January 21, 2007
Dept of Homeland Security Report Reveals the Continued Ill Treatment of Detainees
From NPR.com: Some non-U.S. citizens detained by the government for violating immigration laws are kept in rat-infested, cramped detention centers, fed noxious food and denied basic hygiene items such as clean socks and underpants.
Those are the findings of a new study from the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency's internal watchdog. The report found that the agency violated the government's own guidelines on the treatment of immigrant detainees in jails and prisons.
Christina Deconcini helped write the Justice Department's official guidelines for the treatment of immigrant detainees in the 1990s. She says the average U.S. citizen would be appalled by the allegations in the report and failure to respond to grievances which it documents.
"I think they'd be amazed by some of the allegations of abuse and the lack of response to that," Deconcini says.
The Homeland Security Department detains hundreds of thousands of non-citizens every year in county jails and federal prisons. Most of these people are being held on charges of violating civil immigration laws. Thousands of others are detained while they apply for asylum.
January 04, 2007
When We Thought it Couldn't Get Any Worse, New Report Reveals More Guantanamo Horrors
From apnews.myway.com/TalkLeft.com: FBI agents documented more than two dozen incidents of possible mistreatment at the Guantanamo Bay military base, including one detainee whose head was wrapped in duct tape for chanting the Quran and another who pulled out his hair after hours in a sweltering room.
Documents released Tuesday by the FBI offered new details about the harsh interrogations practice used by military officials and contractors when questioning so-called enemy combatants.
The reports describe a female guard who detainees said handled their genitals and wiped menstrual blood on their face. Another interrogator reportedly bragged to an FBI agent about dressing as a Catholic priest and "baptizing" a prisoner.
Some military officials and contractors told FBI agents that the interrogation techniques had been approved by the Defense Department, including directly by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The documents were released in response to a public records request by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing Rumsfeld and others on behalf of former military detainees who say they were abused. Many of the incidents in the FBI documents have already been reported and are summarized in the ACLU's lawsuit. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
January 03, 2007
Audit Reveals State Law Enforcement Depts Are Shortchanged by Feds
From washingtonpost.com: Lax oversight of federal law enforcement grants tied up hundreds of millions of dollars for eight years and potentially shortchanged state and local crime-fighting programs, a Justice Department audit found Wednesday.
The report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found that leftover money from thousands of expired grants between October 1997 and December 2005 sat unused because officials failed to keep close track of the programs once they ended.
If the offices had dealt with expired grants in a timely fashion, "hundreds of millions of dollars in questioned costs could have been used to provide the DOJ with additional resources to fund other programs or returned to the federal government's general fund," the audit concluded.
A Justice Department spokesman did not have an immediate response.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
December 29, 2006
Decline in Domestic Violence: Silent Suffering or Steady Improvement?
From latimes.com: In a sweeping study of crime in the American household, the Justice Department reported Thursday that domestic violence, one of the most common offenses against women, has fallen by more than half since 1993.
Assaults, rapes, homicides and robberies against a current or former partner dropped from about 10 per 1,000 women in 1993 to four per 1,000 in 2004, researchers found.
The downward trend in violence by "intimate partners" — current and former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends — mirrors an overall national decrease in violent crime since the early 1990s, justice officials said. While the study did not attempt to explain the decline in domestic violence, some experts have credited more vigorous law enforcement, increased education and an expanded network of services for battered partners, said Shannan Catalano, a bureau statistician and the report's author.
But she and others emphasized that the report may not reflect the actual level of violence taking place behind closed doors. Indeed, the apparent decline could mean that women are choosing to suffer in silence rather than seek help. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
December 21, 2006
The ABA and the NDAA Agree on Criminal Recommendations Reports
From abanet.org: The American Bar Association Commission has submitted for consideration by the ABA House six reports with recommendations. The reports deal with alternatives to incarceration and conviction; improvements in parole and probation supervision; employment and licensure of convicted persons; access to and use of criminal records for non-law enforcement purposes; representation relating to collateral consequences; and training in the exercise of discretion.
