Steve does a great job in suing prison officials!
My friend and great attorney Steve Hampton filed this complaint in superior court yesterday, and says: “but I will not be surprised if the defendants remove it to federal court. Paragraph one of the complaint pretty much explains what this case is all about. Given the reports that I keep getting on medical care in the DOC prisons, it doesn’t seem to have improved since this happened.”
1. Julius S. Johnson died at the age of 31, on July 4, 2019 a week after he was admitted to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) infirmary. Julius suffered from paraplegia and a pressure wound on his sacrum when admitted to the infirmary, yet during that week preceding his death he was denied the necessary medical care needed to keep him alive by the medical staff employed by Connections Community Support Programs, Inc. (CCSP). CCSP is a corporation that was contracted with the Department of Correction (DOC) to provide medical services to inmates such as Julius S. Johnson in DOC level 4 and 5 prisons, including JTVCC.
Grady and Hampton LLC
6 N. Bradford St.
Dover, DE 19904
Here is the entire Complaint: http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/wp-admin/post-new.php
My friend, Kathy Jennings, our AG, continues to do a great job. As she says here: “Police have a difficult job, but at a bare minimum we expect honesty,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Police who break the law commit two injustices: the crime itself, and damage to the public trust that lingers long after a trial. These cases deserve the highest level of scrutiny and independence, and are precisely why we established and expanded the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust. We cannot, do not, and will not tolerate this kind of conduct from anyone – let alone those we trust to enforce the law.”
Excerpts from the Article:
Attorney General Kathy Jennings and the DOJ’s Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust announced Tuesday that a grand jury has indicted James MacColl, formerly a corporal of the Wilmington Police Department, on two felonies and one misdemeanor.
MacColl, 39, is charged with Providing a False Statement to Law Enforcement, Tampering with Physical Evidence, and Official Misconduct for his actions in the aftermath of a police-involved shooting on February 2, 2019.
“Police have a difficult job, but at a bare minimum we expect honesty,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Police who break the law commit two injustices: the crime itself, and damage to the public trust that lingers long after a trial. These cases deserve the highest level of scrutiny and independence, and are precisely why we established and expanded the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust. We cannot, do not, and will not tolerate this kind of conduct from anyone – let alone those we trust to enforce the law.”
In February 2019, MacColl responded to a 911 call reporting an armed carjacking, pursuing and ultimately shooting Yahim Harris, of Wilmington. During an ensuing use of force investigation by the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust1, DOJ investigators became aware of a ballistics analysis that revealed discrepancies between the bullets fired from MacColl’s service weapon and the barrel of his gun. At the time, MacColl – who had previously been the subject of a use of force investigation following the 2015 shooting of Jeremy McDole – denied changing the barrel on his weapon.
The ballistics discrepancy did not affect DCRPT’s conclusion as to the legality of MacColl’s use of force, since it was undisputed that MacColl had fired his weapon at Harris. However, DCRPT disclosed the discrepancy in a public report issued in November 2019.
DOJ later learned of an interview in which MacColl admitted that he had switched the standard issue five-twist barrel on his service weapon with an aftermarket six-twist barrel in 2017. MacColl claimed that he had not changed his barrel when he shot Yahim Harris, but did not explain how the barrel of his weapon would have changed prior to its analysis. It was the first time that the DOJ became aware of any such admission.
MacColl’s total lack of candor during DOJ’s investigation forced prosecutors to drop then-pending charges against Harris for the alleged carjacking, as the State detailed in a memo filed in Superior Court on March 3, 2020.
As DCRPT describes in a Rule 9 Warrant, the State alleges that MacColl – who would have known from his prior involvement in the McDole use of force investigation that his firearm would be seized and would be produced in an official proceeding – knowingly and unlawfully attempted to conceal the use of an aftermarket barrel by swapping out his weapon’s barrel. MacColl’s alleged conduct not only misled investigators in the DOJ and in Wilmington Police Department, but derailed and terminated the prosecution of an alleged violent crime.
