Weekly ReCAP in Criminal Justice: September 21, 2012

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
– George Orwell

Criminal justice news stories, research, and resources that CAP highlighted this week: 


Nonprofits Work to Get Hawaii’s Youth to the Polls, Civil Beat, Sept. 19, 2012
Four years ago, less than a third of young people in Hawaii between ages 18 and 29 voted, the lowest youth turnout in the nation. But grassroots organizations in Hawaii want 2012 to be different.


Senate Bill 9- California Fair Sentencing for Youth, Fair Sentencing for Youth
“Senate Bill 9 recognizes that all young people, even those serving life without parole sentences, have the capacity to change for the better and should have access to the rehabilitative tools to do so. This Act would provide an opportunity for review and re-sentencing after many years of incarceration for youth sentenced to life without parole in prison. Recognizing that teenagers are still maturing, this Act creates specific criteria and an intense, three-part review process that would result in the possibility of a lesser sentence for those offenders who have matured and proven themselves to have changed. Under this Act, youth sentenced to life without parole could petition a court to review his or her case after serving between 10 and 25 years in prison. If the offender meets certain criteria, the court would review the case and decide, after listening to all sides, if a lower sentence should be imposed. Not all youth would get a new sentencing hearing, and those who did would have no guarantee of getting a lesser sentence. Even if re-sentenced, offenders must still face a parole board and must prove they merit parole. Otherwise, they will remain in prison. There would be no guarantee of parole, only the opportunity to earn it.”

The Truth About Private Prison Contracts, Nation of Change, Sept. 21, 2012

California Reconsiders “Three Strikes”, Stateline, Sept. 21. 2012

Agreement paves way for juvenile justice reforms, Illinois TImes, Sept. 21, 2012
“ACLU filed the lawsuit Sept. 12 to gain a court-backed ruling that has the force of law, and a U.S. District Court judge in Chicago approved the decree the next day. Under the terms of the decree, the court will appoint three independent experts to evaluate conditions in the state’s youth prisons and create a plan for specific improvements.”

New On-line Resource: Collateral Consequences Database, caphawaii.wordpress.com, Sept. 20, 2012
“The collateral consequences of a criminal conviction—legal sanctions and restrictions imposed upon people because of their criminal record—are hard to find and harder to understand. Now it will be easier to do both. Congress directed the National Institute of Justice to collect and study collateral consequences in all U.S. jurisdictions, and NIJ selected the ABA Criminal Justice Section to perform the necessary research and analysis. The results are now being made available through this interactive tool.”

Protecting the Incarcerated, The Crime Report, Sept. 20, 2012
“With jails and prisons federally mandated to curb sexual assaults against homosexual and transgender inmates, a handful of correctional facilities have emerged at the forefront of innovative practices designed to protect what is one of the most vulnerable groups behind bars. The National Institute of Corrections (NIC), citing studies that show lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inmates are 13 to 20 times more likely to be raped than incarcerated heterosexuals, plans to spotlight those practices Nov. 7 in a nationwide broadcast that corrections officials can view live. The public eventually can access the broadcast on the institute’s website.”

New report criticizes bail industry’s parasitic relation to justice system, Grits for Breakfast, Sept. 20, 2012
“The Justice Policy Institute has issued a new report (pdf) critiquing the bail bond industry titled “For Better or For Profit: How the Bail Bonding Industry Stands in the Way of Fair and Effective Pretrial Justice.” Commercial bail has been outlawed in most of the world as well as four American states – the only other nation that relies on commercial bail bondsmen is the Philippines – and this report makes a good case why. Issuing $14 billion in bonds per year and “Backed by multibillion dollar insurance giants, the for-profit bail bonding industry maintains its hold in the pretrial system through political influence,” according to the report.”

Ninth Circuit Will Re-Hear Mandatory DNA Collection at Arrest Lawsuit, ACLU.org, Sept. 19, 2012
“Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will [heard] the ACLU of Northern California’s challenge to a California law that mandates that DNA is collected from anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony, whether or not they are ever charged or convicted.”

ACLU report: N.J. prosecutors with multiple misconduct violations faced no discipline, Star-Ledger, Sept. 19, 2012

Medicaid expansion and addresing severe mental illness through the justice system, Grits for Breakfast, Sept. 18, 2012
“Mandating mental health services [“Kendra’s Law” out of NY] for folks with the most severe psychiatric problems could reduce the frequency with which they cycle through the criminal justice system, as is depressingly common, and if the NY results are any indication, could also prevent a good deal of crime and substance abuse among those with the most severe mental health needs. And if Texas were to expand Medicaid eligibility in 2014, it would present an opportunity for financing such services that at the moment seem fiscally out of reach.”

Legislature considers version of ‘four strikes’ bill designed to put offenders behind bars for a minimum of 25 years, Bridge Magazine, Sept. 18, 2012
“Concerns about prison costs this year have not deterred the Legislature’s appetite to tweak Michigan sentencing rules. Last week, the House, following the Senate, approved a version of a “four strikes” bill designed to put violent offenders behind bars for a minimum sentence of 25 years…”

Police can start enforcing Ariz. immigration law, judge rules, The Republic, Sept. 18, 2012
“Arizona’s “show me your papers” provision officially became law yesterday when a federal judge lifted an injunction against the section of the state’s immigration law that requires police officers to check the legal status of people under certain conditions during investigations or traffic stops, reports the Arizona Republic. How the law will be enforced is still unclear. Law-enforcement agencies say they have trained their officers not to violate people’s constitutional rights. Civil-rights and advocacy groups warn that racial profiling is likely to occur.”

Another day of prison (over)populations headlines, Sentencing Law and Policy Blog, Sept. 18, 2012

The Case for ‘Blind’ Lineups, Innocence Blog, Sept. 17, 2012
“In the bulk of the nearly 300 DNA exonerations — almost 75% — the convictions were based in part on faulty eyewitness identifications. This has led scientists to recommend “blind” lineups. Many cities, as well as many states, have embraced this approach. Los Angeles is not one of them.”

Mississippi Town Struggles with ‘School to Prison Pipeline’ Charges, Nation of Change, Sept. 17, 2012
“[T]he U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is alleging the juvenile justice system here is so faulty that it amounts to a “school-to-prison pipeline…
The Justice Department says it has probable cause to believe the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County routinely and repeatedly incarcerate children for school disciplinary infractions, as outlined in an Aug. 10 open letter that was issued at the conclusion of an eight-month investigation. The department’s letter is addressed to the city and county, the county’s two Youth Court judges, as well as the state Division of Youth Services, but not the Meridian school system.”

The case for ‘blind’ lineups, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 17, 2012
“Scientific studies on memory and identification have demonstrated that witnesses can be heavily influenced by the person conducting a lineup. Changes are called for.”
“Nearly 300 American men and women wrongly convicted of crimes have been exonerated by DNA testing. And in the bulk of those cases — almost 75% — the convictions were based in part on faulty eyewitness identifications…his has led scientists to recommend “blind” lineups, meaning that the officer who conducts the lineup shouldn’t be aware of the identity of the suspect, so that he or she can’t contaminate the identification procedure.”

Overcrowding In Federal Prisons Harms Inmates, Guards: GAO Report, Huffington Post, Sept. 14, 2012

Don’t Let Prison Phone Rates Increase Crime in Your Neighborhood—Infographic, Take Part, Sept. 11, 2012
“This excellent infographic clearly explains how the prison phone industry feeds corporate greed at the expense of public need. It’s time for the FCC to step in and regulate phone rates so that no family has to pay $18 for a 15-minute phone call to a loved one behind bars.”


The Unexonerated: Factually Innocent Defendants Who Plead Guilty, John H. Blume, Cornell Law School, Rebecca K. Helm, July 11, 2012
“Several recent high profile cases, including the case of the West Memphis Three, have revealed (again), that factually innocent defendants do plead guilty. And, more disturbingly in many of the cases, the defendant’s innocence is known, or at least highly suspected at the time the plea is entered. Innocent defendants plead guilty most often, but not always, in two sets of cases: first, low level offenses where a quick guilty plea provides the key to the cellblock door; and second, cases where defendants have been wrongfully convicted, prevail on appeal, and are then offered a plea bargain which will assure their immediate or imminent release. There are three primary contributing factors leading a criminal justice system where significant numbers of innocent defendants plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. The first is the perceived need that all defendants must plead. The second is the current draconian sentencing regime for criminal offenses. And, the final contributing factor is that plea bargaining is, for the most part, an unregulated industry. This article discusses cases in which innocent defendants plead guilty to obtain their release, thus joining the “unexonerated” and then propose several options the criminal justice system should embrace to avoid, or at least ameliorate the plight of innocent defendants who plead guilty.”


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