Monday, December 31, 2012

Fewer parolees returned to prison

The effort in Pennsylvania and across the country to reduce the number of techincal parole violators returning to prison appears to be having an impact on incarceration rates.  Technical parole violators are offenders who are under community supervision and are sanctioned for violating parole conditions in the community.

Technical parole violators have not committed a new crime but have failed to report as directed, used drugs or alcohol, failed to partipate in programming or left the jurisdiction without permission to name a few types of violations.  Often these violators are returned to prison and drive up correction costs.

A U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report says that of 500,000 parolees who leave supervision each year, 32 percent were reincarcerated in 2011 compared with 36 percent in 2008, which means that 30,000 fewer parolees were sent back to prison last year than three years earlier.

Read full report here:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Murder: A tale of two cities

Two great American cities are going in very different directions in terms of violence and murder.  In Chicago things are getting worse in New York things are as good as they have ever been.

In Chicago, the rising homicide toll — 500 as of Friday, a 17 percent increase in slayings over last year — has been a looming shadow over the city, plaguing residents and the city's leadership for much of the year, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Although Chicago had almost twice as many homicides 20 years ago as it did this year, the increase in violent deaths represents a backslide for a city that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he wants to move forward. And with Chicago's homicide rate exceeding those in some other major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and New York, Emanuel, ever mindful of the city and his administration's image, has seen the city's violence attract unwanted national attention.

Murders in New York have dropped to their lowest level in over 40 years, reported the New York Times. Homicides are down 20 percent from last year alone.

There were 414 recorded homicides so far in 2012, compared with 515 for the same period in 2011, city officials said. That is a striking decline from murder totals in the low-2,000s that were common in the early 1990s, and is also below the record low: 471, set in 2009.

“The essence of civilization is that you can walk down the street without having to look over your shoulder,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

Six precincts recorded no murders as of Friday afternoon: The 7th on the Lower East Side; the 19th on the Upper East Side; the 112th in the Forest Hills and Rego Park neighborhoods of Queens; the 94th in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; the 76th in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; and Central Park, according to the police.

Of the 400 murders in 2012, 223 were gunshot victims, 84 victims were stabbed to death, 43 died of blunt trauma and 11 died of asphyxiation. The majority of the 400 homicides occurred on a Saturday, followed by early Sunday morning. Most occurred at 2 a.m. People were more likely to be killed outside than in. Nearly 70 percent of the victims had prior criminal arrests, the police said.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Illinois prison crowding plan: "Not a single inmate released'

More than six months have passed since Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn approved legislation designed to ease overcrowding in the state’s bursting-at-the-seams prison system, reported the Quad-City Times.

But the new law, approved by lawmakers last spring and signed by Quinn last summer, has not yet resulted in a single inmate being sent home early.

Rather, bureaucrats at the Illinois Department of Corrections and an obscure panel of lawmakers are still working out the rules that could someday put the release of prisoners in motion.

And although Quinn is in the process of squeezing more prisoners into less space by closing prisons in Tamms and Dwight, officials say they don’t know when the program might begin.

“There is no firm timetable set for the implementation at this time,” said a DOC spokeswoman.

To read more:

Pre-trial detention examined

The high cost of detaining people in jails, estimated at $9 billion annually, has more of the nation’s 3,000 counties setting aside the political aspects of incarceration and considering pre-trial release programs, said Chris Rodgers, president of the National Association of Counties.

“The counties don’t see red or blue on this — they see green,” Rodgers told journalists at a national symposium on pre-trial detention issues held in May in New Orleans, reported the Pantagraph.

In Illinois, McLean County’s pre-trial release program is one factor contributing to a steady decrease in jail numbers. Like most of the country, McLean County has benefited from a drop in its crime rate in recent years, meaning fewer people being jailed.

The number of jail bookings has declined since 2009 when 8,355 people were processed, compared to 7,174 so far this year. The daily cost of keeping a person in the county jail is $50, said Emery.

State’s Attorney Jason Chambers compared jail and prison population to a glass of water: “If they are full and we pour more water in, then some of the water is going to come out. We need to make sure that we have the right water in the glass.”

A recent check of the jail’s population showed 59 inmates serving sentences and 168 others held in pre-trial detention. That puts McLean County slightly above the 61 percent pre-trial detention rate for about 750,000 people held in U.S. jails.

Although the number of people under some form of correctional supervision, including jails, prisons, probation and parole, dropped in 2011, the U.S. still leads the world with a supervision rate of one in 34 people. That mass incarceration rate starts in county courthouses where decisions are made on charges and the terms of bail bond.

To read more:

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: Final look at the death penalty in 2012

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
December 28, 2012

There were 43 executions nationwide this year, the exact same number of executions carried out in 2011. Thirty-three states and the federal government have the death penalty yet only nine states carried out executions in 2012.

In fact, more than half of the states (29) in the country either do not have the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in the last five years.

Pennsylvania is one of those states. The death penalty has been on the books in Pennsylvania for more than 30 years, and only three men have been executed.

Although executions are few in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth continues to crank-out death sentences. In 2012, seven offenders were sentenced to death in Pennsylvania -- behind only Florida, California and Texas.

Every execution has a story. Here are four from 2012, in no particular order.

Execution No. 35: Twenty-six years ago, Garry Allen shot the mother of his two children as she went to pick up their sons at daycare.

When police found Allen afterward, he tried to make the officer shoot himself with his own weapon. But in the scuffle, Allen was shot in the head and lost his eye. Defense attorneys had argued the shot resulted in brain damage making Allen mentally incompetent and ineligible for the death penalty. None of the various courts who reviewed the case agreed.

Execution No. 40: Preston Hughes was executed on November 15, 2012 for fatally stabbing a teenage girl and her toddler cousin on a dirt road in southwest Texas more than two decades ago.
Just before he received the lethal injection, Hughes turned toward his mother and sister in the adjoining witness room. He said, "You know I'm innocent, and I love you both … Please continue to fight for my innocence even though I'm gone."

Execution No. 13: Serial killer David Alan Gore was put to death on April 12, 2012 in Florida for the murder of one of his victims. He murdered six women, four teenagers and two adults.
Moments before his execution he addressed the family of one victim, "I want to say to the Elliott family, I am sorry for the death of your daughter. I am not the man I was back then, 28 years ago. I am a Christian. Christ lives within me. I hope you all can find peace today."

Execution No. 27: Michael Hooper was executed on August 14, 2012 in Oklahoma for killing a mother and her two children, ages five and three. The victims were in Hooper’s pickup when he placed a 9 mm pistol under the woman’s chin and shot her. He then shot the children to prevent them from being witnesses. Strapped to a hospital gurney with intravenous tubes inserted into each of his arms -- as the other death-row inmates banged their cell doors in a tribute to him -- Hooper said, "I just want to thank God for such an exuberant send-off."

Visit Ipso Facto

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Boston school police want guns and vests

Some members of the Boston School Department’s police force believe they might be unprepared to ­respond to a mass shooting like the one in Newtown, Conn., because they cannot carry guns and lack bulletproof vests and adequate training to defuse such a situation, reported the Boston Globe.

Since the late 1970s, the School ­Department has operated its own police force, which replaced state and city police who stopped patrolling the hallways as racial tensions — sparked by court-ordered busing a few years earlier — began to ease.

Boston school police, a unit of 55 officers and 20 supervisors, cover all middle and high schools around the city and operate on a $3.9 million ­annual budget, according to the Globe.

City officials have reassured parents that their children are safe in school. But Matthew Wilder, a School Department spokesman, said Superintendent Carol R. Johnson is planning to look into equipping school police with bulletproof vests and into whether it makes sense for the school police’s radio system to be connected directly with that of the Boston Police Department.

