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

TN Judge Reprimanded for Vasectomy Order

Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct says Judge Sam Benningfield was wrong to reduce inmates’ sentences if they agreed to vasectomies or other forms of birth control.

A Tennessee judge who agreed to shave time off inmates’ sentences if they agreed to receive vasectomies or other forms of birth control was publicly reprimanded by Tennessee judicial regulators, The Tennessean reports. In its letter of reprimand, the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct suggested White County judge Sam Benningfield acted in a way that threatened public confidence in the judicial system. “You have acknowledged that even though [you] were trying to accomplish a worthy goal in preventing the birth of substance addicted babies by the entry of your order of May 15, 2017, you now realize that this order could unduly coerce inmates into undergoing a surgical procedure which would cause at least a temporary sterilization, and it was therefore improper,” the letter states.

Female inmates who received an implant and male inmates who underwent vasectomies received a 30-day jail credit. Benningfield announced the deal in May. After substantial public scrutiny, Benningfield rescinded it in July. Alex Friedmann, a former inmate who is now managing editor of Prison Legal News, filed a complaint against Benningfield. “Prisoners are a vulnerable population who are especially susceptible to such coercive incentives because they want to return to their families and are at risk of losing their jobs and housing the longer they are incarcerated,” Friedmann said. A federal lawsuit accused Benningfield of acting with White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe to carry out a “modern day eugenics scheme.” Forty-two men agreed to the order.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Sentencing Commission: Race Gap in Prison Terms Persists

African-American male offenders receive sentences averaging 19.1 percent longer than white males—a gap that has largely remained unchanged since the Commission began studying the issue in 2010. In its third report on the demographic factors affecting sentencing outcomes, the USSC also said females received shorter prison terms than males.

Race continues to determine the length of sentences received for offenses of all kinds in the federal system, according to a new analysis by the United States Sentencing Commission.

In its third study of the subject since 2010, the Commission found that African-American male offenders were sentenced to prison terms that were on average 19.1 percent longer than white male offenders between 2012-2016.

That gap was not statistically different from prior periods of study, the Commission added.

During the same period, the sentences of Hispanic male offenders were on average 5.3 percent longer than the sentences received by whites.

The study noted that while an initial analysis of the figures suggested that the difference in sentencing length between African Americans and whites had narrowed from 34 months in 2006 to nine months in 2016, the reduced gap was largely due to reductions in penalties for crack cocaine offenses—in which blacks make up the largest component of offenders.

“When other relevant factors are controlled for,” the study said, “the gap in sentence lengths between black male and white male offenders did not shrink but, in fact, remained relatively stable across these periods.”

The study found that African-American offenders were less likely to be offered plea deals than whites—but even those who accepted such deals still received sentences on average 16 percent longer than their white counterparts.

The Commission analyzed court records in 2016 to investigate whether violence in an offender’s previous history might account for the demographic differences in sentencing—the first time it had done so in its demographic studies—and found that it had no effect.

The racial gaps noted in the study, however, did not apply to gender.

During the same period, the Commission said, female offenders on average received shorter sentences than males, regardless of race.

The Commission cautioned that its analysis “cannot control for all the factors that judges may consider…and should not be taken to suggest discrimination on the part of judges.”

“Multivariate analysis,” it added, “cannot explain why the differences in outcomes exist, but only that they do exist.”

The updated report, “Demographic Differences in Sentencing,” was released Tuesday. It was prepared by Glenn R. Schmitt, Louis Reedt, and Kevin Blackwell, respectively, director, deputy director and senior research associate in the Office of Research and Data of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

The full report can be downloaded here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Drug Courts Produce Modest Results Per Federal Report

Observations Do drug and other specialty courts reduce recidivism? President Trump Wants Drug Courts-Do They Work? Like evaluations of programs for serious offenders, outcomes for drug, mental health, and veteran’s courts are limited to small decreases in recidivism. For many, the focus is on low-level, low-risk offenders who may not need intensive treatment. Author Leonard […]

Observations Do drug and other specialty courts reduce recidivism? President Trump Wants Drug Courts-Do They Work? Like evaluations of programs for serious offenders, outcomes for drug, mental health, and veteran’s courts are limited to small decreases in recidivism. For many, the focus is on low-level, low-risk offenders who may not need intensive treatment. Author Leonard […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime? The Elusive Promise of Algorithms

Early evidence suggests some risk assessment tools offer promise in rationalizing decisions on granting bail without racial bias. But we still need to monitor how judges actually use the algorithms, says a Boston attorney.

