Thursday, October 07, 2010

Big Brother technocorrections to help Ohio keep track of sex offenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Role of Social Media in Sentencing Advocacy"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Should sex offenders get GPS before leaving prison?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some related posts on GPS tracking and related technocorrections:

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

Texas counties having success with home-detention technocorrections alternative punishment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Terrific piece in The Atlantic on "Prison Without Walls"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Electronic bracelets to track gun-toting Memphis juveniles"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 26, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

California struggling with new challenges posed by GPS technocorrections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some related older posts on GPS tracking and related technocorrections:

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

Thursday, July 01, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Seriously ill sex offender may be electronically tagged"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Lindsay Lohan doing her best to become technocorrections poster child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Lindsay Lohan New Spokeswoman for SCRAM Alcohol Testing Accessory"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Ohio considers using Twitter to announce executions"

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Mass high court considering GPS tracking rules for sex offenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 01, 2010

The virutes of (faith-based) video-conferencing for prisoners and their families

The 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.

February 1, 2010 in Prisons and prisoners, Technocorrections | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack