Digital Jail: How Electronic Monitoring Drives Defendants Into Debt Ankle bracelets are promoted as a humane alternative to jail. But private companies charge defendants hundreds of dollars a month to wear the surveillance devices. If people can’t pay, they may end up behind bars. This is a HUGE nationwide problem – kra
Whether state operated, or implemented by the predatory private prison companies that have entered this arena, this is a huge, nationwide problem. Huge. The private prison companies are very clever at enhancing their blood-sucking revenue, and Courts – judges – have been all too willing to go along.
There are many issues involved here: racism, the problem of having judges elected, instead of appointed, in many states, “sex offender hysteria”, cash bail reform efforts – leading to more of this “virtual imprisonment”, and others.
The fact is that most, yes most, of these devises are completely unnecessary and do nothing to keep us safer!
The article is quite lengthy; anyone really interested in justice should read all of it!
Excerpts from the Article:
On Oct. 12, 2018, Daehaun White walked free, or so he thought. A guard handed him shoelaces and the $19 that had been in his pocket at the time of his booking, along with a letter from his public defender. The lanky 19-year-old had been sitting for almost a month in St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution, a city jail known as the Workhouse, after being pulled over for driving some friends around in a stolen Chevy Cavalier. When the police charged him with tampering with a motor vehicle — driving a car without its owner’s consent — and held him overnight, he assumed he would be released by morning. He told the police that he hadn’t known that the Chevy, which a friend had lent him a few hours earlier, was stolen. He had no previous convictions. But the $1,500 he needed for the bond was far beyond what he or his family could afford. It wasn’t until his public defender, Erika Wurst, persuaded the judge to lower the amount to $500 cash, and a nonprofit fund, the Bail Project, paid it for him, that he was able to leave the notoriously grim jail. “Once they said I was getting released, I was so excited I stopped listening,” he told me recently. He would no longer have to drink water blackened with mold or share a cell with rats, mice and cockroaches. He did a round of victory pushups and gave away all of the snack cakes he had been saving from the cafeteria.
When he finally read Wurst’s letter, however, he realized there was a catch. Even though Wurst had argued against it, the judge, Nicole Colbert-Botchway, had ordered him to wear an ankle monitor that would track his location at every moment using GPS. For as long as he would wear it, he would be required to pay $10 a day to a private company, Eastern Missouri Alternative Sentencing Services, or EMASS. Just to get the monitor attached, he would have to report to EMASS and pay $300 up front — enough to cover the first 25 days, plus a $50 installation fee.
White didn’t know how to find that kind of money. Before his arrest, he was earning minimum wage as a temp, wrapping up boxes of shampoo. His father was largely absent, and his mother, Lakisha Thompson, had recently lost her job as the housekeeping manager at a Holiday Inn. Raising Daehaun and his four siblings, she had struggled to keep up with the bills. The family bounced between houses and apartments in northern St. Louis County, where, as a result of Jim Crow redlining, most of the area’s black population lives. In 2014, they were living on Canfield Drive in Ferguson when Michael Brown was shot and killed there by a police officer. During the ensuing turmoil, Thompson moved the family to Green Bay, Wisconsin. White felt out of place. He was looked down on for his sagging pants, called the N-word when riding his bike. After six months, he moved back to St. Louis County on his own to live with three of his siblings and stepsiblings in a gray house with vinyl siding.
When White got home on the night of his release, he was so overwhelmed to see his family again that he forgot about the letter. He spent the next few days hanging out with his siblings, his mother, who had returned to Missouri earlier that year, and his girlfriend, Demetria, who was seven months pregnant. He didn’t report to EMASS.
What he didn’t realize was that he had failed to meet a deadline. Typically, defendants assigned to monitors must pay EMASS in person and have the device installed within 24 hours of their release from jail. Otherwise, they have to return to court to explain why they’ve violated the judge’s orders. White, however, wasn’t called back for a hearing. Instead, a week after he left the Workhouse, Colbert-Botchway issued a warrant for his arrest.
Three days later, a large group of police officers knocked on Thompson’s door, looking for information about an unrelated case, a robbery. White and his brother had been making dinner with their mother, and the officers asked them for identification. White’s name matched the warrant issued by Colbert-Botchway. “They didn’t tell me what the warrant was for,” he said. “Just that it was for a violation of my release.” He was taken downtown and held for transfer back to the Workhouse. “I kept saying to myself, ’Why am I locked up?’” he recalled.
The next morning, Thompson called the courthouse to find the answer. She learned that her son had been jailed over his failure to acquire and pay for his GPS monitor. To get him out, she needed to pay EMASS on his behalf.
This seemed absurd to her. When Daehaun was 13, she had worn an ankle monitor after violating probation for a minor theft, but the state hadn’t required her to cover the cost of her own supervision. “This is a 19-year-old coming out of the Workhouse,” she told me recently. “There’s no way he has $300 saved.” Thompson felt that the court was forcing her to choose between getting White out of jail and supporting the rest of her family.
Over the past half-century, the number of people behind bars in the United States jumped by more than 500%, to 2.2 million. This extraordinary rise, often attributed to decades of “tough on crime” policies and harsh sentencing laws, has ensured that even as crime rates have dropped since the 1990s, the number of people locked up and the average length of their stay have increased. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the cost of keeping people in jails and prisons soared to $87 billion in 2015 from $19 billion in 1980, in current dollars.
In recent years, politicians on both sides of the aisle have joined criminal-justice reformers in recognizing mass incarceration as both a moral outrage and a fiscal sinkhole. As ankle bracelets have become compact and cost-effective, legislators have embraced them as an enlightened alternative. More than 125,000 people in the criminal-justice system were supervised with monitors in 2015, compared with just 53,000 people in 2005, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Although no current national tally is available, data from several cities — Austin, Texas; Indianapolis; Chicago; and San Francisco — show that this number continues to rise. Last December, the First Step Act, which includes provisions for home detention, was signed into law by President Donald Trump with support from the private prison giants GEO Group and CoreCivic. These corporations dominate the so-called community-corrections market — services such as day-reporting and electronic monitoring — that represents one of the fastest-growing revenue sectors of their industry.