Next Monday morning, visit an urban criminal courthouse. Find a seat on a bench, and then watch the call of the arraignment list.

Files will be shuffled. Cases will be called. Knots of lawyers will enter the well of the court and mutter recriminations and excuses. When a case consumes more than two minutes you will see unmistakable signals of impatience from the bench.

Pleas will be entered. Dazed, manacled prisoners—almost all of them young men of color—will have their bails set and their next dates scheduled.

Some of the accused will be released; some will be detained, and stepped back into the cells.

You won’t leave the courthouse thinking that this is a process that needs more dehumanization.

But a substantial number of criminal justice reformers have argued that if the situation of young men facing charges is to be improved, it will be through reducing each accused person who comes before the court to a predictive score that employs mathematically derived algorithms which weigh only risk.

This system of portraiture, known as risk assessment tools, is claimed to simultaneously reduce pretrial detentions, pretrial crime, and failures to appear in court—or at least that was the claim during a euphoric period when the data revolution first poked its head up in the criminal justice system.

We can have fewer prisoners and less crime. It would be, the argument went, a win/win: a silver bullet that offers liberals reduced incarceration rates and conservatives a whopping cost cut.

These confident predictions came under assault pretty quickly. Prosecutors—represented, for example, by Eric Sidall here in The Crime Report—marshaled tales of judges (“The algorithm made me do it!”) who released detainees who then committed blood-curdling crimes.

Other voices raised fears about the danger that risk assessment tools derived from criminal data trails that are saturated with racial bias will themselves aggravate already racially disparate impacts.

ProPublica series analyzed the startling racial biases the authors claim were built into one widely used proprietary instrument. Bernard Harcourt of Columbia University argued that “risk” has become a proxy for race.

A 2016 study by Jennifer Skeem and Christopher Lowenkamp dismissed Harcourt’s warnings as “rhetoric,” but found that on the level of particular factors (such as the criminal history factors) the racial disparities are substantial.

Meanwhile, a variety of risk assessment tools have proliferated: Some are simple checklists; some are elaborate “machine learning” algorithms; some offer transparent calculations; others are proprietary “black boxes.”

Whether or not the challenge of developing a race-neutral risk assessment tool from the race-saturated raw materials we have available can ever be met is an argument I am not statistician enough to join.

But early practical experience seems to show that some efforts, such as the Public Safety Assessment instrument, developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and widely adopted, do offer a measure of promise in rationalizing bail decision-making at arraignments without aggravating bias (anyway, on particular measurements of impact).

The Public Safety Assessment (PSA), developed relatively transparently, aims to be an objective procedure that could encourage timid judges to separate the less dangerous from the more dangerous, and to send the less dangerous home under community-based supervision.

At least, this practical experience seems to show that in certain Kentucky jurisdictions where (with a substantial push from the Kentucky legislature) PSA has been operationalized, the hoped-for safety results have been produced—and with no discernible increase in racial disparity in outcomes.

Unfortunately, the same practical experience also shows that those jurisdictions are predominately white and rural, and that there are other Kentucky jurisdictions, predominately minority and urban, where judges have been—despite the legislature’s efforts—gradually moving away from using PSA.

These latter jurisdictions are not producing the same pattern of results.

The judges are usually described as substituting “instinct” or “intuition” for the algorithm. The implication is that they are either simply mobilizing their personal racial stereotypes and biases, or reverting to a primitive traditional system of prophesying risk by opening beasts and fowl and reading their entrails, or crooning to wax idols over fires.

As Malcolm M. Feeley and Jonathan Simon predicted in a 2012 article for Berkeley Law, past decades have seen a paradigm shift in academic and policy circles, and “the language of probability and risk increasingly replaces earlier discourse of diagnosis and retributive punishment.”

A fashion for risk assessment tools was to be expected, they wrote, as everyone tried to “target offenders as an aggregate in place of traditional techniques for individualizing or creating equities.”

But the judges at the sharp end of the system whom you will observe on your courthouse expedition don’t operate in a scholarly laboratory.

They have other goals to pursue besides optimizing their risk-prediction compliance rate, and those goals exert constant, steady pressure on release decision-making.