School police, who are trained to conduct emergency lock-downs of buildings, have long sought the authority to carry guns, but Johnson and Mayor Thomas M. Menino oppose the idea.

In a statement provided to the Globe, Johnson said: “While I think there is always more we can do to make our schools even more secure and safe, I don’t believe arming our school police officers is the answer, and neither do the parents I’ve spoken with. We must do all we can to secure our buildings while at the same time making our schools welcoming and nurturing environments.’’

To read more:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Texas executes man who gave up appeals

The 35th Execution of 2012

Donnie Lee Roberts killed his girlfriend Vicki Bowen in 2003.  He was executed in Texas on October 31, 2012, reported CBS News.

Roberts, 41, became the 12th inmate to be put to death this year in the nation's most active capital punishment state. He was given a lethal injection for the killing of Vicki Bowen at her East Texas home.

"I'm really sorry. I never meant to cause you all so much pain," Roberts said to Bowen's father, who was seated in a chair close to a glass window in the death chamber viewing area. "I hope you can go on with your life.

"I loved your daughter. I hope to God he lets me see her in heaven so I can apologize to her and see her and tell her."

Roberts also asked two of his friends who watched through another window to tell his own daughter he loved her.

He repeated that he was sorry and took several deep breaths as the lethal dose of pentobarbital began taking effect. He snored briefly before slipping into unconsciousness, and was pronounced dead 23 minutes later.

Bowen's relatives, including some who sat on the floor where they were gathered as Roberts was put to death, declined to speak with reporters after the execution.

Roberts' punishment came after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case earlier this week, and no additional appeals were filed to try to block the lethal injection.

At the time of his arrest for the October 2003 slaying of the 44-year-old Bowen, Roberts had violated his probation for a robbery conviction in Louisiana by fleeing to Texas after dropping out of a drug treatment program.

Authorities said he apparently met Bowen, a dental assistant, at a bar and moved in with her at her Lake Livingston home, about 75 miles northeast of Houston. Their relationship soured because Roberts wasn't working and was abusing drugs and alcohol, investigators said, and he shot Bowen after she refused his demand for money.

Roberts was arrested at a suspected crack house in the town of Livingston when a truck missing from Bowen's home was spotted there the same day Bowen's body was discovered.

"He was cooperative and confessed several times," District Attorney Lee Hon said. "He was saying he wanted the death penalty."

To read more:

Oklahoma executes killer

The 36th Execution of 2012

Garry Thomas Allen died by lethal injection on November 6, 2012 at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester for killing his fiancee back in 1986, reported

This was the fourth time Allen had been scheduled for execution. The latest was back in April, when a judge issued a last minute stay to determine Allen's mental competency.

Twenty-six years ago, Garry Allen shot the mother of his two children, Gail Titsworth, as she went to pick up her sons up at daycare.

When police found Allen afterward, he tried to make the officer shoot himself with his own weapon. But in the scuffle, Allen was shot in the head and lost his eye.

Defense attorneys have argued the shot resulted in brain damage making Allen mentally incompetent and ineligible for the death penalty. A claim, Titworths sons have told us in the past they reject and at this point are getting fed up with the appeals process.

"He has to pay for what he done," said Adrian Titsworth.

But anti-death penalty advocates have continued to fight on Allen's behalf and yesterday protested at the Capitol and made a last minute plea to the Governor to save Allen's life.

"This eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth mentality in this state is killing our state and it's never going to solve the problem," said Constance Johnson, a state senator and member of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The State Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, however says after 19 years of appeals and delayed justice his thoughts will be with Titsworth's family especially her two sons who were left without a mother.

Members of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will remain gathered outside the Governor's mansion and stand vigil until they receive notice of a stay of execution or until the execution is carried out.

Allen is the fifth man executed in Oklahoma this year.

To read more:

Plea Bargaining Back in Front of U.S. Supreme Court

The Pennsylvania Law Weekly
December 25, 2012

Plea bargaining is back in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. For the third time in little more than two years, the court is being asked to decide the reach of the Sixth Amendment as it relates to the plea bargaining process.

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides, in part: "In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall ... have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

In 1932, U.S. Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland wrote, "Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. ... He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him." In Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932), Sutherland was referring only to capital defendants.

It was not until 1963 that the Supreme Court extended that right to everyone, even those who could not afford counsel, in the landmark decision Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). In 1984, the Supreme Court took it a step further in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984): Not only was an accused entitled to counsel, but counsel was required to provide effective assistance.

For the next quarter-century, the Supreme Court insisted that the Sixth Amendment guaranteed effective assistance of counsel at trial. Substandard representation pretrial could always be corrected by a fair trial.

That changed in 2010 with Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010). The court held that an ineffective assistance of counsel claim under the Sixth Amendment could be based on an attorney's failure to inform a criminal defendant of the risk of deportation resulting from a plea bargain. The court recognized that "deportation is an integral part — indeed, sometimes the most important part — of the penalty that may be imposed on noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to specified crimes."

Jose Padilla was born in Honduras. He agreed, upon advice of counsel, to plead guilty to drug charges in Kentucky. The plea bargain was for 10 years, half to be served in prison and half to be served on probation.

The plea resulted in Padilla being exposed to mandatory deportation. Padilla argued that his counsel was ineffective because he failed to inform him of the deportation risk. Padilla argued that had he been informed of the deportation risk, he would have gone to trial.

Padilla's counsel assured him that he "did not have to worry about immigration status since he had been in the country so long."

Padilla extended the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel beyond trial. Duquesne University law professor Wesley M. Oliver wrote in The Present and Future Regulation of Plea Bargaining: A Look at Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, "Padilla further began the court's new understanding of plea bargaining as an essential part of the criminal justice process during which a defendant is entitled to effective assistance of counsel."

In March of this year, the Supreme Court decided two cases that further expanded the Sixth Amendment right to competent counsel. In Lafler v. Cooper, No. 10-209, the court was asked to review whether an attorney's advice to his client to reject a favorable plea bargain based on the lawyer's incorrect understanding of the law was ineffective assistance of counsel.

In Missouri v. Frye, No. 10-444, the court reviewed whether counsel's failure to disclose the terms of a favorable plea offer was a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.

The district attorney sent Galin Frye's lawyer a letter offering a reduced charge and 90 days in jail. The lawyer never communicated the plea offer to Frye. He subsequently made an open plea and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Anthony Cooper's attorney talked him out of accepting a plea of 51 to 85 months based on a misunderstanding of the law. Cooper's lawyer thought a better plea deal would come closer to trial. Instead, Cooper went to trial and the jury found him guilty. He was sentenced to 185 to 360 months in prison.

The Supreme Court held that "the Sixth Amendment right of effective assistance of counsel extends to the consideration of plea offers."

What do these decisions mean for criminal defendants who long ago rejected plea offers based on poor advice? Justice Antonin Scalia said the court's granting of constitutional protections to the plea process will "open a whole new field of constitutionalized criminal procedure: plea bargaining law." Scalia is correct and the plea bargaining process is worthy of constitutional safeguards.

Will those sentenced long ago get a chance to be heard?

A case argued before the Supreme Court on November 1 may provide some guidance. In Chaidez v. United States, No. 11-830, the court is being asked to decide whether Padilla is retroactive.

Roselva Chaidez, a native of Mexico, came to the United States in the 1970s, and became a permanent resident in 1977. In 2003, she got involved in an insurance fraud scheme, in which she falsely claimed that she had been a passenger in a car involved in a collision, according to the opinion. She was charged with two counts of mail fraud.