If convicted, MacColl will face a maximum of five years in prison. The DOJ reminds the press and public that an indictment is a formal accusation and that MacColl is presumed innocent until his is convicted at a trial, at which the State will bear the burden of proof.
1 At the time of the use of force investigation, the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust was still organized as the Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust.
I have seen hundreds – yes, hundreds – of articles about an inmate who died because jail intake officials did not do their job in screening the inmate for withdrawal symptoms; I bet that is what happened here.
The Whole Article:
An inmate at the Downtown Spokane County Jail died while being transported to the jail’s medical services division on Monday afternoon.
According to county spokesperson Jared Webley, the inmate became unresponsive while being transported at about noon on Monday. Staff at the jail began treating the inmate before being relieved by Spokane City Fire and AMR, but the inmate was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m., according to Webley.
Two doses of Narcan were administered to the inmate before they died, Webley said. Spokane County Detention Services requested assistance from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, which stopped overseeing detention services in 2013, to carry out the investigation, Webley said. Major Crimes detectives and member of the Forensic Unit responded to process the scene and conduct interviews, according to Webley.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the name of the inmate and their cause and manner of death “when appropriate to do so,” Webley said.
At least 10 inmates at the jail have now died since June 2017.
Pray that this order will be enforced. Prison officials routinely ignore Court Orders!
Excerpts from the Article:
A federal judge has ordered that correctional officers wear body cameras and that surveillance cameras be installed at five California prisons, citing repeated abuse of inmates with disabilities.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken’s order was issued Thursday in a disabilities rights case. It requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to place the cameras at L.A. County State Prison in Lancaster; Corcoran State Prison and the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran; the California Institution for Women in Chino; and Kern Valley State Prison in Delano. The judge gave the prisons 21 days to make plans for instituting the cameras and 90 more days to get them operational.
“The Court finds that body cameras are likely to improve investigations of misconduct by staff and to reduce the incidence of violations of disabled inmates’ rights,” Wilken wrote. The judge also mandated reforms related to tracking disabled inmates’ complaints and the use of pepper spray.
The judge made her ruling after reviewing dozens of declarations submitted by prisoner and disability rights lawyers on behalf of inmates.
“Some of the incidents involve the use of force against mentally or physically disabled inmates even though the disabled inmates appear to have posed no imminent threat to the safety of staff or other inmates,” the judge wrote. “The descriptions in these declarations of the behavior of staff toward disabled inmates are remarkably consistent,” she wrote. “Further, the declarants appear to lack any incentive to fabricate the incidents they describe with such great detail.”
The judge also ordered that there be a significant increase in the number of supervisory staff by “posting additional sergeants on all watches on all yards” at the five prisons.
“CDCR has taken steps to improve conditions for people in our care to accommodate for both physical and mental disabilities, including holding staff accountable for behavior that goes against the department’s values,” the department stated.
Michael Bien, whose law firm represents the inmates, said the order “is the beginning of a long process to fix” abuse and violations of inmates with disabilities.
The order comes after officials at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego were ordered in September to install cameras amid accusations that disabled inmates were repeatedly abused by guards. Officers there began wearing body cameras in January. Attorneys for inmates with disabilities had asked the judge to require cameras at seven prisons, but the judge found insufficient evidence of abuses at Salinas Valley State Prison and the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.
In the 71-page ruling, the judge documented several incidents of abuse in justifying the need for cameras and other reforms. The judge noted that some inmates were too afraid to seek help.
At the Lancaster prison, an inmate with bipolar disorder was struck after complaining of hallucinations in June 2019, according to Wilken. “After a mental health evaluation, he was being returned to his cell, while handcuffed, by two officers when the officers and the inmate had a verbal altercation; once they reached his cell, the officers slammed him to the ground face-first and punched him in the head,” the judge wrote.
In December 2019, an inmate experiencing a “manic episode” at the state prison at Lancaster was taken to the ground by several correctional officers and then one officer used an entire can of pepper spray on him and “beat the inmate,” the judge noted.
