Thursday, March 29, 2018

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."


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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
 

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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."

View the Full Report
 

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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."

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 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 federal government consider new gun legislation. Less clear is whether there are laws or policies where such differences are less stark, or whether there may be a combination of policies that experts of every stripe could regard as an improvement over existing policies. Finally, it has not been clear whether experts disagree about what objectives gun policies should be trying to achieve or whether they agree on the objectives but disagree on which policies are most likely to achieve those objectives. If the experts chiefly disagree on the latter, this suggests a role for new and better scientific study of the true effects of gun policies.
To begin to answer these questions, RAND researchers surveyed nearly 100 gun policy experts on what they believed the effects of the following 15 gun policies would be on 12 different outcomes.

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China's Tightening Grasp on Social Media Offers a Potent Tool of Repression for President-for-Life Xi Jinping, PEN America Report Warns
"Offering a detailed analysis of digital rights today and a chilling preview of their future in China, PEN America announced the release of Forbidden Feeds: Government Controls on Social Media in China.

From the leading US free expression organization, the 90+-page original research report demonstrates how the government’s grip on social media constricts free expression in China, and how the scope and severity of censorship has expanded under President Xi Jinping. With an increasing array of technological, legal, and ideological tools at the government’s disposal, Beijing is ever more able and willing to systematically erase expressions of dissent and calls for social change, silencing internet users who dare cross ever-shifting red lines, and shutting off channels of circumvention under the banner of “cyber sovereignty.” The report takes a particular look into how these constraints burden writers and other creative professionals, as the government wields its power to ensure no one becomes so popular and nothing goes so viral on social media as to slip beyond the state’s control."

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Can Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) Significantly Reduce Sexual Recidivism? Results from a Randomized Control Trial in Minnesota
"This study evaluates the effectiveness of Minnesota Circles of Support and Accountability (MnCOSA), a sex offender reentry program implemented by the Minnesota Department of Corrections in 2008.

Using a randomized controlled trial, this study compares recidivism and cost–benefit outcomes among sex offenders in the MnCOSA (N = 50) and control groups (N = 50).

The results suggest MnCOSA significantly reduced sexual recidivism, lowering the risk of rearrest for a new sex offense by 88%. In addition, MnCOSA significantly decreased all four measures of general recidivism, with reductions ranging in size from 49 to 57%. As a result of the reduction in recidivism, findings from the cost–benefit analysis reveal the program has generated an estimated $2 million in costs avoided to the state, resulting in a benefit of $40,923 per participant. For every dollar spent on MnCOSA, the program has yielded an estimated benefit of $3.73."

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How Far Should "Raise-the-Age" Reforms Go?
"While the US imposes an age of majority on youthful offenders at the age of 18, many other nations rely on higher ages such as 20 or 21 to demarcate the separation of juvenile offenders and juvenile correctional systems from their adult counterparts.

In recent years, many have argued that the US should move to a higher age of majority, such as 21. Such changes, generally known as 'raise-the-age' reforms, are currently under consideration by several state legislatures, such as Connecticut and Illinois. Moreover, many states have already passed legislation raising the age of majority from 16 or 17, to the age of 18.

Advocates for these changes argue that corrections systems need to account for the lack of emotional, psychological, and intellectual maturity in youthful offenders. In particular, they argue that youthful offenders may not be mature enough to properly understand the costs of the harsher punishments that characterize adult correctional systems, and therefore to understand the consequences of their criminal acts....

 A recent research paper ....finds that this narrative of costless improvement is very likely incorrect. We find that youth are in fact deterred by the harsher punishments imposed at the age of majority."

View the Full-Text Article

 

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Major Study Finds Lighting Cut Crime by 39%
"In partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the New York City Police Department and the New York City Housing Authority, the scientific research team Crime Lab designed a six-month randomised controlled trial involving nearly 80 public housing developments, all of which had elevated levels of crime. About half of the developments received new, temporary street lights, and half did not.

The study found that the developments that received the new lights experienced crime rates that were significantly lower than would have been the case without the new lights."

