Here it is, ten great articles. It has been called “The best overall criminal justice newsletter in America – sensible, witty, and informed”. Check it out and subscribe!
The times, and the laws, thank God, are a changin’!
Excerpts from the Article:
Drug-sniffing police dogs from around Virginia are being forced into early retirement as the state prepares to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana on July 1.
Virginia is following a trend in other states where legalization has led to K-9s being put out to pasture earlier than planned. Police dogs trained to detect the odor of marijuana will no longer be used to establish probable cause for a search.
Virginia state police are retiring 13 K-9s, while smaller police departments and sheriff’s offices are retiring one or two dogs. Most are in the process of purchasing and training new dogs to detect only illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.
Another step in the right direction.
Excerpts from the Article:
Simply smelling marijuana doesn’t justify a police officer stopping and investigating someone, according to a new Maryland appeals court ruling.
In a ruling released last week, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals said police need “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is being committed to stop and question someone, and that just smelling weed doesn’t meet that standard.
Historically, the smell of marijuana provided police with the opportunity to detain, search and question a person, sometimes uncovering contraband or more serious crimes.
While possession of marijuana remains illegal in Maryland, in 2004 the state decriminalized having less than 10 grams of marijuana.
That distinction changes the way police can use the smell of marijuana in investigative stops, wrote Judge Kathryn Grill Graeff, in her opinion.
“Because possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is no longer a crime, the suspicion required to support a stop for the crime of possession of marijuana, therefore, is that the person is in possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana. And because the ‘odor of marijuana alone does not indicate the quantity, if any, of marijuana in someone’s possession,’ [citing a previous case], it cannot, by itself, provide reasonable suspicion that the person is in possession of a criminal amount of marijuana or otherwise involved in criminal activity,” wrote Graeff.
The ruling overturns a Prince George’s County case, in which a boy was patted down — and a handgun recovered from his waistband — solely based on the officer’s declaration of smelling marijuana.
This investigative stop — known as a Terry stop — involved an officer walking up and stopping a group of people. The Terry stop is different than a traffic stop, according to Michele Hall, the assistant public defender who argued at trial and in the appeals court.
“The case does not comment on the smell of marijuana and traffic stops,” said Hall. “That is a different body of case law.”
A 2019 appeals court ruling determined police could not arrest someone based on the smell of marijuana, even though they saw a joint in a car, because they failed to demonstrate reasonable suspicion that the person had a criminal amount.
A spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh declined to comment, or say whether the state would appeal the ruling.
The Whole Story:
My dear friend, Jeanie Wilson, had this published in the Delaware State News of 5/4/21.
Letter to the Editor: Tragic death brings warning that fentanyl kills
Every 7 minutes, a life is taken in the United States from illicit poisons! We need to be aware, and we need to do whatever we can to stop this silent epidemic. Delaware has a 24-hour helpline, (833) 9-HOPEDE.”
May 15 marks one year since my 23-year-old son did not wake up. Our family was devastated to lose the beloved baby of our group and even more so when we found there was an illicit substance, fentanyl, in his bloodstream.
After reading his text messages, we discovered that he had been using what he thought was Percocet purchased from “a friend.” But sadly, there was no Percocet in his toxicology screen. Instead, he was sold fentanyl pressed into a pill that looked exactly like a pharmaceutical-grade Percocet.
Fentanyl is cheap and 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin or morphine. It can be laced in everything — pills that kids are buying thinking they are Percocet or Xanax and now even Adderall. I am writing this letter to warn parents, friends and all citizens that fentanyl kills!
According to the organization Drug Induced Homicide, every 7 minutes, a life is taken in the United States from illicit poisons! We need to be aware, and we need to do whatever we can to stop this silent epidemic.
Jeannie Wilson, Dover
It’s not helpful to lock them up, but advertising should be increased to warn that pot can damage brains under age 25.
Excerpts from the Article:
As more states legalize recreational cannabis use, a large group is continuing to face marijuana-related criminalization: anyone under 21. Similar to alcohol laws, recreational adult-use cannabis laws permit anyone 21 and over to use cannabis recreationally. In practice, youth prohibition doesn’t prevent young people from using marijuana, but it does increase the policing and criminalization of Black, Brown and/or disabled young people.
For example, Colorado legalized cannabis in 2012, but youth are being summoned en masse to drug court for marijuana-related offenses. According to state data, Colorado reported a total of 1,034 marijuana-related incidents during the 2019-2020 academic year, of which 976 were court summons; 31 of the incidents were arrests while 27 were unknown.
The conclusion of a 2019 JAMA Pediatric study affirms marijuana legalization (for those 21 and over) doesn’t reduce arrests for youth, nor do youth benefit from decriminalization policies when accompanied with legalization. Although marijuana decriminalization has the potential to reduce youth arrests, this research suggests this potential is lost when a state adopts recreational legalization.
“[Cannabis] is being legalized across the nation, and yet we [don’t] just want to make it illegal for children, but create criminal penalties that are going to follow children,” explained Valerie Slater, executive director of RISE for Youth. “It makes zero sense.”
Legalization policies incorporate youth criminalization as a misguided attempt to restrict youth access and discourage youth use. It’s important to note that legalizing adult cannabis use doesn’t increase youth use or access, according to numerous studies. The Drug Policy Alliance notes that youth use has stabilized following legalization measures in Washington State, Colorado and Alaska. Youth prohibition isn’t driven by logic, though; it’s based in existing criminalizing policies originating during Ronald Regan’s era of drug policy.
“[Drug-free school zones] stem from a fear of youth getting access to drugs, which they already have access to,” Ortiz explained. “It’s also an escalating charge that can lead to being charged as an adult in most places.”
In the majority of the country, those under 18 can be transferred from juvenile drug court to adult drug court. The Sentencing Project reports that only four states — Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts and New Mexico — don’t allow children to be tried as adults for drug offenses.
Punishment for violating drug-free school zones can result in hindered educational opportunities. “Zero tolerance” policies popped up when the Anti-Drug Abuse Act (ADAA) of 1986 was signed by Reagan, explains the School Discipline Support Initiative. (Although the ADAA further specified and developed drug-free school zones, the first drug-free school zone was created under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse, Prevention and Control Act of 1970, passed by Richard Nixon.) These policies come with mandated, predetermined consequences for students. For example, the Atlanta public school system enforces immediate suspension or expulsion of any student violating its zero tolerance drug policy. Suspension and expulsion, which can result from zero tolerance policies, are also connected to higher drop-out rates, reports the American Psychological Association.
Black youth were 29.2 times more likely to be detained than white youth in 2013.
Mandatory drug treatment programs often function as yet another method of punishing youth, despite being presented as an alternative to incarceration. Since many, if not all, youth choose a drug treatment program to avoid detention, these centers rarely provide genuine rehabilitation. As Ortiz noted, court-mandated youth can also take space in drug treatment facilities that could otherwise be occupied by youth who are choosing treatment voluntarily. Plus, the cost of court-mandated treatment programs falls on youth and their families to fund.
As an increasing number of states legalize marijuana, the question of youth criminalization has repeatedly come to the fore. For example, when New Jersey recently adopted two cannabis bills — one to decriminalize existing cannabis penalties and the other to create a legal market – Gov. Phil Murphy and the state legislature clashed about the specifics of youth penalties for months. Youth criminalization is a stark racial justice issue in New Jersey, where, according to a 2017 Urban Institute report, Black youth were 29.2 times more likely to be detained than white youth in 2013.
Murphy finally agreed to impose a less harsh discipline system for minors possessing up to six ounces of cannabis. In S3565, which passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate, the first offense involves parental notification of underage possession of cannabis. For the second offense, police are to provide information about community-based services, such as “counseling, tutoring programs, mentoring services, and faith-based or other community initiatives.” If there is a third offense, the police are ordered to make referrals to said services.
The new legislation has been lauded for not relying on incarceration (although it does rely on police to play the role of social workers, a practice discouraged by the growing #DefundthePolice movement).
Laura Cohen, clinical professor of law at Rutgers University and director of the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic, stressed the importance of not involving courts.
The racist practices of the youth drug war cannot be undone through a single decimalization bill; instead, a concerted and ongoing effort will be needed to confront the drug war’s impact on youth. “For the third interaction between a young person and [the] police over the course of a two-year period, the police are supposed to make referrals to community-based services, not necessarily for drug treatment, and there are no penalties for [youth] failing to comply,” she explained. “This legislation … is intended to approach the question of cannabis use by young people as a public health issue and not as a criminal legal system issue.”
Additionally, the law doesn’t call for law enforcement intervention when possession occurs in a school setting. Instead, the school administration is supposed to handle disciplinary action.
“What I anticipate will happen now is that if students come to school with cannabis, alcohol or tobacco, that it will be dealt with through the school’s disciplinary system and not referred to law enforcement,” Cohen said.
Although law enforcement still has power to decide what type of referral a child receives after a third offense, and the system doesn’t apply to those with drug distribution charges (only possession charges), New Jersey’s new system is still considered one of the most progressive models of youth cannabis decriminalization to date.
Both Slater and Cohen praised New Jersey’s recent legislation as a model for other states. However, advocates note that the racist practices of the youth drug war cannot be undone through a single decimalization bill; instead, a concerted and ongoing effort will be needed to confront the drug war’s impact on youth.
Just part of the BILLIONS of your tax dollars wasted each year nationally due to entirely preventable prison abuse!
Excerpts from the Article:
“In the last 10 years, Minnesota counties have paid out more than $10 million in settlements and legal fees following lawsuits accusing jails of providing inadequate to non-existent health care to inmates,” KARE 11 reported in a major investigative report on October 29, 2020.
One of the major cases discussed in the story was of Todd County settling with the family of Brett Huber, Jr. for a total of $1.8 million in December 2018 after Huber, Jr. hanged himself in the county jail in June of the prior year. Brett, Jr. had a history of drug abuse and mental health issues that the suit claimed the jail failed to treat.
Brett Huber Sr. said his son was a gifted child growing up in Spearfish, South Dakota. He breezed through school with a straight A average, volunteered his services to nonprofit organizations and was active in the church. He was tall, muscular and athletic. A varsity wrestler and a certified master scuba diver. Brett, Jr. had one serious problem: an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Brett, Jr. had a job working at the state Senate. His father believed he turned to drugs as a way to fit in. He was battling with his addiction in March 2017 when he left his job at the Senate with the intent of committing himself to rehab.
Before he made it to the treatment center, Brett, Jr. went on a last bender. A police report said that Brett, Jr. showed up at an Alexandria hospital high on drugs. Before the hospital was able to get him to detox, Brett, Jr. ran out and stole a car, driving it into a pond. He then stole a second car, which he crashed on I-94. Social media video ultimately showed Brett, Jr. on top of a semi with his shirt off, howling at traffic.
Police arrested Brett, Jr. and took him to the Todd County jail. Brett, Jr. spent several weeks in the jail showing signs of instability and possible suicide before he was finally taken to CentraCare Health Clinic where he was diagnosed with a “severe episode of recurrent major depressive disorder, with psychotic features.” He was placed on antipsychotic medication and referred for a full mental evaluation.
Brett, Sr. said he visited his son regularly. Some days he appeared sane and rational and other times he seemed wild-eyed and cried through the entire visit. Concerned for his son’s health, Brett, Sr. stayed in constant contact with jail administrator Scott Wright. Wright continued to assure Brett, Sr. that his son was okay and well cared for. It was not until after Brett, Jr.’s death that the Huber family found out that Brett, Jr. was disorderly, attempted suicide on several occasions and suffered episodes of hallucinations and paranoia.
A records request as part of the lawsuit’s discovery process filed by the family’s attorney, Andy Noel, revealed Brett, Jr.’s battle with his mental health while at the county jail. It also revealed the jail’s history of problems dealing with detainees with mental health issues. The state had been previously cited for falsifying logs, failing to conduct regular well-being checks, understaffing and inadequate suicide prevention training.
The Hubers found that the security logs were falsified three times on the day Brett, Jr. hung himself, including one at the time when Brett, Jr. was already successful in strangulating himself. “I was led to believe he was in a good facility, that he was being monitored, that they were doing their job, that he wasn’t having any issues, and that the court evaluation would begin soon,” said Brett, Sr. He had the ability to make his son’s bond, but thought it best to leave Brett, Jr. in the county jail, believing it was the safest thing for his son until he could receive the treatment he needed.
Brett, Jr. is not the only person to receive inadequate care while in custody in Minnesota. Fifteen lawsuits have been filed against county jails and prisons around the state since 2015. The state’s suicide rate accounts for 60% of the deaths in custody annually, twice the national average. “It tells me, as a whole, we need to do a whole lot better at assessing suicidal ideation and risk, and then aggressively taking action to make sure we are providing the level of care and oversight and intervention necessary to prevent suicidal actions,” said Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell. (See: Huber, Sr. v. Todd County, Case No. 0:18-cv-02317, U.S.D.C. (D. Minn.).
I have seen hundreds – yes, hundreds – of articles about an inmate who died because jail intake officials did not do their job in screening the inmate for withdrawal symptoms; I bet that is what happened here.
The Whole Article:
An inmate at the Downtown Spokane County Jail died while being transported to the jail’s medical services division on Monday afternoon.
According to county spokesperson Jared Webley, the inmate became unresponsive while being transported at about noon on Monday. Staff at the jail began treating the inmate before being relieved by Spokane City Fire and AMR, but the inmate was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m., according to Webley.
Two doses of Narcan were administered to the inmate before they died, Webley said. Spokane County Detention Services requested assistance from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, which stopped overseeing detention services in 2013, to carry out the investigation, Webley said. Major Crimes detectives and member of the Forensic Unit responded to process the scene and conduct interviews, according to Webley.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the name of the inmate and their cause and manner of death “when appropriate to do so,” Webley said.
At least 10 inmates at the jail have now died since June 2017.
The never ending abuse of prisoners continues! Will we see officials arrested for the abuses mentioned here?
Excerpts from the Article:
Without delving into medical histories, it would appear that the death of a 38-year-old woman booked in a littering case could – and probably should – have been prevented. Ditto a 35-year-old man arrested on a drunken driving charge and a 48-year-old man locked up on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge.
Yes, people do die every day. And most folks booked into jail are unlikely spokespeople for healthy living, physical fitness or eschewing drugs and alcohol. But no one should die a preventable death on the public’s watch. And unfortunately it looks like this woman, two men and up to six other individuals may have.
It’s the job of jail health officials – and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque is large enough to have them – to protect those jailed. Yet, a Journal deep dive into deaths at MDC found nine people died over the past year while in custody of the state’s largest jail – eight during a five-month period from August 2020 to January 2021 – and none of COVID-19. For context, before 2020 there were a total of just 10 in-custody deaths at MDC in the previous four years, and zero in 2018.
Albuquerque attorney Peter Cubra says the recent spike in deaths is unprecedented. He should know. The longtime advocate for MDC inmates says he’s been working around the jail since 1984.
Autopsy and incident reports show the causes of death of the nine inmates who died in the past year vary from a heart attack to chronic ethanol abuse. Some may have been unavoidable, but six of the nine deaths appear to have occurred while inmates were detoxing from drugs or alcohol or in medical units, all while under the care of a medical contractor.
And all while taxpayers were shelling out between $105 and $174 per day to house each inmate.
Bernalillo County manager Julie Morgas Baca says the county is taking the deaths very seriously. She noted one death is too many. Good for her. The easy go-to would have been to attribute the deaths as part of booking 1,500 inmates a month, as the jail did in August.
Morgas Baca says she’s working with St. Louis-based Centurion – which the Bernalillo County Commission awarded a four-year, $53 million contract in 2018 to provide a wide array of medical services at MDC – to improve medical operations. MDC spokeswoman Julia Rivera says the jail and Centurion have developed an in-depth corrective action plan to address the spike in deaths. That’s an important step in rebuilding public confidence. They also need to provide some answers.
Because this county jail is no stranger to harsh criticism for the conditions its inmates live in. It’s under a decades-long federal settlement agreement that lays out more than 200 requirements for reform.
Some of the jail deaths have led to discipline – including a probationary corrections officer who was fired for sleeping on the job while an inmate hanged himself and a corrections officer who was put on notice for termination after an inmate died while detoxing from alcohol. Those who neglect their duties must be held accountable. The stakes are too high not to.
The spike in deaths also raises fundamental questions about who is being locked up and why. The 38-year-old woman booked in the littering case kicked over a cup and bowl in front of an officer in April and refused to pick up the cup. The officer issued her a summons for littering, but she failed to show up in court and was arrested. She was found unconscious and not breathing the next day in the jail’s detox unit. A night in lockup should not imperil one’s life.
Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur of the Law Offices of the Public Defender is correct that the legal system has to be more deliberate about who’s being jailed. The Journal has long argued that violent and repeat offenders, not misdemeanants with smart mouths, should be locked up at taxpayer expense. And the disturbing indicators that people are dying while detoxing should have city and county officials asking if jail is really the most appropriate and cost-effective place to take inebriates.
In this life, some deaths are inevitable – but at least on the surface several of these don’t look that way. There are a lot of questions at this point, and the families of inmates who have died in MDC custody, as well as the taxpayers who should have confidence they are funding a safe lockup, deserve the answers.
This article reminds me that the amount of misinformation flying around inside the prison is mind boggling!
But here we see how misinformation about crimes and criminals creeps into the public perception.
Excerpts from the Article:
A cloud of sensationalism, misinformation, and outfight propaganda has always hovered around government pronouncements and media coverage concerning crime and criminal justice. President Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs in America in a speech before the nation’s governors that proclaimed drug use had moved out of the “ghettos, among the deprived” to take root in the upper middle class. Despite the fact that Nixon’s domestic policy adviser John Ehrlichman later admitted that the administration’s effort was more directed at disrupting the communities that drove the anti-war and civil rights movements than addressing the social problem of drug use, the basic structure of American drug policy, and its criminal justice consequences, have been driven by the same Nixonian dynamic for 50 years.
The problem of misinformation surrounding criminal justice issues did not begin with Nixon, nor did it die with him. There was sensationalism, politically motivated propaganda, and antiimmigrant hate speech in the media coverage and public policy responses surrounding the chaos caused by Prohibition. More recently, the spike in violent crime in the first half of 2020 has been linked to early prison releases, including those in the wake of Covid-19, even though there has been no research to show that one phenomenon caused the other.
It is easy to understand how criminal justice policy making can be driven by fear or an emotional response to a particularly sensational event. However, such policy missteps are not inevitable, as demonstrated in a November 2020 policy study published by Emily Mooney and Casey Witte at the nonprofit R Street Institute. Their study not only outlines how misinformation warps decision-making and gives clear examples from recent history, it also offers a path forward to help mitigate the effects of misinformation in an era of fake news and alternative facts.
The misleading and sensationalized statements made by politicians and spread through the media are often intended to create an atmosphere of fear among the public. Aside from the general reservations the average person might have about such intentions, there are also cognitive consequences to the presence of fear in public discourse. Fear response in humans begins in the amygdala, an almond-shaped organ at the base of the brain. Once a fear response is activated, two simultaneous processes begin. The first is the release of hormones like adrenaline, accompanied by an increase in breathing and heart rate. At the same time, blood flow is diverted from the cerebral cortex, an area of the brain that is critical to reasoning, judgment, and advanced cognitive function. In other words, fear makes it harder to think our way to a good decision and favors a quick, intuitive or emotional response. The survival value of this process is unmistakable from an evolutionary perspective, as are the problems the process generates in a situation that requires nuanced thinking.
To make matters worse, decisions made while in the grip of a fear response leave an imprint on the brain, creating a sort of neural shortcut that makes it more likely we will make the same decision when confronted with similar stimuli. This process, called heuristics, is further reinforced each time it is repeated, making a re-evaluation of a particular response more difficult the more frequently it is repeated.
These psychological processes compound, and are compounded by, the way criminal justice issues are treated in the media. Thus when media coverage of crime increases, the public perception of increasing crime grows with it, even when in reality crime rates are dropping. This explains how in 2019 a Gallup poll found that two-thirds of Americans believed crime rates were increasing, despite the fact that rates of violent and non-violent crime had reached historic lows in that year following a decades-long decline.
It is also impossible to ignore race as a factor in this process. The well-documented impact of the racially charged “Willie Horton” political ad during the 1988 presidential race has long been Exhibit A in the case to prove that fear can make people forget their otherwise-enlightened attitudes about race, and recent depictions of the apocalyptic danger of approaching migrant caravans present equally potent proof. It is undeniable that people of color have disproportionately been at the center of fear-based decisions relating to criminal justice, and their communities have borne the consequences of those decisions.
Fear-inducing rhetoric, seeded with misinformation, has often shifted focus away from real solutions to social problems and even undermined genuine efforts to solve them.
Instead, the rhetoric creates a pattern of false impressions and erroneous conclusions about a particular issue. Several examples of how the criminal justice myths were created are outlined below, as is the real data that refute them.
The first example is the creation of the “juvenile super predator” myth by John Dilulio and William Bennett. In 1995, in editorials and an accompanying book, these men described a bleak American future dominated by “elementary school youngsters who pack guns instead of lunches.” Despite the fact that their predictions were based on almost no data, the term “super predator” made its way into regular media circulation and from there into the public consciousness. It did not matter that academic research conclusively disproved the idea of super predators, nor did it matter that crime rates were already falling by 1995 and would continue to fall over the coming decades. What did matter was the intense media coverage of isolated cases involving horrific violence by juveniles and the politicization of the resulting public outcry to pass laws making it easier than ever before to charge minors as adults. Most of these laws remain on the books, invulnerable to any factual challenge mounted against their fear-based rationale.
