Monday, April 6, 2009
Valerie Gainous paid her debt to society, but almost went to jail because of a debt to Florida’s courts.
In 1996, she was convicted of writing bad checks; she paid restitution, performed community service and thought she was finished with the criminal justice system. Earlier this year, however, she received a letter from Collections Court telling her that she was once again facing jail time — this time, for failing to pay $240 in leftover court fees and fines, which she says she cannot afford.
Ms. Gainous has been caught up in her state’s exceptionally aggressive system to collect the court fines and fees that keep its judiciary system working. Judges themselves dun citizens who have fallen behind in their payments, but unlike other creditors, they can throw debtors in jail — and they do, by the thousands.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Hamilton County's administration is recommending massive layoffs, departmental consolidation and severe public safety cuts to balance the bleakest budget in memory.
Administrator Patrick Thompson on Monday unveiled details of the 2009 plan, which would eliminate 532 county jobs - 18 percent of the county's general fund positions - by the end of February.
The plan would also close the 800-bed Queensgate jail by March and eliminate sheriff's patrols in the county's three largest townships, Green, Colerain and Anderson.
Friday, September 26, 2008
The day when police can swipe a suspect's finger through a device and check him instantly against a nationwide criminal database, all while standing on a city street, may not be far off.
North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt said a new handheld device his department acquired this week is a step in the right direction. The gadget looks like a BlackBerry wireless device and allows an officer to check a national database for warrants and vehicle information. Until now, police had to call dispatchers, costing valuable minutes.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Now 66 years old, Ms. Coleman has three youngsters at home -- ages 5, 3 and 1. She doesn't know the whereabouts of her granddaughter, who is their mother. As for the children's fathers, they have both been in trouble with the law. One is in prison serving a 10-year term for second-degree murder. The other has been in and out of jail on drug charges.
"I didn't intend to raise my great-grandkids," says Ms. Coleman, who relies on supplies of diapers and baby wipes from a local social-services center. "There are so many things I can't do for them because of money, but I have to try."
Monday, June 23, 2008
The June 12 news story "New Criminal Record: 7.2 Million," on the number of people under supervision in the nation's criminal justice system, reported on the financial burden of running correctional systems without mentioning the savings resulting from crimes averted. Experience suggests that shortened sentences and reduced supervision of offenders released from prison carry a higher cost, especially in human terms, than the savings these shortsighted policies generate.
Monday, June 16, 2008
A new approach to parole in Arizona began with thousands of colored pushpins and a large state map. In 2003, prison officials set out to find new ways to keep released inmates from going back behind bars. So they began to map where the more than 30,000 Arizona inmates had lived before they were locked up and where they might return.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
One-time thief Heber Nixon Jr. has filled out his share of futile job applications. All said being a felon wouldn't stand in his way _ but the promised calls from managers never came. He finally got a second chance when he showed up at a construction site looking for work and found a sympathetic builder. Now, the city of Philadelphia is making a concerted effort to encourage the hiring of ex-convicts amid a renewed interest nationwide in dealing with high recidivism, growing crime rates and exploding prison populations.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
From reuters.com: The United States, which has the most prisoners of any country in the world, last year recorded the largest increase in the number of people in prisons and jails since 2000, the Justice Department reported on Wednesday.
It said the nation's prison and jail populations increased by more than 62,000 inmates, or 2.8 percent, to about 2,245,000 inmates in the 12-month period that ended on June 30, 2006. It was the biggest jump in numbers and percentage change in six years.
Criminal justice experts have attributed the record U.S. prison population to tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crimes rates.
State or federal prisons held two-thirds of the nation's incarcerated population while local jails held the rest, according to the report by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The number of inmates in state prisons rose by 3 percent, the report said. That growth mainly reflected rising prison admissions, which have been going up faster than the number of released prisoners. Also, more parole violators have returned to prison, the report said.
Forty-two states and the federal system all had more inmates in June last year than the previous year. The number of jail inmates increased by 2.5 percent during the same 12-month period, the report said.
The report on U.S. prison numbers is issued every six months.
Jason Ziedenberg of the Justice Policy Institute, a group that seeks alternatives to incarceration, said the new numbers showed an "alarming growth" in an already overburdened prison system.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
In England, senior police officer, Howard Roberts, urged the UK to follow Holland and Switzerland's lead and begin the state-funded (NHS-funded) prescription of heroin to addicts, in efforts to treat them and reduce crime. The program would cost £12,000 a year for each addict to be treated this way, but proponents believe the treatment would be cost-effective in the long run because users steal at least £45,000 worth of property a year to feed their addictions. Widespread trials of such programs in Holland and Switzerland show users turning away from crime to feed their habits when they were prescribed drugs. Story from IndependentOnline. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., debate continues (here and here) over Louisiana's controversial "heroin lifers" case. [Michele Berry]
Friday, October 20, 2006
Texas anti-crime and justice programs will receive nearly $15 million in grants to be shared by 53 Crime Stoppers programs and 122 other programs that concentrate on reducing crime and improving the Texas criminal and juvenile justice systems. The money is available under the state's Crime Stoppers Assistance Fund and the Criminal Justice Planning Fund. More from the Star-Telegram. . . [Michele Berry]
Monday, September 18, 2006
Stanford CrimProf Robert Weisberg, director of Stanford Law's Criminal Justice Center says "there's a general sense of caution on anything involving crime and prisons" in California. Three months ago, Gov. Schwarzenegger urged legislators to take action to resolve California's prison overpopulation and "deplorable inmate healthcare." But at the end of August, lawmakers adjourned for the year without addressing the system's myriad of problems. And while the legislators have gone home, prison officials warn they will run out of beds by June. Already inmates are stacked on double and triple-bunks in gymnasiums and day centers.