View the Full Report

 

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Field-Data Study Finds No Evidence of Racial Bias in Predictive Policing
"While predictive policing aims to improve the effectiveness of police patrols, there is concern that these algorithms may lead police to target minority communities and result in discriminatory arrests.  A computer scientist in the school of Science at IUPUI conducted the first study to look at real-time field data from Los Angeles and found predictive policing did not result in biased arrests."

View the Full-Text Article


While predictive policing aims to improve the effectiveness of police patrols, there is concern that these algorithms may lead police to target minority communities and result in discriminatory arrests. A computer scientist in the School of Science at IUPUI conducted the first study to look at real-time field data from Los Angeles and found predictive policing did not result in biased arrests.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-03-field-data-evidence-racial-bias-policing.html#jCp
While predictive policing aims to improve the effectiveness of police patrols, there is concern that these algorithms may lead police to target minority communities and result in discriminatory arrests. A computer scientist in the School of Science at IUPUI conducted the first study to look at real-time field data from Los Angeles and found predictive policing did not result in biased arrests.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-03-field-data-evidence-racial-bias-policing.html#jCp
While predictive policing aims to improve the effectiveness of police patrols, there is concern that these algorithms may lead police to target minority communities and result in discriminatory arrests. A computer scientist in the School of Science at IUPUI conducted the first study to look at real-time field data from Los Angeles and found predictive policing did not result in biased arrests.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-03-field-data-evidence-racial-bias-policing.html#jCp

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Presumed Innocent but Behind Bars - Is Remand Overused in England and Wales?
The pre-trial detention rate in England and Wales has been remarkably consistent for decades, and
the causes of inappropriate use of pre-trial detention have remained largely the same, worsening in some respects. Despite the fact that the law is largely (although not completely) satisfactory and compliant with international standards, the way in which it is implemented in practice results in many defendants being remanded in custody when other alternatives are, or should be, available. Grounds for withholding bail rely upon the strength of evidence and likely sentence if the accused is convicted, yet the information supplied to the accused and the court by the police and prosecution, and the time devoted to consideration of that information, is normally wholly insufficient.

This report by Transform Justice provides important further evidence of deficiencies in the processes
by which decisions to remand defendants in custody are made.


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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Does Police Immunity from Wrongful Arrests Really Deter Crime?
"In the wake of ongoing attention to police misconduct, a new economic study considers the cost of granting full immunity to officers for wrongful arrests and detention of innocent people, instead proposing a model of 'qualified immunity.'

According to the paper forthcoming in Economic Inquiry, many police jurisdictions grant officers immunity from penalties for these errors under the belief that harsh discipline would cause them to become “timid” during encounters with suspects, and potentially weaken law enforcement efforts. However, economists have long argued that wrongful arrests also lower the 'opportunity cost” of committing a crime.'"

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Palantir has Secretly been Using New Orleans to Test its Predictive Policing Technology

"In May and June 2013, when New Orleans’ murder rate was the sixth-highest in the United States, the Orleans Parish district attorney handed down two landmark racketeering indictments against dozens of men accused of membership in two violent Central City drug trafficking gangs, 3NG and the 110ers….


Subsequent investigations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and local agencies produced further RICO indictments…

According to Ronal Serpas, the department’s chief at the time, one of the tools used by the New Orleans Police Department to identify members of gangs like 3NG and the 39ers came from the Silicon Valley company Palantir. The company provided software to a secretive NOPD program that traced people’s ties to other gang members, outlined criminal histories, analyzed social media, and predicted the likelihood that individuals would commit violence or become a victim. As part of the discovery process in Lewis’ trial, the government turned over more than 60,000 pages of documents detailing evidence gathered against him from confidential informants, ballistics, and other sources — but they made no mention of the NOPD’s partnership with Palantir, according to a source familiar with the 39ers trial.

Predictive policing technology has proven highly controversial wherever it is implemented, but in New Orleans, the program escaped public notice, partly because Palantir established it as a philanthropic relationship with the city through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s signature NOLA For Life program. Thanks to its philanthropic status, as well as New Orleans’ ‘strong mayor’ model of government, the agreement never passed through a public procurement process….

