Thursday, April 04, 2013

"Pretrial Detention and the Right to Be Monitored"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper available via SSRN by Samuel Wiseman. Here is the abstract:

The typical academic concern with respect to advancing criminal justice technology, be it wiretaps or surveillance drones, is that there will be too much of it.  In the context of pretrial justice, however, we have the opposite problem.  Although detention for dangerousness has received far more attention in recent years, a significant number of non-dangerous but impecunious defendants are jailed to ensure their presence at trial due to continued, widespread reliance on a money bail system.  Increasingly sophisticated forms of electronic monitoring have the potential to mitigate flight risk at least as well as money bail at a cost to defendants and the state lower than money bail’s necessary concomitant, pretrial detention.  But the long, mostly sad history of bail reform efforts suggests that, unlike wiretaps, electronic monitoring in lieu of detention will not be adopted through the political process in many jurisdictions.

This paper develops two related claims.  First, in the near term, electronic monitoring will present a superior alternative to money bail for addressing flight risk.  In contrast to previous proposals for reducing pretrial detention rates, including increased use of personal recognizance bonds and varying forms of supervision by pretrial services agencies, electronic monitoring has the potential to both reduce fugitive rates (by allowing the defendant to be easily located) and government expenditures (by reducing the number of defendants detained at state expense).  Moreover, the usual objections to government monitoring -- the intrusion on individual privacy and the threat of surveillance extending to new segments of society -- have relatively little force in the pretrial context, where detention currently all but extinguishes privacy interests, and the number of criminal defendants is largely independent of the means of preventing flight.

Secondly, despite the potential benefits to defendants and governments, electronic monitoring is not likely to be adopted by legislative or executive action.  The commercial bail industry has a significant financial incentive to maintain the status quo, and it has repeatedly blunted previous reform efforts.  Thus, although there is a lively debate over the institutions best suited to respond to advances in investigative technology, here the best prospect for meaningful change is clearly the judiciary generally, and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of Excessive Bail more specifically.  To achieve this goal, however, the courts will, for the first time, have to develop a meaningful jurisprudence of excessiveness to test the fit between the government’s pretrial goals and the means employed to accomplish them.  The paper begins this inquiry, arguing that the text, purpose, and history of the Amendment all support the requirement that the chosen means be, at minimum, not substantially more burdensome than necessary.  Under this standard, a money bail system that leads to widespread detention without a corresponding increase in performance or savings cannot survive in the face of a less restrictive technological alternative.

Long-time readers know I am a fan of both the Eighth Amendment and of the potential of technocorrections to reduce the modern incarceration "footprint."  I thus find especially intriguing and appealing the notion that the Eighth Amendment might give defendants a right to demand a technocorrections alternative to incarceration in some settings.

April 4, 2013 in Prisons and prisoners, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Reentry and community supervision, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Monday, April 01, 2013

California figures out GPS tracking won't work if GPS trackers don't work

The 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:

April 1, 2013 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Monday, December 31, 2012

"Ending the Zero-Sum Game: How to Increase the Productivity of the Fourth Amendment"

I usually do not post "front-end" criminal procedure articles, but I am especially to eager to promote this new article on SSRN authored by my Ohis State colleague Ric Simmons because it highlights how new technologies can help engender more productive debates over old criminal justice questions.  And this seems like an especially timely topic as we prepare to ring out an old year and ring in a new one. Here is the abstract:

Every criminal procedure student learns on the first day of class that Fourth Amendment policy represents a zero-sum game: a constant struggle between the individual privacy of citizens and the needs of law enforcement.  In reality, however, the “competition” between law enforcement and criminals does not have to be zero-sum.  In order to see why, we need to see the criminal justice system not as a competition, but instead as an industry.  This article applies economic principles to try to find ways to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system — that is, to maximize output while minimizing costs. The costs to the system are both the intangible loss of privacy that is associated with surveillance, as well as the tangible, actual monetary cost incurred by law enforcement organizations to undertake the surveillance.  The output that we are seeking is crime control, or more specifically in the Fourth Amendment context, the identification of those who are guilty of a crime and collection of evidence which can be used to demonstrate their guilt.  Roughly speaking, the more money we spend, and/or the more willing we are to infringe on our own freedoms, the more output we receive in terms of identifying the guilty and recovering incriminating evidence.

However, there are two ways that this industry could in fact be a positive-sum game. First, advances in technologies can increase the effectiveness of surveillance in catching criminals without reducing the privacy rights of ordinary citizens — that is, it is possible to increase the output without increasing the cost.  And second, changing norms and attitudes may decrease the value of certain kinds of privacy to individuals, causing the cost of certain types of surveillance to decrease.  This can work in the other direction as well: when criminals, rather than police, take advantage of technological advances, the output of the system will decrease even if costs are held constant.  Likewise, societal norms could change to make certain types of privacy more valuable, thus increasing the cost to the system.  In these situations, the criminal justice system becomes a negative sum game.  Once we have identified the productivity of different forms of surveillance, we can take steps to encourage more productive types of surveillance and discourage the less productive ones.

The Article first sketches out a basic formula for analyzing the productivity of different surveillance methods by measuring the cost of the inputs and the benefits of the outputs. It then applies this formula to different methods of surveillance to see how certain methods of surveillance are more productive than others, searches for ways to increase the productivity of surveillance generally.  Finally, the Article offers some suggestions for changing the way we regulate surveillance techniques in order to maximize the efficiency of the process.

December 31, 2012 in Recommended reading, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wisconsin talk of GPS tracking all with domestic violence restraining orders

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has this interesting lengthy article about a new technocorrections development in Wisconsin.  The piece is headlined "Walker: GPS monitoring needed for those with restraining orders," and here are excerpts:

Gov. Scott Walker wants people who have domestic violence restraining orders issued against them placed on GPS monitoring so victims will be alerted when their assailants are nearby.  The idea — which Walker said is still under development and may be included in the state budget he introduces in February — is in response to the October shooting at the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield.

