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 (18) | 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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oklahoma using electronic monitoring to enable earlier prisoner releases

As detailed in this interesting local article, headlined "Hundreds of Oklahoma prisoners could be released Nov. 1," a notable sentencing reform plan incorporating technocorrections goes into effect this week in the Sooner State.  Here are the particulars (along with the usual expressions of concern from the tough-on-crime crowd):

Oklahoma corrections officials say they are preparing to put as many as 250 to 300 inmates in ankle monitors and release them. Prosecutors throughout the state are upset.

The inmates, convicted of nonviolent offenses, are set to be released starting Nov. 1. That is when a new law intended to relieve prison overcrowding goes into effect.  The law changes when certain nonviolent inmates become eligible for ankle monitors.

“I suspect that many — if not most — of the legislators that voted for this didn't realize it was going to have the result of releasing several hundred inmates on Nov. 1,” said Michael Fields, district attorney for Blaine, Canadian, Garfield, Grant and Kingfisher counties.

“I have a hard time believing that legislators understood that whenever they agreed to vote for this law,” Fields said.  “I doubt that would have been their intent because many of those legislators are our allies on public safety issues. I think that this clearly does undermine public safety.”

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said the goal actually is to increase public safety. He said the change will put more low-risk, mostly female inmates into the successful electronic monitoring program so corrections officials can focus their limited resources on inmates who are truly threats to society....

Currently, in general, no nonviolent inmate is eligible for an ankle monitor until he gets down to the last 11 months of his sentence. Starting Nov. 1, offenders with sentences of five years or less become eligible once they have served 90 days, if no other restrictions apply.

Prosecutors said Friday public confidence in sentences will be undermined if quick releases start happening. “Then, I will stop sending people to prison for less than five years,” said Greg Mashburn, district attorney for Cleveland, Garvin and McClain counties. “I mean, I'll have no choice. If I intended them to go to prison, I intended them to stay for more than 90 days. I will absolutely adjust what I'm doing on my cases so this isn't happening.”

Mashburn said ankle monitors haven't worked well in his counties. He recalled three instances where offenders on ankle monitors committed crimes. “Ankle monitors, it's not the great answer. ... A lot of people think, ‘Well, if they're on an ankle monitor, we can stop them from committing crimes.' All we're going to be able do is know where they were when they were committing the crime,” Mashburn said.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said he worries whether the overburdened and underfunded Corrections Department will have enough officers to keep track of the hundreds of new inmates on ankle monitors. “It's almost impossible for them to adequately supervise even people on probation,” Prater said. “There's no way that the Department of Corrections has the capability to adequately supervise those prisoners on ankle monitors and assure the public that they will be kept safe.”

Corrections Department Director Justin Jones said few inmates will get ankle monitors after only 90 days. Most will need more time. “It would be the exception and not the rule,” Jones said. “Some needs are going to have to be addressed … before we put them into a re-entry program. … Rational behavior training, substance abuse, anger management, parenting skills, fatherhood skills, those kinds of things.”

Corrections officials originally came up with a list of 1,133 nonviolent offenders already serving sentences to be considered for ankle monitors because of the new law.

The original list included burglars, drug offenders, embezzlers, drunken drivers and thieves. Officials have been eliminating from that list inmates who do not qualify for ankle monitors for other reasons, such as they have no suitable residences where they can go.

Prosecutors say they have been told as many as 600 inmates will get ankle monitors Nov. 1. But the Corrections Department director said the list is now down to around 400 and will probably be cut down to 250 to 300.

“We consider it a very successful re-entry program,” Jones said. “And it is controlled. And it is custody because of the devices and the supervision by an officer.” The director said more than 90 percent of the females who get ankle monitors succeed and 86 percent of the males do....

About 450 convicts already are on ankle monitors, a Corrections Department spokesman said. Their movements are tracked by GPS.  The House speaker and Corrections Department director both said most of the inmates who will be getting ankle monitors Nov. 1 are already in halfway houses and other community correction centers. Steele said he understands more officers have been hired to track their movements. “I really do think it's much ado about nothing,” Steele said of prosecutors' concerns.

Whatever Oklahoma prosecutors might say say about what they think their state legislators did not realize, I suspect somebody behind this legislation concluded that it was more politically palatable than raising taxes to pay for more prison beds.  (I have long thought that if state sentencing reforms included an automatic increase in prosecutorial funding based on a percentage of savings that come from decreases in incarceration levels, prosecutors would not always have such a predictable reaction to sentencing reforms that result in some early releases.)

October 10, 2011 in Prisons and prisoners, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Reentry and community supervision, Scope of Imprisonment, Sentences Reconsidered, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, September 26, 2011

"California To Allow Prisoners To Serve Sentences Online"

Onion The title of this post is the amusing headline of this story in The Onion:

Faced with a mandate to cut the state's prison population by 30,000, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Monday it would begin allowing prisoners to serve their sentences online.

"Inmates are required to log in promptly every morning at 6 a.m.," CDCR secretary Matthew Cate said. "But make no mistake, this is not some online holiday resort prison. Offenders spend at least eight hours a day entering data and can only see visitors in the chat room once a week.  The real advantage of the Internet penitentiary is that it streamlines the entire corrections process, allowing a standard five-year sentence to be completed electronically in as little as three weeks."

Cate added that while there was still a problem with prison rape, inmates could report an assault or any other issue by clicking on the "Ask the Warden" button

September 26, 2011 in Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NJ appellate ruling limits new GPS monitoring of past sex offenders

As detailed in this local article, this past week a New Jersey "state appeals court ruled that forcing a sex offender convicted more than 20 years ago to comply with GPS monitoring rules that were enacted about four years ago violates his constitutional rights." Here are the basics:

In the 2-1 decision, the Appellate Division of Superior Court reversed a state parole board decision that required George C. Riley, a Tier III sex offender, to wear a GPS ankle bracelet. The court said the requirements of the monitoring program constituted a level of punishment that violates the constitutional provision barring retroactive laws.

“We conclude that although the Legislature's intention in enacting the Sex Offender Monitoring Act was civil and nonpunitive, the act is so punitive in effect that it violates the ex post facto clause,” Judges Stephen Skillman and Marianne Espinosa said in their decision.

In his dissent, Judge Anthony J. Parrillo said while the GPS monitoring may be more burdensome than the yearly registration requirements for sex offenders, “it does not rise to the level of a direct and punitive disability or restraint,” and is far less restrictive than the involuntary civil confinement some sex offenders are subject to upon completion of their prison terms.

“Simply put, the majority's constitutional tolerance of laws that register, publicize, monitor and indefinitely institutionalize sex offenders after completion of their criminal sentences cannot logically be reconciled with its avowed distaste for a rule requiring the most serious sex offenders, who remain free to live, work and walk wherever they please, to submit to a form of electronic surveillance,” he wrote.

Because the appellate decision was split, if the state Attorney General’s Office files an appeal, the case would automatically be heard by the state Supreme Court.

The lengthy majority ruling (running 30+ pages) and the dissenting opinion (running 20+ pages) are available at this link.  I suspect the New Jersey Supreme Court will get asked to review this ruling, and I further expect this kind of technocorrections issue to get all the way to the US Supreme Court eventually.

September 24, 2011 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Electronic Monitoring Reduces Recidivism"

The title of this post is the title of this helpful new "In Short" publication from the National Institute of Justice that provides a summary of a notable new lengthy report on electronic monitoring and offenders’ risk of failing to meet the terms of their probation. Here is the start of the NIJ summary:

A large NIJ-funded study of Florida offenders placed on electronic monitoring found that monitoring significantly reduces the likelihood of failure under community supervision. The decline in the risk of failure is about 31 percent compared with offenders placed on other forms of community supervision.

Researchers from Florida State University’s Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research compared the experiences of more than 5,000 medium-and high-risk offenders who were monitored electronically to more than 266,000 offenders not placed on monitoring over a six-year period. The researchers worked with the Florida Department of Corrections to secure approval, obtain administrative data, and gain help in contacting local probation offices for interviews. The researchers interviewed offenders, probation officers, supervisors and administrators to uncover insights into the electronic monitoring process.

I think it is fantastic that NIJ is producing this brief research reviews, as I am much more likely to read and understand this NIJ publication, which runs 4 pages, instead of the underlying research study, which runs over 200 pages.  It is always nice to see my federal tax dollars going to such a good end, especially when it also provides me with helpful blog fodder.

September 19, 2011 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offender Characteristics, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Scope of Imprisonment, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Michigan judge now assailed for sentencing toughness on drunk drivers

Regular readers may recall the buzz and interesting debates surrounding drunk driving sentences in Michigan late last month in the run-up and aftermath of ESPN commentator Jalen Rose's state sentencing on this offense.  This new piece from the Detroit Free Press, which is headlined "Oakland County judge challenged on drunken-driving jail sentences," reports on an interesting epilogue to the story:

A Bloomfield Hills attorney and a Wayne State University law professor are challenging 48th District Judge Kimberly Small's policy of sending first-time drunken drivers to jail, saying she is violating the defendants' constitutional rights and should be barred from hearing such cases.

In a motion filed Wednesday in 48th District Court in Bloomfield Township, attorney Robert Larin and professor Kenneth Mogill argued that Small violates the constitutional rights of defendants by sentencing almost all first-time drunken drivers to jail, often for weeks.

Small, the motion says, is legislating from the bench and is creating mandatory jail time when Michigan law does not require it.  Larin and Mogill argue that she should disqualify herself from hearing the cases because she has made public statements showing what they say is a deep bias on drunken-driving cases.

The motion is filed on behalf of one of Larin's clients, Thomas Cygan, a 67-year-old West Bloomfield man who was recently arrested for the first time on charges of operating while intoxicated.  The case is assigned to Small....

Experts said the motion creates an interesting legal question.  "There are arguments on both sides," said University of Michigan law professor Eve Brensike Primus.  "If a judge is willing to impose a sentence within the statutory limits, then perhaps that is within the judge's province, but if they are compromising fundamental fairness and individual sentencing, that can become problematic."

Larin said he filed the motion "on behalf of anybody charged with a first offense at present, in the past, or in the future." "I have nothing against Judge Small, but it is time this matter is resolved in the courts," he said.

Small's sentencing practices received national attention in recent weeks. On July 27, she sentenced former NBA basketball player Jalen Rose to 20 days in the Oakland County Jail following his arrest in March.  He is expected to be released Aug. 18.

