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Viewpoints

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Learning in Criminal Justice: Small Cases, Big Lessons

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.

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How One Community Saved Its Troubled Youth

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).

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Refusing to Testify Against Your Church

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.

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Freeing Youths From Solitary Isn’t Enough

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.

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Do Cops Really Need Mine Resistant Vehicles to Keep Us Safe?

By Kara Dansky

The militarized law enforcement response to peaceful protests over the killing of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo. last month, has prompted several federal officials to question the use of military weapons and tactics by local law enforcement, and the federal programs that fuel it.

They aren’t the only ones who are skeptical. 

In some cities and counties, officials and the public are resisting, and even reversing, the militarization of their police. Recently, for example, the City Council of Davis, California voted to return a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) ordered by the police chief from army surplus.

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Ending Sexual Abuse of Youth Behind Bars

By Liz Ryan

When youth are placed behind bars, where  a detention or corrections official has with the  authority and power to control virtually every aspect of a youth's life, we set up the conditions for abuse, exploitation, and degradation. Ultimately sexual assault is about power and control.

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Ferguson Faces Multilayered Investigations

By Matthew T. Mangino

Ferguson, Mo. has stumbled into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. After Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed last month by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, multilayered investigations are underway.  The ensuing controversy brought in the Department of Justice (DOJ). As the protests became more intense Attorney General Eric Holder announced the opening of a “concurrent federal inquiry” by the FBI, the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney.

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