The proposal comes as policy-makers around the country debate how to prevent mass shootings like Friday's massacre in Connecticut that killed 20 first-graders and six adults. The perpetrator, Adam Lanza, killed his mother before going on the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where he then killed himself.

Walker said Wednesday that for now he is focused more on this year's shootings in Brookfield and at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek because more information is known about them.  He said more details about what happened in Connecticut are likely to come out in the weeks ahead, and that would provide the public a better sense of what laws, if any, need to change....

The Connecticut shooting comes just months after two deadly sprees in Wisconsin.  In August, white supremacist Wade Michael Page killed six people at the Sikh temple before he was shot by police and then killed himself.  In October, Radcliffe Haughton killed his estranged wife Zina and two of her co-workers at Azana, wounded four others and took his own life.

The Republican governor said he is "very interested" in including in his budget proposal a provision that people with domestic violence restraining orders against them be placed on global-positioning monitors.  He said he is still working on details....

Walker signed a law this year that allows judges to put people on GPS tracking if they violate a restraining order and are found to be more likely than not to cause serious bodily harm to the person who sought the order.  The law takes full effect in 2014.   The measure passed with overwhelming support.  Only Sens. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) voted against it.

Grothman expressed concerns about Walker's latest proposal. "It sounds like a lot of money, but having the government monitor that many people seems a little offensive," he said.  More than 15,000 new restraining orders and injunctions are issued a year on average in Wisconsin, according to the state Department of Corrections.  The agency's data does not say how many of those were related to domestic violence.

"I've always been afraid that over time government will use GPS technology to keep track of a larger and larger segment of the population," Grothman said.  "It does not take a strong burden of proof to get a restraining order, and I don't think we need 15,000 people in this state being monitored."

Walker said the cost would be borne by the people who had restraining orders issued against them.  The Department of Corrections monitors some sex offenders at a cost of $6.90 a day per offender.  If those under a domestic violence restraining order were put on GPS monitoring and charged the same rate for six months, it would cost them more than $1,200.  If those people could not afford to pay for their monitoring, it could add up to millions of dollars a year that taxpayers would pick up.

Tony Gibart, policy development coordinator for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said his group supports increased monitoring of domestic abusers but noted that many issues in Walker's proposal would need to be worked out.  "I think there are a lot of legal and practical matters that would have to be thought through," Gibart said.

Many with restraining orders against them won't be able to pay, he said.  Additionally, victims and assailants often share children, and the assailant is responsible for helping to pay to take care of the children.  If they have to pay for their GPS devices, that makes it harder for them to pay costs such as child support....

Tamara Packard, a civil rights attorney in Madison, said she has civil liberties concerns in the government tracking a person who hasn't been convicted of any crime.  "The question is whether that's something that's possible under the Constitution and whether that's something that we want in our society," Packard said.

December 20, 2012 in Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Smart Gun Technology Could Have Blocked Adam Lanza"

The title of this post is the headline of this new Huffington Post commentary by David Shuster, which I view as a long-needed and welcome example of a new kind of discourse over gun control needed in the wake of the Newtown massacre.  Here are excerpts:

As our leaders begin the uncertain political debate over gun control, there is a simple and straightforward policy solution right now that would uphold gun owners' 2nd amendment rights and still keep our kids safer.  It's called "smart gun technology."

The system is similar to "smart technology" already in use for things like cars, iPhones and security doors.  A computer microchip measures the bio-metric details of the person attempting to activate the product. If the details match the rightful owner, the device is "enabled." If the details don't match, the device will not work or open.

Smart gun technology has been around for years. CBS News profiled a New Jersey institute that was perfecting it in 2009. Science Daily had a story about the emerging technology back in 2005,

The most reliable smart gun technology involves a grip recognition system.  There are 16 digital sensor chips embedded in the handle. The computerized sensors capture the unique pattern and pressure of your grip, plus the specific size of your hand.  If someone else tries to use the gun, the information will not match the stored pattern of the gun owner's — and the weapon will not fire....

[T]his technology, as well as similar versions involving fingerprint recognition, could be embedded in guns today.  But for years, the National Rifle Association has blocked these efforts, in part because they would make guns costlier to produce and purchase.  The NRA has also insisted that smart gun technology would infringe upon the Second Amendment. Constitutional experts say that argument is absurd.  The Constitution allows for all kinds of product regulations....

The best argument against smart gun technology is a logistical one. It could prevent a homeowner who wrestles away an intruder's gun from firing it back at them. I think we can agree, however, that such MacGyver-like situations are exceedingly rare.  And the fact is, 10 to 15 percent of guns used in home invasions, robberies and mass shootings are weapons that have been stolen.

Furthermore, smart gun technology allows for multiple biometric "identities" to be stored in one gun.  This would solve a problem for police or members of the military who may want to have the option of "sharing weapons."

In the case of the Connecticut massacre, is it possible that Adam Lanza's mother, a gun enthusiast who reportedly took her sons to the range, would have embedded Adam's biometric data on her weapons if that was possible?  Sure.  But family baby sitters have told reporters that Nancy Lanza repeatedly urged "caution" around Adam and was worried about his behavioral problems....

The weapons Adam Lanza relied on were not his. They belonged to his mother, the only person entitled to use them.  And while she may have taught her son how to fire the weapons at shooting ranges over the years, she was the sole owner of the weapons, not him.  If smart technology had been in place, the weapons would have likely been useless to Adam Lanza.

And that's the point. Congress and the President should begin their new effort at preventing mass shootings by mandating something that might have made a different in Newtown, Conn. — require smart gun technology in all weapons.  Just as our nation insists on basic quality standards for cars, houses, tools, air, water, and etc, insisting on basic features for all weapons that may be "fired" is perfectly reasonable.

It's not about taking guns away.  It's about making sure that guns can't be fired by anybody but their lawful owners.  Is that too much to ask?

