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