There should be a court Rule which reads: “In any criminal case, a defendant may,at any time, request DNA testing of any evidence or potential evidence, and the Judge, whether he or she wants to or not, shall grant such request if there is any reasonable possibility that the result may exonerate the defendant. We explicitly point out that this includes any case where the defendant may have pled guilty, because our justice system is so fucked up that many innocent people plead guilty!”
Excerpts from the Article:
Over the past decade, laboratories and lawmakers have expanded the power of DNA to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. Scientists can coax accurate results from trace amounts of DNA, even old or degraded samples. All 50 states allow post-conviction DNA tests.
Mark Rabil wishes that all North Carolina trial judges would catch up with the laws and labs. Rabil, a Wake Forest University law professor who runs the school’s innocence clinic, hit a roadblock when a judge denied his request for DNA tests on three .22 caliber shell casings found at a murder scene 26 years ago. The case is the strongest he’s seen in 10 years at the clinic, Rabil said, even though his client pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Guilty pleas are very difficult to overturn, making Rabil feel his quest to test is “a Hail Mary pass for justice.”But the tests might not be the long shot they appeared to be when he filed his motion in 2016. In July, a top government forensic scientist testified to Congress about how public investments in DNA research were transforming once useless items into valuable evidence. “In fact, methodologies enabling the recovery of DNA from shell casings ejected from firearms is over 10 times more successful than it was just 10 years ago,” said Gerald LaPorte, director of the Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences at the U.S. Department of Justice.
All states, including North Carolina, have written laws to expand post-conviction DNA tests. Such tests have revealed that innocent people pleaded guilty to serious crimes. DNA has exonerated more than 360 wrongly convicted people; 10 percent had entered guilty pleas, according to the Innocence Project. The project wins exonerations for wrongly convicted people through DNA testing.
North Carolina law says judges must approve tests if the evidence could change the outcome of the case. In Rabil’s case, the judge declined because the tests wouldn’t show who shot the gun that killed a gas station manager in 1992. But that doesn’t mean such a test would be useless, says Vanessa Potkin, a senior attorney at the Innocence Project. “Results won’t reveal who pulled the trigger, but they could indicate who loaded the gun.”In September 1992, Carl Boyd was found shot dead at the Amoco filling station he ran in Norlina, North Carolina. Two days later police arrested Kelvin Alexander for murder. A year later, as jury selection was to begin, Alexander’s lawyers met with the district attorney who said he would accept a plea to second-degree murder. An eyewitness was prepared to testify that she saw Alexander leaving the gas station at the time of the murder, but the prosecutor didn’t provide her statements to Alexander’s lawyers or even give her name.
Alexander initially rejected the deal. He had always told his lawyers that he was innocent and had a solid alibi. His lawyers applied pressure to him though: If he took the deal, he could be free someday. If not, he’d likely end up on death row. Alexander pleaded guilty.The following day, Alexander and his lawyers first learned the identity of the eyewitness when she testified at his sentencing hearing. The lawyers had no time to investigate her or her statements. The local paper referred to her as “the surprise witness.”Alexander was sentenced to life with eligibility for parole after 15 years. Marvin Rooker, one of Alexander’s lawyers, later testified that he was not given damaging information about Orlinda Lashley, the witness who constituted the state’s entire case. In her first statement, Lashley said the gas station manager had died holding her hands inside the gas station. In subsequent statements she said she never entered the gas station. She said she had known Alexander all of her life but failed to identify him in a photo lineup.
Asked Alexander’s height by police, she said he was between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall. Alexander is 6 feet 3 inches tall. These conflicting accounts convinced Rabil, the Wake Forest law professor, that Alexander was innocent. If the casings contain viable DNA, Rabil believes the results will connect the murder to a career criminal identified by an informant in a 2004 interview with investigators. Alexander challenged his conviction in 2006 but failed to convince a judge to overturn the guilty plea. Rabil and Carson Smith, a Charlotte lawyer working pro bono, took on the case in 2014.
They filed an official request for DNA testing in March 2016, in the Warren County courthouse where Alexander was convicted. The district attorney never responded to the motion. The judge never held a hearing.After two and half years passed, Superior Court Judge Henry Hight denied the request. “The firearm which fired the bullet which killed Carl Eugene Boyd has never been recovered and the requested DNA testing would not reveal the identity of who fired that firearm and killed Carl Eugene Boyd,” Hight wrote.Rabil is appealing the decision. Hight, who had not handled the case prior to 2016, declined to discuss his ruling because of the appeal.
