Thursday, May 30, 2013
Non-prosecution deal worked out for Chuck Hagel's son on state marijuana chargeAs reported in this Washington Post piece, the son of a notable political figure just managed to avoid pursuit of a criminal prosecution on minor marijuana charges. The piece is headlined "Chuck Hagel’s son, Ziller Hagel, has marijuana charges dismissed," and here are the details:
Ziller Hagel, the 20-year-old son of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, was in Fairfax County District Court Wednesday morning, where charges stemming from a marijuana arrest last year were dismissed, records show.
Hagel, who attends college in the Chicago area, was arrested on the misdemeanor charge last June, but his case was continued several times last year and earlier this year....
Nina J. Ginsberg, an attorney for Hagel, said the arrest happened after police officers spotted him in a parked car near a park area at night, listening to music by himself. “They searched his car and found a tiny amount of marijuana, but no evidence whatsoever that he had used it or where it came from,” she said. “We had a real issue of whether they could prove it was there and whether there was a legitimate right to search the car.”
Hagel was ready to fight the charges; instead, he worked out a deal with prosecutors to complete 100 hours of community service, after which charges could be dropped. Ginsberg said his first hearing last summer was deferred pending results of a lab test, others to give him more time to finish a community service project slowed by an illness.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Lots of thoughts on how to save more innocent lives on highways
Is decreasing this number the best way to minimize traffic fatalities?
Here are the contribututions, with links via the commentary titles:
"Follow Up on a Life-Saving Trend" by Deborah A. P. Hersman, National Transportation Safety Board
"Tipsy Driving Is Dangerous, Too" by Barron H. Lerner, author, “One for the Road"
"Let’s Not Stigmatize Innocent Drivers" by Gary Biller, National Motorists Association
"Lower Levels Mean Fewer Fatalities" by Kathryn Stewart, Safety and Policy Analysis International
"Other Measures Are Just as Important" by Jan Withers, Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Thursday, May 16, 2013
When can and how should sex offenders be responsible for harming property values?The provocative question in the title of this post is prompted by this recent local article from Pennsylvania headlined "Judge: Sex offender not required to buy victim's property." Here are excerpts:
A Lehigh County couple who say a neighbor who admitted molesting their child should be forced to buy their property apparently won't get their wish.
County Judge Michele A. Varricchio has shot down the Upper Milford Township couple's unusual request that sex offender Oliver Larry Beck be required to purchase their $235,000 property, according to court records. Varricchio issued the order last week, explaining that forcing a sex offender to buy the home of a victim living in his neighborhood would "open the proverbial floodgates."
"This court finds it against public policy to require a defendant to purchase a plaintiff's property in a nuisance case," Varricchio wrote. The judge added that ordering the home purchase would "impose almost limitless liability on a property owner by every other neighbor who claims difficulty selling his or her property, regardless of the proximity to the alleged nuisance."
Varricchio was ruling on preliminary objections in a lawsuit filed against Beck, along with Beck's wife and mother. The couple whose daughter was molested by Beck filed the suit in December asking a judge to order Beck to buy their home and pay for the child's pain and suffering and for other damages. They claim the property is virtually unmarketable....
They still are eligible to seek damages for their child's suffering and for the loss in value of their property, although Varricchio said they are not entitled to be paid for the total value of the property. Varricchio's order says that that the victim's family should amend the lawsuit to provide details and proof of the loss in the value of their property.
"There is no doubt that the parents have a right to enjoy their own residence and property without the invasion and interference caused by [Beck]," Varricchio wrote. "Property rights are protected by the United States Constitution, but the equal protection clause affords both plaintiffs and defendants that protection."...
There is some scientific evidence that sex offenders lower property values. Two economics professors at Columbia Business School in 2008 studied the effect, finding that the value of homes within one-tenth of a mile of a sex offender dropped by an average of 4 percent.
The suit accuses Beck of sexual assault, infliction of emotional distress, fraud and negligence, among other claims. It also names as defendants Beck's wife and mother, claiming both knew or should have known of Beck's attraction to young children.
Beck, now 65, pleaded guilty in 2011 to indecent assault of a child under 13 and served time in prison. He is out of prison, but under Megan's Law must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Investigators said that in February 2011, Beck lured the victim, then 7 years old, into his house by saying he wanted to show her a bear's head mounted in his basement. After telling the girl to feel the bear, Beck told her to take off her shirt and pants and then assaulted her, according to court records.
