest empirical evidence from Australia and overseas regarding the effectiveness of public and non-public sex offender registries. Results show that while public sex offender registries may have a small general deterrent effect on first time offenders, they do not reduce recidivism. Further, despite having strong public support, they appear to have little effect on levels of fear in the community. 
While the evidence is limited to a small number of US studies, non-public sex offender registries do appear to reduce reoffending by assisting law enforcement."
Link to Full-Text Article
The Milwaukee Police Department's Body-Worn Camera Program

"This brief describes the results of the Urban Institute’s evaluation of the Milwaukee Police Department’s body-worn camera program. From October 2015 to December 2016, the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) deployed body-worn cameras (BWCs) in a phased rollout to all of its roughly 1,100 patrol officers. Through a randomized controlled trial of 504 officers, the Urban Institute found that those who wore BWCs conducted fewer subject stops and were less likely to receive a complaint than officers who were not equipped with cameras. However, BWCs had no effect on whether officers engaged in use of force during the study period."
Criminal Restitution: Tens of Billions in Debt Remain Unpaid
"Offenders owe $110 billion in criminal restitution to their victims, but the vast majority is 'uncollectible,' according to a new federal government report....

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) analyzed sentencing data for offenders sentenced between fiscal years 2014 and 2016. They also looked at the amount of restitution debt collected nationwide over that period.

Key takeaways:
Judges ordered 15 percent of federal offenders to pay restitution. Offenses for which courts ordered restitution most often were fraud, embezzlement, arson, auto theft, tax-related crimes, robbery, burglary and larceny. Thirty percent of offenders convicted of murder were ordered to compensate victims.The amount of restitution ordered between 2014 and 2016 totaled $33.9 billion.Between 2014 and 2016, U.S. Attorney’s Offices collected a total of $2.95 billion. Half of that came from debts imposed between fiscal y…
Four Ways 3D Printing May Threaten Security
"3D printers already produce everything from prosthetic hands and engine parts to basketball shoes and fancy chocolates. But as with any technological advance, new possibilities come with new perils.​​​​​​​
A new RAND paper, Additive Manufacturing in 2040: Powerful Enabler, Disruptive Threat, explores how 3D printers will affect personal, national, and international security. The paper is part of RAND's Security 2040 initiative, which looks over the horizon to anticipate future threats.
The same technology that might one day custom-print heart valves can just as easily produce gun parts. The same machines that allow astronauts on the international space station to print their own tools might also help a state like North Korea print military or industrial equipment to get around international sanctions...."

Global Prison Trends 2018
"Global Prison Trends 2018 is the fourth edition in PRI’s annual flagship Global Prison Trendsseries, which identifies topical developments and challenges in criminal justice and prison policy and practice.

Global Prison Trends 2018 explores:
Trends in theuse of imprisonment, including the use of pre-trial detention as an automatic response to suspects; the ongoing challenge of prison overcrowding; and the steady growth in the number of life-sentenced prisoners around the world.Prison populations, such as the specific needs of women, children and LGBTI prisoners.Developments and challenges in prison management, including record levels of prisoner violence in a number of prison systems; healthcare challenges and shortages of qualified healthcare staff; and the need to address violent extremism and prevent radicalisation in the prison system.The role of technology in criminal justice and prison systems, such as the use of ‘telemedicine’ to provide men…
Shining a Light on the Encryption Debate: A Canadian Field Guide
"Access to strong encryption technology is integral to the defense of human rights in the twenty-first century. This technology is also essential for securing digital transactions, ensuring public safety, and protecting national security interests. Yet many state agencies have continued to argue that encryption poses an unacceptable barrier to their investigative and intelligence-gathering activities. In response, some governments have called for limits on the public availability and use of secure, uncompromised encryption technology.

Shining a Light on the Encryption Debate: A Canadian Field Guide — co-authored by the Citizen Lab and the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) — examines the parameters of this debate, paying particular attention to the Canadian context. It provides critical insight and analysis for policymakers, legal professionals, academics, journalists, and advoca…
What's So Special About Canada?
Presentation by Director Audrey Macklin for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on the private sponsorship of refuges.

Canada's Success in Reducing Youth Imprisonment in the Last Two Decades is Evidence that Reform of the Justice System is Possible, with the Political Will
"On an average day in 1997, 3,825 young people (ages 12 to 17) were serving sentences in Canadian youth prisons. By 2015, that number had decreased to 527, an 86 percent reduction. This is a drop from 157 per 100,000 12- to 17-year-olds to 23. Canada’s successful decrease in the number of youths serving sentences in prison may provide lessons that can be applied to other areas of public policy. Specifically, it may help us understand Canada’s failure to reduce substantially its rate of adult imprisonment and also that of youth pretrial detention."

Modern Policing in Ontario
"Ontario has officially passed the Safer Ontario Act, updating the Police Services Act for the first time in 25 years. The Agenda speaks to Peter Sloly, former Toronto Police Service deputy chief, Ian Scott, former head of the Special investigations Unit, and sociology professor Awkwasi Owusu-Bempah to discuss modernized policing in the province and the role police should have in Ontario."
When Mayhem Comes to Town
"Following Monday's deadly van attack in Toronto, Alek Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. The incident has raised difficult questions about ,toxic masculinity,, online communities that attract disenfranchised people, and gaps in mental health support systems. The Agenda welcomes sociologists Judith Taylor and Jooyoung Lee, and author Jamil Jivani to discuss the rise of vehicular homicide, self-described incels, and the search for answers when mayhem comes to town."
Busted by Big Data: Algorithms Could Make Cities Safer - But They Can't Protect Us From Policing's Worst Instincts
"By combining huge tranches of data and highly sophisticated algorithms, predictive policing appears to hold out the science-fiction promise that technology could, one day, spit out 100 percent accurate prophecies concerning the location of future crimes. The latest iteration of these analytics can’t ID a killer-to-be, but it can offer insight into what areas are potential sites for crime by drawing on information in everything from historical records to live social-media posts.

