UNIT: Crime and Justice in America
What Is the Sequence of Events in the Criminal Justice System? Bureau of Justice Statistics, Report to the Nation on Crime and Justice, 1998
This report reveals that the response to crime is a complex process, involving citizens as well as many agencies, levels, and branches of government.
Can a Jury Believe What It Sees? Videotaped Confessions Can Be Misleading, Jennifer L. Mnookin, The New York Times, 2014
According to recent research, interrogation recording of criminal suspects may in fact be too vivid and persuasive. In a series of experiments mock juries were shown exactly the same interrogation, but some saw only the defendant and others had a wider-angle view that showed the interrogator. Their conclusions were quite different.
Maze of Gun Laws in U.S. Hurts Gun Control Efforts, Eileen Sullivan, AP News Report, 2013
An Associated Press analysis found that there are thousands of laws, rules, and regulations regarding guns at the local, county, state, and federal levels. The laws and rules vary by state, and even within states, according to a 2011 compilation of state gun laws by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Record Number of Exonerations Driven by Texas Drug Cases, Juan A. Lozano, The Associated Press, 2015
The U.S. saw a record number of exoneration's in 2014 and it was due in part to 33 cases in Texas.
Stop and Seize, Michael Sallah, Robert O'Harrow, Jr., and Steven Rich, The Washington Post, 2014
A thriving subculture of officers now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in chat rooms and sharing "trophy shots" of money and drugs.
The Fine Print in Holder’s New Forfeiture Policy Leaves Room for Continued Abuses, Jacob Sullum, Reason, 2015
An exception for joint task forces allows evasion of state property protections.
FBI Admits Flaws in Hair Analysis over Decades, Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post, 2015
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony.
Eric Holder Warns About America's Disturbing Attempts at Precrime, Peter Suderman, Reason, 2014
Some states have developed programs that attempt to offer risk-assessments of criminal offenders based on a variety of factors. These factors are meant to guide judges in sentencing, with the goal of reducing future instances of criminality. Instead of sentencing people for crime already committed, sentences based on these risk factors are punishing people for crimes that they might commit.
Telling the Truth about Damned Lies and Statistics, Joel Best, Damned Lies and Statistics, 2001
We should not ignore all statistics or assume that every number is false. Some statistics are bad, but others are useful. Joel Best thinks that we need good statistics to talk sensibly about social problems.
AP IMPACT: Abused Kids Die as Authorities Fail to Protect, Holbrook Mohr and Garance Burke, The Associated Press, 2014
The lack of comprehensive data makes it difficult to measure how well those responsible for keeping children safe are protecting their most vulnerable charges. The data collection system on child deaths is so flawed that no one can even say how many children die from abuse or neglect every year.
This Is How a Domestic Violence Victim Falls Through the Cracks, Melissa Jeltsen, Huffington Post, 2014
In the last decade, Arkansas has frequently been ranked as one of the 10 worst states when it comes to men killing women, based on FBI data. The combination of lots of guns and lax firearm laws contributes to the problem. Research shows that if a batterer has a gun, the domestic violence victim is eight times more likely to be killed.
Human Sex Trafficking, Amanda Walker-Rodriguez and Rodney Hill, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 2015
The United States not only faces an influx of international victims but also has its own homegrown problem of interstate sex trafficking of minors. Among the children and teens living on the streets in the United States, involvement in commercial sex activity is a problem of epidemic proportion.
Upon Further Review: Inside the Police Failure to Stop Darren Sharper’s Rape Spree, T. Christian Miller, et al., ProPublica, 2015
Prosecutors were hesitant to move too quickly on a local football hero with deep pockets and savvy lawyers. They held off on an arrest warrant.
He Was Abused by a Female Teacher, but He Was Treated Like the Perpetrator, Simone Sebastian, The Washington Post, 2015
Growing evidence shows that boys who are sexually preyed upon by older female authority figures suffer psychologically in much the same way that girls do when victimized by older men.
Male Victims of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out, Emily Kassie, Huffington Post, 2015
Many men have difficulty with the language of sexual assault. There are words like "victim" and "survivor" that are hard for them to identity with because they find them antithetical to what it means to be a real man.
UNIT: The Police
The Changing Environment for Policing, 1985-2008, David H. Bayley and Christine Nixon, National Institute of Justice Journal, 2015
What are the differences in the environment for policing now compared with the 1985 to 1991 timeframe? Are the problems similar or different from one period to the other? Police today are considered to be performing well, but this assessment may be mistaken because the institutions that provide public safety are changing in profound ways that are not being recognized.
Judge Rejects New York's Stop-and-Frisk Policy, Joseph Goldstein, The New York Times, 2013
A federal judge has ruled that the NYPD has for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Often, these people, usually young minority men, were frisked for weapons or their pockets were searched for contraband before they were let go. She found that people are targeted for stops based more on racism than on objectively founded suspicions.
Social Media: Legal Challenges and Pitfalls for Law Enforcement Agencies, Michael T. Pettry, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 2014
Given the thorough integration of social media into peoples' lives and the ease with which users instantly share their thoughts, opinions, and "status" with family, friends, and strangers, some users will post items that other people may find inappropriate. This can become a problem when an employee of a public safety agency posts such material.
Training Officers to Shoot First, and He Will Answer Questions Later, Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, 2015
When police officers shoot people under questionable circumstances, Dr. Lewinski is often there to defend their actions. He concludes the officer acted appropriately, even when shooting an unarmed person, shooting the person in the back, and when other testimony contradicts the officer's story.
Defining Moments for Police Chiefs, Chuck Wexler, Police Executive Research Forum, 2015
One central theme that grew out of the conference of police chiefs was the importance of developing a culture of policing that recognizes when officers should step in and when they should step back from encounters with the public.
Understanding the Psychology of Police Misconduct, Brian D. Fitch, Police Chief, 2011
Law enforcement agencies go to great lengths to recruit, hire, and train only the most qualified applicants, and most officers support the agency, its values, and its mission, performing their duties ethically while avoiding any misconduct or abuse of authority. Yet, despite the best efforts of organizations everywhere, it seems that one does not have to look very far to find examples of police misconduct.
Behind the Smoking Guns: Inside NYPD's 21st Century Arsenal, Greg B. Smith, Daily News, 2014
To solve a Bronx street shooting in 21st century New York, and most other crimes committed citywide, NYPD now employs a wide variety of high-tech tools and massive databases of information culled from an incredible array of sources. The long arm of the law now spends a good amount of time with its fingers on a keyboard, downloading, and Web-scraping.
Excited Delirium and the Dual Response: Preventing In-Custody Deaths, Brian Roach, Kelsey Echols, and Aaron Burnett, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 2014
Excited delirium syndrome (ExDS) is a serious medical condition that may lead to death if not recognized and treated. Typical ExDS subjects are males around the age of 30 and most have a history of psychostimulant use or mental illness. Law enforcement or EMS personnel are often called to the scene because of public disturbances, agitation or bizarre behaviors and they should consider the possibility of ExDS when certain symptoms are present, and take the patient to the hospital.
UNIT: The Judicial System
In Miranda Case, Supreme Court Rules on the Limits of Silence, David G. Savage, Latimes.com, 2013
A Texas man sat silent when a police officer asked him about shotgun shells that were found at the scene of double slaying, shells that had been traced to the suspect's shotgun. At trial, prosecutors pointed to the defendant's silence as evidence of his guilt. The Court upheld his conviction, saying the Constitution "does not establish an unqualified 'right to remain silent.'"
US Supreme Court to Police: To Search a Cell Phone, "Get a Warrant", Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor, 2014
In an indication of how fundamental Fourth Amendment protections are in the Supreme Court justices' view, the chief justice likened warrantless searches of cell phones to the "general warrants" and "writs of assistance" imposed during colonial America that allowed British troops to "rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity." The Court rejected arguments that law enforcement officers must be able to immediately search the contents of a cell phone when it was found on a person at the time of arrest.
One Simple Way to Improve How Cops and Prosecutors Do Their Jobs, Mike Riggs, The Atlantic, 2013
Every year, the U.S. Justice Department sends hundreds of millions of dollars to states and municipalities, and the bulk of it goes toward fighting the drug war. The Brennan Center for Justice report suggests that the over-policing of minor crimes and over-incarceration of non-violent offenders are goals that need to be changed.
Against His Better Judgment, Eli Saslow, The Washington Post, 2015
In the meth corridor of Iowa, a federal judge comes face to face with the reality of congressionally mandated sentencing.
Does an Innocent Man Have the Right to Be Exonerated? Marc Bookman, The Atlantic, 2014
In the 1980s, Larry Youngblood was wrongfully imprisoned for raping a 10-year-old boy. The way the Supreme Court handled his case had lasting consequences.
UNIT: Juvenile Justice
Juveniles Facing Lifelong Terms Despite Rulings, Erick Eckholm, The New York Times, 2014
U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2010 and 2012 curtailed the use of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, accepting the argument that children, even those who are convicted of murder, are less culpable than adults and usually deserve a chance at redemption. However, most states have taken half measures, at best, to carry out the rulings.
U.S. Inquiry Finds a "Culture of Violence" Against Teenage Inmates at Rikers, Benjamin Weiser and Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times, 2014
A federal investigation into a juvenile detention facility found that correction officers truck adolescents in the head and face as punishment at "an alarming rate," even when inmates posed no threat; officers took inmates to isolated locations for beatings out of view of video cameras; and many inmates were so afraid of the violence that they asked, for their own protection, to be placed in solitary confinement.