By far the most decisive factor promoting the expansion of monitors is the financial one. The United States government pays for monitors for some of those in the federal criminal-justice system and for tens of thousands of immigrants supervised by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But states and cities, which incur around 90% of the expenditures for jails and prisons, are increasingly passing the financial burden of the devices onto those who wear them. It costs St. Louis roughly $90 a day to detain a person awaiting trial in the Workhouse, where in 2017 the average stay was 291 days. When individuals pay EMASS $10 a day for their own supervision, it costs the city nothing. A 2014 study by NPR and the Brennan Center found that, with the exception of Hawaii, every state required people to pay at least part of the costs associated with GPS monitoring. Some probation offices and sheriffs run their own monitoring programs — renting the equipment from manufacturers, hiring staff and collecting fees directly from participants. Others have outsourced the supervision of defendants, parolees and probationers to private companies.
“There are a lot of judges who reflexively put people on monitors, without making much of a pretense of seriously weighing it at all,” said Chris Albin-Lackey, a senior legal adviser with Human Rights Watch who has researched private-supervision companies. “The limiting factor is the cost it might impose on the public, but when that expense is sourced out, even that minimal brake on judicial discretion goes out the window.”
Nowhere is the pressure to adopt monitors more pronounced than in places like St. Louis: cash-strapped municipalities with large populations of people awaiting trial. Nationwide on any given day, half a million people sit in crowded and expensive jails because, like Daehaun White, they cannot purchase their freedom.
As the movement to overhaul cash bail has challenged the constitutionality of jailing these defendants, judges and sheriffs have turned to monitors as an appealing substitute. In San Francisco, the number of people released from jail onto electronic monitors tripled after a 2018 ruling forced courts to release more defendants without bail. In Marion County, Indiana, where jail overcrowding is routine, roughly 5,000 defendants were put on monitors last year. “You would be hard-pressed to find bail-reform legislation in any state that does not include the possibility of electronic monitoring,” said Robin Steinberg, the chief executive of the Bail Project.
Help Us Investigate
Have You Worn an Electronic Monitoring Device or Supervised Someone Wearing One? We Want to Hear About It.
Yet like the system of wealth-based detention they are meant to help reform, ankle monitors often place poor people in special jeopardy. Across the country, defendants who have not been convicted of a crime are put on “offender funded” payment plans for monitors that sometimes cost more than their bail. And unlike bail, they don’t get the payment back, even if they’re found innocent. Although a federal survey shows that nearly 40% of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to cover an emergency, companies and courts routinely threaten to lock up defendants if they fall behind on payment. In Greenville, South Carolina, pretrial defendants can be sent back to jail when they fall three weeks behind on fees. (An officer for the Greenville County Detention Center defended this practice on the grounds that participants agree to the costs in advance.) In Mohave County, Arizona, pretrial defendants charged with sex offenses have faced rearrest if they fail to pay for their monitors, even if they prove that they can’t afford them. “We risk replacing an unjust cash-bail system,” Steinberg said, “with one just as unfair, inhumane and unnecessary.”
Many local judges, including in St. Louis, do not conduct hearings on a defendant’s ability to pay for private supervision before assigning them to it; those who do often overestimate poor people’s financial means. Without judicial oversight, defendants are vulnerable to private-supervision companies that set their own rates and charge interest when someone can’t pay up front. Some companies even give their employees bonuses for hitting collection targets.
It’s not only debt that can send defendants back to jail. People who may not otherwise be candidates for incarceration can be punished for breaking the lifestyle rules that come with the devices. A survey in California found that juveniles awaiting trial or on probation face especially difficult rules; in one county, juveniles on monitors were asked to follow more than 50 restrictions, including not participating “in any social activity.” For this reason, many advocates describe electronic monitoring as a “net-widener”: Far from serving as an alternative to incarceration, it ends up sweeping more people into the system.
The St. Louis area has made national headlines for its “offender funded” model of policing and punishment. Stricken by postindustrial decline and the 2008 financial crisis, its municipalities turned to their police departments and courts to make up for shortfalls in revenue. In 2015, the Ferguson Report by the United States Department of Justice put hard numbers to what black residents had long suspected: The police were targeting them with disproportionate arrests, traffic tickets and excessive fines. EMASS may have saved the city some money, but it also created an extraordinary and arbitrary-seeming new expense for poor defendants. When cities cover the cost of monitoring, they often pay private contractors $2 to $3 a day for the same equipment and services for which EMASS charges defendants $10 a day. To come up with the money, EMASS clients told me, they had to find second jobs, take their children out of day care and cut into disability checks. Others hurried to plead guilty for no better reason than that being on probation was cheaper than paying for a monitor.
The St. Louis office of EMASS, which charges defendants $300 up front to get the monitor attached. (Zora J Murff for The New York Times)
White assumed that GPS supervision would prove a minor annoyance. Instead, it was a constant burden. The box was bulky and the size of a fist, so he couldn’t hide it under his jeans. Whenever he left the house, people stared. There were snide comments (“nice bracelet”) and cutting jokes. His brothers teased him about having a babysitter. “I’m nobody to watch,” he insisted.
The biggest problem was finding work. Confident and outgoing, White had never struggled to land jobs; after dropping out of high school in his junior year, he flipped burgers at McDonald’s and Steak ’n Shake. To pay for the monitor, he applied to be a custodian at Julia Davis Library, a cashier at Home Depot, a clerk at Menards. The conversation at Home Depot had gone especially well, White thought, until the interviewer casually asked what was on his leg.
Perpetual surveillance also takes a mental toll. Nearly everyone I spoke to who wore a monitor described feeling trapped, as though they were serving a sentence before they had even gone to trial. White was never really sure about what he could or couldn’t do under supervision. In January, when his girlfriend had their daughter, Rylan, White left the hospital shortly after the birth, under the impression that he had a midnight curfew. Later that night, he let his monitor die so that he could sneak back before sunrise to see the baby again.
