Tuesday, September 2, 2014

California institutes sweeping changes for incarcerating the mentally ill

California corrections officials unveiled sweeping new policies house the mentally ill in specially designed units, provide greater time out of their cells and offer vastly increased treatment for the ill prisoners, reported the Sacramento Bee.
The new policies dramatically alter the manner in which tens of thousands of state prison inmates are to be treated, and are designed to reduce the number of prisoner suicides and deaths.
The new policies call for the creation of short-term and long-term housing units where mentally ill inmates will have access to regular psychiatric care, as well as exercise and recreational equipment and greatly increased time out of their cells, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.
The policies are designed to get roughly 2,450 mentally ill inmates out of solitary confinement cells where they have little access to other human beings or the ability to exercise outside, leading to further deterioration of their emotional and mental stability. Lawyers for the inmates have fought for years to improve conditions for their clients, many of whom end up in ultra-secure housing as punishment for violations stemming from their mental illnesses and an inability to control their actions and understand the consequences. Corrections officials could not give an estimate on the cost of the changes.
There are about 30,000 inmates considered to have a mental illness among the 116,000 housed in the state’s 34 adult prisons. The new policies are designed to discard a culture in which mental health staffers felt their concerns for the patients often were ignored and their instructions often overruled by custody staff in the name of security.
Inmate lawyers say the harsh conditions their clients have sometimes been subjected to exacerbate their illnesses. The new policies are aimed at avoiding that outcome by offering secure, standalone units where mentally ill inmates do not have to interact with the general population and can have more freedom of movement and more regular care.
To read more Click Here

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reporters sue for greater access to executions

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Oklahoma, and two newspapers have filed a lawsuit  seeking to stop Oklahoma prison officials from selectively filtering what journalists can see during an execution. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Guardian US and The Oklahoma Observer, follows the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April during which prison officials blocked witnesses’ view when the procedure did not go as planned.
The lawsuit demands that reporters and other witnesses be permitted to view the execution, without interruption, from the time the condemned prisoner enters the execution chamber until he or she leaves it.
At the Lockett execution, as with other executions in Oklahoma, the windows for witnesses to look into the execution chamber were covered by blinds while Lockett was brought into the chamber, strapped down, and had intravenous lines inserted. The blinds were raised only when officials began to administer the lethal drugs. After about 20 additional minutes, state officials closed the blinds after Lockett began to writhe, groan, and speak when he should have been unconscious.
The blinds stayed down for approximately 20 more minutes, during which prison officials said they tried to determine the problem, called off the execution, and finally declared Lockett dead of a heart attack. Also in that time, members of the press could hear sounds coming from the execution chamber indicating pain and suffering, but they were unable to verify their exact source or nature because they could not see what was happening. There were no independent witnesses to Lockett’s death, and the precise cause of death has yet to be determined.
Reporter Katie Fretland, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, attended the Lockett execution for The Oklahoma Observer and Guardian US.
To read more Click Here

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Man charged with murder because police shot innocent bystander

The Orlando Police have charged Kody Roach with murder.  He was wielding a gun when police shot him and in the process the police shot and killed Maria Godinez an innocent bystander, reported the Orlando Sentinel.
Godinez, was struck by a stray shot from Officer Eduardo Sanguino's gun, and was fatally injured in the gunfire.
According to a newly released affidavit, in front of police Roach went for his waistband with his right hand, the affidavit says:
"In order to prevent an armed individual from causing harm to any members of the public or to any of the surrounding officers, Ofc. (sic) Sanguino discharges his firearm nine times striking Roach at least five times," it states.
As he fell, Roach dropped a .40 caliber Ruger handgun from his right hand, the affidavit states. Investigators would later determine the gun was not loaded, but had been reported stolen, and Roach was the prime suspect.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting. Sanguino and Angel are on administrative leave, as is common in police-involved shootings.
Roach now faces a charge of first-degree felony murder. When he fired, Sanguino had probable cause to believe Roach was committing attempted armed burglary and armed trespassing, investigators concluded.
"As a result of Roach's actions, an individual was killed therefore probable cause exist to further charge Roach with first degree felony murder," the new arrest affidavit states.
To read more Click Here

Saturday, August 30, 2014

GateHouse:Violent crime was rampant not too long ago

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
August 29, 2014

George Santayana, the Spanish-American philosopher and novelist, once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As increasingly aggressive police tactics are exposed across the country, discontent grows.

