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Drug Czar Says Subsance-Abuse Field Should Take Cues From Gay Rights

Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, known as the drug czar, is the first person in substance-abuse recovery to hold the job. The New York Times says his history, far from the liability it once may have been, "is considered evidence that the government is moving toward addressing drug abuse more through healing than handcuffs." Tom McLellan of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia says, "Every other drug czar has had a military, political or police background.  Nothing against them, but it’s time to have that new perspective, and Michael brings it. He is the living example of what should be an expectable result of treatment — recovery.” Botticelli’s agency devises the budget for national drug policies. It assists the State Department and Drug Enforcement Administration in dealing with governments of countries from which drugs are exported and works with domestic officials on strategies to stem the supply and abuse of drugs, from heroin to prescription opioids.

He spent four months in a court-mandated outpatient treatment program for alcohol abuse and left his job as an administrator at Brandeis University to work at a substance-abuse treatment center. Botticelli, 57, has remained abstinent for 26 years, his only synapse-soothing substance being an occasional cigarette. He refused a prescription for opioid painkillers after a medical procedure for fear they might awaken addictive behavior. Botticelli said that as the social stigma associated with drug abuse dissuaded people from seeking treatment, the substance-abuse field should take cues from the gay rights movement. He is gay and married his partner in 2009. “I almost found it easier to come out as being a gay man than a person in recovery,” he says. “We’re doing an amazing job decreasing the shame and stigma surrounding gay folks. There is a playbook for this.”

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Minnesota Experiment: Can Somali Teens Be Diverted From Terrorism?

Abdullahi Yusuf and Ahmed Amin find their paths intertwined, drawn into an intensifying global terrorism fight through an unusual new experiment to see if radicalized Somali-American youths can be talked off the path of violence and extremism, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. They have known each other barely a month, but their lives are linked by a shared story: the struggle to find a new identity in a new land. Yusuf is a quiet, lanky Somali-American teen from Minneapolis, arrested by the FBI last fall and accused of trying to join a brutal terrorist group in the Middle East.

Amin is a Somali-American schoolteacher who came to the U.S. when he was 12 without a hint of English on his tongue. He teaches historyin Minneapolis, where he’s the coach of a scrappy debate team and an eloquent instructor who shows his students the power of words to change minds. Amin and a team of religious scholars and teachers pulled together by Heartland Democracy, a nonprofit serving at-risk youths, have been assigned by a federal judge to mentor Yusuf, an 18-year-old who, like the six young men arrested on conspiracy charges last week, stands accused of trying to leave the U.S. to be a terrorist. U.S. District Chief Judge Michael Davis diverted Yusuf to the Heartland project in what is thought to be a first for the federal court system in a terror case.

 

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Baltimore Blames "Outside Agitators" For Violence; Most Arrested Are Local

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and a coalition of two dozen interdenominational leaders issued a "call for peace" after 35 people were arrested and six police officers were injured in weekend protests over  the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore Sun reports. Despite Police Commissioner Anthony Batts' insistence that a minority of out-of-town instigators caused the violence, online court records showed that only three of those arrested during Saturday's protests were from outside Maryland.

"While the vast majority of arrests reflect local residency, the total number of arrests does not account for every incident of criminal activity," police said. "The Baltimore Police Department believes that outside agitators continue to be the instigators behind acts of violence and destruction." The Mayor said, "Many people who weren't from our community were, in essence, trying to hijack the very raw emotions of some of those who live in Baltimore and were expressing anger over the death of Mr. Gray." she said. "People from the outside were inciting some of the 'shut this city down' sort of messaging, and then just left." Gray died April 19, a week after he sustained a spinal cord injury while in police custody. He will be buried today.

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In Battle Over Police Video Footage, Should Crime Victims Be On YouTube?

Most big city police departments, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia, still are testing body cameras, and it could be at least a year before a significant number of officers are wearing them. The New York Times says the battle over who has the right to see the film is underway. At public forums, advocates for the cameras have pressed the police to make the footage public. They point to police killings of unarmed black men and boys that did not lead to criminal charges, saying recordings could provide a fuller view of events than police accounts or even witness testimony. “If the public doesn’t have the opportunity to view the video on their own, they are left with the police version of what happened, and as we’ve seen recently, their version isn’t always what happened,” said Laniece Williams of the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial, Economic and Legal Justice. “Even in cases where there isn’t a fatal shooting, there are instances where police brutalize people and the public should be able to see the video.”

Among a flurry of 87 bills related to body cameras that have been introduced in 29 legislatures, 15 states are moving to limit what the public is allowed to see from the recordings. In some cases, lawmakers want to remove the videos from public records laws, says the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The issue challenges the assumption that everything that happens in public should be public,” said James McMahan of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. “But I don’t know that we want a woman standing there with bruises and scratches and other signs of domestic violence to be posted on YouTube. The instance of her being posted online forever might be a greater crisis than the original incident.” In Florida, the Sarasota Police Department has temporarily halted its body camera program after an American Civil Liberties Union of Florida lawyer sued over the cost of obtaining footage. The city said it would charge $18,000 for 84 hours of video to be placed on DVDs — about $214 an hour of video.