Beck's attorney, Robert J. Magee of Allentown, wrote in a court brief that the demand for the home purchase was "not appropriate or authorized under a legal or equitable theory." He added that the victim's family is still able to use and enjoy the property. He added, "This is just a type of injury that allows for no recourse, an injury without a remedy."
Varricchio also dismissed the couple's request that Beck pay their attorneys' fees. In addition, she dismissed a claim against Beck's wife that she be held partly liable for their property value loss.
May 16, 2013 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Sex Offender Sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (27) | TrackBack
Friday, May 10, 2013
Notable new Oregon bill to allow some young sex offenders to get off registryIn this recent post about the Second Amendment rights of registered sex offenders prompted a lengthy comment thread about who does and does not end up on sex offender registries. With that discussion fresh in mind, I found this AP story about a bill making its way through the Oregon legislature interesting:
Some young offenders convicted of having sex with underage partners would be able to request the crime be removed from their records under a bill narrowly passed by the Oregon House on Wednesday. Voting 31 to 27, the House sent the bill to the Senate with little discussion.
Under the bill, in order for adult offenders to apply to have their records erased, coercion or force could not have been used in the sex act. Other conditions include completion of all required court-ordered programs and treatments.
Proponents say the current punishment for such sex offenders does not fit the crime. Opponents say people convicted of sex crimes often reoffend and should not be able to have their records expunged. "Individuals who commit sex offenses ... this isn't their first time and it won't be their last," said Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins, who opposes the bill on behalf of the Oregon District Attorneys Association. To say an act is consensual when it involves a person who is too young to give consent is indefensible and minimizes the law, Vitolins said.
For offenders to have their records cleared under the proposed law, they could be no more than five years older than the victim, and the victim must be at least 14. For sex crimes committed by a minor, the victim must be at least 12 and the age difference can be no more than three years.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, a sponsor, brought the legislation forward after hearing from a constituent who was 14 when his friend's parents reported him to the authorities for engaging in inappropriate behavior — which did not involve intercourse — with their young daughter. "This is the difference between a life of hopelessness and a future for this individual," the Portland Democrat told lawmakers last month.
Among those testifying for the bill was Matthew Shettles, who served three years' probation on a charge of sex abuse for having sex with his girlfriend in 2004 on the night of his high school graduation. In written testimony, Shettles said he had just turned 18 at the time and she was five weeks shy of 15. A counselor learned of the encounter and was required by a mandatory reporting law to inform authorities, he said.
He said having a sex crime on his record has made it difficult to get hired and rent an apartment. Employers and housing agencies often run criminal background checks. "It doesn't seem reasonable that a guy who had sex with his girlfriend should have to pay for the rest of his life," Shettles said in the written testimony.
Under the bill, only sex crimes that meet a specific set of requirements could be erased from an offender's record. Among other things, the person must have successfully applied to be removed from the state's sex offender registry and cannot have been convicted of other serious crimes.
May 10, 2013 in Collateral consequences, Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered, Sex Offender Sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
"The Exchange of Inmate Organs for Liberty: Diminishing the 'Yuck Factor' in the Bioethics Repugnance Debate"The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper by Jamila Jefferson-Jones now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract (which prompts for me a reaction of "cool" rather than "yuck"):
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour granted clemency to Jamie and Gladys Scott on December 29, 2010. This decision indefinitely suspended their double life sentences and freed them after 16 years in prison for armed robbery. The price of their liberty: Gladys’ kidney.
The story of the Scott Sisters’ release and the condition imposed upon Gladys Scott reflexively elicits an intense negative response on the part of the listener who likely is focusing on the “yuck factor” — a strong sentiment that what they just heard is unfair, unseemly, or just plain wrong.
What happens, then if the Scott Sisters’ story is replicated — if it is multiplied across prison populations? Were programs put into place that allowed prison inmates to trade their kidneys (or portions of their lungs, livers or pancreases) for liberty, it follows that the “yuck factor” would be multiplied exponentially. However, it must be noted that in confecting his peculiar clemency condition, Governor Barbour chose a course of action that was, ironically, unobjectionable to the civil rights community (including the state’s Black activist community) that was clamoring for the release of the Scott Sisters. If one were to cast the civil rights community as guardians of (or at least stakeholders regarding) the interests of poor and minority communities, the Scott Sister’s clemency case is particularly intriguing in that they cheered, rather than crying, “Yuck!” and objecting to the terms of release imposed by the Governor. The outcry from some bioethicists notwithstanding, this scenario begs the question of why we should not allow other prisoners — those to whom serendipity has not provided an ailing sister — to do the same and whether it is in fact possible to do so while avoiding, or at least mitigating repugnance.
