Rising Number of Life Sentences is ‘Wasteful and Inhumane,’ says Study

Life sentences in the US continue to rise, despite declining crime rates, according to The Sentencing Project.  The study also found that the number of juveniles and women serving life terms has also grown.

Despite declining crime rates, life sentences in the U.S. continue to rise, according to a new study by The Sentencing Project. 

The study authors found the number of people serving life sentences – including life without the possibility of parole ( 53,290), life with the possibility of parole (108,667), and “virtual” life sentences of 50 years or more (44,311) are at an all-time high.

“This is both wasteful and inhumane,” authors said.

“The overwhelming majority of individuals who commit crime—even serious crime—will “age out” of criminal behavior, and their continued incarceration diminishes returns on public safety,” they added.

Moreover, although most life sentences are reserved for those who have committed serious and often violent crimes, over 17,000 individuals serving life have been convicted of a nonviolent offense, including 5,000 convicted of a drug offense, the study found.

And, 59 percent of lifers are serving sentences for homicide, 17 percent for rape or sexual assault, and 15 percent for aggravated assault, robbery, or kidnapping.

Significantly, while people of color are over-represented in prisons and jails, this disparity is even more evident among those sentenced to life imprisonment, where one of every five African American prisoners is serving a life sentence.

The number of women and juveniles  serving life sentences is also alarming, the study said.

Over 6,000 women are serving life or virtual life sentences. The number of women serving life sentences has risen at a faster rate than for men in recent years, according to the study.

More than 7,000 juveniles are serving sentences of life with parole, and another 2,000 are serving “virtual life” prison terms of 50 years or more.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Megan Hadley is senior staff writer for The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

New Jersey AG Assails ‘Harebrained’ Federal Immigration Policies

In a blunt talk to students and faculty at John Jay College, Gurbir Grewal said state attorneys-general have been critical to the struggle against “harebrained” federal efforts to criminalize immigrants over the past two years. But conservative federal court appointments will make things tougher, he warned.

State attorneys-general across the U.S. have served as a critical check so far on the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant initiatives—but their struggle may soon get tougher as federal court vacancies are filled by more conservative judges, an audience at John Jay College of Criminal Justice was told Monday.

Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey’s Attorney General, said he hoped the new Democratic majority elected to Congress in last month’s midterms would take up the task as the White House “packs the courts” with new judges closer to its ideological views.

Gurbir Grewal

New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. (Office of Attorney General / Tim Larsen)

In blunt remarks to faculty and students, Grewal said that state attorneys-general have frequently joined forces in the past two years to battle “harebrained” federal schemes, such as attempting to block visitors from some Muslim countries.

“When the Department of Justice stands down on its obligations, we stand up,” said Grewal, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed in January by New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phillip D. Murphy as the country’s first state attorney general of Sikh heritage.

New Jersey recently sent prosecutors to Texas to successfully battle an attempt in federal court there to repeal the status of “Dreamers”—young people who have been granted leave to stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act.

But, Grewal added, efforts by attorneys-general to fight Trump initiatives in federal court are likely to become more difficult as the administration attempts to fill judicial vacancies at the district or appeal court levels with judges more favorable to its “ideological” point of view.

The hope is that the newly elected Democratic members of the House, who will be a majority when they take office in January, can act as a more effective brake on government initiatives and, in particular, counter the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming out of Washington, Grewal said.

“We have seen a president who has pitted communities against each other, put children in cages, demeaned the humanity (of immigrants)” by referring to them as thugs, and helped foster an atmosphere in which “bias and hate” could flourish, he said.

But Grewal also pointed out that he, like other state attorneys-general, was already moving from battling against the government to developing positive initiatives.

“We can start building models of what good government looks like,” he said, pointing to recent initiatives such as the Immigrant Trust Directive, announced last week, which ordered New Jersey law enforcement agencies to limit cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Grewal has also promised major reforms in police training, including violence de-escalation tactics, following a New Jersey newspaper investigation that uncovered a pattern of questionable use-of-force incidents by state law enforcement over the past five years.

See also: NJ Attorney General Grewal Promises ‘Wholesale Reform’ on Police Use of Force. 

The son of South Asian immigrants, Grewal says he takes the anti-immigrant rhetoric personally, having been the target of racist rhetoric during his legal career.

He recalled going into his law offices in Washington after the September 11th, 2001 attacks while a homeless man shouted “I found Bin Laden,” whenever Grewal walked by.

“I grew up in this country…and I checked every box. I was a soccer (dad), I drove a minivan,” he said to laughter.

“But I woke up one day to feel completely un-American.”

