CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, January 7, 2008

FBI Report Shows Number of Violent Crimes Decreased Once Again

From The number of violent crimes reported nationwide dipped slightly in the first half of 2007, signaling the first notable decline in violence in two years, the FBI said today.

Violent crimes, including murders and robberies, fell 1.8 percent from January to June last year when compared with the same period in 2006, according to new preliminary FBI statistics. Property crimes fell also, by 2.6 percent, the data show. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 7, 2008 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

New Article Spotlight: Persuasion and Resistance: Race and the Death Penalty in America

University of Kentucky CrimProf Mark Peffley and University of Pittburgh CrimProf Jon Hurwitz recently released Persuasion and Resistance: Race and the Death Penalty in America. Here is a description:

Although there exists a large and well-documented “race gap” between whites and blacks in their support for the death penalty, we know relatively little about the nature of these differences and how the races respond to various arguments against the penalty.

To explore such differences, we embedded an experiment in a national survey inwhich respondents are randomly assigned to one of several argument conditions. We find that African Americans are more responsive to argument frames that are both racial (i.e., the death penalty is unfair because most of the people who are executed are black) and nonracial (i.e., too many innocent people are being executed) than are whites, who are highly resistant to persuasion and, in the case of the racial argument, actually become more supportive of the death penalty upon learning that it discriminates against blacks.

These interracial differences in response to the framing of arguments against the death penalty can be explained, in part, by the degree to which people attribute the causes of black criminality to either dispositional or systemic forces (i.e., the racial biases of the criminal justice system).[Mark Godsey]

December 5, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 26, 2007

USF Report Shows that the US is one of two Countries Who Sentence Children to Life

A new report from the University of San Francisco School of Law's Center for Law and Global Justice finds that the United States is one of only two countries in the world to sentence juveniles to life without parole.

The practice of sentencing juvenile offenders to die in prison by imposing life without parole (LWOP) has been abolished by the vast majority of countries in the world, yet thousands of children are serving the sentences in prisons across the United States, according to a new report from the USF School of Law's Center for Law and Global Justice.

With at least 2,381 children sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in the United States, and seven such cases in Israel, the two countries are the only remaining nations continuing to impose the sentence, which violates international law.

"The sentence violates customary law binding all nations, and is prohibited by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is the harshest sentence that can be given short of execution," said Michelle Leighton, director of human rights programs for the USF Center for Law and Global Justice.

The juvenile death penalty was eliminated in the United States in 2005 by the Supreme Court's ruling in Roper v. Simmons. In that decision, the court cited a brief authored by USF Law Professor Connie de la Vega, director of the Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic, which pointed out that most countries prohibit the execution of criminals who were under 18 at the time of their crime.

"By clarifying the law and facts surrounding the use of life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders, this new report highlights how alone the United States is as a violator of the prohibition against such sentences," said de la Vega, who co-authored the report with Leighton. "Documentation of the abuse is but the first step in remedying that violation. We hope that it helps to mobilize shame in the international community as well as in the United States so that steps can be taken to stop it."

The center's report, the most comprehensive of its kind, is the next step in bringing the United States into compliance with international law guiding juvenile justice. The authors hope the report will raise awareness of the issue among the United Nations, individual governments, and the general public.

The report already made an impact on juvenile justice in Tanzania, which had been listed with the United States and Israel as a country with LWOP for juveniles. But in September, with help from Professor Nick Imparato of USF's School of Business and Management, Leighton met with the Tanzanian Ambassador to the United Nations and other officials and prevailed upon them to review the case of the one juvenile offender said to be serving a LWOP sentence and to agree to bring the country's laws into compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

"I believe our meetings with Tanzanian officials were successful in raising the case to the highest levels of the government, including the president and minister of justice. Our meetings and exchanges with these officials, including the Ambassador to the United Nations, give us every reason to believe that the country will follow through with the commitment of the presidency to review the one child's sentence and otherwise prevent a term of life without parole," Leighton said.