This article contemplates whether the National Organ Transplant Act’s (“NOTA”) prohibition against the trading of organs for “valuable consideration” should include an exception that would allow state and federal prison inmates to donate organs in exchange for release or credit toward release. Such a stance surely raises questions regarding whether the state would be coercing the forfeiture of body parts as punishment or in exchange for freedom. Moreover, critics may question the potential effects on the criminal justice system of allowing those facing incarceration to bargain their bodies, and conceivably, their long-term health, in exchange for reduced prison terms. Therefore, such an inmate organ donation program is only feasible if a system is confected to remove the “yuck factor” ostensibly by removing coercion from the equation and by addressing the other concerns that mirror those addressed in the living donor sales debate. Such a program would need to reframe the legal context in which the Scott Sisters’ clemency condition was crafted into one in which a great measure of power and choice resides instead in the hands of the inmate participants.
May 8, 2013 in Clemency and Pardons, Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offender Characteristics, Prisons and prisoners, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
"The Case for Full Restitution for Child Pornography Victims"The title of this post is the title of this new paper on SSRN co-authored by Paul Cassell, James Marsh and Jeremy Christiansen concerning an issue that has riven the federal circuit courts and seems destined for SCOTUS consideration before too long. Here is the abstract:
This Article explores the issues of restitution to the victims of child pornography and other federal sex offenses in depth and contends that Congress meant what it said in Section 2259 — specifically that child pornography victims must receive an award for the “full amount” of their losses from any defendant convicted of harming them. This approach is consistent not only with the plain language of the statute but the well-established tort principle that any intentional wrongdoer is jointly and severally liable with other wrongdoers for an innocent victim’s losses. Requiring defendants to pay for the full amount of the losses that they have caused will address the significant financial losses suffered by child pornography victims.
May 7, 2013 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Sex Offender Sentencing, Victims' Rights At Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack
Monday, May 06, 2013
You be the judge: how would you sentence for the missed tax payments of Lauryn Hill?After a rescheduling and now some important repayments, an interesting and high-profile federal sentencing is on tap for this morning in Newark, New Jersey. This new Reuters article provides the basics for all would-be federal sentencing judges to ponder in order to answer the question in the title of this post:
Hip hop artist Lauryn Hill, on the eve of her scheduled sentencing on federal tax evasion charges, has paid off the balance of more than $900,000 she owed in back taxes and penalties, her attorney said on Sunday.
The Grammy-winning musician is scheduled for sentencing on Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey on three charges she failed to file tax returns on more than $1.8 million between 2005 and 2007. She faces up to a year in jail for each charge, but the final sentence is expected to be adjusted based on her repayment of the money, her attorney said.
She owed at least $504,000 in federal back taxes as well as state taxes and penalties that brought the estimated total to more than $900,000. "Ms Hill has not only now fully paid prior to sentencing her taxes, which are part of her criminal restitution, but she has additionally fully paid her federal and state personal taxes for the entire period under examination through 2009," her attorney, Nathan Hochman, said in an email.
In April, Hill was admonished by U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo for failing to make promised payments on her unpaid taxes ahead of her sentencing. She had expected to raise the money from a new recording contract last fall but only paid $50,000 when she did not complete the expected tracks, her attorney said.
Her attorney said last month that Hill lined up a loan secured by two pieces of real estate. He said on Sunday that the tax repayment came from a combination of sources but did not include funds from any new record sales.
A new single by Hill, her first in several years, called "Neurotic Society," was posted on iTunes on Friday. She posted a link to the song on the social media site Tumblr on Saturday, writing, "Here is a link to a piece that I was ‘required' to release immediately, by virtue of the impending legal deadline. "I love being able to reach people directly, but in an ideal scenario, I would not have to rush the release of new music... But the message is still there," she wrote.
