Ending ‘Death Culture’ for Prison Workers

Employees of the nation’s prisons and jails face significant physical and mental health issues. Experts gathered for a second time at a national symposium to collect more data and develop solutions for worker problems.

In 2003, Mike Van Patten had come to the end of his road. His marriage of 19
years was over.

He was sitting on the floor in his kitchen, a partly empty bottle of gin by his side, tears
running down his face and a loaded 9 mm Smith & Wesson pistol in his hand.

He was ready to end his life as a longtime corrections officer at the Oregon State
Penitentiary in Salem. He believed he could no longer cope with the intense, daily challenges of his job and the failures of his personal life.

Had his 17-year-old son Trevor not walked into the house and found his father about to
shoot himself through head, Van Patten would not be the model corrections officer he is today.

He is a sergeant working at a minimum-security prison who has helped design
programs for his peers that include exercise, openly talking about stressful events and treating inmates with more respect.

“I’ve developed a program for department coordinators to help the staff,” Van Patten
said. “If we can save one person [from suicide], we have done what we could….If we make this stuff stick, they will do all right.”

Ann Jacobs, director of the Prison Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal
Justice, emphasized that while suicide is an attention-getting issue for thousands of corrections officers in the United States, managers of corrections institutions must detect many other problems long before suicide becomes an apparent choice.

High Stress Jobs

Mental and physical health problems among corrections officers span the spectrum from mild depression to suicide and high blood pressure to heart attacks because dealing with inmates is intense work that can require exceptional people skills. Moreover, such demands as mandatory overtime cause additional stress on officers and their families.
Yet no one in the field of corrections seems to know the extent of the problems, nor does much rigorous research data exist.

Nine years into his second marriage, Oregon’s Van Patten said he and his wife have learned to talk about issues he brings home. Trevor, his son from his first marriage, has followed his father into corrections.

“He and his wife openly discuss his issues and his work,” said Van Patten, who said he
never talked with his first wife about the stressful events that happened in his days at the

Van Patten told his story to a reporter after a version of it was shown on a video screen to about 50 state corrections officials and officers, federal officials and scholars at the second National Symposium on Correctional Workers Health. The video was one of the more compelling moments of the symposium.

The session was held at the St. Louis University Law School in advance of the annual conference of the American Correctional Association (ACA), which concludes Tuesday in St. Louis.

“The ACA conference is how we spread the word” about the necessity of finding ways to
counter the mental and physical health issues that corrections officers face, said Colette Peters, director of the Oregon Department of Corrections since 2012.

Organizers said the symposium’s intent was to build awareness among corrections
professionals about the mental and physical health issues that confront corrections officers in daily contact with inmates.

In an interview, Peters said her agency has been working for several years to create a different culture among its 4,500 employees, administrative as well as
front-line corrections officers.

Words like “offender,” “inmate” and “prisoner” are not used.

Instead, the man or woman in prison is an “adult in custody.”

“We hire corrections professionals,” she said. “Guards stand in the corner. We want our
corrections offices to follow the three Rs: be a role model, reinforce positive behavior and
redirect negatives.”

A litany of common problems cited by corrections officers was recited by several speakers. They include high blood pressure and hypertension, obesity, depression, inability to communicate with spouses and partners, and inability to communicate with peers, superiors and “adults in custody.”

Caterina Spinaris is a clinical psychologist who founded Desert Waters Correctional Outreach, a non-profit corporation that promotes “the occupational, personal and family well-being of the corrections workforce” through “evidence-informed resources, solutions and support.”

In an interview, she termed prison environments throughout the United States a “death
culture” for employees.

“Desensitized to Death”

“They are almost desensitized to death,” Spinaris said. “There is a culture of ‘toughness.’
It’s a culture of false resilience and of avoidance and denial. There is a relative lack of effective coping skills,” meaning corrections officers often are not trained to function in a healthy manner in their jobs.

That problem is compounded, she said, when prisons are located in rural areas where both jobs and professionals who can help corrections officers are scarce.

Many corrections officers have large gun and knife collections in their homes, which makes firearms easy to use if an officer feels he has reached the end of the road and has no way out except to take his own life, Spinaris said, adding that, “Some have guns in every room.”

She developed and expanded her interest and research in the mental and physical
health of corrections officers because they kept coming into her office for counseling.

Asked how long it takes to change the culture of a prison work force, Spinaris referred to
a lack of objective data that was theme throughout the symposium: More hard data, gleaned through research and supported by federal and foundation grants, are needed for the professionals to be able to make long-term, concrete proposals to create positive results for corrections employees.

In a 28-page brochure published in 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center stated: “There is very little research on the prevalence and effectiveness of correctional officer wellness programs. Both the American Correctional Association and the National Institute of Justice have published guidelines for the development of [correctional officer] wellness programs but neither is evidence-based.”

No one ventured a guess as to how long it would take to change the work environments
and cultures of hundreds of prisons and jails in the United States. “I know of a small probation office where it took 10 years,” Spinaris said.

Repps Hudson is a veteran newspaperman and freelance writer in St. Louis who is an adjunct at local universities. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Report Urges Police Transparency on Forfeiture Slush Funds

A new edition to the 2010 report “Policing for Profit” ranks the states’ efforts to protect citizen rights, spotlighting the lack of transparency by police departments on the use of seized millions.

The aggressive pursuit of people’s homes, cash, and possessions through use of civil forfeiture laws continues to escalate, becoming an essential “cash cow” for law enforcement departments that show little or no transparency in how they spend the money they seize from those who haven’t even been formally charged with a crime, according to an updated report by the Institute of Justice (IJ).

In an expanded second edition of the report Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, IJ ranked states by their protection of citizens’ rights with regard to civil forfeiture. Thirty-five states ranked below a “C,”  with the 10 worst being New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming. At the very bottom of the list are Massachusetts and North Dakota, the two states to receive an “F.”

The 2010 release of Policing for Profit, along with newspaper stories on questionable police seizures, brought more attention to the controversy. In recent years, New Mexico and Washington, D.C. passed reforms, and lawmakers across the country are taking more of an interest in civil forfeiture’s abuses in light of the staggering increases in seizures—in 2014, annual deposits into the Department of Justice’s Assets Forfeiture Fund reached $4.5 billion, a 4,667 percent increase over 1986.

The IJ report, written by Dick M. Carpenter II, Ph.D., Lisa Knepper, Angela C. Erickson and Jennifer McDonald, with contributions from Wesley Hottot and Keith Diggs, calls for abolishing civil forfeiture, and if not, to prevent law enforcement from seizing money and possessions until the standard is raised to “beyond a reasonable doubt.” As it stands, a person’s home or business can be seized without his or her being convicted or even charged with a crime.

The report also urges lawmakers to “remove any financial incentive for law enforcement to seize property.” When it comes to reform, “Opposition from law enforcement is fierce,” notes the new IJ report, which delves into the lack of transparency on what police do with the money seized in the chapter “Following the Funds.”

According to the report, “most jurisdictions lack any reporting requirements for forfeiture expenditure.” Across the country, the three law-enforcement categories receiving funds appear to be salaries, equipment, and “other.” The IJ was able to obtain “equitable sharing records” from eight states. In this group, between 15 percent and 34 percent of forfeitures went to equipment and between 23 and 40 percent went to “other law enforcement expenses.” Just 1.7 percent of the money seized by police went to community programs such as crime prevention and drug abuse treatment, “despite the importance civil forfeiture’s defenders often place on such spending.” For example, Arizona spent 23 percent ($4.8 million) of state forfeiture gains on salaries, 35 percent ($7.5 million) on “other,” and 23 percent ($4.9 million) on equipment.

“Incentives matter to law enforcement,” the report concludes, “and when decisions are made about civil forfeiture, the ease of the process and, especially, the possibility of financial reward are key factors. This is a dangerous reality given that allowing law enforcement to self-generate revenue undermines democratic controls, distorts law enforcement priorities and puts property owners at risk.”

This summary was prepared by TCR Deputy Web Editor Nancy Bilyeau. The full report can be found online here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Can Making Neighborhoods Safer Boost Organized Crime?

A new study argues that innovative crime-reduction policies can lead to an increase in organized crime activities. Even though the impact may be temporary, according to author Iain W. Long of Cardiff University, his findings suggests a shrewd crime boss can undermine those strategies.

Innovative crime-reduction policies can produce a temporary increase in organized crime activity, argues a forthcoming study in The Manchester School, an economics journal edited by the University of Manchester (UK) School of Social Science.

While the increase may not be sustained over time, the potential for such policies to “backfire” adds an unexpected twist to crime-fighting strategies, writes Iain W. Long of Cardiff University in Wales.

Law enforcement agencies today employ a number of tactics, such as predictive policing and “hot-spot” targeting , to make neighborhoods safer and deter offenders— and the tactics are often linked to efforts by justice practitioners and social activists to promote court reform or reduce the socio-economic roots of criminal behavior, such as unemployment.

But a shrewd crime kingpin can undermine those efforts.

Under normal circumstances, activities aimed at increasing the “opportunity costs” of engaging in criminality discourage illegal activity and cause crime levels to fall, the study said.

“In the presence of organized crime, however, the outcome is less certain.”

While such activities can move many individuals “on the margins” away from crime, Long argued, organized criminal groups merely double down on their own activities with fewer but more determined members.

“Those who still opt for a career in the (criminal) organization are hardened criminals (and) they require relatively little compensation for engaging in criminal acts,” he wrote.

“With this in mind, the organization substitutes away from a large, inactive membership towards a small, prolific one. This may help to explain evidence suggesting that (a crime-reduction) policy can backfire in the presence of organized crime.”

Long applied a series of formulas to quantify what he said were the counter-intuitive effects of the reduction in some forms of criminality. The formulas suggested that “protracted” periods of organized criminal activity were a byproduct of concentrated efforts to reduce violence and other criminal behavior.

Organized crime groups’ ability to continue their activities or even strengthen them depended on crime bosses’ skills in motivating and attracting members, the study indicated.

Even traditional forms of crime-fighting—such as an upsurge in arrests—don’t necessarily weaken the cartels.

He cited for example the U.S. experience in the so-called War on Drugs in the 1980s, which not only saw a dramatic increase in arrests for heroin and cocaine trafficking, but an increase in successful convictions, from 85% in 1985 to 92% in 1989.

Yet, over the same period, “the availability of both drugs increased, whilst their prices remained stable,” Long wrote, suggesting that drug cartels had not been deterred.

The study, entitled “The Storm Before the Calm? Adverse Effects of Tackling Organized Crime,” will be published in The Manchester School journal next month. It is available on line here.

This summary was prepared by TCR Executive Editor Stephen Handelman. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Keep Out’ Warnings Goad Skilled Cyberhackers into Trying Harder: Study

University of Maryland-College Park researchers set up over 200 “honeypot” computers to test whether online warnings deter cyberthieves. Quite the opposite, they found—in a study that may be a wakeup call to law enforcement.

Warnings aimed at discouraging cyberhackers have almost no effect on skilled cybercriminals, according to a University of Maryland-College Park study.

In a finding that is likely to prove discouraging to law enforcement, the study discovered that warning “banners” set to flash across screens to discourage illegal online activity actually prodded trespassers to increase their efforts to infiltrate computer networks.

Researchers set up a number of “honeypot” computer accounts at a large American university, which was not named, to lure and monitor hackers to test whether “situational deterring cues” discourage system trespassing —”one of the fastest growing, yet least understood, forms of cybercriminal activity,” according to the study, released Wednesday by Criminology & Public Policy, published by the American Society of Criminology.

The University of Maryland researchers set up a number of decoy computer accounts and during a six-month period in 2012 waited for the trespassers to arrive. And they certainly did.

The study authors—Alexander Testa, David Maimon, Bertrand Sobesto, and Michel Cukier reported 553 unique “system trespassing events” on the 221 target computers.

Once the hackers had broken into the honeypot computers their screens flashed with an online warning banner:

The actual or attempted unauthorized access, use, or modification of this system is strictly prohibited. Unauthorized users are subject to institutional disciplinary proceedings and/or criminal and civil penalties under state, federal, or other applicable domestic and foreign laws. The use of this system is monitored and recorded for administrative and security reasons. Anyone accessing this system expressly consents to such monitoring and is advised that if such monitoring reveals possible evidence of criminal activity, the Institution may provide the evidence of such activity to law enforcement officials.

The researchers then observed and recorded the hackers’ behavior: How they navigated the attacked computer system, or changed file permissions, even after they were exposed to no-trespass warnings.

Those who had broken through the barriers to access administrator accounts—the privileged accounts that provide widespread access and the ability to wreak the maximum damage, usually held by information technology staff—didn’t appear dissuaded by the warning.

In fact, according to the researchers, hackers “increased the proportion of system trespassing events in which the ‘change file permission’ command was recorded,” compared to a control group that did not see a warning.

In a finding that they said surprised them, “sanction threats in an attacked computer system escalated the manipulation of file permission.”

In other words, the warning only apparently goaded them to keep hacking.

Some 21 percent of the hackers ferreted out by the decoy computers appear to be relative amateurs who did not attempt to crack administrative accounts, and in this group, there were signs of users being intimidated or deterred by the online warnings.

The study authors concluded that the more skilled hackers possessed “high criminal self-efficacy” and were confident in their ability to escape detection. Another possibility is that the sight of the warning banner made them react “defiantly.”

When faced with a threat, “administrative trespassers may escalate their offending in response to a sanction threat perceived as illegitimate,” the study said.

The lesson for security services, say the authors, is that more stringent methods are needed to deter the kinds of cybercriminality that have resulted in the theft of thousands of individuals’ identities, credit card numbers and other private information from large corporate networks over the past several years.

While they did not rule out the use of online warnings as a deterrent, the authors recommended the development of more sophisticated strategies that employed “repeated visual and verbal cues that can be responsive to a diverse group of offenders and situations in cyberspace.”

The full study, entitled “Illegal Roaming and File Manipulation on Target Computers” is available online here.

This summary was prepared by TCR Deputy Editor (Digital) Nancy Bilyeau. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Can Medieval Law Keep ICE from the Courthouse?

Local courthouses have become the latest battleground in the federal government’s attempt to co-opt local criminal justice systems for immigration enforcement. The 15th-century doctrine of common-law privilege from arrest could be a useful precedent in their defense, says a University of Denver law professor.

Local courthouses have become the latest battleground in the federal government’s attempt to co-opt local criminal justice systems for immigration enforcement, raising concern among state judges that ICE arrests are interfering with the basic administration of justice.

But could local jurisdictions find defense in a medieval law? In an article forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal Forum, Christopher Lasch reaches back to the era of Henry IV and blows the dust from a doctrine that may help protect the courthouse, and those coming before it: the common-law privilege from arrest.

The common-law privilege from arrest dates back to the early 15th century, and protected individuals who had business before the court, as well as anyone who found themselves in the presence of the King, his justices, or inside the palace itself.

The doctrine was upheld in America, where it was broadly interpreted to include “all cases” and “any matter pending before a lawful tribunal,” according to the legal scholar Simon Greenleaf.

Today, the privilege only survives in its application to members of congress. But Lasch argues that “three compelling reasons support application of the privilege to those subjected to courthouse immigration arrests.”

First, immigration proceedings are civil, despite increasing use of criminal rhetoric by politicians over the last two decades; and the common-law doctrine was largely used to protect individuals before the court from civil arrests.

Second, historic arguments upholding the privilege are in line with the concerns of today’s courts, and in particular, the objections of local judges to ICE arrests. Officials are concerned that the threat of arrest will drive witnesses, defendants, and civil litigants away from the court, effectively cutting off access to justice– as one judge noted in a case decided in 1738 (Cole v. Hawkins), “it would produce much terror and great distraction.”

Third, the doctrine’s use in the U.S. “demonstrates that federal and state courts alike have an interest in enforcing the privilege, making the doctrine particularly apt for resolving the federalism conflict created by courthouse arrests.”

“The need for resort to ancient authority stands as evidence not of weakness in the doctrine, but of just what an aberration these courthouse immigration arrests are,” concludes Lasch.

The full article by Christopher N. Lasch can be downloaded here. This summary was prepared by Deputy TCR Editor Victoria Mckenzie. Readers’ comments welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Can Mental Health Courts Stop the ‘Revolving Door’ of Justice?

A three-year study of participants in a Florida mental health court—the longest of its kind—found “significantly” lower re-arrest rates among individuals who completed the program of community-based treatment and counseling.

A three-year study of participants in one Florida mental health court program found that the rate of recidivism dropped “significantly” after they successfully completed the course of treatment mandated by the court as an alternative to jail time.

According to the authors of the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) study, their findings, which represent the longest period of examination of mental health court outcomes of any previously published study, demonstrates that alternative courts can end the “revolving door” which cycles many mentally troubled individuals between jail and the streets.

“The ‘revolving door’ has been exhaustive of institutional resources, resulting in such a poor system of treatment that many argue that the system …treats offenders with mental health challenges to the extent that recidivism is inevitable,” wrote the study authors, Julie Costopoulos of FIT’s School of Psychology; and Bethany Wellman, a doctoral student at the school.

Their study of 118 participants in a Florida mental health court, which was not named, found that three months after release, 90% were not rearrested. After six months, 81% remained free of any charges; and three years after release, 54% had not recidivated.

Just as significantly, the authors found that those participants who were re-arrested were picked up usually for much lesser offenses than those which originally landed them in trouble with the law.

The authors claimed the study provided additional evidence that the targeted community-based treatment mandated by the mental health court helped participating individuals develop the skills and confidence to overcome their illness to the extent they could avoid repeated involvement with the justice system.

A Bureau of Justice Statistics study cited by the authors found that 55% percent of male inmates and 73 % of female inmates in the U.S. were mentally ill, with 23% of those mentally troubled individuals experiencing incarceration three or more times.

With the phase-out of many mandated mental health commitments to state hospitals and similar facilities for the justice-involved over the last decades,  criminal justice experts say jails and prisons are now effectively the largest treatment facilities for mental health in the U.S.

Mental health courts are among several court-based innovations aimed at providing alternatives to imprisonment for first-time or nonviolent offenders. The first mental health court was established in Broward County,Florida in 1997. But their numbers still remain comparatively low; as of 2016, there were some 300 such courts around the country, many of them funded under the 2002 federal Law Enforcement and Mental Health Project.

The FIT authors say their study should add more weight to arguments that alternative treatment for mentally ill offenders is cost-effective, and benefits both individuals and public safety.

“Jail doesn’t stop crimes by the mentally ill,” Costopoulos said in an interview published soon after the study.

“Treatment does.”

The complete study, “The Effectiveness of One Mental Health Court: Overcoming Criminal History,” was published June 21 online in the Psychological Injury and Law journal. It is available for purchase here, but journalists who would like a copy should contact TCR Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie at Victoria@thecrimereport.org

Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Slavery and the Right to Bear Arms

A recent Federal Appeals Court decision rejecting the District of Columbia’s efforts to restrict carrying handguns in public was based on a narrow view of precedents created by pro-slavery judges in the antebellum South, says Fordham University legal historian Saul Cornell.

In an apparent gain for Second Amendment activists, the District of Columbia Federal Appeals court last week rejected the District government’s efforts to restrict the right to carry a firearm, ruling that handgun-carry licenses must be issued to D.C. residents under the same regulations for carry permits issued in other states.

But according to one legal historian, the decision rested on a distorted view of both U.S. legal tradition and common law.

In a report for the legal blog Take Care, historian Saul Cornell of Fordham University writes that the court’s decision in Wrenn v. District of Columbia is “riddled with errors,” and was justified by a “highly selective culling of historical evidence”– notably, a series of cases from the antebellum south, where the “permissive vision of a broad right to carry” was reified over time by pro-slavery judges.

In fact, the only non-southern case cited in Wren was Thompkins v. Johnson, and it pertains to fugitive slave law. In that case, the court decided in favor of the right to travel armed because “the law of the land recognizes the right of one man to hold another in bondage, and that right must be protected.”

Saul Cornell. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

According to Cornell, U.S. courts have historically favored limitations on the public right to travel armed, and the idea that any restrictions on that right are incompatible with the Second Amendment is a “modern invention.”

“The permissive Southern view that Wrenn takes as normative was always a minority tradition in America, at least until recently,” Cornell writes.

“Outside of the South, with a few exceptions, Anglo-American law favored a narrowly tailored right to carry firearms that was limited to a range of long standing exceptions to the general prohibition on traveling armed in public.”

This summary was prepared by Victoria Mckenzie, deputy editor of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The ‘Criminal Justice Tax’ on America’s Troubled Neighborhoods

Does aggressive policing of high-crime, mostly minority, neighborhoods reinforce patterns of racial segregation? In papers published this month by New York University, four of America’s leading criminologists debate whether it does—and what should be done about it.

Does aggressive policing of high-crime, mostly minority, neighborhoods reinforce patterns of racial segregation in America?

Four of the nation’s top criminologists argue that municipal and police authorities should acknowledge the economic and social impact of strategies such as “stop, question and frisk” on African Americans and Latinos—and make sure that their efforts to make communities safer don’t at the same time widen racial inequalities.

The criminologists made their arguments in separate papers published simultaneously by New York University’s Furman Center as part of its “Dream Revisited” series examining issues related to racial and economic segregation in the U.S.

Although the papers differed slightly in emphasis, three of the authors—Jeffrey A. Fagan of Columbia Law School; Monica Bell of Yale Law School; and Anthony A. Braga of Northeastern University—presented a scathing analysis of what has generally been called “New Policing,” which has combined frequent police stops in high-crime neighborhoods with aggressive enforcement of quality-of-life violations on the theory that such methods will deter violent offenders and prevent more serious crime.

More: Want to Reform Policing in Your City? Here’s How

The fourth author, Philip J. Cook of Duke University, suggested that the public safety benefits of aggressive policing should be weighed against the costs, and might even make some neighborhoods more attractive for investors and employers.

Fagan, in his introductory essay to the debate, argued that such policing has effectively created a hidden “criminal justice tax” on the law-abiding residents of troubled minority neighborhoods, and further adds to the already daunting economic burdens they face.

“(It) reinforces segregation by imposing a criminal justice tax on everyday movements and activities,” he wrote. “In places as disparate as Ferguson and the South Bronx, the threat of police contacts or criminal sanctions, with both monetary costs and the threat of jailing, raises the transactions costs for Black and Latino persons to move freely within their neighborhoods, and as well as when they cross racial boundaries.”

Monica Bell

Bell takes the point one step further by noting that the expectation of harsher policing prevents many middle-class and higher-income African Americans and Latinos from moving to neighborhoods that are predominantly white.

“While policing does not singlehandedly cause segregation, the presence and reputation of police in certain neighborhoods sends a message to would-be residents who have choices: Stay away,” she wrote.

In his contribution, Braga argues that these models of policing also contained “desirable” elements that encouraged law enforcement agencies to engage community residents and develop greater confidence and trust. But many of these elements—known as “community policing”—were at best partially implemented, and at worst ignored.

Anthony Braga

“It is perhaps not surprising that even though community policing has been widely adopted, at least in principle, substantial conflict between police and the communities they serve continues to occur,” he wrote.

Efforts to strike the correct balance between public safety and community engagement have been muddied by tough-on-crime political rhetoric, observed Cook, but he added that should not deter police and communities from building on crime reductions that have already occurred in many cities.

“While campaigning for president, Donald Trump touted SQF (stop, question and frisk strategies) as an effective crime control tactic, citing the extraordinary crime drop in New York City under Mayor Giuliani (1994-2001),” he wrote.

“But in fact there is no obvious correlation between the ramp-up of SQF and the drop in murder and other violence in New York.”

Philip J. Cook

Nevertheless, he noted, studies in cities such as Philadelphia and St. Louis found “substantial reductions in crime” using versions of this strategy.

He conceded that the frequent police stops in certain neighborhoods experienced by “young minority men,” even if they were not carrying weapons, gave them “every reason to feel abused.”

But he added: “If high-volume stops can make a high-crime neighborhood safer, as appears to be the case, then that benefits the residents both by making them safer and quite possibly by making the neighborhood more attractive for employers and other investors.”

All the same, Fagan, whose study of the impact of SQF on minority populations in New York City was instrumental in the federal judicial ruling that curtailed the practice on the ground that it violated Constitutional guarantees, argued the drop in crime did not absolve police of their role in perpetuating racial segregation.

“The good news is that in many places, crime rates remain relatively low compared to earlier decades,” he wrote. “The bad news…is that policing has become further disconnected from crime, or from judging guilt and innocence, and more closely tied to the racial composition and economic position of neighborhoods.

“That is indeed bad news.”

The papers in the NYU discussion brief are available here.

This summary was prepared by Stephen Handelman, executive editor of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Measuring the ‘Dark Figure’ of Crime

An 18th-century theory used by sports bettors, gamblers and even weather forecasters could help criminologists and policymakers uncover crimes that are unrecorded in official statistics, claims a British researcher.

An 18th-century theory used by sports-bettors, gamblers and even weather forecasters could help criminologists and policymakers uncover the so-called “dark figure” of crime, according to a British researcher.

The study by Refat Aljumily, published this month in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, argues that Bayesian probability theory can fill the “gap” in crime statistics between officially reported crimes and those that are either never reported to police or not disclosed by law enforcement.

The gap, long acknowledged by criminologists as the “dark figure” of crime, has led to fierce policy debates over crime rates and the prevalence of crimes such as domestic abuse that often are lost in official figures, Aljumily says.

“The fact [is] that many, if not most, minor and some serious crimes remain unknown to the police and other law and justice enforcement authorities, and that crime statistics [do] not provide the true rate of crimes occurring in society,” he wrote in a paper first presented earlier this month to a conference held at Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom.

The Bayesian theorem, originally developed by an 18th century mathematician and theologian named Thomas Bayes, uses both probability formulas and informed judgment to estimate the likelihood of certain events.

One example often used is a gambler trying to guess the outcome of rolling a set of dice. Traditional probability thinking suggests that after six rolls of the dice, a “six” will come up at least once, on average. But a Bayesian might notice that sixes are turning up more often than expected, and he might conclude that other factors are at play—such as the possibility the dice are loaded. So he adjusts his expectations—even deciding that he should leave the game.

Some mathematicians have used Bayesian probability as well to predict the likelihood of adverse weather events or even the success of new drugs.

Applying the approach to crime, a statistician would combine both prior assumptions and evidence about the crime’s known prevalence in a given locality to try to estimate the “real” crime figure.

Aljumily concedes that the approach isn’t perfect, but he argues that Bayesian formulas can help reveal the true incidence of crimes that often are under-reported in official statistics such as sexual violence (crimes against women), and driving while intoxicated.

The full study, including examples of the formulas Aljumily suggests using, can be downloaded here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

ABA Opposes 2 Federal Conceal-Carry Bills

The American Bar Association says the the proposed legislation “offends deeply rooted principles of federalism where public safety is traditionally the concern of state and local government.”

The American Bar Association has opposed two federal bills that would require states to recognize concealed-carry permits from other jurisdictions, according to the ABA Journal.

The proposed legislation “offends deeply rooted principles of federalism where public safety is traditionally the concern of state and local government,” wrote ABA president Linda Klein yesterday in two letters addressed to the Department of Homeland Security and the Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary.

“Unlike some efforts of Congress to create minimum safety standards, this bill could lead to no safety standards as more states enact laws to allow persons to carry concealed firearms without a permit,” she said.

Furthermore, she added, “The knowledge of local authorities, who best know the individual applicant, would also be rendered moot.”

The two bills are H.R. 38, “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017,” and S.446, “Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017.”

from https://thecrimereport.org