Wilken said she found the dozens of declarations submitted from the prisons by inmates credible.
Under the judge’s order surveillance cameras are required to be installed in housing units, exercise yards, gyms, dining areas and other areas. Video must be kept for 90 days. Wilken wrote that without surveillance cameras, mistreatment of disabled inmates is “likely to continue.”
Covered in feces, man died of dehydration in Georgia jail ‘that looks like a friggin horse stall’ After spending eight days in a padded room, a deputy found Reginald Wilson not breathing and covered in his own feces. No mental health care was provided.
Who do you think pays for all of this horrific abuse? YOU, the taxpayers, do!
Excerpts from the Article:
A Reveal investigation has uncovered new details of a man who died at the Cobb County Detention Center in 2018. The evidence was kept secret until 11Alive filed a lawsuit against former Sheriff Neil Warren last year to obtain the records.
A familiar face at the Cobb County Detention Center, 54-year-old Reginald Wilson spent more than 1,300 days in and out of jail since 1997 for charges often related to his fragile mental health.
His last detainment happened in December 2018 following an arrest for a probation violation. When the Cobb County police officer arrived, Wilson was having a mental health crisis.
While at the detention center, Wilson’s mental health appeared worse than normal to some deputies. After he was placed in a padded room to help calm him down, he smeared his own feces on the wall. “He never slept. He was constantly just up, doing almost like gymnastics when you watched the video,” one jail employee said during an interview with investigators after his death.
According to jail records, Wilson stopped eating, drinking and refused to take medication. Despite spiraling into psychosis, records show the jail’s psychiatrist never saw Wilson. Infirmary staff never sent him to the hospital, either. During that time, deputies tased him at least two times.
After spending eight days in padded rooms, a deputy found Wilson not breathing. He had been covered in his own feces for 18 hours.
According to the medical examiner, Wilson died from “Dehydration due to Bipolar Disorder.”
In a recorded interrogation, an investigator appeared frustrated over Wilson’s treatment.
“This guy lay in s*** and trash for three days…you know. I don’t understand why he wasn’t given food…and the end of all this, he died in his cell that looks like a friggin horse stall,” the investigator said.
Jeriene Grimes is the president of the Cobb County NAACP. She’s a long-time critic of the jail and the healthcare provided to inmates. “It was a heinous way for someone to have to die,” Grimes said. “He was somebody’s family member, and no one deserves to depart the earth in that type of distress and harm.”
Since 2004, more than 217 people have died in metro Atlanta jails. Most of those deaths were investigated by the same sheriff’s offices sometimes accused of mistreating the inmate.
State Representative David Wilkerson wants to change that. In February, he filed a bill titled the, “Inmate Mental Health Act.”
It would mandate jails perform mental health evaluations within 12 hours of detaining an inmate and provide 24-hour access to a mental health professional. It would require the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate all future jail fatalities. “By having someone else look at it who are trained investigators, it gives us the public reassurance, plus it allows the jail to make corrections if things need to be corrected,” Wilkerson said.
The legislation is mirrored after a 2017 Texas law named for Sandra Bland who committed suicide inside a jail following a controversial traffic stop that sparked national outrage. Michelle Deitch helped write the Texas legislation. She’s a researcher at the University of Texas who has studied jail policy for more than 30 years.
She points out that Georgia is among about half the states in the country that does not have a state-wide oversight body regulating jails.
“[That] means it’s really up to every single jail to determine for itself what standards it will comply with, if any at all. It means, there is a lack uniformity and a much higher risk of liability on the part of every one of those counties,” Deitch said.
While Wilkerson’s bill does not include the creation of state-oversight body, Grimes supports the proposed legislation. “We need to do better. We should have done better,” Grimes explained.
Wilkerson said he filed his legislation in response to a series of Reveal investigations last year which uncovered the death of another Cobb County inmate who died begging for medical help.
