Thursday, November 30, 2006
From northjersey.com: Northeastern University CrimProf James A. Fox discusses the debate of teen curfews in the United States.
Juvenile curfews are intended to address two sides of the same coin: By keeping teenagers off the streets at night, they seek to prevent them from becoming either criminals or victims. As a political issue, few subjects raise more passionate responses than those that deal with the welfare of kids, and curfews are no exception.
James Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who studies crime, said that curfews actually may increase crime, since they represent an inefficient use of police officers' time. He favors after-school programs instead.
"It's one of those 'sounds good' ideas," he said. "We can all agree that kids have very little reason to be outdoors at 1 or 2 in the morning. But using curfews as a crime-control measure doesn't really do anything to control crime." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From projo.com: As the rate of black Americans contracting HIV rises along with the rate of black males incarcerated in the nation’s prisons, an AIDS advocacy group is recommending curbing the virus through voluntary tests of prisoners for HIV and by distributing condoms in jails.
The recommendations of the National Minority AIDS Council are intended to help inmates who test positive for the virus and protect others from becoming infected by risky sex in jail – or from infecting others when they are released from prison. These recommendations could affect the spread of the virus through the black community, where more than half of the new HIV cases have been diagnosed, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
But in Rhode Island, where inmates are routinely tested for HIV and given free medical care and counseling, corrections officials balk at handing out condoms.
Sex is forbidden at the Adult Correctional Institutions, said Ellen Alexander, assistant director of administration at the Department of Corrections. “It’s our position, if we provide condoms we’d be condoning coercive sex,” Alexander said. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From USATODAY.com: A series of recent videotaped arrests is providing an unfiltered look at often physical, sometimes brutal police work, due to the broadening technology of cellphone cameras and online video viewing.
Some law enforcement experts say the technology is shedding light on a long-standing if uncomfortable fact of life: Police frequently have to use force. And society and the law expect them to do so.
"The core function of police is, they're the ones who step up and use force when it is necessary," says Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York City police officer and prosecutor. "The cops are doing our dirty work. And when someone puts it on camera and shoves it out there, we say, 'Isn't this terrible.' " Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
When an Ohio prisoner learned that he had hepatitis C and was denied treatment by the state, putting him on the verge of irreversible, life-threatening liver disease, two students at Salmon P. Chase College of Law took the case. Last week, Chase students Margie Slagle and Tom Ewing won that case, and today their client is receiving the treatment he needs.
Slagle and Ewing contended in their motion, which was filed with the monitor overseeing the settlement in Fussel v. Wilkinson, a federal prison health care class action, that the state's failure to treat their client constituted deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Although the state had known for years about the prisoner's condition, it only recently acknowledged his need for treatment; however, it refused to provide that treatment because he was due to be released in January.
Now, thanks to the students' efforts, the state will also arrange for their client to complete his treatment, free of charge, once he is released.
Slagle and Ewing received the opportunity to represent their client through the Chase Clinic at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center in downtown Cincinnati. Through this unique program, third-year law students at Chase have the chance to litigate trials in state and federal courts.
"This is a very important and potentially life-saving victory," said David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. "I am very proud of the work Margie and Tom have done." [Mark Godsey]
From washingtonpost.com: In the past year, the number of spectacularly gruesome killings and the intensity of civil unrest in Mexico have spiked to such alarming levels that even Mexicans who were once hardened by years of violence are shocked.
In flash points across the country, criminals, political groups and the frustrated poor have challenged the authority of institutions, intimidating local officials and spreading fear with little or no worry of legal consequences.
The bulk of the violence is the result of a barbaric, five-year war between Mexican drug cartels -- which are now approaching the strength and size of the notorious Colombian cartels of the 1980s. Drug killings have nearly doubled in the past year; in a single incident this month, six police officers were fatally shot in the troubled state of Michoacan.
But other factors are also contributing to the unrest, including clashes between the rapidly growing class of "micro-dealers," the lower-level street dealers who control neighborhood distribution and feed Mexico's growing ranks of drug consumers.
