Thursday, September 20, 2012
ABA and NIJ unveil new on-line resource on collateral consequencesAs effectively reported in this post at The BLT, the "American Bar Association and a Justice Department unit have launched a new website [here] that allows users to search federal and state laws that hinder people with criminal records from being able to do basic things — like finding work and obtaining housing — to be able to reenter society successfully." Here is more:
This Project Description from the website concludes with this explanation of the resource:
The website, run by the ABA and DOJ's National Institute of Justice, is meant to be a resource that allows users to search the collateral consequences they can face in their own state.
Margaret Colgate Love, a Washington-based lawyer and director of the ABA National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, used the example of a fictitious young man from Texas who wants to become an electrician. But the man is considering a guilty plea for a small drug crime. A search on the website shows that he is ineligible for an apprentice electrician license with any felony or misdemeanor conviction on his record.
For now, the website includes information on state laws in Vermont, Minnesota, Iowa, Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina and New York. The rest of the states will be entered over the next 18 months, administrators say.
Through the National Inventory [of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction (NICCC)], each jurisdiction’s collateral consequences will be made accessible to the public through a website that can be searched and sorted by categories and keywords. The website will make it possible for criminal and civil lawyers to determine which collateral consequences are triggered by particular categories of offenses, for affected individuals to understand the limits on their rights and opportunities, and for lawmakers and policy advocates to understand the full measure of a jurisdiction’s sanctions and disqualifications. It will also be possible through the website to perform inter-jurisdictional comparisons and national analyses.
The User Guide posted on the Inventory website contains a set of “frequently asked questions” intended to explain the protocols used in constructing the National Inventory, and the analytical principles and coding conventions used in sorting laws and rules into various categories. A disclaimer states that the information available through the Inventory does not constitute legal advice, that the construction of the database has not included an examination of judicial interpretations, and that it generally describes collateral consequences conservatively, in the sense that ambiguous provisions are interpreted to impose more severe rather than less severe penalties.
Work on the NICCC commenced in early 2012, and it was launched in September 2012 with the collateral consequences from nine states and the federal system. Additional states are being entered into the Inventory database and uploaded to the website as their laws and rules are identified and analyzed. The initial coding effort has a completion date of December 2013, and plans are in the works to secure the Inventory's ongoing maintenance.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
"Crime, Weather, and Climate Change"The title of this post is the title of this notable paper by Matthew Ranson available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This paper estimates the impact of climate change on the prevalence of criminal activity in the United States. The analysis is based on a 50-year panel of monthly crime and weather data for 2,972 U.S. counties. I identify the effect of weather on monthly crime by using a semi-parametric bin estimator and controlling for county-by-month and county-by-year fixed effects. The results show that temperature has a strong positive effect on criminal behavior, with little evidence of lagged impacts. Between 2010 and 2099, climate change will cause an additional 30,000 murders, 200,000 cases of rape, 1.4 million aggravated assaults, 2.2 million simple assaults, 400,000 robberies, 3.2 million burglaries, 3.0 million cases of larceny, and 1.3 million cases of vehicle theft in the United States.
Yikes! Well, I guess the good news is that I can now think of my Prius as a crime-fighting machine.
Seriously, I have long understood there are important connections between weather and crime, and perhaps this article provides (still more) justification for climate change advocates to consider seizing upon a "tough on crime" mantra.
Recent related post:
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
"Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases"The title of this post is the title of this great-looking new paper by Sonja Starr, which is now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
I have long found that, in both the classroom and in other settings, discussion of discretion and disparity in the criminal justice treatment of different genders can often foster more dynamic and less polarizing discusson than when the focus is on race. For this reason (and many others), I hope to soon find time to consume this important new article and may well comment on it further.
This paper assesses gender disparities in federal criminal cases. It finds large gender gaps favoring women throughout the sentence length distribution (averaging over 60%), conditional on arrest offense, criminal history, and other pre-charge observables. Female arrestees are also significantly likelier to avoid charges and convictions entirely, and twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted.
Prior studies have reported much smaller sentence gaps because they have ignored the role of charging, plea-bargaining, and sentencing fact-finding in producing sentences. Most studies control for endogenous severity measures that result from these earlier discretionary processes and use samples that have been winnowed by them. I avoid these problems by using a linked dataset tracing cases from arrest through sentencing. Using decomposition methods, I show that most sentence disparity arises from decisions at the earlier stages, and use the rich data to investigate causal theories for these gender gaps.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Special issue of JRP on "Evidence-Based Policy and Practice"Via an e-mail, I just learned that the Justice Research and Policy, which isthe semiannual, peer-reviewed journal of the Justice Research and Statistics Association, has just published this new special issue focused on "Evidence-Based Policy and Practice." The issue's extended introduction by Roger Przybylski is available at this link, and here are two notable paragraphs from its start:
The emergence of the evidence-based movement is arguably one of the most significant developments to occur in criminal and juvenile justice over the past 20 years (Travis, 2012; Lipsey, Howell, Kelly, Chapman, & Carver, 2010; and the Howell and Lipsey article in this special issue). In the early 1990s, the term “evidence-based” was largely unknown in the criminal and juvenile justice communities. Looking back, it is difficult to imagine how any of us at that time could have envisioned how the evidence-based movement would affect crime control policymaking, practice, and even research in the coming years. Today, the imprint of the movement is widespread. Crime control policy and program development processes are increasingly being informed by scientific evidence, and many practices in policing, corrections, delinquency prevention, and other areas have been, and continue to be, shaped by evidence generated through research. Incentives and even mandates for evidence-based programming are now frequently used by funding sources, and virtually anyone can now access an unprecedented amount of information about what works to prevent and control crime using online repositories such as CrimeSolutions.gov. Moreover, the demand for trustworthy, research-generated evidence and evidence-based applications is rapidly increasing....
