The Nation says California's approval of Proposition 47 last November amounted to a reform "earthquake" in the world of criminal justice. The tremors have reached as far as Texas and New York, where prison reformers are looking at Prop 47 as a model for their own proposals. By reclassifying six low-end drug and petty theft felonies as misdemeanors, Prop 47 removed an estimated 40,000 people per year from the prison pipeline. Most of these men and women initially serve only a few months, but the consequences—restrictions on employment, barriers to access to government benefits and a high likelihood of reincarceration—last a lifetime.
The reform was designed to invest the savings, estimated by the Legislative Analyst’s Office to be up to $200 million annually, in mental health programs, drug treatment, early education and other infrastructure. Prop 47 also allows an estimated 10,000 prisoners to petition judges to reduce their sentences based on the new reclassification of their crimes. Perhaps most important, it allows all state residents who have been convicted of one of these felonies to apply to get the crimes removed from their records. By some calculations this will dramatically improve prospects for more than 1 million Californians.
Faced with a Department of Justice investigation into the men and women charged with protecting U.S. commercial flights from terrorism, former and current air marshals are coming forward to describe a “wheels-up, rings-off” culture rife with adultery, prostitution and other misconduct, according to the Center for Investigating Reporting (CIR). Former air marshals who worked in the service’s Orlando field office say managers directed subordinates to modify assignments for the bosses’ benefit. That included supervisors jumping on flights or bumping air marshals off missions so they could play golf in Scotland, travel to exotic locations or meet a lover.
Around the country, others tell similar stories. They say managers flew around the globe at little personal expense and even padded their paychecks, under the guise of so-called check rides to monitor air marshals’ job performance. CIR reported last month that an investigation into misconduct may involve dozens of employees of the Federal Air Marshal Service and manipulation of marshals’ flight schedules for personal gain. The report sparked a House oversight committee investigation. The Senate homeland security committee has begun a preliminary inquiry as well.
A journalist who wrote an article revealing the exploitation of migrant workers building a New York University campus in Abu Dhabi, as well as a professor quoted in the story, have become targets of a private investigator working for a mysterious secret client, reports the New York Times. The investigator, Loren Berger of New York, has been making inquiries about the NYU professor, Andrew Ross, and the reporter, Ariel Kaminer, who wrote the story for the Times last year. Berger said she did not know the identity of her client.
“The university has no knowledge of this and no involvement,” John Beckman, an NYU spokesman, said in a statement. “It’s reprehensible and offensive on its face, and we call on whoever is involved to desist immediately.” An embassy spokesman for the United Arab Emirates, which has a record of striking back at those critical of migrant labor conditions there, did not respond to inquiries. On Jan. 29, Berger called Susan Fraiman, a professor of English at the University of Virginia who had written critically about some of Professor Ross’s academic work. Berger “said something like, ‘We’re looking for people to comment negatively,’ ” Fraiman recalled.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officers in Colombia allegedly participated in sex parties with prostitutes paid for by local drug cartels and received money, gifts and weapons from the groups they were investigating, reports the Miami Herald. Citing Colombian police officials, a report released Thursday by the Office of the Inspector General said at least nine DEA agents “solicited prostitutes and engaged in other serious misconduct while in the country.”
The 131-page report looked at allegations of misconduct from 2009 to 2012 in the Department of Justice’s law-enforcement branches, including the FBI, the DEA, the ATF, and the U.S. Marshall Service. The report found that local Colombian law officers allegedly arranged “sex parties” for DEA agents with prostitutes over the course of several years. Those parties were held at the agent’s government-leased quarters and were allegedly paid for by local drug cartels.
A federal appeals court will reconsider last year's controversial ruling that would have dramatically loosened California's restrictions on carrying concealed firearms, reports the San Jose Mercury News. In a brief order filed Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to take a second look at the so-called Peruta case with a special 11-judge panel. The order effectively scraps a February 2014 decision that invalidated the San Diego County sheriff's strict guidelines for concealed-carry gun permits. The order temporarily preserves similar limits in the Bay Area and elsewhere enforced by local sheriffs.