District Attorney Mike Waters did not return phone calls. Alexander’s attorneys said Lashley, the witness, recently slammed the door on them. The Marshall Project’s calls to her home went unanswered. Technological advances make cartridges and casings a much more reliable source of DNA evidence, according to Victor Weedn, a George Washington University professor and past president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists. Scientists have figured out how to extract more information from trace amounts of DNA, even degraded DNA. The risk of DNA contamination and misleading results still exists in testing tiny amounts of touch DNA or objects handled by more than one person.
They are pushing ahead anyway, appealing Hight’s decision to the state Court of Appeals. “We have nothing to lose,” Rabil said, “and everything to gain.”
In class-action settlement, Minnesota prisoners win access to pricey hepatitis C drugs Class-action suit accused state of withholding the cure for hepatitis C
Of course, rigorous monitoring will be needed to ensure that prison officials follow the court order. More often than not, they ignore it and proceed with business as usual …. causing more litigation … wasting more of your hard-earned tax dollars!
Excerpts from the Article:
Minnesota prisoners with chronic hepatitis C infections must be provided with highly effective but costly antiviral drugs following a class-action lawsuit settlement. A group of five inmates infected with the virus sued the Department of Corrections in 2015, accusing the agency of withholding the new drugs from them despite the medications having a 95 percent cure rate.
“The settlement will provide a cure to all prisoners at every stage of progression,” said Andrew Mohring, an attorney for the prisoners. “It puts Minnesota in the forefront for treatment and care of its prisoners who have chronic hepatitis C.”
The prisoners were not awarded any money as part of the settlement. However, the DOC must reimburse their attorneys $325,000 in fees and another $41,000 in costs. The medications, known as “direct acting antiviral” (DAA) drugs, range in price from $26,400 to more than $100,000 per patient. In court filings, the DOC has said that providing the drugs to all infected inmates could “result in a fundamental alteration to the DOC or its programming” because of the expense.
Under the terms of the settlement, which won preliminary approval on Monday, the DOC must screen all prisoners for hepatitis C. Antiviral drugs must be provided if the inmate has an advanced stage of the disease or has hepatitis along with other complications, such as another viral infection, diabetes or a liver transplant.
An inmate denied treatment can request a re-evaluation every six months. Any inmate with the virus will get treatment after 16 months’ imprisonment.
The litigation joins a series of similar lawsuits across the country that ask whether prison inmates have a right to the most effective drugs despite the toll on the corrections budget. The lawsuit alleges that, although some inmates were getting the new drugs, the DOC’s medical guidelines conflict with the medical standard of care endorsed by “practitioners, major medical associations, and care providers” that requires testing and immediate treatment of all patients with chronic hepatitis C, with limited exceptions.
The DAAs, first approved by federal regulators in 2013, have fewer side effects than older treatments and only require taking a pill once or twice daily for up to 12 weeks.
Private and government health insurers have increasingly agreed to cover the drugs for patients suffering from all levels of hepatitis C, a contagious disease that attacks the liver. Hepatitis C typically spreads by blood through needles or sexual contact. Left untreated, hepatitis C can cause severe liver damage and cancer. About 75 percent to 85 percent of people who have hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some of the inmates in the lawsuit said they were infected with hepatitis C while incarcerated.
A previous court filing from the prisoners estimated that there 3,500 inmates with a hepatitis C infection, though in a statement the DOC said 100 prisoners were treated a year, a number that could double.
In an order, U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz found that the DOC was essentially telling its inmates that they wouldn’t be treated until they suffered liver damage.
As is so often the case, to find the problem, follow the money.
Washington D C and seven states have realized the gross injustice in these asset forfeiture laws and have greatly improved them. Since 2014, more than 29 states have enacted laws limiting asset forfeiture or making the civil asset forfeiture process more transparent. Most states continue to review them or have legislation pending. Why? Because as the “war on drugs” got ramped up these laws became wildly unfair.
In 2014, cops seized more assets than were lost in all the nation’s burglaries! Plenty of it was taken from innocent people. It is long past time for Texas to change its laws in this area.
Excerpts from the Article:
Texas used civil and criminal asset forfeiture to obtain more than $50 million in cash and property in 2017, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Everything from cash and cars to clothing, art, and other property were seized and sold.