EMASS makes its money from defendants. But it gets its power over them from judges. It was in 2012 that the judges of the St. Louis court started to use the company’s services — which previously involved people on probation for misdemeanors — for defendants awaiting trial. Last year, the company supervised 239 defendants in the city of St. Louis on GPS monitors, according to numbers provided by EMASS to the court. The alliance with the courts gives the company not just a steady stream of business but a reliable means of recouping debts: Unlike, say, a credit-card company, which must file a civil suit to collect from overdue customers, EMASS can initiate criminal-court proceedings, threatening defendants with another stay in the Workhouse.
The contract with EMASS allows the court to assign indigent defendants to the company to oversee “at no cost.” Yet neither Burlison nor any of the other current or former judges I spoke with recalled waiving fees when ordering someone to wear an ankle monitor. When I asked Burlison why he didn’t, he said that he was concerned that if he started to make exceptions on the basis of income, the company might stop providing ankle-monitoring services in St. Louis.
Judges are anxious about what people released without posting bail might do once they get out. Several told me that monitors may ensure that the defendants return to court. Not unlike doctors who order a battery of tests for a mildly ill patient to avoid a potential malpractice suit, judges seem to view monitors as a precaution against their faces appearing on the front page of the newspaper. “Every judge’s fear is to let somebody out on recognizance and he commits murder, and then everyone asks, ’How in the hell was this person let out?’” said Robert Dierker, who served as a judge in St. Louis from 1986 to 2017 and now represents the city in the bail lawsuit. “But with GPS, you can say, ’Well, I have him on GPS, what else can I do?’”
Critics of monitors contend that their public-safety appeal is illusory: If defendants are intent on harming someone or skipping town, the bracelet, which can be easily removed with a pair of scissors, would not stop them. Studies showing that people tracked by GPS appear in court more reliably are scarce, and research about its effectiveness as a deterrent is inconclusive.
“The fundamental question is, What purpose is electronic monitoring serving?” said Blake Strode, the executive director of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit civil rights law firm in St. Louis that is one of several firms representing the plaintiffs in the bail lawsuit. “If the only purpose it’s serving is to make judges feel better because they don’t want to be on the hook if something goes wrong, then that’s not a sensible approach. We should not simply be monitoring for monitoring’s sake.”
Electronic monitoring was first conceived in the early 1960s by Ralph and Robert Gable, identical twins studying at Harvard under the psychologists Timothy Leary and B.F. Skinner, respectively. Influenced in part by Skinner’s theories of positive reinforcement, the Gables rigged up some surplus missile-tracking equipment to monitor teenagers on probation; those who showed up at the right places at the right times were rewarded with movie tickets, limo rides and other prizes.
The reality of electronic monitoring today is that Big Brother is watching some groups more than others. No national statistics are available on the racial breakdown of Americans wearing ankle monitors, but all indications suggest that mass supervision, like mass incarceration, disproportionately affects black people. In Cook County, Illinois, for instance, black people make up 24% of the population, and 67% of those on monitors. The sociologist Simone Browne has connected contemporary surveillance technologies like GPS monitors to America’s long history of controlling where black people live, move and work. In her 2015 book, “Dark Matters,” she traces the ways in which “surveillance is nothing new to black folks,” from the branding of enslaved people and the shackling of convict laborers to Jim Crow segregation and the home visits of welfare agencies. These historical inequities, Browne notes, influence where and on whom new tools like ankle monitors are imposed.
For some black families, including White’s, monitoring stretches across generations. Annette Taylor, the director of Ripple Effect, an advocacy group for prisoners and their families based in Champaign, Illinois, has seen her ex-husband, brother, son, nephew and sister’s husband wear ankle monitors over the years. She had to wear one herself, about a decade ago, she said, for driving with a suspended license. “You’re making people a prisoner of their home,” she told me. When her son was paroled and placed on house arrest, he couldn’t live with her, because he was forbidden to associate with people convicted of felonies, including his stepfather, who was also on house arrest.
Michelle Alexander, a legal scholar and columnist for The Times, has argued that monitoring engenders a new form of oppression under the guise of progress. In her 2010 book, “The New Jim Crow,” she wrote that the term “mass incarceration” should refer to the “system that locks people not only behind actual bars in actual prisons, but also behind virtual bars and virtual walls — walls that are invisible to the naked eye but function nearly as effectively as Jim Crow laws once did at locking people of color into a permanent second-class citizenship.”
As the cost of monitoring continues to fall, those who are required to submit to it may worry less about the expense and more about the intrusive surveillance. The devices, some of which are equipped with two-way microphones, can give corrections officials unprecedented access to the private lives not just of those monitored but also of their families and friends. GPS location data appeals to the police, who can use it to investigate crimes. Already the goal is both to track what individuals are doing and to anticipate what they might do next. BI Incorporated, an electronic-monitoring subsidiary of GEO Group, has the ability to assign risk scores to the behavioral patterns of those monitored, so that law enforcement can “address potential problems before they happen.” Judges leery of recidivism have begun to embrace risk-assessment tools. As a result, defendants who have yet to be convicted of an offense in court may be categorized by their future chances of reoffending.
The combination of GPS location data with other tracking technologies such as automatic license-plate readers represents an uncharted frontier for finer-grained surveillance. In some cities, police have concentrated these tools in neighborhoods of color. A CityLab investigation found that Baltimore police were more likely to deploy the Stingray — the controversial and secretive cellphone tracking technology — where African Americans lived. In the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death in 2015, the police spied on Black Lives Matter protesters with face recognition technology. Given this pattern, the term “electronic monitoring” may soon refer not just to a specific piece of equipment but to an all-encompassing strategy.