Hill's 1998 solo album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" won the singer, a former member of the Fugees, five Grammy awards.
Given that it appears Hill has now made the government whole after her tax evasion crimes, and especially given that she apparently can be and wants to continue to be a productive tax-paying member of society, I believe I would be very eager to give Hill some kind of (harsh? expensive?) alternative to imprisonment sentence.For all sort of obvious and not-so-obvious reasons, I think a significant fine plus a (very burdensome?) community service requirement could and should achieve all the congressional purposes of punishment better than a brief stint in prison.
Indeed, I think a creative shaming sentence could perhaps be especially appropriate in a case like this.It might be very beneficial, and I doubt unconstitutional, to require as part of a probation term that Hill write and release a few songs in which she discusses the consequences of failing to pay required federal taxes and/or in which she discusses the pros and cons of her experiences with the federal criminal justice system.
UPDATE: This AP story reports on the actual sentencing outcome for the federal tax code re-education of Lauryn Hill. I will let readers click through so as not to turn this post into a "spoiler" before reading the comments.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Notable civil rights action victory for Iowa sex offenders subject to civil confinement
Because sex offenders rarely get court victories concerning impositions on their civil rights, I found noteworthy today's panel ruling in the Eighth Circuit in Arnzen v. Palmer, No. 12-3634 (8th Cir. April 2013) (available here). Here is how the opinion starts:
Patients at the Iowa Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders (CCUSO) filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the placement of video cameras in CCUSO restrooms, and moved for a preliminary injunction to stop their use. The district court denied the motion as to cameras in the "dormitory style restrooms" (restrooms with multiple toilets, showers and sinks) but granted a preliminary injunction ordering that cameras in the "traditional style bathrooms" (bathrooms with a single toilet, sink, and shower) be pointed at the ceiling or covered with a lens cap. The administrators of CCUSO appeal and we affirm.
"Defensible Disenfranchisement"The title of this post is the title of this newly posted article by Mary Sigler now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
As many commentators have noted, the practice of felon disenfranchisement — denying the right to vote to some or all of those convicted of a felony — is widespread and familiar, but, at least in the modern context, also short of defenders. Indeed, apart from a handful of vocal public officials, a case for disenfranchisement is rarely articulated at all. Instead, critics have occupied the field largely unchallenged, arguing that felon disenfranchisement is illiberal and undemocratic, counterproductive, racist, and, in the United States, unconstitutional.
Against these claims, this paper outlines a form of felon disenfranchisement that is consistent with liberal-democratic values. In particular, I argue that felon disenfranchisement is best conceptualized not as a form or aspect of punishment but as a means of regulating electoral eligibility. On this view, felons render themselves liable to disenfranchisement because they have violated the civic trust that makes liberal democracy possible. Although the long history of disenfranchisement features extreme forms of exclusion and reflects a range of odious and unconvincing rationales, a more defensible version, grounded in the liberal and republican values of the Anglo-American tradition, would apply to a narrower range of offenders and include a meaningful opportunity for restoration. In this way, the temporary exclusion of serious offenders from the electorate has the potential to affirm, rather than betray, our commitment to liberal-democratic community.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Obama Administration still talking up, but still not heavily investing in, drug courtsA corollary to the classic wisdom "follow the money" is the admonition "put your money where you mouth is." These phrase came to mind for me as I read the text of this speech by Acting Assistant AG Mary Lou Leary given today at the National African American Drug Policy Coalition National Spring 2013 Summit. These passages from the speech, in particular, reinforced my concern that the Obama Administration is still doing a great job of talking the talk, but still is not really walking the walk, in its support of drug courts:
[W]hen it comes to drugs, we know that the only way the justice system is going to realize its full potential as a problem solver is by using its authority to encourage and support treatment. And there’s no better illustration of how this can work than the drug court.
Drug courts use the authority of the judicial system to bring together criminal and juvenile justice agencies and social service and treatment providers to deal with the underlying causes of addiction in drug-involved offenders. In other words, it’s court-sanctioned and court-supported treatment. There are more than 2,600 drug courts in operation across the country, and our research shows that they’re effective in reducing recidivism, decreasing future drug use, and saving money.
