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Viewpoints

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Hackers and Journalists Unite!

By Graham Kates

Hackers are often lumped into two groups: those who tamper with our security and privacy, and those who use their skills to spotlight holes in the Internet’s infrastructure. They’re routinely vilified and prosecuted, and also aggressively recruited by the government to help protect data from cybercriminals, foreign state intrusions and other nefarious forces. But at last weekend’s 10th biennial Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE X) conference, one of the premiere get-togethers of the digital world, it was clear that the nefarious forces the cyberworld is now most concerned with are lodged within our own government.

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Police Reform’s Best Tool: A Federal Consent Decree

By Joe Domanick

One of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation passed in the closing decades of the 20th century is also one of the most overlooked. The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed following the savage 1991 beating of African American motorist Rodney King by four LAPD officers and the catastrophic Los Angeles Riots a year later, gave the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice an extraordinary mandate.

One of the law’s provisions empowered the government to sue police agencies anywhere in the country if they exhibited a “pattern and practice” of using excessive force and/or violating people’s civil rights—and compel them, under what’s known as a “consent decree,” to change those practices. Since the law came into effect 20 years ago, two things have become apparent: how resistant many police departments remain to fundamental reform; and how critical, therefore, the consent decree has been—first, in forcing police departments to jettison their often brutal racist, and unaccountable warrior-cop cultures; and second, in transforming them into organizations committed to policing constitutionally and with legitimacy among the populations they serve.

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Cell Phone Ruling Is No Threat to Effective Policing

By Caleb Mason

Fourth Amendment cases give us great past-vs.-present riddles, little Zen koans testing our constitutional intuitions about technology. How is an email message like a paper-and-envelope letter? How is a computer hard drive like a file cabinet? How is a thermal-imaging scope like a pair of binoculars? How is a cell-phone tower like a human phone-company operator? And now: how is a cell phone like a pack of cigarettes?

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Conviction Integrity: How to Get There

By James M. Doyle

An active Conviction Integrity Unit can play an important role is evaluating whether an injustice has been done. But, then, everyone should come to the table to analyze known errors— not by exonerating one innocent person, or by searching for a single cause or by blaming a lone bad apple; but by appreciating and describing an event's complexity.

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Community Alternatives to ‘Toxic’ Youth Prisons

Not a week goes by without a headline in a newspaper somewhere in the U.S. citing horrific conditions in a "training school," a polite euphemism for youth prison. The stories feature cite kids at such “schools” being subjected to physical abuse, including the use of inhumane restraints, pepper spray, and sexual abuse while in care. Young people are described as being placed in isolation, often excessive isolation,  which is tantamount to solitary confinement. 

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Judicial Blindness: Convicted but Innocent

By Meagan Kelly

On June 15, 2000, a Bronx, NY jury convicted an innocent man of attempted rape.  There was only one witness—the victim herself.

Erroneous eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of all wrongful convictions. Over 75 percent of all DNA exonerations relied on eyewitness identification.  Fourteen years after his conviction, on May 15, 2014, Tyrone Hicks appeared in the Bronx Hall of Justice to have his case dismissed and all charges dropped.

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