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TCR ME in The Guardian: There's an Alarming Number of Deaths in US Jails

Kyam Livingston begged for help. After seven hours of lying on the floor of a jail cell, the 38-year-old mother of two died, her calls unheeded by the correction officers providing security for the approximately 15 female inmates at Brooklyn "central booking" jail this past summer, according to witnesses and court documents.

Livingston was one of the few hundred jail deaths that happen across the country. In 2011, (the latest available numbers) 885 inmates died (pdf) in the custody of local jails, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported. There is great hesitancy on the part of security to address sick complaints as seriously as they should be, writes The Crime Report's Managing Editor Cara Tabachnick in a column for The Guardian, especially in jail where the churn of people is endless, with most disappearing quickly. For those with health issues, this suspension of belief can prove fatal.

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New York Joins States With 'Good Samaritan' Overdose Laws

New York last week became the largest state to adopt a “Good Samaritan” law to fight overdose. It bars prosecution when someone calls for help to save the life of an overdose victim, reports Time. Overdose is responsible for some 28,000 annual deaths nationally. Most overdoses occur in the presence of other people and take several hours to cause death. But research finds that in up to half of cases, no one calls for help.

Friends or family often make the fatal mistake of letting overdosers “sleep it off.”  Fear of prosecution is often cited by survivors. The New York law had broad bipartisan support. New Mexico, Washington and Connecticut has similar laws, and others are considering it, including California, Illinois and Nebraska.

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3 Key Categories Of NYPD Crime Data Seem Trustworthy: Zimring

The panel New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly tapped to evaluate the integrity of his department’s crime-recording system will be visited today by criminologist Franklin Zimring of the University of California, Berkeley, says the New York Times. Zimring will talk about what a police official called “a pretty remarkable” analysis of the city’s historic crime decline. A draft of his finds will be published in Scientific American in the fall, with a book to follow.

In the book — working title: “The City That Became Safe: What New York Can Teach America About Crime Control” (Oxford University Press), Zimring relied on police statistics, and he had cooperation from the department’s hierarchy. He studied crime in three categories: homicides, robberies, and automobile thefts. In essence, Zimring says, “The crime trends you get off the official data are trustworthy in the three cases where we could check them,” he said. “What that does not mean is that the number of thefts the New York City Police Department reports is the number of thefts that citizens have experienced in the city. There is not a ‘CompStat-effect’ that makes the problem much worse than 1994.” He added: “The degree of underreporting, which I regard as a chronic condition in all police-generated data, is no greater now than it was 20 years ago, and probably, if you look at the robbery indicators, a little better now than it was then — and not measurably greater in this city than in other cities.”


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Searching CA Prison Guards For Smuggled Cellphones Could Cost Millions

California legislators trying to keep cellphones away from the state's most dangerous inmates say an obstacle is the politically powerful prison guards union, whose members would have to be paid millions of dollars extra to be searched on their way into work, reports the Los Angeles Times. Prison employees, roughly half of whom are unionized guards, are the main source of smuggled phones that inmates use to run drugs and other crimes, say legislative analysts. Unlike visitors, staff can enter without passing through metal detectors.

Unions cite a requirement that corrections officers be paid for "walk time" — the minutes it takes them to get from the front gate to their posts. Putting metal detectors along the route, with an airport-like regimen involving removal of steel-toed boots and equipment-laden belts, could double the walk time, adding several million dollars to officers' collective pay each year. Gov. Jerry Brown, whose campaign received generous financial support from the union and who made one of his few public appearances between the November election and his January inauguration at the union's annual convention in Las Vegas, would not say whether searches are under review. More than 10,000 cellphones made their way into California prisons last year — up from 1,400 in 2007. Two of those wound up in the hands of Charles Manson, serving a life sentence for ordering the ritualistic murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969.


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Ohio Sentencing Reform Plan Backed By Leaders Of All 3 Branches

A proposed overhaul of Ohio's criminal-justice system, supported by top officials in all three branches of government, contains elements that politicians and voters flatly rejected in the past: shortened sentences for inmates who complete certain programs in prison, and diverting nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of prison, reports the Columbus Dispatch. The state's 1996 Truth in Sentencing Law banished "good-time" provisions and established fixed-term sentences for most offenses. In 2002, voters soundly rejected a ballot issue advocating "treatment instead of incarceration" for nonviolent drug offenders.

Since then, the prison population has grown to nearly 51,000 (33 percent over design capacity) and state money for prisons has shrunk. As a result, a reform plan from the Council of State Governments and other groups was enthusiastically embraced this week by state officials. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who has advocated similar prison reforms for the past two legislative sessions, was an enthusiastic cheerleader. "My mother used to tell me you can't fit 10 pounds in a 5-pound bag. That's what we're trying to do in Ohio," Seitz said. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor praised the report's emphasis on improving the probation system. The plan promises savings of $62 million over four years and a reduction in the state prison population to its 2007 level. It would avoid the need to spend hundreds of millions on prison construction and operations. The state faces a potential $8 billion budget shortfall.


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Hundreds Voice Mistrust Of Seattle Police After Killing Of Woodcarver

Hundreds of people expressed deep mistrust of the Seattle Police Department last night in a heated and raucous forum  prompted by a police officer's fatal shooting of a woodcarver and other high-profile incidents. the Seattle Times reports. Mayor Mike McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz pledged to address the concerns with better training and community relations, amid catcalls and angry outbursts that punctuated the two-hour meeting.

"I'm directly accountable to the voters for this," McGinn told the audience, filled with many from Seattle's minority communities and a brother of John Williams, whose death in August has served as a galvanizing force to bring out long-simmering anger. City Council member Nick Licata said the turnout was the largest he had ever seen in Seattle on the issue of police accountability and called McGinn's and Diaz's presence "precedent setting." Some questioned the sincerity of the event, with shouts for Diaz to resign or be fired. James Bible, president of the local NAACP branch, interrupted the forum, angrily referring to it as a "puff piece" as the U.S. Justice Department launches a preliminary review into the Police Department's practices in dealings with minorities.


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Mistaken Convictions Suspected In Many Shaken-Baby-Syndrome Cases

A group of lawyers that has succeeded in exonerating hundreds of people based on DNA evidence is mounting 20 to 25 appeals of shaken-baby convictions, reports the New York Times "No one wants child abuse," says Keith Findley, a lawyer for the Wisconsin Innocence Project. "But we should not be prosecuting and convicting people in shaken-baby cases right now, based on the triad of symptoms, without other evidence of abuse. If the medical community can’t agree about all the conflicting data and research, how is a jury supposed to reach a conclusion that’s beyond a reasonable doubt?”

Between 1,200 and 1,400 U.S. children sustain head injuries attributed to abuse each year. Most of them are under a year old. Usually, there’s not much dispute that the children were abused, because doctors discover other signs of mistreatment — cuts, bruises, burns, fractures — or a history of such injuries. Law-enforcement authorities believe there are about 200 shaken-baby prosecutions annually. In an estimated 50 percent to 75 percent of them, the only medical evidence of shaken-baby syndrome is the triad of internal symptoms: subdural and retinal hemorrhage and brain swelling.


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Obama To Issue Advisory Standardizing College Response To Sex Assault Reports

Momentum is building for more action to prevent campus sex assault. Women's eNews reports that President Obama plans to issue an advisory guided by Title IX, the federal law that requires schools to adopt "prompt and equitable" policies to fairly and effectively redress sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints.

The plan comes amid growing concern that reports of sexual assault on campus are either being ignored or subjected to disciplinary hearings that are not compliant with federal law, to the disadvantage of victims and in violation of their rights under Title IX. Title IX has been on the books since 1972, but the federal government has done little to demand uniformity across campuses nationwide, says Women's eNews's Wendy Murphy. An advisory will compel all schools to adopt appropriate and effective standards with due regard for Title IX so all students are afforded a baseline of legal protection no matter what college or university they attend.


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TCR at a Glance

Trading Weapons for Salamanders

q & a June 20, 2016

A national park ranger uses nature, history and community service to widen the horizons of gang youth and other troubled kids—and p...

Reimagining Prison

June 17, 2016

The Vera Institute launches an ambitious 18-month initiative next week to explore alternatives to mass incarceration.