A Free Press review last month of drunken-driving sentences in metro Detroit and nationwide found Small exceeds most judges when sentencing first-time offenders. "We have to decide if we're going to get serious about this or not," she told the Free Press for the article.  Under Michigan law, first-time drunken driving is a maximum 93-day misdemeanor, but there is no minimum mandatory jail time.

The motion filed by Larin and Mogill first will be heard by Small.  If she denies it, they will argue it before Marc Barron, chief judge of the district court.  If he also denies it, the case goes to circuit court and can be appealed to the court of appeals and then to the state Supreme Court.

Defense attorney Steve Fishman, who has handled a variety of high-profile cases in metro Detroit, said he supports the motion.  "The purpose of sentencing is not to send a message to anybody, it's to judge the facts and circumstances of each individual and impose a sentence that is proportional and appropriate," he said.

Others support Small's tough stance on drunken driving.  "Those charged with this offense are a serious threat to the public," Paul Walton, Oakland County's chief assistant prosecutor, told the Free Press.

Because drunk driving consistently results in more death, injuries and property damage than any other single crime, I am a supporter and fan of those who wish to ensure DUI punishments are both tough and effective.  In prior debates over this issue on this blog, many have asserted that jail time is not an effective sanction, though I am not sure if there is data to support this assertion.  I do know that ignition locks have proven effective to reduce repeat drunk driving, and I hope the attention being given to this one judge's DUI sentencing tendency might result in greater attention being given to this useful form of technocorrections.

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

August 13, 2011 in Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Should a prison sentence necessarily halt all access to all social media for all purposes?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this recent AP piece, which is headlined "Calif. says Facebook will remove inmates' pages" and reports these developments:

Facebook has agreed to work with law enforcement agencies nationwide to remove accounts set up by inmates or posted on their behalf, in part because prisoners are using the social networking site to stalk victims and direct criminal activity, California prison officials said Monday.

It's the latest effort to combat a problem that has grown with the advent of smart phones and social networking sites. Last year a convicted child molester used a cell phone smuggled into prison to search his victim's Facebook and MySpace web pages, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in announcing the agreement with Facebook. The inmate then sent sketches to the 17-year-old victim's home....

"Victims who fought hard to put their offenders behind bars are being re-victimized," said department spokeswoman Dana Toyama.  "It's evolving as Facebook has become a huge social networking site and a place for gang members to talk and coordinate inside and outside prison.  This is just one example of what they can do."

Inmates are permitted to retain Facebook profiles that were created before they went to prison, according to the department.  But Facebook will disable the account if it is used while the inmate is behind bars.  Prison officials said the problem has grown worse because of the growth in smuggled cell phones.  Six years ago the department confiscated 261 devices, compared to 10,760 last year and 7,284 in the first half of this year.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said prison officials' best response is to keep smart phones and other Internet devices out of prisons.  "We will disable accounts reported to us that are violating relevant U.S. laws or regulations or inmate accounts that are updated by someone on the outside," he said in an e-mailed statement.  "We will also take appropriate action against anyone who misuses Facebook to threaten or harass."

Noyes said Facebook has been cooperating with law enforcement for some time whenever it is notified of problems, but Toyama said California had previously asked Facebook to remove inmates' pages without success.  "We've really only been successful in taking down one account so far.  After this, we're looking to be able to do this more," Toyama said.

She said the Federal Bureau of Prisons first announced Monday that Facebook had agreed to take down any account that prison officials can confirm has been updated while an inmate is in prison.  The bureau's National Gang Intelligence Center also reported a growing problem of inmates with active Facebook accounts, Toyama said, but she could not provide a copy of the report because it is a confidential law enforcement bulletin.

I understand the many ways some prisoners might use social media like Facebook to do harm, but I also suspect many prisoners might much rather use social media (instead of, say, letters or phone calls or even emails) to keep family and friends updated on how they are doing while they serve their sentence.  And I read this article to suggest that even an update to a prisoner's Facebook page done by someone on the outside could lead to a social media "takedown."

These realities, combined with the fact that nearly 2.5 million persons are behind bars in the United States, perhaps suggests the next social-media opportunity.  Perhaps a clever programmer can and should develop a form of Facebook that is uniquely structured and regulated for use (and only proper usage) by persons who are incarcerated.  If well-developed in consultation with prison officials and experts in corrections policies and practices, this new form of social media (dare I call it FelonSpace?) perhaps could provide prisoners and their family and friends with social media benefits without the risk of harmful misuse.

August 10, 2011 in Prisons and prisoners, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Monday, August 01, 2011

Seeking reviews for apps/programs that help calculate federal guideline ranges

This new Forbes blog entry, headlined "How Much Prison Time? -- There’s an App For That," has me wondering about whether federal practitioners use and benefit from any programs that help guestimate guideline sentencing ranges. Here is a snippet from the Forbes posting on this topic:

The federal U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines calculator was developed by an innovative lawyer who was looking to develop a tool to help lawyers do the calculation for their clients. The calculator covers crimes ranging from Alien Smuggling to Wire Fraud. I told the developer, who wished to not be named here, that he needed to add “Securities Fraud”, which was missing from the menu, to the selection of crimes as it has become more popular. He told me that a good substitute for Securities Fraud was to use Wire Fraud in the calculation….good to know. Besides being available on line, there is a mobile version of the prison calculator that is easier to see on your smart phone, www.sentencing.us/m. I am sure this version could be helpful in case you’re on the run and need to find out what enhancement (more months in prison) there might be for being a fugitive.

The developer cautions that this is a professional tool, though it is available to anyone. It is meant to be used by lawyers or professionals as an estimating tool.   Again, it is only a guide.  After all, the judge can sentence someone outside the guidelines.

Once on the site and you determine that you might be looking at some serious time, there is a link to connect you with a lawyer.   You just click on a state and get information that can put you in touch with a defense counsel.   No running around and going through the embarrassment of asking people, “I have a friend who needs a lawyer, you know one?”   You can do all this in the privacy of your home.  Technology is a wonderful thing.

I agree, of course, that technology is a wonderful thing, but I have not tried this particular guideline calculator nor tried to do guideline math with the help of a computer program.  But I suspect others have, and I would be grateful to get some recommendations or reviews in the comments.

August 1, 2011 in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Monday, July 18, 2011

Perhaps the new Google+ service should promise to keep probation officers out

The silly (tech-savvy?) title of this post is prompted in part by the new Google+ service seeking to complete with Facebook, along with this lengthy effective piece from the Louisville Courier-Journal which is headlined "Busted by Facebook: Some on probation learn the hard way that online posts can backfire." Here are excerpts from the piece:

If you don't want to do the time, stay offline. Or at the very least, don't “friend” your probation officer.

Convicted of possessing methamphetamine and Ecstasy, Scott W. Roby learned that the hard way. The Louisville man had his probation revoked this month — and was sentenced to two years in prison — in part for violating conditions that required him to stay alcohol-free and out of bars and liquor stores.

Roby had invited his probation officer to be his friend on Facebook, then Roby posted pictures of himself drinking — including one in which he was holding a beer while posed next to “Buddy Bat,” the mascot for the Louisville Bats, said prosecutor Dinah Koehler. In another Facebook post, according to court records, Roby asked: “Anyone wanna go get smashed tonight one last time before the end of the Earth?”

Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the Kentucky Department of Corrections say that with increasing regularity, offenders on probation are losing their freedom or incurring other sanctions after posting pictures online of themselves clubbing, using “beer bongs,” posing with firearms or bragging about out-of-town trips they've made without their probation officer's permission....

Kentucky is not the only place where offenders are getting kicked off probation for implicating themselves online.

In Connecticut, according to press accounts, a woman convicted of killing a teenager while driving drunk had three years added to her sentence in 2009, in part because she was shown posing with alcohol in virtually every picture on her Facebook page — “worshipping at the altar of alcohol, debauchery and lewd behavior,” a prosecutor said.

The ABA Journal recently reported that the first thing some criminal-defense lawyers tell clients now is to shut down their Facebook accounts....

Civil libertarians seem to have no problem with corrections officials monitoring social- media sites. “To the extent individuals voluntarily post information on social-networking sites that are accessible to others, the use of that information to establish a violation of probation or parole is likely to withstand any claims of invasion of privacy by the poster,” Bill Sharp, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky, said in an email.

He added, however, that courts must be careful to verify the defendant really was the poster. He cited a recent decision in which the Maryland Supreme Court held that a judge improperly admitted information from a social-networking site where the only evidence that the page belonged to a witness was that it contained his birth date and photograph.

July 18, 2011 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, July 15, 2011

"12-Year-Old Sentenced for Cyberstalking Classmate"

The title of this post is the headline of this ABC News piece reporting on a case showing that some kids today are now getting their cyber-criminal careers started very early.  Here is the start of the piece:

A 12-year-old Washington girl was sentenced on Wednesday to probation and community service for a cyberstalking incident in which she and another 11-year-old girl doctored a classmate's Facebook account with explicit photos and solicitations for sex.

But the mother of the victim, also 12, said she has "mixed feelings" about the sentencing of the girls who hacked her daughter's Facebook page, and she isn't satisfied with the judge's ruling. "We wrote a letter to the judge and we requested that she have no access to social media for the full term of her probation. The judge felt that it would be fine for her to be on with parental supervision," said Tara Cote, of Issaquah, Wash.

The 12-year-old, who pleaded guilty and whose name has not been released, was charged with Cyberstalking and Computer Trespass First Degree. She was sentenced to six months of probation and 20 hours of community service, along with mandatory adult supervision of all computer usage, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Cote said she wants the tween to have cyber bullying-specific therapy. "Both girls went online and used social media to do damage and used it as a weapon? Regular therapy will not tell you how to not abuse the Internet," said Cote.

In my view, these kind of modern technology crimes call out for a kind of modern technology shaming sanction: perhaps judges can and should be able to require defendants in these kinds of cases (at least when they are adults) to have some kind of scarlet mark on their social media pages so that others know they do not play nice with technology.

July 15, 2011 in Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Seattle courts to trade jail for ankle bracelets"

The title of this post is the headline of this local report on a notable technocorrections development in the pacific northwest.  Here is how the piece starts:

Alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelets, the unflattering fashion accessory worn by troubled actress Lindsay Lohan and a growing number of DUI offenders in Washington state, are coming to Seattle.

Seattle Municipal Court plans to begin using the bracelets to keep tabs on drunken-driving defendants.  The bracelets, which test alcohol exuded from a person's skin, are viewed as a cost-effective way to monitor the behavior of those convicted of drunken driving or awaiting trial on DUI charges.

Proponents, including a growing number of state judges, say they're cheaper than making offenders sit in jail.  "We were looking for ways to not put people in jail because of the continuing high cost of doing so," said Judge Brett Buckley of Thurston County District Court, which uses the bracelets.  "Our jails are overcrowded.  I'm sure Seattle's and King County's are the same."

The bracelets often are worn by defendants out of jail awaiting trial, and for those convicted of DUI and placed on probation.  Seattle Municipal Court Judges Steve Rosen and Ed McKenna say the court plans to use the bracelets in misdemeanor drunken-driving cases.

May 11, 2011 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Breaking news on state killing: there is now an app for that!

DPIC app I received via e-mail yesterday this notable news from the Death Penalty Information Center about being able to follow the death penalty while "on the go": 

The Death Penalty Information Center is pleased to offer a new mobile application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.  This FREE application provides access to the most frequently used resources on DPIC's main website, including our Fact Sheet on the Death Penalty, our Execution Database, and the most recent death penalty news from around the country.  Click here to download the mobile application through iTunes. 

Users may also download the mobile application directly from the App Store on their mobile device by searching for "DPIC" or "Death Penalty Information Center."  Please let us know if you’d like us to add other resources.

This new post from the folks at the Houston Press, headlined "Death Penalty: Your Newest App," provides a fittingly cheeky review and follow-up on this latest new media development:

Have your Angry Birds gone postal?  You might need the newest app, from the Death Penalty Information Center....

DPIC is also asking people if they'd like other resources added to the app.

A last meals database?

A countdown clock for attorneys trying to file paperwork with Sharon Keller?

Up-to-date availability and pricing information on hard-to-get euthanizing drugs?

Let them know.

Though I am inclined to poke fun at the development of DPIC's app, I am also eager to seriously urge other leading resources on crime and punishment to consider the opportunity for using new media for information dissemination.  I really would love to see the US Sentencing Commission develop a sophisticated app to enable researchers and practitioners with easy and ready access to federal sentencing data.  Similarly, it would be great to have an app that assembles, organizes and effectively presents crime rates, recidivism statistics and corrections data for various jurisdictions.

February 24, 2011 in Death Penalty Reforms, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kansas considering getting tougher on repeat drunk drivers

This new piece from the Kansas City Star, which is headlined "Kansas considers sending repeat drunken drivers to prison," showcases my concern with state laws that are unduly lenient on drunk driving and also the appeal of technocorrections in this arena.  Here are excerpts:

Some Kansas lawmakers want to send repeat DUI offenders to prison, but that won’t be easy with the state’s budget problems and prisons that already are overcrowded.

Under newly proposed legislation, a fourth drunken driving conviction would mean prison time.  Currently a year in county jail — not state prison — is the longest sentence regardless of whether an offender has four convictions or 40....

Not everyone thinks the state can afford the changes.  Men’s prisons are already overcrowded, and Kansas struggles to fund education and basic services.  Under the bill, a fourth DUI would carry a prison sentence of as much as 17 months.  That would increase to as much as 34 months for a 10th conviction....

Among other changes Kansas legislators are considering [includes] first offenders [having] to get ignition interlock devices on their vehicles — and pay for it....

Frank Harris, state legislative affairs manager for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said requiring interlocks for even first-time drunken drivers is probably the most important change and would cost the state nothing. It also would be part of a spreading approach, he said. In 2005, only New Mexico did that and now 13 states do, he said. Such legislation failed last year in Missouri.

Meanwhile, statistics continue to tell a story.  In 2009, four in 10 fatality traffic accidents in Kansas involved drunken driving, as did more than three in 10 in Missouri.  Harris noted that Kansas was one of the few states that year that saw an increase in drunken driving fatalities — up to 154 from 138 the year before.

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

January 18, 2011 in Offender Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Friday, December 17, 2010

A mere six-month jail sentence for 19th drunk driving conviction?!?!?

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "19th DUI gets Santa Rosa man 6-month sentence," an inclination to treat drunk drivers leniently can continue even well after a defendant has more than a dozen convictions for this dangerous behavior.  Here are the notable details (which actually highlight for me why technology rather than longer prison terms should be the focal point of reducing the dangers and harms of drunk driving):

A Santa Rosa man with 19 drunken driving convictions was spared a prison term Thursday for his latest offense, prompting an outcry from prosecutors.

William Rylan Beall, 65, whose record of drunken driving stretches back 44 years, was sentenced to six months in jail by visiting Alameda County Judge Julie Conger. But he could end up serving it in an alcohol treatment facility if bed space becomes available.

That he will be free until Jan. 21 and was not given a prison sentence provoked an angry reaction from Sonoma County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Bill Brockley. “It’s putting our community at risk. He’s proven he’s a danger and can’t conform his behavior to societal norms,” Brockley said. “He can’t stop drinking and when he drinks, he drives. He puts your family, my family, and all families at risk.”

Prosecutors had sought a two-year prison term as recommended by the county probation department.... In recommending the mid-term prison sentence, the probation department took into account Beall’s clean record for the past eight years.

Until his latest drunken driving offense in July, Beall, a real estate agent who lives in Oakmont, had stayed out of trouble since 2002. But his finances and health began to deteriorate and he relapsed, said his attorney, Steve Weiss. “He has been a strong participant in AA the last eight years,” said Weiss. “Unfortunately, he reverted to very old habits.”

“The judge focused on a number of things — the eight years he had been sober, his health and the best way to protect the community, which she felt was to keep him on probation for five years — keep him under close supervision and give him a six-month residential treatment program to sharpen his sobriety skills.”...

Beall’s record of alcohol-related driving convictions began in 1966, according to a pre-sentencing report. He was convicted of drunken driving seven times in the 1970s, five times in the 1980s, four times in the 1990s and again in 2002, prior to his most recent conviction.

Three of the convictions involved traffic collisions. In one case, he was seen running a red light at approximately 50 to 60 miles per hour. “It is extraordinarily fortunate the defendant has never seriously injured anyone or taken a life, given his disregard for the law and the well-being of others,” Deputy Probation Officer Sierra Grohl wrote in her report.

Beall was given probation six times, required to attend frequent AA meetings and comply with Antabuse drug therapy, but he continued to drink and drive. He was sent to prison for two years in 1998.

In addition to his 19 prior drunken driving convictions, there were six additional arrests that did not lead to convictions, according to the pre-sentencing report. His blood alcohol in 2002 registered .22, almost three times the level at which a person is presumed too drunk to drive.... The probation officer noted “it is plausible he truly was sober the past eight years or he would have likely appeared before the court much sooner.”

Weiss noted that early on the district attorney’s office had offered his client a 16-month jail term and with good behavior, he could have been out in half that time.  But Brockley said Beall rejected the offer and another judge refused to consider a non-prison sentence. “A person with this type of alcohol history and arrest record should be going back to state prison,” Brockley said.

Though I generally agree with the prosecutor's view here that such an extended criminal history justifies another trip to state prison, I also think this case spotlights the need to use ignition-locks and other forms of technology to try to prevent chronic offenders from ever being able to start a car with any alcohol in their system.

December 17, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, December 13, 2010

Supreme Court Justices are now doing reading on iPads and Kindles, when will law students?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new video from a portion of a C-SPAN interview with new Justice Elena Kagan. The video is titled "Justice Kagan on Using a Kindle to Read Briefs," and in the segment Justice Kagan reports on how she uses the Kindle to read all the SCOTUS briefs, and also discusses that Justice Scalia has his briefs on an iPad. (Hat tip: How Appealing.)

In a series of posts about technology and legal education over at the blog Law School Innovation (where I am cross-posting this post), I have suggested that the advancement of new reading technologies will at some point transform legal education. I articulated the point this way in this post after first seeing the iPad in action earlier this year:

[A] casebook-friendly e-tablet is only the tip of the new media iceberg that could be facilitated by an iPad or some other tablet that becomes to casebooks what the iPod became to vinyl records.  Of course, just as record companies (and some artists) resisted music being packaged and distributed via new media, casebook publishers (and some authors) may resist legal materials being packaged distributed via new media.  But, as the iPod and the DVR and other digital innovations have demonstrated, a better means to distribute content digitally will eventually prevail over analog precursors.  The iPad may not prove to be the casebook tipping-point technology, but it seems to me to be only a question of when, not whether, the traditional casebook will go the way of vinyl records and VCR tapes.

When traveling to speak at various conferences, I have noticed more and more lawyers with iPads and other e-readers. I expect that buzz about the Justices reading briefs on e-readers might add even more juice to the on-going digital revolution in the collection and distribution of legal materials. And if law schools do not get with the program soon, I fear we will be doing even worse than usual in training the next generation of lawyers.

Though this post fits better at my Law School Innovation blog, I have cross-posted it here because I am eager to hear from practitioners about their use of technology (and whether there are any particular technologies that a criminal law professor ought to make the focus of more student instruction). In addition, I have to assume that it is only a matter of time before we have a federal sentencing guidelines app.

December 13, 2010 in On blogging, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Should an inmate be able to use Facebook?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this ABC News story which is headlined "Convicted Murderer Justin Walker Used a Blackberry to Talk to Friends on Facebook While in Prison."  Here is how it begins:

The mother of an Oklahoma man who was shot to death is furious that her son's killer was able to get a Blackberry in his cell and has been corresponding with friends and posting photos on Facebook.

Cathy Lawrence, the mother of slain Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr., told ABCNews.com that Justin Walker, the man serving a 30-year sentence for her son's murder, doesn't deserve to be alive, let alone to be updating his Facebook status.

December 2, 2010 in Prisons and prisoners, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Courts videoconference defendants to save money"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting piece from today's USA Today.  Here are excerpts:

Everyone is entitled to his or her day in court, but a growing number of people get it without setting foot in a courtroom.  Courts across the country are embracing videoconferencing as a way for defendants to appear before a judge without leaving prison or jail, according to a recent survey by the National Center for State Courts.

As state and local governments continue to see their budgets squeezed, they are increasingly looking for ways to save money through technology, says Kannan Sreedhar, managing director of Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions.  When his company demonstrated its Telejustice products at a meeting of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials in Houston in August, he says, he was stunned by the level of interest. "We were inundated with people who wanted to talk to us," Sreedhar says.

Sreedhar says the newer technology is based on Internet protocols offering higher resolution than previous generations, and it's easier to operate.  The newest wave: mobile video units that can be used in hospital rooms, mental health facilities and other venues to arraign people too sick to appear in court....

When the National Center for State Courts surveyed court systems in September, 100 of the 162 that responded were already using videoconferencing for some criminal matters, according to the study results published on the center's website.

Pennsylvania estimates it has saved $31 million, and Utah courts have reduced their transportation costs by one-third, according to the survey.  The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services began using videoconferencing earlier this year for inmates who appeal grievance hearings to a circuit court.  "We really think it's going to be a tremendous public-safety improvement and considerable cost savings," says spokesman Mark Vernarelli.

The criminal-justice section of the American Bar Association hasn't taken a formal position on videoconferencing for hearings such as arraignments but discourages it in trials, says spokeswoman Stephanie Ortbals-Tibbs.

As I have stated in a number of prior posts on related technological developments, the question is not whether new technologies with significantly change our criminal justice system, but rather when and how and by how much.

A few posts covering various tech issues:

November 22, 2010 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 07, 2010

"Ankle monitors: a high-demand accessory for minor criminals"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable and fascinating new article from today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Hat tip to the frequent must-read website The Crime Report.)  Here are excerpts:

Electronic monitoring devices, black anklets made of rubber and plastic, are not exactly coveted, but in Allegheny County they are certainly in high demand.  Last week, about 1,200 people were wearing the monitoring units, mostly used to enforce house arrest for those convicted in Common Pleas Court of minor criminal offenses.  Another 925 people were waiting for them.

The electronic monitoring waiting list started ballooning about a year ago, about the same time the court introduced a program to expedite minor cases. "It worked overly well," said Common Pleas Judge Beth A. Lazzara, one of two judges who hear cases through the program, called the Phoenix docket.  A backlog of cases poured through, about 4,000 since January, she estimated.

"What we're getting now is a bubble," said Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, administrative judge of the court's criminal division.... "We're doing our best to expedite everyone," said Frank Scherer, manager of the county's monitoring program, part of the Adult Probation Department.  The department tries to get an anklet to a new person the same day it is returned from someone else.

But the county owns only 1,200 of the devices, which cost about $2,500 each.  At any time, more than 2,000 people are required to wear them. "With that comes manpower issues," said Mr. Scherer.  "If we were able to get equipment for all 925 people, we'd have to hire probably three dozen more probation officers and get more monitors and computer equipment."

Across Pennsylvania, electronic monitoring waiting lists are not unheard of. Westmoreland County has a waiting list of 177 people, down from more than 200 last year.  Philadelphia County had a waiting list earlier this year with 73 names on it.  The list has since been eliminated.  "We bought more monitors," said court administrator David Lawrence. "Easy." Montgomery County usually has a waiting list with five or six people on it....

Allegheny County's list is long partly because the county often leads the state in arrests for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In 2009, 5,208 people were arrested on DUI charges here, compared with 4,748 in Philadelphia County, said Catherine Tress, director of the Pennsylvania DUI Association's Western Pennsylvania office....

Allegheny County needs house arrest, said Judge Manning. The punishment is an alternative to a jail sentence, and without it, following mandatory minimum sentencing requirements would inundate the county jail.  "And there is no room without building a bigger jail facility," Judge Manning said.

The anklets Allegheny County uses are not GPS-enabled.  But they do allow the probation department to monitor the comings and goings of an offender, comparing their movement to the times they are permitted out.  The probation department enters into a computer a range of times when the offender is permitted out, such as for work, drug and alcohol treatment, church services or medical appointments.

The department places a receiver in the offender's house.  When the offender is within a certain range of it, the receiver emits a signal.  When the person is out of range, the signal stops.  Employees at a monitoring center staffed 24 hours a day watch a central screen and notify officials if the signal stops. Then, probation officers can be sent out.

High-risk offenders and pre-trial defendants -- placed on house arrest while their cases move through the court -- are typically given an anklet within a few days.  Jail inmates waiting to be released to house arrest must be given anklets within 72 hours.  But the majority of people sentenced to electronic monitoring are low-risk offenders charged with crimes such as driving under the influence, drug possession or retail theft. They wait.

Especially with tighter budgets and perhaps growing public safety concerns in the months and years to come, these stories are likely to get more common. But, as I have said before and will say again, as long as technocorrections seems to aid public safety at a lower cost than traditional incarceration, this is sure to remain a growth industry.

November 7, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Elderly, Ill Sex Offender Sues Perry Over Monitor"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting and effective new piece from the Texas Tribune reporting on interesting technocorrections developments and litigation in the Lone Star State.  Here are the particulars:

Sixty-one-year-old Marvin Brown has had three mini-strokes in the last two months. He has diabetes, stage-four renal disease and congestive heart failure.  On good days, he walks with a cane.  Other times, he gets around with a walker or an electric wheelchair.

But according to Gov. Rick Perry, Brown is among the most dangerous sex offenders in Texas.  Perry has ordered that Brown and other registered sex offenders who were previously released from continuous monitoring must now be monitored again with ankle bracelets.  Brown, who was convicted in 1985 of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy and of indecency with a 16-year-old boy, says forcing him to wear the ankle monitor not only puts his fragile health at risk — it's also a violation of his civil rights.  On Tuesday, he filed a lawsuit asking the federal courts to keep the state from putting him back on the monitor. “They can’t give you freedom and then take it away,” Brown says.

Last month, Perry announced a raft of new measures to crack down on what he called “the most dangerous sex offenders.”  Among other things, Perry said he would designate $1.7 million in federal grant money to help the Texas Department of Criminal Justice use technology to monitor high-risk sex offenders on parole.  “These initiatives will provide greater protections to our citizens by taking our efforts in dealing with sex offenders up yet another notch,” Perry said in a press release.

Since that announcement, 153 parolees have been returned to active electronic monitoring, says Michelle Lyons, a criminal justice department spokeswoman.  All the parolees who have received ankle bracelets, she says, were previously on a passive monitoring system that logged their daily whereabouts and created a report for parole officers.  Ankle bracelets, she says, allow for real-time monitoring to ensure sex offenders aren’t going near playgrounds or other areas where children congregate.  With the grant money, the department could put ankle bracelets on as many as 600 high-risk sex offenders.

Brown found out about Perry’s new crackdown efforts a couple of weeks ago, when his parole offic er told him he was on the list of sex offenders to be put back on active monitoring. Brown served 14 years of his 40-year sentence in the criminal justice department before he was paroled in 1999 and placed on intensive supervision, which required him to wear an ankle bracelet with a GPS monitor.  In 2007, the Board of Pardons and Paroles took Brown off intensive supervision and removed the monitor.  With the monitor off, Brown says, he could lead a somewhat normal life — shopping, making friends, eating out with family and attending church without an ominous-looking briefcase that carried a beeping device.

He could also deal more easily with his health problems, going to the doctor’s office and taking emergency trips to the hospital when necessary.  Brown, who lives alone, had a life alert-like system installed at his house so that he could use the telephone to update nurses at the hospital with his vital statistics and so that he could get quick help in case he had another stroke or heart attack and couldn’t reach the phone.  The ankle bracelet, he says, will interfere with the system, and he worries that without it he could die.  “If you have a stroke or a heart attack and nobody finds you until the next day, it’s too late,” he says...

In the lawsuit, he alleges that the state is violating his constitutional right to due process by forcing him back on the ankle monitor without justification or a legal hearing on the matter.  “It’s a public embarrassment,” Brown says.  “I don’t know how I’d be able to attend church.”...

Attorney Bill Habern has defended parolees and sex offenders like Brown for decades.  He says he sympathizes with Brown but believes his lawsuit is probably doomed.  The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals — in a case Habern defended and is appealing — ruled that once a person is a convicted sex offender, the state can impose conditions it sees fit to protect the public....

Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the governor, says the move to increase sex offender monitoring was not politically motivated but was intended to provide greater public protection from sexual predators.  Lyons, the criminal justice department spokeswoman, says she can't comment on pending litigation but maintains that the ankle monitors are designed for those who are considered at high risk for reoffending.  “I can't see how having more supervision wouldn’t add to public safety,” she says.

October 27, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Monday, October 11, 2010

New blog examining the "intersection between criminal law and emerging technology"

I am pleased to learn about this new blog, intriguingly named "Stockycat," which is "focused non-exclusively on the intersection between criminal law and emerging technology" and says it is "[d]edicated to the idea that effective law enforcement is not incompatible with a vigorous interpretation of the Fourth Amendment."

Among the many notable features of this new blog that makes it worth watching is the public policy AND government lawyer AND prosecutorial background of its author, Joshua Engel.  Here is how the author describes his background on this blog:

I am a Fellow with the Ohio State Bar Foundation. In addition, I have been honored as a recipient of a Harry S Truman Scholarship for Public Service.  I recently served as Chief Legal Counsel for the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Prior to joining the Department of Public Safety, I was one of the most respected and successful felony prosecutors in Ohio.  In 2007, my work as a prosecutor was recognized by a Meritorious Service Award from the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

I began my career as a prosecutor by serving under current Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  I started my legal career at Choate, Hall & Stewart, a large Boston law firm. 

Though the blog seems focused at the start on Fourth Amendment issues, I am hopeful that we will before long see posts about GPS tracking of released offenders and/or internet restrictions as a form of punishment and/or restitution as a punishment simply for downloading child porn and/or any of the many other sentencing law and policy issues that arise at the "intersection between criminal law and emerging technology."

October 11, 2010 in On blogging, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Assailing too-broad internet bans as part of a sentence

The National Law Journal has this notable new commentary headlined "Banned from the Internet: Prohibiting a defendant on probation from conducting any business online is overly restrictive and not reasonably related to legitimate sentencing goals."  The piece is authored by A. Jeff Ifrah and Steven Eichorn, and here are excerpts:

Given the pervasiveness of the Internet, it is curious to us that some courts have been all too willing to prohibit Internet use for defendants on probation or supervised release. Are such Internet bans narrowly tailored to affect "only such deprivations of liberty or property as are reasonably necessary," a statutory factor in the conditions of release issued by a judge? Recent cases suggest the answer is no.

Internet bans are most commonly issued by courts as a condition of probation in child pornography cases in which the defendants may have utilized the Internet as a tool to lure their victims.  But even when the courts have permitted Internet bans in such cases, they have often noted the harshness of a complete ban and have listed numerous factors to consider before imposing a ban, such as whether it "is narrowly tailored to impose no greater restriction than necessary," the "availability of filtering software that could allow [the defendant's] Internet activity to be monitored and/or restricted" and the duration of the ban....

Given the limitations imposed in child-pornography cases, the growing number of Internet bans in white-collar cases raises our eyebrows.  Is an Internet ban appropriate for a defendant who used the Internet to perpetrate a fraud like a telemarketing scheme or investment fraud?...

Clearly, courts would not apply a complete ban on conducting business for a defendant who operated many fraudulent brick-and-mortar companies with separate storefronts.  Courts readily understand that banning a defendant from conducting any further business is not reasonably related to legitimate sentencing goals and is much more restrictive than necessary. So why are courts willing to place a complete ban on Internet business for defendants who use the Internet to conduct their business and bar them from "the town square for the global village of tomorrow?" And why are courts handing down more restrictive Internet bans in white-collar cases than those handed out in Internet child pornography cases?

The answer may be related to some judges' lack of appreciation of the importance of the Internet in today's society.  We hope that, as online commerce becomes universally perceived as being as routine as business conducted in a brick-and-mortar store, courts will be careful to ensure that this critical form of communication with customers is not restricted in the absence of compelling circumstances.  Anything less would clearly constitute "deprivations of liberty or property" that are far from "reasonably necessary."

October 10, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Technocorrections, White-collar sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Big Brother technocorrections to help Ohio keep track of sex offenders

Somewhere George Orwell must be smiling as he reads about the latest technocorrections development in this Ohio editorial headlined "Tracking sex offenders."  Here are the details:

Ohio is moving proactively to keep better track of registered sex offenders. With the help of a federal grant, the state is launching an automated system that should save time and money for local sheriff's departments.

The system, called Active Contact, automatically calls offenders to remind them to renew contact with Ohio's electronic Sex Offender Registration and Notification program. The system regularly updates the registry and verifies the accuracy of its data.

Discrepancies or a disconnected phone number would alert authorities that an offender may have tried to relocate secretly. That information would allow sheriffs to use resources more efficiently when they assign deputies to investigate offenders' registration in person.

The new system will reimburse sheriffs for pursuing high-level offenders who flee Ohio. Some offenders have avoided prosecution because their home counties can't afford the overtime and travel expenses needed to find and extradite them.

The system is scheduled to take effect in all 88 Ohio counties by next month. Keeping current on the whereabouts of the more than 20,000 registered sex offenders in Ohio, and going after those who don't register with the state's reporting program as the law requires, are essential to public safety.

The name Active Contact for this program seems like an impressive 2010 example of Newspeak.

October 7, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Role of Social Media in Sentencing Advocacy"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article from the New York Law Journal. Here is how it begins:

Embarrassing Facebook photos and regrettable MySpace statements are starting to become commonplace in pre-sentencing reports and disposition hearings. At the same time, defendants and their advocates are acknowledging the power of social media as a tool to generate mitigating evidence.

While there seems to be an unending supply of negative and inculpatory postings in social networking profiles, there is also the potential for uncovering a humanizing portrait for the defense to present at sentencing.

Day-in-the-life videos are a staple of tort practice to support damage claims and in criminal prosecutions to showcase a victim's life and character. The multimedia diaries and correspondence that comprise Facebook and MySpace profiles have similar potential for the defense. Since many of the accused entering the criminal justice system will be accompanied by social media, defense counsel might need to review their social space, along with medical and school records and other background information.

A preliminary audit of a client's online profile serves two purposes: (1) to identify evidence that might show up in a probation department pre-sentence report; and (2) to provide an instrument for marshalling positive information about the client. Still, social media is a two-headed coin and the first toss is usually tails.

September 29, 2010 in Offender Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Should sex offenders get GPS before leaving prison?"

The title of this post is the headline of this local California story.  Here is how it gets started:

At least twice in the past month, sex offenders prompted multi-agency manhunts in the North County when they refused to be monitored by GPS — a responsibility that falls on the offenders when they get out of prison. One man, who is accused of committing a sex crime the day after being paroled, was caught days later, while the second surrendered to authorities three weeks after going offline.

The cases beg the question: Why aren’t sex offenders strapped with GPS devices before leaving prison?

In San Diego County, which has roughly 500 sex offenders who are monitored by GPS, there are outstanding warrants for 10 who have either cut off their GPS bracelets or never obtained them, according to the regional Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Task Force.

The topic has gotten the attention of local task force members, as well as state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, who authored the recently signed bill that toughened sex offender laws. His office intends to write a letter to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation asking for justification to the current policy, Fletcher said last week.

“It would seem to make sense if they have to wear GPS anyway, why not give it to them immediately? Why wait a day?” Fletcher said. “In some ways it’s indicative of how broken the system is.”

Some related posts on GPS tracking and related technocorrections:

September 27, 2010 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another sad example of a needless death because of weak sentences for drunk driving

Regular readers who know of my persistent complaints and concerns about lenient drink driving sentences will not be surprised that I am troubled by this local story, which is headlined "Woman gets 11 years for fatal DUI crash -- her second fatal DUI crash in 20 years."  Here are the details:

For the second time in two decades, a York County woman has been sent to state prison for killing someone during an alcohol-fueled crash.  Julianne D. Fetrow must serve 11 to 30 years in prison for causing a crash on Nov. 28, 2007, that killed her boyfriend, Victor E. Wolf Jr., 52,....

Her blood-alcohol level at the time was 0.256 percent, police said -- more than three times the state's legal limit. In Pennsylvania, an adult is driving drunk at 0.08 percent.

In December, Fetrow, 44, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, DUI and driving with a DUI-suspended license.   A plea agreement negotiated by chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker and defense attorney Rick Robinson came with a maximum possible sentence of 13 to 30 years. But presiding Common Pleas Judge John S. Kennedy was free to impose a shorter sentence.

On Monday, Kennedy imposed the 11- to 30-year sentence, noting Fetrow had asked about alcohol-addiction programs offered in the state prison system. "We hope she will take advantage of those programs," Kennedy said. "There's no doubt in our mind that if Ms. Fetrow was not an alcoholic, the crash would not have occurred." He also ordered her to pay $3,500 in fines, plus court costs.

Northern York County Regional Police said Fetrow pulled out of Wolf's driveway and into the path of a tractor-trailer.  Wolf, a passenger in his Mercury Capri convertible, was pronounced dead at York Hospital, police said.

After the crash, Fetrow told police she and Wolf had been drinking a bottle of vodka at home, then left their home and drove around to do more drinking, police said. "Julianne Fetrow stated she could not recall where she was going or how the accident occurred," court records state.

Barker has said the decision to charge her with murder, in addition to homicide by vehicle while DUI, was based on the fact that she has a long history of DUI charges and had already completed a court-ordered Alcohol Highway Safety program.

In 1991, Fetrow was ordered to serve 1-1/2 to three years in state prison for killing fisherman Morris Stanley, 55, of Camp Hill, on May 22, 1990.  York Dispatcharticles from the time state that Fetrow was driving a car in Warrington Township that went off a bridge on Route 177 in Gifford Pinchot State Park, then hit Stanley, who was fishing with his two sons.  In that case, her blood-alcohol level was 0.226 percent, police said.

Fetrow has been charged with DUI in Pennsylvania five times, according to court records. She had been free on bail for causing the crash that killed Wolf, but her bail was revoked in October 2008 because probation officers monitoring her discovered she had smoked marijuana, the judge noted Monday....

Wolf's daughter-in-law, Nicole Wolf, spoke in court about the pain her family has struggled with, especially husband Victor Wolf and their son, 5-year-old Victor Jr.... She said her son struggles with nightmares and emotional issues since his grandfather died....

Also speaking in court was Bobby L. Bricker, 36, of Dover, who was driving the tractor-trailer that struck the victim's car.  He said he's battled anger, fear and depression in the wake of the crash, but found help from a faith-based addictions program called Reformers Unanimous. He gave Fetrow a brochure about the group.

Of course, I cannot say with any confidence that giving Fetrow a tougher sentence for her prior killing or for her many other DUI charges would have prevent the death of the victim in this case.  Nevertheless, stories like this one confirm my sense that our society ought to worry more about (and get tough quicker on) repeat drunk drivers than first-offense child porn downloaders and other non-contact sex offenders.  As this case highlights, the harms that repeat drunk drivers can do are severe, profound and can have a wide range of long-term victims.

Critically, my call for a tougher criminal-justice approach to drunk is not meant as advocacy for very long prison terms or a lock-em-up-throw-away-the-key approach.  Rather, I think technocorrections such as SCRAM bracelets and breathalizer ignition locks, back up with tough and certain graduated sanctions for any violations, need to be a more regular response to the defendants like Fetrow who cannot seem to control her addictions.  Such a dynamic approach has proved successful in many drug-court settings, and I wish it would become a norm in more DUI sentencing systems.

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

September 21, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Massachusetts SJC splits over when GPS tracking can be added to sex offender sentence

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "GPS tracking limited by SJC: Rules in case of sex offender; Sets conditions for probation use," a split high court in Massachusetts concluded yesterday that state judges "cannot change probation conditions for convicted sex offenders by requiring them to wear GPS monitoring devices unless the former inmates have violated the terms of their release." Here are the particulars:

In a 4-to-3 decision, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court judge who refused to add GPS monitoring and a ban on visits to playgrounds, schools, and libraries to the probation restrictions of a former Lowell man who spent about 20 years locked up for the abduction and rape of a 7-year-old boy.

Prosecutors and lawyers for the man agreed that he had not violated any conditions of probation when the judge rejected the request by the state Probation Department in August 2009. “Here, the judge correctly found that there had been no material change in the defendant’s circumstances after the terms of probation were initially imposed that would justify the proposed additional probation condition of GPS monitoring and exclusion zones," Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for the majority.

As the case was winding its way through the courts, the convicted sex offender, Ralph W. Goodwin, violated the terms of his probation on June 30 by failing to attend a day program as part of his mental health treatment plan, according to his appellate lawyer, Jeannine E. Mercure of Lowell. As a result, another judge ordered Goodwin to wear a GPS device, although she did not restrict where he can go.

Nonetheless, yesterday’s ruling sets limits on when judges can require GPS monitoring for freed sex offenders who were convicted years before the devices became a common condition of probation imposed at sentencing. The Probation Department currently monitors 730 freed sex offenders with GPS, according to Coria A. Holland, a department spokeswoman.

Yesterday’s ruling complements a 4-to-3 decision the high court issued in August 2009. In that case, the SJC held that a 2006 state law requiring convicted sex offenders to wear GPS devices while on probation could not automatically be applied retroactively to defendants convicted before the statute went into effect. The majority said the devices create an unconstitutional burden on the individuals’ freedom....

In a one-paragraph dissent yesterday, [Justice] Ireland wrote that he continues to believe that requiring people on probation to wear the device is “remedial rather than punitive" and should be allowed.

The court’s ruling drew criticism from law enforcement officials and victims’ rights advocates but praise from defense lawyers.

The full ruling in Massachusetts v. Goodwin is available at this link.

September 18, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Zapping Inmates To Control Them: Harmless Or Torture?"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent NPR story which discusses the latest hot new technology that hopes to help to keep prisoners in line.  Here are excerpts:

Los Angeles authorities have unveiled a new high-tech device designed to control rowdy inmates: a mechanism that blasts millimeter beams that simulate intense heat. At the Pitchess Detention Center, north of Los Angeles, officials recently showed off their latest tool, which resembles a supersized dental X-ray machine with a flat screen on top. It works like something out of Star Trek.

"You know when they set their phasers to stun, they did that so they didn't kill people? Well, that's exactly what this is. It does stun you," says Mike Booen, a vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems. The company built the device for the Los Angeles County Jail, a scaled-down version of what it designed for the military.

"I don't care if you're the meanest, toughest person in the world," he says, "this will get your attention and make your brain focus on making it stop, rather than doing whatever you were planning on doing."...

Dave Judge, the operation deputy for the sheriff's department, says the machine is more effective than their usual methods of firing rubber bullets and tear gas grenades. "This is tame; this is mild," Judge says. "This is a great way to intervene without causing any harm. The nice thing about this is it allows you to intervene at a distance."...

Raytheon's Booen says the device sends out millimeter waves, creating a harmless, but intense sensation. "It penetrates about a 64th of an inch under your skin," Booen explains. "That's about where your pain receptacles are. So it's what it would feel like if you just opened up the doors of a blast furnace. You feel this wave of heat immediately."...

Three years ago, the Department of Defense demonstrated a bigger version of the device it considered using. During one simulation, it repelled a pretend group of protesters with the "Active Denial System" direct energy weapon mounted on a military vehicle.The U.S. Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Programs reportedly never actually used the device in Afghanistan, but a spokeswoman says they are considering related technology.

Now, Los Angeles has been given a smaller, civilian version of the same device free. But the ACLU says that's a bad idea. "We're going to use people in the jails as guinea pigs for some mega arms builder to test their device," ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg says.

He sent a letter to L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca asking him to reconsider using what he says has the potential to be a torture device.... Eliasberg says some tests of the millimeter device have badly burned people with repeated zaps. And he notes that Los Angeles deputies have a documented history of abusing inmates. Eliasberg suggests a better solution would be to prevent the overcrowded conditions that trigger jail riots in the first place.

September 13, 2010 in Prisons and prisoners, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Monday, August 23, 2010

Texas counties having success with home-detention technocorrections alternative punishment

This local story from Texas provides another example of all the cost-saving innovations in corrections finding a measure of success in the Lone Star State.  The piece is headlined "Dallas County's alternative sentencing program lets low-level offenders do time at home," and here is how it starts:

What's the difference between a stark jail cell and the comforts of home? For a few lucky Dallas County criminals, the answer is nothing.  Under the county's alternative sentencing plan, certain low-level offenders discharge their sentences under ankle-monitored house arrest, giving them the opportunity to keep their jobs, eat home-cooked meals and enjoy the interaction of family and friends.

"I think the program is better than jail," said Arletha Baker, who was released from the program's restrictions recently. "You get to touch your family. ... I have a very helpful family."

Alternative sentencing is also helping Dallas County's bottom line. Since its inception Sept. 1, it has saved the county $366,016. And officials expect that figure to reach $400,000 by the initiative's first anniversary in two weeks. That's double the $200,000 budgeted by county commissioners last year to launch the program, which they approved after observing a similar program in Brazos County.

Designed to replace the old work-release program that allowed offenders to work during the day and then return to jail on nights and weekends, alternative sentencing is used for criminals with offenses ranging from misdemeanors such as hot-check writing, low-level theft and DWIs to state jail felonies that have been reduced to misdemeanors.

Notably, as the article details, this form of alternative sentencing incorporates technocorrections and it "is not without critics":

Kevin Brooks, chief of the felony trial bureau for the district attorney's office, said, "There are real concerns" with the program and that the DA's office does not support it. He said it does not help public safety and that participating offenders are "not being punished for the offense they're convicted of."

He said he would prefer a revamped work-release program in which offenders paid the full cost to the county. "Where's the punishment for your offense, [if they] have the creature comforts of home?" Brooks said.

But County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who heads the county's jail population committee, said "You can't lock up the world. At the end of the day, you've got to manage your resources." Offenders, who are called clients, pay about 90 percent or more of the cost for their monitoring equipment, as opposed to the $10 per day work-release offenders paid the county.

"The monitoring fees come out to a reasonable amount," said Rebekah Truxal, program manager for alternative sentencing.  She said the cost is $8 to $10 per day for most clients, plus the cost of keeping an active home phone during their sentence.  For DWI cases, judges can require additional monitoring that increases the cost.

The monitors are programmed to allow clients to travel to their jobs or school, if they are students, at certain times of day and then return directly home.  They are accurate to within three feet, officials say.

August 23, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Terrific piece in The Atlantic on "Prison Without Walls"

The September issue of The Atlantic magazine includes this terrific piece focused on technocorrections like GPS tracking under the headline "Prison Without Walls." The lengthy piece is a must-read and here is a long excerpt that highlights some reasons why I have been talking up the future of technocorrections for years:

GPS devices ... are looking like an appealing alternative to conventional incarceration, as it becomes ever clearer that, in the United States at least, traditional prison has become more or less synonymous with failed prison.  By almost any metric, our practice of locking large numbers of people behind bars has proved at best ineffective and at worst a national disgrace. According to a recent Pew report, 2.3 million Americans are currently incarcerated — enough people to fill the city of Houston.  Since 1983, the number of inmates has more than tripled and the total cost of corrections has jumped sixfold, from $10.4 billion to $68.7 billion.  In California, the cost per inmate has kept pace with the cost of an Ivy League education, at just shy of $50,000 a year.

This might make some sense if crime rates had also tripled.  But they haven’t: rather, even as crime has fallen, the sentences served by criminals have grown, thanks in large part to mandatory minimums and draconian three-strikes rules — politically popular measures that have shown little deterrent effect but have left the prison system overflowing with inmates.  The vogue for incarceration might also make sense if the prisons repaid society’s investment by releasing reformed inmates who behaved better than before they were locked up.  But that isn’t the case either: half of those released are back in prison within three years. Indeed, research by the economists Jesse Shapiro of the University of Chicago and M. Keith Chen of Yale indicates that the stated purpose of incarceration, which is to place prisoners under harsh conditions on the assumption that they will be “scared straight,” is actively counterproductive.  Such conditions — and U.S. prisons are astonishingly harsh, with as many as 20 percent of male inmates facing sexual assault — typically harden criminals, making them more violent and predatory.  Essentially, when we lock someone up today, we are agreeing to pay a large (and growing) sum of money merely to put off dealing with him until he is released in a few years, often as a greater menace to society than when he went in.

Devices such as the ExacuTrack, along with other advances in both the ways we monitor criminals and the ways we punish them for their transgressions, suggest a revolutionary possibility: that we might turn the conventional prison system inside out for a substantial number of inmates, doing away with the current, expensive array of guards and cells and fences, in favor of a regimen of close, constant surveillance on the outside and swift, certain punishment for any deviations from an established, legally unobjectionable routine.  The potential upside is enormous.  Not only might such a system save billions of dollars annually, it could theoretically produce far better outcomes, training convicts to become law-abiders rather than more-ruthless lawbreakers.  The ultimate result could be lower crime rates, at a reduced cost, and with considerably less inhumanity in the bargain.

Moreover, such a change would in fact be less radical than it might at first appear.  An underappreciated fact of our penitentiary system is that of all Americans “serving time” at any given moment, only a third are actually behind bars.  The rest — some 5 million of them — are circulating among the free on conditional supervised release either as parolees, who are freed from prison before their sentences conclude, or as probationers, who walk free in lieu of jail time.  These prisoners-on-the-outside have in fact outnumbered the incarcerated for decades. And recent innovations, both technological and procedural, could enable such programs to advance to a stage where they put the traditional model of incarceration to shame.

In a number of experimental cases, they already have.  Devices such as the one I wore on my leg already allow tens of thousands of convicts to walk the streets relatively freely, impeded only by the knowledge that if they loiter by a schoolyard, say, or near the house of the ex-girlfriend they threatened, or on a street corner known for its crack trade, the law will come to find them. Compared with incarceration, the cost of such surveillance is minuscule—mere dollars per day—and monitoring has few of the hardening effects of time behind bars.  Nor do all the innovations being developed depend on technology.  Similar efforts to control criminals in the wild are under way in pilot programs that demand adherence to onerous parole guidelines, such as frequent, random drug testing, and that provide for immediate punishment if the parolees fail. The result is the same: convicts who might once have been in prison now walk among us unrecognized—like pod people, or Canadians.

There are, of course, many thousands of dangerous felons who can’t be trusted on the loose. But if we extended this form of enhanced, supervised release even to just the nonviolent offenders currently behind bars, we would empty half our prison beds in one swoop....  [S]ome would offend again.  But then, so too do those convicts released at the end of their brutal, hardening sentences under our current system. And even accepting a certain failure rate, by nearly any measure such “prisons without bars” would represent a giant step forward for justice, criminal rehabilitation, and society.

August 18, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Prisons and prisoners, Reentry and community supervision, Scope of Imprisonment, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Electronic bracelets to track gun-toting Memphis juveniles"

The title of this post is the notable headline of this notable local article from Tennessee.  Here are the intriguing particulars of one of the the latest use of technocorrections (which is being funded by federal tax dollars):

Memphis police want to stop gun-toting teens in their tracks -- literally.  

Police Director Larry Godwin is teaming with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton to develop a pilot program that monitors the steps of troubled teens through advanced electronic tracking bracelets. It's part of a $2 million, federally funded program to curtail crime using tracking equipment that can pinpoint a detainee's exact location.....

Godwin ... and the mayor are teaming to develop a proposed pilot program, "Cease-Fire for Juveniles."  The initiative, modeled partly after a similar program in St. Louis, allows police and court officials to supervise the teen for one year through an electronic ankle bracelet....

Unlike some other tracking devices, the bracelets used in this program would keep a record of everywhere the detainee goes, transmitting the data in real time to a police department server, Memphis police Col. Jim Harvey said.

Using special software, police can build a virtual fence around a teen offender's home, with the computer monitoring if the teen is staying put during curfew.  If the teen leaves his yard, a police computer will automatically generate an alert.  With sex offenders, police can place a virtual fence around area schools and daycare centers.  If the offender crosses onto forbidden turf, police will get an alert.

Harvey, who is overseeing the logistics of the monitoring, said this program has the potential to drastically reduce the city's crime rate.  "If there's a burglar walking down the street and he sees a police officer, he's not going to break into that house or business," Harvey said. "Now, the way I look at it, he's going to be wearing a police officer on his leg."

In the program's first year, the department plans to track up to 1,000 juvenile and adult offenders in Shelby County and up to 500 in nearby urban areas tracked by federal programs -- Fayette, Tipton and Lauderdale counties and DeSoto County, Miss., and Crittenden County, Ark.

The juvenile program would be voluntary, so the teen and parents would have to agree to participate. If the minors stay out of trouble for one year, the initial gun-possession charge would be erased from their record.

Through the program, the parent would also have to allow random police searches of the teen's bedroom.  If the teen is caught with drugs or another gun, he or she would get kicked out of the program and would face the consequences of violating probation, police said.

Veteran defense attorney James Sanders said the program sounds promising, but he would first want to ensure the parent wouldn't be blamed if the search yielded a weapon or drugs in the teen's room....  The program would also require the minor to complete 40 hours of community service and attend training, which includes straight talk from a former gang member.

August 15, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offender Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, July 26, 2010

New York about to require ignition locks as mandated punishment for drunk driving

I am pleased to see this new New York Law Journal piece, headlined "Drunken Drivers in N.Y. Must Install Devices to Monitor Alcohol Use," reporting that the Empire State is about to mandate a seemingly effective form of technocorrections for persons convicted of a crime that leads to thousands of deaths every year. Here are some of the interesting details:

A new program will go into effect on Aug. 15 in New York that requires anyone convicted of drunken driving to install a device in their cars that will determine whether they are sober before the vehicle will start.  Roughly 25,000 people statewide are convicted each year on charges of drunken driving.

Under the new program, which was adopted as a part of "Leandra's Law," anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated must have the devices installed at their own expense and once a month report to a location where the data recorded by the machine can be analyzed to determine how often the driver exceeded blood alcohol limits.

With the device, known as an ignition interlock breathalyzer, installed, the drivers will have to pass a test to show they have less than one drink in their system before the car will start, and they must use a Breathalyzer at regular intervals to prove they are not drinking and driving.

The devices will not permit a car to start if the driver registers a blood alcohol level of .025 percent or higher. Drivers face criminal charges if their blood alcohol reading exceeds .08 percent....

Judge Judy Harris Kluger, chief of policy and planning for the court system, said that the courts are "well prepared" to meet the Aug. 15 startup date.  About 1,000 village and town court justices and employees of those courts have been trained on implementing the new law, she said. A similar program will be conducted through the Internet for all 1,300 state-funded judges on Aug. 3.

Kluger recognized that judges will have an "additional responsibility" in analyzing detailed financial statements from defendants to determine if they are eligible for a fee waiver, but added that the courts will not know the impact for several months....

Motorists convicted of drunken driving charges will have to pay up to $100 to have the devices installed and a monthly fee of between $70 and $100 depending upon which model and which installer they use.  The seven manufacturers approved by the Department of Probation, will bear the cost of providing the devices to convicted motorists who are unable to pay for them.

In any case where a motorist is convicted of driving while under the influence, judges must require the defendant use the device for at least six months.  The requirement can be imposed with a conditional discharge, most likely in the case of first offenders, or as a condition of probation.

Currently, probation is required in about 9,000 of the 25,000 drunken driving cases, with several hundred jailed and the balance fined, [according to Robert Maccarone, the director of the New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives].  He added that he did not expect that figure to change after Aug. 15. Defendants who go to sentence would be required to install the devices once they have served their terms....

The seven manufacturers must contract with enough installers -- retailers of electronics and security systems -- so that no convicted motorist will have to travel more than 50 miles to have the device installed or to attend monthly compliance checkups.

Each of the manufacturers produces devices at varying levels of sophistication. In addition to the basic model, some have cameras to record who is taking the breathalyzer test and others have global positioning systems.

The requirement for the interlock ignition devices was enacted as a part of Leandra's law, which was adopted in response to the October 2009 death of Leandra Rosado, 11, who was thrown from a car being driven by a drunken driver.

I believe that New York is the largest state to create an ignition lock mandate for those convicted of drunk driving.  As detailed in some prior posts, there is (undisputed?) evidence that every state with serious ignition lock laws have experienced significant decreases in the number of drunken-driving accidents and deaths.  If a very politically prominent state like New York has such positive experiences with Leandra's law, it could prompt adoption of similar programs nationwide and perhaps significantly decrease the harmful scourge that is drunk driving.

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

July 26, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Offense Characteristics, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Monday, July 19, 2010

California struggling with new challenges posed by GPS technocorrections

Regular readers know that I view technocorrections like GPS tracking as a common punishment of the future, and that is one reason I find especially notable this local piece detailing California's problems with this form of technocorrections now.  The piece is headlined "Sex offenders unwatched as parole struggles with GPS system," and here are excerpts:

Two special reports by the state Office of the Inspector General found Corrections' GPS policies were confused at best and non-existent at worst.

The full technological abilities of the system aren't being used, agents and supervisors aren't properly trained and agents are so overloaded with GPS busy work they aren't able to do other vitally important checks in the field, according to the reports. Overall, the reports concluded, Corrections is not aggressively monitoring sex offenders and the public is being given a "false sense of security."...

"Parole agents are so busy tracking dots on a computer screen, they're not out making home visits, checking the guy's workplace, talking to family members," said Melinda Silva, president of the Parole Agents Association of California. "Agents are spending the bulk of their time running tracks including at home and on the weekends."

Jessica's Law, passed in 2006, started the ball rolling on lifetime GPS monitoring of sex offenders. Then the Garrido report added more responsibilities and the Gardner report still more.

California leads the nation in GPS monitored parolees -- 6,500 -- at a cost of $60 million a year. Depending on arrests, there are typically about 250 sex offender parolees on GPS in Kern County.

Silva said the state isn't taking into account how the program has increased agents' workload and whether the work is actually accomplishing what the public expects. "People believe the GPS means we know where they are 24/7 and we don't," Silva said. "We're paying millions for GPS and we're not getting much out of it because agents don't have time to do the work."

Now, she said, State Sen. George Runner, who authored Proposition 83 establishing Jessica's Law, has a bill involving Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites that she feared would add even more to agents' plates.

Not so, Runner said. His bill, SB 1204 which has passed the Senate and the Public Safety committee in the Assembly, would simply require that sex offenders register their online and e-mail addresses as well as their instant messaging user names just like they do their physical addresses.

Silva argued that if it becomes a crime for a sex offender not to register their electronic info, that makes it absolutely incumbent on the agent to check the sites. "Who enforces that if not us?" she asked. "It's ludicrous to say there's no extra work."

As for whether the GPS program has been a success, Runner said it's an evolving technology that should not be thought of as a cure-all. "It's just one tool," he said.

There have been successes and failures with GPS, he acknowledged. But he firmly believes the technology and its use will continue to improve. "That said, there have been problems with implementation." And he said he was "frustrated" with some of Corrections' responses to recommendations about how to do better.

Some related older posts on GPS tracking and related technocorrections:

July 19, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 01, 2010

"Sex offender faces prison for going to movie, authorities say"

The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing local Detroit story which highlights how GPS tracking can play a role in busting a sex offender for going to the wrong pop-culture event.  Here are the details:

A sex offender told to stay away from children is facing up to 15 years in prison for allegedly violating his probation.

Michael Keeler, 46, of Gregory appeared in Livingston Circuit Court today. Authorities say he went to MJR Theater in Brighton June 22 to see the blockbuster film "Toy Story 3," putting himself among children despite his probationary terms.

Livingston Judge Michael Hatty set bond at 10 percent of $10,000. A hearing is set for July 8.

Court records showed Keeler served one year in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of criminal sexual conduct, second degree, involving a child under age 13 in 2008.

His probation included lifetime of electronic monitoring and registry on the state's sex offender list. The judge said a GPS monitoring device confirmed his whereabouts on June 22.

July 1, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Seriously ill sex offender may be electronically tagged"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable story about a technocorrections sentence being considered in Ireland.  Here are the details:

A Wicklow man who sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl may become one of the first offenders to be electronically tagged as an alternative to prison.

The 62-year-old, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, suffers from a serious medical condition and the Prison Service has told the court they may not be able to treat him in jail.  He has been on bail since he was convicted last February while it was established if he could be imprisoned or not.

Today Judge Tony Hunt again adjourned sentencing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after hearing that the man was not in court. He had gone into hospital to have a procedure carried out last week but it had not gone well and he remained in hospital.

Judge Hunt said he would consider alternatives to prison on “humanitarian grounds” which may include curfews and electronic tagging. He said he would look at having the man tagged after noting there had been trials of the system.

“I regard this man as a very significant threat to the female half of the population, or at least he was before his illness,” the judge said. “If he’s not incarcerated, and he deserves to be for a lengthy period, there will be a lengthy curfew covering most of the day, save for medical appointments and some sort of exercise which he would be entitled to in prison.”  He adjourned the case until the end of the month when he will finalise a sentence.

I am not sure if electronic tagging in Ireland involves simply GPS tracking with an electronic bracelet or if it involves a microchip implant.  Whatever the particulars, this story reinforces my sense that technocorrection alternatives to incarcerations are likely to be a world-wide reality within a matters of years.

June 14, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Lindsay Lohan doing her best to become technocorrections poster child

Mean Sentencing fans now have yet another reason to enjoy the guilty pleasures of the movie Mean Girls: it seems that its star, Lindsay Lohan, may next appear on either a wanted poster or on a poster advertising SCRAM, the alcohol-monitoring technocorrections device that she is helping to publicize.  This ABC News report explains why: 

Lindsay Lohan is in hot water again -- this time over her court-ordered alcohol-monitoring ankle braclet.

According to People magazine, Lohan's ankle monitor sounded an alarm Sunday night while she attended an after-party for the MTV Movie Awards. It's unclear why the alarm was triggered, but typically authorities are alerted when the device is either tampered with or the person wearing it consumes alcohol.

Whatever the reason, it was enough for Beverly Hills Judge Marsha Revel to issue a bench warrant late Tuesday for Lohan's arrest, claiming the 23-year-old actress was "in violation for conditions on bail," according to US Weekly.

Because of the violation, Lohan's previous $100,000 bail has been revoked. The Los Angeles Times reported that the actress posted new bail of $200,000 to avoid being detained.

On Wednesday, Lohan's attorney and the prosecutor were back in court for a closed-door session with Revel.  Lohan, who is due back in court July 6, was not required to appear.  After the hearing, Lohan's lawyer, Shawn Chapman Holley, told TMZ that Lohan's anklet device "indicated the presence of a small amount of alcohol on Sunday night."

"Having just received the report, I am not in a position to speak to its accuracy or validity; however, Ms. Lohan maintains that she has been in complete compliance with all of the terms of her probation and her bail," Holley said.

In messages posted on her Twitter account, Lohan also denied that she had done anything wrong and said the anklet, known as a SCRAM, or Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, should have detected nothing.  "I did not violate anything at all," she tweeted. "My SCRAM wasn't set off ... It's physically impossible considering I've [done] nothing for it to go off. All of these false [reports] are absolutely wrong."

Lohan was fitted for the device May 24 after she failed to show up for a mandatory hearing on her probation related to an earlier DUI case....

[A recent] report in US Weekly magazine [said] that the actress, who previously wore the bracelet in 2007, tried using a paper clip to jam the signal and perfume (which is high in alcohol content) to confuse the sensor.  The magazine said Lohan denied attempting both tactics.  But she wouldn't be the first to try to bypass the bracelet....

Vickers Cunningham, retired Texas District Court Judge and chief operating officer of Recovery Healthcare Corporation, a major SCRAM distributor, said that some offenders have attempted innovative strategies to bluff the booze detector.

Novices place cellophane or foil between the skin and the sensor. "The more creative people have tried to simulate human skin by using baloney or salami or ham," he said.  One even stuck chicken skin to his ankle. But he said that the bracelets include several anti-tamper sensors....

He said tactics like Lohan's alleged perfume-spraying strategy are known as attempts at "spiking the bracelet."  Offenders are told not to use perfume and other topical alcohol-based products around their ankles because it sends the reported alcohol level through the roof and masks any alcoholic beverages the person might have consumed.

But Cunningham said probation officers can tell when offenders spike the bracelets with gasoline, perfume and other substances and can send them before a judge to explain why they contaminated the sample.

June 9, 2010 in Celebrity sentencings, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Lindsay Lohan New Spokeswoman for SCRAM Alcohol Testing Accessory"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece from SheWired.com, which provides a cheeky and gendered take on the celebrity technocorrections news coming from Hollywood this morning.  Here are the details:

Following her weeks-long odyssey ditching court appearances, losing her passport and partying her ass off -- sorry, promoting her Linda Lovelace biopic -- in Cannes, Lindsay Lohan finally turned up for court Monday morning to face Judge Marsha Revel, who postponed her vacation a day in order to personally sentence Ms. Lohan, according to TMZ.

Judge Revel delivered a litany of conditions to Lohan, including sporting a SCRAM ankle bracelet that continually monitors blood alcohol, weekly random drug testing and attending mandatory drug and alcohol classes.  This is a good thing, as Linds in her court appearance, could no longer hide the booze and drug bloat behind a pair of $400 toss-away Chloe sunglasses.

As Lindsay is due to start working in Texas, her lawyer Shawn Chapman Holley, attempted to extricate her from the bonds of wearing the glamorous SCRAM device, which will surely clash with Lindsay's leggings and Louboutins, as airbrushing the SCRAM out of the movie and photo shoots is unlikely.  Furthermore, Lindsay is required to undergo weekly random drug testing in Los Angeles only, and not in Texas, whether it interferes with the first job she's had in ages or not.

Revel tossed out the terms of Lindsay's probation refusing to listen to excuses or requests for any type of leniency, as Lindsay had often blown the judge off, likely for sundry pointless shopping trips at her neighborhood 7/11 and for iced lattes on Robertson Blvd.

Should Lindsay test Revel -- not a good idea as she's acting judge, jury, mom and dad -- Linds may find herself tossed in the pokey ala Paris Hilton circa 2007.

May 24, 2010 in Celebrity sentencings, Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Documentation, Documentary, and the Law: What Should be Made of Victim Impact Videos?"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new piece on SSRN from Regina Austin. Here is the abstract:

Since the Supreme Court sanctioned the introduction of victim impact evidence in the sentencing phase of capital cases in Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808 (1991), there have been a number of reported decisions in which that evidence has taken the form of videos composed of home-produced still photographs and moving images of the victim.  Most of these videos were first shown at funerals or memorial services and contain music appropriate for such occasions. This article considers the probative value of victim impact videos and responds to the call of Justice John Paul Stevens, made in a statement regarding the rejection of certiorari in People v. Kelly, 129 S.Ct. 564 (2008), for the articulation of reasonable limits on the admission of victim impact evidence.

The first part of the article offers an analysis of victim impact videos drawing on the lessons of cinema studies and cultural studies.  The common reception of home photographs and moving images affects the interpretation of victim impact videos.  As a result, impact videos are typically too idealistic and idyllic to be really probative evidence of the victims’ individuality and the impact of their loss on their families and friends. However, impact videos may be particularly important evidence for the members of devalued or denigrated groups who fall outside of generally accepted images of ideal victims. 

The second part of the article deals with an actual case in which the subject of the video was a young Latina mother, felled by domestic violence, whose character was attacked as part of the effort to mitigate her husband’s sentence.  He wound up with a judgment of life without the possibility of parole.  Here the article considers how the victim impact video might have been more probative and the response of the defense to it, more likely to produce a less harsh punishment.

Part three finds greater relevance in a video streamed on YouTube that was based on the written impact statement presented by the young adult son of a homicide victim at the perpetrator’s first parole hearing which was held some 15 years after the murder.  Finally, the conclusion offers recommendations for the admission of victim impact videos.

It is my understanding that the submission by defendants of mitigating video evidence at sentencing is becoming a quite common in some courthouses.  Thus, I wonder if the author here or others who agree that certain kinds of "videos are typically too idealistic and idyllic to be really probative evidence" would also be inclined to preclude defense submission of videos. 

April 24, 2010 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Technocorrections, Victims' Rights At Sentencing, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Ohio considers using Twitter to announce executions"

The title of this post is the headline of this new story out of Ohio.  Here are the details:

A spokeswoman says Ohio's prison system has contemplated using Twitter to announce when an execution has been completed.  However, Communications Director Julie Walburn at the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction says she's concerned that tweeting about an inmate's time of death may be considered in poor taste.

She says the department still hasn't decided how to use Twitter and other social media to disseminate news. Walburn says she's focused on trying to get the word out about executions quickly. When condemned inmate Darryl Durr died by lethal injection at 10:36 a.m. Tuesday, a news release was e-mailed to media outlets one minute later.

I know lots and lots of people consider a state's efforts to execute someone to be in "poor taste," but I see no reason not to use all modern means of communication to report on these efforts.  But perhaps other have different views on taste and technology (which they are encouraged to express in the comments).

April 23, 2010 in Death Penalty Reforms, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Mass high court considering GPS tracking rules for sex offenders

As detailed in this Boston Herald article, which is headlined "DAs unite to use GPS on sex offenders," the most popular of modern technocorrections was before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court yesterday. Here are the details:

Allowing sex offenders to roam free without GPS monitoring has district attorneys joining forces to appeal to have judges granted the authority to slap the fiends with ankle bracelets.

The state Supreme Judicial Court yesterday heard both sides of the controversy in a case about a convicted Middlesex County child rapist who objected to wearing a GPS-monitoring device during his 10-year probation term.  “These are people who by their very nature cannot control their sexual impulses and are likely to reoffend,” said Middlesex County District Attorney Gerard Leone, whose office prosecuted Ralph Goodwin, the sex offender at the center of the legal battle.  “It’s paramount we have some means of significant monitoring.”

After he finished jail and civil sentences last summer, the Probation Department requested GPS monitoring for Goodwin.  Superior Court Judge Kathe M. Tuttman, however, ruled she did not have the authority to impose the monitoring.  In her ruling, Tuttman cited a 2009 SJC decision that decided a 2006 law mandating GPS devices on all sex offenders placed on probation cannot apply retroactively....

Since the summer, about 234 sex offenders have been allowed to remove their ankle bracelets as a result of the SJC ruling.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said it makes sense to give judges the right to decide whether GPS monitoring is appropriate.  “I believe that judges should have the option to make that finding,” he said.  “It doesn’t necessarily mean it would be done in every case.”

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett agreed.  “It’s just another probationary tool to help keep the public safe,” he said.  “We have an obligation to speak up about this and ask the court to make a decision.”

April 8, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Sex Offender Sentencing, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Judge Calls Electronic Monitoring Excessive Bail in Child Pornography Case"

The title of this post is the headline of this piece in the New York Law Journal, which reports on the latest significant sentencing decision of EDNY's Judge Jack Weinstein. Here is how the piece starts:

Eastern District of New York Judge Jack B. Weinstein has held unconstitutional the electronic monitoring of a Brooklyn pizzeria owner awaiting retrial on child pornography charges.

The judge found that the monitoring, mandated by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, constitutes unconstitutionally excessive bail and violates defendant Peter Polouizzi's procedural due process rights. "The basic defect of the Adam Walsh Act, as applied, is that it imposes a mandatory limit on freedom of an accused without permitting an 'adversary hearing,'" Weinstein held in United States v. Polouizzi (Polizzi), 06-cr-22 [available here].

"Required wearing of an electronic bracelet, every minute of every day, with the government capable of tracking a person not yet convicted as if he were a feral animal would be considered a serious limitation on freedom by most liberty-loving Americans."

Weinstein's opinion marks yet another setback for the government in its prosecution of Polouizzi, who has admitted collecting thousands of images of child pornography. Polouizzi claims he downloaded the photos in the hope of saving the children or perhaps of finding evidence of the brutal rapes he endured as a child.

Since a jury rejected Polouizzi's insanity defense in October 2007 and convicted him of 23 counts of receiving and possessing child pornography, Weinstein has twice ordered the case to be retried. The first order was reversed by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; the second order is on appeal. After the government filed its most recent appeal, Polouizzi's counsel, Mitchell J. Dinnerstein, contested the conditions of his bail.

Wednesday, Judge Weinstein ordered the discontinuation of the electronic monitoring, finding that it violated both the Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive bail and the Fifth Amendment right to procedural due process. The judge cited more than half a dozen decisions finding the Adam Walsh Act, which imposes electronic monitoring without discretion, unconstitutional in cases where flight or safety are not at issue.

"Electronic monitoring devices that inhibit straying beyond spatial home property limits, like those used to restrain pet dogs, are intrusive. Their requirement, when mandated and unnecessary, may constitute excessive bail in particular cases," Weinstein wrote.

March 26, 2010 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Technocorrections, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack