What Rape Reform Needs: More Convictions, Less Punishment

In the “Post-Weinstein era,” victims of sexual assault and harassment are finally being believed. But unless critical reforms are enacted to how we convict and punish rapists, just believing the victim won’t be enough, argues a Boston College Law School professor.

In what is being called the “Post-Weinstein era,” victims of sexual assault and harassment are finally being believed. This no doubt is overdue, but in the context of rape, believing the victim will not be enough.

Three reforms are essential to how we convict and punish rapists.

First, the way states currently define the crime of rape does not target the conduct of unwanted sex. In the United States, rape was initially defined by unwanted sex accompanied by an element of force. The proof of force was and continues to be a high bar to meet, usually requiring threats, physical violence, actual injury, or weapons.

In 2017, a California court reversed a rape conviction because the evidence showed that a group of four men “lured” a 15-year-old girl into a house, got her “falling-down drunk” and then penetrated her while she was unconscious.

There was no doubt over her lack of consent. But that was not relevant. The men’s actions did not fall in the definition of rape because the men did not use force during the intercourse. This is not an anomaly; 46 states currently define rape with this additional requirement of force.

But why is force part of the definition of rape?

Before the 1960s, all sex outside of marriage was criminalized in the offenses of adultery (defined as sex with a married person) or fornication (defined as sex by unmarried people). An element of force was needed to prevent a rape victim from unwittingly confessing to these crimes when reporting the rape against her.

This observation is not academic. As recently as 2013, a Norwegian tourist in Dubai was arrested and imprisoned for the crime of adultery after reporting that a man raped her.

Starting in the 1980s, 35 states reformed their laws to include a crime of rape that did not use force. Due to the fears that women would falsely accuse men (what will likely be an anachronistic belief from the Pre-Weinstein era), the states narrowly limited consent to be actionable only in codified power imbalances, such as a prison guard and prisoner, therapist and patient, or certain family members.

The first needed reform to the definition of the crime of rape, then, is to abandon the definitions of rape used by 42 states.

Rape should not be limited to unwanted sex when there is also force or only arising in specific contexts. Rather, all states should simply define rape as only eight currently do: sex without the consent of the other person. Full stop.

The Question of Liability

Second, unlike homicide and theft offenses, rape law has not benefited from having liability arise from more sophisticated mental states that define the crime. If a person drives a car into a crowd and kills someone, it is a tragedy if the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. But the same death will be prosecuted as a murder if the driver had an intent to kill someone, disregarded the risk of death, or showed callous indifference over whether someone would be hurt.

Known as malice, this capacious mental state is effective in sorting out tragedies from murder.

In his book Missoula, Jon Krakauer interviewed a juror about her reasons for acquitting an accused rapist, which is a significant interview given that Montana is one of the eight states that define rape in its broadest reach as sex without the consent of another.

An important insight from this interview is that even when rape is defined broadly, the mens rea of knowledge requires proof that the defendant in fact knew he was having sex without his partner’s consent.

When framed in this manner, it is possible for the jury to both believe a woman’s testimony that she was raped but not have evidence that the defendant knew the victim was not consenting.

The second essential reform, then, is establishing a new crime of “rape by malice,” a crime that criminalizes both those who knew—or deliberately did not care to know—if their advances were consented to.

Unwanted sex arises from multiple motivations. A mens rea for rape should be flexible and responsive enough to criminalize as much unwanted sex as possible without criminalizing lawful or wanted sex. Other crimes such as homicide have expansive definitions to capture all killings made by the predators, the fools, and the careless. A new crime of rape by malice would do the same.

Rethink Rape Sentencing

Third, these proposed reforms to the redefinition of rape would lead to more convictions. But convicting more rapists under our current criminal justice system should not be welcomed. On paper, 19 states have respective maximum terms of 99 years, 100 years, and life sentences. And 12 states begin at 10 years.

Although only six states and the federal government even compile data on the number and lengths of sentences, where data is available, the range in actual sentences for rape was from eight to 30 years.

These numbers should be alarming. Whereas 40 percent of people convicted of all felonies will be punished with prison terms, about  90 percent of all rapists will receive a prison sentence, and a very lengthy one at that.

In the rush to condemn rapists, throwing people away in prison is a poor policy option that no other developed country follows. In 35 comparable countries, the vast majority impose prison terms that do not exceed five years. This short sentence does not at all communicate that the crime was not heinous, the offender not depraved, or the victim does not merit justice.

In the mass incarceration era, the U.S. makes prisoners suffer with long sentences and harsh conditions, but that only results in high recidivism rates of about 75 percent for all crimes.

Canada, by contrast, provides evidence-based treatment that has resulted in the recidivism rate for sex offenders to fall from 33.2 percent to 14.5 percent. For first-time sex offenders, recidivism rates fell from 27.5 percent to 8.8 percent.

If the goal is to reintegrate into society convicted rapists who will not reoffend, the third essential reform is to impose shorter sentences for rapists. It is shorter sentences and actual treatment that succeed over calls to simply lock them up.

The third reform of shorter sentences also will serve the victims by leading to more convictions. Forty years ago, states faced an analogous problem in figuring out the proper punishment for a driver who killed another. The crime could fit under manslaughter, but when the prosecutor charged this serious offense, the jurors balked and did not convict—knowing from common sense that manslaughter carried a lengthy prison sentence.

In response, state legislatures crafted the new offense of involuntary manslaughter, which reduced the punishment for the killing from 20 to two years. Not surprisingly, conviction rates increased.

Many recoil at light sentences for rapists, on the assumption that a light sentence is letting-off a very bad person. But it is a mistake to contend that the problem with mass incarceration starts and ends with drug offenders. Ninety-five percent of all prisoners leave prison.

We can no longer be outraged by crime and continue to ignore what happens to the criminal.

National surveys of crime victims lend support to the policy goals of rehabilitation over lengthier sentences; 82 percent support “increasing education and rehabilitation services for the people in the justice system.”

In this respect, reforms to rape sentences must be accompanied by a call for more effective criminal justice intervention rather than simply incarceration and more of it.

Kari Hong

Kari E. Hong

Instead of channeling outrage for the first rape, sentencing must also meaningfully seek to rehabilitate and prevent a second.

Kari E. Hong, an Assistant Professor at Boston College Law School, teaches immigration and criminal law. She founded a clinic representing non-citizens with criminal convictions in the Ninth Circuit, and has argued over 100 Ninth Circuit cases and 50 state criminal appeals. Her article A New Mens Rea For Rape: More Convictions and Less Punishment can be downloaded at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3060709. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Rehabilitation is Central to a Prison’s Mission—Except When It Isn’t

Private programs to tutor inmates have to contend with an environment that views volunteers with suspicion. The need to maintain security seems to outweigh all other considerations—including reform, writes a long-term resident of a Washington State penitentiary.

A small army of college students is helping prisoners pass high school equivalency exams and, where the opportunity exists, to earn college degrees.

These volunteers’ ranks are regularly replenished by recruitment from 30 different universities. They march under the banner of the Petey Greene Program.

For the last decade, Petey Greene has trained (typically) undergraduate and graduate students in pedagogical approaches and, thereafter, financed the volunteers’ trips to do service in correctional facilities across the Northeast.

In Pennsylvania, Petey Greene tutors work with young students who are earning their GEDs in juvenile detention facilities.

In Maryland’s sole women’s facility, volunteers work with prisoners in a study hall environment preparing them to pursue higher learning through the Goucher Prisoner Education Partnership.

In Rhode Island, tutors have individual study sessions with prisoners who are completing college courses through the Boston University Education Program.

There are 31 other correctional facilities where members of Petey Greene can be seen. It is an amazing accomplishment—especially since any organization working within a prison environment must contend with a security apparatus that views volunteers with suspicion.