Perception of violent crime itself is also an example of how fear can create an ideological matrix that is impervious to fact. Despite the fact that many states have begun to modify “tough on crime” attitudes and policies, these modifications nearly always exclude approaches to people convicted of violent crime. The R Street study found that fear-mongering around violent offenses overstates the potential for recidivism while ignoring the statistically proven reality that violent criminal behavior observably follows the same patterns as non-violent criminal behavior. These observations show that individuals who have been incarcerated for violent crimes have lower recidivism rates than those incarcerated for non-violent offenses. Additionally, violent behavior is proven to decrease dramatically after age 30.
Despite these realities, the fear generated by instances of a violent criminal committing a second violent crime has led to extraordinarily long sentences for many first-time offenders and is the key element driving the growth of geriatric prisoners.
These elderly prisoners are often refused parole, even though their recidivism rate is below three percent and their incarceration cost is exponentially higher than that of the average prisoner.
Another persistent myth inspired by misinformation involves the perception that crack cocaine is more addictive and destructive than powdered cocaine. When crack exploded across the American popular consciousness in the mid-1980s, it was associated with Black communities, street gangs, and violent crime. Powdered cocaine, on the other hand, was seen as a recreational vice among Whites and therefore perceived as less threatening. Unfounded claims about the hyper-addictive nature of crack were paired with a media fascination with cocaine-related gang conflicts to create a near-hysterical fear of crack’s impact.
The resulting wave of mass incarceration and police militarization has had tremendous impact in communities of color. Disproportionate sentencing was mandated for crack possession in the federal system, and despite its outsized effect on Blacks, it has remained in place for over 30 years. The staggering consequences of the policies inspired by the fear of crack cocaine have mostly been accepted despite the fact that there is no data to prove that crack is more addictive than powder, nor is there any clear evidence that the gang violence associated with cocaine is more driven by crack than powder. Instead, public officials and their constituents have been content to allow the fear conjured up by misinformation and media sensationalism to drive them through a cognitively impaired decision-making process. These decisions, like those in the other examples noted above, have proven to be stubbornly resistant to facts and logic, and their consequences are therefore still reverberating across society today.
Understanding the role on misinformation and fear in shaping poor public policy is an important step, but like so many social ills, this problem will not solve itself. The first step in countering misinformation is ensuring the availability of accurate information. The collection of data at every level of the criminal justice system is critical to creating a decision-making process that favors fact over fear. The problem is that regular, comprehensive, and transparent data collection and publication are a rarity across the criminal justice system. This must be addressed at the state and local level, coordinated with federal efforts, and made available to the public.
Even when data are available, there is far too little funding for research and evaluation. Think tanks and universities are equipped to meet the need, but without initiative at the legislative level, policy decisions will continue to lack the high quality, rigorous evaluations that can ferret out flaws and offer better alternatives.
Once data have been collected and analyzed, they must be effectively presented to the public. Most of the platforms that exert influence on public opinion have no interest in crafting positive change.
To meet the effects of sensationalism and entertainment, public information campaigns must be clear and direct presentations of truth. The effect of such programs can vary widely, but if properly done, they provide the surest path to combating misinformation.
Subsequent steps to countering misinformation fall beyond the public sector to land squarely in the lap of the public itself. While the physiological effects of the fear response are difficult to directly counter, citizens can help themselves make better decisions in relation to their support of criminal justice policy by doing three things.
The first is simply paying closer attention to what is being said and who is saying it. It is easier to overcome the effects of fear-mongering when you realize the speaker trying to make you afraid of phasing out cash bail works for an association of bail bondsmen, just as it is easier to question the veracity of a sensational media report when you remember that news outlets do not sell truth, they sell advertising. Learning to recognize ulterior motives and see the truth through the smokescreen neutralizes the worst effects of misinformation.
Secondly, the tendency to focus on sensational events rather than the larger trend obscures any informative view of social reality. Instead of concentrating on a single event, look at the bigger picture when making decisions.
And lastly, recognizing the value of a change in perspective at the social level has to take account of the value of that change at the individual level, specifically in policymakers.
If elected officials are continually criticized for changing their minds when confronted with new data, they will simply stop doing so.
American society is at a critical juncture in the evolution of attitudes toward social inequality, racism, and criminal justice. To come through this difficult time and overcome the fear associated with change and uncertainty, it is essential to get the facts right and make decisions based on those facts.
More insanity; precious resources wasted! We need, should have, and in time will get: sensible immigration laws/policies, and an end to the War on Drugs!
The madness continues with more than 96% of defendants pleading guilty. The good news is that more people are becoming interested in criminal justice, which is great, because the more they learn the more they will see what a train wreck the system has become!
Excerpts from the Article:
Immigration offenses, followed by drug trafficking, were the most common crimes sentenced in federal courts last year, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC).
Reflecting the former administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants, immigration violations alone accounted for 41 percent of the caseload, a slight uptick from 38 percent the previous year, the USSC said in its annual report.
The majority of those sentenced were Hispanic and just over 46 percent of the Hispanics were non-U.S. citizens.
The picture of immigration enforcement continues to be murky this year.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University reported Monday that the number of non-citizens arrested by immigration authorities for being in the U.S. without proper visas and booked into civil detention dropped from 5,119 during January 2021 to just 1,970 during February 2021, at the end of President Joe Biden’s first full month in office.
“This was a drop of 62 percent just in a single month,” TRAC said. In contrast, those turned over to ICE for detention following arrests by the Border Patrol or at ports of entry and are thus subject to federal prosecution climbed from 3,024 to 4,696 in February.
While civil cases are adjudicated by immigration courts, which aren’t part of the federal criminal court system, federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges against individuals caught entering the U.S. illegally, under Title 8 of the U.S. Criminal Code.
In other findings reported by the USSC, nearly 88 percent of the 64,565 individuals convicted of felony and Class A misdemeanor offenses in federal court were men—the majority of them appearing on immigration or drug trafficking charges.
The most common age range of offenders was 41-50.
However, the overall figure represented a decrease of 11,973 cases from the previous fiscal year “and reflects the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work of the courts,” the commission said.
The figures were contained in the USSC’s 2020 Annual Report and Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics which looks at recidivism rates, as well as crime trends, based on federal offender sentencing data.
The researchers noted that 2020 was a year unlike any other, detailing how the COVID-19 pandemic brought on “unique challenges and opportunities for technological advancement” for the criminal justice system.
To conduct their research, the authors looked at information from the federal courts that the commission collected on individuals sentenced between October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, for whom sentencing documents were received as of February 18, 2021.
Although immigration offenses were the most widely prosecuted federal crimes in FY20, researchers focused as well on the opioid crisis, noting that drug trafficking still made up a significant amount of federal crimes. Methamphetamine continued to be the most common narcotic prosecuted in the federal system, and accounted for a steadily growing portion of the drug caseload (up from 31 percent in FY16 and 42 percent in FY19 to 46 percent in FY20).
Moreover, methamphetamine trafficking continued to be the most severely punished federal drug crime with an average sentence of 95 months. Despite the harsh sentences for methamphetamine tracking, average sentences across all other major drug types (crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin, and marijuana) decreased.
Some two thirds (67 percent) of drug offenders were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty, up slightly from the previous year (66 percent).
Lastly, beyond looking at the demographics of the individuals sentenced, the Sentencing Commission looked at data regarding their trials, and the actual sentencing.
Of the cases analyzed, 97.8 percent of all defendants accepted a guilty plea, with 99.6 percent of immigration crime defendants accepting the plea. An individual charged and sentenced with kidnapping was the least likely to accept a guilty plea (69.7 percent).
The researchers concluded that 89.1 percent were sentenced to prison only, while a small percentage of the individuals federally sentenced were steered towards prison alternatives such as probation or a fine, depending on the crime.
In concluding their latest report, the Sentencing Commission said its website traffic increased by more than 20 percent for the second year in a row, “demonstrating that interest in the Commission’s work by sentencing courts, Congress, the Executive Branch, and the general public continues to increase.”
The increased interest prompted the USSC to launch an “Interactive Data Analyzer” last June—a tool for Congress, judges, litigants, the press, and the general public to easily and independently analyze sentencing data by state, district or circuit, and refine their inquiry by a specific crime type or time period.
The USSC claims the new tool will create transparency and shine a light on crime and sentencing trends that will help inform future legislation.
The United States Sentencing Commission is a bipartisan, independent agency located in the judicial branch of government which collects, analyzes and distributes a broad array of information on federal sentencing practices.
The full report can be accessed here.