Prosecutors and police claim that asset forfeiture is a crucial tool to fight against drug cartels and other crime, but many politicians call the process “un-American,” a violation of our civil liberties and a form of “policing for profit.” While the Texas Legislature is expected to take up the issue, advocates fear “lots of bills that gain no traction.”
The U.S. Department of Justice’s asset forfeiture fund reached $93.7 million in 1986. With the sudden surge of seized assets thereafter, that fund quickly surpassed $4.5 billion.
In the state of Texas, opponents of the process quoted the many abuses that the state has been complicit in over the past couple of decades. They cited trips to Hawaii purchased from asset forfeiture funds, margarita machines, and bonuses paid on top of salaries. The city of Tenaha in east Texas was sued by the ACLU for “shaking down” drivers for cash on Highway 59. They claimed that this procedure allowed Tenaha to profit $3 million from 2006-08.
Reforms in 2011 “required agencies that seize citizens’ property to disclose how they spend money they get through seizures — but they don’t have to list what they seized in each case, what offense prompted the seizure and whether they filed a criminal charge or obtained a conviction against the property’s owner,” according to The Texas Tribune.
Bills filed in Texas’ biennial Legislature, which concludes May 27, 2019, range from more disclosure on how and when asset forfeiture is used, placing more onus on the state to prove the asset was involved in a crime, to the complete abolition of civil asset forfeiture. But with resistance from police agencies, advocates fear these bills will never make it to the floor for debate.
Said Terry Canales, chairman of the House Subcommittee, “The natural enemy of any sort of civil asset forfeiture reform is going to be law enforcement itself because of the amount of money they receive. It’s almost like we’ve turned to the dark side.”
Our Founding Fathers might be aghast. One of the grievances cited in the Declaration of Independence was Britain’s abuse of its “writs of assistance,” which arbitrarily seized property and money from individuals without the need for due process. Although the procedure was adopted by the newly formed United States, historians believe it was not abused until the time of Prohibition and the seizing of vehicles running alcohol. A new era of forfeiture abuse began with Reagan’s War on Drugs.
There is one movie which my son and I watched 4 or 5 times when he was little; he liked it so much. It was a sci-fi movie starring Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver in a space adventure where aliens from another planet [the Thermians, led by Mathesar] had seen the T V show broadcast from earth [Galaxy Quest] and they thought the actors – the show – were real. So when the “evil villain” [General Sarris] threatened their civilization, they brought Tim Allen and his team through space to help them fight the evil forces.
Baxter was 10, and he just loved that movie! Here is the link to it on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxy_Quest
Yes, it was a goofy-ass movie, but I loved the line repeated throughout by the leader of the “good guys”, Mathesar: “Never give up, never surrender!” That was “the moral of the story”, and it is the attitude one must have when fighting real life injustice.
As you know, my theme song is Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUTXb-ga1fo
If you live in Nevada contact your legislators and let them know in no uncertain terms that you want NO PRIVATE PRISONS IN NEVADA!
This is not a done deal yet, so voice your opinion. See many articles on this website indicating why private prisons are a DISASTER!
A bill seeking to ban private prisons in Nevada has passed a legislative hurdle. Legislators on a state Assembly committee voted on Friday to approve legislation that requires the “core correctional services” at each prison to be performed by local or state employees.
It is sponsored by Democrat Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, who told lawmakers earlier this month the state has no private-run prisons at the moment. She says the state once did and experienced “negative consequences.”
Several Republican lawmakers voted against the measure.
Practical Tip – Do You Have a Loved One who is an Addict and is looking at Open Criminal Charges? DO This. kra
If you have a loved one who is an addict, and that person is facing criminal charges not yet resolved, you should get the name and contact information of the prosecutor in the case. Then email that prosecutor, and/or the head of the office (the D A or the Attorney General) and ask them if you might meet with him/her personally for just a few minutes.
If you have a good lawyer, have him/her set it up. If you have a P D or some other lawyer who just doesn’t want to take the time, you might consider doing it without him/her!
Use that meeting to remind them that addicts need treatment, not prison. There are many articles about this on this website, or just google the issue. Almost all proposals for criminal justice reform these days emphasize this point. Also, the fact is that most prison “treatment programs” do NOT work.