According to the report, children of color in the United States are 10 times more likely to receive life without parole than white child offenders. In some states, including California, the rate is 20 to 1. California lawmakers in January will consider a bill that would abolish the practice. The California Supreme Court is also considering the case of a 14-year-old boy who is the youngest person ever to be given the LWOP sentence for a crime involving no physical injury to the victim.

Full Report. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 26, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Report on Prison Growth

The JFA Institute, a group of academics based in Washington, has just published this report, Unlocking America, on the growth of the prison population, its consequences and solutions. [Jack Chin]

November 24, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 19, 2007

FBI Report States that Hate Crimes Rose by 8 Percent

Hate crime incidents rose nearly 8 percent last year -- more than half motivated by racial prejudice, the FBI reported Monday, as civil rights advocates increasingly take to the streets to protest what they call official indifference to intimidation and attacks against blacks and other minorities.

Police across the nation reported 7,722 criminal incidents in 2006 targeting victims or property as a result of bias against a race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability. That was up 7.8 percent from 7,163 incidents reported in 2005.

Although the noose incidents and beatings among students at Jena, La., high school occurred in the last half of 2006, they were not included in the report. Only 12,600 of the nation's more than 17,000 local, county, state and federal police agencies participated in the hate crime reporting program in 2006 and neither Jena nor LaSalle Parish, in which the town is located, were among the agencies reporting.

Nevertheless, the Jena incidents, and a subsequent rash of noose and other racial incidents around the country, have spawned civil rights demonstrations that culminated last week at Justice Department headquarters here. The department said it investigated the Jena incident but decided not to prosecute because the federal government does not typically bring hate crime charges against juveniles.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 19, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mental Health Courts=Reduced Rate of Recidivism

From Criminal defendants with mental illness stay out of jail longer when they are enrolled in programs that divert them from the prison system to the mental health system. 

Mental health courts offer an alternative to sending still more people with mental illness to jail. Judges, public defenders, district attorneys, case managers, therapists, probation officers, and psychiatrists together closely supervise defendants selected for these diversion programs, helping with housing, medical care, psychotherapy, education, and job training or coaching. 

The goal is to prevent these defendants from committing more crimes and to help them find a place in the community. Offenders who complete the program can have charges dropped or expunged. 

About 90 mental health courts operate around the country, yet little is known about the extent to which they reduce the chances of a defendant's committing another crime. 

Now a study of the mental health court in San Francisco documents reduced levels of recidivism, as measured by the time to re-offending, although questions remain about what accounts for outcomes and who gets to participate in the programs. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 27, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

UCLA Study Finds that LA's Clean Up Initiative has Harmed the Homeless

From A UCLA study found that the LA's year-old Safer City Initiative to clean up skid row has reduced crime but that few additional social services have been initiated.

"There have been unintended consequences that have negatively impacted the homeless and mentally disabled people, with unpaid citations for jaywalking leading to people going to jail and a focus on small-quantity drug buys ending up with ordinary addicts being sent to state prison," said author Gary Blasi, a UCLA law professor.

But top Los Angeles Police Department officials said Tuesday that the study cannot deny the more than 35% drop in serious crime in skid row as well as a similar drop in the number of homeless people on the streets since the initiative began last September.

"It is more than numbers. We are saving lives with the Safer City Initiative. That alone is a measure of its success. We used to pull dead bodies out of tents, parks and outhouses," said Cmdr. Andy Smith, head of the LAPD's Central Division, which leads the effort.

The push to clean up skid row is centered on the LAPD's addition last year of 50 more patrol officers.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 26, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 24, 2007

FBI report Shows Violent Crime is on the rise

From Accordingto the FBI's report "Crime in the United States," at the national level, the report shows an increase of 1.9 percent in the amount of violent crime compared to 2005. The volume of property crime fell by nearly the same amount. While the rate of violent crime—473.5 per 100,000 inhabitants—rose for the second straight year, it is the third lowest total in the past two decades. Property crimes rates dropped to their lowest level since 1987.  Read Report. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 24, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Report Shows that Schools Underreport Crime

From Schools and colleges across the country do not report crime and violent incidents on campus consistently or accurately — in many cases because they are not required to, according to safety experts and a new report by 27 state attorneys general.