Lingering stereotypes of immigrants motivated his own career choices, Grewal said.

Grewal told the students that he had entered public service, after first considering a diplomatic career, to change people’s perceptions of him and others who looked like him.

Grewal, who served as prosecutor of Bergen County, the state’s most populous county, under then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie, developed programs designed to tackle the heroin and opioid crisis, such as “Operation Helping Hand,”which offers low-level drug offenders treatment options upon arrest.

Earlier, as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York and later, in New Jersey, Grewal led the successful prosecution of 12 men charged with providing material support to the Tamil Tigers terrorist group, and the prosecution of major white collar and fraud cases.

The new rules under the Immigrant Trust Directive go into affect March 2019. They include:

For New Jersey Police Officers

  • Cannot stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status.
  • Cannot ask the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a serious offense and relevant to the offense under investigation.
  • Cannot participate in ICE’s civil immigration enforcement operations.
  • Cannot provide ICE with access to state or local law enforcement resources, including equipment, office space, databases, or property.

For New Jersey Correctional Officers 

  • Cannot allow ICE to interview individuals detained on criminal charges, unless the detainee is advised of his or her right to a lawyer and signs a written consent form.
  • Cannot continue to hold a detained individual arrested for a minor criminal offense, without certain prior convictions,

For New Jersey Prosecutors 

  • Cannot attack a witness’s credibility at trial based on his or her immigration status.
  • Cannot seek pretrial detention of an individual based solely on his or her immigration status.

Megan Hadley is a senior staff writer for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

New Jersey AG Assails ‘Harebrained’ Federal Immigration Policies

In a blunt talk to students and faculty at John Jay College, Gurbir Grewal said state attorneys-general have been critical to the struggle against “harebrained” federal efforts to criminalize immigrants over the past two years. But conservative federal court appointments will make things tougher, he warned.

State attorneys-general across the U.S. have served as a critical check so far on the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant initiatives—but their struggle may soon get tougher as federal court vacancies are filled by more conservative judges, an audience at John Jay College of Criminal Justice was told Monday.

Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey’s Attorney General, said he hoped the new Democratic majority elected to Congress in last month’s midterms would take up the task as the White House “packs the courts” with new judges closer to its ideological views.

Gurbir Grewal

New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. (Office of Attorney General / Tim Larsen)

In blunt remarks to faculty and students, Grewal said that state attorneys-general have frequently joined forces in the past two years to battle “harebrained” federal schemes, such as attempting to block visitors from some Muslim countries.

“When the Department of Justice stands down on its obligations, we stand up,” said Grewal, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed in January by New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phillip D. Murphy as the country’s first state attorney general of Sikh heritage.

New Jersey recently sent prosecutors to Texas to successfully battle an attempt in federal court there to repeal the status of “Dreamers”—young people who have been granted leave to stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act.

But, Grewal added, efforts by attorneys-general to fight Trump initiatives in federal court are likely to become more difficult as the administration attempts to fill judicial vacancies at the district or appeal court levels with judges more favorable to its “ideological” point of view.

The hope is that the newly elected Democratic members of the House, who will be a majority when they take office in January, can act as a more effective brake on government initiatives and, in particular, counter the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming out of Washington, Grewal said.

“We have seen a president who has pitted communities against each other, put children in cages, demeaned the humanity (of immigrants)” by referring to them as thugs, and helped foster an atmosphere in which “bias and hate” could flourish, he said.

But Grewal also pointed out that he, like other state attorneys-general, was already moving from battling against the government to developing positive initiatives.

“We can start building models of what good government looks like,” he said, pointing to recent initiatives such as the Immigrant Trust Directive, announced last week, which ordered New Jersey law enforcement agencies to limit cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Grewal has also promised major reforms in police training, including violence de-escalation tactics, following a New Jersey newspaper investigation that uncovered a pattern of questionable use-of-force incidents by state law enforcement over the past five years.

See also: NJ Attorney General Grewal Promises ‘Wholesale Reform’ on Police Use of Force. 

The son of South Asian immigrants, Grewal says he takes the anti-immigrant rhetoric personally, having been the target of racist rhetoric during his legal career.

He recalled going into his law offices in Washington after the September 11th, 2001 attacks while a homeless man shouted “I found Bin Laden,” whenever Grewal walked by.

“I grew up in this country…and I checked every box. I was a soccer (dad), I drove a minivan,” he said to laughter.

“But I woke up one day to feel completely un-American.”

Lingering stereotypes of immigrants motivated his own career choices, Grewal said.

Grewal told the students that he had entered public service, after first considering a diplomatic career, to change people’s perceptions of him and others who looked like him.