Some of these “goals” are distasteful. A judge who worships the great God, Docket, and believes the folk maxim that “Nobody pleads from the street” will set high bails to extort quick guilty pleas and pare down his or her room list.

Another judge, otherwise unemployable, who needs re-election or re-nomination, will think that the bare possibility that some guy with a low predictive risk score whom he has just released could show up on the front page tomorrow, arrested for a grisly murder, inexorably points to detention as the safe road to continued life on the public payroll.

They are just trying to get through their days.

But the judges are subject to other pressures that most of us hope they will respect.

For example, judges are expected to promote legitimacy and trust in the law.

It isn’t so easy to resist the pull of “individualizing “and “diagnostic” imperatives when you confront people one at a time.

Somehow, “My husband was detained, so he lost his job, and our family was destroyed, but after all, a metronome did it, it was nothing personal” doesn’t seem to be a narrative that will strengthen community respect for the courts.

Rigorously applying the algorithm may cut the error rate in half, from two in six to one in six, but one in six are still Russian roulette odds, and the community knows that if you play Russian roulette all morning (and every morning) and with the whole arraignment list, lots of people get shot.

No judge can forget this community audience, even if the “community” is limited to the judge’s courtroom work group. It is fine for a judge to know whether the re-offense rate for pretrial releases in a particular risk category is eight in ten, but to the judges, their retail decisions seem to be less about finding the real aggregated rate than about whether this guy is one of the eight or one of the two.

Embedded in this challenge is the fact that you can make two distinct errors in dealing with difference.

First, you can take situations that are alike, and treat them as if they are different: detain an African-American defendant and let an identical white defendant go.

Second, you can take things that are very different and treat them as if they are the same: Detain two men with identical scores, and ignore the fact that one of the two has a new job, a young family, a serious illness, and an aggressive treatment program.

A risk assessment instrument at least seems to promise a solution to the first problem: Everyone with the same score can get the same bail.

But it could be that this apparent objectivity simply finesses the question. An arrest record, after all, is an index of the detainee’s activities, but it also a measure of police behavior. If you live in an aggressively policed neighborhood your history may be the same as your white counterpart’s, but your scores can be very different.

And risk assessment approaches are extremely unwieldy when it comes to confronting the second problem. A disciplined sticking-to-the-score requires blinding yourself to a wide range of unconsidered factors that might not be influential in many cases, but could very well be terrifically salient in this one.

This tension between the frontline judge and the backroom programmer is a permanent feature of criminal justice life. The suggested solutions to the dissonance range from effectively eliminating the judges by stripping them of discretion in applying the Risk Assessment scores to eliminating the algorithms themselves.

But the judges aren’t going away, and the algorithms aren’t going away either.

As more cautious commentators seem to recognize, the problem of the judges and the algorithms is simply one more example of the familiar problem of workers and their tools.

If the workers don’t pick up the tools it might be the fault of the workers, but it might also be the fault of the design of the tools.

And it’s more likely that the fault does not lie in either the workers or the tools exclusively but in the relationship between the workers, the tools, and the work. A hammer isn’t very good at driving screws; a screw-driver is very bad at driving nails; some work will require screws, other work, nails.

If you are going to discuss these elements, it usually makes most sense to discuss them together, and from the perspectives of everyone involved.

The work that the workers and their tools are trying to accomplish here is providing safety—safety for everyone: for communities, accused citizens, cops on the streets. A look at the work of safety experts in other fields such as industry, aviation, and medicine provides us with some new directions.

To begin with, those safety experts would argue that this problem can never be permanently “fixed” by weighing aggregate outputs and then tinkering with the assessment tool and extorting perfect compliance from workers. Any “fix” we install will be under immediate attack from its environment.

Among the things that the Kentucky experience indicates is that in courts, as elsewhere, “covert work rules”, workarounds, and “informal drift” will always develop, no matter what the formal requirements imposed from above try to require.

The workers at the sharp end will put aside the tool when it interferes with their perception of what the work requires. Deviations won’t be huge at first; they will be small modifications. But they will quickly become normal.

And today’s small deviation will provide the starting point for tomorrow’s.

What the criminal justice system currently lacks—but can build—is the capacity for discussing why these departures seemed like good ideas. Why did the judge zig, when the risk assessment tool said he or she should have zagged? Was the judge right this time?

Developing an understanding of the roots of these choices can be (as safety and quality experts going back to W. Edwards Deming would argue) a key weapon in avoiding future mistakes.

We can never know whether a “false positive” detention decision was an error, because we can never prove that the detainee if released would not have offended. But we can know that the decision was a “variation” and track its sources. Was this a “special cause variation” traceable to the aberrant personality of a particular judge? (God knows, they’re out there.)

Or was it a “common cause variation” a natural result of the system (and the tools) that we have been employing?

This is the kind of analysis that programs like the Sentinel Events Initiative demonstration projects about to be launched by the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance can begin to offer. The SEI program, due to begin January 1, with technical assistance from the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, will explore the local development of non-blaming, all-stakeholders, reviews of events (not of individual performances) with the goal of enhancing “forward-looking accountability” in 20-25 volunteer jurisdictions.

The “thick data” that illuminates the tension between the algorithm and the judge can be generated. The judges who have to make the decisions, the programmers who have to refine the tools, the sheriff who holds the detained, the probation officer who supervises the released, and the community that has to trust both the process and the results can all be included.

james doyle

James Doyle

We can mobilize a feedback loop that delivers more than algorithms simply “leaning in” to listen to themselves.

What we need here is not a search for a “silver bullet,” but a commitment to an ongoing practice of critically addressing the hard work of living in the world and making it safe.

James Doyle is a Boston defense lawyer and author, and a frequent contributor to The Crime Report. He has advised in the development of the Sentinel Events Initiative of the National Institute of Justice. The opinions expressed here are his own. He welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Sheriff, Courts Face Cuts Amid Cook County Budget Crisis

Officials in the Illinois county must make $200 million in budget cuts. Commissioners have proposed making up a quarter of the total through hundreds of layoffs, including more than 200 each from the sheriff’s department and county court system.

Rebuked on a soda pop tax, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday proposed cutting $200 million through a mix of laying off midlevel managers, holding the line on raises and requiring workers to take unpaid days off, reports the Chicago Tribune. Documents showed the operations of Sheriff Tom Dart and Chief Circuit Court Judge Timothy Evans would be hit the hardest. Dart runs the Cook County Jail and a police department that patrols mostly unincorporated areas, but also provides assistance to Chicago police and some suburban departments. Evans runs the court system, the probation department and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Both already are pushing back.

The county seeks to save $51 million through hundreds of layoffs, with the sheriff facing 244 layoffs and the chief judge 222, commissioners said. The biggest savings — $96.3 million — would come from a series of moves that includes delaying purchases of equipment; stepped-up enforcement of parking, cigarette and alcohol taxes; cutting justice program funding and a drug-school program for nonviolent offenders; and reduced spending on things like travel, postage, office supplies and printing. That figure also counts on holding the line on salary increases across the board.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Charlotte Judges Plan Reforms to End ‘Spiral of Incarceration’

The 21 District Court judges in Mecklenburg County, N.C., say they are determined to stop locking up criminal defendants solely because they can’t afford to pay fines.

A group of judges in Mecklenburg County, N.C., has launched an effort to end the “spiral of incarceration” that grips poor people who are unable to pay fines, reports the Charlotte Observer. Working with Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Debt Initiative, the county’s 21 District Court judges will soon begin holding formal hearings to determine a defendant’s economic status before levying penalties. The new process could begin as early as this week. On any given day at the Mecklenburg County Jail, more than 300 people – 18 percent of the average daily inmate population – are locked up solely because they failed or can’t afford to pay fines or other monetary penalties attached to their criminal cases. Many are jailed repeatedly at taxpayer expense for outstanding court debts on minor offenses.

“What we see far too often is a defendant who has been arrested for not paying court costs,” said District Court Judge Becky Tin. “And you’re sitting on the bench, and you see them after they’ve been in jail for seven days because they do not have the money. This should never happen. It is our intent in Mecklenburg County that this will no longer happen.” State law gives judges wide leeway in matching court penalties with a defendant’s ability to pay. But state lawmakers have made it more difficult to waive or reduce penalties for indigent defendants–a legislative attempt to protect the $700 million that court fines and costs add to the state’s general fund each year. The judges say they are ready to do battle over the issue.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Packs Appeals Courts with Conservative Ideologues

The president has already appointed eight federal appellate court judges, the most this early in a presidency since Richard Nixon, and a ninth nominee is under consideration. The New York Times says the lifetime appointments are part of a careful plan to load the courts with young partisan conservatives who will serve for decades.