A patchwork of state and federal laws intended to tally assaults, robberies, drug use and other crime at primary and secondary schools — as well as colleges and universities — fails to provide a clear picture of the scope of the problem, critics charge. Out-of-date, incomplete statistics are common and authorities have few effective tools to penalize institutions that do not comply, including fines that observers say amount to a “drop in the bucket.”

Making matters worse, school and college officials are reluctant to release more comprehensive information on their own because of stigmas that can be attached to institutions with frequent occurrences of crime, said Ronald Stephens, executive director of the California-based
National School Safety Center which advocates for safer primary and secondary schools.

Stephens and others stressed that high crime rates do not necessarily reflect administrative failures, and that the absence of accurate information hinders efforts to understand and prevent illegal activity.

“Good crime data can provide a summary of what crimes are occurring, where they are happening and when they are happening,” Stephens said in an e-mail to “When this information is available, school officials can develop more effective prevention and remediation programs and provide responsible adult supervision to those areas where the difficulties are occurring.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

September 20, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Justice Department Study Shows African Americans Disproportionately Victimized

From Nearly half the people murdered in the United States each year are black, part of a persistent pattern in which African Americans are disproportionately victimized by violent crime, according to a new Justice Department study released yesterday.

The study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics also found that from 2001 to 2005, more than nine out of 10 black murder victims were killed by other blacks, and three out of four were slain with a gun. Blacks, who make up 13 percent of the population, were victims in 15 percent of nonfatal violent crimes.

The new findings underscore the enduring problem of crime that plagues many African American communities, even during a period when the incidence of violent crime dropped or held steady overall, according to criminologists and other experts.

Some experts said the study also illustrates that encounters with criminals are often more likely to turn deadly for black victims than for victims of other races, in part because black victims are more likely to be confronted with firearms. Rest of Article . . . [Mark Godsey]

August 12, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Study Show Hight Number of Internet Offenders Who Have Offended in Real Life

From Experts have often wondered what proportion of men who download explicit sexual images of children also molest them. A new government study of convicted Internet offenders suggests that the number may be startlingly high: 85 percent of the offenders said they had committed acts of sexual abuse against minors, from inappropriate touching to rape.

The study, which has not yet been published, is stirring a vehement debate among psychologists, law enforcement officers and prison officials, who cannot agree on how the findings should be presented or interpreted.

The research, carried out by psychologists at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is the first in-depth survey of such online offenders’ sexual behavior done by prison therapists who were actively performing treatment. Its findings have circulated privately among experts, who say they could have enormous implications for public safety and law enforcement.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 22, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Study Shows Public Defender Benefits in Federal Cases

From Some poor people accused of federal crimes are represented by full-time federal public defenders who earn salaries, others by court-appointed lawyers who bill by the hour. A new study from an economist at Harvard says there is a surprisingly wide gap in how well the two groups perform.

Both kinds of lawyers are paid by the government, and they were long thought to perform about equally. But the study concludes that lawyers paid by the hour are less qualified and let cases drag on and achieve worse results for their clients, including sentences that average eight months longer.

Appointed lawyers also cost taxpayers $61 million a year more than salaried public defenders would have cost.

There are many possible reasons for the differences in performance. Salaried public defenders generally handle more cases and have more interactions with prosecutors, so they may have a better sense of what they can negotiate for their clients. Salaried lawyers also tend to have superior credentials and more legal experience, the study found.

The study will add a new layer to the debate over the nation’s indigent defense systems. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to legal representation paid for by the government.

The federal system handles about 5 percent of all criminal prosecutions and is relatively well financed. The implications of the new study for the states may therefore be limited.

But more than half the states use a combination of public defenders and appointed lawyers, and most indigent defendants are not represented by staff public defenders at the trial level.