Steve Fama of the Prison Law Office is considering a federal lawsuit contending that overcrowding conditions amount to "cruel and unusual punishment.'' If successful, the case could cap prison populations. If prison populations were capped, of course more facilities would be necessary. Schwarzenegger has indicated that he may declare a state of emergency in the prisons, allowing him to impose measures, such as shipping inmates to other states or re-opening mothballed prison facilities. Story from MercuryNews.com. . . [Michele Berry]
Sunday, July 9, 2006
From boston.com: With the dramatic rise in shootings in Boston in recent years, the percentage of victims who are teenagers has skyrocketed, according to new statistics. In the first four months of 2006, 45 percent of non fatal gunshot wound victims were under the age of 20 compared with 35 percent last year, 34 percent in 2004, and 20 percent in 2003, figures from the state Department of Public Health show.
As Boston officials rush to fund programs, hoping to stop bloodshed in a summer that many fear will be the most violent in years, community leaders, police, and others involved in crime prevention are arguing about how the bulk of the money should be spent. Some say more of it should go toward youth programs that could steer young people away from lives of crime, while others say programs aimed directly at known offenders should be emphasized.
Most agree that both approaches have advantages and drawbacks. Funding for prevention programs aimed at youth ``reduces crime in the long run, and that's a goal people everywhere share; however, it doesn't do much to prevent crime in the short run," said Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Monday, July 25, 2005
From DenverPost.com: Denver: "The (Denver Community Court), which started in 2003 as a pilot project, will run out of city money by 2006...The court takes cases involving juveniles in seven northeast Denver neighborhoods...who get tickets for small violations such as shoplifting, vandalism or school fighting. It redirects the cases from regular juvenile court to the neighborhoods where the crimes occur. Since its inception, the court has applied community-building and problem-solving techniques to more than 1,000 juvenile cases....[T]he court doesn't just punish, but also prevents crime through community service, literacy and substance-abuse programs. And it gives kids the chance to right what they did wrong. 'If you bust up Miss Jones' fence, we get hammers and nails and fix Miss Jones' fence,' Johnson (the court's community service coordinator) said." Story...
Fort Collins and Northglenn: These "[t]wo financially strapped Colorado cities are using a new budget system that turns services such as police protection into products and transforms city councils into wary customers....(Due to $8 million budgetary cuts and shrinking tax bases, both cities have adopted) the "Budgeting for Outcomes" approach...(having) abandoned the standard approach of budgeting, which usually focuses on regular yearly increases for services and departments...The new approach - developed by a consortium of former city managers and school superintendents - calls for cities to link goals to funding, ensuring budgets stay stable....A city may set a certain goal, such as a low crime rate, and then ask departments to meet that goal based on spending limits. Departments then come back with offers on how to meet the goal - more police foot patrols or better lighting for parks - with hopes of winning funding"..."'It's a lesson in salesmanship'...(and) 'survival of the fittest.'" Story... [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Friday, June 10, 2005
The town of Santa Maria has hit a homerun financially with the Michael Jackson trial. With all the extra tax money brought in by the crowds, the town will be able to finally do things such as fix pot holes and buy new library books. One small business owner near the courthouse plans to buy a new BMW with the windfall that has come her way in recent weeks. The situation of Santa Maria stands in contrast to the locales that were involved in the Scott Peterson trial. Stanislaus County, where the crime occurred, and San Mateo County, where the trial was held, initially competed over the right to host the trial perhaps because they thought they would enjoy a similar financial windfall. As the costs of the 5-month trial began soaring into the millions, however, San Mateo, which ultimately hosted the trial, came back and sued Stanislaus for a share of the costs. Stanislaus County recently ponied up, settling the lawsuit and ending the dispute. Perhaps going forward counties in California should have "celebrity trial consulstants" on staff so that when a murder occurs they can determine whether they should host the trial or allow it to be passed off to some neighboring locale. [Mark Godsey]
Thursday, February 10, 2005
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has billed the federal government for nearly $118 million in unreimbursed costs for imprisoning criminal illegal immigrants. If the federal government doesn't pay, it should take custody of approximately 3,600 illegal immigrants in state prisons, Napolitano said in a letter sent last week to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. 'This is just wrong,' Napolitano said in a statement Tuesday. 'Arizona has held up its end of the bargain, and has taken these criminals off the streets. Yet the federal government has abandoned its job by refusing to pay for them.'" Full story . . . [Mark Godsey]