Grewal, who served as prosecutor of Bergen County, the state’s most populous county, under then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie, developed programs designed to tackle the heroin and opioid crisis, such as “Operation Helping Hand,”which offers low-level drug offenders treatment options upon arrest.

Earlier, as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York and later, in New Jersey, Grewal led the successful prosecution of 12 men charged with providing material support to the Tamil Tigers terrorist group, and the prosecution of major white collar and fraud cases.

The new rules under the Immigrant Trust Directive go into affect March 2019. They include:

For New Jersey Police Officers

  • Cannot stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status.
  • Cannot ask the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a serious offense and relevant to the offense under investigation.
  • Cannot participate in ICE’s civil immigration enforcement operations.
  • Cannot provide ICE with access to state or local law enforcement resources, including equipment, office space, databases, or property.

For New Jersey Correctional Officers 

  • Cannot allow ICE to interview individuals detained on criminal charges, unless the detainee is advised of his or her right to a lawyer and signs a written consent form.
  • Cannot continue to hold a detained individual arrested for a minor criminal offense, without certain prior convictions,

For New Jersey Prosecutors 

  • Cannot attack a witness’s credibility at trial based on his or her immigration status.
  • Cannot seek pretrial detention of an individual based solely on his or her immigration status.

Megan Hadley is a senior staff writer for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Conservative Judges Imperil Fight Against Trump Immigrant Policies: New Jersey AG

In a blunt talk to students and faculty at John Jay College, Gurbir Grewal said state attorneys-general have been critical to the struggle against “harebrained” federal efforts to criminalize immigrants over the past two years. But conservative federal court appointments will make things tougher, he warned.

State attorneys-general across the U.S. have served as a critical check so far on the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant initiatives—but their struggle may soon get tougher as federal court vacancies are filled by more conservative judges, an audience at John Jay College of Criminal Justice was told Monday.

Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey’s Attorney General, said he hoped the new Democratic majority elected to Congress in last month’s midterms would take up the task as the White House “packs the courts” with new judges closer to its ideological views.

Gurbir Grewal

New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. (Office of Attorney General / Tim Larsen)

In blunt remarks to faculty and students, Grewal said that state attorneys-general have frequently joined forces in the past two years to battle “harebrained” federal schemes, such as attempting to block visitors from some Muslim countries.

“When the Department of Justice stands down on its obligations, we stand up,” said Grewal, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed in January by New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phillip D. Murphy as the country’s first state attorney general of Sikh heritage.

New Jersey recently sent prosecutors to Texas to successfully battle an attempt in federal court there to repeal the status of “Dreamers”—young people who have been granted leave to stay in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act.

But, Grewal added, efforts by attorneys-general to fight Trump initiatives in federal court are likely to become more difficult as the administration attempts to fill judicial vacancies at the district or appeal court levels with judges more favorable to its “ideological” point of view.

The hope is that the newly elected Democratic members of the House, who will be a majority when they take office in January, can act as a more effective brake on government initiatives and, in particular, counter the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming out of Washington, Grewal said.

“We have seen a president who has pitted communities against each other, put children in cages, demeaned the humanity (of immigrants)” by referring to them as thugs, and helped foster an atmosphere in which “bias and hate” could flourish, he said.

But Grewal also pointed out that he, like other state attorneys-general, was already moving from battling against the government to developing positive initiatives.

“We can start building models of what good government looks like,” he said, pointing to recent initiatives such as the Immigrant Trust Directive, announced last week, which ordered New Jersey law enforcement agencies to limit cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Grewal has also promised major reforms in police training, including violence de-escalation tactics, following a New Jersey newspaper investigation that uncovered a pattern of questionable use-of-force incidents by state law enforcement over the past five years.

See also: NJ Attorney General Grewal Promises ‘Wholesale Reform’ on Police Use of Force. 

The son of South Asian immigrants, Grewal says he takes the anti-immigrant rhetoric personally, having been the target of racist rhetoric during his legal career.

He recalled going into his law offices in Washington after the September 11th, 2001 attacks while a homeless man shouted “I found Bin Laden,” whenever Grewal walked by.

“I grew up in this country…and I checked every box. I was a soccer (dad), I drove a minivan,” he said to laughter.

“But I woke up one day to feel completely un-American.”

Lingering stereotypes of immigrants motivated his own career choices, Grewal said.

Grewal told the students that he had entered public service, after first considering a diplomatic career, to change people’s perceptions of him and others who looked like him.

Grewal, who served as prosecutor of Bergen County, the state’s most populous county, under then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie, developed programs designed to tackle the heroin and opioid crisis, such as “Operation Helping Hand,”which offers low-level drug offenders treatment options upon arrest.

Earlier, as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York and later, in New Jersey, Grewal led the successful prosecution of 12 men charged with providing material support to the Tamil Tigers terrorist group, and the prosecution of major white collar and fraud cases.

The new rules under the Immigrant Trust Directive go into affect March 2019. They include:

For New Jersey Police Officers

  • Cannot stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status.
  • Cannot ask the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a serious offense and relevant to the offense under investigation.
  • Cannot participate in ICE’s civil immigration enforcement operations.
  • Cannot provide ICE with access to state or local law enforcement resources, including equipment, office space, databases, or property.

For New Jersey Correctional Officers 

  • Cannot allow ICE to interview individuals detained on criminal charges, unless the detainee is advised of his or her right to a lawyer and signs a written consent form.
  • Cannot continue to hold a detained individual arrested for a minor criminal offense, without certain prior convictions,

For New Jersey Prosecutors 

  • Cannot attack a witness’s credibility at trial based on his or her immigration status.
  • Cannot seek pretrial detention of an individual based solely on his or her immigration status.

Megan Hadley is a senior staff writer for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Secrets of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel: Pistoleros, Accountants and Murder

Long-buried secrets of one of the world’s most notorious drug gangs have emerged during the ongoing trial in Brooklyn, N.Y., of the Mexican kingpin known as El Chapo.

When Miguel Angel Martinez took the stand in the third week of the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán trial, he revealed the innermost details of  one of the world’s most formidable and murderous transnational crime groups.

During two days of gripping testimony, he revealed the secrets of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which was operated like a large corporation, comprised of accountants, secretaries, hitmen, money launderers, airplane pilots, boat captains, and drug smugglers.

See also: Is El Chapo a Murderous Drug Lord or a Tool of Corrupt Governments? 

Martinez was himself a former member of the cartel, and a close friend, or “compadre” of Guzman. (El Chapo was the godfather of his son).

As his former boss fixed him with an icy glare, he described a business that took place both on the ground, and in the air.

Martinez, a pilot who had his own nickname of El Gordo (Fats), would fly small planes from Colombia to Mexico carrying around 1,000 kilos of cocaine on each flight. On numerous occasions, El Chapo would join him. The flights took place in remote areas like the Colombian jungle to avoid Government interference.

In fact, that was one of the reasons Martinez rose to become a key cartel operative. He was first recruited into the group because of his specific knowledge of “clandestine landing strips,” or plane runways that were in rural areas and undetectable to the authorities. He recalled one landing strip where they had to push cows of the way.

And the flights were risky.

El Chapo paid off certain Government officials in Mexico to land the planes, but on one occasion, Martinez and his co-pilot ran out of gas ten minutes away from their destination. However, they couldn’t land the plane just anywhere with all the drugs, and so they were forced to fly to their destination with no engines and no gasoline.

According to Martinez, the co-pilot was an experienced flyer, so he was able to use the air current to drift to their destination (he was also a U.S. Navy pilot at the time.)

When members of the cartel spoke on the radio, they used code language to avoid any US interference.  “We have code for everything,” Martinez said. “Guzmán would say ‘organize a party’ and that meant get ready to land planes. Shirts meant cocaine. Girls meant planes. Documents meant money.”

Chapo received up to ten planes in one day, which made him “very happy.” “He said compadre, now it’s a great party,” Martinez recalled.

Guzmán owned offices all over Mexico city to orchestrate his drug business. Cartel operatives posed as attorneys and had to move frequently to avoid suspicion. Martinez said he was in the office a few times a week.

But he also owned many ranches along the beach so he could receive drug shipments via boat. From 1990 to 1995, the drugs were transported by ship and posed as fishing boats and shrimp boats– a tip they said they received from Mexico’s then-acting Attorney General.

Chapo paid off  government officials at the highest level, according to Martinez. He paid the attorney general millions of dollars in exchange for protection, and tips. The AG told Chapo to switch to boat transportation to avoid interception by the U.S. Government.

The boats would carry up to 14 tons of cocaine in shipment containers disguised as bath tubs, Martinez recollected.

While Chapo’s thriving drug business was pouring in money–he kept 45 percent for himself and his men and the Colombians took the other 55 percent– the downfall of his reign started when the drug wars began, Martinez said.

The drug war between the Sinaloa cartel and Tijuana cartel led to a bloodbath in Mexico that was hard for authorities to ignore.

El Chapo would hire gunmen,  known in Spanish as “pistoleros,” to kill members of the Tijuana drug cartel, or any of Chapo’s enemies.

Martinez heard El Chapo describe at least 20 killings, and his hitmen described another 20 as well.