These six reports were originally submitted to the House last summer, but were withdrawn for further consideration and discussion with the National District Attorneys Association. As a result of the Commission's discussions with NDAA a number of revisions were made to the recommendations, and the NDAA agreed to co-sponsor four of the six sets of recommendations. The Criminal Justice Section and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association also renewed their co-sponsorship of the recommendations.
Among other things, the NDAA and the ABA agreed on recommending:
- Community based alternatives to incarceration that also avoid a conviction record, including diversion and deferred adjudication, should be available to all but the most serious offenders;
- People under community supervision should only be returned to prison for serious violations of their conditions of release, such as where a new crime has been committed or lesser sanctions have failed;
- Public access to criminal records should in general be limited, in light of the government's interest in encouraging successful offender reentry and reintegration, people should be able to challenge the accuracy of their records, and only law enforcement agencies should have access to records of closed criminal cases that did not result in a conviction;
- All criminal justice professionals -- including judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, probation and parole officers, and correctional officials -- should be trained in understanding, adopting and utilizing factors that promote the sound exercise of their discretion.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 31, 2006
New Article Spotlight: Toward an International Criminal Procedure: Due Process Aspirations and Limitations
From SSRN.com: University of North Dakota School of Law CrimProf Gregory Gordon recently published "Toward an International Criminal Procedure: Due Process Aspirations and Limitations." Here is the Abstract:
The breathtaking growth of international criminal law over the past decade has resulted in the prosecution of Balkan and Rwandan mass murderers, the development of a substantial body of atrocity law jurisprudence and the creation of a permanent International Criminal Court with jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
The growth of international criminal procedure, unfortunately, has not kept pace. Among its shortcomings, critics have pointed to lengthy pre-trial detention without a real possibility of provisional release, the use of affidavits and transcripts instead of live witnesses at trial, the absence of juries, and the right of prosecutorial appeal. Existing literature has pointed out these deficits but has failed to offer a systematic or comprehensive explanation for them. While such literature is helpful in identifying the problem, it has failed to provide a conceptual framework necessary for formulating solutions.
This article constructs such a framework and uses it to provide a starting point for expanding international due process protections. It contends that three separate phenomena contribute to the restriction of international due process growth: (1) fragmentation of enforcement; (2) integration of conflicting legal systems; and (3) gravity of the crimes involved. It also analyzes the interplay among these three restricting phenomena and argues that any future growth of due process will hinge on efforts to achieve greater degrees of structural globalization, procedural hybridization, and transnational public awareness. [Mark Godsey]
October 30, 2006
FBI Report Shows that the Number of Police Feloniously Killed Has Declined
From FBI.gov: The FBI reported today that 55 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty last year; 67 officers died in accidents while performing their official duties; and 57,546 officers suffered assaults while on duty.
The deaths occurred in 24 states and Puerto Rico. The number of officers feloniously killed in 2005 decreased by 2 compared with the 2004 figure (57 officers). A 5-year comparison shows a decrease of 15 line-of-duty deaths compared with the 2001 number (70 officers) and a decrease of 6 compared with the 1996 figure (61 officers).
Of the officers feloniously killed, 15 were handling traffic pursuits or traffic stops. Eight of the slain officers were handling arrest situations, and another 8 were ambushed. Seven of the slain officers were answering disturbance calls, and another 7 were investigating suspicious persons. Of the remaining 10 officers who were feloniously killed in the line of duty, 4 were pursuing investigative activities, such as surveillance; 3 were in tactical situations; 2 were handling mentally deranged persons; and 1 had custody of a prisoner for transport.
An analysis of the data by region showed that 28 of the felonious deaths occurred in the South, 10 in the West, 10 in the Midwest, and 5 in the Northeast. Two of the deaths took place in Puerto Rico. Law enforcement agencies identified 57 alleged assailants in connection with the 55 felonious line-of-duty deaths. All of the assailants were male, and 54 of them had previous criminal arrest records.
