Tag Archives | Crime & Punishment

One in 25 People Sentenced to Death in U.S. Innocent.

Clayton Lockett. Photo: Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Clayton Lockett. Photo: Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Actually it’s “at least” one in 25 people sentenced to death in the United States who are innocent. Especially considering today’s scandal of the man in Oklahoma whose execution was badly botched, that’s really way too many. Common Dreams discusses the study’s findings:

At least one in 25 people sentenced to death in the United States is innocent.

So finds a damning study published Monday in leading scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors, hailing from Pennsylvania and Michigan, employ a statistical technique called “survival analysis” to arrive at their conclusions.

According to what researchers call a “conservative estimate,” between 1973 and 2004, at least 4.1 percent of people in the United States handed death sentences were innocent.

Yet, during this same time period, only 1.6 percent of them had been exonerated. The remaining innocent were either executed or had their sentences commuted to life in prison.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Future Drugs Will Allow Prisoners To Serve A ’1,000-Year Sentence In 8 Hours’

jail-toiletHow will the worst villains of the future be made to atone for their crimes? Aeon Magazine speaks to University of Oxford professor Rebecca Roache, who hauntingly forecasts that punishment will someday revolve around the dilation of time:

As biotech companies pour billions into life extension technologies, some have suggested that our cruelest criminals could be kept alive indefinitely, to serve sentences spanning millennia. But private prison firms could one day develop drugs that make time pass more slowly, so that an inmate’s 10-year sentence feels like an eternity. One way or another, humans could soon be in a position to create an artificial hell.

Take someone convicted of a heinous crime. There are a number of psychoactive drugs that distort people’s sense of time, so you could imagine developing a pill or a liquid that made someone feel like they were serving a 1,000-year sentence.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Hell On Earth: Should Life Extension Technology Be Used to Punish Criminals?

Prometheus having his liver eaten by an eagle....

Prometheus having his liver eaten by an eagle. Painting by Jacob Jordaens, c. 1640, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That which is giving can be used to take away. What if life extension is used to punish? Should we punish the most heinous of villains for 100… 200… 300 years? What say you disinfonauts?

via aeon

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Hitler got off easy, given the scope and viciousness of his crimes. We might have moved beyond the Code of Hammurabi and ‘an eye for an eye’, but most of us still feel that a killer of millions deserves something sterner than a quick and painless suicide. But does anyone ever deserve hell?

That used to be a question for theologians, but in the age of human enhancement, a new set of thinkers is taking it up. As biotech companies pour billions into life extension technologies, some have suggested that our cruelest criminals could be kept alive indefinitely, to serve sentences spanning millennia or longer.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The Rise Of The Privatized For-Profit Probation Industry

probationHuman Rights Watch reports on the prison-industrial complex creeping further outside of the prison walls:

Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand misdemeanor offenders to probation overseen by private companies that charge their fees directly to the probationers. Often, the poorest people wind up paying the most in fees over time, in what amounts to a discriminatory penalty. And when they can’t pay, companies can and do secure their arrest.

The 72-page report, “Profiting from Probation: America’s ‘Offender-Funded’ Probation Industry,” describes how more than 1,000 courts in several US states delegate tremendous coercive power to companies that are often subject to little meaningful oversight or regulation. In many cases, the only reason people are put on probation is because they need time to pay off fines and court costs linked to minor crimes. In some of these cases, probation companies act more like abusive debt collectors than probation officers, charging the debtors for their services.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Florida Mom Received Twenty-Year Sentence For Firing Warning Shots To Abusive Husband

firing warning shotsFrom one year ago, a case that has been compared and contrasted with George Zimmerman’s in regards to notions of “self defense” and “Stand Your Ground” in the Florida legal system. Reported by CBS News:

A Florida woman who fired warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville had said the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.

Under Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing requirements Alexander couldn’t receive a lesser sentence, even though she has never been in trouble with the law before.

According to a sworn deposition, Marissa Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, said that he and Alexander began fighting after he found text messages to Alexander’s first husband on her phone.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

China To Introduce Death Penalty For Egregious Polluters

pollutersHarsh but fair? Via Scientific American:

Chinese authorities have given courts the powers to hand down the death penalty in serious pollution cases, state media said, as the government tries to assuage growing public anger at environmental desecration.

A new judicial interpretation which took effect on Wednesday would impose “harsher punishments” and tighten “lax and superficial” enforcement of the country’s environmental protection laws, the official Xinhua news agency reported: “In the most serious cases the death penalty could be handed down.”

Protests over pollution have unnerved the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party. Thousands of people took to the streets in the southwestern city of Kunming last month to protest against the planned production of a chemical at a refinery.

Severe air pollution in Beijing and large parts of northern China this winter have added to the sense of unease among the population.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

The National Disgrace Of Marijuana Possession Arrests

marijuana arrestsThe New Inquiry, sociologist Harry Levine explains the terrible mechanics propelling apartheid-style law enforcement in America:

Police arrest mostly young and low-income men for marijuana possession, disproportionately blacks and Latinos. In the last 15 years, police and sheriff ’s departments in every major U.S. city and county have made over 10 million of these possession arrests. Most people arrested were not smoking. They were carrying tiny amounts.

Police make so many because they are relatively safe and easy arrests. All police have arrest quotas and often they can earn overtime pay by making a marijuana arrest toward the end of a shift. The arrests show productivity. Making many low-level arrests of all kinds is very good for training rookie police who gain experience doing many stops and searches of teenagers.

There is also a push nationally, to states, counties, and city police departments, to get as many new people as possible into the criminal databases.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

How A Man Was Sentenced To Life In Prison For Stealing A Pair Of Socks

Via Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi on crime and punishment under California’s Three Strikes law:

Suddenly, a pair of socks caught his eye. He grabbed them and slipped them into a shopping bag. “No, they were ordinary white socks,” he says, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. “Didn’t even have any stripes.”

Wilkerson never made it out of the store. At the exit, he was, shall we say, over­enthusiastically apprehended by two security officers. Thanks to a brand-new, get-tough-on-crime state law, Wilkerson would soon be sentenced to life in prison for stealing a pair of plain white tube socks worth $2.50. Because Wilkerson had two prior convictions, both dating back to 1981, the shoplifting charge counted as a third strike against him. He was sentenced to 25 years to life, meaning that his first chance for a parole hearing would be in 25 years.

Wilkerson is unlucky, but he’s hardly alone.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Statutes Of Limitations Soon Expiring For The Bush Administration’s Crimes

As the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War passes, its architects are close to being in the clear for good, Elizabeth Holtzman writes via the Nation:

A critical deadline is fast approaching without attracting much notice. Statutes of limitations applicable to possible crimes committed by former President George W. Bush and his top aides, with respect to wiretapping of Americans without court approval and to fraud in launching and continuing the Iraq War, may expire in early 2014, less than a year from now. Since no prosecutions can be brought after the statutes run out, unless investigations are started soon, any crimes that did occur will go unprosecuted and unpunished, deeply entrenching the principle of impunity for top officials.

President Bush has publicly admitted to authorizing wiretaps of Americans on more than thirty separate occasions without a court order, an apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Assuming that the warrantless wiretapping ended when Bush left office on January 20, 2009, the statute would run out on January 20, 2014.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

California Reconsiders Draconian Three-Strikes Prison Sentences

American justice: 17 years behind bars for stealing cigarettes. The Los Angeles Times writes:

A Los Angeles County judge responsible for reconsidering the life prison terms of more than 1,000 offenders sentenced under the state’s three-strikes law began the process at a hearing Monday, reducing the punishments for five inmates convicted of relatively minor crimes.

Among those given shorter sentences was a 74-year-old who has served more than 15 years for possessing $10 worth of drugs and an 81-year-old behind bars for more than 17 years for stealing dozens of packs of cigarettes.

The hearing came three months after voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 36, which softened California’s tough three-strikes law and allowed many inmates sentenced for non-serious and nonviolent offenses to ask for shorter prison terms. In Los Angeles County, the hearings are expected to continue through at least much of this year.

Read the rest

Continue Reading