Our challenge is to expand the drug court approach. Right now, they serve some 120,000 people, but that’s only a fraction of the 1.2 million non-violent drug offenders now in the system. At the Office of Justice Programs, we’re continuing a proud tradition of supporting drug courts, going back to my early days at the agency under Attorney General Janet Reno, who started the first drug court program in Miami. Continuing her legacy, last year our Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded 60 grants totaling almost $18 million to fund drug courts.
We’re also supporting the development and expansion of juvenile and family drug courts. Young drug-involved offenders can really benefit from the treatment, support, and accountability that drug courts provide, and families where children live with substance abusing parents can begin the process of stabilization through the drug court model.
I’m pleased the President’s budget to Congress requests $44 million to continue supporting drug courts and other problem-solving courts modeled on drug court principles.
I am pleased to hear continued promotion of drug courts by the Obama Administration because of the research that "shows that they're effective in reducing recidivism, decreasing future drug use, and saving money." But I am not pleased to here that the President's budget to Congress only requests $44 million to continue supporting drug courts and other problem-solving courts. The President's FY2014 budget calls for about $3.8 trillion, so a request of $44 million for drug courts amounts to, roughly, around 0.0001% of the total budget.
I know I should not look a drug court budget gift horse in the mouth especially in these lean budget times. But I still cannot help but wish this gift horse was larger given that research shows that drug courts are "effective in reducing recidivism, decreasing future drug use, and saving money."
April 18, 2013 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Drug Offense Sentencing, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Saturday, April 13, 2013
"Hurricane Sandy has been good for the Gambino crime family"The title of this post is the amusing first sentence of this New York Daily News article discussing the latest way-below-guideline federal sentencing outcome for extortion crimes in and around New York. Here are the factual basics:
Reputed soldier Vincent Dragonetti is the third mobster convicted of extortion to be sentenced to perform community service for victims of last year’s weather disaster instead of jail time.
Federal Judge Dora Irizarry could have sent Dragonetti away for up to 51 months for his extortion of Brooklyn developer Sitt Asset Management, but he gave him 200 hours of service instead.
Irizarry previously sentenced Gambino associates Emmanuel Garofalo and Thomas Frangiapane to Sandy-related relief.
I am not eager to question the sentencing wisdom of Judge Irizarry or any other federal judge who concludes that the goals of sentencing set out by Congress in 3553(a) are better served by community service than by prison time. That said, I hope that there will be proper monitoring of these community service sentences so that Sandy victims really do directly benefit from the alternative sentences given to these high-profile federal criminals.
April 13, 2013 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Reentry and community supervision, White-collar sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Friday, April 12, 2013
Terrific SCOTUSblog preview of Kebodeaux and SORNAA helpful reader reminded me not only that the Supreme Court has a last few criminal justice cases slated for oral argument the next few weeks as its term winds down, but also that one sex offender case, US v. Kebodeaux, due to be argued next week raises a host of intricate legal issue. Helpfully, Steven Schwinn sorts through Kebodeaux via this terrific (and very lengthy) post at SCOTUSblog titled "Argument preview: Can Congress punish a former sex offender for failure to register?". Here are highlights from the analysis section of the preview:
This is a narrow case. It involves a defendant who represents a relatively small and, with time, diminishing class of individuals (those with sex-offender convictions pre-SORNA). It involves a defendant who is subject to SORNA by virtue of his military conviction, and not his interstate travel. And it involves a challenge to SORNA’s penalty provision, and not its other provisions (including its registration provision, although it may be hard to separate the two here)....
In short, this is no broadside challenge to congressional authority to require sex-offender registration. Instead, it is a very narrow case. And we can expect the Court to address it that way.
Still, bigger issues are likely to emerge in the arguments. Thus, look for the Court to press the government for limits on congressional authority, and to ask the government about federal intrusion into areas of traditional state concern. In other words, some on the Court are likely to worry about whether the government’s theories lead to an expansive federal power that can encroach too far on the states.
On the other hand, look for the Court to ask Kebodeaux about the sweep of federal power under Comstock, especially when Kebodeaux came under federal authority because of his military service, and not because of his interstate travels. Look for the Court also to test Kebodeaux’s theory of federal control pre-SORNA, given the full sex-offender registration scheme under the Wetterling Act (including the federal penalty for failure to register, and also including the federal financial incentives for states to create their own registrations and other features of the Act). The Court could see SORNA’s application to Kebodeaux as only a modest additional exercise of federal authority, given these considerations.