"We have a huge problem, a problem that exists throughout the country; it's difficult, complicated, dynamic," said Juan Heriberto Salinas Alt?s, a retired army general who serves as Guerrero state's public security director. "It's something we've never seen before." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From pnj.com: Gina Jones buried her young son twice in the last year. News that eight former juvenile boot camp employees were charged in his death on Tuesday finally gave her something to celebrate.
"Today is a good day for me. I'm finally getting justice for my baby," Jones said.
Throughout the last 11 months, Jones has had to repeatedly watch a surveillance video on television that shows seven guards beating and kicking her son, 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, during a 30-minute altercation at the Bay County sheriff's camp in Panama City. A nurse is seen on the video watching and doing nothing to stop the scene.
The seven guards and the nurse face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on charges of aggravated battery of a child. Anderson's parents had long demanded the arrest of the guards they accused of murder.
The death prompted the state to dismantle its military-style detention system for young offenders, sparked protests at the state Capitol and led to the resignation of Florida's top law enforcement officer. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From SFGate.com: A new law intended to crack down on massage parlors that double as brothels takes effect next month in San Francisco, but experts say much more will be needed to stop sex trafficking in San Francisco. Under the law, passed by the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 14, anyone who wants to open a massage parlor in the city first will have to endure a public hearing and then obtain a special permit from the Planning Commission. The tougher regulations were sponsored by Supervisor Fiona Ma after a series of stories in The Chronicle this year that detailed the proliferation in the city of Asian massage parlors that offer sex with women, some of whom are working off debts to traffickers as sex slaves. At least 90 massage parlors in San Francisco offer sex, according to erotic Web sites where customers review the parlors and the women inside. Thirty-seven of those establishments hold city permits to operate as massage parlors. Ten of the 37 permitted parlors were implicated in a 2005 federal raid that exposed a sex-trafficking scheme involving South Korea, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The new law will mark the first time city officials have extended the requirement for a "conditional use" permit for such businesses to cover the entire city. Previously, massage parlor operators did not need to obtain the permits to open downtown, in Chinatown and in the Castro district. Still the law is being called "insufficient." Full Story from SFGate.com. . . [Michele Berry]
Here is a column from Townhall.com about the sex offender-free, drug-free, and gun-free zones that seem to be popping up everywhere and instigating debate along the way (post about sex offender residency restrictions ripe for challenge in the Supreme Court). Mainly, critics wonder (1) if these laws are effective or counterproductive and (2) if they even pass constitutional muster.
An excerpt of the column: Across the country, politicians are eager to draw magical circles of protection they claim will banish evil and keep children safe. It's an easy, cheap way of opposing what everyone opposes and supporting what everyone supports. But the resulting crazy quilt of drug-free, gun-free and molester-free zones is ineffective, sometimes counterproductive and frequently unjust.
Sex offender-free zones. Consider the Georgia woman who was labeled a sex offender because she performed fellatio on a 15-year-old when she was 17. Last year she had to move because she was too close to a day-care center. Now she and her husband may have to move again because they're too close to a school bus stop, a location added to the state's list of restrictions in April. Georgia's law, which has been challenged in federal court, also would exile all 490 registered sex offenders in DeKalb County, mostly men who as teenagers had consensual sex with younger girls. It even applies to sex offenders dying in nursing homes. Other states have narrower laws, but police and prosecutors still worry that onerous restrictions on where sex offenders may live will push them onto the streets or discourage them from complying with registration requirements, making them harder to track...
The same can be said of the gun-free school zones designated by state and federal laws. They are not likely to deter anyone bent on violence. Worse, they advertise that all the law-abiding people at a school are unarmed and therefore easy prey...
Drug-free zones, which trigger enhanced penalties for drug dealing or possession within a certain distance (usually between 500 and 1,500 feet) of locations such as schools, parks and day-care centers, likewise mainly affect people other than their official targets. Ostensibly aimed at protecting children, they typically boost prison sentences for drug offenses that involve only adults. A December 2005 report from New Jersey's sentencing review commission found that students were involved in only 2 percent of cases where drug-free zones were invoked. Because they cover so much territory, the zones have become an excuse for harsher punishment rather than a deterrent to selling drugs near minors. Full story from Townhall.com. . . [Michele Berry]
Law enforcement officials in Taiwan are calling the FBI slackers when it comes to fighting cyber crime in Taiwan and other countries abroad, even when the cases directly affect the U.S. Because Taiwan doesn't have any FBI agents, Taiwanese law enforcement must go through the American Embassy in Tokyo when they want to pursue cyber crime involving the U.S. But Lee Hsiang-chen, director of the High-tech Criminal Center of the National Police Agency, said Taiwanese requests for help from the FBI representative at the American Embassy in Tokyo routinely go unanswered, though they involve serious crimes such as child pornography or major fraud scandals. The U.S., he says, is simply unresponsive.
Lee's complaint appeared to stem from the deliberately low profile assumed by the U.S. representative office in Taiwan, which was set up when Washington transferred its recognition to Beijing in 1979. The mainland and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and the U.S. operates according to the principles of the "one China policy," which keeps its presence in Taipei deliberately low key. The FBI's cyber crime division promises to investigate the problem. Story from Forbes.com. . . [Michele Berry]
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
From WashingtonPost.com: The Justice Department's inspector general yesterday announced an investigation into the department's connections to the government's controversial warrantless surveillance program, but officials said the probe will not examine whether the National Security Agency is violating the Constitution or federal statutes.
In a letter to House lawmakers, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said his office decided to open the probe after conducting "initial inquiries" into the program. Under the initiative, the NSA monitors phone calls and e-mails between people in the United States and others overseas without court oversight if one of the targets is suspected of ties to terrorism.
The "program review" will examine how the Justice Department has used information obtained from the NSA program, as well as whether Justice lawyers complied with the "legal requirements" that govern it, according to Fine's letter. Officials said the review will not examine whether the program itself is legal. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From indystar.com: While the drug still makes up a minority of the cases at Indianapolis' drug court, heroin is increasingly easy to find on the city's streets, according to police, as it is elsewhere in Indiana and the nation.
"I'm seeing a lot, lot more heroin," said Jamie Guilfoy, an IPD narcotics detective since 2001. "I never saw any up until the last year."
The emerging trend is nationwide, with cities such as Minneapolis; Dallas; Covington, Ky.; and Salt Lake City also reporting heroin upswings. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has confiscated heroin in slightly declining amounts the past two years, but from 2001 to 2005, seizures were up more than 50 percent compared with the previous five years.
From tennessean.com: For roughly six years, rural Anderson County, Tenn., has beamed live 24-hour video from its jail, offering anyone with a computer and the Internet a view into the realities of jail life. But because of security concerns, the experiment — which appears to be the only such system operating in the U.S. — could be coming to an end.
As of Tuesday, the Anderson County site had logged more than 8.8 million Web hits from across the U.S. and from places as far away as Sweden, Belgium and England.In December, EarthCam.com, an Internet-based Web cam network, ranked the sheriff's site as one of the 25 most interesting cams in the world, placing it beside views of the Great Pyramids, koala and panda bears, swimming piranhas and a virtual 50-camera tour of Valencia, Spain.
But, some viewers have been using the cameras to harass female jailers by calling them on the telephone and taunting them as they work, sheriff's officials said.
In other cases, viewers are tracking inmate movements and using the information to coordinate deliveries of contraband to prisoners on work details outside the jail.
"It's a good public relations thing. It shows the public what we are doing. I like that idea," said Paul White, who in August became sheriff in the East Tennessee county of 75,000 residents. "But by the same token, the bad things that could happen are not worth the good things that happen out of it."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Motives underlying the sports/religion/crime-overlap differ in the UK compared to the US. According to this article from the BBC News, one-third of religious crime in Scotland is football related. Different religious sects tend to support different teams; add alcohol to the picture and you get crime induced by rivalries in the truest sense. In the U.S., it's simpler, but for neither better nor worse. For example, something tells me the infamous Pacers/Pistons brawl wasn't quite so pensive...and watching football would have been a more appropriate Sunday activity for these religious-figures-turned-criminals than attempting to set a moral compass. [Michele Berry]
Or is shame is social discourse enough? If there's any good that has come out of the abandoned OJ "If I Did It" project, it's proof that the U.S. society has learned how to appropriately use the centuries-old weapon of shame. But where is the line of appropriateness drawn? Some scholars are pondering the increased use of shame in the criminal justice system as a tool to reattach society's voice to offensive behavior. Every now and then, you hear of judges giving "scarlet letter" type punishments. One program sent men found guilty of soliciting prostitutes to a "School for Johns," where they received lectures from former prostitutes. Neo-Nazis were made to watch the film "Schindler's List," listen to stories of Holocaust survivors and meet with a preacher they planned to kill. But critics fear that an increased use of shaming will lead to violations of dignity and a dangerous return to vigilante-style justice.
Here's an excerpt from a washingtonpost.com article on the use of shame in the criminal justice system, with comments from Penn CrimProf Stephanos Bibas, Cornell CrimProf Stephen P. Garvey, and Chicago CrimProf Eric Posner:
For nearly two centuries, using shame as a weapon against wrongdoing has steadily fallen into disfavor in the United States, even as it continues to be an essential part of social discourse in more traditional societies. After the rise of penitentiaries around 1800, the idea of shaming wrongdoers was replaced by more impersonal forms of punishment such as incarceration. But in the past decade or two, a number of scholars have become interested in the uses of shame, especially in the criminal justice system. Penn CrimProf Stephanos Bibas and others think the steady erosion of shame in U.S. courts and society has proved financially costly to the country, deprived victims of a sense of vindication and kept wrongdoers from feeling remorseful.
Murdoch's withdrawal of Simpson's book and a Fox television special about it scheduled to run during the November sweeps was evidence that shame could be effective where the law was impotent, said Bibas. There was nothing illegal about the book, but the widespread media coverage of the project and the collective revulsion of the country shamed Murdoch into retreat. Where shame was once integral to how wrongdoers were dealt with -- offenders publicly whipped, put in stockades and pilloried in Colonial America -- it faded out of the justice system based on the idea that offenders should not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And psychotherapists, including Sigmund Freud on down, showed how shame can damage people.
When those techniques work, as Cornell University law professor Stephen P. Garvey explored in an analysis of shaming punishments, society saves money because offenders do not have to be locked away for eons, victims have a sense of being made whole again and punishment becomes more than retribution -- social pressure from family and peers can shame wrongdoers into remorse in a way that locking them up and throwing away the key cannot.
[But] critics say, it is less important that offenders be remorseful than it is that they be locked away and kept from hurting their victims again...Garvey and Bibas acknowledge these concerns and say shaming punishments have limitations when it comes to violent crime. But done right, they say, creative punishments have an element not just of justice but poetic justice. Full story from washingtonpost.com. . . [Michele Berry]
MyShingle takes a look at debt forgiveness for public sector crim. lawyers, prosecutors and defense alike: This article from the Chicago Sun Times, Debt Relief May Be In Sight for Lawyers, reports on the status of legislation originally proposed by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill) back in 2003, that would grant student loan relief to public sector lawyers in the criminal justice system. From the article:
The average young lawyer from a private law school graduated with $78,763 in debt last year, according to the American Bar Association. The average graduate of a public law school owed $51,056. Durbin's office puts the numbers higher, with the average private law school graduate carrying $97,763 in debt, and public school graduates owing $66,810 . According to Murray -- who had $14,000 in debt when he graduated in 1983 -- the trend is forcing lawyers to leave the state's attorney's office, and persuading third-year law students not to apply. "It definitely weighs on me. I'm going to be paying it for the rest of my life," said assistant Cook County State's Attorney Jullian Brevard, who owes about $90,000.