Get Report. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 24, 2006
N.C. Study Finds Many People on Death Row Had Substandard Representation
From DPIC.com: The Common Sense Foundation of North Carolina recently released a study on that found that at least 37 people now on death row had trial lawyers who would not have met today’s minimum standards of qualification. Nearly a third of the cases where sufficient data was available fell into this substandard category.
The study also lists the names of 16 people who have been executed whose trial lawyers did not meet these same standards. Over half of the executions in the state where data was available were of defendants whose attorneys would not meet the current state standards.
The study noted that after the state legislature created the Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS) in 2001 requiring that appointed capital defense attorneys have some experience and knowledge of capital defense, the number of N.C. death sentences declined sharply. However, the new rules do not apply to those who have already been sentenced to death.
Get Study. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 17, 2006
Hit and Runs are On the Rise
From USATODAY.com: The number of pedestrians killed by hit-and-run drivers has jumped 20% since 2000 and is at its highest level in a decade.
The increase compounds the problems of investigating hit-and-run cases, which investigators say are among the most difficult crimes to solve because they often happen at night with no witnesses.
Of the 4,881 pedestrians killed last year, 974 died in hit-and-runs, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records show. The total number of pedestrians killed nationwide increased by about 2% since 2000, but hit-and-run deaths increased at almost 10 times that pace, the USA TODAY analysis found. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 11, 2006
BJS Report: Majority of Inmates Abused Drugs Before Prison
p The latest Bureau of Justice Statistical Report presents data from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities on prisoners' prior use, dependence, and abuse of illegal drugs. Tables include trends in the levels of drug use, type of drugs used, and treatment reported by State and Federal prisoners since the last national survey was conducted in 1997. The report also presents measures of dependence and abuse by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and age. It provides data on the levels of prior drug use (with an in-depth look at methamphetamine use), dependence, and abuse by selected characteristics, such as family background, criminal record, type of drug used, and offense.
Highlights include the following:
- Among drug dependent or abusing prisoners, 40% of State and 49% of Federal inmates took part in drug abuse treatment or programs since admission to prison.
- Among both State and Federal prisoners, white inmates were at least 20 times more likely than black inmates to report recent methamphetamine use.
- Violent offenders in State prison (50%) were less likely than drug (72%) and property (64%) offenders to have used drugs in the month prior to their offense.
Get Report. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 04, 2006
Justice Dept Report: Federal Prisons Fail to Monitor for Terrorism
From USATODAY.com: The Justice Department issued a damning account of the federal prison system's failure to monitor potentially criminal communications of convicted terrorists and other inmates at some of the nation's most secure government facilities.
In a 100-page report released Tuesday, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine found that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) fails to adequately monitor prisoners' mail, telephone calls, visitor communications and cell-block conversations that could be part of criminal enterprises.
The bureau also lacks the staffing and expertise to translate communications conducted in foreign languages or to assess possible threats, the report found.
"The BOP incarcerates international terrorists inmates who require sophisticated monitoring and analyses of their communications and activities," the report concluded. "The BOP's monitoring procedures, intelligence analysis and foreign language capabilities have not evolved to that level."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 26, 2006
The Answer to Preventing Teen Drug Use: Eating Dinner
From latimes.com: Research by a substance abuse center at Columbia University shows that one of the most effective ways to keep children off alcohol and drugs is for parents to simply to sit down with them at dinnertime.
The annual teen survey, conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, has consistently revealed a strong correlation between the frequency of family dinners and teen substance abuse risk. This year, 58% of teens reported having dinner with their family at least five times a week — the same as in the last few years and an increase since 1996, the first year the survey was done.
The obstacles to family dining are clear. One out of four teens say both their parents work late. Twenty-two percent say their family is too busy, and 21% say conflicting schedules are to blame. Also, 18% said that either the family does not choose to eat together or is watching television at mealtime. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 21, 2006
ABA Report Points Problems With Florida's Death Penalty System
From PalmBeachPost.com: The American Bar Association recently released a review of Florida's death penalty today, highlighting serious problems with the fairness and accuracy of execution in the Sunshine State.
In the 454-page report, a team of influential Florida lawyers — both supporters and opponents — recommended a panoply of changes and urged further study of racial disparity, finding the process is clearly not color-blind."It appears that those convicted of killing white victims are far more likely to receive a death sentence and be executed," according to the report.
The review also called for two independent commissions to investigate wrongful convictions and innocence claims.Florida leads the nation in Death Row exonerations, 22 of them since the penalty was reinstated in 1973. During the same time, Florida executed 60 Death Row inmates. "Over one exoneration for every three executions," according to the report
The ABA report, two years in the making, was highly critical of the cloaked process of clemency, a procedure under which convicts can ask for forgiveness or mercy from the governor and his Cabinet members. They have the power to commute death sentences to life in prison. In the Sunshine State, the governor can deny clemency at any time, for any reason, without any hearing. Clemency has not been granted to an inmate sentenced to death in 23 years. Yet, its full and proper use is essential to guaranteeing fairness in the death penalty, according to ABA findings.
September 19, 2006
Report Results: Maryland Spends Far More on Incarcerating Substance Abusers than Treating Them
washingtonpost.com: The Justice and Policy Institute, D.C.-based think tank, report found that Maryland has made "slow progress" in diverting nonviolent offenders from jail and prison. For each dollar spent to put them behind bars, the state provided just 26 cents through its Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration to treat drug-dependent adults referred by the criminal justice system, the report estimated.
"We can afford to treat people," said the report's author, Kevin Pranis. "The resources are being misspent."
But Pranis credited Maryland with attempting to move away from a "war on drugs" mentality. The number of people admitted to drug treatment through court referral rose 28 percent between 2000 and 2004, while the number of people sentenced to prison for drug offenses fell by 7 percent.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
The Thought Behind the Stats
- New York: one crime per 37.38 residents.
- San Jose, Calif.: one crime per 34.46 residents.
- Los Angeles: one crime per 25.97 residents.
- San Diego: one crime per 24.09 residents.
- Chicago: one crime per 21.9 residents.
- Philadelphia: one crime per 17.96 residents.
- Houston: one crime per 14.17 residents.
- San Antonio: one crime per 14.12 residents.
- Phoenix: one crime per 14.10 residents.
- Dallas: one crime per 11.79 residents.
Blue Bayou has a good point about city rankings of any sort. [The FBI's statistics includes the following disclaimer]:
Each year when Crime in the United States is published, many entities--news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our Nation--use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.
"It goes on from there to discuss why these rankings are flawed. But people like lists, and so the list is there. But here's one obvious problem: what constitutes a city is different in different parts of the country. In Washington, the city ends at the boundaries of the District of Columbia, and doesn't include some intensely crime-ridden areas just outside. Or some incredibly safe areas. In Houston, the city stretches on for miles, including what would be remote suburbs on the east coast. In Dallas, the city itself is smaller--though the "metro area"--(I can't make myself use that horrifying word, "metroplex," though I will note that Dallas uses the name of a Transformer's character to describe itself...) is larger than Houston's, so I'd guess that it includes lots of poor and crime-ridden areas but relatively fewer safer areas." More. . . [Michele Berry]
September 18, 2006
FBI Report: Violent Crime Was on the Rise in 2005
From FBI.gov: According to the FBI's annual report, violent crime was on the rise throughout 2005.
- Although violent crime totals grew over 2004, they have dropped 3.4 percent since 2001 and 17.6 percent since 1996;
- Burglaries—up 0.5 percent—were the only property crimes to rise in 2005;
- Murders were up 3.4 percent and arrests of juveniles for murder were up nearly 20 percent over 2004;
- Forcible rape decreased 1.2 percent, the only violent crime category to fall;
- Property crime victims lost an estimated $16.5 billion last year;
- Of the 14.1 million arrests made by law enforcement in 2005, drug violations accounted for more than any other offense.