Her attorney did not advise her of the risk of deportation following a conviction. She pled guilty. Both sides agree, had she known of the deportation risk, she would not have pled guilty. After she was convicted, immigration officials sought her deportation. She challenged the deportation, claiming that her attorney failed to properly advise her.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that Padilla was not retroactive. The court reasoned that the Padilla decision came down March 31, 2010, and established a new rule of criminal law and could not apply to any case in which a guilty plea had been entered prior to that date. Other federal courts disagree on the retroactivity point, making Chaidez ripe for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lafler and Frye may take the same circuitous route back to the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of retroactivity. In the meantime, those with potential claims of long-ago ineffectiveness with regard to plea negotiations should preserve their right to move forward.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George. He is the former district attorney for Lawrence County and a former member of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. You can read his blog, The Cautionary Instruction, every Friday at You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Monday, December 24, 2012

Are School Massacres Preventable?

The Crime Report
December 24, 2012

Fourteen years ago, President Bill Clinton convened a White House Conference on School Safety. The purpose was to identify the causes of school and community violence, as well as to identify strategies for improving school safety.

As a newly elected district attorney, I was invited to participate in the conference.

Throughout the conference and for months after that, the participants spent a great deal of time debating access to guns, target hardening and availability of community mental health services.

As we mourn the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, guns, target hardening and mental health are once again front and center.

It wasn’t long ago that a gunman opened fire in the cafeteria of Chardon High School near Cleveland. The alleged gunman, 17-year-old T.J. Lane, killed three students and wounded two others.

At a news conference shortly after Lane's initial hearing, Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce said the defendant is "someone who's not well."

Joyce continued, “[He said he] did not know the students but chose them randomly."

In the wake of the carnage at Sandy Hook, a relative of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer, told ABC News that he was "obviously not well."

He was also described as troubled: "[Adam] was not connected with the other kids."

After the rash of school shootings in the late 1990s that resulted in the White House Conference and culminated with the Columbine massacre, the U.S Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center conducted a detailed 14-month analysis of 37 school shootings.

The assessment, by and large, found that schools are the safest place that students spend time during the course of a day.

That said, the assessment made some significant findings in terms of preventing future mass attacks. Incidents are rarely impulsive. The attacks are often the result of meticulous planning.

According to news reports, the Sandy Hook killer was wearing dark clothing, a mask, and a bulletproof vest, and was carrying three guns—a Glock and a Sig Sauer(both handguns), and an AR-15 rifle.

In addition, most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the attack that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.

Jeff Kaas, author of Columbine: A True Crime Story, wrote this summer in the Washington Post that 81 percent of school shooters tell someone about their plans.

An attack involving time-consuming preparation, and a planner who is talking about his lethal intentions, lends itself to being detected and prevented, if those close to the planner—teachers, administrators and staff—know what to look for.

Target hardening and emergency response strategies are important components to minimize, or even deter, an attack. Intelligence is essential to preventing one.

Training and education are keys to prevention. Teachers, administrators and staff need to understand the dynamics between mental health issues, peer relationships and assessment of risk.

Suspicious conduct, indirect threats, even alarming expressions in school assignments need to be documented. Information must be shared so that a coherent snapshot can be created of a potentially volatile situation.

The accumulation of intelligence can and must be done without violating a student’s civil rights, and in compliance with FERPA and other state and federal regulations.

Educators need to foster relationships with students built on trust and confidentiality. A student who is uncomfortable with another student’s conduct, or rhetoric, or who is concerned with that student’s mental health should feel confident that he or she can seek the appropriate help and guidance from faculty, administration or staff.

School districts need to collect, document and share.

Schools should establish fusion coordinators, “Intel officers,” who can synthesize documented activity occurring in school, outside of school and on social networks. Teachers, administrators and staff should have regular roundtable discussions about unusual behavior, threats, bullying and social isolation of students.

Intelligence has been cultivated and used effectively in this country’s anti-terrorism efforts.School leaders should not ignore what has been gleaned from the detailed analysis of school tragedies around the country.

An intelligence model might not only help prevent a violent rampage, but may assist school districts more effectively reach out to students who need support, counseling or more specific interventions.

Matthew T. Mangino, of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C., is the former district attorney for Lawrence County, Pennsylvania and former member of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino). He welcomes comments from readers.

California releases felons without supervision, treatment

Realignment, also known as AB 109, is the governor Jerry Brown's way of complying with the U.S. Supreme Court mandate to reduce overcrowding in California prisons, reported the Los Angeles Daily News.

The first wave of felons sent to county jails instead of state prisons under realignment plan are back on the streets after serving their sentences, and almost all are under no obligation to report to a parole agent or probation officer, and many did not get job training and other rehabilitation services while behind bars.

"Of those 9,000 who have been sentenced to jail in lieu of prison, about 90 percent of them are going to come out without supervision by a probation officer or a parole agent," county Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers said during a recent meeting of the Southern California Association of Governments, as reported by the Daily News.

"They're simply going to walk out of jail a free person, and we will have no ability to compel them to engage in drug treatment, mental health treatment or anything of that sort," he added. "As soon as they hit that public sidewalk, they are truly free."

Among the strategies for lowering the inmate population is to send most felons sentenced with non-serious, non-violent and non-sex crimes to county jails instead.

If the felons had stayed in state prisons, they would have been required by state law to report to parole agents for one or more years after their release. They would also have been ordered to stay away from their victims, and been subject to warrantless searches. Some might also have been compelled to undergo services to ease their re-entry into society.

Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michel Moore told the Daily News realignment provided no such "safety net" for felons diverted to county jails.

"It's a pretty big omission in the statute," Deputy District Attorney Kraig St. Pierre, in charge of the county DA's Parole Revocation Section, told the Daily News.

To read more:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

TCR's 'Top Ten' criminal justices stories of 2012

The Crime Report issued it's second annual ”Top Ten” list. TCR asked readers, contributors and columnists to join in nominating the stories and issues they believe have had the most significant impact during 2012---and will bear watching over the next year.


1. Supreme Court LWOP decision in Miller v Alabama: progress on Juvenile Justice

On June 24, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that mandatory sentencing of offenders under 18 to Life Without Parole (LWOP) for certain major crimes such as murder violates Eighth Amendment prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.

The decision “will have ramifications for years to come,” noted TCR essayist Matthew Mangino, noting that 39 states will now ‘need to amend their existing statutes for juveniles charged with first degree murder.”
And it capped a year of impressive and far-reaching progress in the area of juvenile justice, advancing what TCR contributor Barry Krisberg wrote this year was the “slow march to justice for children.”

Some of the most notable efforts include the closure of juvenile training schools and other youth detention facilities around the country, as authorities began a fundamental re-think of how they deal with juvenile offenders.

"The large congregate juvenile facility is a dinosaur,” Krisberg commented in a note to us, “as states increasingly move towards home-based care and the use of smaller facilities closer to home.”

Not coincidentally, “Close to Home” was the name of a landmark program launched by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2012, with bipartisan support, to create facilities for young offenders in their own communities rather than shipping them upstate—an innovative program which by its own merits would otherwise have earned special mention in the Top Ten.

Adding to the impact of the Court ruling and state actions, efforts to end such egregious practices as solitary confinement for young offenders and placement of youth in adult detention took a huge step forward during the year.

One example, cited by TCR contributor Liz Ryan of the Campaign for Youth Justice, a national advocacy group: the set of reforms instituted in Colorado to remove youths awaiting trial from adult jails and allowing judges discretion to decide whether to prosecute young people in adult courts.

Miller v Alabama, as The New York Times noted in a June editorial, underlined a "shift in how the U.S. judicial system views young felons—from irredeemable predators to victims of circumstance with a potential for rehabilitation.”

But it has also left plenty of tough issues to be settled in 2013. Most notably, what to do with the 2,100 persons currently serving life for crimes they committed as juveniles.

An even larger question, underscored by a story written by Daily Beast reporter Clark Merrefield, a 2012 John Jay/Tow Juvenile Justice Reporting fellow, is whether the judicial system can catch up with scientific findings about adolescent brain development.