From MyShingle: Durbin's legislation would alleviate the burden of student loans, and help prosecutors and defenders offices attract and retain top lawyers, who often leave when "big bucks beckon" from private sector jobs (the Enron task force attorneys are a recent example of this phenomenon, most of whom fled government for private practice once their prosecutions had concluded). The Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act would pay up to $10,000 a year of the law school loans of any prosecutor or public defender. To qualify, a lawyer would have to commit to three years of service. Loan assistance would be capped at $60,000 per lawyer and would apply only to loans made through federal programs...Many lawyers who accept prosecutor or defendants positions do so because they want the training, and are willing to make a financial sacrifice to get it. Loan forgiveness would make this choice easier, but I don't think that an extra $10,000 per year is going to give a lawyer set on earning $145,000 a year to think about a job with the Public Defender. By contrast, because fewer quality attorneys start their own solo practice, loan forgiviness would make a difference to those who choose to do so.
Monday, November 27, 2006
From deathpenaltyinfo.org: The annual number of death sentences in Texas has declined from 40 in fiscal year 1996 to 14 in 2006, a drop of 65%, according to the State Office of Court Administration. Last year there were 15 new death sentences. This decrease is in line with the national decline in death sentences, which dropped from about 300 per year in the 1990s to 125 in 2005.
The drop in Texas was particularly marked in Houston, which produced the most death sentences of any county in Texas and the most cases leading to execution of any county in the country. There were 16 death sentences from Harris County in fiscal 1996. This fiscal year there were 3, the same number as in 2005.
In Hunt County, District Attorney Duncan Thomas said that 14 people have been indicted for capital murder since July 2003, but all resulted in life sentences. In most of those cases, Thomas decided not to seek the death penalty at the request of the victims' families.
"There may have been some of those cases where we might have obtained the death penalty, but the families wanted the certainty of a life sentence where there's no appeal," Thomas says.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From philly.com: University of Pennsylvania CrimProf Richard Berk, a trained statistician, never met a data set he didn't like.
Now, using fresh data from the Philadelphia probation department, Berk and three colleagues have built an innovative model for predicting which troublemakers already in the system are most likely to kill or attempt a killing.
With the homicide rate in Philadelphia outpacing last year's by at least 7 percent, a computer model for "forecasting murder" is in the works, Berk said, to be delivered to the probation department in the new year, with clinical trials of the new tool to begin in the spring.
Initial research suggests the software-based system can make it 40 times more likely for caseworkers to accurately predict future lethality than they can using current practices.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From NYTimes.com: Two Russian prosecutors were convicted of corruption and sentenced Monday to four-year prison terms in a maximum-security prision for taking a $10,000 bribe from a construction company chief.
The verdict follows President Vladimir Putin's call last week for stronger efforts to combat corruption in law enforcement and judicial structures.
Although Russia has made fighting corruption a major goal, the problem has worsened at all government levels since Putin came to power in 2000. The global anti-corruption group Transparency International estimates that the level of graft has jumped as much as sevenfold since 2001.
Corrupt officials are estimated to take bribes of $240 billion a year, an amount almost equal to the state's entire revenue, a senior prosecutor said earlier this month.
Russia is near the top of Transparency International's scale of corruption, at No. 121 out of 163 in 2006, along with such countries as Rwanda and Burundi. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
The "CSI" craze has hit Miami, Vegas, NYC, jury boxes, and now, parenting. Many parents across the country are swabbing the insides of their children's mouths to get a DNA sample just in case they need it if the youngster is kidnapped, runs away, or suffers a terrible accident. The "insurance policy" of sorts they hope to never use. Kits are being distributed by private companies, police stations, and orthodontists, ranging in cost from free to $60, and including a photo, fingerprints, a collection swab, and a special envelope in which to put the DNA sample. Story from MSNBC.com. . . [Michele Berry]