Discontent shortens the memory. What was a crisis not so long ago seems less significant in the face of new concerns about heavy-handed, overreaching police conduct.

America would do well not to forget the early 1990s. In 1991, there were 9.8 murders per 100,000 people. In 2013, there was less than half that number, about 4.7 murders per 100,000. Nowhere has the decline in violent crime been so startling than in New York City. According to the New York Post, there were 2,272 victims of murder in the Big Apple in 1990 — in 2013, there were 335.

There are a number of theories why violent crime fell so dramatically. Some suggest that at the height of the surge in violent crime, crack cocaine dominated the streets. As crack fell out of vogue, violent crime fell as well.

There are those who suggest that higher incarceration rates, a robust economy, fewer young people, tougher sentencing laws even abortion have had an impact on violent crime rates. A factor that cannot be ignored is better policing. That includes training, tactics and firepower.

No one suggests that crime has plummeted due to the emergence of the “better angels of our nature.” Crime has been effectively suppressed by better, smarter — and at times a bit of heavy-handed — policing.

To forget the role policing has played in the decline of violent crime may condemn some neighborhoods and communities nationwide to a renewed cycle of violence and discord.

A sign that memories may be beginning to fade is evident when Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill asked for a hearing looking into the militarization of local police departments, after recent tensions between law enforcement and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.

“We need to demilitarize this situation — this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution,” McCaskill said.

President Barack Obama weighed in, “I think one of the great things about the United States has been our ability to maintain a distinction between our military and domestic law enforcement.”

In New York City, the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, promised to end the controversial law enforcement tactic known as “stop and frisk.” The tactic was being used to take guns off of the streets and to crack down on fugitives. Those opposed to stop and frisk suggested that the tactic disproportionately targeted African-American men. Finally, the courts restricted its use.

However, the picture is not so rosy without stop and frisk. According to the Wall Street Journal, from Jan. 1 to Aug. 10, there have been 702 shooting incidents, compared with 621 for the same period last year — a 13 percent increase. Shootings are at their highest levels since 2012, according to the New York Police Department.

Finding the appropriate balance for police between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough is never easy. To ignore the success of the past — the anguish and pain that has been averted as the result of less victimization and the billions of dollars saved as result of less crime — would be foolish.

Can police tactics be improved? Certainly. Should we revel in the success of lower crime rates and walk away from tactics that have made neighborhoods safer? Certainly not.

New York City’s streets are safer now than ever, in no small part because of aggressive, data-driven policing. To retreat from that posture is not good for New York City or the rest of America.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was recently released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.

Visit the column Click Here

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Cautionary Instruction: This week marks the 90th anniversary of the Leopold and Loeb case