The “pistoleros” were equipped with Ar-15s, grenades, tear gas, bombs, pistols and other weapons that were imported from Pakistan on a monthly basis, Martinez said. They drove around in armored trucks and wore bullet proof vests.

El Chapo had 25 pistoleros defending him, and another 100 protecting the cartel.

But on one deadly occasion, the pistoleros were not by his side. At the Guadalajara airport in Mexico in 1993, the Tijuana cartel was tipped off that El Chapo’s security would be low. They met him in the airport parking lot and chased Guzman through the airport, firing shots.

El Chapo escaped through the luggage belt and ran to a local highway, but Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, who was standing right in front of the drug boss, was shot and killed in the crossfire.

After that, El Chapo gained national attention. He was on the cover of every national magazine. A month later, he was arrested, and he would start the beginning of life on the run.

Megan Hadley is a senior staff reporter for The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Secrets of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel: Pistoleros, Accountants and Murder

Long-buried secrets of one of the world’s most notorious drug gangs have emerged during the ongoing trial in Brooklyn, N.Y., of the Mexican kingpin known as El Chapo.

When Miguel Angel Martinez took the stand in the third week of the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán trial, he revealed the innermost details of  one of the world’s most formidable and murderous transnational crime groups.

During two days of gripping testimony, he revealed the secrets of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which was operated like a large corporation, comprised of accountants, secretaries, hitmen, money launderers, airplane pilots, boat captains, and drug smugglers.

See also: Is El Chapo a Murderous Drug Lord or a Tool of Corrupt Governments? 

Martinez was himself a former member of the cartel, and a close friend, or “compadre” of Guzman. (El Chapo was the godfather of his son).

As his former boss fixed him with an icy glare, he described a business that took place both on the ground, and in the air.

Martinez, a pilot who had his own nickname of El Gordo (Fats), would fly small planes from Colombia to Mexico carrying around 1,000 kilos of cocaine on each flight. On numerous occasions, El Chapo would join him. The flights took place in remote areas like the Colombian jungle to avoid Government interference.

In fact, that was one of the reasons Martinez rose to become a key cartel operative. He was first recruited into the group because of his specific knowledge of “clandestine landing strips,” or plane runways that were in rural areas and undetectable to the authorities. He recalled one landing strip where they had to push cows of the way.

And the flights were risky.

El Chapo paid off certain Government officials in Mexico to land the planes, but on one occasion, Martinez and his co-pilot ran out of gas ten minutes away from their destination. However, they couldn’t land the plane just anywhere with all the drugs, and so they were forced to fly to their destination with no engines and no gasoline.

According to Martinez, the co-pilot was an experienced flyer, so he was able to use the air current to drift to their destination (he was also a U.S. Navy pilot at the time.)

When members of the cartel spoke on the radio, they used code language to avoid any US interference.  “We have code for everything,” Martinez said. “Guzmán would say ‘organize a party’ and that meant get ready to land planes. Shirts meant cocaine. Girls meant planes. Documents meant money.”

Chapo received up to ten planes in one day, which made him “very happy.” “He said compadre, now it’s a great party,” Martinez recalled.

Guzmán owned offices all over Mexico city to orchestrate his drug business. Cartel operatives posed as attorneys and had to move frequently to avoid suspicion. Martinez said he was in the office a few times a week.

But he also owned many ranches along the beach so he could receive drug shipments via boat. From 1990 to 1995, the drugs were transported by ship and posed as fishing boats and shrimp boats– a tip they said they received from Mexico’s then-acting Attorney General.

Chapo paid off  government officials at the highest level, according to Martinez. He paid the attorney general millions of dollars in exchange for protection, and tips. The AG told Chapo to switch to boat transportation to avoid interception by the U.S. Government.

The boats would carry up to 14 tons of cocaine in shipment containers disguised as bath tubs, Martinez recollected.

While Chapo’s thriving drug business was pouring in money–he kept 45 percent for himself and his men and the Colombians took the other 55 percent– the downfall of his reign started when the drug wars began, Martinez said.

The drug war between the Sinaloa cartel and Tijuana cartel led to a bloodbath in Mexico that was hard for authorities to ignore.

El Chapo would hire gunmen,  known in Spanish as “pistoleros,” to kill members of the Tijuana drug cartel, or any of Chapo’s enemies.

Martinez heard El Chapo describe at least 20 killings, and his hitmen described another 20 as well.

The “pistoleros” were equipped with Ar-15s, grenades, tear gas, bombs, pistols and other weapons that were imported from Pakistan on a monthly basis, Martinez said. They drove around in armored trucks and wore bullet proof vests.

El Chapo had 25 pistoleros defending him, and another 100 protecting the cartel.

But on one deadly occasion, the pistoleros were not by his side. At the Guadalajara airport in Mexico in 1993, the Tijuana cartel was tipped off that El Chapo’s security would be low. They met him in the airport parking lot and chased Guzman through the airport, firing shots.

El Chapo escaped through the luggage belt and ran to a local highway, but Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, who was standing right in front of the drug boss, was shot and killed in the crossfire.

After that, El Chapo gained national attention. He was on the cover of every national magazine. A month later, he was arrested, and he would start the beginning of life on the run.

Megan Hadley is a senior staff reporter for The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

States Show Reduction in Recidivism Rates-Study

States are showing a reduction in their three-year return-to-prison rates, according to new data revealed by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. They tracked data from 11 state corrections agencies to reveal significant multiyear declines in reincarceration rates since their peak years of recidivism.

States are showing a reduction in their three-year return-to-prison rates, according to new data revealed by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center

“Reducing Recidivism: States Deliver Results,” an ongoing series by the CSG Justice Center, tracked data from 11 state corrections agencies to reveal significant multiyear declines in reincarceration rates since their peak years of recidivism.

They found that diverse states—from New Jersey to South Dakota—showed reductions in the number of people returning to prison.

For instance, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin showed reductions in recidivism of 20 percent or more.

“Despite the progress we’ve made over the last two decades toward embracing recidivism reduction as a central mission of corrections agencies, some remain skeptical that these numbers can truly drop- but this report is further evidence that they not only can decrease, but in many states, they are,” said Harold Clarke, director of Virginia’s Department of Corrections.

The report also points to federal investments over the last decade that have accelerated state-level progress by funding programs that pursue research-based approaches to recidivism reduction.

These approaches include: tracking data, precise use of risk and needs assessments, strengthening supervision, and connecting people to post-release services.

“Ohio’s three-year recidivism rate dropped 20 percent over the last seven years. That is progress we would not have achieved without the federal support,” said Tom Stickrath, superintendent of Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, in the study.

“This report shines a light on how federal funding provided through legislation like the Second Chance Act gives states the ability to learn from the work of others, apply research-driven approaches, and hold themselves accountable by tracking progress through data analysis.”

A full copy of the report can be found here. 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Is El Chapo a Murderous Drug Lord or a Tool of Corrupt Governments?

In opening arguments of the much-anticipated trial of reputed Mexican drug boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the defense claimed the government’s case was more myth than reality.

In the much anticipated trial of the infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the defense claimed “El Chapo” was not the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel (one of the largest drug cartels in Mexico).

Jeffery Lichtman, one of Guzmán’s layers, argued in his opening statement at Tuesday’s hearing in downtown Brooklyn that Guzmán’s long time partner Ismael Zambada was the real leader, and “El Chapo” was being used as a scapegoat by the Mexican and U.S. governments.

Lichtman also claimed in a groundbreaking statement that Zambada was able to stay in business by paying off both the former and current Mexican president, as well as U.S. officials.

“There’s another side to this story,” said Lichtman.

“An ugly side to the story. This is a case that requires you to throw out what you know about the government. Government officials at the highest level can conspire and be bribed by economic gains. They’re in it for the money.”

He cited both the current and former Mexican presidents, as well as Mexican police officers, and the Mexican military as co-conspirators accepting money from Zambada in exchange for secrecy and cooperation.

But the United States, Lichtman said, is only interested in pursuing “El Chapo” because he is “the biggest prize this prosecution could dream of,” while Zambada continues to roam free.

After escaping from Mexican prison twice, and allegedly transporting over 150 kilograms of cocaine to the U.S., “El Chapo” has earned his name as a notorious drug kingpin, with Netflix TV shows based on his narcos business, rap songs named after him, and even a sandwich called ‘The El Chapo” at a deli in NYC.

However, the defense called “El Chapo” more of a myth than reality.

“If the world is focusing on the mythical creature Guzmán, whose going after Zambada?” Lichtman asked the court.

The U.S. Government was quick to rebut.

The Assistant US Attorney, Adam Fels, painted Guzmán as a hard hitting criminal whose multi-million dollar illegal enterprise was fueled by trafficking drugs via underground tunnels onto American soil.

The much anticipated trial began with opening statements late Tuesday afternoon after two jurors had to be replaced in the morning (one juror had a doctor’s note and was excused, the next juror did not have the funds to withstand jury duty).

Hundreds of people lined up outside the courthouse and stood in the rain waiting to go through security. Viewers got there as early as 3 am to get a spot in the court room. Many of the observation rooms were overflowing, and reporters, lawyers, and the general public were turned away.

When the prosecution began, they highlighted how Guzmán was able to traffic drugs into the U.S. like none of his predecessors. 

“Guzmán slashed delivery time time trafficking drugs by building underground tunnels from Mexico to the U.S.,” said Fels. “Consequently, Guzmán earned the name “El rapido”, or speedy.”

When he wasn’t using underground tunnels, “El Chapo” was transporting drugs by submarine, trucks, tractors, trailers, planes, cars; any transportation method he could get his hands on.

But Guzmán was known for more than just his speed.

According to the prosecution, Guzmán ran a gory, violent enterprise where hitman were hired to murder members from rival cartels and even members within the Sinola cartel, starting various drug wars in Mexico.

Fels noted that Guzmán gave direct orders to have his cousin, who was also his Lieutenant, murdered for potentially working with the authorities.

He also promised the jury there would be forthcoming evidence of Guzmán torturing members of rival cartels, and even pulling the trigger himself on one occasion.

Megan Hadley is the Senior Staff Writer at The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Failed Referendum Spurs ‘New Conversation’ in Ohio on Drug Policy Reform

Although Issue 1, a criminal justice reform in Ohio that would have removed felony convictions for drug possession, failed 65 percent to 35 percent in the midterm election Tuesday, the conversation has now shifted, and more legislators are interested in treatment for drug users, rather than mass incarceration, TCR has learned.

Although Issue 1 , a criminal justice reform in Ohio that would have removed felony convictions for drug possession, failed 65 percent to 35 percent in the midterm election Tuesday, the conversation has now shifted, and more legislators are interested in treatment for drug users, rather than mass incarceration, according to experts contacted by The Crime Report.

“Even though the ballot initiative didn’t succeed, we created a huge new conversation across the state,” said J Bennett Guess, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio.

“Many opponents of issue 1 are coming out and saying we need more residential treatment. And they intend to act.”

For instance, Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, is working with two former political rivals – Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, a Republican, and Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, a Democrat – to come up with new solutions.

Some of the proposed solutions include:

  • Reducing most fourth- and fifth-degree felony drug possession charges to a first-degree misdemeanor. Fentanyl, carfentanil and date rape drugs would remain felony offenses.
  • Stating a preference that those convicted of misdemeanor drug possession receive treatment and probation, but allowing judges to sentence offenders to county jail if needed.
  • Allowing those currently in prison for fourth- and fifth-degree drug possession convictions to ask a judge to have those sentences reduced. That would eliminate a felony on their record, which can be a barrier to work.
  • Expanding opportunities to seal past felony convictions.
  • Eliminating mandatory prison sentences for nearly all drug offenses. There would be an exception for those convicted of the major drug offender specification – sometimes referred to as the drug kingpin law – for running a large-scale drug operation.

Klein initially opposed Issue 1, citing his concerns that it would let certain felons out early and hurt drug courts trying to get people into treatment, but said he agreed with the overall goal, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Obhof said he will work with O’Brien, Klein and lawmakers to tackle more nuanced criminal justice reforms, starting in the coming months and continuing into the next two-year legislative session next year.

Ohio has long been considered “ground zero” of the nation’s opioid epidemic, thanks to the soaring number of opioid overdose deaths and the state’s position as a key distribution points for illicit fentanyl and heroin trafficked from Mexico and China.

Given the severity of the drug epidemic in Ohio, the failed ballot came as a surprise to many reform advocates.

Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman says he “did not expect that it would get crushed, going down to defeat 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent.”

Berman says Issue 1’s huge loss is startling given that Ohio’s Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown won re-election by 6 percent and its Democratic Governor candidate Richard Cordray, who endorsed Issue 1, lost by only four percentage points.

This means that a huge number of progressively minded voters decided to vote for liberal candidates and against Issue 1.

See Also: “Why Sentencing Reform Lost Big in Ohio.”

According to ACLU Ohio, some of the most aggressive opponents of the bill were judges.

For instance, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor contended that someone found with nearly 20 grams of fentanyl – enough of the dangerous opioid to kill 10,000 people – could no longer face prison time. Instead, they would face a misdemeanor and face a county jail sentence only after three offenses over two years.

It was clear the Ohio judges’ vocal opposition to Issue 1 influenced voters, said Bennett.

But, he said, they did so without offering any single new idea to solving the crisis. One of the things we need is new administrative guidance from the judiciary that will end the failed war on drugs and implement new responses instead, he proposed.

“We weren’t successful with constitutional amendment, but now is the time we will be successful through legislative action.”

Megan Hadley is senior staff writer for The  Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘El Chapo’ vs the US Government: Jury Selection Begins in Tight Security

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, reputedly the world’s most feared drug boss, has escaped custody twice. US authorities, determined that he won’t get away again, have imposed tight security for his daily trip to the Brooklyn, N.Y., courthouse where he will face his accusers in a trial that is predicted to last up to four months.

Police officers standing outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown Brooklyn on a rainy Tuesday described the scene as “totally normal.”

Normal, perhaps, if you consider that behind the closed doors of that courthouse, the trial of a reputed major international drug kingpin was underway.

There were two officers outside, and a few more down the street. The main road was blocked off. A Secret Service agent hid in his car on the adjacent street. A bomb dog waited inside.

Inside, Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzmán and his lawyers are preparing for what observers predict will be a long, tedious trial.

Guzmán, whose age is variously given as 61 and 64, who allegedly ran the world’s largest drug-trafficking operation even while behind bars in Mexico.  He now faces the possibility of life imprisonment in the United States, according to USA Today. 

Jury selection began this week for a trial that is expected to last two to four months.

Federal authorities have imposed high security measures to prevent Guzmán from slipping away… again.

Guzmán had previously escaped prison, once by bribing the guards and climbing in a dirty laundry basket.

Here are some major dates in Guzmán’s timeline (with some information from the Associated Press):

  • June 10, 1993: Mexico announces Guzmán’s first capture in Guatemala. But even after Guzmán was imprisoned, “He continued to manage his affairs from prison with scarcely a hitch,” writes Robert Saviano in his book “ZeroZeroZero.”  “The maximum security prison Puente Grande, where he was transferred in 1995, became his new base of operations,”
  • Jan. 19, 2001: With the help of bribed guards, Guzman escapes from his top-security prison. Saviano describes the escape: “One of them—Francisco Camberos Rivera, known as El Chito, or the Silent One—opened the door to El Chapo’s cell and helped him climb into a cart of dirty laundry. They headed down unguarded hallways and through wide-open electronic doors to the inner parking lot, where only one guard was on duty. El Chapo jumped out of the cart and leaped into the trunk of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.”
  • Feb. 22, 2014: El Chapo is captured in Mazatlan after hiding in tunnels for days. The success was touted as a huge win for authorities, who by then had deemed Guzmán the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world.”
  • July 11, 2015: Guzmán escapes through a tunnel from Mexico’s top-security prison. You can see the path he took to escape here.
  • Jan. 8, 2016: He is once again re-captured in Los Mochis, Sinaloa after a shootout with Mexican marines. Five people were killed and one marine was wounded in the fight.

Currently, Guzmán has been held in solitary confinement in a high-security federal cell in Manhattan since January 2017, when Mexico agreed to allow his extradition to the United States for trial.

The Brooklyn Bridge was closed to traffic each time federal officials transported him across the East River from his cell for pretrial hearings at the federal courthouse near the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.

The identities of most scheduled prosecution witnesses also are being kept secret.

Charges against Guzmán include 17 criminal counts and carry a mandatory minimum life sentence.  He denies the charges.

Prosecutors have more than 40 witnesses ready to testify against him, an astonishing number considering the potential dangers associated with testifying against a powerful drug kingpin, reports ABC News.

“No one knows what the evidence is but apparently there are hundreds of hours of secret recordings,” Douglas Century, who co-authored “Hunting El Chapo” with Andrew Hogan, the DEA agent who went undercover to capture the drug kingpin, told ABC.

“And they’ve got turncoats who [include] these two twins, the Flores brothers from Chicago, some of Chapo’s closest lieutenants, [and] a guy named Damaso Lopez who has apparently flipped and is working for the Government.”

While “El Chapo” has captivated the attention of true crime writers and Hollywood  celebrities with his alleged crimes, his story carries echoes of an equally ostentatious  narco-boss: Pablo Escobar, the late Colombian drug lord who amassed enormous wealth as the head of a sprawling drug empire based in the city of Medellin in the 1980s and 1990s.

Known as “the King of Cocaine,” Escobar lived in remote luxury on a  ranch where he installed his own private zoo.  He was never brought to justice in the way Guzmán has been—mainly because he was assassinated in 1993 on a rooftop before the justice system could get to him, Alejandro Rincón, a New York Correspondent from NTN24, a Columbian news channel, told The Crime Report.

“There’s a lot of similarities between the two ” said Rincón.

“Both were searched by the authorities. But it’s also interesting to see someone (Guzmán) who did so much harm to one country (Mexico) brought to justice in a new country.”

Opening arguments in the trial are expected to begin next week.

Megan Hadley is senior staff writer for The  Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org