So have a plan for your loved one to undergo treatment, and meet with the prosecutor to ask him/her to allow that option instead of criminal prosecution. Remind them that criminal prosecution will make it harder for your loved one to get a job, become self-sustaining, and stay out of trouble. So ask them … “if “Johnny” or “Susie” completes the treatment program and is not arrested and stays clean for 6 months, will you drop the charges… does that sound fair to you?” The worst they can do is say no, and they may say yes.
Any ????????s, CALL me at 302-423-4067.
Ex-warden Nate Cain pleads guilty mid-trial in federal corruption case, just as ex-wife was set to testify – Another Rotten Warden; America is Full of Them! kra
As I have said so many times: I bet my life that a thorough audit of the wardens of America would result in indictments of at least half of them. They show complete disdain for the law, think they can do whatever they like because they so seldom are held accountable …. the kickbacks and bribes from prison contractors are pouring into their pockets!
Excerpts from the Article:
Former Cottonport prison warden Nate Cain abruptly entered a guilty plea Wednesday afternoon on the third day of his federal trial on corruption charges, cutting the proceedings short as his ex-wife prepared take the stand to testify against him. Cain pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud related to gun purchases he made on the state’s dime while serving as warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center, now Raymond Laborde Correctional Center.
David Joseph, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, said he expects Cain, 51, to serve time in federal prison and pay restitution for the crimes.
“We weren’t giving him anything,” Joseph said. “He’ll pay for it. I can’t tell you what the judge will sentence him to, but I can tell you prison time will be recommended under the guidelines.”
The deal marked a sudden end to a trial in which Cain had faced 17 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The former warden, who resigned in 2016, took the plea before the jury heard from his ex-wife, Tonia Bandy, and corrections secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, both of whom were scheduled to testify. Bandy had already pleaded guilty in the case.
Cain and Bandy were accused of spending thousands of dollars meant for the Cottonport prison’s operations on a slew of personal purchases — from flat screen TVs and Yeti coolers to toilet paper and coffee, as well as construction supplies to quietly build a new home on prison property — while shielding the fraudulent transactions from any state oversight.
The counts to which Cain pleaded guilty Wednesday pertained only to certain purchases of gun and gun accessories, which amounted to less than $1,000, according to Cain’s attorney, John McLindon. Cain admitted to those limited purchases, and apologized to taxpayers.
But federal prosecutors argue that Cain should be on the hook to pay back as much as $150,000 — the total value of the purchases they alleged were fraudulent — because federal sentencing guidelines allow judges to consider all the relevant conduct.
“Even though he’s only pled to two counts, it wouldn’t be uncommon for the judge to consider the entire scheme,” said Dane Ciolino, a professor at Loyola Law School. “The odds are the judge is going to use the larger number; that’s what usually happens.”
Ciolino said that amount the judge decides on will be a key factor in Cain’s sentence. Ciolino noted the guidelines will add time because Cain stole from the public, but Cain’s decision to take a plea will weigh in his favor.
Cain’s sentencing was set for June 17, and he will remain free on bail until that date. Bandy’s sentencing is set for April 12.
Cain pleaded guilty after three days of testimony. The jury heard damaging accounts from several former employees who said Cain and Bandy completely changed the culture of spending at the prison, frequently violating Department of Corrections rules to buy personal items with state credit cards. They said he made them feel their jobs were at risk if they did not go along with the scheme.
Monroe said Cain told him that “loose lips sink ships,” while poking him repeatedly in his chest in a threatening way. He also testified that when prison officials realized they were under investigation, Cain called Monroe into his office and told him to change the name on the DirecTV account at the warden’s house from Cain’s name to the Avoyelles Correctional Center – because the state had been paying for it.
Another former employee, Thomas Heptinstall, then a lieutenant colonel under Cain, said he found out through the investigation that a wedding present Cain had given him – a $80 pressure cooker – had been bought with state funds. He said he returned it to the state when he learned of its origin.
Cain is the eldest son of storied Louisiana jailer Burl Cain, who himself was forced to step down from his longtime perch as warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in late 2015 amid revelations that he had significant business dealings with the stepfather of an inmate under his supervision. The younger Cain resigned months later, amid investigations into his questionable purchases and other alleged misconduct at his prison, citing his health. Bandy, then still his wife, resigned at the same time, saying she was going to care for her husband, who she said suffered from a medical condition. The two divorced shortly afterward.