Matthew T. Mangino
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
August 29, 2014
Ninety years ago this this week, Clarence Darrow gave a 12-hour summation in the sentencing hearing for Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold.
The case known as Leopold and Loeb was heralded as the “trial of the century.” The case was not really a trial at all. Darrow had changed the young men’s pleas from not guilty to guilty and focused his efforts on preventing a death sentence.
On May 21, 1924, Leopold and Loeb rented a car and stocked it with tools to commit the “perfect crime.” Then they drove to a park near a local prep school to wait for the perfect victim. They found Bobby Franks.
The two wealthy University of Chicago students lured the 14-year-old Franks into the car. The two men murdered Franks for the thrill of the kill.
The next morning, a man on his way to work found Frank’s naked body, his face and genitals burned with acid, in a culvert in an isolated field outside of Chicago.
Darrow’s change of plea had turned the case on its head. Darrow, a graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, needed only a reduction from death by hanging to life in prison to win the case.
Darrow’s summation has been characterized as one of the greatest orations ever presented in opposition to the death penalty.
Darrow asked the judge, “Why did they kill little Bobby Franks? Not for money, not for spite; not for hate. They killed him as they might kill a spider or a fly, for the experience. They killed him because they were made that way.”
He continued to argue, “Kill them. Will that prevent other senseless boys or other vicious men or vicious women from killing? No!
Darrow pleaded, "If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, and more considerate than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry I have lived so long."
He concluded “Your Honor, what excuse could you possibly have for putting these boys to death? You would have to turn your back on every precedent of the past. You would have to turn your back on the progress of the world. You would have to ignore all human sentiment and feeling …You would have to do all this if you would hang boys of eighteen and nineteen years of age who have come into this court and thrown themselves upon your mercy.”
Cook County Circuit Court Judge John R. Caverly was impressed. He imposed a sentence of life in prison for both men.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

Visit Ipso Facto

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sex offenders being held in custody because of residency restrictions

Dozens of sex offenders who have satisfied their sentences in New York State are being held in prison beyond their release dates because of a new interpretation of state residency restrictions, reported the New York Times.
The law, which has been in effect since 2005, restricts many sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school. Those unable to find such accommodations often end up in homeless shelters.
But in February, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which runs the prisons and parole system, said the 1,000-foot restriction also extended from homeless shelters, making most of them off limits because of the proximity of schools.
The new interpretation has had a profound effect in New York City, where only 14 of the 270 shelters under the auspices of the Department of Homeless Services have been deemed eligible to receive sex offenders. But with the 14 shelters often filled to capacity, the state has opted to keep certain categories of sex offenders in custody until appropriate housing is found.
About 70 of the 101 sex offenders being held are New York City residents, prison authorities said. Some have begun filing habeas corpus petitions in court, demanding to be released and claiming the state has no legal authority to hold them.
The onus of finding a suitable residence upon release is on the sex offender; the state authorities will consider any residence proposed, but will reject it if it is too close to a school or violates other post-release supervision conditions.
To read more Click Here

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Locking more people up does not lead to safer communities

The latest information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)— the leading crime and prison data sources for the country—shows that locking more people up does not lead to safer communities, wrote Marc Schindler is the Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute at The Crime Report.
The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) compared the UCR crime rate and the BJS incarceration rate from 2002 and 2012. The data reveals a nation divided.
The 2012 data was released in the summer and fall of 2013. Twenty four states experienced falling crime and incarceration rates, while twenty three states experienced rising incarceration rates and falling crime rates. Only three states experienced rises in both (including West Virginia, which coupled a 7 percent increase in crime with a 51 percent increase in its incarceration rate).
Some numbers stand out as signs that states can opt for smarter and safer justice policies:
  • Many states that saw falling incarceration rates saw large drops in crime: the ten states that decreased their incarceration rate by 10 percent or more saw crime drop at an average rate of 24.1 percent,
  • States that increased their incarceration rate saw much smaller drops in crime: the fifteen states that increased their incarceration rate by 10 percent or more saw, on average, only an accompanying, 12.8 percent drop in crime, much lower than the national average, 20.26 percent, decrease in crime for the same period.
The data shows that Virginia experienced a 25 percent drop in crime, and 2 percent drop in its incarceration rate.  Other Southern states saw a much bigger drop in incarceration, and a drop in crime.
JPI’s report Virginia’s Justice System: Expensive, Ineffective, and Unfair, as well as its follow up study, Billion Dollar Divide, recommends that states like Virginia follow the lead of these other Southern states, and reconsider and review their sentencing laws, practices and policies, reduce the collateral consequences of criminal convictions and introduce more effective public safety and drug policies. Such steps can and should be taken by the states whose incarceration rate has increased or only minimally declined over the past decade.
To read more Click Here