The Fortune Society News Of The Week — the week of February 23, 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.

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The Bad Cop Database: A Radical New Idea For Keeping Tabs On Police Misconduct

The largest organization of public defenders in the country is building a “cop accountability” database, aimed at helping defense attorneys question the credibility of police officers in court. The database was created by the …

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2015/02/bad_cops_a_new_database_collects_information_about_cop_misconduct_and_provides.html

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Opinion: Want To Stop Police Brutality? Start Disciplining Officers

The New York Police Department is often at the forefront of innovation in the field. But, when it comes to disciplining officers for misconduct, the NYPD fails miserably. Just last year, the department decided not to discipline 25% of the officers who …

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121026/want-stop-police-brutality-start-disciplining-officers

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Top NY Judge Wants Courts To Supervise Grand Juries That Investigate Cops

The top NYS judge will ask the state legislature to allow judges to supervise grand juries charged with investigating police officers accused of homicide. His comments come in the wake of renewed scrutiny of the criminal justice system after …

http://www.buzzfeed.com/nicolasmedinamora/top-new-york-judge-wants-courts-to-supervise-grand-juries-th#.epzzVyVK0b

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With “Raise The Age,” Cuomo Continues Push To Reform Juvenile Justice

A battle between law-and-order Republicans and progressive Democrats is brewing in the NYS Legislature as Gov. Cuomo pushes to raise the age at which teens can be tried as adults. “You put a 16-year-old into a state prison and …

http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5583-with-raise-the-age-cuomo-continues-push-to-reform-juvenile-justice

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Disturbing Report Finds New York’s Female Prisoners Illegally Shackled During Labor

New York state prison authorities have continued the illegal practice of shackling pregnant inmates during labor and fail to provide most female prisoners with enough sanitary napkins and toilet paper, according to a just-released report that …

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/12/shackling-new-york_n_6665600.html?1423768264

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Crime Data Send Mixed Messages

NY Police Dept. arrests gradually are returning to levels closer to those seen during the same period last year after a drop-off that began in December, but the number of summonses has remained down.  Part of the reason is a drop in pot arrests …

http://www.wsj.com/articles/crime-data-send-mixed-messages-1423877031

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Opinion: Officer Peter Liang’s Indictment In Akai Gurley Fatal Shooting Is For Eric Garner Case, Too

Kenneth Thompson, the Brooklyn DA, may say the two cases have nothing to do with each other, but they are inevitably linked by politics. The two events, both tragedies of the city, are connected the way Brooklyn and Staten Island are …

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/lupica-peter-liang-indictment-eric-garner-case-article-1.2113734

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NY’s Certificates Offer Catch-22 To People Convicted of Crimes

There are two similar kinds of certificates under NYS law: Certificates of Relief and Certificates of Good Conduct. They’re almost identical legally. The difference, put simply, is that people convicted of multiple serious crimes can only get …

http://citylimits.org/2015/02/17/nys-certificates-offer-catch-22-to-people-convicted-of-crimes/

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More Than 9,000 Hired Through NY “Work For Success” Program

NY Gov. Cuomo announced more than 9,400 formerly incarcerated individuals have been through the Work for Success program since it was implemented in February 2012. The program tries to reduce the high unemployment rate among …

http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/story/d/story/more-than-9k-hired-through-ny-work-for-success-pro/15288/UvYc_TzTcE20uHVbz_nztg

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National:
Eric Holder Credits 6% Drop In Drug Prosecutions To His Sentencing Policies

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that his policy of leniency for non-violent and low-level drug users caused federal drug prosecutions to drop 6% last year, which he called a good sign of reform for the nation’s criminal judicial system …

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/17/eric-holder-credit-6-drop-drug-prosecutions-his-se/

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National:
FBI Director Speaks Out On Race And Police Bias

F.B.I.  director  Comey delivered an unusually candid speech about the difficult relationship between the police and African-Americans, saying that officers who work in neighborhoods where blacks commit crimes at a high rate develop …

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/us/politics/fbi-director-comey-speaks-frankly-about-police-view-of-blacks.html?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad

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National:
Broad Coalition Calls For Serious Criminal Justice Reforms In Congress

The current Congress is already seeing a flurry of bills aimed at reforming various aspects of the federal criminal justice system, and now, a broad coalition of faith, criminal justice reform, and civil and human rights groups is calling for …

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2015/feb/12/broad_coalition_calls_serious_cr

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National:
Five States Where Republicans Are Getting Serious About Criminal Justice Reform

A growing group of conservatives are stepping back from their traditional “tough on crime” stance and taking a lead on reforming the criminal justice system. Here is a list of five states where Republican governors and GOP lawmakers are …

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/02/republican-states-criminal-prison-reform

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National:
Google Calls FBI’s Plan To Expand Hacking Power A “Monumental” Constitutional Threat

Google is warning that the government’s quiet plan to expand the FBI’s authority to remotely access computer files amounts to a “monumental” constitutional concern. The search giant submitted comments opposing a DOJ proposal that would …

http://www.nationaljournal.com/tech/google-calls-fbi-s-plan-to-expand-hacking-power-a-monumental-constitutional-threat-20150218

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National:
Opinion: The Perils Of Overcriminalization

What has happened to federal criminal law in recent decades? The sheer number of federal laws that impose criminal penalties has grown to an unmanageable point. The DOJ and American Bar Association have been unable to tally the correct …

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/02/the-perils-of-overcriminalization

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National:
Opinion: The Imprisoner’s Dilemma

There are 2.3 million Americans in prison. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its prisoners. One in three black men can expect to spend time in prison. Pick a stat, any stat. They all tell you America is really good at …

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-imprisoners-dilemma/

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Arizona:
Judge Approves Arizona Inmate Healthcare Settlement

A federal judge approved a settlement that will provide improved healthcare coverage for about 34,000 Arizona inmates in state-run facilities at a cost to taxpayers of at least $8 million a year …

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2015/02/19/judge-approves-arizona-inmate-health-care-settlement/23657207/

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Arkansas:
Gov. Hutchinson Unveils Prison Reform Plan

Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson wants to tap $32M in reserve funds to open more prison space and hire additional parole officers in an effort to ease the overcrowding of state inmates in county jails. He says the funds will open 790 new beds for …

http://www.katv.com/story/28142998/governor-hutchinson-unveils-prison-reform-plan

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Arkansas:
DOJ Says Fixed Bail Is Unconstitutional

The Justice Department sought to convince a federal judge to end the alleged practice of a local court setting fixed bail amounts for certain petty crimes, saying it is unfair to poor people. In a rare move, the federal government filed a …

http://www.wsj.com/articles/doj-says-fixed-bail-is-unconstitutional-1423864534

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Connecticut:
Housing Authority Plans Re-Entry Test

The Housing Authority of New Haven, CT is betting that if you provide a former inmate with housing, tuition to finish a degree started in prison, and a cost-of-living stipend, you can reduce that person’s risk of returning to prison …

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/fresh_approach_to_re-entry_program/id_74212

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Connecticut:
Connecticut Schools Pin Down And Restrain “Staggering” Number Of Kids

Connecticut public schools are far too quick to restrain or isolate unruly children against their will, leaving hundreds with injuries, a state report released found. The report cited “significant concern” that …

http://www.propublica.org/article/connecticut-schools-pin-down-and-restrain-staggering-number-of-kids?utm_campaign=bt_twitter&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

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Illinois:
Commission To Address Prison Overcrowding, Rehabilitation And Other Criminal Justice Reforms

It was a major policy position presented at the State of the State address that lawmakers from both parties agreed with, and now there’s a new commission to make criminal justice reform a reality in Illinois. Governor Bruce Rauner signed …

http://www.corrections.com/news/article/38864-commission-to-address-prison-overcrowding-rehabilitation-and-other-criminal-justice-reforms

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Louisiana:
Opinion: Is America’s Awful Penal Philosophy Catching On In Britain?