Despite the intuitive appeal of using science to guide policy and practice, it would be wrong to assume that crime control and prevention efforts have become largely evidence-based. Granted, there is growing interest in evidence-based ways to address crime problems, and numerous jurisdictions and organizations have made progress implementing evidence-based programs, practices, or policy reforms, but much of what we do in criminal and juvenile justice continues to be based on tradition, ideology, anecdote, or conventional wisdom. Of course, legislators, police chiefs, correctional administrators, and other decisionmakers have to contend with many influences and constraints when making policy decisions, and debates about the role science should play in decisionmaking are legitimate and often beneficial, but it is still far too common to encounter situations in which scientific evidence is ignored or paid little more than lip service.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Ignition lock law in Kansas seeming responsible for huge drop in DUI fatalities
This local article from Kansas, headlined "DUI fatalities drop sharply in wake of recent law," provides additional and dramatic support for my long-standing belief that any and everyone seriously committed to saving innocent victims from deadly criminal activity ought to be vigorous and vocal supporters of ignition locks as a punishment for drunk driving. Here is the report on amazing data from Kansas:
When lawmakers passed legislation in 2011 requiring an ignition interlock for those convicted of their first drunken driving offense, one of the main goals was cutting down on alcohol-related traffic fatalities. After a year, it appears the law is working, according to preliminary data released by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Between July 1, 2011 — when the state’s new DUI ignition interlock law went into effect — and June 30, 2012, the state recorded 59 alcohol-related traffic fatalities, compared with 125 and 137, respectively, for the previous two years during the same timeframe....
Kansas had lagged behind the country in reducing alcohol-related fatalities, seeing increases in recent years as numbers dropped across the country. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities averaged 116 a year between 2000 and 2010 in the state.
Kansas drivers with a DUI conviction now must install an ignition interlock — which requires drivers to blow into a device to show their blood-alcohol level is under .04, half the legal limit — before their vehicle will start. Under the new law, first-time DUI offenders must use an ignition interlock for a year; drivers with multiple DUI convictions must use it longer.
Kansas joined 14 others states in enacting a first-time offender ignition interlock law. Most states have some form of ignition interlock law, but some only apply to repeat DUI offenders.
Pete Bodyk, traffic safety manager for KDOT, was also on the commission, and cautioned that the preliminary numbers will probably go up some, but he still expects the data to show a significant decline in fatalities since the law was enacted. While there’s no way to know for sure if the drop in alcohol-related fatalities was a direct result of the new law, Bodyk said “that’s the only thing that’s new. ... Hopefully we’ll see a trend.”
"Insider Traders Face Longer Sentences as Judges Get Tough" (except for cooperators)
The title of this post is drawn from the headline of this Bloomberg article, which my editorial addition in parenthesis. Here are excerpts:
Inside traders have more to fear when they stand before Manhattan federal judges for sentencing. Since Jan. 1, 2011, the judges have sent the average violator to prison for more than 22 months, according to an analysis of sentencing data by Bloomberg News. That was a 20 percent increase from the average term of 18.4 months during the previous eight years.
The harsher sentences come three years into a federal crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street. Since August 2009, federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged 71 people with insider trading and won 65 convictions, with six cases still pending. Some of those convicted, including former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director Rajat Gupta, are awaiting sentencing.
“There are different insider-trading cases now,” Ellen Podgor, a professor at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida, said. “You look at the individuals they’re going after now -- it’s a higher level.”
Judges in Manhattan federal court are also slightly more likely to send offenders to prison. Twenty-one of 36 defendants sentenced for insider trading since the start of 2011 -- or 58 percent -- were jailed. By comparison, 24 of the 43 defendants sentenced from 2003 through 2010, or 56 percent, lost their freedom. Of late, most of those who avoided prison cooperated with the government.
The longer terms for insider trading are consistent with lengthier terms nationally for all forms of fraud. According to U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics, the average sentence in fraud cases in fiscal 2011 rose to 23 months from 14.4 months eight years earlier, a 60 percent increase. “White-collar sentences all across the U.S. are going up,” Podgor said in a phone interview....
Cooperating with the government has kept some of those convicted out of jail. Since the start of 2011, judges have sentenced 12 defendants who admitted their guilt and agreed to provide evidence for prosecutors. Cooperators have secretly recorded their friends and colleagues, interpreted documents and worked in other ways with federal agents. Eleven of the cooperators avoided prison altogether, according to the data. One got six months.
“It’s important that cooperating witnesses do get lower sentences,” said Christopher Garcia, former chief of the securities fraud unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. “The hope of reduced sentences is a powerful tool for prosecutors in persuading and encouraging people to make cases against others.”
Anil Kumar, a former McKinsey & Co. director who testified against both Rajaratnam and Gupta, was sentenced yesterday to probation. U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin cited Kumar’s “extraordinary cooperation” and his effort to “make amends for what he did.”
Judges in most insider cases imposed terms less than those recommended by the Sentencing Commission’s guidelines, according to court records. Rajaratnam, facing from 19 years to 24 1/2 years under the guidelines, got 11 years behind bars. Holwell explained at sentencing that Rajaratnam was sick and had a history of doing charitable works. In another case, James Fleishman, a Primary Global executive convicted of leaking tips, got 30 months when the guidelines called for a term of 87 to 108 months. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who has been critical of the sentencing guidelines, handed down the sentence.
James Felman, a lawyer in Tampa, Florida, who serves as the American Bar Association’s liaison to the Sentencing Commission, said many judges are willing to undercut the harsh terms urged by the guidelines in white-collar cases. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the guidelines were no longer mandatory. “All guideline sentences have been increasing,” Felman said in a phone interview. Of the recommended white-collar sentences, he said that “even the government is aware they’re frequently too high.”
Still, a conviction for insider trading almost always means prison time for non-cooperating defendants. Of 24 non-cooperators who pleaded guilty or were convicted at a trial during the period measured here, 20 were ordered imprisoned for an average of 33 months. The four spared played minor roles in the schemes, judges said.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
New Sentencing Project report highlights for-profit detention in the federal system
The report details how harsher immigration enforcement and legislation led to a 59 percent increase in the number of detainees being held by the federal government between 2002 and 2011. It specifically examines how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) have increasingly relied on private companies to detain these individuals, as well as the complex network of facilities that house federal detainees, and the failings of private detention. Among the report's major findings:
- Between 2002 and 2011 the number of privately held ICE detainees increased by 208 percent, while the number of USMS detainees held in private facilities grew by 355 percent.
