Tag: criminal justice

Sep 29

The Russian Connection: Put the Fox in Charge

Back in October of 2016 the FBI and computer experts were looking at a Russian bank’s servers examining if there was a connection between the bank and the Trump organization. It appeared that Alpha Bank was using a secret server to interact with the Trump Tower during the campaign. The investigation was dismissed by some …

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Sep 15

Criminal Justice System: Arrested Development

Most people never expect to get arrested but many who do are poor and cannot afford a lawyer to represent them, so they are provided with a public defenders. Sounds fair but is it? According to John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” it is far from fair or adequate.

John Oliver: If you’re forced to rely on “hideously broken” public defender system, “you’re f*cked”

By Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon

On “Last Week Tonight” Sunday, host John Oliver discussed the plight of those forced to rely on “the attorneys provided for you” if you can’t afford one – public defenders – and how the poor are being “charged for access to a hideously broken system.” [..]

Oliver later discussed the ordeal of a Floridian who was arrested on a traffic violation and racked up over $600 in court fees in order plead “no contest.” “They may as well as charged him an irony fee,” Oliver said, “because as it turns out, being poor in Florida is really fucking expensive.”

Arrested? John Oliver Has A Warning You Have To Hear

Ed Mazza, Huffington Post

Public defenders are so overworked that they often handle hundreds of cases — or in Fresno County, California, they handle up to 1,000 felony cases a year when state guidelines say they should only have 150.

And in New Orleans, some public defenders get an average of seven minutes to prepare a case. [..]

It’s so bad that New Orleans is turning to crowdfunding to make up its budget shortfall, Oliver said, and many states now even charge people for access to a public defender.

“We have a system where conceivably, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you, provided that you pay that attorney, which is absurd,” Oliver said. “You can’t tell people something’s free and then charge them for it. This is the American judicial system — not Candy Crush.”

Jul 23

The Ugly Truth About the US Criminal Justice System

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

With the latest incident in Waller County, Texas that ended in the suspicious death of Chicago civil rights activist Sandra Bland three days after she was arrested for a minor traffic infraction, the discussion of racism and brutality by officers in police departments across the United States has again been raised. The account of Ms. Bland’s arrest and death are being questioned by the family, civil rights groups and the media.

Footage has emerged of police allegedly slamming the head of a woman to the ground as she was arrested just days before she committed suicide in jail.

Sandra Bland, a Chicago civil rights activist, was found dead in her cell at Waller County Jail in Texas.

She had been booked three days earlier on grounds of assaulting a public servant after the fraught arrest by the side of a highway, during which she angrily accused officers of harming her.

An autopsy performed a day later classified her death as suicide by hanging – though friends and family have said there is no way Bland would have killed herself.

Bland was part of the ‪#‎BlackLiveMatter movement and posted videos about civil rights and racism on social media.

In an effort to quell the public outcries for more thorough investigation, Texas authorities released the police car dash-cam video. However, this raised even more questions since the video not only contradicts arresting officer Brian Encina’s written account of the traffic stop and the events that led up to Ms. Bland’s arrest, the video also appears to have been edited which the Texas Department of Public Safety is denying.

In the video, which is more than 52 minutes long, there are several spots in which cars and people disappear and reappear. When it released the video, the Public Safety Department did not mention any editing. The audio ends more than a minute before the video images do.

One of the more conspicuous anomalies comes 25 minutes and five seconds into the video, when a man walks from a truck off screen and then reappears suddenly at the spot where he began walking. The image flutters for a moment before resuming.

There are no breaks in the audio during this time. People are heard talking through the video gaps.

In another spot at 32 minutes and 37 seconds, a white car appears on the right side of the screen and then disappears. A moment later, what appears to be the same car comes back into the frame and turns left. During this time, Encinia is talking about what occurred during the arrest. There are no breaks in his speech.

What look like the same cars keep appearing in the same locations, following their same paths, beginning at 33 minutes and 4 seconds.

Again, the audio continues uninterrupted.

The glitches in the video sparked a wave of skepticism and questions in social media, with many critics arguing that the evidence had been edited.

Ed. Note: The original video in the article was disabled by the user, presumably the Texas Department of Public Safety, who said that a new video would be posted later. This a full, unedited copy of the one that was originally posted.

One of those critics is “Selma” director Ava DuVernay who said in a tweet

Racism and brutality are ingrained and systemic in many police departments. Worst of all it is condoned and covered-up by those who are charged with oversight of these departments. The host of MSNBC’s “All In” Chris Hayes discussed the problems encountered by former Chicago Independent Police Review Authority Investigator Lorenzo Davis, who was fired from his job for refusing orders to reverse his findings of unjustified shootings by Chicago police officers.

After being confronted on stage at NetRoots Nation in Phoenix, Arizona by “BlackLivesMatters protestors, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for major police reforms after he watched the dash-cam video. While much racism is rooted in economic issues, it is also systemic in our society and the heritage of white supremacy. The battle for equality for blacks and other oppressed minorities is far from over in this country. “BlackLivesMatter. Let’s start making it matter to the criminal justice system and hold these officers of the law accountable for the laws they break.

Oct 12

The Sad and Sorry State of Justice in America

Previously posted elsewhere.

It’s been pointed out to me that I haven’t written a diary in a long while advocating for reform of the criminal justice system. The reasons for that are many. I don’t believe we will see meaningful reform of prisons or the Criminal Justice system until we first reform government and society. If our politicians are overwhelmingly corrupt, and they are, and if you can’t get people to care about bombing innocent people for no good reason or torturing people who may or may not have done anything wrong, and apparently you can’t, what are the chances of getting them to care about the systematic mistreatment of ‘criminals’? I have considerable experience in this matter and I can tell you the chances are slim. I guess I am guilty of feeling a certain amount of despair over the issue. Nevertheless, it is worth a try, and it is fair to say that I am remiss in not having done more to advocate for reform of what is a horrendously screwed up system.

exercise-yard-holman-prison

Jul 31

Rant: No, A Beer Won’t Fix Anything.

In advance, I ask your pardon for a rant I am unable or unwilling to suppress.  Today’s White House Beer Summit On Race Relations And Police Practices has enraged me.  Police Sergeant Crowley of the Cambridge PD didn’t deserve an invitation for beer at the White House, he needed an appointment for a deposition in a federal civil rights case in which he and his superiors were the named defendants.  But according to the Trad MediaTM, all of Crowly’s vengefulness, his making an illegal arrest, his making a stupid, unjustifiable illegal arrest, his serving up a racist/classist illegal arrest of a person in his own home is now behind us.  We’re past all of the ugliness of his conduct.  It has now been chilled (unless you have to live with brutality and oppression on a daily basis) with some beer.  And pretzels.  This I hasten to point out might solve Police Sgt. Crowley’s immediate problem, including departmental discipline and federal civil rights action for damages, but it doesn’t solve my problem.  Or the country’s.  And I don’t think it solves Prof. Gates’s problem.  It certainly doesn’t solve the US’s police problem. Not one bit.

Jun 05

Luxury Prisons

It seems California is now offering a luxury prison system.

   The Santa Ana Jail is pleased to host a full range of alternatives to traditional incarceration.  Our offerings include weekends in jail, non-linear jail sentences, and a variety of work release options.  Our philosophy is designed to allow our clients (!, AT) to serve their obligations to the court in a manner that respects them as human beings and permits them to continue to provide for themselves and their families….

   * Programs that include 2-day or 3-day weekends with minimal impact on the client’s professional life.  Work on Saturday and Sunday?  No problem…

   * Programs that permit jail sentences to be served in multiple parts. Perfect for clients that live out of the area or clients with frequent business travel.

   * Programs that permit the client to leave jail for work everyday.  We have helped everyone from 9 to 5 business people to oil-rig workers, so no work schedule is out of the question.

Alex Tabarrok has a lot more about this over at Marginal Revolution.

Why is it that it seems people can’t understand the difference between what should be market activity and what should be government activity?  I’m pretty sure that we ought to keep prisons equal for everyone, and allow people to pay different prices for sugar.  Instead, the price of sugar is regulated, but you can buy a better prison experience openly (of course, you can buy a better criminal justice experience in many ways at every step, just less openly).

May 27

Enlightened Justice

Your resident historiorantologist has lately been puzzling over the matter of how it is that Alberto Gonzalez and the current rubber-gavel-wielding “Chief US Law Enforcement Official” have not been brought before the World Court to stand for their crimes.  Clearly, it doesn’t take the piercing legal intellect of a Harriet Miers to recognize that torture goes against everything Americans believe in – our nation is, after all, a product of the Enlightenment, that 200-or-so-year period starting around 1650 in which thinking humans chose to recognize science, redefine the roles of government and the governed, and repudiate things like tyranny.  Given this definition, of course, the aforementioned “legal” experts clearly are not Enlightened individuals, but closer examination of what actually went on before the bar back then shows that the Gitmo Gang would find themselves right at home dispensing “justice” in a court of that era.

So join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight we’ll look at criminal justice in the Age of Powdered Wigs – and may find that the current cadre of ethics-averse thugs running our penal/information extraction system would have been right at home in an Enlightenment court.

Dec 15

Finally Ending The Death Penalty

cross posted at The Dream Antilles

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

On Thursday, the New Jersey legislature voted to end capital punishment in that state.  I was delighted by the breaking news, and posted an essay.  Yesterday, I learned that around the world, death penalty abolitionists were rejoicing and that in Italy the Coliseum was being illuminated in celebration.  I was delighted, and posted an essay.  Today my happiness continued.  The New York Times has an editorial about the death penalty.  It begins:

It took 31 years, but the moral bankruptcy, social imbalance, legal impracticality and ultimate futility of the death penalty has finally penetrated the consciences of lawmakers in one of the 37 states that arrogates to itself the right to execute human beings.

This week, the New Jersey Assembly and Senate passed a law abolishing the death penalty, and Gov. Jon Corzine, a staunch opponent of execution, promised to sign the measure very soon. That will make New Jersey the first state to strike the death penalty from its books since the Supreme Court set guidelines for the nation’s system of capital punishment three decades ago.

Some lawmakers voted out of principled opposition to the death penalty. Others felt that having the law on the books without enforcing it (New Jersey has had a moratorium on executions since 2006) made a mockery of their argument that it has deterrent value. Whatever the motivation of individual legislators, by forsaking a barbaric practice that grievously hurts the global reputation of the United States without advancing public safety, New Jersey has set a worthy example for the federal government, and for other states that have yet to abandon the creaky, error-prone machinery of death.

More over the jump.