In the federal courts, roughly three-quarters of all defendants rely on lawyers paid for by the government, about evenly divided between salaried public defenders and appointed lawyers paid by the hour. Most of the rest hire their own lawyers, with about 2 percent representing themselves.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 15, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Report Says Number of Jane and John Does Are Twice the Acknowledged Number

From American medical examiners and coroners held at least 14,000 sets of unidentified human remains as of 2004 — more than twice the number of John Doe cases acknowledged by the FBI, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics says.

In a report due out Monday, the agency says the backlog of unidentified remains — murder and accident victims and missing or homeless people who die of natural causes — grows by about 1,000 each year.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

June 25, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

New Study Shows that Caribbean Nations Have World's Highest Murder Rate

From Caribbean nations, which most Americans perceive as sun-soaked paradises, are overwhelmed by the economic toll of the world's highest murder rates and need international help, according to a report released Thursday.

A one-third reduction in the region's murder rate would more than double its per-capita economic growth, according to the study by the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Caribbean nations have been battling drug-fueled crime by bolstering their police forces, but the report says crime rates are so bad that Caribbean governments need help from rich nations and multilateral institutions.

"The report is a starting point of putting crime on the development agenda," said Caroline Anstey, the World Bank director for the Caribbean.

The high crime rate not only is killing young people and adding to the cost of business, but it also keeps tourists in safe beach enclaves rather than having them spend more money exploring other parts of the Caribbean, Anstey said.

The overall murder rate in the Caribbean is 30 per 100,000 people, compared with 26 in Latin America and seven in the United States. Those numbers are from 2002, the last year for which worldwide comparisons are available, and murders since have since risen in the Caribbean and declined in some parts of South America, according to the 231-page report.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 6, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 30, 2007

African Americans and Latinos are More Likely to be Searched and Arrested During Traffic Stops

From Black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested, a federal study found.

Police were much more likely to threaten or use force against blacks and Hispanics than against whites in any encounter, whether at a traffic stop or elsewhere, according to the Justice Department.

The study, released Sunday by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, covered police contacts with the public during 2005 and was based on interviews by the Census Bureau with nearly 64,000 people age 16 or over.

"The numbers are very consistent" with those found in a similar study of police-public contacts in 2002, bureau statistician Matthew R. Durose, the report's co-author, said in an interview. "There's some stability in the findings over these three years."

Traffic stops have become a politically volatile issue. Minority groups have complained that many stops and searches are based on race rather than on legitimate suspicions. Blacks in particular have complained of being pulled over for simply "driving while black."

"The available data is sketchy but deeply concerning," said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau. The civil rights organization has done its own surveys of traffic stops, and he said the racial disparities grow larger, the deeper the studies delve. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 30, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Study Results: Nearly Half of College Students Binge Drink or Abuse Drugs Once a Month

From Nearly half of America's 5.4 million full-time college students abuse drugs or drink alcohol on binges at least once a month, according to a new study that portrays substance and alcohol abuse as an increasingly urgent problem on campuses across the nation.

Alcohol remains the favored substance of abuse on college campuses by far, but the abuse of prescription drugs and marijuana has increased dramatically since the mid-1990s, according to the study released today by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

CASA, which called on educators to move more aggressively to counter intensifying drug and alcohol use among students, first studied students' drug and alcohol habits in 1993. Today's report — the center's second on the subject — involved a survey of 2,000 student and 400 administrators as well as analyses of six national studies. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 15, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Reports Founder in Which White House Originally Suggested Firing All U.S. Attorneys

From The White House suggested two years ago that the Justice Department fire all 93 U.S. attorneys, a proposal that eventually resulted in the dismissals of eight prosecutors last year, according to e-mails and internal documents that the administration will provide to Congress today.

The dismissals took place after President Bush told Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had received complaints that some prosecutors had not energetically pursued voter-fraud investigations, according to a White House spokeswoman.

Gonzales approved the idea of firing a smaller group of U.S. attorneys shortly after taking office in February 2005. The aide in charge of the dismissals -- his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson -- resigned yesterday, officials said, after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress.