- In 2011, 45 percent of ICE detainees and 30 percent of USMS detainees were held by private companies.
- Federal detainees are held in a complex network of facilities in which information on where individuals are being held, and by whom is often unavailable or incomplete.
- The private detention industry is dominated by the same companies that are regularly criticized for their management of private prisons.
- Concerns raised in the context of private prisons, including unsatisfactory levels of service, negative political and policy implications, and questionable economic effects, apply equally to private detention.
The full report, Dollars and Detainees: The Growth of For-Profit Detention, includes a list of the privately-operated facilities actively employed by ICE and USMS, as well as detailed graphs and data on the growth of private detention, and the lobbying activities of Corrections Corporation of America.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
"Punishment and Recidivism in Drunk Driving"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper on SSRN by Benjamin Hansen on a topic I always find of interest. Here is the abstract:
Traditional economic models of criminal behavior have straightforward predictions: raising the expected cost of crime via apprehension probabilities or punishments decreases crime. I test the effect of harsher punishments on deterring driving under the influence (DUI).
In this setting, punishments are determined by strict rules on Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and previous offenses. Regression discontinuity derived estimates suggest that having a BAC above the DUI threshold reduces recidivism by up to 2 percentage points (17 percent). As receipt of previous DUI violations increases future penalties for drunk driving, this is consistent with Beckerian models of criminal activity. However, enhanced penalties for aggravated DUI also reduce recidivism by an additional percentage point (9 percent), despite the fact that the enhanced punishments only affect the current penalties. This is consistent with models of bounded rationality for offenders, wherein expectations of future punishments are based upon previous punishments experienced.
If I understand this abstract, I think the take away is that tougher drunk driving punishments reduce recidivism. If this is right, it confirms my hope and belief that drunk driving is one arena in which general and specific deterrence may work relatively well and it serve to reinforce my belief that, despite the general harshness of modern American punishment schemes, we still can tend to be too lenient on a few offenses we can reasonably seek to deter.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Exciting new data and resources from US Sentencing Commission
Via e-mail, I have today received this exciting news concerning new materials and data available from the US Sentencing Commission via its website:
The United States Sentencing Commission today introduces its new Interactive Sourcebook. The Interactive Sourcebook allows users to re-create and customize the tables and figures presented in the Commission's printed Sourcebooks of Federal Sentencing Statistics, and contains additional viewing options and tables not published in the printed Sourcebooks. Please view the Interactive Sourcebook Features Guide to learn how to use the site. For more information, view the Frequently Asked Questions.
The United States Sentencing Commission's Preliminary Quarterly Data Report for the second quarter of fiscal year 2012 is now available on the Commission's website. The report includes an extensive set of tables and charts presenting fiscal year quarterly data on cases in which the offender was sentenced during the first half of fiscal year 2012. The report also provides an analysis of sentencing trends over five years for several key sentencing practices.
Friday, July 13, 2012
Noting the notable racial dynamics in Chicago's spike in homicides
This new Chicago Tribune article, headlined "Homicide numbers reveal stark contrast," spotlights that the recent increase in violent deaths in Chicago have a distinctive demographic dimension. Here are the details:
Violent crime has long afflicted minorities in Chicago at a much higher rate than the rest of the population, and the spike in homicides in the first half of this year provides an especially stark measure: 201 of the 259 homicide victims were African-American.
While blacks make up about 33 percent of the city's population, they accounted for nearly 78 percent of the homicide victims through the first six months of 2012. By comparison, just 11 homicide victims in the first six months of the year were white, and 44 were Hispanic, according to police data.
The pattern is a familiar one in Chicago, where most violent crime happens in impoverished, mostly black neighborhoods on the South and West sides. Annual Chicago police statistics show a majority of both homicide victims and offenders are young black men with criminal records. With one exception, African-Americans have made up more than 70 percent of homicide victims in Chicago every year for the last two decades.
The Tribune reported Monday that 143 of the homicide victims in the first half of the year were listed as being at least affiliated with a street gang. The data obtained by the paper represent the Police Department's preliminary assessment of crimes and are subject to revision as investigations progress.
A deeper review of the numbers shows males ages 15 to 35 made up nearly three-quarters of African-American homicide victims. Police data showed that 133 of those 145 victims had arrest histories. Of the 44 Hispanic victims, 27 were males ages 15 to 35 and had arrest histories, according to the data. Three of the 11 white victims were males in that age range with arrest histories.
As stress escalates in neighborhoods that are as dangerous as foreign war zones, African-American political leaders are expressing frustration with the policing strategies of police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel as well as the systemic problems in their communities....
When Emanuel was running for mayor, violent crime was reaching lows not seen in decades, but the candidate made safety conditions in the city's poorest neighborhoods a centerpiece of his campaign. After his February 2011 election, he wrote in a transition paper: "Far too many Chicagoans still live in homes, neighborhoods, and communities where fear and violence persist. Despite progress in recent years, violence in Chicago, and gun violence in particular, exacts an enormous toll and exacerbates almost every other problem the city faces. As a city, we can and will do better."
Instead, the city has done much worse. Through the first six months of the year, homicides were up by nearly 38 percent over last year. Blacks made up 140 of the 188 victims in the first six months of 2011, according to police data.
Proportionally, there have been fewer children and young adults killed this year compared with last year, according to the data. In the first six months of this year, 45 homicide victims were between infancy and 19 years old, compared with 41 victims in that age range last year. At the other end of the age range, just a quarter of homicide victims were older than 40.
In communities where the cycle of violent crime — disputes, violence and retaliation — has become the norm, young people who have seen too much death develop hardened attitudes about violence startlingly early, Cochran said. After the gang-related killing of 13-year-old Tyquan Tyler last month, Cochran said he met with some of the boy's friends and came away unsettled.
"The most troubling thing I saw recently on the street was friends of the 13-year-old boy who was killed," he said. "Their exposure to this violence — and they are engagers of the violence — and their buy-in to have this prolonged."