Both Cains left during a time of intense scrutiny into nepotism and self-dealing at the Department of Corrections. Though the scrutiny prompted several critical probes and audits, and led to some departures, Nate Cain and several underlings, including Bandy, were the only correctional employees to face criminal charges as a result.
“A lot of our prisons in Louisiana are in remote places, so the warden kind of has the run of the mill,” Joseph said. “We’ve seen, I think, that in several cases in Louisiana. In this case we were able to pinpoint expenses that were being charged to taxpayers that were for personal use.”
Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street, whose office led the investigation into Nate Cain along with the FBI, called the manner in which the former warden operated a “staggering sense of entitlement.”
“Justice was done today,” Street said. “He abused his power as warden and he’s now going to be held accountable for that.”
But justice in two other cases involving Cain and Bandy remain on hold in the Avoyelles Parish District court, as officials there waited for the federal case to play out. Cain was indicted in February 2018 on obstruction of justice, stemming from a 2016 investigation by state corrections officials that found the former warden undermined a probe into a rape allegation at his Cottonport prison. The allegations involved a sexual relationship between an inmate and a corrections officer at the lockup, which is considered rape under federal law, even when both parties consent.
A year prior in January 2017, Bandy was charged with theft of $25,000 or more, malfeasance and injuring public records in the state court following a legislative auditors report that found Bandy was to blame for $30,000 of missing state funds, which were supposed to benefit five clubs to help rehabilitate inmates.
Here is the 2018 update with pertinent details of incarceration in America. Each number is a person, too many of them being people whose lives are ruined due to the injustice in the justice system!
Excerpts from the Article:
Can it really be true that most people in jail are being held before trial? And how much of mass incarceration is a result of the war on drugs? These questions are harder to answer than you might think, because our country’s systems of confinement are so fragmented. The various government agencies involved in the justice system collect a lot of critical data, but it is not designed to help policymakers or the public understand what’s going on. Meaningful criminal justice reform that reduces the massive scale of incarceration, however, requires that we start with the big picture.
This report offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country’s disparate systems of confinement. The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 1,852 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories. And we go deeper to provide further detail on why people are locked up in all of those different types of facilities.
This big-picture view allows us to focus on the most important drivers of mass incarceration and identify important, but often ignored, systems of confinement. The detailed views bring these overlooked parts of the “pie” to light, from immigration detention to civil commitment and youth confinement. In particular, local jails often receive short shrift in larger discussions about criminal justice, but they play a critical role as “incarceration’s front door” and have a far greater impact than the daily number suggests.
While this pie chart provides a comprehensive snapshot of our correctional system, the graphic does not capture the enormous churn in and out of our correctional facilities and the far larger universe of people whose lives are affected by the criminal justice system. Every year, 626,000 people walk out of prison gates, but people go to jail 10.6 million times each year. Jail churn is particularly high because most people in jails have not been convicted. Some have just been arrested and will make bail in the next few hours or days, and others are too poor to make bail and must remain behind bars until their trial. Only a small number (150,000 on any given day) have been convicted, generally serving misdemeanors sentences under a year.
With a sense of the big picture, a common follow-up question might be: how many people are locked up for a drug offense? We know that almost half a million people are locked up because of a drug offense. The data confirms that nonviolent drug convictions are a defining characteristic of the federal prison system, but play only a supporting role at the state and local levels. While most people in state and local facilities are not locked up for drug offenses, most states’ continued practice of arresting people for drug possession destabilizes individual lives and communities. Drug arrests give residents of over-policed communities criminal records, which then reduce employment prospects and increase the likelihood of longer sentences for any future offenses.
The criminal justice system involves some complicated decisions and relationships, some — but not all — of which can be represented graphically. For example, it’s easy to show how jails rent space to state and federal agencies, and that 5,000 youth are actually in adult facilities. But the offense data oversimplifies how people interact with the criminal justice system. A person in prison for multiple offenses is reported only for the most serious offense so, for example, there are people in prison for “violent” offenses who might have also been convicted of a drug offense. Further, almost all convictions are the result of plea bargains, where people plead guilty to a lesser offense, perhaps of a different category or one that they may not have actually committed.
And many of these categories group together people convicted of a wide range of offenses. For example, “murder” is generally considered to be an extremely serious offense, but “murder” groups together the rare group of serial killers with people who committed acts that are unlikely for reasons of circumstance or advanced age to ever happen again. It also includes offenses that the average American may not consider to be murder at all. For example, the felony murder rule says that if someone dies during the commission of a felony, everyone involved can be as guilty of murder as the person who pulled the trigger. Driving a getaway car during a bank robbery where someone was accidentally killed is indeed a serious offense, but many may be surprised that this is considered murder.
Breaking down incarceration by offense type also exposes some disturbing facts about the youth confined by our criminal and juvenile justice systems: Too many are there for a “most serious offense” that is not even a crime. For example, there are over 8,500 youth behind bars for “technical violations” of the requirements of their probation, rather than for a new offense. Further, 2,300 youth are locked up for “status” offenses, which are “behaviors that are not law violations for adults, such as running away, truancy, and incorrigibility.” Nearly 1 in 10 is held in an adult jail or prison, and most of the others are held in juvenile facilities that look and operate a lot like prisons and jails.
Turning to the people who are locked up criminally and civilly for immigration-related issues, we find that 13,000 people are in federal prison for criminal convictions of violating federal immigration laws, and 13,000 more are held pretrial by U.S. Marshals. Another 34,000 are civilly detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separate from any criminal proceedings and are physically confined in federally-run or privately-run immigration detention facilities or in local jails under contract with ICE. (Notably, these categories do not include immigrants represented in other pie slices because of non-immigration related criminal convictions.)
Adding to the universe of people who are confined because of justice system involvement, 22,000 people are involuntarily detained or committed to state psychiatric hospitals and civil commitment centers. Many of these people are not even convicted, and some are held indefinitely. 9,000 are being evaluated pre-trial or treated for incompetency to stand trial; 6,000 have been found not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill; another 6,000 are people convicted of sexual crimes who are involuntarily committed after their prison sentences are complete. While these facilities aren’t typically run by departments of correction, they are in reality much like prisons.
While this “whole pie” provides the most inclusive view of the various systems of confinement in the U.S. justice system available, these snapshots can’t capture all of the important systemic issues. Once we have wrapped our minds around the “whole pie” of mass incarceration, for example, we should zoom out and note that being locked up is just one piece of the larger pie of correctional control. There are another 840,000 people on parole and a staggering 3.7 million people on probation. Particularly given the often onerous conditions of probation, policymakers should be cautious of “alternatives to incarceration” that can easily widen the net of criminalization to people who are not a threat to public safety.
Beyond identifying the parts of the criminal justice system that impact the most people, we should also focus on who is most impacted and who is left behind by policy change. For example, people of color are dramatically overrepresented in the nation’s prisons and jails. These racial disparities are particularly stark for Blacks, who make up 40% of the incarcerated population despite representing only 13% of U.S residents. Gender disparities matter too: rates of incarceration have grown even faster for women than for men. As policymakers continue to push for reforms that reduce incarceration, they should avoid changes that will widen disparities, as has happened with juvenile confinement and with women in state prisons.
Now, armed with the big picture of how many people are locked up in the United States, where, and why, we have a better foundation for the long overdue conversation about criminal justice reform. For example, the data makes it clear that ending the War on Drugs will not alone end mass incarceration, but that the federal government and some states have effectively reduced their incarcerated populations by turning to drug policy reform. Looking at the “whole pie” also opens up other conversations about where we should focus our energies:
Are state officials and prosecutors willing to rethink both the War on Drugs and the reflexive policies that have served to increase both the odds of incarceration and length of stay for “violent” offenses?
Do policymakers and the public have the focus to confront the second largest slice of the pie: the thousands of locally administered jails? And does it even make sense to arrest millions of poor people each year for minor offenses, make them post money bail, and then lock them up when they can’t afford to pay it? Will our leaders be brave enough to redirect corrections spending to smarter investments like community-based drug treatment and job training?
Now that we can see the big picture of how many people are locked up in the United States in the various types of facilities, we can see that something needs to change. Looking at the big picture requires us to ask if it really makes sense to lock up 2.3 million people on any given day, giving this nation the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world. Both policymakers and the public have the responsibility to carefully consider each individual slice in turn to ask whether legitimate social goals are served by putting each category behind bars, and whether any benefit really outweighs the social and fiscal costs.
Even narrow policy changes, like reforms to money bail, can meaningfully reduce our society’s use of incarceration. Meanwhile, some reforms that seem promising have minimal effect, because they simply transfer people from one slice of the correctional “pie” to another. Keeping the big picture in mind is critical if we hope to develop strategies that actually shrink the “whole pie.”
