Archive: Apr 2008

via the sentencing project:

President George W. Bush this week signed into law the Second Chance Act of 2007 – legislation inspired by his 2004 State of the Union address – which authorizes $362 million to expand assistance for people currently incarcerated, those returning to their communities after incarceration, and children with parents in prison.

The Second Chance Act was first introduced in 2004, by then-Representative Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), to help the nearly 700,000 people leaving prison each year. It quickly gained broad bipartisan support and earned the backing of law enforcement, state and local government, religious and Justice reform organizations. Passage of the Second Chance Act highlights a new political approach to crime prevention. Imprisoning 2 million Americans has diverted enormous resources that could have been used more effectively in reducing crime. Programs that provide housing, drug treatment, education and employment provide more cost-effective approaches to producing public safety.

The Second Chance Act seeks to promote public safety by reducing recidivism rates among people reentering communities after prison. Presently, two-thirds of formerly incarcerated people are rearrested within three years after release. The services to be funded under the Second Chance Act include:

· mentoring programs for adults and juveniles leaving prison;
· drug treatment during and after incarceration, including family-based treatment for incarcerated parents; · education and job training in prison;
· alternatives to incarceration for parents convicted of non-violent drug offenses;
· supportive programming for children of incarcerated parents; and
· early release for certain elderly prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses.

For decades, political concerns have trumped research findings in promoting harsh sentencing laws. Passage of the Second Chance Act signals that a bipartisan consensus exists for offering opportunities to those who are at risk of committing crimes. Innovation in crime prevention should be applauded; incarceration should not be the only option.

i’ve had little time online or elsewhere the past few weeks, as i’ve struggled to keep pace with chair / editor / teacher / scholar / father duties. one story that caught my eye, however, came via amelia at the crawler. apparently, slaughterhouse workers on the killing floor exhibit relatively high rates of post-traumatic stress. similarly, communities with slaughterhouses exhibit relatively high rates of violent crime.

i haven’t assessed the researchers’ causal claims, but the finding fits my experience growing up around the south st. paul stockyards and nearby processing plants. i knew a few shell-shocked former cattle-killers who ran screaming to minimum-wage restaurant jobs at a fraction of their former pay. i remember one tough-guy cook whose probation officer set him up in some kind of full-time throat-slitting or bludgeoning job. it was a good job, he said, but he just couldn’t cut it.

the story is timely, since tomorrow marks south st. paul’s last cattle auction. it was evidently the world’s busiest livestock market when i was growing up, but the yards have been empty for years. i wonder whether south st. paul is becoming significantly less stressful or violent…

i got the following email from the spouse of someone convicted long ago for a drug offense. with her permission, i’m reprinting it in full.

her first-hand account of the impact of collateral sanctions — even supposed “no-brainers” such as firearms restrictions — offers an important perspective on a set of contentious issues.

Mr. Uggen,

My name is ___, and I am the wife of a convicted felon. My husband’s felony is now 13 years old, and we both still are paying the price. He was originally arrested for a rolled up dollar bill with traces of cocaine on it. He was given a five year suspended sentence with a 3 year probation term. After successfully completing one year, he tested positive for cocaine use and was sent to prison for “treatment” for 120-days.

I ran across your information while researching a paper I am doing for college, I am a criminal Justice student, with a goal of being a probation officer. I am continually discouraged by the prospects for a convicted felon in the world today. I feel they serve a life sentence after their initial sentence has long been completed: lack of employment possibilities, brick walls with help for gaining an education or housing assistance, etc. It is no wonder the prison doors are revolving!

I am interested in working with someone to change the laws in MO, in the United States for that matter to reinstate non-violent felons’ rights after they have “paid their debt to society.” My husband has been a model citizen since his incarceration, but continues to have “convicted felon” tattooed to whatever he tries to do. We have a son in the Army National Guard, who thought of being a police officer at one time – what to do with his gun and ammunition…because of course my husband might go murder 15 or 20 people with it, because he is after all a convicted felon!! I plan to be a probation/parole officer this time next year, same situation…what to do with my gun? I actually requested a copy of the law be sent to me a few years ago when I was working as a substance abuse counselor – we are not even allowed to have fireworks in our home!

OK, I will get off of my soapbox now. I just need to do something to work with someone to get these laws changed, rewritten, whatever! Please let me know what I can do!

Thank you for your time and patience, listening to me rant and rave!



i attended this one a few years ago and learned much from the good folks and their good ideas. via howie:

Invitation and Call for Proposals
Midwest Law and Society Retreat
September 19-20, 2008 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hosted by the Institute for Legal Studies

INVITATION Faculty, independent scholars, and graduate students are cordially invited to the fourth Midwest Law and Society Retreat, a biennial event to be held at the University of Wisconsin on September 19-20, 2008. Sessions will take place at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison.

ABOUT THE EVENT In Fall 2002 the Institute for Legal Studies organized an interdisciplinary retreat that brought together faculty and graduate students from the region’s diverse social science and law programs for a weekend of intellectual exchange and community building. By popular demand, subsequent sessions convened in 2004 and 2006. (Programs can be viewed at http//

The 2008 Retreat will continue to offer opportunities for participants to share research ideas, discuss professional issues, receive feedback on works in progress, and develop future projects with regional colleagues. However, this year we expect to place somewhat less emphasis on the traditional ‘paper presentation’ panel, and more emphasis on panels that deal with broad research issues, professional development, and the future of the field. We encourage people to consider presenting on these topics, or just coming to the retreat to join in the discussion. To ensure that the conference remains informal and personal, attendance will be limited to 75 people. Early registration is strongly encouraged.

KEYNOTE AND OVERVIEW The opening session will begin at 300 pm on Friday, September 19th, with a keynote address by Erwin Chemerinsky, inaugural Dean of the Donald Bren Law School at UC-Irvine, who will discuss his plans to make law and society one of the focal points of the Irvine curriculum. The Retreat will continue through Saturday afternoon, and will include group meals for dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday.

Proposal Deadline June 1, 2008.

via criminal defense attorney jeralyn merritt:

richard crawford, a communications prof and past president of the american society of trial consultants, lists his top ten myths about jury trials in today’s rocky mountain news.

1. Your only chance as a defendant is to have lots of money.

This is largely false, primarily because as many as 80 percent of those charged with a crime are rigorously defended by public defenders or court-appointed attorneys. Believe it or not, if you have just enough money to hire your own trial lawyer, you might end up with a less effective defense lawyer than if you had very little money and were lucky enough to live in Colorado and receive representation from a career and free public defender.

2. Innocence will protect you in a criminal trial.

Regrettably, this is usually not the case. Specifically, for anyone who faces a jury, there is roughly an 85 percent chance that the trial will end up with a conviction. Tim Masters just might have something to say on this subject. Studies indicate that from 7 percent to 10 percent of those in prison today are actually innocent persons who got caught in this process.

3. Lawyers prefer jurors with little formal education.

The answer here is that it depends. There are instances like the recent Nacchio case when the issues are sufficiently complicated that both sides prefer very bright jurors. And, yes, there are other instances when the defendant is a barroom fighter of sorts and the defense would prefer to have jurors just like him who can identify with him.

4. Defendants should always take the stand in their own defense.

While all defendants have the absolute right to testify on their own behalf, frequently they do not exercise that right. And there is no doubt but that jurors often reason: “If he didn’t do it, why doesn’t he take the stand and say so?” On the other hand, there is a long list of very good reasons why a particular defendant should say nothing during his or her trial. For example, an innocent defendant may have once been convicted of a felony and the jury would learn that prejudicial fact only if that defendant decided to testify.

5. Juries sometimes find defendants innocent.

No, this cannot happen anywhere in these United States. “Guilty” or “not guilty” are the only two options open to an American jury. Sometimes juries believe that a defendant committed the act as charged, but that it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the state, so they vote “not guilty” as a way of saying, “not proved.” Sometimes juries think a defendant did not commit any crime and they vote “not guilty,” meaning “innocent.”

6. Defense lawyers who defend those they know to be guilty are unethical.

No, a person charged with a crime is never guilty unless and until a jury has said so and a judge has affirmed same. Our Constitution guarantees everyone the right to a vigorous defense or testing of the evidence and it would actually be illegal and unethical if a defendant were denied this right.

7. A trial is about discovering the truth.

No, the truth may be that a good young man broke the law when he went for the first time with a group who committed a robbery. But Justice might say he should get another chance. The truth may be that a wife killed her violent husband, but Justice might say she should not give up her freedom for that act. Trials are always about Justice and the truth may be a part of getting there, but Justice is the goal.

8. Jurors deliberate in the classic sense until they reach their final verdict.

The requirement for a unanimous verdict means that jurors usually only deliberate during the first stages of their time together. Ninety percent of the time, the majority overcomes the minority in order to get that unanimous verdict. Make no mistake about it, eight or nine jurors can and do exert enormous pressure on three or four holdouts to get a verdict that will wrap it up and get everyone home.

9. Evidence drives the outcome of jury verdicts.

Actually, when the evidence on either side of a case is overwhelming, a verdict can be pretty predictable. The reality is, however, that deals are almost always struck when one side or the other has a huge evidence advantage. Thus, since a majority of trials could go either way, the final verdict is often determined by nonevidentiary factors. Two such factors include the quality of the lawyers and the pro-conviction predisposition of most jurors.

10. When a jury votes guilty, that is final.

No verdict is ever final until the judge says so. In fact, although it is rare, the trial judge can set aside a guilty verdict with the tap of his or her gavel. Of course, any guilty verdict can also be appealed to a higher court.

via sothea: a cnn report on abuses in juvenile institutions.

The U.S. Justice Department has sued nine states and two territories alleging abuse, inadequate mental and medical care and potentially dangerous methods like the use of restraints. The department doesn’t have the power to shut down facilities — states do — but through litigation it can force a state to improve its detention centers and protect the civil rights of jailed youths.

New Jersey
Puerto Rico
Northern Mariana Islands

via michael bischoff:

I’d like to ask for your help in recruiting formerly incarcerated participants for some listening sessions that the Council on Crime and Justice is helping organize. The participants will get a $25 gift card. I’m attaching a flyer about the sessions, which gives more details. Please post the flier, and please also help us personally recruit people that you think would be a good fit for it.

These listening sessions will collect input about how neighborhoods can engage more fully in prisoner reentry. The attached flier is for 2 sessions for North Minneapolis residents that were formerly incarcerated. There will also be sessions in Frogtown (St. Paul) and Rochester, and we’ll send those flyers out as the sessions are scheduled. In each location, there will be 2 listening sessions with individuals who have been formerly incarcerated:

Group 1: Participants must have been previously incarcerated in a Minnesota State Prison and have encountered successes in re-entering your home community.
Group 2: Participants must have been recently released from a Minnesota State Prison and currently be under supervision.

This project is being done in partnership with the New Living Way Christian Center, the MN DOC, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Governor’s Office on Faith and Community Service. Later this year there will be community forums in North Minneapolis, Frogtown, and Rochester to discuss the findings.

Thank you for your help in inviting people to these groups. I think this process will be very useful for all of us that are working in reentry. When you have people that want to sign up for the sessions, please have them contact the Council’s Research Department at 612-353-3003.

Thank you!