Two discussions suggesting potential virtues of shame punishments
I have just noticed two notable punishment theory papers via SSRN discussing shame punishments. This broader piece by Luke Coyne is titled "Can Shame Be Therapeutic?" and here is its abstract:
This paper focuses on alternative judicial punishments such as reciprocal and humiliation punishments. It explores the past and present use of such punishments. It covers the theories behind the use of these punishments. It also takes a look at the praise and criticism for the use of these punishments. Additionally, the paper discusses the use and effects of these punishments, including recidivism rates.
This other piece is by Xiyin Tang is a bit more focused. It is titled "Shame: A Different Criminal Law Proposal for Bullies," and here is the abstract:
Public concern over bullying has reached an all-time high. The absence of a sensible criminal charging and sentencing regime for the problem recently reared its head in the highly-publicized prosecution of Dharun Ravi, who was convicted of 15 counts and faced the possibility of 10 years in prison. This Essay argues that existing criminal statutes used to address the problem, like bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, do not fit neatly with the specific wrongs of bullying. However, recently-enacted “cyberbullying” laws, which give complete discretion to school administrators, are weak and ineffective.
I propose another solution: first, to criminalize the act of bullying itself, thus sending a powerful expressive message that can flip the high school and teenage norm of meanness as virtue. To reinforce that message, sentencing a bully to shaming, not imprisonment, better serves utilitarian, expressive, rehabilitative, and retributive goals specific to the wrongs of bullying.
Thursday, April 04, 2013
Perfect retributivism?: Saudi court orders paralysis as punishment for assault that resulted in paralysisA colleague sent me this remarkable international sentencing story, headlined "Surgical Paralysis Ordered in Saudi Arabia as Punishment for Teenage Assault: Spine-for-a-spine punishment has mother 'frightened to death'." Here are the basics:
Ali Al-Khawahir, 24, is awaiting court-ordered surgical paralysis in Saudi Arabia for an assault he committed when he was 14 years old, according to news reports.
Al-Khawahir has reportedly spent 10 years in prison since stabbing a friend in the spine during a fight. The wound left his friend paralyzed. The Saudi legal system allows eye-for-an-eye punishments.
The convicted man's mother told Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat that the family is seeking help raising $270,000 in "blood money," which in Saudi Arabia can be requested by a crime's victim -- or victim's family in cases of murder -- in exchange for punishment. "We don't have even a tenth of this sum," she said, according to a translation by The Guardian....
Amnesty International condemned the sentence as "outrageous" in a statement released this week. "Paralysing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture," said Ann Harrison, the organization's Middle East and North Africa deputy director. "That such a punishment might be implemented is utterly shocking." Tooth extractions, said Amnesty, have also been ordered in Saudi Arabia.
Israeli news website Ynet reports that 13 years ago a Saudi hospital gouged out an Egyptian man's eye as punishment for an acid attack that injured another man. A similar sentence for an Indian man six years later was set aside after international outrage.
If victims do not seek "blood money" or perpetrators cannot afford to pay the amount requested, the sentence is carried out.
Though I never want to be accused of defending this seemingly brutal form of retributivist punishment, I cannot help but note that a sentence of LWOP (especially if it involves extended confinement in a supermax-type prison) could and would in some cases be more limiting of a offender's freedom than being confined to a wheelchair for life. And, of course, there are many (perhaps thousands) of folks serving LWOP sentences in US prisons for crimes less severe than aggravated assault leading to permanent paralysis. (Recall that Terrance Graham was serving an LWOP in Florida for robbery offenses committed while a teenager until the US Supreme Court decided the sentence was unconstitutional.)
As should be obvious, I am not trying to make the case for either paralysis or LWOP as justifiable punishments, but rather I am trying to suggest that some reasons we may find this court-ordered lifetime confinement to a wheelchair os horrific ought also give us reason to be deeply troubled by court-ordered lifetime confinement to a cage. More broadly, I mean for this story and my headline to highlight that an aggressive commitment to the deontological punishment philosophy of retributivism may make it difficult to assail, at least in theory, the distinctive punishment ordered by the Saudi court in this case.