- According to the Crime Clock 2005, a violent crime took place every 22.7 seconds and a property crime every 3.1 seconds in this country.
Rest of Report. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 13, 2006
Study Finds More than 50% of All Inmates Have Mental Problems
From DeathPenaltyInfo.org: According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Study released September 6, more than half of all prison and jail inmates, including 56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 64% of local jail inmates have mental health problems.
The study was based on reporting of symptoms by inmates rather than through medical diagnosis. Among state prisoners with mental problems, 43% had symptoms of mania, 23% had major depression, and 15% had psychotic disorders. Having mental health problems was closely correlated with violence and past criminal activity.
Other significant findings regarding those prisoners with mental problems included:
- 74% of those in state prison were dependent on or abusing drugs or alcohol in the year before their admission
- 13% of those in state prison were homeless in the year before their incarceration
- 27% of those in state prison reported past physical or sexual abuse.
Get Study. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 12, 2006
Bureau of Justice Report: Violent Crimes Have Slightly Decreased
Fromdeathpenaltyinfor.org/ojp.usdoj.gov: According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Report released on September 10, violent crime in the United States decreased slightly in 2005, continuing a decade-long trend in fewer victimizations. Comparing two-year periods, violent crime was lowest in the Northeast region of the country in 2004-05, and that region also experienced the largest decrease in violent crime from 2002-03 to 2004-05. Since 1993, violent crime has decreased by about 58% in the U.S.
The BJS survey of crime victimization does not include homicides. However, the report did cite figures from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for 2004 and preliminary numbers for 2005. In that survey, the national murder rate decreased by 2.4% in 2004, but increased by 4.8% in 2005. Blacks and whites were about equally represented among victims of homicide. More. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 30, 2006
Preventable Factors Lead to High Number of College Students Killed in Off-Campus Fires
From USATODAY.com: According to a USA TODAY study, 54 college students killed in off-campus fires since 2000. Though such devastating fires are infrequent, they follow patterns that largely are preventable.
One-quarter of these fires followed a party, and in 59% of them, at least one of the dead students had been drinking, the USA TODAY analysis found. In 21 cases in which an autopsy report showed the deceased's blood alcohol content, the median level was .12%, and the highest was .304%. A person with an alcohol reading of .08% is considered by the nation's traffic laws to be too drunk to drive.
Deliberately set fires were a common thread in the incidents studied by USA TODAY. They played a role in one-fifth of all fires studied and one-fourth of the 54 off-campus deaths.Also, in at least 28% of the fatal fires studied, smoke detectors were either missing or disconnected. Investigators suspect that number is higher, but because infernos destroy the devices, whether the smoke detector sounded could not be determined in more than half of the fires that killed college students.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
August 29, 2006
GAO Report Says Anti-Drug Advertising Campaign Does Not Work
From USATODAY.com: A $1.4 billion anti-drug advertising campaign conducted by the U.S. government since 1998 does not appear to have helped reduce drug use and instead might have convinced some youths that taking illegal drugs is normal, the Government Accountability Office says.
The GAO report, released Friday, urges Congress to stop the White House's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign unless drug czar John Walters can come up with a better strategy. President Bush's budget for 2007 asks Congress for $120 million for the campaign, a $20 million increase from this year.
The report by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, confirmed the results of a $43 million, government-funded study that found the campaign did not work. That evaluation, by Westat Inc. and the University of Pennsylvania, said parents and youths remembered the ads and their messages. But the study said exposure to the ads did not change kids' attitudes about drugs and that the reduction in drug use in recent years could be attributed more directly to a range of other factors, such as a decline in high school dropouts. The Westat study also said youths could interpret the ads to suggest that marijuana use is more common than it actually is.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]