ICE Stops Force-Feeding Indian Immigrants in Texas

Immigration officials have stopped for now the force-feeding via nasal tubes of nine Indian immigrants who were conducting a hunger strike inside an immigration detention center in El Paso, Tx.

Immigration officials have stopped for now the force-feeding via nasal tubes of nine Indian immigrants who were conducting a hunger strike inside an immigration detention center in El Paso, Tx., reports NPR. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday night, “there are 12 individuals on a hunger strike — nine citizens of India and three from Cuba — in the custody of [ICE].” While ICE says that at least two of the nine men have been on a hunger strike since late December, “No hunger strikers housed in El Paso are currently being fed pursuant to court orders at this time.”

Last month, eleven immigrants were refusing food in protest over the length and conditions of their detention. Six were being force-fed. That number grew to nine. The case has drawn international attention. Last week the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern that the force-feeding of hunger strikers could be a violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The American Medical Association also opposes the practice. The change in treatment was revealed in a closed door court hearing in El Paso to discuss the status of two detained immigrants, Malkeet Singh and Jasvir Singh. An ICE physician. Dr. Michelle Iglesias, discussed the condition of the two immigrant detainess before U.S. District Judge David Guaderrama. The judge then held an open court hearing in which Dr. Iglesias testified generally about the force-feeding regimen and the long-term damage the body sustains in the process of starving.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Many Baltimore Police Officers Reluctant to Make Arrests

Some 43 percent of officers told a city councilman they do not feel “comfortable making self-initiated arrests.” “They’re afraid,” says Councilman “Yitzy” Schleifer. “In this political environment, you have to justify every move you make.”

More than 40 percent of Baltimore police officers who took part in a recent survey said they don’t feel comfortable making proactive arrests, the Baltimore Sun reports. The survey by Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer was sent to police department leadership, officers and civilian members who responded anonymously. Some 43 percent said they do not feel “comfortable making self-initiated arrests,” which Schleifer said refers to proactive calls when officers are on patrol and they witness an incident and intervene, as opposed to calls they respond to through 911. “They’re afraid,” Schleifer said. “In this political environment, you have to justify every move you make.”

Schleifer shared the results with Acting Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. “It’s refreshing. He’s seen challenges similar to ours,” Schleifer said. He said Harrison is taking action by evaluating the command staff and determining what, if any, changes need to be made. Forty-four percent of responding police said they don’t “fully understand the consent decree” under which the police department is operating. One officer wrote: “Morale won’t rise until … officers receive consistent public support from the Mayor, City Council and State’s Attorney. No one is asking that corruption be tolerated. What we are asking is that when we investigate crimes and make arrests or issue citations that our elected leaders support us when we encounter resistance.” A detective said: “We don’t have enough people in my unit. The volume of cases we have is absurd given our manpower. It leads to mistakes, and inadequate follow up investigations which lead to sloppy prosecutions. None of which is for lack of trying.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

NC Jail Boosts Inmate Checks After Death

Forty-four North Carolina jail inmates died last year after becoming ill behind bars, the highest number in two decades. The jail in Raleigh plans changes in inmate monitoring.

When Jean Carolyn McGirt died in the Durham County, N.J., jail nearly six months ago, her family wondered how that could happen in a medical unit with detention officers and nurses often present. Jail officials say they had been checking on McGirt, 56, a mother of five, as state regulations require. Records of a state investigation into her supervision obtained by the Raleigh News & Observer found a lack of documented checks in that area the day of her death. The jail has responded by increasing the checks, and with plans to document them electronically.

McGirt is one of 44 inmates across the state last year who died in county jails or in hospitals after becoming infirm behind bars. That’s the highest number since the state began tracking deaths in 1997. McGirt is among nine in 2018 who state investigators with the Department of Health and Human Services said were not properly supervised. The state investigation found that detention officers had properly checked on McGirt in the hour she was found unresponsive. Five hours earlier that day no checks had been documented for the 11 a.m. hour, and only one check was documented for the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours after McGirt had died. Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman AnnMarie Breen said a detention officer can be seen on camera in the medical area hall making rounds, but the camera was not positioned to see the officer visually check each cell. The Sheriff’s Office plans to install a system that allows guards to use an electronic wand to record the rounds. The system will cost $12,000 to install.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Police Checking Whether ‘Empire’ Attack Was Staged

Chicago police are investigating the possibility that the reported attack on “Empire” star Jussie Smollett was staged as they question two people, including an actor connected with the show.

Chicago police are investigating the possibility that the reported attack on “Empire” star Jussie Smollett was staged as they question two people including an actor connected with the show, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Detectives believe the men, both of whom are black, are the same people shown in a surveillance image released by police days after the purported attack, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Detectives were able to trace their location through ride-hailing and taxi records from the area where Smollett said the attack happened. Officers searched a home where at least one of the “persons of interest” lives and recovered personal effects including cell phones.

Smollett spoke to detectives about the case on Thursday. Guglielmi tweeted that, “Media reports [about] the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives.” Smollett told “Good Morning America” that he believed the two people caught on a surveillance camera were his attackers. He said, “I want them to find the people that did it … I want them to see I fought back.” Smollett said he was on the phone with his manager after leaving a Subway restaurant about 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 when he heard someone shout “Empire” as he crossed an intersection.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Latest Funding Deal: $1.38B for Border Barriers, No VAWA

President Trump is likely to sign the latest border-security legislation that would keep the government from closing this weekend. It includes far less money than Trump wanted for a border wall, and no extension of the Violence Against Women Act.

President Trump is likely to sign the latest border-security legislation that would keep the government from closing this weekend, but he continues to look for ways to supplement the modest funding it contains for barriers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Democrats are expected to challenge any efforts to move money around without congressional approval.

The biggest snag was whether to include back pay for federal contractors to make up for lost compensation during the record-long partial government shutdown that ended last month. Democratic lawmakers supported the back pay, but the White House balked.

The bill is expected to pass both chambers, though it will face opposition on both the left and right. The measure would allocate $1.38 billion for 55 miles of physical barriers—including bollard fencing and levee walls, but not concrete walls—along the Rio Grande Valley of the U.S.-Mexico border.

That marks a far lower funding level than the $5.7 billion Trump sought for a wall.

Fox News host and Trump adviser Sean Hannity called it a “garbage compromise.” An administration official cast the deal as a win for Trump. “We are a long way from Pelosi’s $1,” the official said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s  joking that she would allot $1 for Mr. Trump’s wall.

Lawmakers debated an extension of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

House Democrats pushed to reintroduce later a new version of the bill that would prevent people under protective orders from possessing firearms and would bar evictions of victims of domestic violence based on the actions of abusers.

Lawmakers finally decided not to include VAWA or back pay for contractors in the bill.

Domestic violence advocates said it’s not only a potentially dangerous consequence of political strife in Washington, D.C., but an insulting message to send to women.

“We don’t treat violence against women with the urgency that it deserves,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a Northwestern University law professor who has specialized in domestic violence prosecution.

“We, as a society, are not grappling with the severity of the problem, the pervasiveness of the problem and the way it affects so many lives. The desperate search for funds (for the Violence Against Women Act) in the 11th hour is one indication of that.”

The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, enacted in 1994, provides protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and must be reauthorized every five years by Congress. The act also provides funding for social service agencies and programs that support survivors of such violence, which must be renewed annually.

After Congress failed to pass a budget and parts of the federal government shut down, many of VAWA’s funding sources remain on hold. Although one budget bill extended some funds through early February, U.S. Department of Justice employees who issue those checks are among federal workers furloughed during the shutdown, according to social service providers.

While some local social service providers say they are optimistic the act eventually will be reauthorized, they worry about funding being in flux every year for programs that serve as a safety net for victims — and the message that sends.

from https://thecrimereport.org

McCabe Feared That Russia Probe Could ‘Vanish’

Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe tells “60 Minutes” he authorized an investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia a day after meeting with him in May 2017 out of fear that he could soon be fired.

Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe says he authorized an investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia a day after meeting with him in May 2017 out of fear that he could soon be fired. “I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly or reassigned or fired that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace,” McCabe told CBS, the Washington Post reports. His comments were the first time McCabe has publicly addressed why he opened an investigation into Trump after the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

CBS aired a portion of an interview scheduled to air on “60 Minutes” on Sunday. “I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency, and won the election for the presidency, and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage, and that was something that troubled me greatly,” McCabe said. After the clip aired, Trump blasted McCabe on Twitter, calling him “a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country.” Trump wrote that, “Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a ‘poor little Angel’ when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax — a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey.” the president wrote, referring to an FBI investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email while secretary of state in addition to its probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Texas Hopes to Correct ‘Complete Failure’ in Jail System

Entering their new legislative session, Texas lawmakers listed bolstering local pretrial and probation initiatives as a top priority. Critics fault the lack of rehabilitation programs in the jail system, which holds 21,500 inmates.

