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How Tulsa's Only Jail Teacher Tries To Swing Recidivism Odds

The Tulsa World profiles Sherri Knight, the only full-time teacher in Tulsa's David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, which houses 100 inmates. Teaching atg the jail isn't easy, because she gets to do little of it. Instead of spending time on lessons, she has to wait for doors to unlock, for court hearings to end, for detention officers to finish inspections, for paperwork, and for funding.

Knight now has 16 underage students in one pod, plus another 26 older students scattered across the jail. State law requires Tulsa to offer an education to any inmate up to age 21 if they haven't graduated high school. When they eventually get out of jail, nearly seven out of 10 juvenile offenders are likely to be arrested again within three years, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. If they graduate high school or pass the GED, the numbers change dramatically. More than 53 percent will never face a criminal charge again. For Knight, that's motivation. Maybe she can help a few get diplomas and swing the odds in their favor.

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DOJ Seeks Sweeping Changes In Albuquerque Police Department

Talks between Albququerque and the U.S. Department of Justice begin today on writing a court-enforceable consent decree that would change the way the Albuquerque Police Department operates, the Albuquerque Journal reports. If they can’t reach an agreement, the U.S. is prepared to file suit to stop what investigators say is a pattern and practice by the police department of excessive and deadly force. “A lot of the most troubling incidents involved mentally ill people,” said Jocelyn Samuels, acting head of DOJ's civil rights division.

The federal list of remedies calls for the complete overhaul of the internal affairs process and officer discipline; a complete rewrite of use-of-force procedures and training; new policies for recruitment and selection of new cadets; clearer policies for dealing with people with mental illness and disabilities; and civilian oversight of the department. DOJ recommends a nearly complete overhaul of the department's use-of-force policies, including a prohibition against shooting at motor vehicles and requiring the reporting of all use-of-force incidents, including the use of choke holds. The changes are designed to root out a culture within the department that accepts and even encourages the unconstitutional use of excessive and fatal force, said the Justice Department.

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Boy, 2, Shot Watching TV In Milwaukee; Officials Seek New Gun Laws

After a 2-year-old boy was shot in the back while watching cartoons on TV, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Edward Flynn urged citizens to help police confiscate guns and pressured state legislators to pass new gun laws, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The officials want a state law that would make it a felony for someone who illegally carries a firearm, and to change the law that allows a habitual offender to get a gun permit. "In this state, no matter how many times a person is illegally carrying a firearm, it is a misdemeanor," Flynn said. "It is not risky to be arrested for a misdemeanor. Our criminal community learns nothing from the experience, to be caught by the cops with a firearm."

"Right now, understandably, legislators don't want to touch gun laws because then it's a visit to Crazy Town," Flynn said. "And they are worried about that." He said opponents of gun legislation put intense pressure on legislators and are well-financed. "We've got to change that calculation," he said. Laurel Patrick, Gov. Scott Walker's press secretary, said that "Gov. Walker is willing to work with law enforcement and other interested parties to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals."



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Many U.S. Asylum Seekers Detained Too Long, Critics Say

There are no statutory limits to the amount of time non-citizens may be held in U.S. immigration detention, says the Village Voice. When the process goes smoothly, asylum seekers are released in a matter of weeks. Many end up imprisoned for much longer. Some 6,000 survivors of torture -- exiles from Iran, Myanmar, Syria, and other brutal regimes -- were detained in immigration jails while seeking asylum over the past three years, says the Center for Victims of Torture. "It's really tragic," says Amelia Wilson of the American Friends Service Committee, a faith-based organization that aids asylum seekers. She adds: "They're fleeing persecution, and many of them have just fled institutions of incarceration in their home country. Through guile or luck or the right contacts, they manage to get out of their country. They come here and they're promptly detained. They're shocked. They're not criminals. In fact, they're following the legal procedure the government has put in place for them to get protection." The Voice says a process created to save innocent lives embodies some of the worst aspects of U.S. immigration policy: The system of mass deportations and incarceration has devastating consequences for vulnerable people who seek safety and a new beginning. House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), says the asylum system is "exploited by illegal immigrants in order to enter and remain in the United States."

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NYC U.S. Attorney Takes Over Cuomo's Abandoned Corruption Probes

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York City condemned New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to shut down a commission examining public corruption and said his office would take over its investigations, reports the Wall Street Journal. Bharara's move jolted Albany's political establishment and represented a rare rebuke for Cuomo, a Democrat who launched the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption in July. The commission was charged with rooting out corruption in the Capitol and recommending ethics reforms, but Cuomo disbanded it in a deal last month with lawmakers to create new corruption laws. "Nine months may be the proper and natural gestation period for a child, but in our experience not the amount of time necessary for a public corruption prosecution to mature," Bharara told WNYC. The Moreland Commission that Cuomo dissolved had begun several investigations, issuing subpoenas into state lawmakers' use of campaign funds, their outside employment and their allocation of state grants to nonprofits. Trucks from the U.S. attorney's office picked up investigative files from the commission yesterday.

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Except ND, State Enact A Variety Of Measures Restricting Drone Use

As many states are wrestling with how to restrict the nascent domestic drone industry, North Dakota is embracing it, reports Stateline. North Dakota police don’t need a warrant to use drones; the state has no laws on drones. North Dakota lobbied to be a drone test site for the federal government, and was one of six sites chosen in December by the Federal Aviation Administration to research how to integrate them into the national airspace. The others are in Alaska, Nevada, New York, Texas and Virginia.

This year, 35 states have considered measures regarding unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. Most of them are privacy protection proposals that would restrict the use of drones and set limits on the collection and storage of data. In the last two weeks, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a bill that would have regulated drone use by government and law enforcement. He said the legislation didn’t go far enough to protect privacy rights. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill that sets limits on law enforcement use of drone technology. The law requires law officers to obtain a search warrant before using a drone in most situations. It would also regulate what kinds of data can be collected and how long it can be stored, and it requires the data to be made public after an investigation is over. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using drones except in emergency situations, and outlaws drone surveillance of people who have a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

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How FBI Agents Take Part With Military In Iraq, Afghanistan Raids

The FBI’s transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization after the 9/11 attacks is well known. Less widely known, reports the Washington Post, has been the bureau’s role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world. With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials are more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The relationship benefited both sides. JSOC used the FBI’s expertise in exploiting digital media and other materials to locate insurgents and detect plots. The bureau’s agents, in turn, could preserve evidence and maintain a chain of custody should any suspect be transferred to the U.S. for trial. The FBI’s presence on the far edge of military operations was not universally embraced. As agents found themselves in firefights, some in the bureau expressed uneasiness about a domestic law enforcement agency stationing its personnel on battlefields.

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Ethnic Intimidation Charged In Beating Of Detroit Motorist Who Hit Boy

A 16-year-old has been charged with ethnic intimidation in connection with the brutal beating of Steven Utash, the motorist attacked in Detroit last week when he got out of his pickup truck to check on the 10-year-old he hit when the child stepped into the street, reports the Detroit Free Press. The teen, who was charged as a juvenile, also was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm. Four others, ranging from 17 to 30 years old, also have been charged.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said that in the cases against the adults, “the evidence does not support a charge of ethnic intimidation.” Officials have said Utash was attacked on April 2 by up to a dozen people, who severely beat the man with their fists and feet. Utash has been hospitalized in a medically induced coma with critical head injuries.

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TCR at a Glance

Smack Madness

April 16, 2014

Have the media and policymakers overblown the latest heroin “epidemic?”

How Red Tape Snarls Prison Rape Act

special report April 10, 2014

The DOJ’s insistence on state compliance with 288 regulatory standards keeps the program’s implementation in limbo, say critics