Not a Lock: Youth Who Stay Closer to Home Do Better than Those in Detention, Texas Study Shows, Lynne Anderson, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE), 2015
For two decades reports and studies have shown the futility of programs of youth jails. After abuses within the Texas system came to light in 2007, Texas moved to reduce the number of incarcerated youth. During 2007 to 2012, the number of young people incarcerated dropped more than 60% and juvenile crime dropped more than 30%—evidence that safety was not compromised by changes in the law.
Juvenile Injustice: Truants Face Courts, Jailing Without Legal Counsel to Aid Them, Susan Ferriss, Center for Public Integrity, 2014
Parents allege that children whose only infraction was struggling with a loathing for school were pulled into the criminal justice system, branded with permanent delinquency records and jailed with kids who had actually committed crimes. All of this happened without their kids having lawyers, and some dropped out rather than go back to school.
Level 14: How a Home for Troubled Children Came Undone and What It Means for California’s Chance at Reform, Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, 2014
The breakdown at FamiliesFirst, one of California's largest residential facilities for emotionally damaged kids, has helped spur California to rethink how it cares for its most troubled children, a question that for decades has confounded not just the state but the country.
Why Jonathan McClard Still Matters, Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco, Correctional Association of New York, 2013.
Jonathan was a 17-year-old boy who committed suicide by hanging in an adult facility as he was awaiting transfer to a notoriously abusive adult prison. His mother described the changes she observed in his appearance as he spent time in adult facilities, and she described her powerlessness to get her son out of what she knew was a life-threatening situation.
UNIT: Punishment and Corrections
Oklahoma's Botched Lethal Injection Marks New Front in Battle Over Executions, Josh Levs, Ed Payne, and Greg Botelho, CNN.com, 2014
Precisely what happened during the execution of a convicted murderer and rapist in Oklahoma is unclear. Witnesses described the man convulsing and writhing on the gurney, as well as struggling to speak before officials blocked the witnesses' view. It was the state's first time using a new, three-drug cocktail for execution.
The Archipelago of Pain, David Brooks, The New York Times, 2014
At the level of human experience, social pain is, if anything, more traumatic, more destabilizing, and inflicts crueler and longer-lasting effects than physical pain. What we're doing to prisoners in solitary confinement when we lock them away in social isolation for 23 hours a day, often for months, years, or decades at a time is arguably more inhumane than flogging them would be.
The F.B.I. Deemed Agents Faultless in 150 Shootings, Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times, 2013
From 1993 to early 2011, F.B.I. agents fatally shot about 70 "subjects" and wounded about 80 others and every one of those episodes was deemed justified. In most of the shootings, the F.B.I.'s internal investigation was the only official inquiry. Although occasionally the F.B.I. did discipline an agent, a typical punishment involved adding letters of censure to agents' files.
For Mentally Ill Inmates at Rikers Island, a Cycle of Jail and Hospitals, Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times, 2015
For years, Rikers has been filling with people who have complicated psychiatric problems that are little understood and do not get resolved elsewhere: the unwashed man passed out in a public stairwell; the 16-year-old runaway; the drug addict; the belligerent panhandler screaming in a full subway car.
Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison, Mark Binelli, The New York Times Magazine, 2015
For years, conditions inside the United States only federal supermax facility were largely a mystery. But a landmark lawsuit is finally revealing the harsh world within.
The Painful Price of Aging in Prison, Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post, 2015
Even as harsh sentences are reconsidered, the financial—and human—tolls mount.
The Radical Humaneness of Norway’s Halden Prison, Jessica Benko, The New York Times, 2015
The treatment of inmates at Halden is wholly focused on helping to prepare them for a life after they get out. Not only is there no death penalty in Norway; there are no life sentences.
Study: Pretrial Detention Creates More Crime, Erika Eichelberger, Mother Jones, 2013
Studies of both state and federal courts found that the longer low-risk detainees are held behind bars before trial, the more likely they are to commit another crime. Recidivism could be curbed if judges made an effort to distinguish between low, moderate, and high-risk offenders.
War on Drugs Failure Gives Way to Treatment in States, Cities, Saki Knafo, Huffington Post, 2013
With the approval of Seattle prosecutors and politicians, police began directing repeat drug offenders to social-service workers who offered to help them pay for rent and school and referred them to business owners who were willing to hire people with criminal backgrounds. The police weren't entirely hopeful about the strategy, but their doubts are giving way to a growing confidence that they're onto something significant.
Portugal Cut Addiction Rates in Half by Connecting Drug Users With Communities Instead of Jailing Them, Johann Hari, Yes! Magazine, 2015
Fifteen years ago, the Portuguese had one of the worst drug problems in Europe. So they decriminalized drugs, took money out of prisons, put it into holistic rehabilitation, and found that human connection is the antidote to addiction.
"The Worst of the Worst" Aren't the Only Ones Who Get Executed, Simon McCormack, Huffington Post, 2014.
Research provides evidence that many of the people who are given the death penalty are not cold, calculating, remorseless killers. Researchers were surprised that there was evidence suggesting they have real problems with functional deficits that you wouldn't expect to see in people being executed.