As long-time readers know, I have been talking up smart-gun technology on this blog for years (examples here and here), and I have been sincerely hoping that the horrific shooting in Connecticut will start generating new and needed buzz on this encouraging front. This Huff Post commentary is a good start, and I sure hope the new leadership and initiatives coming from President Obama and VP Biden (basics here from the AP) will be focused like a laser on the potential pros and cons of smart guns.

Prior posts both old and new:

December 19, 2012 in Gun policy and sentencing, Second Amendment issues, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New report examines value of video visitation for kids of incarcerated

I received news via my electronic in-box of an intriguing new report from The Sentencing Project.  Here is how the e-mail describes the report (with a link within):

On any given day, approximately 2.6 million children have a parent in jail or prison because of the harsh criminal justice policies that have made the United States the world's leading jailer.  A growing number of correctional facilities are moving to video visitation because it can be managed by fewer staff than traditional visitation, reduces the chances of contraband being introduced into facilities, and can potentially generate revenue.

In our new report, Video Visits for Children Whose Parents are Incarcerated: In Whose Best Interest?, Dr. Susan D. Phillips addresses the question of whether video visitation may also provide benefits for children who are separated from their parents by incarceration.  Our conclusion is that it depends on the particular policies and practices of a given institution.

Video visitation holds the most potential for benefiting children if: 

  • It is used as an adjunct to, rather than a replacement for, other modes of communication, particularly contact visits; 
  • Children can visit from their homes or nearby sites; 
  • Facility policies allow for frequent visits; and 
  • Fees are not cost prohibitive.

October 16, 2012 in Prisons and prisoners, Scope of Imprisonment, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Monday, October 15, 2012

With Texas schools now RFID tracking, is broad criminal justice use of this technology on the horizon?

Long-time readers may recall that more than half a decade ago I was asking in this post whether microchip inplants to track offenders might be an unavoidable inevitability.  To some extent, broad GPS tracking of sex offenders in many states has begun a move in this direction. 

I have long thought the increased use of this technology for non-criminals would be a key social development that could make more people more inclined to be more comfortable with this kind of Big Brother approach to criminal justice.  Consequently, this recent media story coming from Texas about a new use of RFID tracking caught my attention.  The story is headlined "RFID chips let schools track students -- and retain funding -- but some parents object," and here are excerpts:

Two San Antonio schools have turned to radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to help administrators count and track the whereabouts of students on campus.

Students at Anson Jones Middle School and John Jay High School are required to wear ID cards imbedded with electronic chips, similar to highway toll tags, which allow schools to more accurately record daily attendance.  Public school funding is often tied to the number of students attending class each day....

Pascual Gonzalez, Northside’s communications director, estimates the entire district has been losing about $1.7 million a year because of underreported attendance. He says the RFID system, which costs $261,000, should pay for itself in the first year....  Principal Wendy Reyes says the system has the added benefit of allowing her to find a particular student instantly. “Sometimes it’s difficult to locate a student in a sea of 1,200 others, so this helps locate them in an emergency,” she said. The ID tags can only be read on campus, so students cannot be tracked outside the building.

Some parents and students fear the radio ID tags are just too much Big Brother.  Steve Hernandez, whose daughter is a sophomore, objects to the tags on Biblical grounds. He compared the badges to the “mark of the beast” as described in the Book of Revelations.... The American Civil Liberties Union calls the RFID tags “dehumanizing.”

“What kind of lesson does it teach our children if they’re chipped like cattle and their every movement tracked?” asks Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the ACLU’s Washington, D.C. office. “It doesn’t create the kind of independent, autonomous people that we want in our democratic society.”

Gonzalez, Northside’s spokesman, says school administrators have no intention of spying on students.  “There’s a misconception that somebody’s sitting in a room with a bank full of monitors looking at where 1,200 kids are here at Anson Middle School. That’s not true,” he said.  “It’s not even feasible.  We’re not staffed nor are we interested in knowing where all the kids are at a particular moment.”

What the RFID system does do, according to Gonzales, is provide an accurate, daily census of students, which helps the district make money.  Based on early results, the district may consider expanding the RFID system to its other 109 schools, encompassing nearly 100,000 students.

I find the quotes from various folks in this story especially notable given the potential application of this technology in criminal justice setting: I suspect many policy-makers would be glad, not troubled, to adopt a technology which might be viewed as "dehumanizing" for certain types of offenders, and I am certain there is some policy interest (and some public benefits) from having the every movement of high-risk offenders tracked.  And though some are quick to object to any further monitoring of sex offenders, I wonder if there would be the same concerns about using RFID to track potentially violent men who are subject to a restraining order due to a history of domestic violence.

Some older related posts on tracking technologies:

October 15, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

South Carolina Supreme Court reconsidering big constitutional ruling concerning broad GPS tracking

As reported in this prior post, last May the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a very interesting (and seemingly ground-breaking) constitutional ruling concerning GPS tracking of a sex offender in SC v. Dykes, No. 27124 (S.C. May 9, 2012) (available here).   Via this new AP article, I now see that this Dykes case was reheard today, though it is not clear whether we may get a new (or clearer) opinion this time around. Here are the basics:

Even after hearing the case a second time, the South Carolina Supreme Court isn't sure it is fair to make some sex offenders in the state face lifetime satellite monitoring of their every move without any chance of appeal.

The justices Tuesday reheard a case from May where they decided the monitoring may be too harsh in some cases. The Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services asked the court to reconsider its ruling, saying their decision rewrote the law.

A lawyer for Jennifer Dykes again argued her constitutional rights were violated because she had no chance to appeal or revisit the decision to put a bracelet on her ankle that reports her every move to state authorities.

Dykes, 32, was ruled to be a sex offender after being convicted of a lewd act on a child charge stemming from her relationship with a 14-year-old girl in Greenville County several years ago. She was found to be at low risk to abuse a child again.

After violating her probation by drinking alcohol, continuing a relationship with a convicted felon she met while behind bars and rescheduling too many appointments for sex offender counseling, Dykes' probation was revoked, according to court documents.

The probation violation meant under state law authorities could seek lifetime monitoring for Dykes without a chance of appeal.... Dykes' lawyer, Chris Scalzo, held up his wedding ring and said while he loves his wife and wears it nearly all the time, he can take it off. "She's not allowed to take that thing off her body unless there is a court order," Scalzo said.

An attorney for the probation agency, John Aplin, said lawmakers passed the lifetime monitoring law to protect the public. "The reason you are tracking that person every minute of every day for the rest of their life is to protect children from further future harm. It's also to help law enforcement solve crimes," Aplin said.

Chief Justice Jean Toal said she understands the need for public safety from the most dangerous offenders. But she said it is a fair question to ask if a one-size-fits-all law that doesn't allow a timely chance to appeal the ruling or ask a judge to revisit whether an offender is still dangerous is constitutional. "This court has no grief for sex offenders. But there are certainly different levels," Toal said.

Associate Justice Kay Hearn, who wrote her own opinion in May suggesting that revealing every detail of Dykes' private life to state officials violates her constitutional rights, pointed out that Dykes was not considered to be a dangerous sex offender who preys on children and would likely never change her behavior.

Prior related post:

September 18, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Prison videoconference visitation program expanding in New York

This New York Daily News article, headlined "Videoconference prison visit program set to quadruple in size this fall," reports on the latest technocorrections development in the Empire State. Here are the details:

The fledging program of prison visits via closed-circuit TV — the first one in the state — is set to more than quadruple in size this fall, the Daily News has learned. “The research shows that people will do better when they’ re released if they stay connected with their families,” said Elizabeth Gaynes, executive director of the Osborne Association, a nonprofit that has been conducting the meetings known as televisits for the past two years.

The program has been confined so far to Albion women’ s prison, allowing children to meet with their mothers. It will soon expand to the male-only Auburn, Clinton and Chateaugay facilities, with videoconference rooms added in Manhattan and the Bronx, the state Corrections Department confirmed. “We see it as a complement, if you will, to our visitation process,” said spokesman Peter Cutler. “It’ s been successful, and we’ re confident it’ ll be expanded even further.”

Visiting New York’ s remote prisons, some located more than a 10-hour bus ride away from the city, can be daunting and expensive. A free bus service was discontinued last year, further reducing options to relatives of some 56,000 inmates. Cutler said that those buses were often nearly empty, and that visits dropped by only 5% since they were canceled.

On a recent afternoon, laughter emanated from inside a cheerfully decorated room as Sindy Villanueva, 33, who’s serving a 4.67-to-12-year sentence, chatted with her 9-year-old daughter, Selena Estevec. “Just because we’ re separated from them doesn’ t mean we can’ t be a part of their lives,” Villanueva said....

Families talk on a large-screen TV that looks very much like a computer Skype window. But because most of New York ’s prisons lack Internet connections or cell service (cell phones are considered contraband), facilitating the hookup requires infrastructure work.

The practice of video-streamed visits have been growing around the country in recent years, with some states charging for the service. Last month, Washington, D.C., switched all visitations to televised ones, drawing criticism from some advocates and inmates’ relatives. Corrections officials in New York insisted they intend to keep televisits free — and the prisons open to physical visits.

Gaynes, of the Osborne Association, which assists incarcerated people and their families, said that many clients love the opportunity to see more of their kids, even if it’s through a TV screen. “They’ re like any mother or parent,” she said. “ They worry about their children.”

August 29, 2012 in Prisons and prisoners, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A local iPad innovation in technocorrections for sex offenders

Though surely not as big a deal as a big patent win in court, Apple shareholders should be pleased by this local article from Georgia reporting on a new corrections use for one of its signature products.  The article is headlined "Sheriff deputies use iPads to make sex offender checks," and here are excerpts:

The Muscogee County Sheriff's office is stepping into the 21st century. Deputies working in the sex offender squad are getting new tools to make checks on sex offenders easier. It's out with the old and in with new technology. Muscogee County Sheriff Deputies with the Sex Offender Squad are using iPads to check up on sex offenders. Sheriff John Darr says the iPads will save time and eliminate an excessive paper trail.

"You've got some of these sex offenders that has files of fifty or more pages," Sheriff Darr said. "Now you are going to be able to put it all in one little area."

The new iPad fleet cost a little more than $2,000, which came from the U.S. Marshal's Department. For now, only two deputies will have access to the new technology. They will run checks on the 387 registered sex offenders in Muscogee County. "It makes it more persuasive in this day of technology juries expect us to be able to show them pictures of things, videos of things they want to see that," District Attorney Julia Slater said.

Each sex offender's information is logged into the iPad. Now all a deputy has to do is scroll through the pages of documents in each offender's file. If they break the law, District Attorney Julia Slater says they will be prosecuted.

August 26, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Interesting report on marketing technology to a confined consumer

Businessweek has this notable new piece discussing some private companies' shrewd efforts to tailor technology products to inmate populations. The piece is headlined "The Apple of the U.S. Prison System," and here are excerpts:

The surge [in US prison populations in recent decades] has been good for a constellation of corrections contractors, including JPay, which handles money transfers, e-mail communications, and video visitations for more than 1.4 million inmates in hundreds of prisons across about 35 states. So good that the decade-old business last year expanded into selling inmates its own line of “prison-proof” MP3 players — what it dubs the JP3. “We’re looking for products that an inmate would want to buy and a corrections facility would accept,” says founder and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Shapiro, 35.  “Music was a no-brainer because inmates don’t have enough music and they all love music.”

Shapiro is aiming to make JPay, a 200-employee Miami business that became profitable in 2006, the Apple (AAPL) of the U.S. penal system. To understand why he thinks Apple or another tech behemoth can’t easily snuff him out, here’s a quick review of prison rules: Corrections facilities generally forbid devices that can be turned into weapons, be used to communicate freely with the outside, or conceal contraband.  Hand a violent prisoner an iPad and the risks become fairly clear.

