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Talks Raise Hopes Of Reviving Justice Reinvestment In Oklahoma

With Oklahoma's prison population well over capacity, talks between the governor’s office and a national nonprofit have some advocates wondering: Is 2015 the year for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma? The Oklahoman says Gov. Mary Fallin's office met with representatives of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The group helped the state formulate a Justice Reinvestment Initiative that the legislature passed in 2012.

Yet a dedicated funding source was never put in place and a committee formed to implement the program clashed with the governor’s office before disbanding. The fact that Oklahoma locks up more people per capita than almost any other state means more Oklahomans are affected by the issue, said former House Speaker Kris Steele. The political climate has become so focused on being “tough on crime” it is difficult to implement change. “The real test is going to be if [Fallin] tries to test the water and move forward, what happens when somebody stands up and says ‘Governor Fallin is being soft on crime,’” Steele said.

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Crime Rates Keep Declining, Americans Keep Believing They're Rising

Last week, the Gallup organization issued a poll that showed a large majority of Americans incorrectly believe crime increased last year. says The Mendoza Line. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said there was “more crime in the U.S than there was a year ago.”  Only 21 percent correctly said there was less crime. FBI says violent crime reports fell  4.4 percent last year compared to 2012. The reported violent crime rate per 100,000 people fell 5.1 percent. Similarly, the rate of reported property crimes declined by 4.8 percent.

Fourteen of 20 times that Gallup asked this crime question, Americans got it wrong. The exceptions are 1989, 1990, 2000, 2001, 2005, and 2006. The same trend emerges for property crimes. Americans incorrectly said crime went up 17 out of 20 times, when property crime had actually declined.

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NYC, State Will Pay $6.7 Million To Settle Wrongful Conviction Case

New York City and New York State agreed to pay $6.7 million to settle lawsuits on behalf of a Bronx man who served more than 12 years in prison before his murder conviction was overturned in 2007, reports the New York Times. The settlements were reached with the widow of Israel Vasquez, a 35-year-old iron worker who was fatally shot in 2012.

 

The settlements are the first to be reached by the city and state in lawsuits stemming from the investigation into two 1995 murders that occurred within days of each other in the Bronx, and which ultimately led to six people’s being convicted and serving long sentences for crimes they said they had not committed. The first killing was the execution-style shooting of a Federal Express executive, Denise Raymond, in her apartment; the second was of a livery taxi driver, Baithe Diop, who was shot twice in his cab.

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Florida State Student Paper Won't "Glorify" School Gunman By Naming Him

A Florida State University student newspaper, FS View, decided not to name Myron May as the gunman outside of the school's library last week “because tact and sensitivity outweighed the immediacy of his identification and the sensationalizing of his crimes during this time,” says editor Setareh Baig, reports JimRomenesko.com. She adds that “publishing the name of the shooter would be insensitive to our peers who were victims in this tragedy.” May wounded three people before he was shot and killed by police.

Wrote Baig: "Oftentimes, media glorifies mass shooters, and coverage becomes saturated with the shooters’ names. The 'glory' goes to the gunmen and the victims are often forgotten. The FSView made the ethical decision to not feed into this trend of glorifying mass shooters. The excessive media coverage could potentially lead to copycat gunmen who want to receive the same notoriety and go on to commit atrocities in the name of being recognized." FSU View is a Gannett publication, supervised by the Tallahassee Democrat.

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How Colorado Prisons, Jails Deal With Heavy Mental Illness Caseload

Colorado prisons treat more than four times as many people with mental illness each day as all of the psychiatric hospitals in the state, reports the Denver Post. The Department of Corrections, by default, is the largest mental health treatment center in Colorado. A third of inmates, 5,760 prisoners, have mental problems. In Denver, the jail with its sheer volume of “patients” at up to 500 per day is the biggest provider of mental health services in the metro area. One-fifth of Denver County Jail inmates have mental illnesses.

Jails and prisons are no longer warehouses holding the accused until their time is up. They are treatment centers; the Denver County Jail has three psychologists and six diversion and mental health program officers, and holds classes twice daily to teach inmates with mental illness how to function without breaking the law. It’s expensive: Denver County spent $245,200 on anti-psychotics and other mental health drugs for jail inmates last year alone. The Department of Corrections spent $1.9 million on mental health prescriptions. Colorado also pays $2,083 per prisoner, per year to treat mental health problems, and for some of them, it’s the first treatment they ever get. The Post takes a close look at how cases are handled.

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Number Of Police Killed In Criminal Acts Dropped Sharply To 27 Last Year

Twenty-seven law enforcement officers died as a result of felonious acts last year, a sharp drop from the 49 killed in 2012, the FBI said today. Overall, 76 officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents in 2013. The 27 felonious deaths occurred in 16 states. Five- and 10-year comparisons show a decrease of 21 felonious deaths compared with the 2009 figure (48 officers) and a decrease of 30 deaths compared with 2004 data (57 officers).

Some 49,851 officers were victims of line-of-duty assaults, down from 52,901 the previous year. Of last year's officers feloniously killed, six deaths occurred in arrest situations, five were investigating suspicious persons or circumstances, five were ambushed, four were involved in tactical situations, four were answering disturbance calls, and two were conducting traffic pursuits/stops. One was conducting an investigative activity, such as surveillance, a search, or an interview. Offenders used firearms to kill 26 of the 27 victim officers.

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Cleveland Police Officer Kills Boy, 12, In Incident With BB Gun

Tamir Rice's father asked why Cleveland police officers fatally shot his 12-year-old son Saturday instead of using a stun gun to subdue him when they said he pulled what turned out to be a BB gun from his waistband, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Gregory Henderson said Tamir was a "respectful" young man who minded his elders, and he couldn't comprehend that his son would not follow police orders. A caller told police "a guy with a gun was pointing it at people" on the swing set in a park outside a recreation Center. The caller said twice that the gun was "probably fake," but said the person was scaring people.

Police dispatchers radioed to officers that there was "a male with a gun threatening people" outside the rec center. They responded and saw the boy pick up what they thought was a black gun, tuck it in his waistband and take a few steps. Officers drew their weapons and told the boy to raise his hands. Instead, he lifted his shirt and reached for the handle of the gun sticking out of his waistband. He pulled out the gun, and an officer opened fire, shooting twice, hitting him at least once in the abdomen. Police later determined the gun was actually a BB gun, with the orange safety cap removed.

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Can Obama Administration Pull Off Its Immigration Policy Changes?

The political debate over President Obama’s unilateral immigration actions is obscuring the more basic question of whether the federal government is up to the task of handling a flood of applications from as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants seeking quasi-legal status, Politico reports. The agency that handles immigration paperwork may have to double its capacity for applications very quickly; critics say the potential for fraud increases with a high volume of immigrants in a short amount of time; and the wait time for all kinds of immigration approvals could dramatically increase.

Administration officials are acutely aware of the dangers posed by failing to carry through on the promises Obama outlined last week. Throughout the planning for the new immigration moves, White House aides and other officials have been intent on avoiding the kind of logistical and practical execution problems that made the roll-out of Healthcare.gov such a debacle. The immigration effort is a similar high-wire act that needs to be carried out without legislative or financial help from Congress. It involves two agencies with checkered reputations among immigrant rights advocates: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. USCIS will have up to six months to get ready to accept applications, but will be pressured to process those requests quickly and could be tempted to cut corners.

 

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TCR at a Glance

To the Understanding

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What the Ferguson Grand Jury Missed

commentary November 25, 2014

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