Utah lawmakers pass the ‘clean slate’ bill to automatically clear the criminal records of people who earn an expungement – ALL States Should Do This – kra
ALL states should do this … in an even bolder way; include more offenses by increasing eligibility! It’s fair and it makes sense. Here in Delaware, as in too many other states, getting a “clean slate” (expungement, pardon) is a complicated and costly process!
It looks like the waiting periods were pulled out of thin air; they should be shortened. Studies show that if an ex offender is not arrested within 3 years, the chances of recidivism are “slim to none”!
Pennsylvania is the only other state who has adopted automatic expungement laws.
Did you know that nationwide, there are more than 45,000 barriers to reentry confronting ex offenders? It’s absurd!
Excerpts from the Article:
Utah is poised to become the second state in the nation to adopt an automatic system that will eventually wipe out the criminal records of people convicted of certain low-level crimes. HB431 creates an automatic expungement process to delete criminal records for those who qualify and have stayed out of trouble.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, dubbed it “one of the most important bills that no one is talking about” when he presented it on the Senate floor Wednesday before lawmakers gave the bill a final, unanimous vote. The legislation now moves to Gov. Gary Herbert for consideration.
The bill automates a process that’s already in place for Utahns. But currently, an expungment can be lengthy and confusing — and few take advantage of it. Salt Lake County officials say there’s a backlog of applications, so some wait up to six months just to see if they qualify for an expungement. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, will automate that process.
“If you do everything you’re asked to do, and jump through all the hoops, there ought to be a mechanism that allows you to get your life back on track,” Hutchings said.
The legislation does not change the eligibility criteria for expungements. It covers mostly low-level crimes, and does not allow expungements for felonies, DUIs, or violent misdemeanors like domestic violence or sexual battery. A person must be crime-free for five years for a class C misdemeanor, six years for a class B misdemeanor and seven years for drug possession — the only class A misdemeanor that is eligible for expungement.
Having a criminal record can affect someone’s ability to get a job and can limit housing opportunities, so people often seek expungements to give them a fresh start after a minor conviction. Rep. Cal Musselman, R-West Haven, spoke in support of the bill, saying he has encountered applicants as a rental property manager who could not get housing because of an old criminal conviction.
He gave an example of someone who committed a crime at 19 years old, and still could not qualify for housing at 27 — despite a decade of working at the same job. “This was a contributing member of society,” he said. “This is exactly what would have helped that individual. It streamlines the process for those that have already earned it.”
“Once offenders pay their debt to society, they should be encouraged as they rebuild their lives, not confronted with barriers that make it difficult for them to provide for their families and lead fulfilling lives,” said Rick Larsen, president and CEO of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank. “This act allows thousands of Utahns to look forward to their future rather than backward at past mistakes.”
Pennsylvania is the only other state who has adopted automatic expungement laws.
Holly Harris, the executive director of the Justice Action Network, said the vote in Utah shows the state is a leader in the nation for criminal justice reform. “This legislation will go a long way towards getting back to work and away from crime,” Harris said, “while saving taxpayer dollars and enhancing public safety.”
Does anyone doubt that Donald Trump inspired the New Zealand massacre? Trump didn’t pull the trigger in Christchurch. But the man who did praised him as a symbol of “white identity”
The fact is that we have an inept, rich, ignorant, dangerous, racist in our White House. As the leader of the greatest nation on earth (America still is, despite all the damage done by tRump!) his influence is world-wide. His hate-filled rhetoric and policies are responsible for countless hate crimes, race and sex crimes, and I shall not waste time arguing such an obvious point.
I won more than 600 or 700 trials ( I never kept count, but I do know that I lost only two ). I bet you if tRump were charged in this case, you put me in front of 12 ordinary folks in a jury trial, I would get a conviction! By pointing to tRumps hateful comments and acts, which this article points out are too numerous to count, I would prove “causation”!
I post anti Trump comments because all responsible citizens have a duty to do so! I shall give the nitwits who respond in his defense exactly the amount of my time they are worth: NONE.
Excerpts from the Article:
Words are weapons. Those weapons can be lethal.
The president of the United States gives both permission and encouragement for public’s behavior, values and norms. This is true both in the United States and around the world. He or she is that powerful.