The court will hear arguments in this and a similar case from Yolo County the week of June 15. A 9th Circuit panel, divided 2-1, found that San Diego County's restrictions violated the Second Amendment rights of private citizens to carry a gun for self-defense. Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, one of the court's most conservative members, wrote the decision, which drew a dissent from Chief Judge Sidney Thomas. Gun rights advocates, including the California Rifle and Pistol Association, challenged the law on behalf of Edward Peruta and several other San Diego County residents.
San Francisco sheriff’s deputies arranged and gambled on battles between county jail inmates, forcing one to train for the fights and telling them to lie if they needed medical attention, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Since the beginning of March at least four deputies at a county jail threatened inmates with violence or withheld food if they did not fight each other, gladiator-style, for the entertainment of the deputies, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said.
Adachi said the ringleader was Deputy Scott Neu, who was accused in 2006 of forcing inmates to perform sexual acts on him. That case was settled out of court. “I don’t know why he does it, but I just feel like he gets a kick out of it because I just see the look on his face,” said Ricardo Palikiki Garcia, one of the inmates who said he was forced to fight. An attorney for the union representing the deputies called the allegations “exaggerated” and said the fighting was “little more than horseplay.”
The New York Times profiles Norwegian justice and the country's Halden Fengsel, which is often called the world’s most humane maximum-security prison. The treatment of inmates at Halden is wholly focused on helping to prepare them for a life after they get out. Not only is there no death penalty in Norway, there are no life sentences. The maximum term for any crime is 21 years.
To anyone familiar with the American correctional system, Halden would seem alien. The relative freedom of movement it offers, and its quiet and peaceful atmosphere, are out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States. “Better out than in” is an unofficial motto of the Norwegian Correctional Service, which makes a reintegration guarantee to all released inmates. It works with other government agencies to secure a home, a job and access to a supportive social network for each inmate before release. But it's not cheap. Spending on the Halden prison runs to more than $93,000 per inmate per year, compared with just $31,000 for prisoners in the United States.
Distracted driving is a factor in almost six out of 10 moderate to severe crashes involving teenage drivers, four times the rate cited in many previous estimates, reports the Kansas City Star. A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety examined almost 1,700 in-car videos that showed what teen drivers were doing in the seconds before a wreck. The results reinforced suspicions of traffic safety officials who believe distracted-driving incidents involving teens to be greatly underreported.
The video evidence is wince-worthy, as young people stare at cellphones or talk with friends while their cars drift back and forth between lanes, dart off the road or come up suddenly on vehicles ahead of them. Distraction figured into 58 percent of the crash incidents. Federal officials previously estimated distraction to be a factor in only about 14 percent of all teen driver crashes, based largely on the drivers' self-reporting to police officers. The video evidence shows many are lying when they say they were not distracted.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has until Monday to decide whether to sign or veto a bill requiring state agencies to keep confidential for 60 days the identities of law enforcement officers involved in deadly or serious shootings, reports the New York Times. The bill, which passed the State Senate by a large margin on Tuesday, follows what supporters said were threats against Arizona officers after two recent shootings as well as concerns raised by the controversial fatal police shooting last year in Ferguson, Mo.
Since Ferguson, the issue of officer identification has become “one of the most emotional issues in American policing,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum. The Arizona bill has stirred passionate debate. Its proponents, including many police officers, say it will protect officers and their families from harassment or death threats. Opponents call it an unnecessary step that will deepen suspicion of the police among minority groups. Wexler said police chiefs in general want to be transparent because they know that secrecy makes it seem as if they have something to hide. Proponents said the Arizona law would provide for a cooling-off period after shootings and possibly prevent disasters.
TCR at a Glance
new & notable April 1, 2015
A new National Network for Safe Communities guide seeks to provide step-by-step instructions for communities struggling with public drug ...
new & notable March 31, 2015
A 30-year-study finds those who are abused as children are often more scrutinized as parents, but not necessarily more likely to be physi...
new & notable March 30, 2015
A new policy brief released by the Council of State Governments credits bipartisan reforms for the declines
March 27, 2015
Obama, Gingrich head list of speakers from left and right at DC gathering.
new & notable March 26, 2015
Vocational training should help inmates get ready for the increasingly technological of employment, according to a new Northwestern Unive...
new & notable March 25, 2015
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has evolved since 1979 from overseeing individual surveillance to mass spying, according to a...
new & notable March 24, 2015
Laws that prevent people considered high-risk for violence from acquiring guns can prevent homicide and suicide, according to a study in ...