Lawmakers requested the documents as part of an investigation into whether the firings were politically motivated. While it is unclear whether the documents, which were reviewed yesterday by The Washington Post, will answer Congress's questions, they show that the White House and other administration officials were more closely involved in the dismissals, and at a much earlier date, than they have previously acknowledged.

Seven U.S. attorneys were fired on Dec. 7 and another was fired months earlier, with little explanation from the Justice Department. Several former prosecutors have since alleged intimidation, including improper telephone calls from GOP lawmakers or their aides, and have alleged threats of retaliation by a Justice Department official. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 14, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 12, 2007

New Study States that Over Confident Witnesses Can Hurt More than the Under Confident

A new study authored in part by a University of California Professor Robert J. MacCoun of public policy and law throws cold water on a common theory that a confident witness who errs in trial testimony is still more credible than a less confident witness who similarly slips up.

The researchers concluded that self-assured witnesses who make a mistake - even on issues of little importance - undermine their credibility by raising doubts about their competency, their ability to judge their own abilities and their motivations.

"People giving testimony, or advice, or opinions should therefore be careful to express appropriate degrees of confidence in their assertions," the researchers write in a summary of their report in the January issue of the journal Psychological Science. "Otherwise, the 13th stroke of the clock will cast the other 12 in doubt."

The researchers included Robert J. MacCoun of UC Berkeley, a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy and at the School of Law (Boalt Hall); Elizabeth Tenney, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Virginia; Barbara Spellman, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia; and Reid Hastie, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago.

MacCoun said the team's findings challenge the frequent tendency of attorneys to pressure their witnesses to project a strong sense of confidence and to minimize the use of hedges like "I think" or "maybe." Academic experts encounter similar pressures when asked to testify before policy makers, he said. But this first-of-its-kind study shows that such a strategy can backfire if a cocky witness gets caught in a mistake. Rest of Story. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 12, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Study Shows Problem With Suicides in Mass. Prisons

From An independent study of the state prison system, requested by the Department of Correction and due to be released tomorrow , has found serious shortcomings in the state's handling of inmates who are at risk of committing suicide.

The report, commissioned after a sharp increase in prisoner suicides in 2005 and 2006, concludes that prison policies and practices are contributing to the problem:

  • Guards and other staff members do not have enough training in suicide prevention.Guards fail to check frequently enough on some inmates at risk of suicide.
  • Some cells used to house suicidal inmates have not been stripped of features they could use to harm themselves.
  • Inmates under suicide watch become even more isolated because they are denied visits, showers, phone calls, and time outside their cells,
  • Ten inmates killed themselves in state prisons in 2005 and 2006.
  • Another prisoner was left brain dead by a suicide attempt.
  • Five of the 11 inmates had recently been on suicide watches, and six had documented histories of mental health problems.

Prisoner rights groups have repeatedly criticized the state prison system for failing to address the needs of inmates with mental illnesses. Lindsay M. Hayes , a national specialist in prison suicide prevention who wrote the report, said suicidal inmates are being punished instead of being helped.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 21, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Study Finds States With Highest Number of Guns=Highest Number of Deaths

From States with the greatest number of guns in the home also have the highest rates of homicide, a new study finds.

The study, in the February issue of Social Science and Medicine, looked at gun ownership in all 50 states and then compared the results with the number of people killed over a three-year period.

The research, the authors said, “suggests that household firearms are a direct and an indirect source of firearms used to kill Americans both in their homes and on the streets.”

The researchers, led by Matthew Miller of the Harvard School of Public Health, drew on data gathered by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2001, the agency surveyed more than 200,000 people and asked them, among other questions, whether they had a gun in or near the home.

In states in the highest quarter of gun ownership, the study found, the overall homicide rate was 60 percent higher than in states in the lowest quarter. The rate of homicides involving guns was more than twice as high.

Among the possible explanations for the higher homicide rates, the study said, is that states with high gun ownership tend to make it easier to buy guns. There are also more guns that can be stolen. And the presence of a gun may allow arguments and fights to turn fatal.

Rest of Article. . . Get Report. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 23, 2007 in Reports | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)