Earlier on Friday, a 28-year-old white man who appears to have described himself as “an actual fascist” entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, armed with assault rifles and killed at least 49 people, injuring many 20 others. New Zealand authorities also report that the attacker had placed two explosive devices on his vehicle, which apparently did not detonate.
In an especially gruesome contemporary twist, the gunman apparently streamed parts of the terror attack live on Facebook. Although that feed and other accounts apparently associated with the shooter have been taken down, the New York Times reports that both the 17-minute video and a manifesto apparently posted by the shooter have been widely disseminated on social media.
Three men and one woman have been taken into custody by New Zealand law enforcement, who have since said that one of those people is likely not involved. At this writing, reports suggest that the 28-year-old man, who by his own account was born and raised in Australia, may have been the sole shooter.
That man appears to have posted his hate-filled manifesto online before the attack. In it, he rages against “Islamic invaders” who are “occupying European soil,” and specifically writes that he used guns to commit this massacre in order to call attention to debate about the Second Amendment in the United States. The alleged mass murderer also wrote that he had donated money to American white supremacist organizations, and quoted the “14 words” pledge often used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
According to various reports, the alleged terrorist specifically cited President Trump as an inspiration. His online manifesto praises Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
Friday’s massacre appears to be another example of what is known as “stochastic terrorism” or “scripted violence.” It is also another case study in how right-wing terrorists, with no official group affiliation, can be radicalized online
As has been repeatedly documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations, Donald Trump is considered a hero by white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The official Ku Klux Klan newspaper endorsed Trump for president in 2016. There has been a surge in hate crimes, including violent crimes against Jews, Muslims and immigrants of various backgrounds, since Trump launched his presidential campaign nearly four years ago.
Trump’s closest advisers have included people with apparent sympathy for white nationalism and the “alt-right,” including current White House adviser Stephen Miller and former White House strategist and campaign chair Steve Bannon, along with former advisers Michael Anton and Sebastian Gorka. Other lower-level officials in the Trump administration appear to share similar racist views.
There have been many documented examples of assaults and other forms of violence by Donald Trump supporters, in some cases wearing MAGA hats and other regalia, shouting his slogans or claiming to act in his name. These hateful actions have included the so-called MAGA bomber, the man who killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and the neo-Nazi mass murderer who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
As shown by Friday’s massacre in New Zealand, Trump-inspired violence is not limited to the United States. A Canadian right-wing terrorist was moved by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to kill six Muslims at a Quebec mosque in 2017.
Ultimately, there are so many examples of Donald Trump’s racism and bigotry that to list them all would be a near-endless task. Trump has suggested that the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia, included “very fine people.” He sought to ban Muslims from entering the United States and pursued a policy of separating black and brown children from their families and placing them in concentration camps. He has suggested that Latino immigrants are a natural criminal class who come to America with the express goal of raping and killing white people.
Trump has described predominantly black nations such as Haiti and Nigeria as “shitholes.” He basically abandoned the people of Puerto Rico after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, implying that they were lazy and did not deserve humanitarian aid. At least 5,000 people died.
Trump has shared neo-Nazi talking points and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on Twitter. He has condemned the Black Lives Matter movement and has said that African-American athletes who exercise their constitutionally protected freedom of protest are traitors who should be kicked out of the United States.
Trump was and remains one of the leading voices for the “birther” conspiracy theory alleging that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and may be a secret Muslim. The Trump administration is working to remove any language in UN documents that condemns racism, xenophobia, bigotry or nationalism.
Likely at the direction of Stephen Miller (who himself is Jewish), the Trump administration omitted any mention of the genocidal violence suffered by the Jewish people under the Nazi regime from the 2017 annual Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.
More generally, Trump’s administration has launched a wide-ranging initiative to change immigration laws to ensure that the United States remains a majority white country.
Some would like to look away from this list. Others will find it tedious and complain that they have have seen this all before. Some will mutter that we all know that Trump is a racist, and so what? And yes, too many other people who will see such a list and feel validation. Numbness to this kind of horror is one of the main ways through which evil is normalized.
As usual at such moments, there is something deeply awkward and strained about Trump’s pronouncement. It might almost be comical if the circumstances were not deeply tragic. We all understand the reason for that awkwardness. Trump’s policies, statements and worldview does not value the lives of Muslims — or nonwhite people more generally–as equal to those of white Americans.
Trump’s words of condolence stink of rancid hypocrisy, which is nothing new. On this terrible day for the world, the smell is worse than ever.