Cobb County’s newly-elected sheriff supports Wilkerson’s bill and now plans to ask GBI to investigate all future jail fatalities.
Wilson’s family has filed a lawsuit against the jail’s former medical provider. That litigation is still pending.
According to the lawsuit, multiple medical staff members failed to inform a psychiatrist about Wilson’s condition or formulate a proper diagnosis or treatment plan.
The lawsuit also claims a nurse wrote in her notes that she heard Wilson making noises and moving his fingers before he died. She did not provide him medication because he was “unable to take medication.” The lawsuit alleges the nurse also did not attempt to notify the psychiatrist after Wilson refused to accept prescribed medication.
According to his medical records, the lawsuit claimed Wilson received only one pill during his time in the detention center.
Wilson’s family declined interview requests for this story.
The never ending abuse of prisoners continues! Will we see officials arrested for the abuses mentioned here?
Excerpts from the Article:
Without delving into medical histories, it would appear that the death of a 38-year-old woman booked in a littering case could – and probably should – have been prevented. Ditto a 35-year-old man arrested on a drunken driving charge and a 48-year-old man locked up on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge.
Yes, people do die every day. And most folks booked into jail are unlikely spokespeople for healthy living, physical fitness or eschewing drugs and alcohol. But no one should die a preventable death on the public’s watch. And unfortunately it looks like this woman, two men and up to six other individuals may have.
It’s the job of jail health officials – and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque is large enough to have them – to protect those jailed. Yet, a Journal deep dive into deaths at MDC found nine people died over the past year while in custody of the state’s largest jail – eight during a five-month period from August 2020 to January 2021 – and none of COVID-19. For context, before 2020 there were a total of just 10 in-custody deaths at MDC in the previous four years, and zero in 2018.
Albuquerque attorney Peter Cubra says the recent spike in deaths is unprecedented. He should know. The longtime advocate for MDC inmates says he’s been working around the jail since 1984.
Autopsy and incident reports show the causes of death of the nine inmates who died in the past year vary from a heart attack to chronic ethanol abuse. Some may have been unavoidable, but six of the nine deaths appear to have occurred while inmates were detoxing from drugs or alcohol or in medical units, all while under the care of a medical contractor.
And all while taxpayers were shelling out between $105 and $174 per day to house each inmate.
Bernalillo County manager Julie Morgas Baca says the county is taking the deaths very seriously. She noted one death is too many. Good for her. The easy go-to would have been to attribute the deaths as part of booking 1,500 inmates a month, as the jail did in August.
Morgas Baca says she’s working with St. Louis-based Centurion – which the Bernalillo County Commission awarded a four-year, $53 million contract in 2018 to provide a wide array of medical services at MDC – to improve medical operations. MDC spokeswoman Julia Rivera says the jail and Centurion have developed an in-depth corrective action plan to address the spike in deaths. That’s an important step in rebuilding public confidence. They also need to provide some answers.
Because this county jail is no stranger to harsh criticism for the conditions its inmates live in. It’s under a decades-long federal settlement agreement that lays out more than 200 requirements for reform.
Some of the jail deaths have led to discipline – including a probationary corrections officer who was fired for sleeping on the job while an inmate hanged himself and a corrections officer who was put on notice for termination after an inmate died while detoxing from alcohol. Those who neglect their duties must be held accountable. The stakes are too high not to.
The spike in deaths also raises fundamental questions about who is being locked up and why. The 38-year-old woman booked in the littering case kicked over a cup and bowl in front of an officer in April and refused to pick up the cup. The officer issued her a summons for littering, but she failed to show up in court and was arrested. She was found unconscious and not breathing the next day in the jail’s detox unit. A night in lockup should not imperil one’s life.
Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur of the Law Offices of the Public Defender is correct that the legal system has to be more deliberate about who’s being jailed. The Journal has long argued that violent and repeat offenders, not misdemeanants with smart mouths, should be locked up at taxpayer expense. And the disturbing indicators that people are dying while detoxing should have city and county officials asking if jail is really the most appropriate and cost-effective place to take inebriates.