Shapiro says JPay’s player, which retails for around $40 at kiosks the company installs in common areas inside prisons, is virtually indestructible. Inmates use it to browse a library of more than 10 million songs, “just like on iTunes,” and download them for $1.99 a pop. The three most popular artists are Usher, Tre Songz, and Kenny Chesney.  “We take outside applications, redevelop them for prisons specifically, and then deploy them,” Shapiro explains. “The prison doesn’t pay for any of [our services]; it’s the end user who pays.”

JPay didn’t pioneer its new line of business. Keefe Group, a St. Louis-based supplier of food and personal-care products to prison commissaries, launched its own music download service for prisoners in 2009.  While the 37-year-old company didn’t respond to interview requests, a press release posted on the company’s website says it sold more than 1 million downloads in just over a year.  On its own website, a rival correctional facilities supplier, Union Supply Group, headquartered in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., says it started selling digital music to offenders in 2003 and has available more than 5 million tracks “approved” by correctional partners. Shapiro won’t say what JPay has sold or how much it scores in annual revenue but asserts that the company is “way in front of [Keefe] when it comes to money transfer or the media business.”

Shapiro, who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Colorado, Boulder, learned about the inconveniences of transferring money to a prisoner’s account when a friend’s mother was sentenced for embezzling.  He says inmates “understand you have to charge in order to be able provide a service … Look at our Facebook (FB)page. Look at how many times someone says: ‘I love JPay.’”

Next up for the business: a mini tablet it plans to start selling by yearend called the JP4. “It’s got an e-mail application, music, e-books — it’s got anything you can imagine,” says Shapiro.  “Think about education, think about games; it’s endless where we could go.  We think it’s as big, if not bigger, than the money-transfer business.”

August 14, 2012 in Prisons and prisoners, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Montana case shows technology in addition to — or rather than? — toughness needed to stop some drunk drivers

Regular readers know that I consider drunk driving to be a serious and dangerous crime which merits serious and dynamic criminal justice responses.  And this new local story out of Montana, headlined "Released from prison in June, Billings man charged with DUI No. 13," reinforces my sense that we need to use technology as well as (or perhaps in lieu of) tough prison sentences to keep persistent drunk drivers from being an enduring menace to innocent persons on our nation's roadways. Here are the basics:

Bond was set at $100,000 on Wednesday for a Billings man charged with his 13th drunken-driving offense less than six weeks after he completed a 10-year stint behind bars for his 12th.  John Harvey Hoots, 53, appeared in Justice Court by video from the county jail following his arrest Tuesday evening.  Judge Larry Herman set the high bond after prosecutors said Hoots has 12 prior DUI convictions and a criminal record in five states.

Hoots was released from prison on June 25 after serving a 10-year sentence his 12th DUI. Prosecutors said Hoots could face designation as a double persistent felony offender, which carries a minimum sentence enhancement of 10 years.

According to court records, a man called police at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to report that Hoots was outside the man’s house on South 28th Street yelling, taking off his clothes and “displaying his rear end in an offensive manner.”  Hoots left, but returned a few minutes later and walked to the front of the man’s house and said he had a gun, the man told police.

When officers arrived, the man pointed out Hoots as he was driving away in a pickup truck.  The officers tried to stop the truck, but the driver continued for some distance before pulling into a parking lot. Hoots showed signs of intoxication, and officers said they found a plastic beer cup in the truck. No gun was found, but Hoots was “uncooperative, would not listen, and displayed an aggressive attitude toward the officers,” court records state....  Hoots is charged with felony DUI and misdemeanor counts of driving without a valid license and driving without insurance....

Prosecutors said Hoots has eight prior DUI convictions in Montana and four DUI convictions in other states.  The most recent DUI conviction and prison sentence stemmed from his arrest in April 2002, when officers stopped his vehicle after receiving a report of a gas drive-off.  Hoots was on probation for a prior DUI at the time.

Whether he is viewed as sick or evil or given some other diagnostic label, it would seem beyond any and all dispute that John Harvey Hoots is simply incapable of keeping himself from getting drunk and than getting behind the wheel.  Usefully, the decade he spent in prison from 2002 to 2012 helped keep Montana roads safe from this menace (and may well have saved untold number of innocent lives from the roadway carnage Hoots risks causing when a free man). 

But while the roadway safety benefits of keeping Hoots incarcerated for a decade must be acknowledged, so too must be the significant costs of incapaciting Hoots in his own heartbreak hotel in which taxpayers foot his room and board.  And, sadly, Hoots obviously did not learn his lesson or get rehabilitated during this extended stretch in the state pen.  Thus, one cannot help but wonder if Montana now, rather than house Hoots behind bars for another decade or more, might seek to develop some (big brother?) technological means — e.g., GPS tracking with a SCRAM bracelet, medication that makes user sick if he drinks liqour — to keep the roads in the Big Sky State safe from Hoots in a more cost effective way.

August 2, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack

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.”

July 20, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Data on sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

South Carolina Supreme Court declares lifetime sex offender GPS tracking unconstitutional on various grounds

The South Carolina Supreme Court has a very interesting (and seemingly ground-breaking) constitutional ruling concerning GPS tracking of a sex offender.  The ruling in SC v. Dykes, No. 27124 (S.C. May 9, 2012) (available here), is a bit hard to figure out: the first opinion seems to announce the opinion for the court, but then a footnote at the state of Justice Hearn's opinion states that "[b]ecause a majority of the Court has joined the separate concurring opinion of Justice Kittredge, his concurrence is now the controlling opinion in this case." I will quote the first paragraph from both opinions in the case, because they both are noteworthy, starting here with the opinion of Justice Hearn:

Jennifer Rayanne Dykes appeals the circuit court's order that she be subject to satellite monitoring for the rest of her natural life pursuant to Section 23-3-540(C) of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2010). She lodges five constitutional challenges to this statute: it violates her substantive due process rights, her right to procedural due process, the Ex Post Facto clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. We hold the mandatory imposition of lifetime satellite monitoring violates Dykes' substantive due process rights and reverse and remand for further proceedings.

