By Robin L. Barton
But those promises have been undermined by court orders requiring the disclosure of notes on, and recordings of, the interviews to British authorities. (This Stanford Law Review article does a good job spelling out the legal process and theories that resulted in the orders to release the interviews.) British authorities are using the disclosed information to open investigations into certain disappearances and murders from the Troubles.
For example, on the basis of this information, Gerry Adams, president of the Irish political party Sinn Fein, was brought in for questioning in connection with the abduction and murder of Jean McConville. He was eventually released without being charged. British authorities did officially charge Ivor Bell with aiding and abetting the McConville murder. They’ve also reopened investigations into at least 16 unsolved disappearances from the Troubles.
By Adair Iacono
When Orange Is the New Black started getting lots of attention, I was struck by the perversity of it all: millions of Americans are incarcerated right now, many for crimes far less serious, knowing, and incredibly avoidable than carrying drug money, and it’s only a marketable story when people realize it can happen to a pretty, white, educated woman? Viewed in a certain light, Piper Kerman’s story is an instance of justice being color- and class-blind—a system success story, in that it demonstrates that punishment can sometimes be meted out just as harshly to a woman like her as it is daily to people of color. Increased severity is not the way most of us would hope to see the American justice system achieve racial parity, I grant you, but it is one way to go about it.
By Walter C. Holton, Jr.
We've done many good things over the last 20 years to reduce violent crime. More communities across our country now employ strategic approaches to improve safety, ranging from community policing to the current Smart on Crime initiative. We should congratulate ourselves for these achievements.
But we have made mistakes. One big one is promising states money to build prisons if they agreed to lengthen prison sentences. They did. Prisons sprang forth and have filled. We have incarcerated prisoners at a world-record pace, taking in the violent and the non-violent.
By Barry Krisberg
Last night, Californians resoundingly approved a ballot initiative—Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act—that will not only have a major impact on California’s prison population, but have significant resonance across the U.S.
The initiative, which passed with 58.5 percent of the vote, changes many crimes from felonies, which generally require prison terms, to misdemeanors that usually carry penalties of probation, fines or very short jail time. Most instances of drug possession and property crime under $950 are no longer felonies. Current prisoners who were charged with these crimes can now petition to have their sentences reduced.
By James Doyle
When criminal justice fails in a spectacular way—for example, in a wrongful conviction discovered after an innocent man has served 20 years—people find it easy to see the point of using the model employed by the National Transportation Safety Board: investigate the event and see if we can learn some lessons.
This is the thrust of the recent Special Report of the National Institute of Justice, Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews.
By Liz Ryan
Less than two weeks ago, Dr. John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, resigned after three years at the second largest school system in the U.S.
By Rev. Rubén Austria
What would happen if community stakeholders in U.S. urban neighborhoods plagued by the highest rates of youth crime and incarceration were given the opportunity to intervene early— and often— on behalf of young people caught up in the juvenile justice system? One answer to that question has now been provided in New York’s South Bronx neighborhood, where Community Connections for Youth (CCFY), a local non-profit organization, received a $1.1 million grant three years ago from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DJCS), under the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).
By Caleb Mason
There are two big questions in any Religious Freedom Restoration Act case. What is a “substantial burden” on religious exercise? And what government interests are compelling?
By Caleb Mason
The Crime Report's readers may have heard about Perez v. Paragon Contractors. It’s a recent case from Utah, in which a federal judge ruled that a member of a fundamentalist Mormon church could not be compelled to testify about the church’s alleged illegal use of child labor on its farms. Why? The guy said it was against his religion to talk about “church matters” with non-Mormons.
I think the decision was wrong. Badly wrong. And most of the commentary on it—on both sides—has been superficial, and naive about criminal investigation. So I’d like to offer three things, today, and tomorrow: Today, a little background on the investigation and the constitutional issues in play; and tomorrow, some prosecutorial perspective about this investigation and criminal investigations generally.
By Angelo R. Pinto
Solitary confinement amounts to government-sponsored torture. Individuals in solitary confinement are held for 23 hours a day, for months and even years. They are denied the most basic human contact, fed through a slot in a door, and suffer from a lack of therapeutic and educational services. What is particularly startling is that children, people with mental illness, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations are subject to such isolated confinement. Equally alarming is the length of time, often months and even years, that these individuals endure in extreme isolation.