In this life, some deaths are inevitable – but at least on the surface several of these don’t look that way. There are a lot of questions at this point, and the families of inmates who have died in MDC custody, as well as the taxpayers who should have confidence they are funding a safe lockup, deserve the answers.
Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335
H.R. 1620 Would Vitiate a Fundamental Due Process Right. Lawmakers Are Urged to Act Now.
WASHINGTON / March 15, 2021 – A bill recently introduced in Congress, H.R. 1620, would remove the right of defendants to an impartial and fair investigation, thereby removing a key due process right and increasing the risk of a wrongful conviction. H.R. 1620 seeks to promote so-called “victim-centered” and “trauma-informed” investigations, which are known to remove the presumption of innocence and sharply bias the investigation in favor of the complainant (1).
H.R. 1620 defines “victim-centered” as asking questions of a complainant “in a manner that is focused on the experience of the reported victim.” This description is an admission of the one-sided nature of such investigations, because it says nothing about focusing on the experiences of the defendant, or on the objective facts of the case.
A recent report from the National Registry of Exonerations found that investigative misconduct accounts for 35% of all wrongful convictions. The investigative misconduct includes concealment of evidence, fabrication of evidence, witness tampering, misconduct in interrogations, and making false statements at trial (2). To date, 2,754 wrongful convictions have been documented (3), a number that is believed to substantially underestimate the actual number.
Settlement agreements typically involve compensation payments to exonerees in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment (4).
Black male defendants are often targeted by such “victim-centered” methods. A recent article by Wendy McElroy reported that 73.6% of wrongful convictions involved Blacks who were victimized by Officer Misconduct (5).
Ethics codes admonish police officers to conduct investigations that are impartial, fair, and honest (6). The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics of the International Association of Chiefs of Police states, for example, “As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is …..to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice.” (7)
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity urges lawmakers to contact the bill sponsor, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, and tell her to remove the unconstitutional provisions from H.R. 1620, found at Sections 206 and 303. The full text of H.R. 1620 is available online (8).
A vote on H.R. 1620 is expected to take place later this week. Jackson Lee’s telephone number is 202-225-3816.
This article reminds me that the amount of misinformation flying around inside the prison is mind boggling!
But here we see how misinformation about crimes and criminals creeps into the public perception.
Excerpts from the Article:
A cloud of sensationalism, misinformation, and outfight propaganda has always hovered around government pronouncements and media coverage concerning crime and criminal justice. President Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs in America in a speech before the nation’s governors that proclaimed drug use had moved out of the “ghettos, among the deprived” to take root in the upper middle class. Despite the fact that Nixon’s domestic policy adviser John Ehrlichman later admitted that the administration’s effort was more directed at disrupting the communities that drove the anti-war and civil rights movements than addressing the social problem of drug use, the basic structure of American drug policy, and its criminal justice consequences, have been driven by the same Nixonian dynamic for 50 years.
The problem of misinformation surrounding criminal justice issues did not begin with Nixon, nor did it die with him. There was sensationalism, politically motivated propaganda, and antiimmigrant hate speech in the media coverage and public policy responses surrounding the chaos caused by Prohibition. More recently, the spike in violent crime in the first half of 2020 has been linked to early prison releases, including those in the wake of Covid-19, even though there has been no research to show that one phenomenon caused the other.
It is easy to understand how criminal justice policy making can be driven by fear or an emotional response to a particularly sensational event. However, such policy missteps are not inevitable, as demonstrated in a November 2020 policy study published by Emily Mooney and Casey Witte at the nonprofit R Street Institute. Their study not only outlines how misinformation warps decision-making and gives clear examples from recent history, it also offers a path forward to help mitigate the effects of misinformation in an era of fake news and alternative facts.