The very lengthy opinion by Justice Hearn, which apparently garnered only two (of the five) votes on the court, is thereafter followed by a shorter opinion by Justice Kittredge which starts this way:

I concur in result. I commend my learned colleague for her scholarly research, and I agree with the majority's general proposition that persons have a fundamental right "to be let alone."  But I respectfully disagree that Appellant, as a convicted child sex offender, possesses a right that is fundamental in the constitutional sense.  I do not view Appellant's purported right as fundamental.  I would find Appellant possesses a liberty interest entitled to constitutional protection, for all persons most assuredly have a liberty interest to be free from unreasonable governmental interference.  I would find that the challenged mandatory lifetime, non-reviewable satellite monitoring provision in section 23-3-540(C) is arbitrary and fails the minimal rational relationship test.

Long story short, it appears that all members of the South Carolina Supreme Court have concluded that the mandatory lifetime satellite monitoring now required by stature in South Carolina for sex offender Jennifer Rayanne Dykes is unconstitutional.  (I mention the full name of the defendant in this case because I cannot help but wonder, yet again, if the defendant's gender may have played at least an unconscious role in this notable outcome.  I do not think it is implausible to at least suspect this case might well have come out another way if the the defendant was named Johnny Rex Dykes.)

I have not kept count of how many states are like South Carolina in requiring lifetime GPS monitoring of many sex offenders, but I am pretty sure this ruling could (and should?) have ripple effects in at least a few other jurisdictions.  I am also sure that both constitutional scholars and those interested in the intersection of modern technology and criminal justice doctrines ought to check out the Dykes opinions.

May 9, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sentences Reconsidered, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Note examines "vastly different" circuit views on internet bans for supervised release

Via Concurring Opinions, I discovered this new student note titled "You Don’t Have Mail: The Permissibility of InternetUse Bans in Child Pornography Cases and the Need for Uniformity Across the Circuits."  Here is the abstract:

The federal courts of appeal have formed vastly different conclusions with respect to the reasonableness of Internet-use bans as a term of supervised release in virtual child pornography cases.  All courts ground their decisions in 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d), the federal statute governing supervised release conditions.  Nonetheless, when presented with seemingly analogous facts, some courts uphold Internet-use bans, whereas others strike them down.  Courts upholding such bans conclude that they constitute effective deterrents and ensure public safety.  Courts overturning the bans, on the other hand, assert that they unreasonably deprive offenders of their liberty interests.

Because decisions regarding the permissibility of Internet-use bans are, under the current statutory regime, incoherent at best and arbitrary at worst, Congress should amend § 3583(d) to provide judges with meaningful, cyberspecific guidance.  Accordingly, this Note proposes that Congress adopt the UNIFORM Act, which sets forth child pornography–specific guidelines for determining the terms for supervised release.  Inspired by the United States Sentencing Guidelines and extracted from the caselaw regarding the permissibility of Internet-use bans, the UNIFORM Act seeks to limit judges’ sentencing discretion in child pornography cases.  At bottom, this Note posits a commonsense compromise, informed by existing statutes and caselaw, which would achieve consistency in an area of the law currently plagued by judicial ambiguity.

May 6, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Notable report on Oregon's use of technology to combat drunk driving

Gs41duii111-02jpg-974d1361a08849cbRegular readers know I am a fan of "technocorrections" generally and that I have a special affinity for the use of ignition locks as a means to respond to, and seek to reduce the incidents of, drunk driving. Consequently, I found this new local piece, headlined "Oregon turns heavily to ignition interlocks to prevent drunken driving," to make for very interesting reading. Here are excerpts:

A new state law [in Oregon] has greatly expanded the number of drivers ordered to install ignition interlocks, which are designed to keep people from driving if they have been drinking.

Use of the devices has soared across the country in recent years as legislators, spurred on by groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, adopted laws requiring offenders to install the interlocks. Congress is also considering language in the new transportation bill that would penalize states that don't adopt mandatory interlock laws.

Supporters say re-arrest rates plummet for drivers using the electronic devices while also providing a safe way for people to continue to drive to work or ferry their kids around. Offenders have to pay the costs of the equipment and it appears to be politically popular: the Oregon Legislature unanimously approved interlock bills in 2011 and 2012.

Still, the growth of interlocks has also raised plenty of doubts and criticism. The majority of drunken drivers required to install an interlock get out of the requirement, typically by waiting out their license suspensions or by claiming not to have access to a car. The problem is that most of those offenders continue to drive anyway without a license or insurance, according to several studies and experts.

It's also not clear that interlocks have a lasting effect on driver behavior. Once they're removed -- in Oregon, usually after a year -- studies indicate the recidivism rate climbs back to the same rate as offenders who never used interlocks. In addition, while Oregon expanded its interlock law, it hasn't put resources into monitoring their use. As a result, officials aren't likely to learn whether offenders have "bad blows" that indicate they've been drinking and can't start their cars.

Installers are preparing for a new rush of business after a 2011 law passed by the Legislature took effect in January. It requires offenders in diversion programs install the interlock devices for a year. Another law passed in 2012 requires the most serious multiple offenders to use an interlock for five years after getting their licenses restored.

About 10,000 people a year are placed on diversion after being arrested for drunken driving. Another 10,000 are convicted of drunken driving -- typically after a previous offense -- and are already required to use the device. The latest figures, from last July, show 3,715 interlocks on Oregon vehicles.

"We can't keep these things in stock," said David Farah, owner of BreatheCLEAN'alc-lock Systems, "as soon as they come in they're gone." Farah's Portland-based company buys interlocks from manufacturers and has deals with auto shops in Portland, Medford, Ashland and Coos Bay to install them. In Portland, he usually charges a $65 installation fee and $59 a month for the device....

Anne Pratt, who lobbies for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Oregon, said she is impressed by New Mexico's success with tougher interlock ignition laws. Over the last decade, that state's drunken driving fatality rate has dropped from being one of the country's highest to around the national average.  On a per-capita basis, more drivers in New Mexico -- nearly one out of every 100 -- use interlocks than anywhere else. "The interlock acts as a virtual probation officer riding in the front seat," said Pratt, adding that, "If you can pay for alcohol, you can pay for the installation of an interlock device."...

While companies that manufacture and install interlock devices are an important economic power behind these laws, the restaurant industry has used its clout to fight their expanded use.  The American Beverage Institute, which represents several restaurant chains, is fighting federal legislation that would boost funding for a research program to develop an ignition interlock that could someday become standard equipment on all cars.

Sarah Longwell, the institute's managing director, said that if that happens, people will be afraid to go out for dinner and drinks for fear their cars won't start when they want to go home. "We want to protect moderate and responsible drinking," she said.

Richard Roth, a New Mexico researcher and expert on interlock use, said he thinks Longwell mostly wants to protect high-margin alcohol sales in restaurants. He said the research project, known as DADSS, for Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, and sponsored by the federal government and auto manufacturers, could be a valuable addition to safety since a majority of drunken drivers involved in fatal crashes have never been arrested for the crime before.  In any event, he added, the DADSS technology "is a tremendously difficult thing to achieve and I still think it's 10 years away. It has to be so much better than what the current interlock is. It has to be like an airbag -- you don't even know it's there."

Some related posts on sentencing drunk drivers and advocacy for ignition locks:

April 11, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 05, 2012

"NY Moves to Ban Sex Offenders from Video Game Websites"

WaluigiThe title of this post is the headline of this news story, which includes this report on the latest effort to keep sex offenders from using the internet to have certain kinds of fun:

Registered sex offenders in New York state are being shut out of online gaming systems that have allowed them to interact with children anonymously under an agreement announced Thursday by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The deal applies only to sex offenders within state borders — boundaries that may not hold much weight in virtual gaming worlds where players young and old mix anonymously, conversing by voice and written message. "Online gaming is not just a digital playground. It has the potential to be a 21st century crime scene," Schneiderman said, citing a 2008 Pew Research Center study that found that 27 percent of teenagers acknowledge playing games online with strangers. Many games require players to interact virtually with others.

The deal may be the first of its kind to focus on online gaming; Schneiderman said he was aware of no other. Such precautions are frequently taken on more traditional social networking sites such as Facebook.

The agreement — dubbed "Operation: Game Over" by Schneiderman's office — has led companies including Microsoft and Apple to shut down or suspend communication privileges for more than 3,500 accounts. The attorney general declined to identify companies that have thus far declined to participate.

Schneiderman said his office was exploring ways in which the program could be expanded to other states. In New York, registered sex offenders are required to disclose all their email addresses and online accounts, allowing gaming companies to perform a weekly purge of player accounts associated with the offenders.

Earlier this month, Schneiderman said, a 19-year-old man pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges after befriending a 10-year-old through Microsoft's Xbox LIVE and luring the boy to his home.

The companies that have agreed to participate in the program are Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Warner Bros. and Disney Interactive Media Group.

April 5, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Arkansas parole board assessing total internet ban for all released sex offenders

As reported in this recent local story, headlined "Arkansas board eyes Internet ban for sex offenders," officials in the Natural State are considering a broad (unnatural?) restriction on all released sex offenders. Here are the basics:

Some freed sex offenders will be able to send e-mails and browse the Web for a while longer while the state Board of Parole researches whether it can adopt a policy that bars convicted sex offenders from using the Internet without infringing on their First Amendment rights.

The board had been scheduled to vote Thursday, at a meeting in Hot Springs, on a proposal to prohibit all paroled sex offenders from using the Internet -- at least for an initial period after their release from prison.  The board now restricts sex offenders' Internet access on a case-by-case basis.

But the board put off discussing imposing the broader restriction at the request of Chairman John Felts, who said the state attorney general's office is researching whether such a ban would be constitutional.  "We just want to make sure that we don't make a ruling that we have to back off of," Felts said....

At that meeting, Knoll said parole officers have found that offenders are frequently using the Internet to download child pornography and communicate with children.  Under the proposal, all sex offenders would initially be barred from accessing the Internet, but they could request permission to use it for a specific purpose, such as for use in the workplace.

Felts said he discussed the proposal Monday with Graves and Assistant Attorney General Arnold Jochums, a legal adviser to the board, and Jochums requested more time for research.  He said the board also contacted the Association of Paroling Authorities International, which agreed to survey states on their policies.

In a phone interview, criminal-defense attorney Jeff Rosenzweig of Little Rock said it's a "close question" on whether the board could bar offenders' Internet access. But he called the policy "ill-considered, particularly since so much of life and commerce and everything else like that has gone to the Internet.  It would put them at even more of a disadvantage in trying to be law-abiding, to reintegrate back into society," he said.

In Louisiana, a federal judge ruled that a law prohibiting certain types of sex offenders from using social networking sites, chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.  Unlike the Arkansas policy, however, the law made accessing the sites a crime and applied to offenders who were no longer under state supervision.  Pam Laborde, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said the state's Parole Board now imposes restrictions on a case by-case basis.

In Texas, a Board of Pardons and Paroles policy, adopted in 2009, prohibits certain sex offenders from using social-networking sites, using the Internet to gain access to obscene material, communicating through the Internet with anyone they know to be under 17 or communicating on the Internet about sexual topics with anyone under 17, whether the offender knows the person's age or not.

The Texas restriction applies only to offenders deemed to be at high risk of re-offending and whose convictions involved the use of a computer.  Offenders can petition for an exception if the restriction interferes with the ability to attend school or perform duties at work.