In fact, these sentiments are ubiquitous throughout the correctional system.

For instance, following a large-scale drug and weapons raid in Pennsylvania’s Graterford Correctional Institution in 1996, prison administrators claimed it was necessary to reduce “the number of volunteers entering the prison for such programs as literacy tutoring, Bible study, and gardening.” [The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Struggle to Survive: View From Behind Bars,” August 12, 1996].

More recently, after drugs were discovered in a visiting room bathroom at Washington State’s Stafford Creek Correctional Center, volunteers of the Black Prisoners Caucus were suspended from entering the facility—notwithstanding the fact that countless visitors and staff had equal access to the location where the contraband was secreted.

Unfair as it may seem, prisoners have no right to interact with members of the community. More to the point, volunteers have no right to do service within correctional facilities.

This makes me wonder how Petey Greene has managed to go about its work so freely.

My personal experience with prison officials’ abhorrence for ceding control to anyone outside of the bureaucracy and the correctional system’s hyper-focus on maintaining institutional security convinces me that Petey Greene’s success took the patience of Job and the cunning of Machiavelli.

Understand this: Prison officials are given “wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security.”

On its face, such declarations are reasonable. But in practice, this “wide-ranging deference” creates a conflict between fostering reform and maintaining institutional security. Indeed, it ultimately undermines public safety by hamstringing outside efforts to rehabilitate prisoners and reduce recidivism.

The Facts on the Ground

The Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) enables prisoners and others to submit pilot proposals to help reduce re-offending and increase success upon re-entry.

Unfortunately, though, the administrative compulsion to wield authority makes it next to impossible for non-WDOC programs to be established—let alone for them to maintain any real semblance of autonomy.

Take the Redemption Project which was created by WDOC prisoner (and my former cellmate) Anthony Powers. His vision was to develop a program that—according to the mission statement—would “repay society for the negative acts committed against it by helping to prevent others from repeating similar acts.”

Yet as the program transformed from a small group of prisoners who spoke to at-risk youth brought to Stafford Creek into a cognitive behavior therapy program for prisoners throughout the facility, Powers had to relinquish ever more independence to administrators to keep his program growing.

In the end, the Redemption Project became a fixture within WDOC. However, by then, it had transformed into nothing more than a means for prisoners to earn “good time” credit for their participation. As for Powers, prison administrators relegated him to the status of a volunteer for the very program that was his brain child.

The lesson: Compromising to get buy-in from correctional officials can be a slippery slope to ruining a program’s integrity.

The fact that a rehabilitative program is created and controlled by someone who is free does not deter official attempts at encroachment or usurpation. This truth was imparted to me as a member of the Prisoner Advisory Committee for the non-profit University Beyond Bars (UBB).

Since its inception, the UBB has devoted itself to providing opportunities for prisoners at Washington State Reformatory to pursue higher learning. Prison officials nevertheless sought to impose WDOC’s policy of prioritizing prisoners based upon their release dates, deportation and citizenship status, and their likelihood of reoffending.

To the UBB’s credit, the group’s director balked at erecting such a barrier to entry. To her dismay, prison officials then balked—for six years—before finally allowing her to bring donated computers into the facility for utilization by UBB students.

The lesson: When independent programs refuse to acquiesce to correctional prerogatives, there will be consequences.

Keeping the Faith

With these lessons in mind, let me return to the improbable success of Petey Greene. Based on its Program Viewbook the organization appears to have somehow avoided such trials and tribulations. Is it possible that the eight states and 34 prisons where the Petey Greene Program operates are outliers within my construct of the correctional system?

I highly doubt it.

The reality is that Petey Greene has long been plagued by its inability to collect the data that is necessary for receiving grants—difficulties that are due, in large part, to a lack of cooperation by correctional officials.

Were rehabilitation the paramount goal of corrections, prison officials would be falling all over themselves to ensure that Petey Greene was successful in enlarging the amount and type of data it collects about its programming.

Yet at the end of the day, the Supreme Court notes that “central to all other correctional goals is the institutional consideration of internal security within corrections facilities themselves.”

Sadly, assisting a non-profit collect the data required to establish that it is an evidence-based program is not a correctional priority—even if that very program furthers the penological interest in protecting the public from future harm.

Therefore, it remains to be seen if the patience of Job and cunning of Machiavelli that Petey Greene has exhibited thus far will enable the organization to meet its larger objective of measuring the program’s impact on recidivism rates.

I wish the organization the best.

Jeremiah Bourgeois

Jeremiah Bourgeois

But to those running Petey Greene, I urge you to heed this warning:

Compromising and being conciliatory to prison officials to keep a program growing can undermine its mission and destroy its integrity. Yet, remaining steadfast to one’s principles can likewise lead to frustration and grief.

So, you better tread carefully.

Jeremiah Bourgeois is a regular contributor to TCR, and an inmate in Washington State, where he has been serving a life sentence since the age of 14. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Who Will Cover Tomorrow’s Crime Stories?

When the NYC websites Gothamist and DNAinfo were shuttered this month, it was a blow to local justice reporting. But it’s also a wakeup call to journalism schools and others to find new ways of filling the coverage gap, writes a NY journalism professor.

The closure of two New York City-based websites, Gothamist and DNAinfo, alarms anyone who cares about the future of local journalism.

But it also raises additional questions about the future of local crime reporting.

A few days before the two sites closed, I ran into a former colleague who reminded me of a story we covered together more than a decade ago. A dispute at an illegal gambling parlor in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, led to a fatal shooting.

My colleague and I showed up the next day to find the betting shop still operating, and the winning numbers scrawled on the wall next to a guy who was preoccupied on the phone trying to field bets.

A mop bucket filled with blood sat in the corner. The dead man’s blood was still smeared on the floor. Business was so good the operators didn’t have time to clean up after the deceased.

We both had a laugh over the bucket of blood. It’s the kind of detail that we crime reporters lived for, chasing crime back when the tabloids and the New York Times were still dedicated to covering what happened in the city on a nightly basis.

There are those who might say that the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality is best left in the past, a remnant of a booze-soaked newspaper era, a relic of a pre-social-media age best left to fade away in the era of smartphones and social media.

Who needs slightly damaged, slightly alcoholic guys and gals like us to be middlemen-and-women to grind out workaday truths when citizens can do it with an iPhone?

Of course the same detail that delighted me as a crime reporter left the residents on the block terrified. If someone can blow away some guy and then stroll away, what about us, they asked? What about my kids? And what about the gun? How did the gun get here, in this room? How many more guns do the criminals have than the cops?

How many white people get killed by guns purchased in a former Confederate state and smuggled into the heart of New York City? How many black people get killed? How many victims are rich? How many poor?

For many citizens, the only contact they have with their government is with the police. How could a guy be killed in a demonstrably illegal gambling den; and less than 24 hours later, how could that den still be humming before the blood could be mopped up and dumped out into the street?

How did the Buildings Department miss this? Was it the sexy corruption of kickbacks and bribes? Or, more likely, the pedestrian corruption of an overburdened bureaucracy incapable of realistically meeting its legal responsibilities?

I could go on, but I hope the point is clear. Crime is titillating, but it is also the only way we as a society have to talk about the fundamental questions animating human existence, namely: what it means to live in a just society.

What should be illegal in a free society? Who has to deal with the consequences of crime and why? Who watches the watchers? Are we as a society securing the liberty guaranteed by the Founding Fathers?

The crime beat rubs our faces in the way that what we casually think of as justice plays out in countless small ways in courtrooms and street corners all over this demented slaughterhouse of a democracy we call the United States of America.

Crime reporting was a passport to a world that largely remained uncovered by the major newspapers, and it was a way to see how people survive living in abject poverty, to see up close the consequences of inequality.

Who knows how many stories my colleagues and I stumbled on because we were trying to figure out who shot whom, and why, on some cold winter night.

The simple fact of reporters being there, with eyes on the cops at the scene, and their bosses, who know that someone is watching, can be a check on power.

Human beings, not the greatest specimens that nature has coughed into existence, will generally get away with what they are allowed to. Cops are not unique in this. The simple act of being present at these crime scenes is a deterrent on abuses of power.

With Gothamist and DNAinfo shuttered, it begs the question: what do we do now? What can be done to fill in the gaping holes in coverage left by their absence and the paucity of news coverage by newspapers here?

The short answer is, hell if I know.

If I had an answer to that I’d be filthy rich and not writing this op-ed. The slightly longer answer is that news agencies need to reassess what crime reporting can be. It is not just a blotter. It is a tableau to ask the lofty Big Questions in a small-bore, concrete way.

Schools that teach journalism need to cut their students loose to fill the gap created by the shuttering of DNAInfo and Gothamist. At the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism, we have a paper that covers the South Bronx.

Similar projects should be vigorously supported in Washington, D.C., Chicago, L.A., and all the cities affected by the closing, as well as any place where there’s a school teaching journalism.

There is a corrosive nihilism at the beating heart of people turning their noses up at “local news.”

Just recently, a student at the school where I teach was talking about how robots can do what I and my fellow crime reporters did back at the turn of the century, when at least three reporters, sometimes more, were out in the streets at crime scenes trying to figure what the hell happened and why and what it all means.

Especially what it means for the real people swept up in their private tragedy, and what it means for all of us who live in the parallel universe of stability and order, a life free of buckets of blood, who like to go to sleep at night thinking we’re good and fair and just.

My friend, who warned me he was likely to be laid off as a result of the closures, said he had recently returned to the spot infamous for that bucket of blood. It’s a French bistro now. A sign of the “gentrification” rampant in the neighborhoods that used to be awash in crime.

It’s fashionable these days to think all the other diners could just use their iPhones to make sense of the chaos, institutional and intimate, going on in this city as they sat and ate.

Daryl Khan

Daryl Khan

But my colleague could have used his experience, streetwise skills – and reporter’s curiosity─to turn that chaos into compelling stories. But he’s now unemployed.

I’m not sure what the other diners were eating. But I asked my friend what he chose off the menu. He ordered the lamb burger, medium well.

Daryl Khan is a professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the NYC bureau chief of JJIE, a juvenile justice website. He welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The New ‘Entrepreneurs’ Behind Today’s Punitive Immigration Policies

“Crimmigration” has become a shorthand term for the increasing overlap of the nation’s criminal justice and immigration control systems in the Trump era. It’s time to reexamine our assumptions about what motivates the current zeal to punish immigrants, writes a criminologist at John Jay College.

The term crimmigration was coined by law professor Juliet Stumpf in 2006, as a shorthand for the increasing overlap of the nation’s criminal justice and immigration control systems.

Other academics quickly took up the term, using it to describe the policies of the Obama administration as it brought immigration enforcement to unprecedented heights, earning President Obama the title “deporter-in-chief”.

The actions of the Trump administration have brought crimmigration into widespread use. It’s a useful term for the media and advocates struggling to describe one of the administration’s few first-year successes in fulfilling candidate Trump’s campaign promises: true to his word, Trump has established a system of punishment for immigrants, built upon the worst excesses of the criminal justice system.

To be sure, his predecessors laid the groundwork for this explicitly punitive approach, but Trump has quickly pushed immigration enforcement past its previous limits in any number of ways. It is more vicious than ever before, more vindictive, more arbitrary—but most importantly, it has comprehensively aligned enforcement policy and practice with the priorities of the president’s voter base and the institutional culture of the agencies involved: ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection).

The how of Trump’s punitive immigration control system—its culture, its methods and practices, its constituencies—become clearer with each news item and investigative report. The why, on the other hand, remains largely opaque.

We know that greed and racism motivate this activity, at least in part: that in the background behind this unified front of nativist voters, anti-immigrant policy-makers, and overzealous field agents lie the interests of private prison corporations and local elected officials, particularly sheriffs. But wouldn’t it be naïve—or at least overreach the available evidence—to suggest that immigration enforcement as a whole is motivated by economic considerations?

If we want to investigate the reasons why American immigration policy is increasingly focused on punishing immigrants as criminals, we need to reexamine our assumptions about what constitutes “economic motivation.”

In a recent piece for the academic journal Theoretical Criminology, I proposed that we shift our thinking about the reasons why institutions and individuals involve themselves in immigration enforcement, to consider them as potential entrepreneurs in a punishment marketplace.

We generally think of entrepreneurs as economically motivated innovators: individuals with new ideas about products or services that could revolutionize a particular field—and ideally make the entrepreneur a profit.

A marketplace is where these innovations compete; where the products and services associated with them are bought and sold. It’s challenging to fit immigration enforcement into this formula, because **immigration control is supposed to be a public service: not the kind of service that is bought and sold, but the kind provided by government for the collective benefit of the governed.

Public services, however, can be privatized, and under the neoliberal philosophy of governance that dominates contemporary American policy-making, they increasingly are.

Neoliberalism is a tricky term, in part because it resists the reductive left/right logic of America’s polarized political discourse. A neoliberal approach to governance has much in common with the conservative worldview: both hold up the idea of the “free market” as the natural and best approach to organizing human society.

On the surface, the purpose of immigration control seems antithetical to these “free market” ideals. Doesn’t the American economy benefit from the labor competition and increased productivity that immigrant workers contribute?

Nearly all available evidence suggests that it does; but this question gets to the heart of immigration enforcement’s role as a “public service.”

Contrary to the anti-government sentiment that goes hand-in-hand with the valorization of “free markets” in conservative ideology, markets have always required government regulation to keep them “free.” Paradoxically, the most basic market intervention at government’s disposal is punishment: the consequences meted out to those who fail to respect the private property rights that make markets possible—criminals, in other words.

The Property-Based Rationale for Immigration Enforcement

Immigration enforcement fits neatly into this framework if we view citizenship as property rather than a fulfillment of the social contract—that is, something we own by virtue of who we are, as opposed to something we earn through our contributions to the community or society in which we live. If citizenship—and the rights of residence and membership that go with it—is property, then undocumented immigrants are criminal by definition: “illegal aliens” who have stolen the residency rights of citizenship from their rightful owners.

The “public service” of immigration enforcement is, in this interpretation, the protection of the property rights surrounding citizenship—the policing, in other words, of the boundaries of acceptable behavior in the citizenship marketplace.

The concept of “marketplace” used above requires us to accept that the buying, selling, and investing that go on in these spaces is not an exclusively economic activity, but an application of accumulative, “free market” principles to many kinds of potential benefits: power, security, “freedom”, rights, even physical and mental health.

To view this range of benefits as subject to “free market” competition, as in the contemporary conservative/neoliberal worldview, is to view their gain and loss as a zero-sum game. The rights associated with citizenship can’t be given to immigrants without loss to citizens; conversely, keeping those rights exclusive makes them all the more valuable to those who hold them.

What’s more, “regulatory structures” like federal immigration enforcement allow powerful groups and individuals—or punishment entrepreneurs—to “invest” in these benefits and reap a wide variety of returns.

Who are these entrepreneurs? The handful I put forward in my paper include New Jersey’s Kim Guadagno, a former federal prosecutor-turned Monmouth County Sheriff, whose investment in anti-immigrant rhetoric and a 287g immigration enforcement agreement led her to the state’s Lieutenant Governship, and an (ultimately unsuccessful) bid for the Governor’s mansion.

They include the principals of the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, whose investment in immigrant detention paid off handsomely, helped along by their insider knowledge of the correctional industry and their political connections.

The Punishment ‘Entrepreneurs’

But for every well-known punishment entrepreneur like Arizona’s former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, there are hundreds of sheriffs, correctional administrators, private prison investors, and exploitative employers of immigrant labor whose investments in the punitive treatment of immigrants have borne significant returns, particularly with the 2016 election of Donald Trump.

Equally important to recognizing this accumulation of benefits to the few that is the hallmark of “free market” logic, is recognizing that a great many of the voters who chose Trump for his anti-immigrant stance benefit from the harsh enforcement policies his administration has put into action.

These benefits may be largely psychological, and rooted in their exclusionary perspective on citizenship and membership rights. Supporters of Trump’s harsh immigration policies benefit from their relative security—their “freedom” from the fear of detention or deportation—and they benefit from the increasing invisibility of people they think of as “others,” and their relatively more exclusive use of public space.

They also benefit from the relative absence of these “others” from constitutionally protected public services like education and healthcare. And perhaps most of all, they benefit as consumers, as frightened immigrant laborers are more easily exploited, keeping the costs of many goods and services artificially low.

Those who would advocate for immigrant rights must reckon with the reality of these widely perceived benefits, and the worldview that makes them acceptable.

The radically neoliberal “free market” philosophy of contemporary American conservatism excuses the equally radical curtailment of empathy necessary for the dehumanizing immigration policies enacted by the Trump administration. What appears to many observers as deeply inhumane is for others the straightforwardly necessary protection of their real interests, and those of their families and children.

The work of advocating for humane and rational immigration policy in the contemporary context is nothing less than the steep challenge of culture change. The neoliberal/conservative worldview that sees the distribution of rights and benefits as a zero-sum game holds clear advantages for the entrepreneurs who are able to manipulate it to their advantage, and these privileged few will continue to promote this perspective as long as it serves their interests to do so.

Empathy must be taught and modeled across the cultural landscape in order for more humanist perspectives to take root. Culture change on this scale is a generational fight.

Daniel L. Stageman

Immigrant advocates working today need the courage today to work for victories tomorrow.

Editor’s Note: See also other TCR articles by Daniel Stageman examining local immigration enforcement. In Etowah County, ALFrederick County, Md.; and Orange County, Ca.; Read Stageman’s introduction to the series, “Where Will Trump’s Deportation Force Strike Hardest?” here.

Daniel L. Stageman, Ph.D., is Director of Research Operations at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is also a criminologist whose scholarship focuses on making sense of America’s punitive approach to immigrants. He can be contacted at dstageman@)jjay.cuny.edu. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Media Are Key to Battling Myths About Domestic Violence, Panel Told

In an era of falling crime rates, spousal abuse often disappears from the radar screen of public attention. But journalists can play a critical role in providing context—and help prevent future tragedies, speakers at a John Jay College panel said Tuesday.

The media can play a critical role in battling stereotypes about domestic violence—most importantly in puncturing myths that blame the victim rather than the perpetrator, speakers at a New York panel discussion on media coverage said Tuesday.

“We’re happy to see that this issue is covered a lot,” said Sandhya Kajeepeta, director of Research and Evaluation at the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence (MOCDV).

Sandhya Kajepeeta

Sandhya Kajepeeta. Photo by Megan Hadley

But she noted that recent research of media coverage by her office showed that reporting often fails to mention relevant research or to utilize the expertise of practitioners who can put incidents in context.

Just as importantly, journalists can help alert potential victims to warning signals and lead them to organizations in local communities that can help, she said at the panel, co-hosted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice.

The event, which was live streamed to an audience across the country, noted that domestic violence continues to be a growing concern to police and social service providers, even while overall crime rates have dropped in many U.S. cities.

According to the MOCDV study, the number of family-related homicides in New York City, which has otherwise seen one of the nation’s longest sustained declines in crime, increased by 28.6 percent between 2015 and 2016. Over 60 percent of those homicides were directly related to intimate partner violence.

But covering the story sometimes puts reporters and survivors at loggerheads.

Destiny Mabry

Destiny Mabry. Photo by Megan Hadley

Destiny Mabry, a Bronx, NY activist who was a victim of intimate partner violence, recalled feeling uncomfortable when reporters pushed her to talk about her abusive relationship.

“It’s important to share experiences, but if someone is not willing to share more than ‘I’m a survivor,’ they should not have to go into gruesome detail,” said Mabry. who now serves as a “peer leader’ in a New York City program that hosts workshops with young people to discuss domestic violence.

“In the age of social media, everyone wants every detail,” she added.

Melissa Jeltsen, a senior reporter at The Huffington Post, agreed that the interests of survivors and reporters are sometimes completely opposite.

For instance, she said, reporters need specific dates to create a timeline, while survivors may not remember (or want to remember) the order of events.

“You want your readers to connect with a real story,” she said, noting that a lot of the specifics are red flags that can help prevent the next tragedy.

Jeltsen, whose beat includes gender-based violence issues, said educating readers about how to prevent domestic violence should be an important part of media coverage—even though talking about prevention is not as “sexy.”

According to Kajepeeta, media coverage should start with the recognition of its power to reach victims of abuse.

Every story, she suggested, should contain when possible a hotline number or contact information about a service center.

The MOCDV media guide, she said, could help journalists and editors access resources that deepen their coverage.

The research study examined domestic violence coverage by print news outlets in the New York metropolitan region between 2013-2016.

Among its findings:

  • Only ten of the 442 articles (2.3 percent) covering NYC intimate partner homicides from 2013-16 included an intimate partner violence advocate or expert as a source.’
  • Only 15 percent of articles used terms such as “domestic violence,” “intimate partner violence,” or “domestic abuse,” and less than eight percent of the articles described the homicide as being intimate partner violence-related.
  • Less than six percent of the articles studied framed the homicide within the broader social problem of intimate partner violence.
  • Only seven articles (1.6 percent) listed intimate partner violence resources for readers.

But Jeltsen pointed out that journalists often themselves encounter stereotypes promoted by police and other officials when they try to report on domestic violence incidents.

She recalled interviewing police who claim that “women never want to press charges and they’ll go back to their abuser anyway.”

That helps to reinforce the approach of many officials who say ‘there’s nothing we can do,’ ” Jeltsen said.

Melissa Jeltsen

Melissa Jeltsen. Photo by Megan Hadley

But the media has also been a key force in bringing the issue to the forefront. Following the mass killing in Sutherland Springs, Tx last month, journalists uncovered the history of domestic abuse perpetrated by the shooter.

After the tragedy occurred, the media was responsible for uncovering Kelley’s previous abuse history.

“A lot of the data (on domestic abuse) is not collected in a systematic way,” said Kajeepeta, noting that the media are key to uncovering information that is otherwise concealed by bureaucracy.

New York is among the jurisdictions that have launched a special effort to educate citizens about abusive behavior and assist survivors. Following the launch of a city Task Force a year ago, more than $11 million has been earmarked to improve and expand local services.

Editor’s Note: Additional resources for coverage of Intimate Partner Violence are available through the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 

A full report of the live stream panel discussion will be available online.

Megan Hadley is a news intern with The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcomed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why Meek Mill is Not Alone

The recent sentencing of the Philadelphia rap artist over a probation violation underlines why America’s system of community supervision needs to change, argue two prominent justice reformers.

 The recent sentencing of Philadelphia rap artist Meek Mill to two-to-four years in a Pennsylvania prison for a probation violation that occurred 11 years after his original offense should cause policymakers and advocates alike to reexamine what “mass supervision” tools such as probation and parole do to exacerbate the problem of mass incarceration in America.

The answer is: plenty.

That’s why we signed a statement in August calling for the end of mass probation and parole supervision in America.

Glen Martin

Glenn E. Martin

The truth is that Meek Mill’s story is the rule, not the exception.

He will be locked up and become another statistic in America’s massive prison and jail system —but not because he was tried, convicted and sentenced for a crime. He will be put in a cage because he violated a condition of probation, a sentencing measure that’s often seen as a gift of compassion and the opportunity for a second chance.

That misguided view helps explain why almost five million people are on probation and parole in America today, up more than three-fold since 1980. There are more than twice as many people under community corrections supervision in America as are incarcerated.

An appalling one out of every 53 adults in America is under parole or probation supervision. As with every other area of our criminal justice system, the racial disparities are alarming. One in four young black males is under correctional control in the U.S. Most of them are on probation and parole.

These individuals suffer a partial loss of liberty due to being under government supervision. They are at risk of greater loss of liberty due to potential violations, many of which are innocuous and could be cured with measures that fall far short of incarceration.

The average person carries 15 conditions as part of their probation. A violation of any of them, like missing an appointment, failing a drug test, associating with another person with a felony conviction, or failing to pay a fine, can and often does result in incarceration. Because of this, probation and parole—founded as alternatives to incarceration—have become punitive systems that actually drive incarceration.

Vincent Schiraldi

Vincent Schiraldi

The result? Almost half of all the entrants into prison last year were incarcerated for a probation or parole violation.

It might come as a surprise to some, but our call for ending mass supervision is now mainstream thought among the very people who run America’s community corrections agencies.

The statement we signed in August calls community corrections “a significant contributor to mass incarceration.” Its signers believe that “it is possible to both significantly reduce the footprint of probation and parole and improve outcomes and public safety.”

This is not radical thinking, as demonstrated by the fact that every major probation and parole association in America also signed the statement, along with an additional 35 current and former probation and parole administrators.

Advocates and policy makers who care about reducing incarceration need to look in the mirror on this issue. Despite what are sometimes good intentions, Meek Mill’s case demonstrates that unnecessary supervision all too often leads to unnecessary incarceration.

Yet, in our efforts to eliminate mass incarceration, far too little attention is paid to mass supervision. Now is the time to change that.

Glenn E. Martin is the founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA, a national, member-driven advocacy organization that seeks to cut the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030 through empowering people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to drive criminal justice reform.

Vincent N. Schiraldi , is a senior research scientist and adjunct professor at the Columbia University Justice Lab, previously served as a Senior Adviser to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Probation, and Director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. They welcome readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Murder in Your Living Room: Rethinking TV Crime News

Veteran Chicago TV newsman Robert Jordan, Jr. argues in a new book that the media—especially broadcast outlets—too often concentrate on the most violent stories while “sleeping” through more significant developments in American justice. He explains what he means in a chat with TCR.

Even in the Internet era, the broadcast media –especially local TV stations—are the major source of news about crime and justice issues. And they remain a huge influence on public perceptions of crime. How do they handle that responsibility?

That’s one of the central questions Emmy Award-winning TV newsman Robert Jordan Jr. tries to answer in his new book, Murder in the News, published by Prometheus Books. Jordan, currently a weekend anchor for WGN-TV’s News in Chicago, applies the lessons learned during his 47-year career in broadcasting to an examination of the role reporters play in advancing (or hampering) understanding of the criminal justice system in his book.

murderIn a chat with TCR’s Megan Hadley, Jordan discusses the contrast between media coverage of today’s opioid epidemic and the crack cocaine crisis of the 1980s; how TV audiences have more influence than they think they do on what local stations decide to cover; and the constant conflict in broadcast newsrooms between “beauty and substance.”

The Crime Report: To me, the main issue of your book is summed up when you write that in connection with gang homicides, it’s “bad guys killing bad guys… who cares?” How do you get the public to care?

Robert Jordan: The answer to that, is we really don’t (care). There’s a feeling that “they” deserve it, whenever it’s bad guys dealing with bad guys, we in the media are no different. We have wives and children and husbands, and we too are victims of crime. Our own prejudices creep into our thinking, even though we try not to, you can’t help it.

But that is not what our jobs ought to be. We are here to tell stories and not to be judgmental. Over the years, I’ve had to slap myself in the face and go “wait a minute—that’s not the way I want to phrase this.” Let me go back and talk to this guy’s mother. We have to make the effort to overcome our prejudices and inclinations to think bad guys getting bad guys is OK. There are great stories hidden there that need to be told. For example, gang-related violence stories are not pretty stories, until you dig into them and they are incredibly interesting stories about survival and determination.

If you ask someone “is the life of one person more important than the life of another?” they would say everyone is equal. But we truly don’t believe that, and the coverage of murders is proof. The murder of a doctor, lawyer, newsman or child is given much more attention than (the murder of) a homeless person or a gang member.

TCR: Early in your book, you describe how gang violence received very little media attention in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and still even today. Could gang violence have been reduced if it was covered in the media earlier on?

Jordan: It probably would. (In the book), I talk about how during years when we do cover a lot of gang violence in the media, politicians to feel the heat and will either enact laws, or flood communities with more police, or do reactive things that make a difference. So to answer your question, I think there would have been a different outcome, based on the reaction that our coverage causes.

This is likewise the case when there are high-profile cases. Gang members feel it because the police are out there. And the police will tell you “oh no we do this for every case, we were out there with eager and equal intensity,” but that really isn’t true. In a high-profile case, they flood the neighborhoods. They put extra cops and detectives on, and they get into the neighborhoods and there is more pressure applied.

TCR: Should there be an entire news channel dedicated to gang-related homicides?

Jordan: I don’t think so. I think that if you had a diet of nothing but murder, you would get a few people to watch but you would not get a large audience. You would get a few eyeballs, but not enough viewers to sell advertisements and support it.

Does that mean what we are doing now has to change? I think it does. In the book, I write about the need to get producers and assignment editors out of the office and onto the streets more often so that they are plugged into the realities of the neighborhoods. Let them sit in a truck; let them go knock on the door when someone’s been murdered. If you haven’t done that before, you’re in for a surprise.

Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan Jr

You talk about tense: Walk up to someone’s house when there’s been a shooting. Folks are standing on the front porch, they are waiting for people to come by any moment with guns, and you’re standing there with a camera crew wanting to do some interviews. That will pucker your lips up.

It’s a different life in the streets. But for the most part, you are dealing with human beings who are 90 percent good, wonderful people. We forget that. We allow ourselves to be jaded by that five to ten percent of gang members, and forget about the grandmas, grandpas, brothers, sisters, and kids who are good people.

TCR: You write in the book “sooner or later, the thug life will inch its way into middle and upper class neighborhoods.” Please explain.

Jordan: We didn’t see this in the 1970s and 1980s, when crack was explosive in black neighborhoods. Now that drugs are hitting middle-class America and suburban teens with epidemic proportions, we see a different attitude about trying to get these kids help. It’s not “let’s lock them up;” it’s “let’s get them treatment.” Addiction has moved into every neighborhood and every family. So there is a realization that we all have to do something. The shame of it is that it took so long for us to come together and realize this was a social issue that we had to work across races and social status to combat. That lapse of time has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the shattering of millions of lives.

(The media) kind of slept through that story. Now we understand the depths of the epidemic for the first time. We’re talking about it because it is so widespread in Middle America; but it should’ve been something that we talked about years ago. There are unintended consequences when the media sleeps through stories. Heroin never went away. Crack has been given over to opioids. But the epidemic remains.

TCR: You write about the need for producers and assignment editors to cover a balanced mixture of stories, while also acknowledging the role of the audience as well. In your opinion, who is in charge of changing the types of stories we see in the media: the newsroom or the audience?

Jordan: Ultimately, the consumer. The reader, the viewer, the listener. But in the short term, it’s the assignment editor or the producers. They decide what the viewers will see because they make the initial decision. They decide whether or not to send out a crew on a story. They have the gut feeling which allows them to decide the hierarchy for the day. They decide what stories to put in the first segment, how to stack them.

Those are the media filters, but viewers and listeners are also determinate factors. They can text the stations and say “hey I didn’t see anything about this story,” and they can apply pressure and become a force in determining what the media covers. Because if viewers, readers and listeners say they want more of ”this or that,” then I guarantee you the media will give them more of that. That is what we do, that is our job. But for consumers, you don’t know what you don’t know. So if a murder happened in a neighborhood and we didn’t cover it, but another station did, how would viewers know? They wouldn’t. It makes pressuring the media tough.

TCR: Why is it that most television stations are using the same yardstick for deciding which murders to air, as well as which stories? Your book notes that most news channels air the same kinds of stories in the same order.

Jordan: We all go to the same journalism schools, we do the same internships, we follow the same websites, we are trained similarly and we have a manner of thinking which is very similar. We all have this understanding about what is big and what isn’t. We know the elements that cause a story. Like Harvey Weinstein, I’m sure he walks out the door and the paparazzi are all around him.

There’s a tacit feeling among us when there is a big story. We sense it. We have an understanding of our industries and we sense that a story is going to be a grabber and the audience will like it.

TCR: You discuss protest symbols, such as the hoodie Trayvon Martin was wearing and the skittles he was carrying when he was killed. The skittles and hoodie became symbols for protesting his death. Are symbols important ways for the media to spotlight social change?

Jordan: We are always looking to the unusual; that’s news. And when there is something unusual that attaches itself to a story, the reporter sees that and will run with it, because it gives it a nice hook. It’s something to hang that story on, as opposed to the usual mundane murder we cover time after time.

Sometimes it might not be just a symbol, but an element of the story. For example, a (Chicago) girl was shot in her neighborhood after performing in Obama’s second inauguration. She was an honor student. It might not always be a symbol like a skittles, but it’s an element. An element the reporter can seize upon and help drive that story differently.

TCR: As we have seen over the past few weeks, movie director Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and many other powerful men have suffered accusations of sexual assault. It began with media attention focused on the allegations. But others wonder why it took so long for the media to catch up with systematic harassment of women in the workplaceor other forms of misbehavior.

Jordan: In the book I give an example of John Burge, a police officer in Chicago, who was torturing innocent men into confessions. I remember when that was going on and it’s one of the most embarrassing times of my career because I had heard about it, but we all tended to believe the authorities. So if the police said that’s not true, we believed it. Consequently, so many things slipped through.

See also: Cracking the Stonewall on a Nun’s Murder: A Reporter’s Story

In the case of many of these alleged predators, there were mumblings about their lifestyles that we, in the media, tended to overlook. Well, all it takes is a crack; and then, as you have seen, the dam breaks and there is a flood. There isn’t a day of the week that goes by now that there aren’t new revelations about sexual impropriety. I was just talking with some friends and saying we hope this continues. Inevitably, we move on after a while to something else.

We allow stories to remain hot, headline issues, but then at some point, something else comes along and we move on to it. But the consequences will be enormous, and as a result there will be change.

I think women now are no longer afraid to speak up and that is a huge breakthrough. I’m not critical of the fact we move on from these stories; I’m pleased that there is a causal change because we were giving a topic so much attention.

TCR: You write that the more viewers you have, the more you can charge for advertising and this has caused some stations to come up with the dumbest, wackiest, ill- conceived ideas a TV station could think of. Is this a problem of today’s broadcast media?

Jordan: Broadcast television is fighting over the bones of the audience, because most of the audience is gone. People have gone to cable, viewing (news) on computers, cell phones, tablets. They record news shows and fast-forward through commercials. The paradigm has shifted away from broadcast journalism and stations are fighting for the scraps of the audience. They are trying to figure out ways to gain viewers through promotions or goofy commercials.

There is an emphasis on beauty over substance. A “weather girl” is placed on the air as opposed to a meteorologist. They are going for more of a beauty queen look rather than someone who has substance in an effort to attract viewers. But stations are starting to realize you better have a trained meteorologist on the screen.

It goes back and forth, but it doesn’t mean stations aren’t always searching for a way to gather viewers by any means necessary. And over the years, there have been dumb and inappropriate things done.

TCR: Americans of color are not well represented in newsrooms today. How has that affected coverage of crime and justice issues?

Jordan: A  multicultural newsroom adds to the richness of ideas, and expands the thought process in editorial meetings and discussions. The debates can sometimes become heated—especially if they become personal—but they allow journalists to examine a subject from many different angles, including some we may not have considered before.

As an African American I found it difficult to cover a rally of the Ku Klux Klan in Nashville, Tennessee; and, years later, a rally by Nazis in Skokie, Illinois. I remember wondering to myself if I could be fair and honest in telling the story. I couldn’t just let the words flow from my pen as I would normally do. I had to scrutinize each word and ask myself, was this the most appropriate way to tell the story? When I turned in the Nazi story, my editor said I had done a good job. I didn’t know quite how to take that compliment. I still don’t.

TCR: You are critical of  today’s news coverage of crime.  How can TV do a better job?   

Jordan: I am not critical of television stations that focus on crime. These are necessary and important stories that should be covered and dissected and explored from many different angles. What does bother me is the use of crime stories as a tool for gaining ratings points: having blaring banners and agitated news anchors, taking viewers to a reporter standing in front of yellow police tape with nothing to report other than, “Our News Chopper 7 is overhead in this neighborhood where a suspect is on the loose.”

I think newsroom gatekeepers, assignment editors and producers, are too quick to “poo poo” a story—especially a murder in minority neighborhood—without looking deeper into the case to see if there might be a good story that was about to be overlooked. We miss some really good stories because we let our old perceptions about “who is important and who is not” blind us. (Those perceptions) keep us searching for the same types of victims and perpetrators instead of breaking the mold, and going after potentially good stories that are right in front of our faces.

TCR: The accusations of sexual harassment we discussed earlier also include some powerful media figures, both on and off  TV. What’s your take?

Jordan: I’m old enough to remember the days of the “Good Ol’ Boys Network.” If you were a CEO or powerful politician or respected civic leader, what you did behind closed doors was your business. Many times, the private lives of these individuals were whispered about in private conversations, but their scandalous activities were seldom reported. I can remember hearing men say outrageous, salacious things to women. I also remember admonishing men for making filthy remarks or telling off-color jokes around women. I was not alone in standing up for women and gays at a time when it was not popular to do so. But still, lamentably there weren’t many men who did stand up for women’s rights: Neither did the press.

Fortunately, these (sexual harassment charges) are more than a “trending” story that will drop off the news radar any time soon. This is a watershed moment, a turning point, in how men will be allowed to treat women and “get away with it.” Women are determining what is and what is not acceptable in a relationship. The new adjustment in sexual protocol will make some people uncomfortable. That’s too bad. There needs to be a sexual etiquette that men and women (mostly men) clearly understand, and when it is breached there should be grave consequences. But this will take time. An entire older generation, maybe two, of wrong-thinking male chauvinists will have to die out, so their way of thinking becomes extinct along with them.

This interview was condensed and slightly edited. Megan Hadley is a news intern with The Crime Report. She welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Study: Crime Drops When Neighborhoods Get a Makeover

A combination of hot-spot policing and a redevelopment project resulted in crime reduction by as much as 49 percent in one at-risk community. The study of Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood underlines the link between community participation, improved real estate and public safety.

A Pittsburgh-based nonprofit development organization reduced crime by up to 49 percent through a hybrid strategy of combining hot-spot policing and real estate intervention.

However, it came with a high cost, according to a University of Michigan Study.

The study, published by the Transportation Research Institute of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, looked at the neighborhood of East Liberty in Pittsburgh— a thriving community throughout the 19th and mid-20th centuries, and currently home to the third largest central business district (CBD) in Pennsylvania.

The study examined whether improving the quality of housing stock in partnership with local community organizations would affect crime “hotspots” already targeted by police for sustained law enforcement activity.

It focused on the impact of the East Liberty Development, Inc.(ELDI) , a nonprofit development organization established by the city in 1979 to collaborate with neighborhood stakeholders in planning, advocacy, facilitation, and investment to revitalize the community

Significant drops in the rate of crime incidents were documented between 2008, when sustained redevelopment began, and 2012.

“The reduction in crime incidents was appreciably higher when compared relative to neighborhoods in close proximity to East Liberty or the average reduction in crime citywide,” concluded the study, which was conducted by Numeritics, a Pittsburgh-based consulting practice.

According to ELDI, “disastrous urban planning” in the 1960s generated an increased rates of unemployment and crime. In 1999, the organization formulated a 10-year plan for development entitled, “A Vision for East Liberty.”

Through this plan, ELDI acquired problematic properties, hired property managers and hired off-duty police officers to refurbish, manage and monitor these properties.

Study author Tayo Fabusuyi, who was the lead strategist at Numeritics and is also an adjunct faculty member at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University, conducted the four-year study.

According to data obtained from the Pittsburgh police, crime incidents had declined by 26 percent in East Liberty compared to 20 percent in the surrounding neighborhoods and 16 percent citywide between 2008 and 2012.

Crime within the area where the implementation was most focused decreased by 49 percent.

Beyond the 49 percent reduction in residential crime in East Liberty between 2008 and 2012, Numeritics also documented a sustained decrease in crime incidents in the neighborhood from 2008 to 2015, which represents the most recent data analyzed.

But as crime rates decreased, demand for properties in the neighborhood increased, translating into housing prices appreciating by more than 120 percent between 2008 and 2012.

Identification of problematic properties—ones which were typically vacant, abandoned or owned by slumlords—was based on input from residents and ELDI staff members who live in the neighborhood. ELDI then acquired more than 200 of these units over the four year period, representing approximately three percent of the rental apartment units in the neighborhood.

Many high-rise housing projects were replaced with low-rise, townhouse-style mixed-income housing. Other initiatives focused on bringing businesses, shops, and restaurants back to the area.

Property managers were then hired to enforce tenant lease obligations prohibiting drug dealing, illegal activity, and disorderly behavior that previous property management had condoned.

Additionally, ELDI hired off-duty police officers to monitor properties, relocated squatters in abandoned homes, and boarded up and maintained vacant houses they did not own in order to generate a sense of order.

All of these initiatives led to increased guardianship in both ELDI-owned and non-ELDI-owned properties, which has been documented in existing literature as being strongly correlated with reduced criminal activity, according to Fabusuyi.

However, the price of redevelopment was high. In 2008, the cost of sheathing or roofing a property—about $20,000—exceeded the average market value of an apartment unit in East Liberty.

Over a three-year period (2008-2011), ELDI also spent approximately $45,000 hiring off-duty police officers at a rate of $110/man-hour.

Furthermore, ELDI’s rigorous screening procedure for potential tenants and its zero tolerance for disorderly conduct translated into a higher vacancy rates.

ELDI has been able to strengthen its anchor within East Liberty through more than two decades of community development.

However, the challenge for ELDI is raising the consciousness of East Liberty to a point where the neighborhood can police itself, without the need for frequent outside intervention, the study said.

The study argued that the results could be instructive for work in similar at-risk neighborhoods elsewhere.

“We conclude that a community-oriented approach to local redevelopment that reduces crime in a sustainable way should emphasize, in addition to community or third-party policing, strategies to improve and leverage the neighborhood’s social cohesion and informal social control,” the study said.

The full report can be read here.

This summary was produced by TCR news intern Brian Edsall. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Is Mass Murder Exceptionally American?

According to an Idaho historian and commentator, events like the recent mass shootings in Texas and Las Vegas and the 2015 massacre at a Charleston, S.C., church belong to a litany of similar tragedies occurring around the world—including countries where there are strict gun licensing laws.

The recent tragedies in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, are causing many Americans to wonder, “Is this kind of mass murder peculiarly American?”

The facts suggest otherwise.

There is nothing exceptionally American about mass murder or even firearms mass murder —even though some of the rhetoric accompanying these tragic events portrays the U.S. as singularly plagued by them.

For starters: the FBI defines mass murder as four or more dead (including the killer) in one event, in one location. [FBI, Serial Murder: Multidisciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, 8]

Of course, we are excluding the genocidal mass murders that largely define the 20th Century (for example, the Turkish extermination of the Armenians; the Holocaust; Rwanda; among far too many).

The types of mass murder referred to here are crimes not committed by or with the acquiescence of governments.

Former President Barack Obama, for example, declared after the 2015 shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., that left nine people dead and three injured “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

He went on to say, “It does not happen with this kind of frequency.”

The implication was that the U.S.’s relatively laissez faire approach to gun control is at fault.

According to Politifact, the first sentence was incorrect, noting that between 2000 and 2014 there were 23 incidents of mass shootings in ten other countries besides the United States; though, it added, the second sentence was “not quite as wrong as the first claim.”

The more commonly accepted measure of crime is events per 100,000 population or dead per 100,000. Even then, the U.S. is only fourth on the list of mass-murder deaths per 100,000 people (0.15) compared to #3, Finland (0.34), #2, Norway (1.3), and #1, Switzerland (1.7).

Mass murders (as well as the far common ordinary murders) are disproportionately committed by persons with severe mental illness problems, whose actions are clearly a consequence of those problems—and the U.S. is not alone in suffering from the consequences of their actions, whether they involve firearms or not.

Christian Dornier

Christian Dornier. Photo via Wikipedia

A few examples over the last several decades:

Christian Dornier, 31, under treatment for “nervous depression,” murdered 14 people in three villages in eastern France. He was later found innocent by reason of insanity.

Eric Borel, 16, murdered his family with a hammer and a baseball bat, and then went on a shooting rampage in the nearby town of Cuers, France, in September 1995. He killed 12 in total beside himself.

In March 2002, Richard Durn murdered eight local city officials and wounded nineteen others in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris. Durn had a master’s degree in political science and “a long history of psychological problems.”

After his arrest, he was described as “calm but largely incoherent,” then leaped to his death through a window.

In April 2002, 19-year old Robert Steinhaeuser went into a school in Erfurt, Germany, and murdered 18 people before killing himself.

In April of 2011, Wellington Menezes de Oliveira went into a school in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, murdering 12 children, before killing himself. His suicide note was unclear, but a police officer described de Oliveira as a “hallucinating person.”

Later the same month, Tristan van der Vlis went into a shopping mall in Alphen aan der Rijn, the Netherlands, and shot six people to death. The Netherlands has very strict gun licensing laws; nonetheless van der Vlis had a gun license in spite of a history of brief mental illness hospitalizations and suicide attempts.

Countries with more restrictive gun control laws also have non-firearm mass murders, such as the five stabbed to death in Calgary, Alberta, in 2013. Matthew de Grood was found not criminally responsible because of “a mental disorder.

Australia is sometimes given as an example of the effectiveness of gun control for preventing mass murders such as the 1996 Port Arthur massacre which killed 35 people and wounded 23.

But Australia still has mass murders after that gun control law, such as the mass stabbing that killed eight siblings in Queensland, Australia, and blunt object mass murders such as one that killed five people in Sydney in 2009.

The mental illness often present in these tragedies, schizophrenia, is a genetic disease affecting about 1 percent of the population.

Obviously, not all mass murders fit into the mental illness category.

Some are acts of terrorism. A few fit no existing pattern. The recent mass murder in Las Vegas, for example, seems to be a Black Swan crime: a multimillionaire who engaged in meticulous planning with devastating loss of life (although lower than at least four other U.S. mass murders in the last three decades).

Eight terrorist mass murder attacks in Paris in 2016 resulted in 130 deaths, although only four of the incidents qualify as mass murders (15 dead at Le Carillion and Le Petit Cambodge restaurants, with firearms; five dead at Café Bonne Biere; 90 dead at the Bataclan concert hall, from firearms and grenades).

For many people, it is a surprise to find out that there are many mass murders committed with weapons other than firearms.

USA Today gathered data on mass murders (“defined [as] killing four or more victims”) committed in the U.S. from 2006 through 2010.

“A third of mass murders didn’t involve guns at all. In 15 incidents, the victims died in a fire. In 20 others, the killer used a knife or a blunt object,” the newspaper reported.

Mass murders by arson are also a problem in other countries:

Childers, Queensland’s Palace Backpackers Hostel was intentionally burned in 2000, killing 15.

The 2011 Quakers Hill Nursing Home fire killed 11, set by a nurse after police questioned him about drug abuse.

Other weapons besides guns and fire are also used. In the last few years, there have been multiple motor vehicle mass murders in Europe and Australia (84 murdered with a truck in Nice, France, 12 in Berlin, Germany, with a truck, three with a SUV, one by stabbing in London, five with a truck in Stockholm, 13 with a truck in Barcelona, Spain.


Clayton Cramer

While all of these were terrorist mass murders, others have been mental health-related (six murdered with car in Melbourne, Australia).

While our rates of firearms mass murder are higher than most other developed nations, we are not at the top of the list.

Including non-firearms mass murders might move us further down the list.

Clayton Cramer teaches history at College of Western Idaho. His ninth book, Lock, Stock, and Barrel, will be published by Praeger Press in February 2018. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Prison Story: When ‘Extraction Squad’ Comes for You

An inmate at Pelican Bay State prison in California recounts being shackled, beaten with nightsticks and Tasered because he neglected to hand over a pack of coffee. The humiliation, he writes in an essay for The Beat Within prison writers’ workshop, was nearly as awful as the pain.

As I stared up at the ceiling of my cell, my body still aching from the brutal beating I received the day before, unable to move more than the few inches or even scratch the unrelenting itch t at the tip of my nose, due to being chained to a concrete slab, completely naked in five-point restraints, my mind drifted off to the events that led up to this particular brand of humiliation.

It was a Tuesday morning and breakfast was close by. I could hear the squeaking wheels from the food cart echoing outside the pod door. I had been up since 4 am, a normal routine ever since arriving to the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in Pelican Bay, and as I drank my lukewarm coffee out of a milk carton, I watched a few minutes of the morning news.

North Korea was at it again and George W. Bush was sounding more and more like John Wayne. Once the coffee had kicked in, I jumped right into my daily workout routine of 500 ten-count burpees straight, trying desperately to leave as many negative thoughts and emotions as I possibly could in that puddle of sweat on my cell floor—while at the same time preparing myself for the everyday possibility of the wrong cell door being popped open, intentional or accidental, and the term “survival of the fittest” becoming way too real.

Imagine how it feels to know at some point your cell door was going to be popped open and you would be forced to fight another prisoner sometimes two, usually with weapons, in a gladiator style fight for your life, while the guards sit in gun booths, watching and wagering money on which prisoner would win.

Having to live each and every day on the edge of chaos and insanity, forcing you to work out as if your life depended on it.

Because at some point it definitely will.

Once I finished exercising, I took a bird bath using a milk carton as a shower head, then cleaned my cell and prepared myself for breakfast, as I watched more of the morning news.

Then the pod door opened and the food cart rolled. The guard yelled, “Show time! Bright lights on!” as he carried the trays to each cell, passing them through the slot on each cell door. Once the last tray is passed out, you officially have five minutes to eat before the guards are back to collect the trays, whether you’re finished eating or not.

On each tray there’s a single serving pack of coffee that must be turned in with your tray, whether you decide to drink the coffee or not. The reason for this, according to prison officials, is because the packs are lined with aluminum in order to keep the coffee fresh.

For security reasons prisoners are not allowed to keep the packs in their cells. In fact, they aren’t allowed to have anything in its original packaging. Everything has to be placed in paper bags and paper cups. All of this is done in the name of institutional security, but unfortunately, I forgot to turn in the coffee pack with my tray.

It was an honest mistake on my part, but apparently the guard didn’t think so.

Rather than just asking me for the coffee pack, he chose instead to threaten me, calling me names and telling me how he was going to make me wish that I wasn’t alive if I didn’t hand over the coffee pack.

He was taking things far beyond the normal everyday humiliation that comes with just being in the SHU, talking to me in such a way that I could no longer swallow my pride. How many times can you swallow your pride before you run out of pride to swallow?

I told the guard that if he really felt that way, then why not just open the door and come and get it himself. But, of course, he didn’t. They never do, choosing instead to summon the Extraction Squad and have me “cell extracted,” or better yet, forcibly removed from my cell.

pelican bay

Aerial Shot of Pelican Bay prison. Photo by Jelson25 via Wikipedia.

About 20 minutes later, I heard the Extraction Squad approaching, marching into the pod in paramilitary style formation, each of them wearing crash helmets, face and body shields, and carrying night sticks, Tasers and 37 mm block guns. Without saying a word, they popped open the tray slot on my cell door and shot me on the top of my forehead at point blank range with the block gun, while at the same time shooting me with the Taser gun.

Prongs were embedded in my chest with volts of electricity so intense that my body locked up, to the point that not even my mouth could move causing me to black out, and when I regained consciousness I was hog tied. I was handcuffed behind my back, legs shackled together, and a chain running from my hands to my feet, forcing my hands and feet to meet and separating my shoulder in the process.

It was causing pain so excruciating that I blacked out once again, regaining consciousness as I was being dragged down a flight of stairs, head bouncing up and down off each step like a basketball being dribbled.

As they dragged me through a corridor before ramming my head into a door frame and knocking me out cold and then being Tasered awake by 50.000 volts of prongs. I was then wheeled naked to what’s known as VCU (The Violence Control Unit), which is like a prison within a prison within a prison, before finally being moved to the infamous “Butt Naked Cells,” a kind of torture chamber used for prisoners who dared to think they had any rights that Pelican Bay was bound to respect.

It was here that I was chained naked to a bed in what’s known as five-point restraints: both hands, both feet, and a chain across my neck. There wasn’t much else in the cell. No mattress, no bedding, no clothing.

Nothing whatsoever to shield me from the humiliation that comes with being chained up this way.

I was stripped of all my clothing and my dignity, all over a single serving pack of coffee.

As I lay there, staring up at the ceiling, trying desperately to take my mind off the growing need to use the bathroom, there was a toilet right next to me, but I was unable to move more than a few inches due to the restraints.

So, it might as well have been in another country. As I began to come to terms with the fact that it was only a matter of time before I would be forced to use the bathroom on myself, these feelings of shame and humiliation began to sweep over me.

It was then that I realized just how painful one’s pride can be.

“Jesse J” is an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison in California, the state’s only “supermax” penal institution, located in Del Norte County. The Crime Report is grateful to the San Francisco-based prison writers’ and artists’ workshop operated by The Beat Within for permission to publish his essay. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org