The misleading and sensationalized statements made by politicians and spread through the media are often intended to create an atmosphere of fear among the public. Aside from the general reservations the average person might have about such intentions, there are also cognitive consequences to the presence of fear in public discourse. Fear response in humans begins in the amygdala, an almond-shaped organ at the base of the brain. Once a fear response is activated, two simultaneous processes begin. The first is the release of hormones like adrenaline, accompanied by an increase in breathing and heart rate. At the same time, blood flow is diverted from the cerebral cortex, an area of the brain that is critical to reasoning, judgment, and advanced cognitive function. In other words, fear makes it harder to think our way to a good decision and favors a quick, intuitive or emotional response. The survival value of this process is unmistakable from an evolutionary perspective, as are the problems the process generates in a situation that requires nuanced thinking.
To make matters worse, decisions made while in the grip of a fear response leave an imprint on the brain, creating a sort of neural shortcut that makes it more likely we will make the same decision when confronted with similar stimuli. This process, called heuristics, is further reinforced each time it is repeated, making a re-evaluation of a particular response more difficult the more frequently it is repeated.
These psychological processes compound, and are compounded by, the way criminal justice issues are treated in the media. Thus when media coverage of crime increases, the public perception of increasing crime grows with it, even when in reality crime rates are dropping. This explains how in 2019 a Gallup poll found that two-thirds of Americans believed crime rates were increasing, despite the fact that rates of violent and non-violent crime had reached historic lows in that year following a decades-long decline.
It is also impossible to ignore race as a factor in this process. The well-documented impact of the racially charged “Willie Horton” political ad during the 1988 presidential race has long been Exhibit A in the case to prove that fear can make people forget their otherwise-enlightened attitudes about race, and recent depictions of the apocalyptic danger of approaching migrant caravans present equally potent proof. It is undeniable that people of color have disproportionately been at the center of fear-based decisions relating to criminal justice, and their communities have borne the consequences of those decisions.
Fear-inducing rhetoric, seeded with misinformation, has often shifted focus away from real solutions to social problems and even undermined genuine efforts to solve them.
Instead, the rhetoric creates a pattern of false impressions and erroneous conclusions about a particular issue. Several examples of how the criminal justice myths were created are outlined below, as is the real data that refute them.
The first example is the creation of the “juvenile super predator” myth by John Dilulio and William Bennett. In 1995, in editorials and an accompanying book, these men described a bleak American future dominated by “elementary school youngsters who pack guns instead of lunches.” Despite the fact that their predictions were based on almost no data, the term “super predator” made its way into regular media circulation and from there into the public consciousness. It did not matter that academic research conclusively disproved the idea of super predators, nor did it matter that crime rates were already falling by 1995 and would continue to fall over the coming decades. What did matter was the intense media coverage of isolated cases involving horrific violence by juveniles and the politicization of the resulting public outcry to pass laws making it easier than ever before to charge minors as adults. Most of these laws remain on the books, invulnerable to any factual challenge mounted against their fear-based rationale.
Perception of violent crime itself is also an example of how fear can create an ideological matrix that is impervious to fact. Despite the fact that many states have begun to modify “tough on crime” attitudes and policies, these modifications nearly always exclude approaches to people convicted of violent crime. The R Street study found that fear-mongering around violent offenses overstates the potential for recidivism while ignoring the statistically proven reality that violent criminal behavior observably follows the same patterns as non-violent criminal behavior. These observations show that individuals who have been incarcerated for violent crimes have lower recidivism rates than those incarcerated for non-violent offenses. Additionally, violent behavior is proven to decrease dramatically after age 30.
Despite these realities, the fear generated by instances of a violent criminal committing a second violent crime has led to extraordinarily long sentences for many first-time offenders and is the key element driving the growth of geriatric prisoners.
These elderly prisoners are often refused parole, even though their recidivism rate is below three percent and their incarceration cost is exponentially higher than that of the average prisoner.