 

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Tsarnaev Prison Choices: "Clean Version Of Hell" Or IN Death Row

The U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, the nation’s highest-security prison, a so-called Supermax known as the Alcatraz of the Rockies, is where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is likely to end up if just one of 12 jurors decides to sentence the convicted Marathon bomber to life in prison, says the Boston Globe. What distinguishes ADX, as it’s known, from other federal prisons is that it was designed for solitary confinement. Many of the more than 400 prisoners are required to spend 23 hours a day alone in 7-by-12-foot concrete cells, where they get meals on trays slid through small holes in the steel doors, see limited natural light from a sliver of a window, and are permitted little contact with anyone other than staff. When prisoners are allowed out of their cells, they are escorted by multiple guards and are required to wear leg irons, handcuffs, and belly chains. Their recreation hour is usually spent in a small outdoor cage, which is surrounded by high gray walls with a view of the sky etched by barbed wire.

“The ADX is a far more stark environment than any other prison I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to all of the federal prisons,” said Robert Hood, ADX warden between 2002 and 2005. “When I call it a clean version of hell, I mean that it’s squeaky clean and quiet, because everyone there is locked down. It’s a very abnormal environment.” If the jury sentences him to death, he'd likely be sent to the penitentiary in Terre Haute, In., where he could spend years, perhaps decades, among other death row inmates as his lawyers appeal his sentence. Since the federal government reinstated capital punishment in 1988 only three federal prisoners have been executed, out of 74 sentenced to death. Tsarnaev could potentially have many more privileges and amenities if he is sent to Terre Haute.

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Media, U.S. Government Give Wildly Different Human Trafficking Data

A State Department report in 2013 estimated that as many as 27 million people are human trafficking victims at any time; the same report a year later used the figure 20 million. The Washington Post's fact checker says the numbers involved in trafficking are "dubious." (A so-called Global Slavery Index gives the estimate at 35.8 million.) The Post says "the numbers can vary dramatically depending on the definition — and increasingly, the definition has been stretched." In what American University law professor Janie Chuang calls "exploitation creep," trafficking over time has been recast to include all forced labor, even if a person does not change location, and then has been relabeled as “modern slavery.”

Clearly there is a problem with the numbers when the U.S. government cites a figure of 20 million and a well-funded, media-savvy organization touts a figure of “slaves” that is almost twice as high. The Post says "media organizations are complicit in fostering misperceptions by often citing these figures as established fact, without even an explanation or examination of the methodology. The numbers grow or shrink depending on the definitions that are used, and yet media reports rarely examine that aspect."

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Excessive-Force Complaints Double Under New Camden NJ Police Force

Since a new, county-run police force took over in May 2013 in Camden, N.J.. with the promise of making its officers trusted community guardians, not just law enforcers, the number of excessive-force complaints has nearly doubled, from 35 after the takeover that year to 65 in 2014 — the most in the state, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Even the combined total of Newark and Jersey City, the state’s largest cities, which have hundreds more officers, was below Camden’s. Of the 46 complaints in 2013, 35 were against the Camden County Police Department, which took over policing in the city of Camden in May 2013. The other 11 were filed against the city's previous police department, which patrolled Camden prior to being disbanded. Interviews with those who filed the complaints and others reveal a pattern of stops, often for minor offenses, that rapidly escalate.

Some individuals stopped have ended up in the hospital. An analysis of four incidents for which The Inquirer interviewed detained and reviewed hospital and police reports reveals a pattern in which stops usually made for minor infractions rapidly escalate. Three of the four individuals involved either filed complaints of excessive force or initiated related claims. Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson says excessive-force complaints account for a tiny fraction — fewer than 1 percent — of the thousands of arrests each year. The American Civil Liberties Union is struck by another statistic: zero. That’s how many excessive-force complaints authorities in Camden have upheld against officers in recent years.

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Controversial Tulsa Reserve Deputy Got Special Treatment in 2009

The high-profile case of an insurance executive who mistakenly shot and killed the target of an undercover gun deal by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has put a magnifying glass on the agency’s reserve deputy program, says the Tulsa World. The program includes a list of notable community members. When it was created in 1991, Sheriff Stanley Glanz wanted his newly trained reserves to work special events, patrol county parks and help with crowd control. Glanz said he spent $1,000 per graduate to equip them with a gun, bulletproof vest and uniform. Members underwent four months of training a couple of nights a week.

The program now is composed of three levels — basic, intermediate and advanced — and has an immense spotlight on it after one of its members mistakenly killed a suspect on an undercover, high-risk Violent Crimes Task Force operation. Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, was charged April 13 with second-degree manslaughter in the fatal April 2 shooting of Eric Harris, 44. A 2009 internal investigation that surfaced Friday paints a different picture regarding the conduct and training of one reserve in particular — Bates. The internal review was ordered to look into whether Bates was receiving special treatment and if pressure was exerted on deputies by supervisors to aid Bates. The investigation found fault with two high-ranking officials, preferential treatment of Bates and pressure to break from policy to benefit Bates.

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