Twenty-five years ago, Texas created a new state jail system designed to keep low-level drug offenders out of overcrowded prisons. Inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses would spend less time in jail and more time getting rehabilitative services while on probation, reports the Texas Tribune. Advocates and lawmakers say the system has failed. Attitudes about criminal justice shifted after the system was put in place. The state used the jails as way stations for inmates convicted of more serious crimes on their way to state prisons. Few rehabilitative services were made available in state jails, and the low-level offenders who went to the facilities have been rearrested at a higher rate than the general prison population.

Lawmakers are hoping this year will be an opportunity for reform. In the run-up to the 2019 legislative session, House and Senate leaders asked committees to study the jail system, which holds around 21,500 inmates in 17 jails. That led to a report from the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence that referred to the system as a “complete failure,” and lawmakers listed bolstering local pretrial and probation initiatives as a top priority. In its 2020-21 funding request, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice asked for $8 million in addition to its base budget to expand pretrial services offered in counties. Pretrial programs divert defendants from traditional criminal justice processing and provide rehabilitative substance abuse and mental health treatment to offenders. Advocates say rehabilitative treatment is missing from state jails today and is largely to blame for problems in the system.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Chicago’s Van Dyke Moved to Federal Prison, Beaten

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was beaten in his prison cell shortly after being transferred from Illinois custody to a Connecticut federal prison last week, It was not immediately clear why Van Dyke was sent to a federal prison from Illinois.

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was beaten in his prison cell after being transferred from Illinois custody to a Connecticut federal prison last week, the Chicago Tribune reports. The attack occurred a few hours after Van Dyke arrived at the Connecticut facility, a move his family and attorneys only learned about after it was done. “We are petrified and very worried about Jason’s safety,” said Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany. “Jason wants to serve his time and does not want any trouble. We are hoping prison officials will take quick action to rectify this situation.”

It was unclear why Van Dyke was transferred out of Illinois, where he had been held since he was sentenced to 81 months in prison last month.  He was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. The former officer was held in isolation when he was in an Illinois prison, and no security threats or other incidents occurred there that would have prompted such a dramatic transfer, a source said. The federal Bureau of Prisons website lists Van Dyke as at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution, a low- to minimum-security facility. He was put in the general population, said a source, who added that the former officer has received other threats since last week’s reported beating. Van Dyke isn’t the first high-profile ex-police officer from Illinois to be attacked after being moved into federal custody. A month after his transfer to a federal Indiana prison for security reasons, Drew Peterson was attacked in 2017 by a fellow inmate armed with a food tray in the dining area. Peterson, 65. a former Bolingbrook, Il., police sergeant and convicted murderer, was jumped in the maximum-security facility in Terre Haute.

from https://thecrimereport.org

After Parkland, States Acted on Guns, Congress Didn’t

State legislatures passed 76 gun control laws in the past year, including bans on bump stocks, caps on magazine sizes, minimum-age requirements for buying guns and expanded background checks. Congress didn’t act last year and is not likely to pass any measures this year.

In the year since the Parkland, Fl., school massacre, both Republican- and Democratic-controlled state legislatures passed 76 gun control laws in the past year, including bans on bump stocks, caps on magazine sizes, minimum-age requirements for buying guns and expanded background checks, the New York Times reports.

Among victories for gun control advocates was a bill in Florida that raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days.

More than half the states passed at least one gun control measure in 2018, with Washington and New York joining the trend in 2019.

There were significantly fewer new state laws expanding gun rights in 2018 than the year before, according to an end-of-year report by the national advocacy group Giffords.

The National Rifle Association said the number of enacted gun control measures outnumbered pro-gun measures for the first time in at least six years.

At the federal level, momentum for change was quickly stymied by partisan gridlock. Republicans in Congress remained silent as Democrats called for changes after mass shootings.

The White House flip-flopped on promises to raise the minimum age to purchase rifles and to enforce universal background checks. In the end, the only significant national change was a ban on bump stocks, which members of both parties had been seeking since the Las Vegas concert shooting in October 2017.