Another persistent myth inspired by misinformation involves the perception that crack cocaine is more addictive and destructive than powdered cocaine. When crack exploded across the American popular consciousness in the mid-1980s, it was associated with Black communities, street gangs, and violent crime. Powdered cocaine, on the other hand, was seen as a recreational vice among Whites and therefore perceived as less threatening. Unfounded claims about the hyper-addictive nature of crack were paired with a media fascination with cocaine-related gang conflicts to create a near-hysterical fear of crack’s impact.
The resulting wave of mass incarceration and police militarization has had tremendous impact in communities of color. Disproportionate sentencing was mandated for crack possession in the federal system, and despite its outsized effect on Blacks, it has remained in place for over 30 years. The staggering consequences of the policies inspired by the fear of crack cocaine have mostly been accepted despite the fact that there is no data to prove that crack is more addictive than powder, nor is there any clear evidence that the gang violence associated with cocaine is more driven by crack than powder. Instead, public officials and their constituents have been content to allow the fear conjured up by misinformation and media sensationalism to drive them through a cognitively impaired decision-making process. These decisions, like those in the other examples noted above, have proven to be stubbornly resistant to facts and logic, and their consequences are therefore still reverberating across society today.
Understanding the role on misinformation and fear in shaping poor public policy is an important step, but like so many social ills, this problem will not solve itself. The first step in countering misinformation is ensuring the availability of accurate information. The collection of data at every level of the criminal justice system is critical to creating a decision-making process that favors fact over fear. The problem is that regular, comprehensive, and transparent data collection and publication are a rarity across the criminal justice system. This must be addressed at the state and local level, coordinated with federal efforts, and made available to the public.
Even when data are available, there is far too little funding for research and evaluation. Think tanks and universities are equipped to meet the need, but without initiative at the legislative level, policy decisions will continue to lack the high quality, rigorous evaluations that can ferret out flaws and offer better alternatives.
Once data have been collected and analyzed, they must be effectively presented to the public. Most of the platforms that exert influence on public opinion have no interest in crafting positive change.
To meet the effects of sensationalism and entertainment, public information campaigns must be clear and direct presentations of truth. The effect of such programs can vary widely, but if properly done, they provide the surest path to combating misinformation.
Subsequent steps to countering misinformation fall beyond the public sector to land squarely in the lap of the public itself. While the physiological effects of the fear response are difficult to directly counter, citizens can help themselves make better decisions in relation to their support of criminal justice policy by doing three things.
The first is simply paying closer attention to what is being said and who is saying it. It is easier to overcome the effects of fear-mongering when you realize the speaker trying to make you afraid of phasing out cash bail works for an association of bail bondsmen, just as it is easier to question the veracity of a sensational media report when you remember that news outlets do not sell truth, they sell advertising. Learning to recognize ulterior motives and see the truth through the smokescreen neutralizes the worst effects of misinformation.
Secondly, the tendency to focus on sensational events rather than the larger trend obscures any informative view of social reality. Instead of concentrating on a single event, look at the bigger picture when making decisions.
And lastly, recognizing the value of a change in perspective at the social level has to take account of the value of that change at the individual level, specifically in policymakers.
If elected officials are continually criticized for changing their minds when confronted with new data, they will simply stop doing so.
American society is at a critical juncture in the evolution of attitudes toward social inequality, racism, and criminal justice. To come through this difficult time and overcome the fear associated with change and uncertainty, it is essential to get the facts right and make decisions based on those facts.
PA should enact a law to compensate the victims of such injustice! Nothing is worse than prosecutor/police misconduct as seen here.
Excerpts from the Article:
Donald Outlaw had already spent 15 years in prison for murder when he found out the man he was convicted of killing had told police with his dying breath that someone else named “Shank” had shot him.
Outlaw filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Philadelphia and the two detectives who investigated the killing of Jamal Kelly in 2000. The lawsuit is just the latest example of justice now being sought over faulty or crooked police investigations and prosecutions in the city from decades before.
