Monday, February 19, 2018

One in 4 juveniles held in placement for noncriminal offenses

States send less than half as many youth to residential facilities as they did in the late 1990s, but new data from the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention show that many juveniles in out-of-home placements were not confined for serious and violent crimes. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, in 2015, 23 percent of youth in residential facilities nationwide were put there either for status offenses (5 percent)—which include truancy, running away, and underage drinking and would not violate the law if committed by an adult—or technical violations of supervision (18 percent), such as skipping meetings. This marks a small increase since 2007, when 19 percent of confined juveniles were held for such noncriminal acts.
West Virginia leads the nation in removing youth from their homes for status offenses, with 43 percent of juveniles in its facilities held for such infractions. Eight other states also confine youth for status offenses at more than double the national rate of seven per 100,000 youth. Six states report holding no youth for status offenses.
The proportion of youth confined for technical violations also varies considerably, ranging from a reported high of 46 percent in New Mexico to zero in the District of Columbia, Maine, and Vermont. Like New Mexico, the states of Alaska, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania hold juveniles for probation violations at more than twice the national rate of 27 per 100,000 juveniles.
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

DOJ shutters Obama-era Office for Access to Justice

The Justice Department has effectively shuttered an Obama-era office dedicated to making legal aid accessible to all citizens, according to two people familiar with the situation, reported the New York Times.
The division, the Office for Access to Justice, began as an initiative in 2010 under former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to increase and improve legal resources for indigent litigants in civil, criminal and tribal courts. Though the head of the office reports directly to the associate attorney general, it never gained much visibility within the Justice Department because it did not oversee a large staff of prosecutors.
While Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot close the office without notifying the Congress, he can sideline it by moving its resources elsewhere. Its offices now sit dark on the third floor of the Justice Department building. The staff of a dozen or so has dwindled and left the department over the past few months, the people said. Maha Jweied, the acting director of the department, left this month to start a consulting business, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The Justice Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment, and Ms. Jweied did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Career prosecutors emphasized that new administrations reshuffle the Justice Department’s priorities, de-emphasizing or shuttering projects that previous administrations had supported to devote resources to their own agendas.
The office’s stated mission was to “deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status.” It worked with other federal, state and local entities in the justice system to “increase access to counsel and legal assistance” for people who could not afford lawyers.
Civil rights groups objected to its effective closure.
“Sessions’ shutting down the Access to Justice Initiative sadly speaks for itself,” said Vanita Gupta, the chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the former head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama.
Added Sharon McGowan, director of strategy at Lambda Legal and a former official in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in the Obama administration: “Ever since he became attorney general, Sessions has advanced positions that are irreconcilable with where we are as a country.”
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Saturday, February 17, 2018

GateHouse: Access to assault rifles must be part of the dialogue

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
February 16, 2018
The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, marks the country’s 18th school shooting since the beginning of the year. Not all the shootings are mass killings, but is any school shooting acceptable?
The non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund doesn’t think so. Everytown uses a straightforward definition for a school shooting: Any time a firearm discharges a live round of ammunition inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the media and confirmed by law enforcement or school officials.
According to Everytown’s website their mission is to “improve our understanding of the causes of gun violence and the means to reduce it — by conducting groundbreaking original research, developing evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge ...”
Why do we need an independent, charitable organization to research gun violence? The simple answer is no one else is doing it.
Last year, following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Democrats in Congress revealed that the federal ”(G)overnment dedicate $240 million a year to traffic safety research, more than $233 million a year for food safety and $331 million a year on the effects of tobacco, but almost nothing on firearms that kill 33,000 Americans annually.”
How can that be?
Have you ever heard of Jay Dickey? In 1996, as a member of Congress, Dickey was a self-proclaimed “point-man” for the National Rifle Association (NRA). The Arkansas Republican authored a now infamous amendment to an otherwise obscure appropriations bill that removed $2.6 million from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) budget, the amount the agency’s injury center had spent on firearms-related research the previous year.
Since the Dickey Amendment passed, the United States has spent almost nothing on research for firearm injuries. To no surprise, gun deaths now out pace automobile deaths in nearly half the states nationwide.
That’s not to mention the nearly 300 school shootings in America since 2013—an average of about one a week.
Law enforcement officials said the Parkland killer legally purchased the assault weapon used in the attack. Should an 18- or 19-year-old buying an assault rifle raise a red flag?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he wants the Justice Department to study how mental illness and gun violence intersect, to better understand how law enforcement can use existing laws to intervene before school shootings happen. Does that mean that funding will be returned to the CDC for research? Not likely.
“It cannot be denied that something dangerous and unhealthy is happening in our country,” Sessions told a group of sheriffs in Washington, D.C. In “every one of these cases, we’ve had advance indications and perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening.”
Wouldn’t we all be better off if no one, but law enforcement and the military, had access to assault rifles?
Two years ago, an organization known as Doctors for America, presented a petition signed by more than 2,000 physicians in all 50 states demanding an end to the Dickey Amendment.
“It’s disappointing to me that we’ve made little progress in the past 20 years in finding solutions to gun violence,” Dr. Nina Agrawal, a New York pediatrician told Think Progress. “In my career, I’ve seen children (sic) lives saved from measles, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, motor vehicle accidents ... because of federal scientific data and research. It’s frustrating that the CDC is not permitted to do the same type of research for gun violence.”
The problem in this country is the easy access to guns. How many suicides could be averted if a troubled individual couldn’t just walk over to a desk drawer and pull out a gun? How many mass shootings could have been thwarted or neutralized if the shooter didn’t have access to an assault rifle.
When we talk about mass violence in schools, the elephant in the room is the firearm. Examining school violence without considering access to firearms is like talking about highway safety without considering the impact of automobiles. There can be no meaningful or responsible conversation about violence without guns being part of the dialogue.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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Friday, February 16, 2018