Friday, July 06, 2012
Federal sentencing data junkies rejoice: USSC creates new "Research and Statistics Page"
A helpful reader reminded me that I had not yet spotlighted with the justified fanfare and blog firework that the US Sentencing Commission has just rolled out this awesome new page on its website, which is excitingly titled the "Research and Statistics Page." Here is how the USSC explains the new website offering: "This page contains content from the Commission's former Research and Data and Statistics pages. It also features new content, including the Commission's annual individual offender datafiles and prison and sentencing impact assessments."
Helpfully, the reader who made sure I posting these USSC developments, also sent me this terrific and insightful account of why the "prison and sentencing impact assessments" (which appear on this new special webpage) merit significant attention:
The Commission finally is publishing prison impact assessments. While it only has the assessments for this amendment cycle, hopefully it will publish retroactively (and should be encouraged to do so).
Such data are very useful, if for nothing else than to get some idea of the real-world effects amendments to the FSGs have. If data show very little impact, then not a lot of fuss should be given to them (and frankly, we should wonder why such amendments even would be necessary). In contrast, those amendments with a projected significant impact should be more thoroughly vetted/reviewed/criticized, and the actual prison effects should be followed (most especially where there is a net impact on prisons, i.e., more beds needed). And, of course, when a politically unpopular amendment is under consideration, if it also lowers the number of beds to be utilizied, then the cost-savings can make an otherwise bitter pill easier to swallow.
BTW, from what I understand, the model used to do these assessments goes all the way back to the late 80s and hasn’t been update since (nor an empirical assessment of how well the model predicts the impact). So, with such data available now, this additional area of study is available.
I agree completely with these sentiments, and I will add that another exciting aspect of the USSC's new data page is an icon which indicates that the Commission is developing an "Interactive Sourcebook." I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic that such a resource can and will make it much easier for both academics and practitioners to get quick and helpful federal sentencing data on an array of intricate subtopics.
Kudos to everyone at the USSC for getting this new data page up and running and also (in advance) to any and everyone else who helps me identify the latest and greatest data to mine from the page.
UPDATE: A different helpful reader has told me that the penultimate sentence in the quoted e-mail above contains misinformation and that the USSC's prison impact model is, in fact, regularly updated. Troublesomely, I cannot effectively assess who has the story right about this "insider" debate over the USSC data. But I can say that even questionable data is better than no data, so I just care that the USSC has made this data available no matter its precision.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Did (white-collar?) arsonist poison himself in courtroom right after hearing verdict and sentence?
The main question in thie title of this post present the interesting mystery in reported in this Huffington Post piece, which is headlined "Michael Marin, Ex-Wall Street Trader, Dies In Courtroom After Conviction." Here are the details:
An ex-Wall Street trader collapsed and died in a Phoenix-area courtroom Thursday, shortly after being found guilty of setting his mansion on fire in a ploy to escape his mortgage debt.
Police are now investigating whether the man, Michael Marin, purposefully killed himself. Shortly after the jury read its verdict and sentenced him to 16 years in prison, Marin appeared to place something in his mouth several times and drink from a bottle he brought with him into the courtroom. Minutes later, he suffered from a seizure and died. Police can't yet confirm whether Marin’s death was a suicide.
Marin’s mansion in a ritzy Phoenix neighborhood caught fire in 2009, the Arizona Republic reports. Marin claimed he had to escape from the house wearing a scuba tank and mask to protect himself from the smoke, but investigators found evidence that he set the fire himself. Though he had grown accustomed to a lifestyle that reportedly included owning Picasso sketches and $800 climbing boots, Marin’s financial situation grew dire the year before the fire. His bank account balance fell to only $50 from $900,000 even while he had a monthly mortgage payment of more than $17,000, according to the Arizona Republic.
In addition to the interesting possibility that the defendant here decided to sentence himself to death rather than go to state prison, I have also flagged this story because I wonder just how we ought to characterized Marin's crime of arson. Is this crime properly called vioent or non-violent? Is it a white-collar offense? A property offense or a fraud offense? One of the many challenges of studying crime and sentencing data is trying to fully understand what gets placed into which data catergories, and this kind of case reinforces my persistent concern than many crimes defy easy categorization.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Questioning forceful (but suspect) claims by the varied Miller dissents: the Roberts/textualism numbers
Though I still have tons of questions about what the new Eighth Amendment SCOTUS Miller ruling will come to mean (opinion here, basic questions here and here and here), I now have some first thoughts on the three intriguing Miller dissents. Though covering some overlapping grounds (and overlapping votes), I think it is fair to short-hand these dissents using their authors and main themes: (1) the Roberts/textualism dissent, (2) the Thomas/originalism dissent, and (3) the Alito/legislative judgment dissent.
Notably, the relatively short Miller majority opinion (perhaps wisely) does not very deeply engage with all the points made in the dissenting opinions, but there is a lot of interest and force in these dissents. However, though seemingly forceful in various ways, I see a suspect judgment or assertion or conclusion at the heart of each dissent. In a series of three posts, I hope to explain briefly the suspect foundation in each of these dissents. I will start here by questioning number-crunching in the Roberts/textualism dissent in Miller.
Chief Justice Roberts' lead Miller dissent, which was signed by all the dissenters, rests on a forceful textual point set forth in these two sentences at the end of first paragraph: "The pertinent law here is the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits 'cruel and unusual punishments.' Today, the Court invokes that Amendment to ban a punishment that the Court does not itself characterize as unusual, and that could not plausibly be described as such." Though I see much force and wisdom in the Chief's concern for the term "unusual" in any interpretion of the Eighth Amendment, I think a careful and sober assessment of the data makes it quite "plausible" to characterize the sentences at issue in Miller as unusual.
First, if we focus just on Kuntrell Jackson's case before SCOTUS, it seems quite "unusual" for a teenage accomplice to a felony with no clear intent to kill and no significant criminal history to be subject to a mandatory LWOP sentence. Though data here can be slippery, there are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of teens each year who are accomplices to felonies in which someone is killed and I suspect very few of these teenage felony-murder accomplices in any given year get a mandatory LWOP. (Many of the teen accomplices without a criminal history, I would bet, are not even arrested or charged with murder, let alone brought into the adult system and subject to a mandatory LWOP sentence.)
