Tag Archives | Crime & Punishment

Is Imprisonment By Robot Jailers Coming Soon?

With jails fuller than ever and government budgets being slashed, is the future of prisoner management the robo-correctional officer? Via CBS News:
The world’s first corrections service robot allows for efficient prisoner management and takes on a number of simple tasks for guards while closing the communication gap between prisoners and their guards. The prisoners are protected from situations such as suicide, arson and assault. Furthermore, it recognizes repeated behaviors of prisoners, and detects anomalies in advance, protecting incidents from happening in the first place.
Continue Reading

NYPD Commonly Planted Drugs On Innocent People To Meet Arrest Quotas

02FLAKING-articleLargeEver watch that show Punked on MTV with Ashton Kutcher? The NYPD narcotics squads do something that’s kind of like that. The New York Daily News reports:

A former NYPD narcotics detective snared in a corruption scandal testified it was common practice to fabricate drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas.

The bombshell testimony from Stephen Anderson is the first public account of the twisted culture behind the false arrests in the Brooklyn South and Queens narc squads, which led to the arrests of eight cops and a massive shakeup.

Anderson, testifying under a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, was busted for planting cocaine, a practice known as “flaking,” on four men in a Queens bar in 2008 to help out fellow cop Henry Tavarez, whose buy-and-bust activity had been low.

“Tavarez was…worried about getting sent back [to patrol] and, you know, the supervisors getting on his case,” he recounted at the corruption trial of Brooklyn South narcotics Detective Jason Arbeeny.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Obama’s Crackdown on Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana

Photo: O'Dea (CC)

Justin Elliott writes in Salon:

Back in July, I interviewed a drug policy expert about an apparent change in Justice Department policy that suggested a crackdown on medical marijuana — which is legal in many states but illegal under federal law — might be coming.

Now, with the announcement last week by California’s four U.S. attorneys that pot dispensaries will be targeted with harsh criminal sanctions, the shift feared by drug policy reform advocates appears to have come to pass. The rhetoric from candidate Barack Obama about not prioritizing medical marijuana cases now seems a distant memory.

To learn more about what’s happening in California, I spoke to Bob Egelko, a veteran reporter who covers courts for the San Francisco Chronicle and has been following the story.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

In Alabama Town, Offenders Must Choose Between Church And Jail

10073914-large“It was agreed by all the [area] pastors that the crime problem [is due to] the erosion of family values and morals.” Crime problem solved. Via the Washington Post:

Jail or Jesus. These are the options that one Alabama town is giving its non-violent offenders.

The program is called Operation Restore Our Community, WKRG reports. Bay Minette citizens charged with a misdemeanor can choose spending a year’s worth of Sundays in a local church rather than paying a fine and sitting in the clink.

Town police chief Mike Rowland…told the Alabama Press-Register: “It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people.”

The stark choice has civil libertarians asking whether the initiative could be seen as government-coerced religion, which is forbidden under American law.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Troy Davis Executed in Georgia

Troy DavisReports the AP via CBS News:

Georgia executed Troy Davis on Wednesday night for the murder of an off-duty police officer, a crime he denied committing right to the end as supporters around the world mourned and declared that an innocent man was put to death.

Defiant to the end, he told relatives of Mark MacPhail that his 1989 slaying was not his fault. “I did not have a gun,” he insisted. “For those about to take my life,” he told prison officials, “may God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls.”

Davis was declared dead at 11:08 ET. The lethal injection began about 15 minutes earlier, after the Supreme Court rejected an 11th-hour request for a stay. The court did not comment on its order, which came about four hours after it received the request and more than three hours after the planned execution time.

Though Davis’ attorneys said seven of nine key witnesses against him disputed all or parts of their testimony, state and federal judges repeatedly ruled against granting him a new trial.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Iranian Activists Accuse Government of Handing Out Condoms So Political Prisoners Can Be Raped

Evin House of Detention

Photo: Ehsan Iran (CC)

“If the inmate is not powerful enough or guards would not take care of him, he will be certainly raped. Prison guards ignore those who are seen with condoms simply because they were given out to them by the guards at first place” … Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports in the Guardian:

Prison guards in Iran are giving condoms to criminals and encouraging them to systematically rape young opposition activists locked up with them, according to accounts from inside the country’s jail system.

A series of dramatic letters written by prisoners and families of imprisoned activists allege that authorities are intentionally facilitating mass rape and using it as a form of punishment.

Mehdi Mahmoudian, an outspoken member of Iran’s Participation Front, a reformist political party, is among those prisoners who have succeeded in smuggling out letters revealing the extent of rape inside some of the most notorious prisons.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

California Prisoners Stage Hunger Strike Over Conditions

Pelican Bay Hunger StrikeDavid Edwards writes on The Raw Story:
Between 50 and 100 inmates in solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison have pledged to refuse to eat until officials agree to better conditions. Isaac Ontiveros of the anti-prison group Critical Resistance explained the prisoners’ demands to DemocracyNow. “End the use of group punishment and administrative abuse; abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; comply with the commission on safety and abuse in America’s prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement; provide adequate and nutritious food; and expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.”
Continue Reading

Should Flogging Be an Alternative to Prison?

Grand KnoutAdam Cohen asks in TIME:

Flogging someone with a cane causes intense pain and permanent bodily damage. An Australian who was flogged for drug trafficking in Malaysia in the 1970s recalled that the cane “chewed hungrily through layers of” his “skin and soft tissue” and “left furrows” on him that were “bloody pulp.”

It’s tough stuff and generally considered a barbaric punishment that the 21st century Western world would and should never consider. That makes it a bit startling to find a new book by a serious U.S. academic arguing that the U.S. should start flogging criminals. Peter Moskos’ In Defense of Flogging might seem like a satire — akin to Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” an essay advocating the eating of children — but it is as serious as a wooden stick lashing into a blood-splattered back.

Despite what you may think, Moskos is not pushing flogging as part of a “get tougher on criminals” campaign.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

For Women, Darker Skin Tone Means Longer Prison Sentences

X63248-02Racial bias in our criminal justice system isn’t a binary matter, with different treatment for blacks versus whites — rather, a new study suggests that it is a sliding scale, in which severity of punishment increases proportionally as skin color becomes darker. Via the Root:

Villanova researchers studied more than 12,000 cases of African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina and found that women with lighter skin tones received more-lenient sentences and served less time than women with darker skin tones.

The researchers found that light-skinned women were sentenced to approximately 12 percent less time behind bars than their darker-skinned counterparts. Women with light skin also served 11 percent less time than darker women.

The study took into account the type of crimes the women committed and each woman’s criminal history to generate apples-to-apples comparisons. The work builds on previous studies by Stanford University, the University of Colorado at Boulder and other institutions, which have examined how “black-looking” features and skin tone can impact black men in the criminal-justice arena.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Jimmy Carter: End the Global War on Drugs

DEA AgentsI doubt any other former (or current) president(s) will make this statement. Jimmy Carter writes in the New York Times:

In an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.

Read the rest
Continue Reading