Monday, April 01, 2013
California figures out GPS tracking won't work if GPS trackers don't workThe silly tilte to this post is prompted by this notable lengthy story from the Los Angeles Times, which carries the following headline and sub-heading: "Tests found major flaws in parolee GPS monitoring devices: One company's devices were deemed so unreliable that California ordered a complete switch to another firm's, citing 'imminent danger' to the public. A lawsuit ensued." Here is how the piece starts:
A little more than a year ago, California quietly began conducting tests on the GPS monitoring devices that track the movements of thousands of sex offenders. The results were alarming.
Corrections officials found the devices used in half the state were so inaccurate and unreliable that the public was "in imminent danger." Batteries died early, cases cracked, reported locations were off by as much as three miles. Officials also found that tampering alerts failed and offenders were able to disappear by covering the devices with foil, deploying illegal GPS jammers or ducking into cars or buildings.
The state abruptly ordered parole agents to remove every ankle monitor in use from north of Los Angeles to the Oregon border. In their place, they strapped on devices made by a different manufacturer — a mass migration that left California's criminal tracking system not operational for several hours.
The test results provide a glimpse of the blind spots in electronic monitoring, even as those systems are promoted to law enforcement agencies as a safe alternative to incarceration. The flaws in the equipment raise the question of whether the state can deliver what Jessica's Law promised when voters approved it in 2006: round-the-clock tracking of serious sex offenders.
In a lawsuit over the state's GPS contracting, corrections attorneys persuaded a judge to seal information about the failures, arguing that test results could show criminals how to avoid being tracked and give parole violators grounds to appeal convictions.
The information, they warned, would "erode public trust" in electronic monitoring programs. The devices, they said, deter crime only if offenders believe their locations are being tracked every minute. "The more reliable the devices are believed to be, the less likely a parolee may be to attempt to defeat the system," GPS program director Denise Milano wrote in a court statement.
State officials say the replacement devices have largely resolved the problems, but officials so far have refused to release test data showing what, if any, improvements were gained.
Some older related posts on tracking technologies:
- Are microchip implants for offenders inevitable?
- A sober (and caffeinated) look at GPS tracking realities
- Are we willing to pay the costs of (effective?) technocorrections like GPS tracking?
- The devil's in the details of GPS tracking of sex offenders
- New article examining incapacitation innovations
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
"On Emotion, Juvenile Sex Offenders, and Mandatory Registration"The title of this post is the title of this paper authored by Catherine Carpenter recently made available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
It is both unremarkable and true that juveniles are different from adults. United States Supreme Court decisions over the past decade have highlighted the extent of the differences. Yet, played out against the backdrop of sex offender registration laws, the conversation takes an abrupt turn. Rather than differentiating between adult and juvenile offenders, federal sex offender registration laws require juveniles convicted of certain sex offenses to face the same onerous registration and notification burdens as their adult counterparts.
Tracking the shift in sex offender registration models from “likely to reoffend” to “conviction-based" assessment, this article argues that “conviction-based” assessment is an unstable proposition when applied to child offenders for two fundamental reasons. First, juvenile offenders lack intentionality and purpose that adult offenders possess, thereby diminishing the value that a conviction carries. Further, and more importantly, studies reveal that the commission of juvenile sex crimes does not portend future predatory behavior, raising the question of the purpose of registration for this class of offenders.
Ultimately, the legislative push to require juvenile sex offenders to suffer serious register and notification burdens demonstrates convincingly the pitfall that impacts the entire debate over sex offender registration. Emotional rhetoric controls the legislative agenda, even in the face of compelling arguments to the contrary.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Should sex offender have to pay an annual fee for their monitoring?The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new article from Michigan, headlined "ACLU, other groups object to Michigan bill pushing annual sex offender fee." Here is how it starts:
A bill to require the more than 40,000 people on Michigan's sex offender registry to pay an annual fee is igniting a debate over who should bear the costs for operating and maintaining the state's system used to track offenders.
Registered sex offenders already are required to pay a one-time $50 fee, but some lawmakers want to charge them $50 every year to cover the $600,000 a year cost to operate the database. The state says the move could bring in about $540,000 more in revenue each year.
Sex offenders "put themselves onto this registry by their actions," said Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, who is sponsoring the legislation that is headed to the Senate floor, but not yet scheduled for a vote. "Therefore, they need to pay a fee to maintain it."