Even within the law enforcement community, there are concerns about the potential civil liberties implications of the sort of individualized prediction Palantir developed in New Orleans, and whether it’s appropriate for the American criminal justice system.
 

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Divided Justice: Trends in Black and White Jail Incarceration 1990-2013
"Recent data analyses on jail incarceration—taken from Vera’s Incarceration Trends tool—reveal that although significant racial disparities still exist between black and white jail incarceration rates, incarceration rates for black people are declining, while rates for white people are rising. This report dives into the data on black and white incarceration trends from 1990 to 2013, and poses several questions for further exploration that might explain why these rates are shifting. However, the report also argues that we need more data to fully understand the causes and consequences of racial disparities in incarceration—and to begin enacting more race-conscious jail reduction efforts."

View the Full Report

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Invisible Burden: Police Records and the Barriers to Employment in Toronto
"While the Canadian public assumes that a sentence for a crime is finite in length, in fact criminal records can have serious negative effects on people’s lives and careers long after their formal sentences are over. In particular, a police record can make it difficult or impossible to get a job, or to enter an education or training program, even when the crime is irrelevant to the job or education being pursued. In order to get a better understanding of the negative effects of police records on employment potential of Torontonians the Centre of Research, Policy & Program Development (the Centre) at the John Howard Society of Ontario (JHSO) conducted in-depth survey (n=35) and interviews with employers (n=4) and a focus group with 8 individuals with police records. The research, supported through funding from the Metcalf Foundation, continued to build on the previous findings from JHSO’s and other community agency’s work on the deleterious effects of police records on employment."

View the Full Report


 

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How to Fight Bias with Predictive Policing 
"Law enforcement's use of predictive analytics recently came under fire again. Dartmouth researchers made waves reporting that simple predictive models—as well as nonexpert humans—predict crime just as well as the leading proprietary analytics software. That the leading software achieves (only) human-level performance might not actually be a deadly blow, but a flurry of press from dozens of news outlets has quickly followed. In any case, even as this disclosure raises questions about one software tool’s credibility, a more enduring, inherent quandary continues to plague predictive policing.

Crime-predicting models are caught in a quagmire doomed to controversy because, on their own, they cannot realize racial equity. It’s an intrinsically unsolvable problem. It turns out that, although such models succeed in flagging (assigning higher probabilities to) both black and white defendants with equal precision, as a result of doing so they also falsely flag black defendants more often than white ones. In this article I cover this seemingly paradoxical predicament and show how predictive policing—more generally, big data in law enforcement—can be turned around to make the legal system fairer in this unfair world."

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Bail Reform and Risk Assessment: The Cautionary Tale of Federal Sentencing
"Across the country, from New Jersey to Texas to California, bail reform is being debated, implemented, and litigated at the state and local levels. Lawmakers and the public are learning that cash bail is excessive, discriminatory, and costly for taxpayers and communities. With promises to replace judicial instincts with validated algorithms and to reserve detention for high-risk defendants, risk assessment tools have become a hallmark of contemporary pretrial reform. Risk assessment tools have proliferated despite substantial criticisms that the tools depend upon and reinforce racially biased data and that the tools’ accuracy is overblown or unknown. Part I of this Note examines contemporary bail practices, recent reforms, and risk assessments’ promises and shortcomings. Part II discusses federal sentencing reform, which originally sought a more empirical approach to criminal justice but failed. Part III applies the lesson of sentencing reform to bail reform today. Despite endorsing empirical tools, legislatures are prone to interfering with the evidence that informs those tools or with the tools themselves. Even after reforms, system actors retain misaligned incentives to incarcerate too many people. Technocratic instruments like risk assessments may obscure but cannot answer tough, fundamental questions of system design. But recent pretrial reforms have shown early signs of progress. If risk assessments are paired with adequate safeguards, sustained reductions in incarceration and progress toward equal treatment may be possible."

