Thursday, January 31, 2013

Justice Reinvestment comes to West Virginia

The Justice Center of the Council of State Governments has been studying West Virginia's prison overcrowding problems for the past year. A similar study was conducted in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The group has submitted recommendations its members believe could reduce the prison population and save the state more than $100 million by 2018, according to the Charleston Gazette.

The recommendations include a three-prong approach to alleviate prison overcrowding:

Expand community-based substance abuse treatment programs.

Require post-release supervision of all inmates, including those who have maxed out their sentences and are not placed on parole upon release.

Improve community-based supervision of inmates on probation or parole, including expanding day report center programs.

"I think the policy framework that was released today helps strengthen all parts of the system to improve outcomes," Marc Pelka, policy analyst for the Justice Center told the Gazette.

The center's report estimates that if the recommendations are adopted, West Virginia's inmate population will drop from the current 7,531 to 7,418 by 2018. That would amount to an overall savings of $140 million in operating costs over that period, compared to a projected growth of the prison population to 8,893 by 2018 if no changes are made.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Colorado looking to close more prisons

Experts in Colorado point to a mix of reasons for the dramtice decline in prison population—including fewer prosecutions and changes in the way the prison system is run.

The state's felony crime rate dropped by a third from 2002 to 2011, according to DOC Director Tom Clements. Possible reasons for that include reductions in punishment for marijuana-related crimes (marijuana use is now legal in Colorado), successes of youth and gang-intervention programs, and an aging population that has resulted in fewer young people getting in trouble.

In December, there were 2,109 empty beds in prisons across Colorado. Most were in private prisons, and the state is no longer paying for the space.

Budget and criminal-justice statisticians predict the number of unoccupied beds will rise to between 2,600 and 3,600 by June 2014.

Eliminating that much capacity could shut down two to 10 prisons, depending on the size of the facilities.

Colorado is already at 7,500 fewer inmates than it once expected in 2013 and has closed three state prisons.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Exonerations continue to grow nationwide

Why do false convictions occur? Victims identify the wrong person; prosecutors withhold exculpatory evidence from the accused; false or misleading forensic evidence points to the wrong person; defendants receive inadequate legal representation; witnesses perjure themselves.

Last May, the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, released its first report analyzing 873 exonerations between January 1989 and February 2012. The number of identified exonerations in the registry has grown to 1,050 since the report was issued.

In the 873 cases that were studied, the registry found the most common reasons for wrongful conviction were perjuryor false accusation (51 percent), mistaken witness identification (43 percent) and official misconduct (42 percent).

Ninety-three percent of those exonerated were men, 50 percent were black, 38 percent were white and 11 percent were Hispanic. DNA evidence helped clear 37 percent of them.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

NYC: Focus on Policing not Prisons

“The United States today is the only country I know of that spends more on prisons than police,” Lawrence W. Sherman, an American criminologist on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Cambridge University in Britain told the New York Times. “In England and Wales, the spending on police is twice as high as on corrections. In Australia it’s more than three times higher. In Japan it’s seven times higher. Only in the United States is it lower, and only in our recent history.”

Before the era of mass incarceration began in the 1980s, local policing accounted for more than 40 percent of spending for criminal justice, while 25 percent went to prisons and parole programs. But since 1990, nearly 35 percent has gone to the prison system, while the portion of criminal justice spending for local policing has fallen to slightly more than 30 percent.

New York City is the safest big city in America, and it is not just the result of locking up more criminals.

“The precise causes of New York’s crime decline will be debated by social scientists until the Sun hits the Earth,” Michael Jacobson, a criminologist who ran the city’s Correction and Probation Departments during the 1990s and is now the president of the Vera Institute of Justice told the Times. “But the 50,000-foot story from New York is that you can drive down crime while decreasing your jail and prison population — and save a huge amount of money in the process.”

The crime decline, which has lasted for two decades, has been so striking that some critics wonder if the police stopped reporting some offenses. The police vehemently deny that, and numbers have continued dropping even for crimes that are difficult to hide — homicides, most notably.

Policing, of course, is not the only possible explanation for the safer streets, reported the Times. A shift in demographics, the arrival of new immigrants, the waning of the crack epidemic, and other economic and social changes had an impact on neighborhoods in New York — and in the rest of the country, where crime also declined in the 1990s.

But the drop was much steeper and more prolonged in New York than elsewhere. And while researchers attributed about a quarter of the decline in the rest of America to the stricter penal policies, that explanation did not apply to a city that was locking up fewer people. Something else was responsible, and criminologists have been trying to figure out how to repeat it.

“The intellectual tragedy of the New York crime miracle is that it had no experiments to identify just what worked,” Dr. Sherman told the Times.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Changes to the PA Crimes Code for 2013

The Pennsylvania General Assembly one of the highest paid legislatures in the country was busy in 2012.  The leglislature, made up of  203 house members and 50 senators, passed approximately 300 new laws many of which are being implemented in 2013.

Here is an overview of some of the new crime related laws, which went into effect on January 1, as described by the  Beaver County Times:


For the first time since the 1970s the Legislature has increased the fines for underage drinking. Prior to this year, the fine has been set at a maximum of $300. Now, a first-offense underage-drinking conviction carries a fine of $500, and a second-offense fine doubles to $1,000.


Wiretap laws are set to expire periodically and are reviewed by legislators on a regular basis. Under the previous laws, if police wanted to tap someone’s phone, they had to have a specific phone number and have the district attorney or attorney general go before the court and establish probable cause to get permission to tap that phone line.

With the proliferation of mobile phones -- and in particular disposable phones -- by the time investigators were able to get a warrant to tap the phone line, the person had tossed the phone and gotten a new one.The new law allows investigators to get permission to intercept the phone calls made to a specific individual, not a specific phone number.


Sexting was considered child pornography under previous laws, even if it was a minor sending a photo to another minor. The changed law allows prosecutors to evaluate sexting on a case-by-case basis.


There are numerous changes to Megan’s Law this year. One of the changes regarding who must register under Megan’s Law is retroactive.

New crimes have been added to the list of crimes for which someone must register under Megan’s Law. Anyone who is now required to register under Megan’s Law will receive written notification by the state police or probation and parole.


Following the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University, lawmakers have enacted new requirements for schools regarding the possible sexual abuse of students. Schools are now required to train their employees to look for signs of possible abuse in a student and to educate school employees about mandated reporting requirements for suspected abuse.


It is now a crime to euthanize an animal using carbon monoxide poisoning or drowning.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

PA Statute of Limitations for child victims of sex abuse expansive

Matthew T. Mangino
The Altoona Mirror
January 20, 2013

A group of 11 young men recently settled a lawsuit against a Warren, Ohio parochial school, the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio and an order of Franciscan Friars. The lawsuit alleged the young men were sexually assaulted by a friar in the mid-1980s.