If the evolution of the criminal-justice system is any guide, it is very likely that the ankle bracelet will go out of fashion. Some GPS monitoring vendors have already started to offer smartphone applications that verify someone’s location through voice and face recognition. These apps, with names like Smart-LINK and Shadowtrack, promise to be cheaper and more convenient than a boxy bracelet. They’re also less visible, mitigating the stigma and normalizing surveillance. While reducing the number of people in physical prison, these seductive applications could, paradoxically, increase its reach. For the nearly 4.5 million Americans on probation or parole, it is not difficult to imagine a virtual prison system as ubiquitous — and invasive — as Instagram or Facebook.
Buss calculated the money White owed going back to November: $755, plus 10% annual interest. Over the next nine months, EMASS expected him to make monthly payments that would add up to $850 — more than the court had required for his bond. White looked at the receipt and shook his head. “I get in trouble for living,” he said as he walked out of the office. “For being me.”
This is what I send to most (I don’t have time to get it to all of them) new internet connections, on MeWe, LinkedIn, etc.
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Should you or any of your connections ever have any questions about any of these articles or about any problem with the criminal justice system, or about civil rights, don’t hesitate to call me. 302-423-4067. I work every day from 3 or 4 am until 10 pm. I get calls from all over the country about everything from grad students looking for guidance with their classes to freeing the innocent and others from prisons, calls about saving lives… etc., …and glad to answer them all. If I don’t know an answer, I’ll say “I don’t know, but let’s find out!”
Everybody is affected by our dysfunctional criminal justice system. Read these Articles to learn some solutions to the problems!
Porn star or not, read this! Practical Tip # 89 – Accusers face risks in breaking nondisclosure agreements – Don’t Sign a Nondisclosure! – kra With Letter to the Editor = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-89-accusers-face-risks-breaking-nondisclosure-agreements-dont-sign-nondisclosure-kra/
This is a MUST READ if you have not read it! Probation and Parole – a short Essay by Ken Abraham – With Letter to the Editor or Editorial Submission – Widely PUBLISHED = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/probation-and-parole-an-essay-by-ken-abraham-with-letter-to-the-editor/
Practical Tip on Pardons, Expungements, Commutations/Clemency – With fee agreement = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-pardons-expungments-commtations/
Report Bad Lawyers – Do it! – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/report-bad-lawyers-they-dont-just-screw-up-the-casethey-ruin-lives-every-day/
Prison Abuse – Why Massive Indifference is a Massive Mistake – kra = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/prison-abuse-massive-indifference-massive-mistake/
READ Crime Prevention Bill = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/crime-bill/
Know Anyone Associated With an Innocence Project Team? Practical Tip: Tell them “Get them out First” kra – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-pardons-expungments-commtations/
http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/prosecution-imprisonment-will-stop-prison-abuse-demand-avoid-deaths-prison-guards/ = How to avoid the deaths of prison guards and inmates … or do you want to join the countless officials who refuse to acknowledge this huge problem called prison abuse?
http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/the-power-of-advertising-win-the-war-on-dr = The Answer to the Drug Problem … or do you want to continue to waste about a hundred billion dollars a year, and get nowhere?
Letter to the Editor – Criminal justice system policies are changing for the better – by Ken Abraham – PUBLISHED – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/criminal-justice-system-policies-changing-better-ken-abraham-published/
Florida shooting: NRA sues as Florida enacts gun-control law – with Letter to the Editor – kra – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/florida-shooting-nra-sues-as-florida-enacts-gun-control-law-with-letter-to-the-editor-kra/ I just about fell out of my chair when a Pulitzer Prize winning author called me a minute ago and said: “Great letter, Mr. Abraham!” He now calls me Ken.
Letter from a concerned citizen, Pam Rehmer, about racism in the criminal justice system. Although polls show that 74% of Americans don’t think the system is racist, many, many studies show that it is. http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/letter-from-a-concerned-citizen-about-racism-in-the-system/
http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/how-the-war-on-drugs-has-destroyed-justice/ = I remember when the system worked well; justice nearly always was the result. Today it is a total train wreck – perhaps the most vivid manifestation is that we are imprisoning hundreds of innocent people every year. This is WHY it is a train wreck!
More Band-Aids won’t solve wave of drug violence! – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/band-aids-wont-solve-wave-drug-violence/
Politics – Politics is what destroyed our criminal justice system! – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/politics-politics-destroyed-criminal-justice-system/
Abolish the “Sex Offender” Registry! Learn the FACTS instead of all the “Sex Offender Hysteria” kra = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/abolish-the-sex-offender-registry-kra/
Got a Problem with the Criminal Justice System? CALL this Guy!
Practical Tip – Get Empowered! How YOU Can Create a Powerful, Effective Force for Reform of our Criminal Justice System -http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-how-you-can-create-a-powerful-effective-force-for-reform-of-our-criminal-justice-system/
Please take a moment to join our Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE group on MeWe, the fast – growing social media platform positioning itself as an alternative to FB!
Yes, he was funny as hell, but also wise:
Feel free to reproduce anything I have written anywhere at any time, with or without attribution. The important thing is to share the information, educate the public, most of whom are clueless about what a disaster the criminal justice system is!
Want to debate any of this? Call any time; I work from 3 or 4 a m until I drop every day. Better yet, please invite me to a public forum to debate any of these issues!
Make A Difference
So many say “why bother, there’s nothing I can do!”
Well, I sure hope one of those is not you!
For you can be far, far more influential than you think,
All you need do is share some well-thought-out-ink!
READ http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-how-you-can-become-a-prison-reform-advocate-here-is-how-do-it/PracticalTip: How YOU can become a “prison reform advocate” – or any ADVOCATE! Here is how! EASY as 1, 2 ,3 ! DO IT!
Why Am I Up in The Middle of The Night?
Why Am I Up in The Middle of The Night?
Because there is so much injustice in the justice system, it’s just not right,
So I rest when I can, but, largely, I fight, fight, fight,
I remember when the system did in fact work quit well,
But since our “war on drugs”, it’s gone straight to hell!