To read the rest of The 2012 Top Ten click here

Saturday, December 22, 2012

NYPD: Use intelligence to stop school shooters

Top intelligence officials in the New York Police Department are examining ways to search the Internet to identify potential “deranged” gunmen before they strike, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told the New York Times.

“The techniques would include cyber-searches of language that mass-casualty shooters have used in e-mails and Internet postings,” Mr. Kelly said. “The goal would be to identify the shooter in cyberspace, engage him there and intervene, possibly using an undercover to get close, and take him into custody or otherwise disrupt his plans.”

There are plans to send officers to Newtown and to scenes of other mass shootings to collect information, Paul. J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said told the Times.

Mr. Browne said the potential tactics included creating an algorithm that would search online “for terms used by active shooters in the past that may be an indicator of future intentions.”

Mr. Kelly said the technique was similar to those being used to spot terrorists’ chatter online. The new searches would target “apolitical or deranged killers before they become active shooters,” he said.

The meeting’s participants included David Cohen, who leads the department’s intelligence division, and senior members of the department.

“Active shooters can cause multiple deaths in seconds, regardless of police training or how deft the police response,” Mr. Kelly told the Times. “For that reason, the N.Y.P.D. is examining ways, through intelligence, to try to identify potential active shooters before they strike.”

To read more:

Nebraska reopens prison unit, needs more staff

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services is requesting an additional $5 million from lawmakers to hire new staff and reopen a housing unit at the Omaha Correctional Center that closed last year, according to The Journal Star. The request follows budget cuts in fiscal year 2011 that eliminated 70 full-time positions within the state corrections system.

A two-year effort to cut costs and ease prison overcrowding by paroling more inmates is falling short, thanks to a surge of new inmates and offenders who are serving longer sentences. The state prison facilities are holding steady at about 140 percent of their capacity, as they were last year.

The number of inmates paroled has surged during the past three years, from 848 in fiscal year 2010 to 1,323 in the 2012 fiscal year, according to the department, reported The Journal Star.

The number of prison admissions has risen during the same time period, from 2,874 to 3,047. Robinson said the prison growth also is due to inmates who are serving longer sentences, meaning that fewer are leaving and offsetting the new arrivals.

In fiscal year 2010, the average daily population in Nebraska's prisons was 4,462. The number since has grown to 4,609 in fiscal year 2012, according to the department.

According to The Journal Star, Nebraska is among several states that have looked to reduce their inmate populations in the past two years.

California adopted a program last year to reduce the prison population by handing over paroled inmates to county probation officers.

The Illinois Legislature passed a bill this year that reduced prisoner sentences for good behavior and participation in re-entry programs. In May, Kansas lawmakers approved legislation that gives judges more discretion when sentencing low-level drug offenders who have only one prior conviction.

To read more:

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: Guns

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
December 21, 2012

The gun debate was moving “fast and furious” in this country even before the tragic event in Newtown, Connecticut.

The day before the Sandy Hook massacre, lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill -- over the objections of the state’s school boards -- that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in schools. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, vetoed the legislation this week.

However, lawmakers in Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon said they will consider laws allowing teachers and school administrators to carry firearms in school.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said last week, prior to Sandy Hook, "the time is right" to debate gun control legislation, although he did not call for specific legislation. This past weekend, Democratic Senate President John Morse said lawmakers need to balance people's right to own firearms with public safety.
"Maybe we do end up doing nothing but I do think the time has come to where we need to have a conversation so that we can stop talking about burying our children," he said.

The shooter at Sandy Hook used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle with magazines containing 30 rounds as his main weapon, according to the Connecticut State Police.

A Connecticut proposal in March 2011 would have made it a felony to possess magazines with more than 10 bullets and require owners to surrender them to law enforcement or remove them from the state. Opponents sent more than 30,000 e-mails and letters to state lawmakers as part of a campaign organized by the NRA and other gun advocates. The legislation failed.

In Pennsylvania, State Sen. Daylin Leach, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes the discussion on gun laws has reached a "tipping point" with the Newtown shootings.

The tipping point is no more evident than in Washington, D.C. The White House announced gun control measures supported by President Obama. The President has asked Vice-President Joe Biden to oversee an effort to reinstate the assault weapons ban, closing the gun-show loophole, and limiting high-capacity ammunition clips.

The best chance to get the gun issue before the U.S. Supreme Court is in Illinois. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Illinois’ ban on concealed weapons is unconstitutional. The Court also ordered the Illinois legislature to come up with a law legalizing concealed carry within 180 days.

A recent panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals out of New York said the requirement that people demonstrate a special need to carry a concealed weapon does not violate the Constitution.

Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontrovich said the difference between the Second and Seventh Circuits over what it means to bear arms could be enough to persuade the Supreme Court to intervene.

Public possession is a different issue than having a gun in your home,” Winkler said.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Good News: Violent crime against youth down 77%

With the pall of Sandy Hook hanging in the air this holiday season, there is some good news for children and young people. The overall rate of serious violent crime against youth ages 12 to 17 declined 77 percent from 1994 to 2010, falling from 61.9 victimizations per 1,000 youth to 14.0 victimizations per 1,000, according to a report released today by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

Serious violent crimes include rape and other sexual assaults, robbery and aggravated assault.  Among serious violent crimes against youth, the rate of rape and sexual assault declined 68 percent, robbery declined 77 percent and aggravated assault declined 80 percent. Overall, declines in serious violent crime among youth were greater from 1994 to 2002 (down 69 percent) than from 2002 to 2010 (down 27 percent).

Simple assault (assaults not involving an injury or weapon) against youth ages 12 to 17 declined 83 percent during the same period, dropping from 125.1 victimizations per 1,000 in 1994 to 21.6 victimizations per 1,000 in 2010.

In 2000, the highest rates of serious violent crime (2.7 per 1,000 youth per hour) and simple assault (4.8 per 1,000 youth per hour) against youth occurred during the after-school hours from 3 pm to 6 pm. However, in 2010 the rate of serious violent crime per hour against youth occurring from 3 pm to 6 pm was similar to the rate from 6 am to 3 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm. The rate of simple assault occurring from 3 pm to 6 pm was similar to the rate from 6 am to 3 pm, but five times higher than the rate from 6 pm to 9 pm.

From 1994 to 2010, more than half of violent crime against youth went unreported to police. However, the percentage of serious violent crimes not reported to police dropped from 62 percent in 1994–02 to 56 percent in 2002–10. Also, the percentage of simple assaults not reported to police decreased from 79 percent to 72 percent during the two periods.

Full report here:

Former PA corrections secretary to lead California prisons

Former Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary Jeffery Beard has been selected by California Gov. Jerry Brown to lead that state's prison system, reported the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

Beard was in charge of Pennsylvania's prison system under both Republican and Democratic governors, from 2001 to 2010.

Current Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, who has said Beard has been one of his best advisors on the job, tweeted "California got the right man to run their prison system."

According to the Sacramento Bee, Beard most recently "participated in the federal oversight of California's prisons."

To read more:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Supreme Court refuses to hear insanity defense case

Idaho, Montana, Utah and Kansas only states without insanity defense

Lawyers in Idaho say the state's lack of an insanity defense is unconstitutional. The Idaho Supreme Court has rejected the last six appeals on the issue, stretching back to 1990. The U.S. Supreme Court announced last month it would not hear an Idaho appeal, effectively ending that case and reinforcing Idaho’s decision — along with Montana, Utah, and Kansas — not to allow a traditional insanity defense, reported the Idaho Statesman.

The term insanity is primarily legal, not psychological. There is no "insane" diagnosis listed in the DSM. Insanity is a term pertaining to a defendant's ability to determine right from wrong when a crime is committed.