There has been, roughly speaking, about 40 years of modern LWOP sentencing, which in turn has resulted in a total of about 2500 juve killers with LWOP sentences (of which about 2000 were imposed manditorily). I would be surprised if more than 20 of these juve LWOPers are just teenage felony-murder accomplices without a significant criminal history like Kuntrell Jackson. Because one could (very conservatively) guess that there have been 20,000 teenage felony-murder accomplices over the last four decades, Kuntrell Jackson's sentence is fairly considered a 1 in 1000 event. It seems quite appropriate (and surely "plausible") to describe such a rare event as "unusual."
Of course, ever the careful and effectively dissenter, the Chief Justice does not really take on whether Kuntrell Jackson's sentence is "unusual" (and his Graham concurrence leads me to think he might have been inclined to join a very narrow opinion that just struck down Jackson's mandatory sentence, perhaps with emphasis on mens rea points stressed in Justice Breyer's concurrence). Rather, the heart of the Chief's dissent is his complaint is that the majority in Miller has used the Eighth Amendment to "ban a punishment" (i.e., mandatory LWOP for any and all teen killers) that is not "unusual." But, even with this wider framing, I am not sure the numbers concerning the frequency of mandatory LWOP are as compelling as the Chief suggests.
Again, as to the frequency of the sentence, we have gone 40 years to get roughly 2000 mandatory juve LWOP sentences imposed, meaning we average over this period roughly 50 such sentences per year. In footnote 1 of his dissent, the Chief notes than DOJ statistics indicate that 1,170 juves were arrested for serious homicide in 2009. Taking just these numbers on their face, one could assert that a juve killer getting a mandatory LWOP sentence is roughly a 1 in 23 event. I think it is possible (and surely "plausible") to describe a 1 in 23 event as "unusual," though surely reasonable minds could differ on this front. (To use a sports metaphor, I think it would be reasonable to say it is "unusual" when the New York Mets win the World Series, even though they have done so twice in the last 45 years.)
Moreover, and perhaps more important, the Chief has fudged the numbers here a bit when referencing the 1,170 juves arrested for serious homicide in 2009, because juve homicides are way down compared to just a decade ago. Once again, data here can be slippery, but I think it is fair to say there were on average much closer to 2000 juve homicides per year over the last 40 years. Using 2000 as the denominator, the odds of a juve killer getting a mandatory LWOP is now a 1 in 40 event. Something that happens only 2.5% of the time seems to me to be "unusual."
This all said, the Chief Justice is certainly on solid ground that a mandatory LWOP sentence for a juve killer is not as unusual as the juve LWOP nonhomicide sentences at issue in Graham. But, critically, the text of the Eighth Amendment does not demand that a punishment be "very unusual" to be unconstitutional, it only demands that a punishment be "unusual." Further still, I do not think this number crunching holds the secret to unlocking an idealized modern Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. But, as will be my goal in all my posts in this series on the Miller dissents, I just want to flag the reality that a key forceful claim in this lead dissent can be viewed as suspect when fully unpacked.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Latest death row data on shows spike in percentage of condemned Latinos
Via this DPIC posting, I see that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund now has some notable updated data on condemned inmates via its Death Row USA publication available here. The DPIC posting summarizes highlights of this data in this way:
The latest edition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's Death Row USA shows a decrease of 19 inmates between January 1 and April 1, 2012. Over the last decade, the total population of state and federal death rows has decreased significantly, from 3,682 inmates in 2000 to 3,170 inmates as of April 2012. California continues to have the largest death row population (724), followed by Florida (407), Texas (308), Pennsylvania (204), and Alabama (200). Neither California nor Pennsylvania have carried out an execution in the past six years.
The report includes information on the race of death row inmates. Although the overall population of death row has decreased since 2000, the percentage of Latino inmates facing execution has been steadily increasing. In 1991, Latinos made up 6% of the nation's death row. In 2012, Latinos or Latinas comprised 12.4% of death row inmates. In jurisdictions having 10 or more inmates on death row, the states with the highest percent of Latino/Latina death row inmates are Nebraska (45%), Texas (29%) and California (23%). The report also contains statistics on executions and an overview of recent legal developments related to capital punishment.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Effective explanation of why we never can really know impact of capital punishment
Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, have this effective new commentary now up at Bloomberg discussing the challenge of ever reaching a firm conclusion as to the true impact of the death penalty in the modern United States. The piece is titled "The Death-Penalty Debate Represents a Market Failure," and here are excerpts:
The debate over the death penalty offers a vivid illustration of a tragic flaw in the market of ideas: Strong beliefs attract a lot more attention, and can have a lot more influence, than the truth.
In recent years, five U.S. states have eliminated capital punishment, and several others are currently reconsidering their policies. Advocates of the death penalty insist the moves will lead to more murders. They point to a number of studies conducted over the past couple of decades that purport to find clear evidence supporting their view. Experts happily serve up unequivocal congressional testimony, and feed their analyses to lobby groups.
The reality, unsatisfying and inconvenient as it may be, is that we simply don’t know how capital punishment affects the homicide rate. That’s the conclusion of the National Academy of Sciences, which typically plays the role of impartial arbiter in these social-science debates. Their expert panel recently concluded that existing research “is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates,” and that such studies “should not influence policy judgments about capital punishment.”...
As big a deal as capital punishment may seem, it’s actually quite rare. Since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976, there have been about 670,000 homicides and only 1,296 executions, a rate of about one execution per 500 murders. This makes the task of discerning its specific impact very difficult.
To complicate things further, the homicide rate fluctuates enormously for reasons unrelated to capital punishment. So the correlation between capital punishment and homicide rates can be positive or negative, depending on the specific sample of states or countries analyzed, the sample period chosen, and which other determinants are accounted for.