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MS13 in the Americas: How the World's Most Notorious Gang Defies Logic, Resists Destruction
"The Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) is one of the world's largest and arguably most violent street gangs. After relatively humble beginnings in Los Angeles in the 1980s, it has spread to more than a half-dozen countries and become a central focus of law enforcement in two hemispheres. In spite of these efforts, the MS13 remains a persistent threat and shows signs of expanding its criminal portfolio. This report attempts to explain what makes the MS13 such a difficult problem for authorities to tackle. It focuses on assisting law enforcement's understanding of the gang's criminal activities, but it includes deep discussion on the social and political issues around the MS13."


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NYC Blacks, Hispanics Hit Hardest by Misdemeanor Arrests: Study
"In New York City, marijuana and other drug-related arrests significantly decreased in 2016, but young African-American men and Hispanics are still arrested at much higher rates than their white counterparts, according to a report by the Misdemeanor Justice Project at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Examining data from the New York City Police Department from 1993 to 2016, including all misdemeanor offenses for 16 to 65 year olds, researchers found that blacks are almost five times more likely to be arrested for minor drug charges such as possession of marijuana than whites."

View the Full Report

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Australia: Prisoners with Disabilities Neglected, Abused
"People with disabilities in prisons across Australia are at serious risk of sexual and physical violence, and are disproportionately held in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day, Human Rights Watch said in a report released [Feb. 6].

The 93-page report, 'I Needed Help, Instead I Was Punished: Abuse and Neglect of Prisoners with Disabilities in Australia,' examines how prisoners with disabilities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, are at serious risk of bullying, harassment, violence, and abuse from fellow prisoners and staff. Prisoners with psychosocial disabilities – mental health conditions – or cognitive disabilities in particular can spend days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years locked up alone in detention or safety units."

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Positive Outcomes: Strategies for Assessing the Progress of Youth Involved in the Justice System
"Across the United States, youth justice systems are increasingly turning to the science of adolescent development to inform their intervention approaches and to measure youth success. Scientific knowledge about adolescent development is often expressed through the principles of positive youth development (PYD), a programmatic framework that encourages service providers to concentrate on the ability of all young people to thrive when they experience positive relationships and meaningful activities in supportive and safe environments.

Some youth service systems have long relied on PYD principles—e.g., out-of-school-time programs. Youth justice, however, began to embrace the PYD approach only recently. Interventions based on PYD principles are not a natural fit for youth justice systems that focus on controlling misbehavior and preventing subsequent contacts with justice authorities (i.e. recidivism).

Measuring positive outcomes in youth justice requires a shift away from recidivism as the sole indicator of program effectiveness. A youth justice system embracing the PYD approach would gauge its success by tracking positive youth outcomes, such as the formation of strong and supportive relationships, academic engagement, labor market readiness, and improved socio-emotional skills. These outcomes encourage a broader perspective on the goals of justice intervention and pursuing these goals would transform youth justice systems, making them more consistent with research on adolescent development, strengths-based perspectives, and community connections for youth."

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"A Crisis for Human Rights": New Index Reveals Global Fall in Basic Justice
"Fundamental human rights are reported to have diminished in almost two-thirds of the 113 countries surveyed for the 2018 Rule of Law Index, amid concerns over a worldwide surge in authoritarian nationalism and a retreat from international legal obligations.

'All signs point to a crisis not just for human rights, but for the human rights movement,' said Professor Samuel Moyn of Yale University. 'Within many nations, these fundamental rights are falling prey to the backlash against a globalising economy in which the rich are winning. But human rights movements have not historically set out to name or shame inequality.'

The 2018 index, published by the World Justice Project (WJP), gathers data from more than 110,000 households and 3,000 experts to compare their experiences of legal systems worldwide, by calculating weighted scores across eight separate categories. While Venezuela retains its unwanted position at the bottom of the index – just behind Cambodia and Afghanistan – the Philippines is this year’s biggest faller, dropping 18 places to 88th in the table, on top of a slump of nine places in the 2016 survey.'"

View the Full Report
 

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