Learn neat stuff: The BBC series “Planet Earth – Dynasties”! Have you seen shrimps attack a starfish? Did you know that there are fish with jaws so powerful that they can bite through rock? Have you seen the astonishing transformations which cuttlefish use to disguise themselves? Did you know there is a predator which eats great white sharks? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iC3hGfTI3ew
MAKE it a great day! Ken Abraham
Founder, Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, (CCJ)
430 Kings Hwy., Suite 414, Dover, DE 19901
Founder, “Adopt a Prisoner” Church Reentry Program,
And founder of no more organizations this decade! 🙂
So I say: Quit the idiocy and legalize it!
More than six in ten US adults believe that the personal use of cannabis ought to be legal in every state in the country, according to nationwide polling data compiled by Survey Monkey and the news portal Axios.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they support “legalizing the recreational use of marijuana on a national level.” Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that they support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes.” Both percentages are consistent with other recent national surveys.
Though nearly two-thirds of respondents favored legalization, only about one-quarter of those surveyed expressed interest in using marijuana themselves.
Drug Addiction Isn’t a Crime—We Just Treat it Like One A new film proves that there is an alternative, and that it works.
They see the folly of the war on drugs. The video confirms what I have said for years: “For many in reentry and recovery, it makes a huge difference to know that someone cares whether they succeed”! It also confirms that prison treatment programs do NOT work!
READ this: The Power of Advertising – Win the “War on Drugs” – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/the-power-of-advertising-win-the-war-on-drugs/
Keith Whiteman was first locked up in 1995, at age 20. Three years in prison, five months out—then he offended again. Another two years in prison, seven months out. Three more times he returned, spending years behind bars and then a few months free. Each time he committed yet another offense (or several), all a byproduct of his addiction to drugs. “A recidivating machine,” Keith described himself to me.
Overall, Keith had 40 felony convictions, six felony imprisonments, and many more stints in jail. Each cycle came at a cost, both to him and to society. During 15 years in the custody of the Washington State Department of Corrections, Keith took advantage of every “treatment” program the Department of Corrections (DOC) had to offer. Yet, while you could lock him up a countless number of times, for longer and longer sentences, it wasn’t until he was released into a web of support that he was able to break the cycle of imprisonment: going in with a drug addiction, coming out with a drug addiction, and reoffending.
In 2008, though, something changed: Just before his release, Keith connected with the Post-Prison Education Program, and we delivered. We stood with Keith and his family as he strived to build a life worth living. The Post-Prison Education Program facilitated and encouraged his entry into and success in college; provided housing, groceries, transportation, and additional basic needs; and, importantly, mentored Keith intensively. For the first time, Keith said, people cared about him who weren’t related to him, who owed him nothing. Buoyed by hope, he was able to overcome addiction, earn a college degree, launch a career in human services, and father his son with consistency and dignity.
Dr. Gabor Mate’s words come closer than any I’ve ever heard or read that adequately explain the power of addiction: “people jeopardize their lives for the sake of making the moment livable. Nothing sways them from the habit—not illness, not the sacrifice of love and relationship, not the loss of all earthly goods, not the crushing of their dignity, not the fear of dying. The drive is that relentless.”
“Prison wasn’t the solution,” Keith said in an interview for the new Brave New Films feature about addiction and incarceration, Sentencing Reform: Drug Addiction, released today. It never is, and it never will be. Noted criminal-justice analyst David Lovell, who spent years as a research professor at the University of Washington, once argued that the DOC is incapable of successfully addressing recidivism, readmission, overdoses, and suicides. “Probation and community corrections officers can’t really manage cases, at least not by themselves, in a way that responds in a timely fashion,” Lovell wrote. To help high-risk prisoners in their time of need, “you need to be available and trusted. That’s not a reasonable expectation for DOC employees,” by virtue of their enforcement role. “Many of them do their very best,” he wrote. But what corrections officers in the community do—supervise ex-offenders and refer them to programs—does not “take the place of a genuine relationship between the ex-prisoner and his or her real community of support.”
If what Americans really want is sheer hateful vindictiveness and punishment with no intent of rehabilitation, they should by all means continue on the course set by presidents Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and now Trump: Build more prisons, increase sentences, call for the death penalty for drug dealers, and continue to throw away taxpayers’ dollars at a rate of as much as $504 billion per year. Continue to be blindingly, inexpressibly ignorant, while failing to improve community safety even one whit.
However, if our country wants to help pull people out of addiction and into productive, healthy, and hopeful lives, they should listen to what Eldon Vail, former secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections, proposed to me years ago: Commit, in the state legislature, to reducing the prison population, starting with long-term prisoners. Release people only into programs with a proven track record that are centered in evidence-based principles and include treatment, job training, education, and/or employment. The programs should handle all the casework; probation officers, he said, should be there for enforcement only. Dedicate half the savings from a reduced prison population to the programs supporting former prisoners on the outside.
Such an approach would save taxpayer dollars, Vail said, in the short and long term, and would enhance community safety. What’s more, when people who have long suffered from addiction leave prison and land in a well-knit safety net, they can build lives worth living for themselves, their families, and our communities. Just ask Keith Whiteman.
“They are fighting a war on drugs and engage citizens in paramilitary conflict on a daily basis. And the number of citizen casualties in this war is much higher than in the war on terror. That says a lot about our national priorities.” I would substitute the word “STUPIDITY” for “priorities. READ How the War on Drugs Has Destroyed Justice! = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/how-the-war-on-drugs-has-destroyed-justice/
We all remember this one! Black man ran because he had a warrant for child support; cop shot him in the back several times!
Excerpts from the Article:
More than 1,000 Americans were killed in 2017 by a particularly violent class of fellow citizens. Some of those killed by these highly trained gunmen were children, and many of them were unarmed. Are these shooters terrorists? Heavily armed gang members? No. They’re the police.
According to The Free Thought Project (“TFTP”), police killed at least 1,184 Americans in 2017. Terrorists, on the other hand, killed 12. Those sworn to uphold the law have killed nearly 100 times as many as those attempting to make a political statement through an act of violence on American soil.