Even if the correlation between capital punishment and murder rates could be reliably estimated, that wouldn’t be enough to prove causation. For instance, more vigorous capital punishment probably occurs at the same time as other reforms to sentencing, prisons and policing. Unless these variables are measured accurately -- and our existing criminal-justice statistics do not provide adequate measures -- it is impossible to disentangle which reforms are driving the homicide rate.
It’s not even clear how to determine whether a state has an active death penalty. Is Connecticut’s recent decision to eliminate its death penalty consequential, given that the state executed only one person in the past 50 years? California has issued 951 death sentences since 1976, but executed only 13 prisoners, suggesting that the courts have slowed down the system enough to effectively transform a nominal death sentence into life without parole.
Finally, we have no evidence at all on how would-be murderers perceive the risk of execution if they are caught, which is what really matters for deterrence.
Taken together, the various problems of measuring the relationship between crime and punishment yield what the National Academy panel calls “model uncertainty.” In English, that means there are many seemingly plausible ways of looking at the evidence that yield dramatically different answers. The true effect could be big or small, positive or negative. We just can’t estimate it with any certainty....
Even if one accepts the possibility that the threat of death deters some would-be murderers, that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do so. Capital punishment diverts hundreds of millions of dollars from other criminal-justice interventions that may have done more to reduce homicide rates. This important point -- there’s an opportunity cost to spending on capital punishment -- often gets overlooked.
Amid all the uncertainty, the data do allow one conclusion that the National Academy should have emphasized more strongly: The death penalty isn’t the dominant factor driving the fluctuations in the U.S. homicide rate. If it were, the homicide rate in the U.S. wouldn’t have moved in lockstep with that of Canada, even as the two countries experimented with different death-penalty regimes (see chart). Likewise, homicide rates tend to rise and fall roughly in unison across states, even as some -- such as Texas -- ramp up executions, and others have chosen not to adopt the practice (see chart).
Overall, the panel’s conclusions are a welcome corrective to a debate in which politically expedient, yet imperfect, findings have attracted greater attention than those rare moments of humility when we social scientists admit what we don’t know. Now that a widely respected authority has established the uncertainty about the deterrent effects of the death penalty, it’s time for advocates on both sides to recognize that their beliefs are the product of faith, not data.
Recent and older related posts:
- Expert panel concludes that death penalty deterrence studies are inconclusive
- Yet another look at the death penalty deterrence question
- "Majority of Leading Criminologists Find Death Penalty Does Not Deter Murder"
- "Study says Texas death penalty a homicide deterrent"
Still more (and still puzzling) crime rate declines reported by FBI
This press release from the FBI, which carries the exciting title "FBI Releases Preliminary Annual Crime Statistics for 2011," includes some truly exciting news about the latest crime rate data:
According to the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report released today, the nation experienced a 4.0 percent decrease in the number of violent crimes and a 0.8 percent decline in the number of property crimes in 2011 when compared with data from 2010. The report is based on information the FBI gathered from 14,009 law enforcement agencies that submitted six to 12 comparable months of data for both 2010 and 2011.
Some of the crime-rate specifics are detailed in the graphic reprinted here and via these data snippets:
In 2011, all four of the violent crime offense categories — murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — declined nationwide when compared with data from 2010. Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter declined 1.9 percent, while forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault each declined 4.0 percent.
Violent crime declined in all city groups. Cities with populations of 50,000 to 99,999 saw the largest decrease (5.2 percent) in violent crime. Violent crime decreased 6.6 percent in metropolitan counties and 4.7 percent in nonmetropolitan counties....
Nationally, the property crime offense categories of larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft decreased in 2011 when compared with 2010 data. Motor vehicle theft dropped 3.3 percent, and larceny-theft decreased 0.9 percent. However, burglary offenses increased 0.3 percent.
Three of the nation’s regions had decreases in property crime in 2011 when compared with data from 2010. These offenses declined 1.3 percent in the South, 0.8 percent in the West, and 0.4 percent in the Midwest. However, property crimes increased 0.2 percent in the Northeast....
Arson offenses, which are not included in property crime totals, decreased 5.0 percent nationwide. Arsons declined in all four regions in 2011, with the Northeast experiencing the largest decrease (12.3 percent).
In this notable and astute analysis of these new data, Professor James Alan Fox compares the data for all of 2011 with the FBI data from just the first half of 2011 to conclude that, in fact, "several crime categories showed an increase in the second half of the year, including a 1.9% uptick in murder." Based on this analysis, Fox has this view and advice:
[W]e shouldn't overstate the significance of the trends for the second half of the year; they are as volatile as those for the first half. The late-year increases may say more about low crime levels near the end of 2010 than anything about 2011. The fuller picture remains to be seen.
Whatever the final data show, it would seem that the long-term downturn in crime has slowed, and may even have bottomed out. Crime can’t go down forever, of course. At this juncture, we need to focus on making sure that any increase that does occur is relatively modest.
With rates relatively low, this is not the time to diminish crime fighting efforts. If we naively presume that the crime problem has been solved (as opposed to just controlled for the time being), the crime rate could easily rebound. If we fail to invest sufficiently in crime prevention and crime control — both personnel and programs — we may someday look back at 2011 and consider them the “good old days.”
As regular readers know, I continue to be amazed and puzzled with modern American crime rate trends, especially during a period in which so many Americans (on both the right and the left) seem convinced that the country's political and legal systems are highly dysfunctional. In this important arena, something keep working; whatever that something is, I hope it does not run out of all its still positive momentum anytime soon.
Some related posts on the great modern crime decline:
- Effective Washington Post commentary talks up great (and still puzzling) crime decline
- Amazingly great new FBI data: crime down yet again in start of 2011!
- Still more great news and data on the latest crime rates in the United States
- Remarkable drop in US violent crimes rates in 2010 according to latest BJS data
- Wonderfully puzzling violent crime rate continue to decline (despite NFL lockout)
- Some speculations about the great crime decline in Florida
- Despite death penalty's practical demise and a prisoner release order, California crime hit record low in 2010
- "Punishment Politics: Gubernatorial Rhetoric, Political Conflict, and the Instrumental Explanation of Mass Incarceration in the American States"
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
"Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms"
The length of time served in prison has increased markedly over the last two decades, according to a new study by Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project. Prisoners released in 2009 served an average of nine additional months in custody, or 36 percent longer, than offenders released in 1990.