One encouraging thing for advocates is that justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have heard a recent Idaho case rejected by the full Supreme Court. Breyer even wrote a public dissent, saying justices should consider whether Idaho’s modification of the insanity defense is consistent with the 14th Amendment’s promise of “due process.”

Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford Law School professor specializing in the Supreme Court, told the Statesman he could understand why Idaho lawyers may be discouraged. But he sees progress.  Fisher said. “Now, we have three justices saying we should have a serious review of what Idaho is doing, and that is a significant step forward. A fair reading of (Breyer’s dissent) is that they have real misgivings about Idaho law.”

Fisher said he, like his Idaho counterparts, feels re-establishing the insanity defense is a matter of basic fairness. “I am persuaded from the extraordinarily deep history, across centuries of Anglo-American law, that someone who is truly incapable of knowing right from wrong should be allowed” the insanity defense, he said. “I don’t think states are entitled to abandon that principle.”

The Idaho Legislature banned the insanity defense amid the national outcry over the acquittal of would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Boise defense attorney David Leroy, who was Idaho’s attorney general when the state did away with the insanity defense in 1982, explained the rationale for the change in 2009.“Idaho eliminated the insanity defense in the old English common law sense. That is the argument that the defendant was out of touch with reality and didn’t understand the consequences of their actions,” Leroy said, according to the Statesman.

“We determined in 1982 that a better test (for insanity) would be to ask the jury to examine the specific mental state of the defendant at the time of the crime for the presence or absence of a specific element.“Since the prosecutor must prove all elements of the crime to convict, the absence of such proof as to a mental element still constitutes a defense.” Lawyers in Idaho trials can still offer evidence of mental illness for mitigation purposes, but not as a defense.

The Idaho Supreme Court has said, “If the state cannot prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant, sane or not, will be found not guilty.”In his dissent, Breyer pointed out that Idaho’s standard for the insanity defense differs from other states: Idaho permits the conviction of someone “who knew what he was doing but had no capacity to understand it was wrong.” Fisher told the Statesman that uncertainty over what the insanity defense allows and doesn’t allow in Idaho is an encouraging sign for the next challenge.

To read more:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Michigan wants concealed weapons in schools

The day before a gunman massacred 20 schoolchildren in their classrooms in Connecticut, lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill — over the objections of the state’s school boards — that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in schools, reported the New York Times.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, is weighing whether to sign the bill that would allow teachers or staff to carry concealed weapons.

Don Wotruba, the deputy director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the group was calling on the governor to veto the bill. “Putting children in closer proximity with more guns is a risk that shouldn’t be taken,” he told the Times.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Sara Wurfel, said the bill would go through a careful review and analysis. Asked if the school shooting in Connecticut would be a factor, she said in an e-mail to the Times that the governor had said that “these situations always must and should give pause as they’re so tragic, but that we can’t jump to conclusions, either.”

To read more:

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: There is more to the Sandy Hook tragedy than guns

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
December 17, 2012

Nine month ago I wrote about the tragic shooting at Charon High School outside Cleveland, Ohio.  Today, we mourn the loss of 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The nation is in an uproar over guns. There is no question that America needs to have a dialogue about easy access to guns by those who have no legal right, or simply no business, possessing a gun. But, there is more to this tragedy, and other tragedies like it, than guns.

There is a common thread that seems to run through places now synonymous with senseless violence. Since 1997 we have heard the harrowing stories of Pearl, MS; Paducah, KY; Jonesboro, AK; Springfield, OR; Columbine, CO; Red Lake, MN; Virginia Tech; Chardon and now Sandy Hook.

Let’s not forget the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords and eighteen other people in a supermarket parking lot near Tucson, Arizona. Six of those victims died;  Or Aurora, Colorado where this summer a gunman slipped into a midnight movie premiere and methodically walked up an aisle firing, killing 12 people and wounding 58. The alleged shooter met with at least three mental health professionals prior to the massacre; Or Oak Hill, Wisconsin where this summer six people were gunned down at a Sikh Temple.

Pittsburgh has not been immune from similar tragedy. In 2000, Richard Baumhammers went on a racist rampage shooting five men to death and paralyzing a sixth. His lawyer at the time described him as deeply troubled psychologically and under medication. ''He clearly has an extensive history of mental illness,'' said his lawyer.

In 2009, George Sodini walked into a Pittsburgh gym and pulled two guns out of his bag and started shooting. The police said he fired 35 times killing three women and wounding nine other women before killing himself.

The thread that weaves through many of these stories is mental illness. A dozen years ago a team of New York Times reporters and researchers, compiled a detailed database of 100 mass shootings over the previous 50 years.

The most common factor was serious mental health problems. About half had received formal diagnosis of mental illness, often schizophrenia. More than half made threats, and a third had histories of violent behavior. Many never received treatment for mental disorders or were not monitored to keep them on their medication. Most of their rampage attacks were not sudden, impulsive acts but the culmination of years of rage, depression and mental illness. Often the failure of families, co-workers and even therapists to deal with warning signs led to catastrophic consequences.

A change in policy nearly half-a-century ago has complicated access to mental health treatment. During the 1960s, policymakers across the country decided to close mental health institutions in favor of community treatment. In 1955, there was one psychiatric hospital bed for every 300 Americans.

Today, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, a Virginia-based non-profit dedicated to the treatment of severe mental illness, there is one psychiatric hospital bed for every 3,000 Americans.  There are 20 times as many people with mental illness in jails and prisons as there are in psychiatric hospitals.

With that said, there are four million people in the United States with severe mental illness. Only about 40,000, or one percent, are dangerous. Even then, the violence is usually minor -- a punch or a shove, according Duke University professor Jeffrey Swanson.  That comes as little consolation -- we have learned all too often in this country, one trouble individual with easy access to guns can do a lot of harm.

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Don't freeze: Run, hide, or--as a last resort--fight.

The Oregonian wrote a poignant story a day before the Sandy Hook Massacre about trying to save ones self during from an "active shooter" situation. They wrote no matter who you talk to – the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA or the local police–the basic message is the same: Run, hide, or--as a last resort--fight.

"You're either going to freeze, or survive," Chris Grollnek, a former SWAT officer for the McKinney Texas Police Department and former U.S. Marine, told the Oregonian. "The best target for an active shooter is somebody that freezes."

Last week, hundreds of shoppers at at Clackamas Town Center in Portland, OR did what law enforcement officials say was the best choice--run from the danger. If running wasn't an option, others found a place to hide, behind a locked or barricaded door. They turned off their cell phones and remained quiet.   And while there are no reports of anyone trying perhaps the least palatable response--incapacitate the shooter by arming themselves with whatever was at hand--some people undoubtedly did what experts says is the worst thing: They froze. 

 Here is what FEMA recommends:

When in a public place such as a mall, theater, school:

* Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers. Have an escape route and plan in mind. Take note of the nearest exits in any facility you visit.

If caught in an active shooter event:

* Evacuate: Find an accessible escape path, evacuate the premises. Warn individuals not to enter area where the active shooter may be. Leave your belongings behind. Help others escape, if possible. Call 911 when it is safe to do so.

* Can't run? Hide out: If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide. Lock the door. Silence your cell phone or pager. Even the vibration setting can give away a hiding position. Hide behind large items and remain quiet.

* If you can't run or hide, take action: As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the shooter.

– FEMA/Countermeasure Consulting Group

To read more:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Connecticut 1 of 6 states without court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment

This year appears on track to end with more victims of rampage killings than any year before, according to Hawaii Free Press.

“Our mental health system has completely failed individuals with severe mental illness and their communities,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director. “We have emptied the nation's hospitals, gutted state and local mental health programs, and turned involuntary treatment into a debate point instead of using it as a viable option to prevent tragedy involving those too ill to help themselves.”

