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.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Texas counties having success with home-detention technocorrections alternative punishmentThis 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.
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.
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.
Monday, July 26, 2010
New York about to require ignition locks as mandated punishment for drunk drivingI 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:
- Effective commentary complaining about undue leniency for drunk drivers
- Getting tougher on drunk driving
- Why do we worry so much more about sex offenders than drunk drivers?
- Technology versus toughness to combat drunk driving
- Undue leniency for drunk drivers?
- More discussion of leniency for drunk drivers
- Is capital punishment for drunk driving morally required?
- More examples of undue leniency shown to repeat drunk drivers
- "Some Coloradans drive until they kill"
Monday, July 19, 2010
California struggling with new challenges posed by GPS technocorrectionsRegular 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:
- The technical challenges posed by technocorrections
- State judge makes pitch for ignition locks for drunk drivers
- Is the future parole with GPS and other techno-reentry devices?
- The inevitability of GPS tracking and cost-saving technocorrections
- Another reason to believe GPS technocorrections are inevitable
- Why tight budget times will speed path to technocorrections
- Are microchip implants for offenders inevitable?
- UK getting serious about GPS through microchip implants
- Are we willing to pay the costs of (effective?) technocorrections like GPS tracking?
- More on the pros and cons of GPS tracking
- New article examining incapacitation innovations
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.
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.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Lindsay Lohan doing her best to become technocorrections poster childSentencing 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.
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.
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.
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).
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Mass high court considering GPS tracking rules for sex offendersAs 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.”
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.
Monday, February 01, 2010
The virutes of (faith-based) video-conferencing for prisoners and their familiesThe modern realities of crime and punishment produce precious few feel-good stories, but here is one coming from the Virginia prison system. The local piece is headlined "Videoconferencing lets families visit Va. prison inmates," and here are highlights:
For the five years Tori Chisholm has been held in a mountaintop prison near the Kentucky border, there haven't been many visitors from back home in Richmond. It was snowing in Big Stone Gap on Jan. 2 when he sat down inside Wallens Ridge State Prison and began talking with his mother, Lisa Chisholm, and his 17-year-old brother, Rashawn Brathwaite.
But Chisholm's family did not have to drive six or seven hours from Richmond's East End for the one-hour visit. Instead, they took advantage of a videoconferencing program started by New Canaan International Church in Henrico County, which allowed them to see and speak with one another while almost 400 miles apart.
The Virginia Department of Corrections is allowing the program to expand to nine other prisons -- at no cost to taxpayers. The Rev. Owen C. Cardwell Jr., pastor of the church at 1708 Byron St., said that "to the best of our knowledge, we're the only [faith-based] program like this in the nation."
The church has been using donated equipment and charging $30 for a one-hour visit and $15 for 30 minutes to help cover the costs. In a high-security prison such as Wallens Ridge, using a live video connection enables inmates and "visitors" to see and hear one another as well as -- if not better than -- during in-person visits conducted through clear, but solid, plexiglass windows using phones.
Since starting the program 3½ years ago, New Canaan and two other churches now involved have arranged 650 video visits between Wallens Ridge inmates and their families. The cost for the video visits is considerably less than that of daylong drives and overnight stays often needed to visit some of Virginia's more remote, high-security prisons. "It's taken a long time to pull this together," Cardwell said....
Fran Bolin, the program's executive director, said they will be doing video visits later with inmates at the Bland and Pocahontas correctional centers, the Virginia Correctional Center for Women, and Red Onion State Prison. They have been assisted by a $20,000 grant from The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia.
Bolin said a round-trip drive from Richmond to Red Onion in Wise County is 744 miles. Factoring in mileage, meals and lodging, an in-person visit there could cost hundreds of dollars, making the $15 and $30 fees a bargain, she said....
Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said that in addition to helping families, video visitations help inmates. Visits help ease tensions, and long periods without visits can increase the problems of inmates. "The program has been successful at Wallens Ridge, and we felt that the good results we had there warranted expansion to other prisons, on a pilot basis," he said. All such visits are recorded, he said.
The link above to this full story also provides access to a short video that shows how effectively personal these video visits can be. Because of the potential cost savings to both governments and prisoner families, I suspect that these sorts of video visit may before too long become the norm rather than the exception in many major prisons.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Interesting sign of the modern high-tech sentencing timesI came across this interesting and telling press release, titled "Leading Strategic Litigation Communication Firm Now Producing Pre-Sentencing Video Biography," when scanning the news this morning. Here are snippets:
Colton Creative, the national leader in strategic litigation communication, announces that the firm is now offering pre-sentencing biography production. Recognized as the leading producer of "day in the life" and "video settlement brochures" in the United States, Colton Creative President Andrew Colton says pre-sentencing mitigation videos is a logical product offering of his company.
"We've been asked several times by clients if we could apply the broadcast network news magazine style we use for our litigation videos to documentaries showing the good things that people facing jail or prison time have accomplished in their lives."...
Colton Creative's pre-sentencing videos are custom made and can run anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour -- following rules set by the specific Judge running the case in question. They feature interviews with family, friends, and provide an in-depth look at why incarceration is not appropriate.
I think it makes sense for me to file this post in my "white-collar sentencing" archive, as I doubt all that many defendants other than those involved in white-collar offenses are likely to have the resources to hire this firm.
Monday, November 23, 2009
The many new tech challenges surrounding the monitoring of old and new sex offendersThis morning's Washington Post has this fascinating and important new article headlined "Tracking sex-crime offenders gets trickier: Violator registry is growing as tech-savvy predators put a greater burden on officers." Here are excerpts:
The nationwide crackdown on child pornography and other sex offenses has created severe manpower shortages and technology challenges for probation officers, police and federal agents struggling to track offenders who are jumping online with cellphones and portable game systems and flocking to social networking and other sites, where children or pornography can easily be found.