The technology, however, has raised tough questions about whether hidden biases in these systems will lead to even more over-policing of racialized and lower-income communities. In such cases, the result can turn into a feedback loop: the algorithms recommend a heightened police presence in response to elevated arrest rates that can be attributed to a heightened police prese…
Childhood Crimes From Over 30 Years Ago Show in DBS Checks - Study
"Nearly half a million childhood convictions from more than 30 years ago have been disclosed on criminal record checks in the past five years, research has found.

A further half a million criminal records relating to convictions more than 30 years ago when the person was a young adult aged 18 to 25 were disclosed in the period, according to data uncovered by the charity Unlock.

Its report, A Life Sentence for Young People, also reveals the findings of a survey of people with convictions and cautions, which shows 86% of respondents had a problem with employment later in life. About two-thirds also reported problems with stigma and discrimination."

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The Labor Force and Output Consequences of the Opioid Crisis
"This study examines the labor market and economic consequences of the opioid crisis. While previous studies have estimated economic costs of the opioid epidemic, none has taken into account the most significant way opioid dependency is likely impacting the U.S. economy: its impact on labor force participation. This study measures the direct cost on the economy of opioids leading workers out of the labor force. Specifically, it estimates the number of workers who are absent from the labor force due to opioids, the loss of hours at work, and the resulting decline in real output."

How "Buy American" Mood Boosts Private Sector Use of Prison Labor
"The populist slogan 'Buy American' increasingly means buying goods produced by America’s thriving prison-based industries, says a new paper.

'The public sentiment against outsourcing has…offered prison labor programs unique opportunities for expansion under the rubric of providing a competitive alternative to low-cost foreign workers,' writes Lan Cao, a professor of international economic law at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University.

Cao argues that the increasing use of low-wage or free prison labor by companies seeking to manufacture in the US also calls for a re-examination of claims that such labor is rehabilitative for inmates on the grounds that it provides 'moral, psychological, and economic benefits to prisoners and communities.'

Instead, Cao maintains, the economics of prison labor programs, which are strongly focused on productivity and cost r…
The Relationship between Firearm Prevalence and Violent Crime
"In the past 12 years, several new studies found that increases in the prevalence of gun ownership are associated with increases in violent crime. Whether this association is attributable to gun prevalence causing more violent crime is unclear. If people are more likely to acquire guns when crime rates are rising or high, then the same pattern of evidence would be expected. An important limitation of all studies in this area is the lack of direct measures of the prevalence of gun ownership.

...In this essay, we examine the empirical evidence on the relationship between firearm prevalence and violent crime, including homicide, domestic violence, aggravated assault, rape, and robbery. Most of the studies we examined used the proportion of suicides that were firearm suicides (FS/S) as a proxy for gun prevalence."

Overhaul of Crime Stats Should Include Data Theft, Toxic Spills: Expert Panel
"An expert committee organized by the National Academy of Sciences called... for centralizing the control of collecting crime statistics as part of an overhaul of the nation’s crime-data collection system.

Such an overhaul, which would fill in gaps on reporting of offenses like data theft and environmental crime, is essential to developing a “more inclusive picture of crime in the United States,” the committee said.

The changes  would help managers and policymakers better assess the effectiveness of crime-fighting policies, evaluate the effectiveness of existing policies, and make justice agencies more accountable, it added."

View the Full Prepublished Report
Corrections-Based Responses to the Opioid Epidemic
"As the opioid crisis has swept the nation, more and more states are equipping their first responders and police officers with naloxone, an overdose antidote that reverses opioid overdoses and can be administered by bystanders with minimal training. This report details the efforts of New York State to implement an overdose education and naloxone distribution (OEND) program to one particularly vulnerable population—people who have been recently released from incarceration in state prison. The report assesses the results of New York State’s efforts, and offers insights for other correctional systems seeking to implement OEND programs."

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Forget Broken Windows: Think "Busy Streets"
"Neighborhoods struggling with physical decline and high crime often become safer simply when local residents work together to fix up their neighborhood.

...Research from cities across the United States shows how small changes to urban environments—like planting flowers or adding benches—reduce violence.

The result is an emerging crime prevention theory we call 'busy streets.'

Busy streets flips the logic of the broken windows theory—a controversial criminological approach to public safety—on its head. Broken windows defenders see urban disorder in U.S. cities—graffiti, litter, actual broken windows, and the like—as a catalyst of antisocial behavior. So they direct police to crack down on minor offenses like vandalism, turnstile jumping, and public drinking.

Proponents of busy streets theory, on the other hand, believe it’s better for neighborhoods to clean up and maintain their own city streets."

In Search of Common Ground: Expert Judgments on Gun Policy Effects
 As our review of the existing literature demonstrated, there is very little scientific evidence available to support the decisions that policymakers and the public must make about whether to implement or change various gun policies. Without strong scientific evidence, policymakers and the public rely heavily on what advocates or social scientists believe the effects of policies are most likely to be. The opinions of these gun policy experts are an important influence on gun policy debates and decisions because people believe that the experts have an especially well-informed understanding of the gun polices under consideration, how similar laws have performed historically, and how specific policies would affect particular stakeholder groups.
Different communities of gun policy experts have sharply divided views on many gun policies, as often becomes clear in the debates that occur when states and the fed…