In the weeks before Donald Trump took office, lawyers joining his administration gathered at a law firm near the Capitol, where Donald F. McGahn II, the soon-to-be White House counsel, filled a white board with a secret battle plan to fill the federal appeals courts with young and deeply conservative judges, says the New York Times. McGahn, instructed by Trump to maximize the opportunity to reshape the judiciary, mapped out potential nominees and a strategy: Start by filling vacancies on appeals courts with multiple openings and where Democratic senators up for re-election next year in states won by Trump — like Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania — could be pressured not to block his nominees. And to speed them through confirmation, avoid clogging the Senate with too many nominees for the district courts, where legal philosophy is less crucial.

Nearly a year later, that plan is coming to fruition. Trump has already appointed eight appellate judges, the most this early in a presidency since Richard Nixon, and on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send a ninth appellate nominee — Trump’s deputy White House counsel, Gregory Katsas — to the floor. Republicans are systematically filling appellate seats they held open during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office with a particularly conservative group of judges with life tenure. Democrats — who in late 2013 abolished the ability of 41 lawmakers to block such nominees with a filibuster, then quickly lost control of the Senate — have scant power to stop them.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Mistrial Muddies Prosecutions in Waco Biker Shootout

The trial of Jake Carrizal, president of the Dallas Bandidos motorcycle club, was seen as a test case for the scores of people facing charges in the bloody Texas shootout between two motorcycle clubs in 2015.

The first trial stemming from a bloody biker gunfight at a Waco restaurant that left nine people dead and 20 wounded in 2015 has done little to determine the fate of more than 150 people indicted in the complex and controversial Texas case, says USA Today. A judge on Friday declared a mistrial in the case of Jake Carrizal, president of the Dallas Bandidos motorcycle club, who is charged in connection with the melee. The jury deliberated for 14 hours before telling Judge Matt Johnson it was hopelessly deadlocked. It was not clear if Carrizal will be tried again. All the defendants were charged with engaging in a criminal activity leading to the deaths.

The shootout took place at the local Twin Peaks restaurant, where scores of members of the Cossacks motorcycle club had already gathered when the Bandidos arrived. The two clubs have long been at odds for reasons as seemingly insignificant as the use of a similar image on their identifying patches. Details on how the fight began differ, but the altercation quickly intensified. Video from the restaurant shows bikers shooting, running and ducking for cover as waitresses scramble for the exits. Seven of the nine people who died were members of the Cossacks, authorities say. Carrizal was the test case. A conviction would have put the other defendants on notice that prison was a real possibility. Acquittal would have put pressure on Reyna to start dropping charges. Now, even if Reyna decides to retry Carrizal, other cases likely will come to trial first.

from https://thecrimereport.org

NY Judge Orders Early Disclosure by Prosecutorss

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore ordered all judges to prompt prosecutors both to seek and speedily hand over exculpatory evidence to the defense. The order, said to be a national first, will give judges the power to level contempt charges against prosecutors who withhold such evidence, a key component in wrongful convictions.

In a move to make criminal trials fairer, New York State’s top judge has required judges to order prosecutors to search their files and disclose all evidence favorable to the defense at least 30 days before major trials, the New York Times reports. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore ordered the state judiciary to prompt prosecutors to obey their obligations both to seek and speedily hand over exculpatory evidence. The order, said to be a national first, will give judges the power to level contempt charges against prosecutors who withhold such evidence, a key component in wrongful convictions. Under the 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors are obligated to provide their adversaries with any evidence that could be construed as being favorable to the accused. Known as Brady material, the evidence could include police reports that cast doubt on a defendant’s guilt or witness statements indicating that someone else may have committed the crime.

Though Brady material is supposed to be given to the defense as soon as prosecutors obtain it, the New York State Bar Association has said that withholding it — willfully or not — was among the leading causes of wrongful convictions. Judge DiFiore’s rule, effective January 1, puts the onus on the prosecutors to comb their records for Brady material and places them on notice that they could face punishment for not disclosing it. The measure gives defense lawyers a novel form of leverage, allowing them to request that judges make sure that evidence is released in a timely fashion, instead of having to complain after the fact that the prosecution was slow to show its hand.

from https://thecrimereport.org