Friday, November 30, 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 between 2012 and 2016—a database they say may be the most comprehensive of its kind."

SEARCH THE FULL DATABASE HERE ON NJ.COM
 

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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 recall that Canada’s most recent victimization survey (2014) showed that only a minority (1 in 20)  of sexual assaults are reported to police, and therefore police-reported sexual assault data do not reflect the true extent of sexual assault and sexual violence in Canada. In addition, because so few sexual assaults are reported to police in the first place, changes in reporting behaviour – such as new reports prompted by #MeToo – are likely to have notable impacts on police-reported data. Consequently, increases in police-reported sexual assaults during this time period may not necessarily reflect increases in the prevalence of sexual assault itself, but rather increases in reporting to police as well as changes in police practices.... Nonetheless, these statistics are important in understanding the nature of sexual assaults that are reported to police in Canada, as well as informing criminal justice system planning and workload allocation given the potential increase in resources required at various levels (e.g., policing, courts, and victim services)."

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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%, and
  • saved New York taxpayers an estimated $165 million on housing costs alone.
Despite an appreciably higher release rate, those who received holistic defense services were shown to commit no more crime than those incarcerated for longer periods, in a follow-up spanning up to 10 years after case resolution. And while holistic defense does not reduce conviction rates, it does result in an increase of non-incarceratory sentences."

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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 reintegration, Correctional Service Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.

It could take more than two years from the time a site was selected with a community partner to the time the first offender was placed at a new facility. Given that Correctional Service Canada was already at capacity, this meant that the housing shortages were likely to get worse.

Our audit also found that Correctional Service Canada did not properly manage offenders under community supervision. For example, it did not give parole officers all the information they needed to help offenders with their health needs, and parole officers did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have.

This meant that Correctional Service Canada could not find places in a timely manner for many offenders who should have been released into community supervision, and it did not properly monitor many offenders under community supervision."

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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

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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-control activists is that a causal relationship exists between Australia’s gun laws and declines in gun deaths. But as is often noted by social scientists, correlation does not imply causation."

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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 everyday Americans on this relatively complex and technical subject, the survey presented respondents with four different scenarios in which computers make decisions by collecting and analyzing large quantities of public and private data. Each of these scenarios were based on real-world examples of algorithmic decision-making... and included: a personal finance score used to offer consumers deals or discounts; a criminal risk assessment of people up for parole; an automated resume screening program for job applicants; and a computer-based analysis of job interviews. The survey also included questions about the content that users are exposed to on social media platforms as a way to gauge opinions of more consumer-facing algorithms."

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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
 

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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

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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.

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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
 

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Friday, November 2, 2018

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 an unspecified but 'increased' number of additional cameras."

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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 reporting on race and ethnicity among male prisoners in the total custodial population and in restrictive housing, Black men comprised 46.1% of the male restrictive housing population, as compared to 42.5% of the total male custodial population in those jurisdictions."

Link to the Full-Text Study
 

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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 be more harmful to them than granting would be to the defendant. This disparity between criminal pretrial detention and civil preliminary injunctions is both troubling and enlightening. It is troubling that the law affords more protection to the property interests of civil defendants than to the liberty interests of criminal defendants who are purportedly presumed innocent. But in this historical moment where pretrial detention and bail systems are changing in many jurisdictions, the preliminary injunction comparison offers a valuable lens through which to reconceptualize pretrial detention."
 

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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

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The Wildly Unregulated Practice of Undercover Cops Friending People on Facebook
"Police have come to recognize the fertile hunting ground 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."

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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 academics, community leaders, social policy experts, jurists and other actors in the criminal justice system for a focused discussion on the interaction between the criminal justice system and other social systems."

Link to the Full Report
 

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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 adult jails and prisons are detrimental for children, as these facilities are designed for adults and are not equipped to keep children safe from the elevated risks of abuse and harm that they face inside them....

This report will examine the situations in which U.S. law fails to protect the rights of children in the criminal justice system."

Link to the Full Report

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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 understanding patterns in capital sentencing and the operation of gender bias in the criminal legal system. To the extent that scholars have focused on women on death row, they have concluded that they are beneficiaries of gender bias that operates in their favor. While it is undeniable that women are protected from execution under certain circumstances (particularly mothers of infants and young children) and that women sometimes benefit from more lenient sentencing, those that are sentenced to death are subjected to multiple forms of gender bias.

Most women have been sentenced to death for the crime of murder, often in relation to the killing of family members in a context of gender-based violence. Others have been sentenced to death for drug offenses, terrorism, adultery, witchcraft, and blasphemy, among other offenses. Although they represent a tiny minority of all prisoners sentenced to death, their cases are emblematic of systemic failings in the application of capital punishment."

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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."

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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
 

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