Hamilton County Ohio in the top 25 nationwide for death row inmates

Raymond Tibbetts and Robert Van Hook, whose executions are set for later this year, had one more strike against them: They were convicted of murder in a place that embraces the death penalty like few others in America, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Hamilton County has sent more people to death row and is responsible for more executions than any county in Ohio since capital punishment returned to the state in 1981.
The county has a larger death row population per capita than the home counties of Los Angeles, Miami or San Diego. And it has more people on death row than all but 21 of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States.
“Hamilton County kind of stands out,” said Sister Helen Prejean, an author and anti-death penalty activist.
Tibbetts and Van Hook are among 24 convicted killers from Hamilton County on death row today. Ten others from the county have been executed since the death penalty's return.
The answer is rooted in the county’s culture, politics and history, but also in a tough-on-crime mindset that took hold when Cincinnati was a frontier town.
The first known executions here happened in 1789, when two soldiers who’d deserted Fort Washington were captured and shot by firing squad, according to Charles Greve’s “Centennial History of Cincinnati.” The commander of the fort, John Wilkinson, later explained in a letter that future deserters should be shot and beheaded, lest anyone misunderstand the seriousness of the crime.
“One head chopped off in this way and set upon a pole on the parade might do lasting good in the way of deterring others,” Wilkinson wrote. 
Civilian executions, usually by hanging, soon followed, with many taking place at a gallows set up at Fifth and Walnut streets, near what today is Government Square. They often drew a crowd.
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“The execution was public, as all such affairs were at that time, and the people gathered to see it,” Greve wrote of one such hanging. “Excursions were brought into the city and many came as far as fifty miles.”
The executions of Tibbetts and Van Hook by lethal injection would not be such a public spectacle, but they would be every bit as much a Hamilton County production. Their prosecutors and judges made the same call as those who sent Mays to the gallows more than two centuries earlier.
And as in the late 1700s, the decision was made with the support of a population that viewed capital punishment, if not favorably, as a necessity. There was an expectation that violence would be met with violence.
The death penalty’s popularity in the United States has eroded over the years, especially in the past two decades. But recent polls show a plurality of Americans still support the notion that capital punishment is justified in at least some cases.
Though Hamilton County residents haven't been polled on the subject in years, capital murder trials still occur here more frequently than in most counties and local politicians continue to tout their death penalty credentials on the campaign trail.
“There’s a political currency to the death penalty,” said Prejean, who recently visited Cincinnati to speak about the convicted killer who became the basis of her book, "Dead Man Walking."
“The easiest way to show you’re tough on crime is to be for the death penalty,” she said. 

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Another tragic day in an American school--17 dead in Florida

The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL marks the country’s 18th school shooting of 2018, just 45 days into the year, reported the Huffington Post. Not all the shootings are mass killings, but is any school shooting acceptable?
That’s an average of one school shooting every 60 hours thus far in 2018, more than double the number of school shootings recorded in any of the previous three years in that same period. Those numbers are according to data compiled by the gun control advocacy organization Everytown for Gun Safety, which defines a school shooting as any time a firearm is discharged on or around a campus.
Details are still emerging about what happened during Wednesday’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High but at least 17 dead and scores injured.

President Donald Trump has spoken vaguely about the need to curb shootings, saying after the Las Vegas massacre in October that the U.S. would start “talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The gun bubble has burst--Remington files for bankruptcy

For two centuries, Remington has been a totem of America’s gun culture -- a name emblazoned on frontier flintlocks and U.S. Army .45s. 
Remington Outdoor Co., which traces its history back to 1816, said it would file for bankruptcy protection, reported Bloomberg, succumbing to a slump in business worsened by, of all things, a president who has steadfastly supported Americans’ right to bear arms.  
The bankruptcy is a blow to the private-equity mogul Stephen Feinberg, who has been a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump. Feinberg’s firm, Cerberus Capital Management, acquired Remington in 2007 and subsequently saddled it with almost $1 billion in debt. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will let Remington stay in business while it works out a plan to turn around the company and pay its creditors.
Remington has been around for over 200 years, dating back to 1816 when Eliphalet Remington II worked with a local gunsmith to create a flintlock rifle. It received its first contract in 1845, manufacturing 5,000 “Mississippi” rifles for the U.S. military. Today, the company employs 3,500 people and is among the largest American manufacturers of ammunition and firearms. 
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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Murder rates for big cities in the first half of 2017

CBS News compiled a list of the supposedly deadliest U.S. cities, based on data for the first six months of 2017 compiled by the Major City Chiefs Association. St. Louis is listed as the city with the highest homicide rate, 29.1 per 100,000 population. Baltimore is second, at 27.3, followed by New Orleans, 24.5, Detroit, 20.2 and Cleveland, 14.5.
Pittsburgh was a surprise at number 16 on the list, with 8.6 murders per 100,000 people.
Chicago has been notable for its high murder totals in recent years, but on a per capita basis, the city ranks only number eight on CBS’s list, with a rate of 12.1 per 100,000 population. The FBI and criminologists warn against using crime data to rank cities, saying it can produce misleading results because of vagaries in city boundaries and other factors.
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