Only one of the 11 cases remains viable for criminal prosecution in Ohio. The Franciscan Brother, Stephen Baker, allegedly involved in the assaultive conduct is based at St. Bernardine’s in Hollidaysburg and had a presence at Altoona and Johnstown parochial schools in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Unlike Ohio, potential criminal prosecutions remain viable in Pennsylvania. Although an effort to abolish the statute of limitation for child victims of sexual abuse stalled in the legislature last fall, Pennsylvania has a broad and encompassing statute that could be useful if accusations are made against Baker in Pennsylvania.

The statute of limitations plays an important and long-standing role in criminal and civil jurisprudence. The statute of limitations has been around since antiquity. As time passes, memory fades, witnesses die and evidence disappears. The statute of limitations protects individuals from facing charges under those hopeless circumstances.

However, young victims of sex abuse are often reluctant to come forward. No one would advocate that a sexual predator should escape responsibility by way of a fortuitous passage of time. A victim's conduct after an assault often conflicts with what one would expect. Jerome Elam, a victim of child sexual abuse, wrote in The Washington Times, "As victims of childhood molestation boys face significant and unique barriers in reporting what they intuitively know is inappropriate behavior." (See "An end to silence: Child sex abuse victims speaking out," Nov. 27, 2011.)

Statistically, one in eight males is a victim of abuse and a child has to tell seven adults of suspected abuse before he or she is taken seriously. Elam suggested that rates of suicide among male victims of childhood sexual abuse are 14 times higher than the norm and child victims are 38 times more likely to die from a drug overdose.

As research on the long term trauma endured by child victims of sexual assault became increasing available the Pennsylvania legislature moved to expand the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse twice in a little more than a decade.

Prior to 2002, the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal prosecution of child sexual assault was five years after the victims 18th birthday.

In 2002, the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse was extended to 12 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. In 2007, the statute of limitations was extended as part of a comprehensive package of statutes related to child abuse. As a result, the Commonwealth now has until the victim’s 50th birthday to file criminal charges for abuse that occurred before the victim turned 18.

The new law applies to any case in which the statute of limitations had not yet expired before the law took effect. Pursuant to a 1988 Superior Court decision the time for prosecution may be extended by a legislative change if the prior period has not yet expired.

For instances, a young boy was sexually assaulted by an adult. He turned 18 years of age in 1998. When he turned 18 the statute of limitation was five years. In 2002, while the victim could still file a timely criminal complaint, the statute of limitation was extended to 12 years. Five years later, while the victim was again able to file a timely criminal complaint, the statute was extended until the victim turns 50.

An offense that occurred sometime prior to 1998 will still be viable for criminal prosecution until 2030, and if the legislature gets its way the statute may soon be abolished and there will be no time limit on pursuing criminal charges.

Legislators: 'Stop electing judges in Pennsylvania'

Pennsylvania Legislators want to eliminate the practice of electing judges to the state’s appellate courts because the system can lead to corruption and conflicts of interest stemming from the millions of dollars in campaign contributions, reported the PA Independent.

Instead, a newly created commission would identify a short list of judicial candidates to fill vacancies in the state Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court. The governor would chose from that list.

The proposed commission would include 15 members. Four would be appointed by the governor, four would be appointed by the General Assembly and the remaining seven would be members of the public, but the bill is silent on how they would be selected.

Lower court judges in municipal courts and the state Court of Common Pleas would continue to be elected. All judges would continue to face retention votes after 10 years on the bench.

Pennsylvania is one of only eight states with judicial elections, according to the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, a judicial research center housed at the University of Denver.

This comes as Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin stands trial for corruption in Allegheny County.  He sister former state Senator Jane Orie was convicted of corruption and sentenced to prison.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

The Cautionary Instruction: The residency restriction redux

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
January 25, 2013

Nearly two years have passed since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated an Allegheny County ordinance that restricted where convicted sex offenders could live. The Court concluded that the ordinance was at odds with Megan’s Law.

Megan’s Law requires convicted sex offenders to report their residency so that the neighborhood can be notified but does not restrict where offenders can live. The Court ruled that the ordinance would banish offenders to "localized penal colonies" with little access to jobs, support, or even their families.

Allegheny County's ordinance was enacted in 2007. A year later, three years before the ordinance was struck down, the Post-Gazette wrote that sex offender residency restrictions don’t work.

Dr. Jill S. Levenson, a professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL, said the problem is that residency restrictions are often one-size-fits-all. They often don't distinguish among the types of crimes that have been committed. Just because someone is designated a sex offender under state law does not necessarily mean that that person is a sexually violent predator or a pedophile.

There is ample scientific evidence that shows residency laws interfere with the reintegration of sex offenders into society. "Criminal offenders who have stable housing, stable employment and support systems in their lives, those people are less likely to go on and commit new crimes," Dr. Levenson said.

Academics continue to be dismissive of residency restrictions. "There was no significant relationship between reoffending and proximity to schools or day cares," concluded a 2010 study published in The American Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology. "The belief that keeping sex offenders far from schools and other child-friendly locations will protect children from sexual abuse appears to be a well-intentioned but flawed premise."

Sex offenders have no political cache. Politicians make a living bashing sex offenders. “Lock’em up and throw away the key” works well on the campaign trail. The flaw in this thinking is that it ultimately short-circuits the safeguards -- such as mandatory therapy, electronic monitoring and tight supervision -- that help offenders successfully re-enter society.

Even after acknowledging the research and the High Court’s decision, it is not difficult to figure out why a lawmaker would propose a new statewide residency restriction.

State Sen. Lisa Boscola recently introduced Senate Bill 86 to prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, day care, preschool, playground or recreation center.

"And then I want to carry it one step further and say and bus stops, because these are where children congregate and this is where I've been hearing complaints," said Boscola.

The proposed legislation would set up a protective barrier of 500 feet around any bus stop, making Pennsylvania the first state to pass such a restriction.

The unintended consequence? In most of Pennsylvania, especially outside of urban areas, a bus stop might be the end of every students drive-way. Senate Bill 86 would effectively eliminate just about any residency options for sex offenders.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Study Confirms "School to Prison Pipeline"

A report by a group of civil rights organizations says that “overly harsh school disciplinary policies” in Mississippi result in 33 of every 1,000 children being arrested or referred to juvenile detention centers, reported the New York Times.

The report comes as lawmakers in many states, including Mississippi, are considering plans to place armed officers or guards in every school, a measure that has gained traction since the shootings in Newtown, Conn. While this report does not focus on that issue specifically, its authors suggest that the presence of more police officers could make a bad problem worse.

 According to the Advancement Project, a Washington-based group, the referrals included second and third graders; and that in yet another, only 4 percent of the law enforcement referrals were for felony-level behavior, the most often cited offense being “disorderly conduct.”

School resource officers were originally brought into school to for crime prevention instruction and safety measure and now have become an essential component of school discipline.  In some places being arrested has taken the place of detention.

“The school-to-prison pipeline is nothing new in Mississippi, and it is certainly not unique to Meridian,” the report says. “In fact, it is a problem that has plagued Mississippi schools statewide for years,” reported the Times. 

n addition to statistics, the report described episodes in which a child was taken home by the police for wearing shoes that violated the dress code, and a school where misbehaving students were handcuffed for infractions as minor as not wearing a belt.