The number killed in mass shootings, such as those in Nevada and Texas, are not included in this government tally of terrorist killings. But according to TFTP, even if the deaths from these mass shootings are included, police have still killed far more people than all the mass shooters in 2017 combined.
The tendency of police to kill so many Americans has vexed criminologists and sociologists. Some suggest that America is riddled with crime, but the numbers don’t support that thesis. In the United Kingdom, there are 109.96 crimes per 1,000 citizens. That is nearly three times the rate in America, which stands at 41.29 crimes per 1,000 citizens. But police in the U.K. killed only four people in 2017.
In fact, America stands out across the globe for its high rate of police killings. According to TFTP, American police killed more people in four days than were killed in all of 2017 by police in Germany, England, Spain, Switzerland, and Iceland—combined.
The Free Thought Project proposes two reasons why police in America are so deadly compared to the rest of the world. First off, American police are rarely punished for brutality and killing. Police killings are often investigated by other officers from the same agency as the shooter. Prosecutors, who work with local police on a daily basis, are loathe to charge cops with crimes.
But a far bigger problem in America is the militarization of the police force. Police are arguably no longer citizens on patrol, who protect and serve, but members of a standing army that occupies the nation. They are fighting a war on drugs and engage citizens in paramilitary conflict on a daily basis. And the number of citizen casualties in this war is much higher than in the war on terror. That says a lot about our national priorities.
This rather lengthy article is in the form of an interview of Alisa Roth, about her new book, “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness”. It is excellent. As many of you know, the neglect of the mentally ill in America is an absolute disgrace and costs us about $444 BILLION dollars every year! See related articles on this website. During my five years in prison I SAW that mental health treatment is virtually non existent!
We need to treat the mentally ill, not just keep locking them up!
Excerpts from the Article:
In her career as a journalist, Alisa Roth has written about people in what she calls “forgotten communities,” such as immigrants and the poor. But when she began focusing on the mentally ill trapped in the U.S. justice system, after a friend’s brother was locked up, Roth discovered what she came to realize was the most forgotten community of all.
“I can’t think of a group that’s more reviled and more misunderstood,” she told TCR. In a discussion with staff writer Isidoro Rodriguez about her new book, “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness,” Roth, a former Soros Justice Fellow, describes how jails and prisons have become the nation’s principal institutions for treating mentally troubled individuals, and suggests that strategies for developing more humane, treatment-oriented alternatives have to begin at the state and local levels.
We talk about the issue of race in the criminal justice system, we talk about the issue of poverty in the criminal justice system, but we don’t talk about mental illness. These three intersect and overlap, but we can’t think about global reform without addressing the mental health question.
As I mention in the book, I have a friend whose brother developed a severe mental illness and committed a horrible crime. As I was thinking about this whole system, it kept coming back to him. If we as a society can allow him to see an alternative outcome, and not spend the rest of his life in prison, we can allow that for other people who have done less morally or criminally complicated things.
The criminal justice system is extremely closed in terms of access, in terms of data, and in terms of information. Likewise, the mental health care system is bureaucratic and complicated. So just figuring out where treatment is being provided, and who should be providing that treatment is difficult.
Then there’s the whole health care aspect. People are not allowed to, or are unwilling to, share information about treatment. And there’s the stigma question in both systems. There is still shame attached to having a mental illness or having a family member with mental illness. We march for breast cancer or AIDS, but we don’t want to talk about mental illness and we don’t want to admit it. So, getting people to open up and say “yes, I do have this issue” or “yes, my child does have this issue and these are the struggles we are going through,” is very difficult. I am very grateful to all the people who were willing to share their stories with me.
Unfortunately, we have abandoned the notion of reform and rehabilitation in our criminal justice system. We’ve moved back to the punitive notion. In some measure we think that people who are locked up in jail or prison deserve what they get. There is a dehumanizing aspect to the whole criminal justice system, and solitary confinement is part of that. If we don’t think of somebody as a full human being, then it becomes easier to do something really awful to them. If you think of this person as your brother, or our uncle, or your husband, it’s much harder to lock them in a box 23/7.
There’s also the fact that so many of us don’t know what goes on in the criminal justice system. The system as a whole is so abstract for such a large portion of our population, that we just don’t think or know about it. People have no idea that there are tens of thousands of people locked in solitary confinement on any given day. In a lot of places and for a very long time it’s just been how it’s done. It’s a very easy solution to put someone who is being unruly or difficult out of sight and out of mind. I think it speaks to a larger issue: We take people with mental illness, we lock them away, someplace we don’t need to see them. If we put them in jail or prison we don’t need to see them or step over them on our way to Starbucks in the morning. Solitary confinement is a reflection of that. But it makes everything so much worse.
As awareness of the problem of large numbers of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system grows, judges and attorneys are more attuned to it. It’s not that people don’t know it’s there, but it’s as much as about changing attitudes as anything else. I talk to a lot of judges and I’ve said “Hey, in a lot of cases you’re being asked to make what’s effectively a medical decision and you’re not a doctor; you’re a judge. ‘
In an ideal world, we would be able to keep everybody with a serious mental illness out of the criminal justice system. In an ideal world, we’d be able to keep a lot of people without a mental illness out of the criminal justice system. We lock up a lot of people very easily. I think that diversion is absolutely critical, but in order to make wide scale diversion possible, we can’t just look at this little tiny piece of the problem. We have to remember that we are operating in a very large ecosystem, not just of criminal justice but also of mental healthcare. We need to see wide-scale reform of both these systems so that people aren’t getting to the point where they’re so sick.
You see people in jail and prison who are sicker than a lot of people you see in psychiatric hospitals. We need to be catching the diseases earlier and treating them earlier. It’s great to train the cops to not arrest people, but if you don’t have some place for the cops to take them that’s not jail, they’re still going to wind up in jail. That’s what happened in San Antonio when they created their crisis center system. [They realized] you can train cops as much as you want, but they’re still going to take people to jail if there’s no other option. The other part of it is, as long as we are going to have people that end up in the criminal justice system, we have to make sure that when they’re there, they’re getting the treatment that they need and not just being warehoused in prisons.
