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Lawsuits By Prison Rape Victims Could Cost States Large Sums

A class action lawsuit on behalf of youth sexually assaulted in Michigan prisons, accusing the state of failing to protect them, could go to trial or be settled this year, The Atlantic reports. About 250 inmates who were under 18 between 2010 and 2013 are involved so far. and claim to have been sexually assaulted. The Michigan Department of Corrections has denied the allegations, saying it has been acting in accordance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

Patricia Caruso, who headed the Michigan Department of Corrections from 2003 until 2011 and is now a corrections consultant, says her state enacted cutting-edge policies to curb sexual assault, including a ban on male officers in female housing units. She blames laws from the 1990s that  drive youth into adult prisons. The Michigan case's potential financial cost to the state has begun to circulate among policymakers. At a recent hearing in Texas, a legislative committee considering raising the adult prosecution age from 17 to 18 learned that failures to protect 17-year-olds in adult facilities could, with the help of PREA, lead to costly lawsuits. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who sponsored PREA in 2003, recently told U.S. News and World Report that “damages could reach billions in some states.”

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Cleveland Chief's Late Brother Criticized Law Enforcement On Facebook

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams stood face-to-face on a cold December evening with protesters assailing police violence against a 12-year-old. When protesters surrounded and temporarily closed a Walmart, he stood and spoke with those protesters. The chief is the public face of Cleveland law enforcement as the nation focuses on the police department's use of lethal force, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

It was an act of violence that again trained the media's glare on Calvin Williams this week. violence hit close to home home when his brother was shot dead dead by his estranged girlfriend, who is the mother of two of his three children. William Williams, 34, was found shot in the head about 3 a.m. Tuesday at his home. The woman accused of pulling the trigger, Dana Johnson, 36, drove from the home to Pennsylvania, where state police pulled her over just before she shot herself. She was in critical condition on Tuesday. William Williams' Facebook profile is peppered with memes and images critical of law enforcement and, in at least one instance, of Cleveland police.

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A Proposal To Rein In Prosecutors By Making Counties Pay For Inmates

When a local prosecutor sends a convicted felon to prison, the cost of keeping the person locked up, an average of nearly $32,000 per year, is paid for by the state, not the county where the prosecutor holds office. The problem with this, some argue, is that prosecutors end up enjoying a “correctional free lunch,” says Slate. They can be extremely aggressive in their charging decisions without having to worry about how much it will cost the local taxpayers who elected them.

If prosecutors were forced to take the cost of incarceration into account, the theory goes, there might not be 1.36 millioin people in state prisons. W. David Ball, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, has a proposal to make counties pay for every inmate they incarcerate. Ball argues that states should take the money they’re currently spending on their prisons, distribute it among counties based on their violent crime rate, and allow local decision-makers to spend it as they see fit. If county officials want to use the money to fund crime prevention programs, they can; if they want to use it to put lots of convicted felons in prison, they can do that too.

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MD's Hogan: "Holistic" Heroin Strategy To Be Written By Task Force

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has unveiled what he called a "holistic" strategy to deal with Maryland's growing heroin problem, but stopped short of declaring the state of emergency he vowed last year to put in place, the Baltimore Sun reports. After weeks of buildup, Hogan announced a four-pronged approach to one of the signature issues of his campaign. It involves no dramatic breaks from the policies followed by former Gov. Martin O'Malley. Hogan put much of the substantive policy development in the hands of a task force that will report to him by Dec. 1.

The program includes a $500,000 federal grant, but no new state money for treatment. At a news conference, Hogan seemed to choke up several times as he described how pervasive he found the problem as he traveled around the state last year. "This used to be considered an urban problem, but it's not anymore," he said. All over the state, local officials told Hogan heroin had become their No. 1 problem. The governor said he felt a personal connection because a cousin died of an overdose a couple of years ago. "I know the kind of devastation it can cause for families and communities, but still I was shocked by how widespread this problem had become," he said. Delegate Kirill Reznik said the task force duplicates a council he has served on since 2007. "The idea of another task force, I'm a little skeptical of it," he said.

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D.C. To Legalize Pot Tomorrow; GOP Leaders Warn District To Back Off

Washington, D.C., leaders say marijuana possession will become legal in the District at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, while warning that many pot-related activities will remain illegal, including selling the drug, growing it outdoors, possessing it in federally subsidized housing and smoking it anywhere in public, reports the Washington Post. Yesterday, congressional leaders urged Mayor Muriel Bowser to reconsider pot legalization, which they described as a “knowing and willful violation of the law.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the committee that oversees D.C. legislation, said: “Federal law ... confirms that D.C. cannot move forward. If they are under any illusion that this would be legal, they are wrong. And there are very severe consequences for violating this provision. You can go to prison for this. We’re not playing a little game here.”

Police Chief Cathy Lanier said police will not make arrests for violations of the prohibitions against smoking and possessing marijuana in federally subsidized public housing. She said federal officers and housing authority police might. More than two dozen federal law enforcement agencies operate in the city and will be bound by federal drug laws that make marijuana possession punishable by up to a year in jail. U.S. Park Police have agreed to enforce federal law on federal property and District law elsewhere. “Knowing your geography is important,” Lanier said.

 

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Study Urges Improving Services To Youths In Commercial "Survival Sex"

The Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute interviewed 283 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth who engaged in "survival sex" in New York City. The institute published a study on the issue today, aided by a U.S. Justice Department grant, that wsays, "paints a vivid picture of how they survive in the face of adversity, often dealing with issues rooted in poverty, homophobia, transphobia, racism, child abuse, and criminalization."

The study says the youth "lack access to voluntary and low-threshold services, including short- and long-term housing, affordable housing and shelter options, livable-wage employment opportunities, food security, and gender-affirming health care." The report makes several recommendations for improving services for those who engage in commercial sex to survive, including the design of police training curricula to improve relationships with LGBTQ youth and to "decrease profiling, harassment, and abuse."

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"Doper" Roush Convicted In Killing Of SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle, Friend

After nine days of testimony, an Erath County, Tx., jury deliberated for just 2 ½ hours last night before convicting Eddie Ray Routh of capital murder for killing legendary Navy SEAL sniper and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield, reports the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. Because prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty, Routh, 27, received an automatic life sentence with no possibility for parole. His defense asked the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity. If the jury had agreed, he would have been committed to a state mental institution.

After the verdict, Kyle’s stepfather, Jerry Richardson, told Routh. “Because of you and your irresponsible choices, we lost a great son, brother, father, husband and uncle on Feb. 2, 2013. You took the lives of two heroes — men who tried to be a friend to you. You became an American disgrace.” In his final argument, prosecutor Alan Nash said it was time for Routh’s “deep well of excuses for violent criminal behavior to come to an end.” “The guy is a doper,” Nash said. “He won’t stay off dope. We are talking about hard-core cannabis abuse.”



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TCR at a Glance

How to Build the ‘Perfect Cop’

February 27, 2015

Can community policing restore public trust in a profession shaken by national events? The Sacramento News & Review gets a mixed answer.

Study: Medical Identity Theft on the Rise

new & notable February 26, 2015

The number of patients victimized by medical fraud schemes jumped nearly 22 percent in 2014, according to an annual study by the Ponemon ...

How to Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform

new & notable February 25, 2015

Two new studies by the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group, highlight successful campaigns for changes to state criminal justice policy

There Goes the Judge

February 24, 2015

Once-sleepy “retention elections” for judges have become vulnerable to big-spending partisan campaigns.