Eric Schlosser, who is working on a book about the U.S. penal system, argues that building prisons has become our new plan for low-income housing and becoming our way of dealing with the mentally ill. “Great Britain is the only country …

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/02/is_americas_penal_philosophy_c.html

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Missouri:
Justice Department “Seriously Examining” Ferguson Race Case

The Justice Dept. has been “seriously examining” allegations that the city of Ferguson, Missouri’s enforcement of minor offenses discriminated against minorities and often led to jail time and to fines that lined the city’s coffers …

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/justice-department-ferguson-race-case-115275.html

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Nebraska:
Measures Would End Minimum Sentences For Some Crimes

Prison reform advocates are asking Nebraska lawmakers to end mandatory minimum sentences for certain gun and drug crimes, saying the get-tough-on-crime approach has backfired. The laws had been popular, but now …

http://columbustelegram.com/news/state-and-regional/measures-would-end-minimum-sentences-for-some-crimes/article_3d42622c-f96a-5f50-9e47-47edd194cf0b.html

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New Jersey:
NJ Lawmakers Eye Revisions In Prison Solitary Confinement Rules

NJ lawmakers are considering revisions to solitary confinement regulations in correctional facilities, an issue that has come to prominence following revelations of excessive punishment of prisoners and the assassination of a top …

http://www.northjersey.com/news/n-j-lawmakers-eye-revisions-in-prison-solitary-confinement-rules-1.1270384

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North Carolina:
“Ban The Box” To Increase Tax Revenue And Reduce Crime

For 1.6 million North Carolinians, the worst part of job searching is not the interview, but the moment they drop off the application. Nearly every employment application contains a small box that reads, “Have you ever been convicted of …

http://goqnotes.com/33965/ban-the-box-to-increase-tax-revenue-and-reduce-crime/

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Oklahoma:
Oklahoma Prisons Beyond Overflowing, Corrections Officials Say

At least one Oklahoma prison is at more than double its capacity and most others are crammed with about 20% more inmates than they were designed to hold. A meeting is scheduled to re-examine the state’s stalled …

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/state/prisons-beyond-overflowing-corrections-officials-say/article_1e43cc7d-26cd-5fd9-b196-da8d5e95d64b.html

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Ottawa (Canada):
Chaplain Fears Profit Prisons Possible

Prison reform advocate Kate Johnson fears Ottawa (Canada) may consider privatizing aspects of the prison system as the Americans have done. “There’s just absolutely nothing to be gained,” the chaplain said …

http://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/5345308-chaplain-fears-profit-prisons-possible/

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South Carolina:
Hundreds Of South Carolina Inmates Sent To Solitary Confinement Over Facebook

In South Carolina prisons, accessing Facebook is an offense on par with murder, rape, rioting, and escape. Back in 2012, the South Carolina Dept. of Corrections made “creating and/or assisting with a social networking site” a level-1 offense …

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/02/hundreds-south-carolina-inmates-sent-solitary-confinement-over-facebook

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Utah:
Overpopulation Solution? Prison Alternative Proposed

Under a new bill sent to the Utah state legislature, low-level offenders would be diverted from prison to alternative, community-based rehabilitation options averting up to 97% of Utah’s expected prison population growth over 20 years …

http://upr.org/post/overpopulation-solution-prison-alternative-proposed

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Utah:
Former Federal Judge Regrets 55-Year Marijuana Sentence

Weldon Angelos was just 24 years old when he was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison for 3 marijuana sales. His case has haunted the judge who put him there. “I often think ‘He shouldn’t be there [but] the system forced me to do it …  

http://abcnews.go.com/US/federal-judge-regrets-55-year-marijuana-sentence/story?id=28869467

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Virginia:
Va. Bills That Would Curtail Police Powers Create A “Weird Alliance”

Amid fear that new technology is handing police unprecedented power, an unlikely coalition of liberals and tea party conservatives in Virginia is trying to curtail the use of drones, license plate readers and wiretapping devices …

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/va-legislation-that-would-curtail-police-powers-create-a-weird-alliance/2015/02/18/0cf88450-b77e-11e4-9423-f3d0a1ec335c_story.html

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