We’ve started locking up way more people than we ever did…and when you cast such a big net, of course you’re going to pull in a lot of people with mental illness. When you break it down even further and look at co-occurring substance use disorders, a very large majority of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system have a co-occurring substance use disorder. So, if we’re arresting tons of people for drug possession, drug use, drug selling, drug dealing, it makes perfect sense that we’ll pick up people with mental illness.
The story of mental illness in the criminal justice system is as much a story of mass incarceration as it is of de-institutionalization. Using policing tactics such as “broken windows” and “stop and frisk,” allowed us to lock up huge amounts of people [and] made it easier to arrest people with mental illness…. we do have a severe lack of mental health care in the community and we have made it extremely difficult to get treatment for mental illness. But it’s not that everybody was getting treatment in a hospital and now they can’t get it, we just don’t have that and we’ve never had it.
I think we’re starting to move in that direction, very slowly. We’re seeing more people acknowledging an issue with depression or anxiety. We’re still not seeing a lot of actors come up at the Oscars and mention that they have schizophrenia, but I think it’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk about these things. We know that people can change, and society can change. There was a time that people didn’t talk about HIV or cancer, and now we wave flags for it. We need to get over the fear and stigma [attached to] mental illness in our society. The narrative in the media and in politics that links mental illness and violence is very damaging. And it’s hard to get over that stigma when every time something bad happens somebody is out there pointing a finger at mental illness.
Getting police to respond in a more thoughtful, more community/medically oriented way, instead of the tough, warrior way, is terrific. The big caveat is that if you don’t have the whole system set up to accommodate this it can only get you so far. You might deescalate a particular situation, but if you don’t have any longer-term solutions, you’re going to be back picking up the same person with no place to go. Often communities think CIT will be a step to solving the problem, but you have to think about how you’re going to divert, what’s the mental health treatment going to be, and how do we make sure we’re not picking people up again next week or next month.
The thing about criminal justice is that so much of it happens on such a local level that, on the flip side, a lot of reform can also happen on a local level. If I’m in Manhattan, and get arrested, it could potentially be a different outcome then if I’m in the Bronx or New Jersey. Because it’s so local, I think the federal question is almost irrelevant. Even the laws of involuntary commitment are handled at a local level. I think with a lot of laws, particularly with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and involuntary commitment, it really comes down to a very narrow line of navigating between civil liberties and safety for the person and the public.
Read the Whole Story:
Our friend Alex does a marvelous job with this newsletter. Politics, Health and Science, Criminal Justice, Business, Culture, and more! My problem is time: I cannot highlight for you more than two articles this week, below. But I encourage you to open his newsletter and check it out for whatever may be of most interest to YOU!
- California on Pace to Sell $4 Billion of Cannabis This Year Perhaps $75 Billion nationwide by 2030! As I have long maintained, Pot can be huge business, create much employment and huge revenue. Any negatives to legalization are far, far outweighed by the benefits.
Excerpts from the Article:
For recreational marijuana sales in California — the nation’s most populous state, and the nation’s oldest and most entrenched marijuana market — it was never a question of billions. It was always a question of “how many” billions. And, just four months into the era of recreational cannabis sales, we now have an idea: At least four, with many more to come.
… all signs are that the country’s largest cannabis market is booming and at a pace to render figures from the country’s first two legal cannabis markets quaint memories.
As per the paper, analysts predict that sales for the first quarter of 2018 “could surpass $1 billion.” If sales continue at that same pace, sales for all of 2018 will exceed $4 billion. As for that robust pace, there’s every indication that it is merely prelude, and that a steep acceleration awaits.
For context’s sake: In Colorado, the largest recreational market to date, sales topped $1.5 billion in 2017, according to state revenue figures. That tally itself was something of an accomplishment, achieved after several years of sustained double-digit growth.
Those taxes may soon be lowered. Lawmakers in the state Legislature appear to have taken concerns from retailers seriously. Locally, officials in Berkeley, California, have already moved to cut the local tax levy in half, from 10 percent to 5 percent.
According to a report issued Wednesday by Cowen and Company, sales of legal marijuana in America should exceed $75 billion by 2030, a figure comparable to the sales of soft drinks in 2017.
2. The top 8 anti-pot politicians up for re-election this year My comment here is short and to the point: Vote these idiots OUT! Read the article to spot the top 8, but WHEREVER you live, vote anti -pot legislators out of office. They are out of touch, uninformed, out of their minds, and should be out of office! kra
Using his power to get sexual favors; yeah baby, why not?! Seriously, this rat now faces 21 serious charges, and if justice is served the sentence will be a long prison term. One huge consequence of his conduct is the undermining of trust in the system, already at an all time low!
The Whole Story:
Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins has been charged in connection with allegedly sabotaging drug investigations by protecting dealers, blowing the cover of confidential informants, as well as giving favorable treatment to women he had sex with, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Wednesday.
Following a charging recommendation by an investigating grand jury, Higgins, 43, now faces 11 counts of obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, two counts of official oppression, three counts of recklessly endangering another person, nine counts of intimidation of witnesses or victims and six counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution.
“District Attorney Higgins traded his power and law enforcement authority for sexual favors and violated his oath to the people of Bedford County—compromising the security of his community and the safety of confidential informants,” Shapiro said in a statement Wednesday. “Higgins’ conduct and manipulation of these women was a complete betrayal of the trust of the good citizens of Bedford County—who elected him to enforce the law and keep them safe. Today, with our partners in the Pennsylvania State Police, we are ending this culture and working to restore trust in the Bedford County District Attorney’s Office.”
Higgins resigned from the district attorney’s office immediately after being charged. The Bedford County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
Higgins turned himself in Wednesday morning. First Assistant District Attorney Leslie Childers-Potts will be acting Bedford District Attorney until a special election can be held to fill the role, Shapiro said.
In a statement made to Channel 6 WJAC, Higgins said, “I have concluded that, in light of these charges, I am not able to effectively fulfill my duties as District Attorney and that my family needs my full attention. I have been accused of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a District Attorney, but more importantly, unbecoming of a husband and father.”
Shapiro noted the inter-agency cooperation in the investigation that resulted in charges being filed against Higgins.
“These arrests are the result of collaboration with our partners in the Pennsylvania State Police and the effective use of the Statewide Investigating Grand Jury,” Attorney General Shapiro said at the press conference. “As Attorney General, I will not allow individuals in power to abuse their public office. I am focused on rooting out public corruption and will continue to prosecute anyone who breaks the law – without fear and without favor.”
In a statement issued by the state Office of the Victim Advocate, VA Jennifer Storm said her office had received prior complaints about Higgins.
“I am dismayed and disgusted to hear of the charges brought forth today against Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins whose function was to serve the community and be a voice for victims,” Storm said. “His blatant abuse of power in exchange for sexual favors is symptomatic of the very underpinning of the #MeToo movement. I applaud the Office of Attorney General and the Pennsylvania State Police for taking swift and certain action against this predator. Targeting and preying upon individuals who are already in vulnerable situations is the very definition of a sexual predator.”
Texas Woman Sentenced to Prison for Voting Illegally – You wan to tell me the system is working just fine?! kra
America is still destroying any notion that we can be just. Five years? Many others convicted of the same offense get a fine and probation. It’s called “disparity in sentencing”, and such disparities deeply undermine respect for the courts. This case reminds me of another Texas case I saw when I was fresh from law school, in 1973: some idiot judge sentenced a man to 40 years – 40 years! – for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Worse, when the case reached the U S Supreme Court, those Bozos lost their senses and ruled that it was not “cruel and unusual punishment”!
No doubt the most widespread suffering as a result of idiotic sentences is that of addicts. Thank God that officials are starting to realize – because people like you and I SPEAK OUT – that prison is not the answer. Perhaps some of them read this law drafted by my friend, Dr. Floyd McDowell, though they did not enact it! READ Crime Prevention Bill
Back to the “violent voter” (no violence, of course, but you can kill someone and get less than 5 years!). When one goes to prison, one can lose everything, like I did. Your income, in most cases, stops. Unless you have a friend or loved one to safeguard your property, it will all be gone. Just think about the huge costs to society (your tax dollars by the BILLIONS, and, more profoundly, lives ruined and the disrespect for law which I mentioned) produced by such simple minded judges and the whole system they so smugly control. Astronomical!
Said the prosecutor: “the affidavit was “a stop sign in front of her face.” And to him I say: “since when do you get 5 years for running a stop sign?!”. And if I could talk to him to his face, I would add “you asshole”!
I remember when the system was fair, and weep.
Excerpts from the Article:
Crystal Mason, 43, of Tarrant County was convicted of tax fraud in 2011 and was on supervised release when she headed to polls to cast her vote, The Dallas Morning News reported. However, in Texas, felons cannot vote until they have completed their entire sentence, including supervised release, according to the state’s election code.
Mason, who served almost three years in prison, said she was never told she could not vote and that she would never risk her freedom to do so. She faced two to 20 years in prison or probation.
“I inflated returns,” Mason told The Star-Telegram. “I was trying to get more money back for my clients. I admitted that. I owned up to that. I took accountability for that. I would never do that again. I was happy enough to come home and see my daughter graduate. My son is about to graduate. Why would I jeopardize that? Not to vote … I didn’t even want to go vote.”
An investigation into Mason’s voter status was launched after a worker at a polling station reported problems with her ballot, Samantha Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office told The Morning News. Mason’s name was not on a list of registered voters.
An election judge offered Mason the option to vote provisionally after signing an affidavit, which states a voter is not a felon or that they have served their full sentence. Mason signed the form without reading it carefully, she said.
In illegal voting cases like Mason’s, prosecutors are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the person was aware they were breaking the law by voting. Tarrant County prosecutor Matt Smid told The Morning News the affidavit was “a stop sign in front of her face.”
Oh yes, I have been “really messed up” on drugs, but that is not what this is about. Thank God, I have been clean now for 12 years, and I have put the awful experience to good use … part of my education enabling me to help so many now.
The first time I experienced the high I am talking about was in ’81 or ’82 when I got my client out of prison. He was the first client in Delaware sentenced under the new “mandatory minimum” law. It’s a long story, but he got 5 years mandatory, and I, using my persistence and ingenuity, got him our within a few weeks … a free man. He was one of only 2 clients I had who went to prison, and nobody could have saved him: he bought drugs from the State Police in a room wired by the State Police with the State police in the next room. I had several more such highs while practicing: keeping my client out of prison in the face of a tough prosecution.
But one of the best was while I was in prison. An inmate named XXX was lucky enough to land in the isolation cell next to mine for about 18 months. Then we were neighbors in another building for about a year. I got to know him well. He had been in since the ’70s, more than 40 years, and had endured every hell imaginable in prison. The worst of his problems was the awful medical “care”. I helped him file a “Section 1983” lawsuit in Federal Court, and it went well. Although I had advised him repeatedly NOT to settle [because if he had a half decent attorney appointed to represent him he could have won millions], after I left prison he settled for over $50,000.00. The high is knowing that he got a little justice for what he had been through. I have been trying to get him released for more than 9 years now, and still trying, but it is a remarkably difficult case.
Another big high was getting three inmates out before I left. Working from my isolation cell, for a bag of coffee, I prepared about 30 Applications for Commutation – 30 bags of coffee -, the process to seek early release. Three of them left before I did, and several more were granted later.
I have 15 or 16 Applications for Clemency or Commutation pending in several states, a few in Delaware, and I am really, really curious as to whether some will succeed; they too are extraordinarily difficult cases, but possible. When I win one of those, it will be a great high indeed.
If you have achieved some considerable success in overcoming a super difficult hurdle, or done something really well which greatly helped someone else, you know what I am talking about. Keep going for more such highs!