The House, where Democrats took power in January, has now made gun safety a priority, and the Judiciary Committee passed two gun-control bills on Wednesday that would strengthen background checks and close a loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to buy a gun that he used in the Charleston church massacre in 2015. With a Republican Senate and president, the chances of either measure moving beyond the House are virtually nil.

More, one year after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the urgency for new gun restrictions has declined, but roughly half the U.S. is concerned a mass shooting could happen at a school in their community, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.

In the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting that killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day, 71 percent of Americans said laws covering the sale of firearms should be stricter.

Now, it’s 51 percent.

“Not surprisingly, the results show that the outcry against gun violence has lessened from what it was immediately following the shooting at Parkland,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Yet, there is a strong consensus that gun violence is a serious problem and action needs to be taken.”

Many states have taken action by increasing police presence in the schools. As of October, 20 states had guaranteed $450 million in school-security spending in the wake of Parkland, according to the Associated Press.

However, research shows that increased police presence in schools does not make students safer—and that disproportionately harms non-white, disabled, and queer students.

“Since Parkland, there’s been a lot of discussion from government entities around increasing law enforcement presence in schools, and that’s unfortunate. It doesn’t help students, and there are better ways to create safe environments,” says Marc Schindler, director of the Justice Policy Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for criminal justice reform.

Less than a month after the shooting, Florida rapidly passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act, which requires that a police officer—or “armed school employee”—be stationed in every school in the state.

The bill also included some relatively minor additions to gun-control restrictions.  Only 17 percent of the bill’s $400 million funding was allocated to mental-health programming; the majority went to increased security and surveillance.

Neighboring Georgia took similar action soon after, adding $16 million more to annual spending on school security. And, last month, Governor Brian Kemp announced a program allocating $69 million for “school security grants.”

Currently, about half the students in the United States attend a school with one or more full-time police officers stationed in the school, according to Cleveland State University social work professor Christopher Mallett, whose research focuses on juvenile justice and schools.

States and school districts vary widely in the terminology—and specifics of bureaucratic oversight—for their police in schools.

Many are called by euphemistic names like “school resource officer” (SRO). Some are employed directly by the school, while others are provided by the local police precinct, or the county sheriff.

In the Broward County, Fl., school system, which includes Parkland, officials are installing a camera-software combination called Avigilon that would allow security officials to track students based on their appearance. With one click, a guard could pull up video of everywhere else a student has been recorded on campus, the Washington Post reports.

One teacher voiced concerns about the system’s accuracy, invasiveness and effectiveness. “How is this computer going to make a decision on what’s the right and wrong thing in a school with over 3,000 kids?,” the teacher asked.

from https://thecrimereport.org

First Opioid Trial Against Drug Makers Could Happen in OK

In the legal battle to hold drug companies responsible for the raging opioid epidemic, media attention largely has focused on a national lawsuit set for an October trial in federal court in Cleveland. It may be upstaged by a lesser-known opioid case, to be tried in May in Norman, OK.

In the legal battle to hold drug companies responsible for the raging opioid epidemic, media attention largely has focused on a national lawsuit set for a late October trial in federal court in Cleveland. It may be upstaged by a lesser-known opioid case: Oklahoma v. Purdue Pharma, scheduled for trial in May in Norman, Ok., Stateline reports. The Ohio case, the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, is a consolidated case that includes federal lawsuits brought by more than 1,500 counties, municipalities, hospitals and others, and features a brief from the U.S. Justice Department. Attorneys general in most states have opted to file independent lawsuits against drug companies, rather than share the stage with hundreds of other cases. In total, at least 330 opioid-related cases are pending in lower courts in at least 45 states.

Oklahoma’s case is slated to be the first to go to trial. With similar legal concepts and evidence, the Oklahoma trial could presage many of the arguments the jury may be presented in the national case. If the drug companies in Oklahoma offer a settlement, the proposal could precipitate a national settlement, some legal experts said. At a minimum, the Oklahoma trial would give the press and the public access to evidence and arguments aimed at showing that drug companies flooded local markets with opioid painkillers for more than a decade while knowing that the pills were highly addictive. In the case, filed in 2017, attorneys representing Oklahoma will present evidence and expert testimony to support the state’s claim that OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and other prescription pain medicines that drugmakers falsely claimed were safe led to the deaths of thousands of people.

from https://thecrimereport.org