Over the past 40 years, criminal justice policy in the U.S. was shaped by the belief that the best way to protect the public was to put more people in prison. Offenders, the reasoning went, should spend longer and longer time behind bars.
Consequently, offenders have been spending more time in prison. According to a new study by Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project, the length of time served in prison has increased markedly over the last two decades. Prisoners released in 2009 served an average of nine additional months in custody, or 36 percent longer, than offenders released in 1990.
Those extended prison sentences came at a price: prisoners released from incarceration in 2009 cost states $23,300 per offender -- or a total of over $10 billion nationwide. More than half of that amount was for non-violent offenders.
The report, Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms, also found that time served for drug offenses and violent offenses grew at nearly the same pace from 1990 to 2009. Drug offenders served 36 percent longer in 2009 than those released in 1990, while violent offenders served 37 percent longer. Time served for inmates convicted of property crimes increased by 24 percent.
Almost all states increased length of stay over the last two decades, though that varied widely from state to state. In Florida, for example, where time served rose most rapidly, prison terms grew by 166 percent and cost an extra $1.4 billion in 2009.
A companion analysis Pew conducted in partnership with external researchers found that many non-violent offenders in Florida, Maryland and Michigan could have served significantly shorter prison terms with little or no public safety consequences.
The report also summarizes recent public opinion polling that shows strong support nationwide for reducing time served for non-violent offenders.
This press release from the Pew folks includes these additional details from the report:
Though almost all states increased length of stay over the last two decades, the overall change varied widely between states. Among 35 reporting states representing nearly 90 percent of 2009 prison releases, time served rose most rapidly in Florida, where terms grew by 166 percent and cost an extra $1.4 billion in 2009. Prison terms increased in Virginia by 91 percent, North Carolina (86 percent), Oklahoma (83 percent), Michigan (79 percent), and Georgia (75 percent). Eight states reduced their overall time served, including Illinois (25 percent) and South Dakota (24 percent).
Among prisoners released in 2009 from the reporting states, Michigan had the longest overall average time served, at 4.3 years, followed by Pennsylvania (3.8 years). South Dakota had the shortest average time served at 1.3 years, followed by Tennessee (1.9 years). The national average time served was 2.9 years.
Monday, May 21, 2012
What can and should we learn from the new "National Registry of Exonerations"?
As effectively reported via MSM coverage from CNN and the AP and other sources, today marked the roll-out of this amazing new web resource stlyed "The National Registry of Exonerations." As explained on the site, this registry "is a joint project of the University of the Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law" and it aspires to "maintain an up to date list of all known exonerations in the United States since 1989." This press release via the folks at Northwestern provides some of the highlights (or should I say lowlights) about what this registry reveals and should teach us about mistakes in the criminal justice system:
More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in America in the past 23 years. Nearly 900 of these exonerations are profiled, with searchable data and summaries of the cases on the National Registry of Exonerations...
More than 1,000 additional cases are “group exonerations” that occurred in response to 13 separate police corruption scandals, most of which involved massive planting of drugs and guns on innocent defendants. The group exonerations are described in a report from the National Registry, “Exonerations in the United States, 1989 – 2012,” but are not included in the registry itself.
As the report documents in detail, there are many more false convictions and exonerations that have not been found. “The National Registry of Exonerations gives an unprecedented view of the scope of the problem of wrongful convictions in the United States,” said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. “It’s a widespread problem.” “It used to be that almost all the exonerations we knew about were murder and rape cases. We’re finally beginning to see beyond that,” said Michigan Law professor Samuel Gross, editor of the registry and an author of the report. “This is a sea change.”
The report includes the following cases, most of which do not appear in any previous compilation:
- 58 exonerations for drug, tax, white collar and other non-violent crimes
- 39 exonerations in federal cases
- 102 exonerations for child sex-abuse convictions
- 129 exonerations of defendants who were convicted of crimes that never happened
- 135 exonerations of defendants who confessed to crimes they didn’t commit
- 71 exonerations of innocent defendants who pled guilty
Plus more than 1,000 group exoneration cases – including more than 200 drivers who were framed for drunk driving by police officers, who usually stole money from their wallets in the process.
[T]he cases in the registry show that false convictions are not one type of problem but several that require different types of solutions.
- For murder, the biggest problem is perjury, usually by a witness who claims to have witnessed the crime or participated in it. Murder exoneration also include many false confessions.
- In rape cases, false convictions are almost always based on eyewitness mistakes -- more often than not, mistakes by white victims who misidentify black defendants.
- False convictions for robbery are also almost always caused by eyewitness misidentifications, but there are few exonerations because DNA evidence is hardly ever useful in robbery cases.
- Child sex abuse exonerations are almost all about fabricated crimes that never occurred.
The 10 states with the most exonerations are Illinois, New York, Texas, California, Michigan, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania (not counting the 39 exonerations in federal cases). The states with most exonerations are not necessarily those where most false convictions have occurred. “It’s clear that the exonerations we found are the tip of an iceberg,” said Gross. “Most people who are falsely convicted are not exonerated; they serve their time or die in prison. And when they are exonerated, a lot of times it happens quietly, out of public view.”
I hope to find some time to review the summary findings and this full report from the registry in order to draw some additional (sentencing-related?) lessons from this extraordinarily important and valuable new criminal justice resource.
Detailing declines in capital indictments and sentences in Ohio
This new article from my own Columbus Dispatch, which is headlined "Death-penalty cases drop: New sentencing options and changes in attitudes mean fewer are being sent to Death Row," provides an accounting of changes in the administration of the death penalty in Ohio in recent years. Here are excerpts:
Franklin County sent 17 people to Death Row from 1985 to 2003, an average of nearly one a year. Then things changed. The death sentence imposed last week on Caron E. Montgomery was the county’s first in nearly nine years.
The numbers have declined statewide, as well. Since the state’s current death-penalty statute was enacted in 1981, the number of Ohioans sentenced to death fell from a record 24 in 1985 to one in 2009. Last year, three people were sent to Ohio’s Death Row.