“Mental illness is a real disease that can be treated, and those who receive timely and effective treatment are no more dangerous than the general public," said Fuller. "Tragedies like Sandy Hook are often evidence of five decades of failed mental-health policies. Mental illness treatment laws and policies need to address this failure so people get help before they become dangerous and so the public is protected.”

Connecticut has an estimated 140,000 people with severe mental illness, of whom approximately one-half are untreated at any given time. It is one of only six states without a law authorizing court-ordered outpatient treatment for qualifying individuals with severe mental illness. Between 2005 and 2010, the state eliminated 17% of its public hospital beds, leaving it with only 43% of the number deemed minimally adequate to meet public needs, and has twice as many people with severe mental illness behind bars as in psychiatric hospital beds.

To read more:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

PA prison population levels off

Prisons were once one of the fastest growing segments of Pennsylvania's budget, this year — for the first time in a decade — the Department of Corrections budget was level-funded, reported the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

Costs for salaries and benefits continue to rise, so a reduction in population was essentially written into the budget, well before any legislative changes were expected to kick in.

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said he could accomplish that through greater bureaucratic efficiency and improved communication with the Board of Probation and Parole.

He seems on track to succeed.

The most recent population numbers — 51,260 inmates — indicate a fairly steady, though modest decline since the new fiscal year started in June.

“I feel like we’re headed in the right direction,” said Wetzel. “We had a good start to this fiscal year.”

But Wetzel is also careful not to be prematurely triumphant or self-congratulatory.

The former semi-pro offensive lineman said, “We’re five minutes into the first quarter and we’re not losing by 15. ... We have a good start.”

To read more:

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: Governor’s pardon rare but not out of reach

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
December 14, 2012

Under Pennsylvania law, non-conviction diversion programs like Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) and certain summary offenses can be expunged from an offender’s criminal record.

Other convictions are only eligible for expungement after the offender has reached age 70 and has been arrest free for ten or more years or has been deceased for more than three years.

The only option for an offender who does not meet that narrow criteria is an executive pardon. Absent an expungement or pardon, a criminal record cannot be removed.

In 2008, Governor Ed Rendell expanded eligibility for expungement when he signed a new law that authorized people who have been crime free for a period of time to petition the court to clear their record of certain summary convictions. The law included minor traffic violations, harassment, simple trespassing, minor first-time retail theft and public drunkenness.

Earlier this year, state Senator Tim Solobay introduced S.B. 1220 that would have expanded eligibility for expungement to include offenders convicted of certain second and third degree misdemeanors after a waiting period of seven years for third degree misdemeanors and ten years for second degree misdemeanors. The legislation stalled in the senate.

What is the likelihood that the governor will wipe away an offender’s record? Over the last 14 years, dating back to the administration of Governor Tom Ridge, about 500 people a year have applied for clemency. Pennsylvania’s governors, collectively, grant less than one in four applications. During that time period, only six death penalties or life terms have been commuted.

Getting a pardon is not an easy task. The Board of Pardons is made up of five members, the Lt. Governor, Attorney General and three people appointed by the Governor.

Executive clemency is authorized under Article IV, section 9(a) of the Pennsylvania Constitution. In 1997, a constitutional amendment established the requirement for a unanimous, instead of merely a majority, vote by the Board of Pardons to recommend a commutation of a life or death sentence to the Governor. A majority vote is still required for all other offenses.

The constitutional amendment grew out of the case of Reginald McFadden. His life sentence was commuted by Governor Bob Casey after a majority of the Board of Pardons recommended a pardon.
After his release, McFadden was convicted of rape and murder in New York. Lt. Governor Mark Singel was one vote in favor of McFadden and that vote was a significant factor in his loss to Tom Ridge in the 1994 race for governor.

That does not mean that seeking a pardon is a waste of time. A well written, thoroughly investigated application will be carefully reviewed by the board. An applicant that has put some time between his conviction and the application, documented positive life changes and provided a concise statement regarding the need for clemency—can succeed. For most offenders seeking redemption, clemency is the only game in town.

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. He is a featured columnist for the Pennsylvania Law Weekly and a regular contributor to the Youngstown Vindicator. You can read his musings on crime and punishment at and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Condemned man's final request: 'Never stop bullfights'

The 43rd Execution of 2012

Manuel Pardo a former police officer who murdered nine people during a 1986 crime spree was executed in Florida on December 11, 2012.

He was pronounced dead at Florida State Prison at 7:47 p.m., about 16 minutes after the lethal injection process began, reported The Associated Press.

Reporters could not hear his final statement because of an apparent malfunction in the death chamber's sound system. A white sheet had been pulled up to his chin and IV lines ran into his left arm. He blinked several times, his eyes moved back and forth and he took several deep breaths. Over the next several minutes the color drained from his face before he was pronounced dead.

Prison officials said his final words were, "Airborne forever. I love you, Michi baby," referring to his daughter.

According to the AP, in a final written statement Pardo urged the Spanish government to never stop bullfights because they are "a part of our culture and heritage."

"And if they do, I'm glad I won't be alive to see such a travesty!"

Pardo also wrote that he never killed any women, but "accepted full responsibility for killing six men.

"I never harmed those 3 women or any female. I took the blame as I knew I was doomed and it made no difference to me, at this time, having 6 or 9 death sentences," he wrote on Dec. 11, hours before his execution. "I don't want this hanging over my head, especially these last few minutes of life, because my war was against men who were trafficing (sic) in narcotics and no one else!"

Officials said most of Pardo's victims were involved with drugs. Pardo contended that he was doing the world a favor by killing them over three-month period in early 1986.

"I am a soldier, I accomplished my mission and I humbly ask you to give me the glory of ending my life and not send me to spend the rest of my days in state prison," Pardo told jurors at his 1988 trial, reported the AP.

Frank Judd, the nephew of victim Fara Quintero read a statement following the execution, which was witnessed by fewer than 10 family members of the victims.

Judd thanked the state of Florida for bringing closure to his family and said the pain he and his relatives feel about the murder of Quintero "continues to this day."

"Personally, I don't feel that what happened today was enough justice," he said, adding that Pardo was a "disturbed soul."

Pardo's final letter apologized to his family for the "pain and grief" he caused.

"You all are so loving and wonderful, not deserving of this nightmare," he wrote. He asked his family to please not suffer and to "be strong." He mentioned his daughter Michi in the written statement.

"Remember Michi you are Airborne and hardcore...No tears!" he wrote.

According to the AP, Pardo also touched on his love of sports, devoting one of three paragraphs in his letter to baseball, soccer and bullfighting.

"On a lighter note, as a New Yorker and loyal fan, I was happy to see my Yankees and Giants win so many championships during my lifetime," Pardo wrote.

Ann Howard, a spokeswoman for Florida's Department of Corrections, said that Pardo visited with eight people Tuesday. He also met with the prison chaplain and a Roman Catholic bishop.

Pardo ate a last meal of rice, red beans, roasted pork, plantains, avocado, tomatoes and olive oil. For dessert, he ate pumpkin pie and drank egg nog and Cuban Coffee. Under Department of Corrections rules, the meal's ingredients have to cost $40 or less, be available locally and made in the prison kitchen.

Then over a 92-day period in early 1986, Pardo committed a series of robberies, killing six men and three women. He took photos of the victims and recounted some details in his diary, which was found along with newspaper clippings about the murders. Pardo was linked to the killings after using credit cards stolen from the victims, reported the AP.

This was the final execution scheduled for 2012 in the United States.

To read more:

NYT's Tierney explores social science of incarceration

The New York Times' John Tierney is exploring the social science of incarceration. Below are excerpts from his initial column on December 11, 2012. Future articles in this series will look at the effects of current policies on families and communities, and new ideas for dealing with offenders.

State spending on corrections, after adjusting for inflation, has more than tripled in the past three decades, making it the fastest-growing budgetary cost except Medicaid. Even though the prison population has leveled off in the past several years, the costs remain so high that states are being forced to reduce spending in other areas.

Three decades ago, California spent 10 percent of its budget on higher education and 3 percent on prisons. In recent years the prison share of the budget rose above 10 percent while the share for higher education fell below 8 percent. As university administrators in California increase tuition to cover their deficits, they complain that the state spends much more on each prisoner — nearly $50,000 per year — than on each student.

Half a million people are now in prison or jail for drug offenses, about 10 times the number in 1980, and there have been especially sharp increases in incarceration rates for women and for people over 55, long past the peak age for violent crime. In all, about 1.3 million people, more than half of those behind bars, are in prison or jail for nonviolent offenses.

Researchers note that the policies have done little to stem the flow of illegal drugs. And they say goals like keeping street violence in check could be achieved without the expense of locking up so many criminals for so long.

While many scholars still favor tough treatment for violent offenders, they have begun suggesting alternatives for other criminals. James Q. Wilson, the conservative social scientist whose work in the 1970s helped inspire tougher policies on prison, several years ago recommended diverting more nonviolent drug offenders from prisons to treatment programs.

Two of his collaborators, George L. Kelling of the Manhattan Institute and John J. DiIulio Jr. of the University of Pennsylvania, have joined with prominent scholars and politicians, including Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich, in a group called Right on Crime. It advocates more selective incarceration and warns that current policies “have the unintended consequence of hardening nonviolent, low-risk offenders” so that they become “a greater risk to the public than when they entered.”

These views are hardly universal, particularly among elected officials worried about a surge in crime if the prison population shrinks. Prosecutors have resisted attempts to change the system, contending that the strict sentences deter crime and induce suspects to cooperate because the penalties provide the police and prosecutors with so much leverage.

Some of the strongest evidence for the benefit of incarceration came from studies by a University of Chicago economist, Steven D. Levitt, who found that penal policies were a major factor in reducing crime during the 1990s. But as crime continued declining and the prison population kept growing, the returns diminished.

“We know that harsher punishments lead to less crime, but we also know that the millionth prisoner we lock up is a lot less dangerous to society than the first guy we lock up,” Dr. Levitt said. “In the mid-1990s I concluded that the social benefits approximately equaled the costs of incarceration. Today, my guess is that the costs outweigh the benefits at the margins. I think we should be shrinking the prison population by at least one-third.”

Some social scientists argue that the incarceration rate is now so high that the net effect is “crimogenic”: creating more crime over the long term by harming the social fabric in communities and permanently damaging the economic prospects of prisoners as well as their families. Nationally, about one in 40 children have a parent in prison. Among black children, one in 15 have a parent in prison.

To read more of the New York Times article:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

California inmate benefits from three strikes vote

Tyrone W. Miles, in a California prisonl for 25 years, alleged he received inadequate legal counsel when he cut the deal with state prosecutors in 2005 for using a bogus $474 check in a convenience store in a central-California town.

As a result, the 42-year-old Navy veteran said he lost out on a plea bargain that would have given him a six-year sentence instead of the 25 years to life he received when he later did plead guilty under California's so-called "three strikes" law for repeat offenders, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The attorney allegedly counseled Mr. Miles to reject the six-year deal without checking to see that his client faced possible life imprisonment under the three-strikes law.

According to the WSJ, the Ninth Circuit granted Miles a hearing in September. Last week, the prosecution and defense filed a joint petition with the appellate court to issue an order directing that Mr. Miles be freed in the near future.

The Ninth Circuit's decision cited two Supreme Court decisions from this past March, Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, in which the high court found defendants in two other cases hadn't been adequately represented by their attorneys during the plea-bargain process.

Plea bargains "have become so central to the administration of the criminal justice system" that defendants should receive the kind of protections associated with going to trial, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

Nearly 40 years ago, a similar case had a very different result. In Borderkircher v. Hayes, a Kentucky man passed an $83.30 bad check.  He had two prior felonies.  He was offered a five year sentence.  He declined and was later charged as a habitual offender and faced life in prison.  He claimed prosecutorial vindictiveness. The Supreme Court found nothing wrong with a prosecutor who thought five years was an appropriate sentence but sought life in prison as a means to coerce a plea.

What has changed?
The November election in California.  Voters, by ballot referendum, agreed to modify the state's three-strikes law. Under the modifications to California's three-strikes law, inmates such as Miles, whose third strike was a nonviolent, relatively non-serious crime, can be eligible for resentencing. State officials say that about 2,800 of the current 8,800 three-strike inmates could qualify, reported the WSJ.

To read more:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Prison closures on the rise nationwide

The Sentencing Project recently issued a report, On the Chopping Block 2012: State Prison Closings, highlighting the closure of state prisons across the country.

In 2012, at least six states have closed 20 prison institutions or are contemplating doing so, potentially reducing prison capacity by over 14,100 beds and resulting in an estimated $337 million in savings. During 2012, Florida led the nation in prison closings with its closure of 10 correctional facilities; the state’s estimated cost savings for prison closings totals over $65 million. This year’s prison closures build on closures observed in 2011 when at least 13 states reported prison closures and reduced prison capacity by an estimated 15,500 beds.

An examination of projected budgets for fiscal year 2013 indicates that at least 12 states are planning to decrease correctional expenditures, with prison closures being one mechanism to do so.

Pennsylvania plans to open two new prisons.  One near Bellefonte, Benner Township, and Pheonix I & II in Philadelphia.  Both prisons are near existing prisons, SCI Rockview and SCI Graterford.  The estimated cost of the new construction is about $600 million.

For full report:

Monday, December 10, 2012

WFMJ-TV: Mangino comments on Mercer County shooting

Click to view interview:

Michelle Nicks

MERCER, Pa.--Pennsylvania State Police in Mercer are continuing their investigation into the death of a seven-year-old boy fatally shot by his father's gun.

Forty-four-year-old Joseph Loughrey and his seven-year-old son Craig Loughrey of Fredonia were getting into a truck after making a stop at Twig's Reloading Den on Route 62 in Mercer on Saturday morning when the shooting happened.

Investigators say Joseph Loughrey placed his handgun in the center console of his truck and that's when it accidentally fired striking his son in the chest.

The second grader at Reynolds Elementary School in Greenville was sitting in his booster seat. He died at the scene.

Lawrence County's former district attorney, Matthew Mangino, says the Mercer County district attorney has a tough decision on his hands and that is whether or not to hold a father responsible for the death of his own son.

"A lot of lessons we learn in life. We learn because of very tragic circumstances and I can't imagine what a father would be going through who suffered this kind of tragedy," Attorney Mangino says.

But there are a number of things investigators and the Mercer District Attorney will likely consider in this case.

"Certainly looking at the handling of the gun; was the father licensed to carry a weapon? Was he licensed to carry a concealed weapon? Was he eligible to carry a weapon? Those are all different things you would look at," Mangino said.

If the district attorney in Mercer chooses to pursue charges, they could also include involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child or reckless endangering.

Mangino says, "No matter how you look at it, it's a tragic situation. It's going to be a very difficult decision. How do you hold a parent any more accountable for their conduct than the result in this case? He lost his son."

Pinterest as crime fighting tool

Social media has been used in crime fighting.  I have written about Facebook as a tool for law enforcement. Facebook is a free social networking website that allows users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends. There are more than 900 million users worldwide.

Law enforcement officials are among those 900 million users. Facebook has been used in investigations, as evidence and for purposes of arrest.

Pinterest is the new social media crime fighter. Pinterest is one of the fastest-growing social media sites out there. It works best to share images — or, as it's called on Pinterest, "pin" them.

According to WHYY-FM, a crime reporter at The Mercury in Pottstown, Pennsylvania had the idea to start a gallery of mug shots of people wanted by the police. Pottstown Police Capt. F. Richard Drumheller says calls came in to his tip line right away.

"We've actually seen a 57 percent increase in our warrant services, and we actually got more people based on our tips and our calls," Drumheller told WHYY-FM."This is a way to get all of those people out there all the time in front of more people," Lauri Stevens a social media consultant for law enforcement told WHYY-FM.

Women make up 80 percent of Pinterest users, so they're especially likely to be exposed to the images.

"It's going to be the younger-ish women, who are decision-makers, heads of households, or at least the decision-makers running the family. They are the ones who are going to be most engaged," Stevens says.

To read more:

WKBN-TV: Mangino comments on Mercer County shooting

Click to see interview:

Craig Loughrey was shot and killed Saturday in the parking lot at Twig's Reloading Den in Mercer County. Pennsylvania State Police said his father, Joseph Loughrey's gun went off from the center console in his truck, hitting his son in the chest.

"Believe dad was setting the weapon down when it went off," said Lt. Eric Hermick, Pennsylvania State Police, reported WKBN-TV. "What he believed to be it was unloaded at the time. The magazine in the weapon was unloaded, but however there was one in the chamber of the gun."

Pennsylvania State Police officials said all evidence suggests this shooting was an accident.

The Mercer County District Attorney will wait to receive results from Sunday's scheduled autopsy of Craig Loughrey before deciding if any charges could be filed in the case.

Former Lawrence County District Attorney, Matt Mangino said this case is similar to a recent Western Pennsylvania trial in which gross negligence could not be proved, which is required for involuntary manslaughter.

"I think he's going to take into consideration the circumstances. We know from a news account that this is a distraught father who accidentally shot his 7 year old. What more can you do to hold someone accountable who's taken the life of a 7 year old?" Mangino told WKBN.

Mangino added that potential charges in this case could include involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Prison’s not for all

The Youngstown Vindicator
December 9, 2012

Ohio is a year into its justice reinvestment initiative — a crime fighting effort grounded in “evidence-based practices” that have gripped nearly one-third of the country. Last summer, when Gov. John Kasich signed Act 86 into law, supporters — and there were many — predicted that the measure would ease prison overcrowding and save taxpayers up to $78 million a year.

Sixteen states are in the midst of some form of justice reinvestment. The Council of State Governments’ Justice Center is the driving force behind each state’s effort to reduce prison costs and redistribute the savings to other facets of the criminal justice system.

Pennsylvania enacted its own version of justice reinvestment earlier this year. Act 122 hopes to save money by diverting state prisoners to county jails and eliminating inefficiencies in the paroling process.

Rhode Island, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, Connecticut and Vermont all saw the number of state prisoners drop as a result of justice reinvestment initiatives, according to the Council of State Governments’ website.

The Dayton Daily News reported that Ohio’s prison population was on track to grow to 55,000 inmates by 2018, up from 50,334 at the time the legislation was passed. Ohio’s prison population peaked at 51,278 prior to the initiation of justice reinvestment legislation.

Alternative sentence

One component of Ohio’s new law that has had an impact on lowering the state’s inmate population over the past year is a provision that requires judges to sentence first-time offenders to something other than prison. If the conviction falls into certain categories, such as convictions involving low-level felonies or if the crime was not a violent offense — which includes some sex offenses — the court must impose an alternative sentence to prison.

Eliminating prison time for all fourth and fifth degree felonies does not sit well with some state prosecutors and judges. Prison is still an option in a limited number of cases involving a firearm or an act of violence; or when an offender had previously served jail time or had violated a bail condition.

“Whereas before we had more flexibility to get a prison sentence, now it’s almost impossible to get a prison sentence for fourth and fifth degree offenders, even repeat offenders,” Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings told the Marietta Times.

The Associated Press reported in September, following an open records request, 22 judges had asked the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for help finding beds for inmates who would have gone to prison prior to Act 86.

Underwhelming results

In the little more than one year since the legislation took effect the results are underwhelming. As of Nov. 13, 2012, there were 49,789 inmates in state prison, down only 545 inmates from time the law was enacted. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Director Gary C. Mohr told the Columbus Dispatch last spring that he had hoped to see a reduction to 49,168 inmates by July 1.

Ohio judges have reduced the average number of people sent to prison by more than 100 per month compared to last year, according to the Coshocton Tribune. Nearly two-thirds of Ohio’s counties sent fewer people to prison each month than the year before.

Mohr called the first-year results promising but told The Associated Press, “If I believed that we were going to stop at these numbers, I’d be pretty darn disappointed.” Mohr added, an interview with The Associated Press. “This gives us a sense of hope that we can continue to get a whole lot better.”

Ohio and Pennsylvania have hung high hopes on their respective justice reinvestment initiatives. Time will tell if either state can find that delicate balance between saving taxpayer dollars and preserving public safety.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pennsylvania Superior Court: Miller retroactive, sort of

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled on Friday that in a very narrow set of cases Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court banning mandatory life without parole for juveniles, is retroactive.

In Commonwealth v. Kevin Lofton, 281 EDA 2012 the court ruled that Lofton who was sentence to life in prison for second degree murder in 2011 is entitled to be resentenced.

On appeal, Lofton raised the issue that life in prison without parole violates his federal due process, equal protection, and Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment and the corresponding rights under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The court found that the new U.S. Supreme Court ruling would be applied retroactively to cases were the constitutional issue is properly preserved at all stages of adjudication up to and including any direct appeal.

Commonwealth v. Roney, 866 A.2d 351 (2005) held that new federal constitutional rules involving criminal law apply to all cases still pending on direct appeal where the issue is preserved at the trial level and on appeal.

Pennsylvania leads the nation in offenders serving life without parole for offenses committed as juveniles. The Lofton Court left the general question of retroactivity unanswered. In a footnote the court suggested, “Accordingly, whether a juvenile convicted of first or second degree murder would be entitled to retroactive application of Miller on direct appeal where he did not contest the constitutionality of his sentence must be left for another day.”

Full opinion:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bus driver accused of 'drowsy driving' acquitted

The driver of a tour bus that crashed and killed 15 passengers in the Bronx last year was acquitted by a jury of all the counts related to the riders’ deaths and injuries, reported the Wall Street Journal. 

Ophadell Williams, bowed his head, wiped tears from his eyes and placed a hand over his heart, mouthing the words “thank you” to jurors whose foreperson answered “not guilty” 53 times when asked for their verdict on manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and three different types of assault charges against him. He faced up to 15 years for the most serious of the counts.

The lone “guilty” voiced by the jury was for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. That charge carries a maximum 30 day jail sentence. The Bronx judge immediately sentenced Williams, who had been imprisoned for 15 months awaiting trial, to time served. As Williams ducked into a waiting car outside the courthouse, reporters asked him if he had anything to say and he answered, “thank you,” reported the WSJ

Williams was accused of "drowsy driving" impairment similar to drunk driving or distracted driving. On March 12, 2011, Williams was driving a World Wide Tour bus returning to Manhattan’s Chinatown from an overnight gambling trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut when the bus carrying 32 passengers slammed into a guardrail on Interstate 95 near just over the Bronx border.

Williams was indicted on September 1, 2011, by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson. Shortly after the crash, the lead prosecutor in the case, Gary Weil, said in court that Mr. Williams exhibited “classic symptoms of sleep deprivation,” which included “driving recklessly, speeding, weaving in and out of lanes.”

At trial, Williams’ attorney, Patrick Bruno, said the accident was caused by a tractor trailer cutting off Williams’ bus, according to the WSJ.

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