Friday, October 24, 2014

Crime rates rise in the summer

Seasonal swings in crime occur also vary for different types of crimes, reported Governing Magazine. Cities often experience far more property crimes during the summer, likely attributable -- at least in part -- to the fact that the primary perpetrators aren’t in school. Pittsburgh police receive more reports of nuisance-type crimes, such as car break-ins and graffiti, during the summer months, according to Sonya Toler, a city police spokeswoman.
Murder counts climb in the summer months as well. Police agencies reviewed saw monthly murders increase an average of 15 percent from June through August, with larger variations occurring in places like Cleveland and Rochester, N.Y.
In Erie, Pa., totals for the seven major crime types rose by an average of 35 percent during the summer months -- one of the highest increases nationally. The city’s harsh winters likely help push down crime totals, and police there also see more activity from visitors during the summer months.
A few of the law enforcement agencies that registered the steepest fluctuations in crime serve summer tourist destinations. Take Virginia Beach, Va., for example, where crime increased an average of nearly 23 percent. A few million people visit the city’s oceanfront each year, and agency statistics indicate about 30 percent of those arrested annually are from outside the Hampton Roads metro area.
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

New study: The Unpredictability of Murder

A new study published in the journal Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice examined data from the longitudinal "Pathways to Desistance" study, which followed 1,354 youths charged with serious crimes in order to predict the likelihood to commit murder, reported The Crime Report.
Of the sample of 1,354 youths, 18 had been charged with homicide. Researchers analyzed eight demographic characteristics and 35 risk factors associated with youth violence, to see whether any distinguished the homicide group.
“Among the predictors, age, intelligence quotient (IQ), exposure to violence, perceptions of community disorder, and prevalence of gun carrying are significantly different across the two groups,” researchers wrote.
But “only lower IQ and a greater exposure to violence were significant.”
More importantly, researches concluded, the presence of a high number of risk factors in a youth’s background increased the likelihood that he or she might be charged with homicide.
Researchers conclude that juvenile justice practitioners should be “mindful” of the many risk factors associated with violence.
“Youth who display many or perhaps all of these risks certainly warrant additional services and oversight on the part of staff, as they might be the youth who are most likely to perpetrate a homicide,” researchers write.
Read the full study Click Here

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reforms in Alabama's prison system don't ease overcrowding

The number of prison sentences in Alabama has dropped 24 percent over three years and has fallen more sharply since new sentencing guidelines took effect Oct. 1, 2013. From that day through June 2014, felony sentences to prison dropped 16 percent from the same period the previous year, to 5,253.
Other arrest and conviction trends are down.
There were about 10,000 fewer felony arrests in Alabama in 2013 than in 2009, a 21 percent drop.
Felony convictions for drug possession dropped by 33 percent from 2009 to 2013.
Judges are handing down shorter sentences under the guidelines, which were intended to send fewer nonviolent offenders to prison and save room for the worst and most dangerous.
The guidelines apply to many drug and property crimes but not violent offenses or burglary.
For felony convictions covered under the guidelines, the average sentence dropped from 96 months in fiscal year 2011 to 74 months in fiscal year 2014.
But the downward trends have not relieved the packed conditions inside prison walls.
Alabama has about 26,000 inmates in prisons designed for just more than 13,000. Prisons remain at almost twice their capacity because of a slower parole rate, a high rate of return for those released and other factors.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PA Supreme Court suspends justice

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended Justice Seamus McCaffery, who last week publicly apologized for exchanging hundreds of sexually explicit emails with state attorney general staffers, reports the Lehigh Valley Morning Call. The court said it was suspending McCaffery with pay to "protect and preserve the integrity" of the state's judicial system and called on the independent Judicial Conduct Board to complete an investigation in 30 days.

McCaffery, of Philadelphia, has called the email scandal a "cooked-up controversy" that is part of a "vindictive pattern of attacks" on him by Chief Justice Ron Castille. In his opinion Monday, Castille suggested that McCaffery displays "pathological symptoms [that] describe a sociopath" who blames others for his "transgressions." The Morning Call on Oct. 2 disclosed McCaffery's role in an email porn scandal that has gripped Pennsylvania. Castille described the 234 sexually explicit emails he reviewed as "highly demeaning portrayals of … women, elderly persons and uniformed school girls."
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Florida man sentenced to life after 'Stand your Ground' defense

Michael Dunn was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the fatal shooting of Jordan Davis, after an argument over loud music. The judge cited Florida's stand your ground law in the sentencing, saying it has been misunderstood, reported The Christian Science Monitor.
The shooting fueled an ongoing debate over a new breed of self-defense laws, adopted in nearly half of all US states, which make it easier for armed individuals to kill in self-defense in public places.
Florida was the first state to make that change in 2005, and the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 was the most famous test of that law. The unarmed teenager was shot and killed after being pursued in the dark by a neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. In that case, the judge instructed the jury that, under the law, someone who reasonably believes their life is at stake doesn’t have to retreat from a situation before retaliating with deadly force.
Judge Healey cited Florida’s stand your ground law in his sentencing Friday, saying the measure has been misunderstood and suggesting that Dunn’s actions “exemplifies that our society seems to have lost its way. … We should remember that there’s nothing wrong with retreating and deescalating the situation.”
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

California voters to address prison overcrowding

California’s justice system has been dealing with a prison-overcrowding crisis that has embroiled it in a long court fight, reported FoxNews.
Voters this fall, however, could approve big -- and some say "dangerous" -- changes to the state’s sentencing system, aimed in part at easing the overcrowding. On the state ballot is a proposal that would dramatically change how the state treats certain “nonserious, nonviolent” drug and property crimes, by downgrading them from felonies to misdemeanors.
The measure, known as Prop 47, also would allow those currently serving time for such offenses to apply for a reduced sentence, as long as they have no prior convictions for more serious crimes like murder, attempted murder or sexual offenses.
The proposition would reduce penalties for an array of crimes that can be prosecuted as either felonies or misdemeanors in California. This includes everything from drug possession to check fraud to petty theft to forgery. Prop 47 would, generally, treat all these as misdemeanors, in turn reducing average jail sentences. According to a state estimate, there are approximately 40,000 people convicted each year in California who would be affected by the measure.
“[Prop 47] allows the criminal justice system to focus in on more serious crimes,” Hughes said.
According to an analysis by the California Budget Project, state and local governments would save hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The measure dictates the savings be split among three different areas, with 65 percent going to mental health and drug treatment programs, 25 percent going to K-12 school programs and 10 percent going to victim services.
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Minnesota sex offenders run for office to gain rights

Minnesota sex offenders fed up with political gridlock over controversial institutional treatment, are bringing their plight to light by running for elected office, reported the Minneapolis Star.
For the last three months, a group of sex offenders has quietly run a voter-registration drive up and down the hallways of the prisonlike treatment center in Moose Lake, where about 460 convicted rapists, pedophiles and other offenders are locked away indefinitely behind razor wire.
Some 155 are now registered to vote — amounting to nearly 20 percent of all voters registered in Moose Lake.
Their goal is to elect sex offenders to as many as eight city and county offices, where they can push for more freedoms and reintegration into the community. Among their demands, the offenders want the right to leave the facility without shackles and handcuffs; and for the city of Moose Lake to allow for halfway houses for offenders who progress in treatment for their sexual disorders.
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