“I don’t think there’s any one reason for it,” said Ohio Public Defender Timothy Young. “I think it’s a combination of reasons.” The reasons include a change in cultural attitudes about the death penalty, the financial burden associated with trying and appealing such cases and the availability of life without parole as an alternative, he said.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said his office began reassessing how it handles potential death-penalty cases in 2005. “We’re looking at mitigating factors now, just as a judge or jury would, and not just at the crime,” he said. “We’re asking, ‘What is the realistic possibility of obtaining the death penalty in this case?’ ”
Death-penalty indictments in Franklin County dropped dramatically as a result, from 34 in 2004 to five in 2005. Last year, three death-penalty indictments were filed in the county. O’Brien said he changed his approach to the cases after working with the U.S. attorney’s office in early 2005 on the federal death-penalty case against Daryl Lawrence, who was convicted of murdering Columbus police Officer Bryan Hurst and sentenced to death by a federal jury....
The Lawrence case also coincided with a 2005 change in state law that allowed a life sentence without parole to be imposed for aggravated-murder cases that didn’t qualify for the death penalty. Previously, life without parole was only possible in death-penalty cases. “Suddenly, prosecutors didn’t have to file a death-penalty indictment to get to life without parole,” Young said.
He thinks that’s among the reasons for a statewide decline in death-penalty indictments, from 98 in 2004 to 56 in 2011. Only Cuyahoga County continues to indict a significant number of death-penalty cases. In the past three years, 115 were indicted there, accounting for 53 percent of all death-penalty cases in the state.... But for all those indictments, Cuyahoga County sent only three defendants to Death Row in the past three years.
All 33 states with the death penalty on the books now allow judges and juries to consider life without parole as an alternative, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.... “Juries are hesitant about the death penalty because of all the revelations about wrongful convictions,” Dieter said. “Life without parole is seen as an acceptable alternative.”
Recent related post:
Saturday, May 19, 2012
"Data suggests drug treatment can lower US crime"
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Reuters piece via Fox News. Here are excerpts:
U.S. crime statistics show illegal drugs play a central role in criminal acts, providing new evidence that tackling drugs as a public health issue could offer a powerful tool for lowering national crime rates, officials said on Thursday.
An annual drug monitoring report, released by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, also showed a decline in the use of cocaine since 2003, a sign that drug-interdiction efforts and public education campaigns may be curtailing the use of the drug's powder and crack forms. The rate of overall illegal drug use in the United States has declined by roughly 30 percent since 1979.
But Thursday's report, based on thousands of arrestee interviews and drug tests, showed that on average 71 percent of men arrested in 10 U.S. metropolitan areas last year tested positive for an illegal substance at the time they were taken into custody. The figures ranged from 64 percent of arrests in Atlanta to 81 percent in Sacramento, California, and were higher for nearly half of the collection sites since 2007.
U.S. officials held up the data as evidence to support President Barack Obama's strategy aimed at breaking the cycle of drugs and crime by attacking substance abuse with treatment rather than jail for nonviolent offenders. "Tackling the drug issue could go a long way in reducing our crime issues," Gil Kerlikowske, head of the office that issued the report, told Reuters in an interview. "These data confirm that we must address our drug problem as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue."
The arrest figures included men taken into custody on more than one charge as well as those arrested in drug busts. The data showed that on average about 23 percent of violent crimes and property crimes, including home burglaries, were committed by people who tested positive for at least one of 10 illegal drugs including marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines. Charlotte, North Carolina, had the highest proportion of drug-related violent crime offenses at 29 percent, while New York City had the highest for drug-related property crimes at 32 percent....
U.S. health officials says the link between drugs and crime is socially complex. But the effect drugs have on human behavior can seem more straightforward. "Drugs impact things like inhibitory control. And our ability to weigh risks and consequences of certain behaviors is severely effected by drug abuse," said Dr. Redonna Chandler of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Drug enforcement experts say the evidence strongly supports wider use of drug courts, which seek to impose treatment regimens instead of prison sentences on repeat criminals that are dependent on illegal drugs.
West Huddleston, of the Alexandria, Virginia-based National Association of Drug Court Professionals, said a convicted criminal who successfully completes a court-imposed treatment regimen is nearly 60 percent less likely to return to crime than those who go untreated. There are more than 2,600 drug courts operating in the United States. But they reach only a fraction of drug-addicted offenders.
According to Chandler, 5 million of an estimated 7 million Americans who live under criminal justice supervision would benefit from drug treatment intervention. But only 7.6 percent actually receive treatment.
The full official report serving as the basis for this story is available at this link, and it provides lots of interesting information about persons who get arrested, including these data:
Over half (55 percent) were not working either full or part time. Depending on the site, from 27 percent to 82 percent had no form of health insurance, either private, work related, or government subsidized. They were also a population very familiar with the criminal justice system: in 9 of the 10 sites, 80 percent or more of arrestees had been arrested before, and from 13 to 30 percent had been arrested more than two times in just the prior year.
Perhaps appropriately, I have not seen any effort to spin this 2011 arrestee information to assert that data suggest job growth or health care reform can lower US crime. More generally, I feel confident that the relationship(s) between drug use, employment, health care and crime rates are very complex and defy any simple solutions.
Still, this new arrestee data is interesting and important. And I am pleased to see the Obama Administration, via this White House post by drug czar Gil Kerlikowski, use the data to push for more drug treatment and not simply to push for still greater funding for the federal drug war.
Some recent and older related posts on drug courts and drug politics:
- New research shows positive outcomes from drug court programs
- "How Would Jesus Punish Drug Use?"
- Former president of Poland urges "Saying No to Costly Drug Laws"
- Drug policy discussed by President Obama after YouTube questions
- "Bummer: Barack Obama turns out to be just another drug warrior"
- Is the time right for candidate Ron Paul to lead withdrawal from the "war on drugs"?
- New poll reports that large majority of Americans consider "War on Drugs" a failure
- "Presidential candidate to Obama: end drug war & pardon jailed marijuana users"