Outlaw’s attorneys allege the city and its police department turned a blind eye to unconstitutional practices by homicide detectives — withholding evidence that indicated someone else’s guilt and intimidating and paying witnesses to provide false statements — that hampered Outlaw’s ability to get a fair trial and violated his civil and constitutional rights.
“Mr. Outlaw’s wrongful incarceration was the direct result of egregious misconduct by Defendants,” his attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“Defendants improperly used their power and position to coerce witnesses into making false statements and identifications, and to offer sworn testimony that they knew to be false,” the attorneys wrote. “Defendants also withheld exculpatory evidence that would have demonstrated Mr. Outlaw’s innocence and deliberately disregarded information and evidence that would have demonstrated flaws in the case against him.”
At Outlaw’s trial in 2004 — four years after Kelly was killed — the victim’s dying declaration that “Shank” did it was never disclosed. Statements from four witnesses who had recanted or said they signed but never read the officers’ written statement were still read to jurors, with prosecutors claiming Outlaw had intimidated them out of testifying, Outlaw’s attorneys said.
In addition to the city, the lawsuit names the two detectives, Jeffrey Piree and Howard Peterman. Outlaw’s attorneys say Piree investigated the cases of three other men exonerated in recent years by the conviction integrity unit of the Philadelphia prosecutor’s office.
A city spokesperson said city officials had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment, but confirmed that both detectives were “not current city employees.” A phone call to a listing for Piree went unanswered, and a message left at a listing for Peterman was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Twenty-one people have been exonerated in Philadelphia since the end of 2016, 18 of whom were released after investigations by the conviction integrity unit since 2018, when District Attorney Larry Krasner took office.
Several other exonerated men have filed claims of withheld exculpatory evidence, coercion of witnesses and intimidation that led to false statements.
After years of appeals, Outlaw’s attorneys with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project persuaded the court to open a file that included the dying declaration and a letter from a witness saying he had hoped to be released from incarceration in exchange for his testimony.
Outlaw’s wife, Monique Solomon-Outlaw, also posted fliers asking anyone with information to come forward. That was more than 15 years after the shooting, but a witness did come forward saying she saw someone else fire the fatal shots.
That new witness testified in 2019 with another witness from the first trial, who recanted his testimony and described how detectives had helped him concoct the story against Outlaw. A judge freed him on bail.
At first, prosecutors planned to retry Outlaw. But other prosecutors in the integrity unit decided there was not enough evidence, and the case was dropped.
Outlaw, who declined to be interviewed about the lawsuit, has been working with the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, said his attorney Josh Van Naarden, a founding partner at VSCP Law.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for the time spent in jail — the missed chance at educational, personal and life experiences. Pennsylvania is one of about 15 states that don’t have formalized compensation programs for people exonerated and freed from prison.
Philadelphia has also seen more civil lawsuits over wrongful incarceration. At the end of last year, the city had paid out more than $35 million over three years, including a $9.8 million settlement with a man freed after spending more than three decades behind bars for a murder he did not commit.
Prison officials search visitors and inmates regularly, when they should search the guards! Anyone who know what really goes on knows it is they who smuggle in contraband!
Prison sentences are the only deterrent.
Excerpts from the Article:
A former federal prison corruption investigator was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months behind bars for taking $15,000 in bribes to smuggle methamphetamine, cellphones and other contraband into a California lockup.
Paul James Hayes II, 52, of Victorville, was sentenced by a federal judge more than a year after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and accepting a bribe, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.
Hayes worked at the Federal Correctional Complex, Victorville, which is in the Mojave Desert. Before retiring in 2019, Hayes was a lieutenant with a federal prison unit that investigates illegal activity by correctional officers and inmates, according to the statement.
In 2018, Hayes took several cash bribes from a woman in return for smuggling at least four packages of contraband into the high-security penitentiary at the Victorville prison complex, authorities said.
He passed the goods to inmates who distributed them to other prisoners, authorities said.
A co-defendant, Angel Marie Wagner, 44, of Buena Park, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and bribery. She was sentenced in February to two years of probation.