The report also found that, over all, Mississippi imposed out-of-school suspensions at a rate more than one and a half times the national average. In several districts, the rate was more than 9 times the national average, and in one, more than 17 times, reported the Times.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PA Supreme Court affirms removal from death row

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's decision to remove a man from death row because he is mentally challenged, according to UPI.

Connie Williams of Pittsburgh received the death penalty from an Allegheny County jury in 2002 for the 1999 first-degree murder of his wife Frances Williams. Williams stabbed his wife in the chest during an argument, then cut off her head, hands and feet.

In April 2010, a judge took Williams, who faced execution by lethal injection, off death row after his lawyers argued the death penalty amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Prosecutors appealed the court's action.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Tuesday justices on the supreme court found no errors in the lower court's judgment. They affirmed the decision in light of five prominent physicians' testimony that Williams had poor mental function and an IQ of between 70 and 75.

Public defender Lisa Middleman, Williams' lawyer during the sentencing phase of his trial, said her client's "lack of intellect was evident."

"The courts have determined intellectually disabled people are less culpable because they may not understand the consequences of their behavior much the same way that juveniles are seen as less culpable. We can find them guilty, we can put them in jail for the rest of their lives, but we don't kill them," said Marc Bookman, executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation in Philadelphia.

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Only limited stays for competency during habeas appeals

In Ryan v. Gonzales and Tibbals v. Carter the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal courts have the equitable power to issue limited stays when inmates are incompetent to assist in their habeas proceedings, according to the ABA Journal.

But the unanimous opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas rejected arguments that prisoners have a statutory right to competency stays in habeas appeals that is derived from federal statutes. And Thomas said that, in most cases, an inmate’s mental incompetence during a habeas proceeding will not eviscerate his statutory right to counsel.

“Given the backward-looking, record-based nature of most federal habeashabeas petitioner regardless of the petitioner’s competence,” Thomas said. “Attorneys are quite capable of reviewing the state-court record, identifying legal errors, and marshaling relevant arguments, even without their clients’ assistance.”

Thomas ruled in the consolidated cases of Gonzales and Carter, both on death row. Gonzales was convicted in the stabbing death of an Arizona man during a burglary of his home, while Carter was convicted in the rape and stabbing death of his adoptive grandmother in Ohio. Thomas’ decision could benefit Carter when the courts consider his case on remand.

Thomas said there is no right to competency deriving a federal statute providing for the appointment of counsel for indigent capital defendants pursuing habeas appeals. Nor is there a right in a federal law providing for competency proceedings before trial, or after the beginning of probation or supervised release, he said.

Thomas did acknowledge, however, that federal judges had the equitable power to stay proceedings based on incompetence of a habeas petitioner, reported the ABA Journal 
To read the full opinion:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

W. Va. seek Justice Reinvestment to ease prison crowding

West Virginia joins a growing number of states turning to Justice Reinvestment to ease prion crowding, reported WVVA-TV.

A new study of West Virginia's inmate crowding crisis is proposing solutions that researchers say will save the state $140 million.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin outlined recommendations from the Justice Reinvestment project which is responsible for the study.

Researchers from the Justice Center at the nonpartisan Council of State Governments have spent months scrutinizing West Virginia's crowding crisis.

West Virginia prisons are at capacity. Officials say jails have hundreds more inmates than they were designed for.

The study proposes a science-based method for assessing the risk of offenders as they enter the criminal justice system. It says the state must ensure that no one is released from prison unsupervised.

But it also calls on the state to strengthen community supervision programs. That will include devoting more than $25 million toward substance abuse and addiction treatment.

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Florida: 49th in mental health funding, first in gun ownership

With Florida’s tax code more business-friendly in recent years, economic incentives and tax breaks have flowed to companies and industries currently under fire for their roles in America’s gun violence, reported the Miami Herald.

Meanwhile, the state has cut funding for mental healthcare and school safety programs, two areas at the forefront of the national gun-control debate.

While it has become more difficult and expensive to access mental healthcare in Florida, it is getting easier and cheaper to obtain high-powered weapons. Last year, the Legislature cut the cost of obtaining a weapons license by $5, and a string of gun-friendly measures has boosted the number of concealed firearms carriers past one million.

Nationally, Florida ranks 49th in mental health funding, and first in gun ownership, reported the Herald. The state has been a trailblazer in providing lucrative tax incentives to a smorgasbord of companies in return for promises to create jobs.

In 2012, a tough budget year when the Legislature cut funding for school safety by $1.8 million and Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $5.7 million for mental health programs, lawmakers were able to find more than $10 million for economic incentives that went to violent film productions, bloody video games and gun manufacturers.

In South Florida, that meant millions of fewer dollars for mentally ill prisoners, while movie-maker Michael Bay received $4.2 million in tax breaks to produce Pain & Gain, an action film about South Beach bodybuilders who become violent criminals, reported the Herald.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

President Obama's Second Inaugural Address

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than 200 years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America's possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and social security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are na├»ve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice — not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.

It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation's task — to make these words, these rights, these values — of Life, and Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and 40 years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction — and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.

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Tennessee: Victim of statutory rape can be an accomplice

In 2008, an Arkansan teenager called an adult family friend in Tennessee and asked him to pick her up, according to prosecutors, and the two engaged in consensual sex multiple times.

After a jury convicted the man of aggravated statutory rape in 2010, his attorneys appealed. Part of the defense was that since the girl was technically an accomplice in the sex acts, her testimony needed additional proof, according to the Tennessean.

Under Tennessee law, a victim of statutory rape can be considered an accomplice in the crime against her, though that might not be the case for long.

The state Supreme Court has agreed to take on the case of Arkansas girl and the man from Tennessee, which could lead it to dust off and possibly overturn the arcane interpretation of the law.

The rule, which has gone unchallenged for more than a century, emerged from an 1895 incest case in which a Tennessee court found no “evidence of force” in a case involving an uncle having sex with his niece. The court ruled, however, that both could be convicted of incest, reported the Tennessean.

To have such an interpretation on the books in the 21st century is an outrage, some observers say.

“We cannot expect victims to feel safe enough to break free and seek relief when they face the prospect of being victimized again by our legal system,” Cathy Gurley, executive director of You Have the Power, a victims’ rights organization told the Tennessean.

The rule, she said, “undermines society’s obligation to protect children.”

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Matter of Life or Death

Matthew T. Mangino
January 18, 2013

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post wrote recently that President Barack Obama’s “gun proposals are a matter of life and death.” There are already laws on the books in many states across the country that lawmakers have argued are “a matter of life and death.” Those laws, the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground, are under growing scrutiny.

Though the laws vary in application state by state, each are founded on the idea that law-abiding citizens have the right to defend themselves. In some states the "duty to retreat" from danger, even in public, has been eliminated by lawmakers. As of last summer at least 24 states have passed some form of self-defense legislation.

Florida was the first state to pass a sweeping Stand Your Ground statute. The law gained international notoriety with the killing of Trayvon Martin. However, last week, state Rep. Alan Williams filed a bill proposing a full repeal of the law, saying the law discouraged people from making a responsible threat assessment.

There are a steady stream of stories about killings that may not have occurred but for the introduction of the Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground. According to the Christian Science Monitor, an unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis was allegedly shot and killed in Florida by an adult man after an argument about a loud car stereo outside a convenience store.

In March 2012, a homeowner in Wisconsin discovered an unarmed 20-year-old on his porch early one morning. According to friends, the man was trying to evade police responding to a noise complaint at a neighboring underage drinking party. The homeowner shot and killed the man, thinking he was a burglar. The shooter was not charged by the local district attorney, reported ProPublica.
In April, 22-year-old Cordell Jude shot and killed Daniel Adkins Jr., a pedestrian who walked in front of Jude’s car just as Jude was pulling up to the window of a Taco Bell drive-thru in Arizona, reported ProPublica. Jude claimed Adkins had waved his arms in the air, wielding what Jude thought was a metal pipe—it was actually a dog leash. Jude shot the 29-year-old Adkins, who was mentally disabled, once in the chest.

Last month, three teen boys were charged with murder in Alabama after their friend, Summer Moody, was shot last April. When a man caught the four breaking into fishing cottages in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, he allegedly fired a warning shot that killed Summer in what the district attorney called a "tragic accident." A grand jury indicted the three boys, not the man who shot Summer, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The idea and premise of Stand Your Ground produced another bizarre outcome in Connecticut. A man shot and killed his 15-year-old son during what he apparently thought was the attempted robbery of a neighbor's house, according CNN.

The fundamental question is—does the Castle Doctrine deter crime? The answer, according to researchers from Texas A&M, is no.

Professors Mark Hoekstra and Cheng Cheng from Texas A&M University found no evidence of deterrence on burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault as a result of self-defense legislation. In contrast, the researchers found significant evidence that the laws increase homicides.

Economists at Georgia State University also recently found that “Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in the number of homicides among whites, especially white males. According to our estimates, between 28 and 33 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these laws.”

(Matthew T. Mangino is the former district attorney of Lawrence County, PA and recently completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. Follow him on twitter @MatthewTMangino)

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Arkansas Governor Changes Position on Death Penalty

After running for governor as a supporter of the death penalty, Gov. Mike Beebe said recently that the experience of signing a death warrant for the first time caused his thinking on the issue to "evolve" and that he would sign legislation outlawing the punishment if legislators were to send him such a bill, According to The Associated Press.

The Democratic governor doesn't plan to make repealing the death penalty part of his legislative agenda for this year's session, nor does he intend to ask any lawmaker to introduce such legislation, Beebe's spokesman said. Several top lawmakers said it's unlikely legislators would propose a death penalty repeal.

Beebe said he changed his mind about the death penalty after having to sign his first death warrant, reported the AP.

"The awesome burden of being the last person to have to sign one of those things sobers you differently than talking about it in the abstract," Beebe said.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

The Cautionary Instruction: Pennsylvania only state in the nation not funding public defenders

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
January 18, 2013

 Last week in The Cautionary Instruction I wrote about sustaining the promise of fairness and justice established 50 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright. The watershed decision extended the right to counsel to all defendants charged with a felony, whether or not they could afford counsel.

Soon the right to counsel extended to custodial interrogations, Miranda v. Arizona; then to any crime, including misdemeanor and petty offense cases, Argersinger v. Hamlin; direct appeals, Douglas v. California; juvenile proceedings resulting in possible confinement, In re Gault; and certain probation and parole revocation hearings, Gagnon v. Scarpelli.

As the responsibility of indigent defense counsel, or public defenders as they became known, increased, many states began to take on the burden of financing the ever increasing cost. Every state in the country provides at least some funding for indigent defense, every state except one -- Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s Public Defender Act of 1968 provides for the establishment of a Public Defender in each county in Pennsylvania. It has remained an unfunded mandate for 45 years.

The Public Defender is appointed by the Board of County Commissioners and is funded exclusively with local funds. In fiscal year 2008, the total indigent defense expenditure statewide was approximately $95.5 million.

Several years ago a study was conducted by The Spangenberg Group of all 67 counties in Pennsylvania found that indigent defense in Pennsylvania was underfunded and the public defenders were seriously overworked.

In December of 2011, the Joint State Government Committee’s Task Force on Service to Indigent Defendants issued their report. The task force found, “The lack of state financial support and oversight has led to a service deficiency Syndrome.” Each of Pennsylvania’s counties organizes its own indigent defense delivery system.

The level of service varies from county to county. Several years ago, during the infamous "kids for cash" scandal in Luzerne County, nearly 50 percent of the juvenile defendants who appeared in court did not have attorneys because the Public Defender's Office lacked the resources to represent them.

Last spring, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit against Luzerne County, alleging that gross and chronic underfunding of the Public Defender’s office has led to widespread violations of the constitutional right to adequate counsel for indigent criminal defendants.

Locally, the amount of money allocated for county public defenders varies based on the size of the county. An informal survey of county defender budgets revealed the following: Allegheny County, $7.6 million; Butler County, $738,129; Lawrence County, $613,666; Washington County, $811,221; and Westmoreland County $1.4 million.

About 20 years ago, Justice Harry Blackmun estimated that a properly conducted capital trial can require hundreds of hours of investigation, preparation and lengthy trial proceedings. Today, court-appointed lawyers in Philadelphia homicide cases get $2,000 for trial preparation and $400 a day during trial. Using Justice Blackmun’s figures capital defense counsel make about $10 an hour.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mangino Interviewed on WKBN-TV

Click on WKBN-TV to see my interview about the settlement of a multi-party law suit against JFK High School and the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio alleging sex abuse at the hands of a Franciscan Brother.

Click here for more WKBN-TV

Virginia carries out first execution of 2013

The 1st Execution of 2013

Robert Charles Gleason Jr., who admitted to strangling two fellow prison inmates and threatened to continue killing until he received the death penalty, was executed in Virginia, reported Reuters.  Gleason was a volunteer, he waived his appeals and wanted to be executed.

His attorneys had argued the time he spent in solitary confinement on death row left him unable to make rational decisions, a claim authorities rejected.

Gleason was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m.on January 16, 2013 according to a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections. In his last statement, Gleason uttered the Irish Gaelic phrase "Pog mo thoin," or "Kiss my ass."

Virginia is one of nine U.S. states where inmates can choose to be executed either by electrocution or lethal injection, the more commonly used method to carry out executions in the United States.  Gleason was executed in the electric chair.

Gleason was serving life in prison without parole for a 2007 murder when he admitted to using strips from bed sheets to bind and strangle Harvey Watson, a 63-year-old inmate at Virginia's Wallens Ridge State Prison in May 2009, according to Reuters.

According to court documents, Gleason told authorities he timed the murder to coincide with the second anniversary of the previous homicide he carried out.

He admitted to tying Watson's hands without a struggle after telling him he had come up with a way for the two to escape. According Reuters, Court records show he taunted Watson before he strangled him by pressing a urine-soaked sponge onto his face and a sock into his mouth.

Gleason attacked another inmate in July 2010 at the maximum-security Red Onion State Prison while he waited to be sentenced for killing Watson, according to court records.

Gleason said he asked fellow inmate Aaron A. Cooper to try on a "religious necklace," which Gleason threaded through a wire fence separating the two while they were in solitary recreation pens, reported Reuters.

Gleason testified that he choked Cooper through the fence "till he turned purple," waited for his skin color to return to normal, then choked him to death.

Cooper's mother has sued the Virginia prison system, accusing prison authorities of giving Gleason the opportunity to murder her son after Gleason told guards he planned to kill again.

During court proceedings, Gleason indicated he intended to keep killing unless he was given the death penalty, according to the state Attorney General's Office. According to Reuters, Gleason told a federal judge earlier this month he did not want a lawyer and called for his execution to proceed.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane Makes History

Vowing to "just get it done," Kathleen G. Kane was sworn into office as Pennsylvania's new attorney general, becoming the first elected woman and the first Democrat to serve as the state's attorney general.

"It is time for action. It is time to take our streets back, our schools, our children," Kane, 46, a former Lackawanna County prosecutor, told the capacity crowd that filled the Capitol rotunda for her inaugural speech. "With every election as a new day, we have an opportunity for progress," said Kane, reported the Allentown Morning Call.

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Wyoming law to make all juvenile killers eligible for parole

A bill to bring Wyoming law into compliance with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Miller v. Alabama, that outlawed mandatory life sentences for juvenile killers cleared its first hearing last week, according to The Associated Press.

The House Judiciary Committee endorsed a bill that would change Wyoming law so that juveniles convicted of first-degree murder would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years.

Existing Wyoming law leaves judges only a choice between sentencing juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to life, or life without the possibility of parole. The only way out of prison for someone serving a basic life sentence is for the governor to commute the sentence or grant a pardon, reports the AP.

Miller left open the possibility that judges could still impose life sentences on juvenile killers as long as they also considered alternative sentences. For instance, new legislation in Pennsylvania provides that a judge could sentence a juvenile 15 years of age and older to 35 years or life.  A juvenile 14 years of age or younger 25 years or life.

Wyoming proposed legislation is different. It would specify that all juveniles sentenced for first-degree murder would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years, although the parole board would have the discretion to refuse parole.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Barriers to Employment Thwart Re-entry

The Pennsylvania Law Weekly
January 15, 2013

Pennsylvania, like many states across the country, is looking to ease persistent budget woes by reducing the state prison population.

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is one example of Pennsylvania's efforts. The Department of Corrections looks to save money by improving on institutional inefficiencies and creating incentives for local counties to find alternatives to state incarceration. In turn, some of the savings would be distributed to state parole, county probation and local police to improve services — a laudable goal.

There is another way to lower prison costs, reduce victimization and generate tax revenue: remove barriers to employment for previously incarcerated offenders.

An offender facing reintegration into the community must deal with many obstacles. Finding employment may be the most difficult obstacle and yet may be the most important component of success. Offenders returning home from prison often identify employment as the most important factor that helped them stay crime-free, according to the National Re-entry Resource Center.

The unemployment rate of formerly incarcerated offenders one year after release may be as high as 60 percent, according to Joan Petersilia in When Prisoners Come Home, and there is an increasing reluctance among employers to hire people with criminal histories.

Further, studies show that inmates re-entering communities are most vulnerable to failure in the early stages after release from jail or prison. Offenders who do not reintegrate successfully into society often do it early; within three years of release, four out of 10 prisoners will have committed new crimes or violated the terms of their release and will be reincarcerated, according to the Pew Center on the States.

Formerly incarcerated men earn approximately 40 percent less per year than those who have never been incarcerated. Unfortunately, many offenders are ill-equipped to break the cycle of reincarceration. They lack the education and workforce skills needed to succeed in the labor market and the problem-solving skills needed to address the challenges of re-entry, according to Doris Layton MacKenzie in What Works in Corrections.

MacKenzie recently wrote that a growing body of evidence shows that providing offenders with education and training increases their employment opportunities, addresses their cognitive deficits and helps reduce their likelihood of recidivating.

There are certainly relevant concerns for employers that are seeking to fill ?vacancies in their workforces.

How does an employer know when it's alright to disregard a criminal record? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are looking for the answer. Professors Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura believe their research provides criminal justice practitioners with a scientific method for estimating how long is long enough for someone with a prior record to remain arrest-free before being considered "redeemed" by a prospective employer.

Their research found, in part, that an 18-year-old convicted of robbery is no more likely to commit another crime than the rest of the population once 7.7 years have passed crime-free since the offense.

The research is promising for former offenders who have remained crime-free, but it takes legislative action to remove the barriers to employment. Those most burdened by criminal records are those with felony convictions. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have been reluctant to deal with even minor criminal convictions other than summary offenses.

For years, Pennsylvania has prohibited private employers from considering conviction records that "do not relate to the applicant's suitability for employment," per 18 Pa.C.S. §9125. Employers must provide written notification if denial was based on the applicant's criminal history.

Pennsylvania's neighbor to the east, New Jersey, allows certain nonviolent felony convictions to be expunged 10 years after release from confinement. For misdemeanors, the waiting period is five years.

Pennsylvania's neighbor to the west, Ohio, has a new law seeking to make the employment process easier for nonviolent offenders released from prison. The legislation breaks down employment barriers that commonly get in the way of ex-offenders trying to adjust to life on the street.

Even some traditional "law and order" states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina recognized that old, minor offenses can plague job-seekers for years and took positive steps to allow the expungement of a number of low-level offenses.

In 2008, Pennsylvania extended its expungement law to allow those convicted of summary offenses to petition the courts to have their records cleared after five years without an arrest.

According to The Allentown Morning Call, nationwide, 37 states and the District of Columbia allow expungements for at least some misdemeanor offenses. Twenty-six states allow some felonies to be expunged.

In Pennsylvania, expanding expungement beyond summary offenses has failed during the last two legislative sessions. Two sessions ago, legislation to expunge misdemeanors passed the House of Representatives. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported the bill out from committee but the bill sat without a vote for the remainder of the session.

During the last legislative session, Senator Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, introduced SB 1220. The proposed legislation provided that an offender may seek to remove a conviction if it was a misdemeanor of the third degree and the offender has been free of arrest for seven years or a misdemeanor of the second degree if the offender has been free of arrest for 10 years following release from confinement or community supervision.

The bill had bipartisan support. According to The Morning Call, Solobay believes the legislation stalled because of opposition from Governor Tom Corbett.

Pennsylvania needs to pursue meaningful reform that lifts employment barriers for former offenders. Such an effort will lower prison costs — fewer offenders will be returned to prison; prevent additional victimization — offenders gainfully employed are less likely to reoffend; and generate tax revenue — employed former offenders pay taxes. That is a smart approach to lowering prison costs.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Louisiana is the world's prison capital

Louisiana is the world's prison capital, according to the Times-Picayune. The state imprisons more of its people, per capita, than any other state. First in America means first in the world. Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran's, 13 times China's and 20 times Germany's.

The hidden engine behind the state's well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash. A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.

Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations.

If the inmate count dips, sheriffs bleed money. Their constituents lose jobs. The prison lobby ensures this does not happen by thwarting nearly every reform that could result in fewer people behind bars.

In the past two decades, Louisiana's prison population has doubled, costing taxpayers billions while New Orleans continues to lead the nation in homicides, reported the Times-Picayune.

One in 86 adult Louisianians is doing time, nearly double the national average. Among black men from New Orleans, one in 14 is behind bars; one in seven is either in prison, on parole or on probation. Crime rates in Louisiana are relatively high, but that does not begin to explain the state's No. 1 ranking, year after year, in the percentage of residents it locks up.

Louisiana also specializes in incarceration on the cheap, allocating by far the least money per inmate of any state. The $24.39 per diem is several times lower than what Angola and other state-run prisons spend -- even before the sheriff takes his share, according to the Times-Picayune. All local wardens can offer is GED classes and perhaps an inmate-led support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Their facilities are cramped and airless compared with the spacious grounds of state prisons, where inmates walk along outdoor breezeways and stay busy with jobs or classes.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Keeping schools safe without armed guards

Marc Brenman is the former Executive Director of the Washington State Human Rights Commission and co-author of “Planning as if People Matter: Governing for Social Equity.“ He has compiled a very detailed plan and ideas to deal with gun and school violence that was posted on Joanne Tosti-Vasey website Blogging for Equality.  Here are a few excerpts:

Provide ways for students to report rumors or concerns and ensuring that students trust and feel connected to adults at their school. Recent studies by the Secret Service show that in the vast majority of student shootings, other students on the campus were aware of the event before it occurred.

Use tip lines. Tip lines acknowledge the key role that students and community members play in keeping schools safe. They also provide a deterrent effect that may preclude acts of crime and violence from occurring. Advice from educators and law enforcers around the country underscores several key recommendations for successful tip line management:

■Make the tip line a collaborative, communitywide effort; involve students in planning and managing the tip line; regularly publicize and promote the tip line;

■Protect privacy and caller anonymity;

■Keep callers informed of progress; and

■Provide incentives or rewards.

Training every staff member to look for signs of “off behavior,” even subtle ones, from people who come into school buildings, is critical. Use a threat assessment approach. Look at the person’s personal risk factors and ask,

■“Do they have a history of mental illness?”

■If students, what kinds of behavioral problems have they had? What are their relationships like?

Also look at protective factors:

■Do they have someone they can talk to?

■Are there guns in the home? Are they locked up?

■Are there signs such as social withdrawal, irritability, and a change in habits?

The best predictor of future behavior is past behaviors. A history of violence towards family members, toward others, towards animals is a warning sign. A common pattern for school shooters is being male, having a history of loss or a perceived failure or rejection, and having access to firearms.

For example, despite being rejected by the military because of a history of illicit drug use and being kicked out of a community college for repeated incidents of threatening and bizarre behavior, Jared Loughner, the Tucson, Arizona, mass gun murderer, legally purchased a semi-automatic pistol with a magazine capable of holding 30 rounds of ammunition.

“Some warning signs carry more weight than others. For instance, a fascination with, and possession of, firearms are more significant than being a loner, because possession of firearms gives one the capacity to carry out an attack.”

According to Roger Depue in the Virginia Tech Review Panel Report, the “following are some warning signs (indicators and red flags) associated with school shootings in the United States. Schools, places of employment, and other entities that are creating a threat assessment capability may want to be aware of these red flags:

■Violent fantasy content – Writings (Stories, essays, compositions),

■Drawings (Artwork depicting violence),

■Reading and viewing materials (Preference for books, magazines, television, video tapes and discs, movies, music, websites, and chat rooms with violent themes and degrading subject matter), and role playing acts of violence and degradation.

■Anger problems – Difficulty controlling anger, loss of temper, impulsivity,

■Making threats

■Fascination with weapons and accoutrements – Especially those designed and most often used to kill people (such as machine guns, semiautomatic pistols, snub nose revolvers, stilettos, bayonets, daggers, brass knuckles, special ammunition and explosives)

■Boasting and practicing of fighting and combat proficiency –

■Military and sharpshooter training, martial arts, use of garrotes, and knife fighting

■Loner – Isolated and socially withdrawn, misfit, prefers own company to the company of others

■Suicidal ideation –

■Depressed and expresses hopelessness and despair

■Reveals suicidal preparatory behavior

■Homicidal ideation –

■Expresses contempt for other(s)

■Makes comments and/or gestures indicating violent aggression

■Stalking – Follows, harasses, surveils, attempts to contact regardless of the victim’s expressed annoyance and demands to cease and desist

■Non-compliance and disciplinary problems – Refusal to abide by written and/or verbal rules

■Imitation of other murderers –

■Appearance, dress, grooming, possessions like those of violent shooters in past episodes (e.g. long black trench coats)

■Interest in previous shooting situations – Drawn toward media, books, entertainment, conversations dealing with past murders

■Victim/martyr self-concept – Fantasy that some day he will represent the oppressed and wreak vengeance on the oppressors

■Strangeness and aberrant behavior – Actions and words that cause people around him to become fearful and suspicious

■Paranoia – Belief that he is being singled out for unfair treatment and/or abuse; feeling persecuted.

■Violence and cruelty – A history of using violence to solve problems (fighting, hitting, etc.), abusing animals or weaker individuals

■Inappropriate affect – Enjoying cruel behavior and/or being able to view cruelty without being disturbed

■Acting out – Expressing disproportionate anger or humor in situations not warranting it, attacking surrogate targets

■Police contact – A history of contact with police for anger, stalking, disorderly conduct;

■Past temporary restraining orders (or similar court orders),

■A jail/prison record for aggressive crimes

■Mental health history related to dangerousness – A history of referral or commitments to mental health facilities for aggressive/destructive behavior

■Expressionless face/anhedonia – An inability to express and/or experience joy and pleasure

■Unusual interest in police, military, terrorist activities and materials

■Vehicles resembling police cars, military vehicles, surveillance equipment, handcuffs, weapons, clothing (camouflage, ski masks, etc.)

■Use of alcohol/drugs – Alcohol/drugs are used to reduce inhibitions so that aggressive behaviors are more easily expressed

To read more:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

PA closing two prisons, will save $23 million

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections will close state prisons at Cresson in Cambria County and Greensburg in Westmoreland County and open a new prison in Benner Township in Centre County, reported the Morning Call. The move is expected to save about $23 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1, said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.

The 800 employees who will be affected by the closings will be moved to new jobs within the Corrections Department, Wetzel said.

Completed a year ago at a cost of about $200 million, the new prison will house about 2,300 inmates. Inmates from the Cresson Prison, which was largely a mental health facility, will receive those services at Benner and neighboring Rockview State Prison.

Lawmakers whose districts include the prisons were informed of the move this week, leading to some grumbling about short notice, reported the Morning Call. Wetzel shot back at critics saying the timing had been appropriate. But he noted, "if they want a hearing, they'll get a hearing."

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Friday, January 11, 2013

The Cautionary Instruction: Sustaining the promise of fairness and justice

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
January 11, 2013

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright. In Gideon, the Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required to provide legal counsel for those defendants accused of a crime who cannot afford an attorney.

The decision is recognized as one of the most important of the 20th century. At the time of the decision a substantial majority of states were already doing what the Supreme Court said the Sixth Amendment, by way of the Fourteenth Amendment, required.

Thirty-seven states provided for the appointment of counsel by statute, administrative rule or court decision. Eight states provided counsel as a matter of practice. Only five states — Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina — did not provide counsel for indigent defendants.

Fifty years after Gideon the focus has evolved from merely the right to counsel — to the right to effective representation. That representation has turned from insuring a fair trial to insuring effective assistance on matters such as plea bargaining and the collateral consequences of sentencing.

The more important issue today — as states and local municipalities struggle with declining budget revenues — how will public defenders and court-appointed counsel react to fewer dollars for indigent defense?

In Philadelphia, city officials spend spends $8 to $10 million a year on conflict counsel working predominately in the criminal courts. Conflict counsel are defense attorneys appointed by the court when a conflict exists between two or more indigent defendants charged in the same case. From July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, there were 22,441 conflict appointments in Philadelphia courtrooms.

The city wants to contract with an office or firm that would handle the cases instead of 100s of individual attorneys. City officials say a new system could improve the defense that indigent people receive from court-appointed counsel. They may be right.

Researchers at RAND analyzed the outcomes of several thousand murder cases in Philadelphia where the public defender’s office represented some and court-appointed conflict counsel represented the remainder. Compared to the conflict counsel, the public defenders “reduce their clients’ murder conviction rate by 19 percent and lowered the probability that their clients would receive a life sentence by 62 percent.”

Attorney Sam Stretton, who has represented many court-appointed defendants, suggests Philadelphia simply wants to cut costs. “The city is not doing this to help indigents. They’re doing this because they think they can get a cheaper system. And that’s wrong.”

Several years ago, the Defender Association of Philadelphia presented compelling testimony before Pennsylvania’s Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on crime and drugs. The association argued: "Public defenders, as well as private court appointed-counsel are overworked and grossly underpaid. The inevitable result of reduced funding and increased caseloads.”

Today, counties are in the untenable position of weathering difficult economic times, providing essential services to taxpayers and insuring that justice is afforded to the indigent.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fifth Circuit: Miller not retroactive

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals joined the mix of courts who have decide the retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory life in prison without parole for juveniles committing first degree murder.

In Craig v. Cain, No. 12-30035 the Fifth Circuit ruled that "Miller is an outgrowth of the Court's prior decisions that pertain to individualized-sentencing determinations.  The holding in Miller does not qualify as a 'watershed rule of criminal procedure implicating the fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding.'"

Dale Cain was 17-years-old when he committed murder.  He was sentenced to death.  His sentence was commuted to life without parole after Roper v. Simmons.  Now, he sought retroactive application of Miller to get his life sentence commuted.

The issue of Miller's retroactivity is all over the map--literally.  Pennsylvania is waiting on two state Supreme Court decisions on the issue of Miller and retroactivity.  Iowa's governor issued a "harsh" blanket commutation, a Florida court denied retroactivity, Michigan's attorney general has taken action as well as the legislatures or courts in North Carolina, California, New Hampshire, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Studies: 'Stand your ground' increases homicides

In 2005, Florida became the first of nearly two-dozen states to pass a "stand your ground" law that removed the requirement to retreat. If you felt at risk outside of your home--in a park or on the street--you could use lethal force to defend yourself.

Now, researchers who've studied the effect of the laws have found that states with a stand your ground law have more homicides than states without such laws, reported NPR.

"These laws lower the cost of using lethal force," Mark Hoekstra an economist with Texas A&M University who examined stand your ground laws, told NPR. "Our study finds that, as a result, you get more of it."

 A committee analyzing the Florida statute has found no increase in violence as a result of the law.

Because murder is a rare phenomenon, the numbers in any given state can be hard to analyze. It can be difficult, for example, to disentangle the effects of stand your ground statutes from other trends, such as natural fluctuations in the crime rate. Until now, there has been little attempt to rigorously study these laws at a national level.

Hoekstra recently decided to analyze national crime statistics to see what happens in states that pass stand your ground laws. He found the laws are having a measurable effect on the homicide rate.
"Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn't pass the laws over the same time period," he told NPR.

"We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws," he said. There are about 14,000 homicides annually in the United States as a whole.
The fact that more people are being killed doesn't automatically mean the law isn't working. Hoekstra says there are at least three possible explanations.

"One possibility for the increase in homicide is that perhaps [in cases where] there would have been a fistfight ... now, because of stand your ground laws, it's possible that those escalate into something much more violent and lethal," says Hoekstra.

In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate.

Stanford law professor John Donohue told NPR, the laws might end up being a refuge for some defendants.

"I've been hearing from defense lawyers around the country that if they happen to have a criminal defendant in a stand your ground jurisdiction, pretty much no matter what happens, you can say, 'Well, I shot the guy, but I felt threatened and had a reasonable basis for fearing injury to myself,' " he said.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Corrections Population Decrease is Largest One-Year Drop Since 1971

Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel announced that the agency ended the calendar year with a population of 51,184 inmates.

“This is a decrease of 454 inmates from last calendar year,” said DOC Planning, Research and Statistics Director Kristofer Bucklen. “This also was the largest one-year drop in our population since 1971, and only the third time in the past 40 years that our population has shown an annual decrease rather than an increase.”

“Our declining inmate population shows that we are on the right track to improving our corrections system,” Wetzel said. “Gov. Corbett began leading this reform by ordering the corrections system to analyze and improve ourselves.’’

“This is a strong indication that the Corbett Corrections Reform is starting to yield results for the citizens of Pennsylvania. At the same time, the Governor initiated the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), in which he set the benchmark by urging JRI members to reach their goals in only a matter of months. In other states, similar efforts take years. Taking a bi-partisan, participatory planning approach, this process should allow us to build on the progress we’ve made within the administration.”

This population decrease was a joint accomplishment involving many in the criminal justice continuum, especially the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Wetzel said.

Fewer court commitments combined with policy changes that enable Pennsylvania to both reduce spending and increase public safety are beginning to take shape, Wetzel added.

Wetzel also said that his agency plans to release a new landmark recidivism report within the next few months which will become the benchmark for reporting recidivism and crime reduction resulting from corrections reform, as well as provide citizens the opportunity to measure the results.

In California rape is not rape if victim is unmarried

A California 2nd District Court of Appeal's decision recently concluded a man had not raped an 18-year-old woman because a state law crafted in the 1870s says a person who gets consent for sex by pretending to be someone else is only guilty of rape if the victim is married and the perpetrator is pretending to be the spouse.

According to The Associated Press, the victim said her boyfriend was in the room when she fell asleep following a night of partying with Jose Morales and others. They opted not to have sex that night because he didn't have a condom. After the boyfriend left, Morales entered her room and they began having sex.

It wasn't until a ray of light from outside the room illuminated Morales' face that the woman realized it wasn't her boyfriend, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys argued Morales believed the sex was consensual because the victim responded to his kisses and caresses, reported the AP.

The appellate ruling said Morales gave conflicting testimony about whether he tried to identify himself. The court, which remanded the case back for retrial, noted prosecutors had argued two theories and it wasn't clear which the jury used for the conviction that led to a three-year prison sentence: that Morales "tricked, lied to, or concealed information" from the victim, or because he had sex with the woman while she slept. The latter is already defined as rape under state law.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose prosecutors handled the appellate case, promised to work with legislators to amend the law.

"The evidence is clear that this case involved a nonconsensual assault that fits within the general understanding of what constitutes rape," Harris said in a statement, reported by the AP. "This law is arcane and I will work with the Legislature to fix it."

A similar law in Idaho prevented an unmarried woman from pressing rape charges three years ago after being tricked into sex with a stranger by her then-boyfriend. Idaho's law was amended to cover all women in 2011.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Key ruling 50 years later

The Youngstown Vindicator
Januray 6, 2013

This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the argument of Gideon v. Wainwright before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Gideon, a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required to provide legal counsel for those defendants accused of a crime who cannot afford a lawyer.

The decision is recognized as one of the most important of the 20th century. The decision brought into the national lexicon a line known by anyone who has ever watched a television crime drama, “[Y]ou have the right to an attorney if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you ...”

Did the Gideon decision alter the legal landscape a half-century ago?

Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment provides, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

In 1932, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Powell v. Alabama. The court ruled that the U.S. Constitution requires defendants in capital cases be given access to counsel upon request.

Ten years later in Betts v. Brady the court refused to extend the right to counsel to criminal charges other than capital murder. In Betts, it was held that a refusal to appoint counsel for an indigent defendant charged with a felony did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Then came Clarence Earl Gideon, a 51 year-old drifter and petty-thief. He was charged with breaking and entering in Florida. The charge was a felony and when Gideon first appeared before the court he was without funds, without counsel and he asked the court to appoint him a lawyer.

The judge apologized to Gideon and said that Florida law only provides for counsel in capital cases. Gideon replied, “The United States Supreme Court says I am entitled to be represented by counsel.”

Gideon represented himself, was convicted and appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. His appeal was denied and his case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court appointed a very capable attorney, Abe Fortas, to represent Gideon. Fortas would one day take a seat on the Supreme Court.

Fortas’ argument before the court was deliberate, learned and convincing. Fortas told the court that the federal government already recognized that the Sixth Amendment required the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants facing felony charges.

state statutes

He also pointed out that 37 states provided for the appointment of counsel by statute, administrative rule or court decision. Eight states provided counsel as a matter of practice. In an unprecedented act of support for the rights of those accused of a crime, 22 state attorneys general joined Gideon in urging the court to establish an absolute constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases. Only five states — Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina — did not provide counsel for indigent defendants.

Justice George Sutherland wrote in Powell some 30 years before Gideon, “Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law.” Fortas argued in Gideon, “You cannot have a fair trial without counsel.”

The concept was not new. More than a century earlier Abraham Lincoln said, “A person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Fortas also ably pointed out that when Clarence Darrow, one of the greatest trial lawyers in American jurisprudence, was charged with a crime, “he hired a lawyer.”

By modern standards Justice Hugo Black’s opinion in Gideon was not very long, only about 2,500 words. In contrast, the opinion this summer regarding President Obama’s health care plan, including dissenting opinions, was 392 pages.

Effective Counsel

Fifty years after Gideon the focus has evolved from merely the right to counsel — to the right to effective representation. That representation has turned from insuring a fair trial to insuring effective assistance on matters such as plea bargaining and the collateral consequences of sentencing.

The more important issue today — as states and local municipalities struggle with declining budget revenues — how will public defenders and court appointed counsel react to fewer dollars for indigent defense?

Will Gideon’s promise of fairness and justice be strained as revenue disappears?

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Maryland panel proposes gun seizures from some mentally ill

A 17-member task force, created by the Maryland General Assembly, was charged with examining the state's laws that prohibit gun purchases by some people who have been hospitalized for mental illnesses, reported the Baltimore Sun.

In particular, the panel was asked to look at whether the laws effectively protect the public, safeguard civil rights, and give law enforcement appropriate access to mental health records. And it was asked to recommend whether the access laws should be stricter.

The panel did not answer those questions. Patrick Dooley, task force co-chair and chief of staff at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said members found insufficient data to suggest that mentally ill people should for that reason alone be denied access to firearms.

"There wasn't that overwhelmingly strong connection," Dooley told the Sun. "We chose instead to focus on people who are making credible threats." The panel included law enforcement officials, gun-rights advocates, mental health experts, attorneys and policy experts.

The task force did propose authorizing police to seize firearms from individuals deemed a credible threat to themselves or others. Such seizures, the panel said, would take place after law enforcement "substantiated" reports from mental health providers, social workers and other professionals.

According to the Sun, other suggestions by the task force include:

•Preventing someone without immediate access to guns from purchasing them if he or she is deemed a credible threat.
•Mandatory reporting of threats by mental health professionals and others.
•More mental health training for police officers.
•More education on firearm laws for mental health providers.
•Establishing mental health crisis teams similar to one Montgomery County.
•Using revenue from gun permits and licenses to pay for training.
•Crafting a way for people who lose access to guns to get them back.
•Additional studies to look at the prevalence of mental illness among criminals as well as links among substance abuse, mental health and violence.

To read more:,0,4708217.story  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Psychologist: 'Killing of innocent people can't necessarily be prevented'

"There is no instrument that is specifically useful or validated for identifying potential school shooters or mass murderers,” Stephen D. Hart, a psychologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver who is the co-author of a widely used evaluation tool. told the Washington Post. “There are many things in life where we have an inadequate evidence base, and this is one of them.”

Even when someone has a history of threatening behavior, the killing of innocent people can’t necessarily be prevented.

The task of identifying violence-prone individuals is even trickier with young people, who have shorter histories and whose normal development often includes a period of antisocial behavior.

Psychologists and psychiatrists have been working for decades to try to figure out whether there’s a link between mental illness and violence, and if so, which people are likely to act. Using an ever-changing tool kit of theories and questionnaires, they’ve made some progress, according to the Post.

It’s now fairly clear, for example, that people with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and some personality disorders, are more likely to commit violent acts than others. But the risk is small. The vast majority of mentally ill people won’t commit assault, rape, arson or homicide, although the risk rises sharply among those who abuse drugs and alcohol.

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