There are more than 716,000 registered sex offenders nationwide, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a 78 percent increase since 2001, and that does not include all offenders because some crimes do not require registration. Sex-offender registries have grown even faster in the Washington area, with more than 24,000 people listed....
The focus on crimes against children that began in the Bush administration shows no sign of abating under President Obama. Federal child sexual exploitation prosecutions are up 147 percent since 2002, and the Justice Department is hiring 81 more prosecutors for these cases. Funding for task forces that bring charges in state courts rose this year from $16 million to $75 million.
But many of those offenders are now leaving prison, even as revenue-strapped states are cutting the budgets of probation departments. In Virginia, probation and parole cuts this year totaled nearly $10 million, including $500,000 for electronic monitoring of sexually violent predators. Maryland also has cut its budget. "The burden on probation and parole officers is going to explode," said Ernie Allen, the national center's president.
The monitoring of virtually all sex offenders is required by law when they are on probation or parole. The problem has gained national attention with the discovery of 10 bodies and a skull at a registered sex offender's home in Cleveland and revelations that Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped at age 11 in 1991 and allegedly held captive at a California sex offender's house until her reappearance in August. Officers had visited both homes and noticed nothing wrong.
Those cases underscore a troubled registry system that has been the public face of sex-offender monitoring. An estimated 100,000 offenders do not comply with registration requirements. Law enforcement doesn't know where many of them are.
But the most alarming development for officers is proliferating electronic gadgets and the temptations they pose to sex offenders. A man on probation in Iowa for molesting a 9-year-old girl, for example, was recently caught downloading pornographic images of a young girl on his PlayStation Portable -- while walking to his probation appointment.
Sometimes, offenders cannot be monitored even while in custody. David L. Franklin, a church deacon, pleaded guilty in federal court to sending child pornography to an undercover D.C. police detective. While awaiting sentencing, Franklin struck up another online conversation with the same detective, who traced the defendant to an unusual address -- the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility. Franklin had smuggled a cellphone into his jail cell and was on his bunk, online, when guards grabbed it, sources familiar with the case said.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
New York Times editorial calls for ignition locks for all drunk driversThis morning's New York Times has this new editorial headlined "Progress on Drunken Driving." Here are excerpts:
An enlightened measure signed this month by California’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will require those convicted of drunken driving — including first-time offenders — to install special devices that prevent cars from operating if the driver is drunk. The large pilot program, which covers the 14 million people living in Los Angeles, Sacramento and two other counties, adds important momentum to the national campaign by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to expand the use of the life-saving technology.
Mandating the ignition-interlock devices for all drunken-driving offenders is smart safety policy. Once installed, the vehicle will not start until the driver first blows into the device and registers an alcohol level below the legal limit. Offenders who commute to work by car can keep their jobs, but they cannot drink and drive....
There are 11 states that require both first offenders and repeaters to use ignition-interlock devices for an assigned period. Most programs were enacted in the past two years, and the data are still building. But for California, where recidivists make up more than a quarter of annual drunken-driving arrests, the dramatic results logged in New Mexico are encouraging. Between 2004 and 2008, New Mexico experienced a 65 percent drop in drunken-driving recidivism. Drunken-driving fatalities in the state dropped 35 percent.
California’s large-scale embrace of interlocks should help embolden lawmakers in states like New York, where similar proposals face predictable, shortsighted opposition from the alcohol industry. Congress should also take action by conditioning federal highway money on requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunken-driving offenders.
Like the NY Times, I am a big fan of this technocorrections approach to tackling the pernicious problems of drunk driving. I hope that there will be continued positive results in jurisdictions like New Mexico that have been at the forefront of this form of technocorrections.
Some related posts on sentencing drunk drivers:
- Getting tougher on drunk driving
- Why do we worry so much more about sex offenders than drunk drivers?
- Technology versus toughness to combat drunk driving
- Undue leniency for drunk drivers?
- More discussion of leniency for drunk drivers
- Is capital punishment for drunk driving morally required?
- More examples of undue leniency shown to repeat drunk drivers
- "Some Coloradans drive until they kill"
Monday, October 12, 2009
The reach of technocorrections in our modern society
I have often blogged about the inevitability of different forms of technocorrections becoming a more regular part of our daily lives, and a few of today's national and internation headlines reinforce my basic instincts on these fronts:
Friday, October 09, 2009
How might we punish "semi-voluntary acts"?The question of this post is prompted by this new paper from Professor Deborah Denno that I just saw on SSRN. The title of this paper is "Consciousness and Culpability in American Criminal Law," and here is the abstract:
American law requires a voluntary act or omission before assigning criminal liability. The law also presumes that an individual who is unconscious, such as a sleepwalker, is incapable of a voluntary act. For some criminal defendants in the United States this all-or-nothing approach to the voluntary act requirement can mean the difference between unqualified acquittal if they are found to have acted involuntarily, lengthy institutionalization if they are found to be insane, and incarceration or even the death penalty if their acts are found to be voluntary. In contrast to the law’s dual dichotomies of voluntary/involuntary and conscious/unconscious, modern neuroscientific research indicates that the boundaries between our conscious and unconscious states are permeable, dynamic, and interactive. To enable the law to join science in a more nuanced and just view of the human mind, this article proposes that, in addition to voluntary and involuntary acts, the criminal law recognize a third category — semi-voluntary acts.
I am inclined, even without having a chance to read the whole paper, to embrace this proposed third category of semi-voluntary acts as a way to describe some wrongful behavior for criminal law purposes. But that then just requires turning to the really hard question of how semi-voluntary acts ought to be punished. Should perhaps alternative sentences or technocorrections or other novel punishment be the presumptive response to this new category of consciousness and culpability?