As I have noted before, just whether, when, and how sex offenders can be prohibited from getting on-line is a challenging legal issue that seems certain to arise in many jurisdictions in many different ways.  I suspect it is only a matter of when, not if, this issue in some variation eventually get to the Supreme Court.

Some related posts:

April 3, 2012 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alcohol industry resistant to federal support for more DUI prevention technology

This interesting new article from Politico, which is headlined "Fight brews over DUI technology," provides another clear example why I think parents (and others) should worry much more about the harms fostered by the alcohol industry than by the marijuana industry. As these excerpts highlight, the lobbies for booze peddlers are hard at work trying to prevent the development and more widespread use of new technologies to prevent drunk driving:

Safety advocates and alcohol interests are squaring off over legislation intended to reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths through the use of devices that prevent drunken drivers from starting their cars.  Tucked into the Senate’s transportation bill is a provision that directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to study “more widespread deployment of in-vehicle technology” that would prevent drunken driving....

The idea is to develop some kind of nonintrusive technology based around touch or breathing that would be able to sense when a driver is drunk and disable the car. Technology on the market now — called “ignition interlocks” — require a driver to blow into a Breathalyzer device attached to the car’s dashboard and then wait 30 seconds until the sample is analyzed.  Only then will the car start.

The research is trying to develop a “far less intrusive” technology more acceptable to the general public, which consumers eventually would be able to choose as an option on a new car — similar to picking leather seats or a sunroof.

Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, a group that represents alcohol distributors and restaurants that serve alcohol, said the provision is the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent that could lead to mandating these devices on all new cars. “They’re developing it for all cars as original equipment.  The bill doesn’t mandate anything, but ultimately that’s what they want,” Longwell said.

But J.T. Griffin, senior vice president of public policy for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said all the program would do is enable research.  “Car companies right now are trying to figure out how to do it and if it can even be done.  The goal is this would be a voluntary technology,” Griffin said. “MADD’s perspective is, we think every parent in America is going to want this on their vehicle.”...

On this portion of the bill, the American Beverage Institute is waging a pretty lonesome war. The research provision has the support of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.

The other provision in question — which is in both the House and the Senate versions of the surface transportation bill — has drawn more opposition. The language stipulates that if states want about 5 percent of their regularly allocated safety money, they must enact a law that requires first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device if they want to continue driving.

“Both bills take a little bit of a different approach to safety, but at the end of the day, the states that pass ignition interlocks for all convicted offenders will receive additional money,” said Griffin of MADD. “This is a huge component of MADD’s campaign to eliminate drunk driving.”...

At present, 16 states have this sort of “all-offender” mandate for ignition interlocks on their books, and an additional 22 states require them for repeat offenders or those whose blood-alcohol content was especially high.  These programs generally require an offender to install an ignition interlock in order to avoid a complete driver’s license suspension for a period of time.

And, according to research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the all-offender mandate seems to be making a difference.  The study examined drivers in Washington state — one of the states that has an ignition interlock mandate for first-time offenders — and concluded that recidivism fell by 12 percent among first-timers who installed an interlock.

In New Mexico — the first state to mandate an ignition interlock — expanding the mandate to include first-time offenders reduced DUI-related fatalities by 35 percent over four years, according to data made available by the office of Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

Longwell of the American Beverage Institute said her group opposes the language because it would apply to first-time offenders no matter what their blood-alcohol content was.  ABI is pushing for the devices to be required only for repeat offenders or those whose blood alcohol content is .15 and higher.  If a first-time offender should be given an ignition interlock, “a judge should be involved” in the decision, she said.  “We treat different types of offenders differently, so we still want some kind of proportional response there,” Longwell said.

On this issue, ABI has some company. The Distilled Spirits Council, for instance, also does not support an ignition interlock mandate for first-time offenders.  “We continue to strongly support the use of judicial discretion and education” for offenses involving something other than “hard-core” offenders — those who are repeat violators or who blow high alcohol levels on a Breathalyzer test, the Distilled Spirits Council said in a statement.

Udall said the proof of the all-offender interlock mandate’s effectiveness is in the statistics.  “We made a dramatic difference in eight years with this,” Udall said, noting that he has been involved with pushing for policies that reduce drunken driving deaths since his time as New Mexico’s attorney general in the early 1990s.  “People shouldn’t be losing their lives as a result of drunk drivers. The thing you really learn more than anything is these are preventable deaths; it’s not like they have to happen,” Udall said.

Some related posts on sentencing drunk drivers and advocacy for ignition locks:

March 27, 2012 in Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Friday, November 25, 2011

South Korea rolls out new robot prison guard

20111124000765_0As reported in this Wall Street Journal piece, "South Korea is about to put a new type of droid through its paces: a robot prison guard." Here are the brave new world details:

Under a project sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, trials of the robots will be held for a month at a jail in the city of Pohang, southeast of Seoul, from March.  The robots are designed to patrol the corridors of corrective institutions, monitoring conditions inside the cells.  If they detect sudden or unusual activity such as violent behavior they alert human guards.

“Unlike CCTV that just monitors cells through screens, the robots are programmed to analyze various activities of those in prison and identify abnormal behavior,” Prof. Lee Baik-chul of Kyonggi University, who is in charge of the 1 billion-won ($863,000) project, told the Journal.

The robots can also work as a communication channel when inmates want to contact guards in an emergency.  According to Mr. Lee, prison officers have welcomed the idea because the robots can potentially reduce their workload, particularly at night.

And how about the reaction of inmates?  “That’s a concern. But the robots are not terminators.  Their job is not cracking down on violent prisoners.  They are helpers.  When an inmate is in a life-threatening situation or seriously ill, he or she can reach out for help quickly,” he said.

Mr. Lee said his team is putting the final touches to the appearance of the robots to make them look more “humane and friendly” to those behind bars. 

November 25, 2011 in Prisons and prisoners, Sentencing around the world, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack