A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics finds about 8.6 million households experienced identity theft last year.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has posted an online analysis tool that allows users to calculate recidivism rates for persons released from state prisons. Recidivism rates may be generated for the entire sample of 35,000 released prisoners or for released prisoners with specific demographic, criminal history, and sentence attributes. The tool uses data collected by BJS on a sample of inmates released from state prisons in 1994 and followed for three yerars. A new BJS study on the recidivism of state prisoners released in 2005 is due next year.
BJS says the tool defines recidivism in a variety of ways and allows users to choose the measure that best fits their needs or to compare the various measures of recidivism for the same group of releases. As one example, of black men released between the ages of 21 and 25, more than 80 percent were rearrested within three years and 35 percent were reimprisoned.
TCR at a Glance
May 23, 2013
In a speech this afternoon, President Barack Obama defended drone strikes and announced a narrowed focus in America's fight against terro...
new & notable May 23, 2013
Pressure from the U.S. to crack down on drug crime has led to skyrocketing prison rates for low-level offenders in the South American cou...
May 22, 2013
Number of US jail inmates rises after 3 years of decline
May 21, 2013
The press has done an admirable job covering a Department of Defense report on sexual assault in the military. But how good of a job has ...
new & notable May 20, 2013
Researchers who studied 1,200 incidents of dating violence in New York found brief Orders of Protection and repeat abuse
May 17, 2013
A conference on gun violence raised questions about whether journalists are focusing on the wrong things
May 16, 2013
The mayors of Philadelphia and Minneapolis challenge gun manufacturers to consider biometrics and other technological fixes in a New York...