of Michigan prisoners sentenced to life for crimes committed while they were minors. [more inside]
takes aim at the American criminal justice system in three articles from their latest edition: An opinion piece
on mandatory life sentences without parole, a more in-depth view
of some specific instances and of the data, and a look at the practice of charging fees
to those convicted, or even just accused.
A son kills a father and the question is why. In the case of 10-year-old Joseph Hall, the answer seemed simple: The boy had been raised around hate."
Amy Wallace digs into a case of a young boy who killed his Neo-Nazi father: "A Very Dangerous Boy"
Remember the Central Park jogger case
from 1990? Here's a (lengthy, fascinating) New York Magazine article
discussing the case just around the time of the 2002 exoneration
of the initial five accused, four of whom had previously confessed to the crime. 24 years after the attack, a group of filmmakers, together with the five wrongly convicted men, have created a documentary telling the tale: The Central Park Five
. Criminal reform activists everywhere are hoping the story might change a few minds
Can forgiveness play a role in criminal justice?
This week, the magazine tells the compelling and difficult story of the Grosmaire and McBride families
, who together sought an alternative approach to justice after Conor McBride shot and killed his girlfriend Ann Grosmaire
After decades of increases, the number of adults in the U.S. who are in prison, jail, on parole, or on probation has declined over the last few years. The pdf of the report from the U.S. Department of Justice is here
. Comments from Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution
, Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog
, and Keith Humphreys
Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System
. Michelle Alexander argues that ubiquitous plea bargains have allowed America's politicians and judicial system to short-circuit constitutional due process and ignore the mechanics of mass incarceration. If everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation.
All this brings me to an Indian I want you to know better than his jury did—Douglas Ray Stankewitz, the longest tenured inmate on California’s death row. Like most Indians who find themselves in a group of non-Indians, he is currently known as Chief, but unlike many Indians, he is proud of the nickname.
The government wants to kill Chief because Theresa Greybeal was shot dead in the course of a robbery by a group of people high on heroin, and there is no question that Chief was one of them. There is a serious question about who pulled the trigger, and juries are reluctant to kill individuals who did not pull the trigger. But as far as his jury knew, Douglas Stankewitz pulled the trigger. And he might have, but we will never know, based on his trial.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy
is the latest group to advocate an end to the drug war - but also an unusually high-profile one, including
former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Switzerland, Prime Minister of Greece, Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, George Shultz and Paul Volcker. Tomorrow, June 2, sees the launch of their report, which advocates treating recreational drug use (and abuse) as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice one. [more inside]
Within the realm of criminal justice policy, drug courts
have received growing attention and widespread adoption in the United States as a solution to cycles of addiction and incarceration. Their effectiveness has again been questioned, however, in recent reports released
by the Justice Policy Institute and the Drug Policy Alliance: Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependent on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities
and Drug Courts Are Not the Answer
. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals issued a lengthy initial response
, pointing to past research touting the success of the drug court model. [more inside]
"In many places the concentration [of convicted residents] is so dense that states are spending in excess of a million dollars a year to incarcerate the residents of single city blocks."
Using rarely accessible data from the criminal justice system, the Spatial Information Design Lab and the Justice Mapping Center have created maps of these “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities. The maps suggest that the criminal justice system has become the predominant government institution in these communities and that public investment in this system has resulted in significant costs to other elements of our civic infrastructure — education, housing, health, and family. Prisons and jails form the distant exostructure of many American cities today.
See the several linked pdfs.
The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system
As de Duve has written, “If … neuronal events in the brain determine behavior, irrespective of whether they are conscious or unconscious, it is hard to find room for free will. But if free will does not exist, there can be no responsibility, and the structure of human societies must be revised”.
Ben Libet & free will, previously on metafilter. (And more on: Lucretius, Dualism, Philosophy of mind, and Free Will 1, 2.)
The High Budgetary Cost of Incaceration
) "The United States currently incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world. We calculate that a reduction in incarceration rates just to the level we had in 1993 (which was already high by historical standards) would lower correctional expenditures by $16.9 billion per year, with the large majority of these savings accruing to financially squeezed state and local governments. As a group, state governments could save $7.6 billion, while local governments could save $7.2 billion."
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs)
are registered nurses who have special training and experience in forensic evidence collection (conducting “rape kits”) and survivor-centered care. They also increasingly conduct forensic examinations on suspects accused of sexual assault(PDF)
. There is evidence that, through this work, SANE programs increase the prosecution rates of sexual assault cases
. However, as a result of a recent Supreme Court Case, Crawford v. Washington
, the role of SANEs is being increasingly curtailed(behind a pay wall)
. [more inside]
writes in the London Review of Books on the James Bulger murder
It really should be read in conjunction with his earlier piece from 1993
to fully appreciate his stance. Previously   [more inside]
), a journalist for reason
magazine and writer of theagitator.com
blog, published a startling story at reason online today
(warning: disturbing photos and video) that convincingly suggests that the embattled doctors Steven Hayne and Michael West may have engaged in criminal evidence tampering that supported a capital murder conviction in the death of a 23 month old girl in Louisiana. Jimmie Duncan, the defendant, currently sits on death row. [more inside]
In the 1981 film Escape from New York
, the entire island of Manhattan had been converted to a self-sufficient, walled off open air prison, devoid of guards & cells. The fiction of the film bears an alarming similarity to the reality of life in San Pedro Prison
, a walled off, police-free convict slum in Bolivia's capital city, La Paz. This fascinating/horrifying experiment in criminal justice is the feature of a 2003 eponymous documentary
; some of the details include the story of a drug kingpin, unhappy with his cell, who had a second story constructed to allow more breathing room; or the prison soccer team, sponsored by coca-cola, or even the non-prisoner children of the imprisoned, who roam the streets of San Pedro
("At least this way the parents live with their kids, and the family stays together. Outside, they’d have nowhere to live").
Blunkett charges miscarriage of justice victims ‘food and lodgings’
We locked you up in jail for 25 years and you were innocent all along? That’ll be £80,000 please.
A report commissioned by outgoing Maryland governor Parris Glendening has found interesting racial disparities in the death penalty
: although it appears the race of the defendant
is irrelevant individually in the application of capital punishment, such is is not the case when one weighs in the race of the victim
of a crime, in which the killing of a white person by a black person nearly doubles the likelihood of the defendant receiving the death penalty, "primarily because they are substantially more likely to be charged by the state's attorney with a capital offense."
And now for something really depressing
- the Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains a database including the 'last statements' of all inmates executed since 1982.