But opponents, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, say it's merely a feel-good measure that ignores experiences in other states where the promise of more revenue falls well short of expectations and is an overly burdensome cost for registered sex offenders who already struggle to find housing and jobs.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Supreme Court grants cert in new case concerning forfeiture procedures
As reported in this new SCOTUSblog post, one of these new cases in which the Supreme Court granted cert should be of interest to sentencing fans:
The Court also granted review on whether an individual faced with the forfeiture of property that may be the proceeds of a crime has a right to a pre-trial hearing to challenge the basis for possible forfeiture. The Justice Department agreed that the Court should address this issue because of a division among lower courts on it; the case is Kaley v. U.S. (12-464).
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Third Circuit panel discusses at length all the problems with SORNAThe start of the Third Circuit panel's lengthy opinion today in US v. Reynolds, No. 08-4747 (3d Cir. Mar. 14, 2013) (available here), explains the current mess that is certain federal sex offender registration laws better than I could. Here goes (with footnotes removed):
This case returns to us after the Supreme Court’s review in Reynolds v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 975 (2012). Remand requires that we reach the merits of Reynolds’s claim that the regulatory rule upon which his indictment was based was promulgated in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). This claim gives rise to three questions: (1) What is the appropriate standard of review of an agency’s assertion of good cause in waiving the APA’s notice and comment requirements? (2) Did the Attorney General have good cause to waive these requirements in promulgating a rule governing the retroactivity of the Sex Offender and Registration Notification Act’s (“SORNA”) registration requirements? (3) If the Attorney General lacked good cause to waive the requirements, was Reynolds prejudiced by the failure to comply with the APA’s notice and comment requirements?
The courts of appeals are divided on each of these questions. On the first question, the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits have determined that the arbitrary and capricious standard is the appropriate standard for reviewing the Attorney General’s actions, the Fourth and Sixth Circuits have not stated a standard but appear to use de novo review, and the Ninth Circuit has explicitly avoided the question. On the second question, the Fourth and Eleventh Circuits have held that the Attorney General had good cause to waive notice and comment, while the Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits have held that he did not. On the final question, the Fifth Circuit has held that the Attorney General’s lack of good cause does not prejudice defendants, while the Sixth Circuit has held that it is prejudicial.
We conclude that we need not decide the appropriate standard of review today because the Attorney General’s assertion of good cause cannot withstand review even under the most deferential standard available. We also conclude that the Attorney General’s lack of good cause is prejudicial to Reynolds. Accordingly, we will vacate Reynolds’ conviction.
"Rethinking the Use of Community Supervision"The title of this post is the title of this important new paper now available on SSRN and authored by Cecelia Klingele. As practitioners and policy-makers know, the back-end of the criminal justice system and the use of alternatives to incarceration are critically important "real world" sentencing issues that only rarely get sustained attention from the legal academy. I am so pleased that Cecelia Klingele is a leading voice help ensuring these important legal and policy issues get the scholarly attention they need and deserve. Here is the abstract of her latest work in this regard:
Community supervision, whether in the form of probation or post-release supervision, is ordinarily framed as an alternative to incarceration. For this reason, legal reformers intent on reducing America's disproportionately high incarceration rates often urge lawmakers to expand the use of community supervision, confident that diverting offenders to the community will significantly reduce over-reliance on incarceration. Yet, on any given day, a significant percentage of new prisoners arrive at the prison gates not as a result of sentencing for a new crime, but because they have been revoked from probation or parole. It is therefore fair to say that in many cases community supervision is not an alternative to imprisonment, but only a delayed form of it.
This Article examines the reasons why community supervision so often fails, and challenges popular assumptions about the role community supervision should play in efforts to reduce over-reliance on imprisonment. While probation and post-release supervision serve important purposes in many cases, they are often imposed on the wrong people, and executed in ways that predictably lead to revocation. To decrease the overuse of imprisonment, sentencing and correctional practices should therefore limit, rather than expand, the use of community supervision in three important ways.
First, terms of community supervision should be imposed in fewer cases, with alternatives ranging from fines to unconditional discharge to short jail terms imposed instead. Second, conditions of probation and post-release supervision should be imposed sparingly, and only when they directly correspond to a risk of re-offense. Finally, terms of community supervision should be limited in duration, extending only long enough to facilitate a period of structured re-integration after sentencing or following a term of incarceration.
March 14, 2013 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Prisons and prisoners, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Reentry and community supervision, Scope of Imprisonment, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack