The Painful Lessons of a Corrections Crisis

When the Washington Department of Corrections learned a software programming error led to the erroneous early release of 3,000 prisoners, it took three years to address the problem. That led to at least two deaths—and some hard lessons about the need to recognize non-traditional emergencies before they became crises, according to a case study published this month.

Correctional institutions are usually well prepared to address serious emergencies like prison riots, but what happens when they encounter a crisis that staff and authorities never imagined could occur?

That was the situation which confronted the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) when authorities learned a software programming error had led to the erroneous early release of over 3,000 inmates between 2002 and 2015.

According to a case study analyzing the WDOC’s belated response, the episode made clear that correctional and other public institutions need to develop the “situational awareness” to deal with crises for which they had little training.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, showed that authorities could have headed off the crisis earlier if they had responded to a 2012 inquiry from a father who believed the perpetrator of a crime against his son had been released too early.

A request for a “fix” was sent to the Information Technology Unit (IT), but the WDOC failed to address it until 2015. Meanwhile, several of the erroneously released inmates had committed crimes, and were responsible for at least two deaths.

The sentencing miscalculation arose in 2002 following a Washington Supreme Court decision, In re King, which ruled that the WDOC had not awarded “good time” to inmates for the time spent in jail awaiting trial and during trial. But a change in the software programming used to recalculate each inmate’s release date to accommodate the ruling unwittingly led to total earned- time credits that exceeded the statutory maximum.

This resulted in inmates being released, on average, 55 days early.

WDOC’s failure to deal in a timely manner with the error once it was pointed out turned an “emergency into a crisis,” said the study.

Two of the three authors of the study, “The Making of an Institutional Crisis,” were key players in the episode. Dan Pacholke, the state’s Secretary of Corrections, led the emergency response. Sandy Felkey Mullins served on the governor’s staff as his senior policy advisor on public safety and government operations. Bert Useem of Purdue University conducted many of the post-crisis interviews with WDOC staff who had to decide whether and how to bring the inmates back to prison.

The WDOC leadership decided that bringing back offenders post-release to serve additional time on their sentence after several years of liberty would be “fundamentally unfair,” unless the offender had committed a class-A felony.

Specialized WDOC community response units accompanied local law enforcement to arrest inmates who it was decided did need to return to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentence. Unsurprisingly, the legitimacy of the arrest was often challenged by the former inmates—who argued they were being asked to “bear the burden of WDOC’s error” of being released and returned again.

Specialty teams for disturbance control were placed in prison facilities around the state in the event of possible unrest, though no noticeable inmate response arose. And a public communications strategy was developed.

Following the crisis, the WDOC redeveloped its IT procedures and issued instructions requiring anyone on headquarters staff who identified an issue that impacted public safety or critical operations to immediately inform his or her supervisor.

If the issue was not addressed, they were to go directly to agency leadership.

The principal lesson drawn from the episode, according to the study, was that large public agencies must train senior staff to have the flexibility to deal with incidents that are not part of their normal crisis training.

An agency needs to “develop in its culture the alertness not to solve, but rather to recognize, a crisis emergency and quickly mobilize a non-traditional response,” authors concluded.

“Agencies ….must develop situational awareness – thinking through the broad features of the situation and what must be done.”

TCR news intern Brian Edsall contributed to writing this summary. The full journal article is available for purchase only and can be downloaded here. Journalists can obtain free access by contacting TCR Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie at Victoria@thecrimereport.org

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Painful Lessons of a Corrections Crisis

When the Washington Department of Corrections learned a software programming error led to the erroneous early release of 3,000 prisoners, it took three years to address the problem. That led to at least two deaths—and some hard lessons about the need to recognize non-traditional emergencies before they became crises, according to a case study published this month.

Correctional institutions are usually well prepared to address serious emergencies like prison riots, but what happens when they encounter a crisis that staff and authorities never imagined could occur?

That was the situation which confronted the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) when authorities learned a software programming error had led to the erroneous early release of over 3,000 inmates between 2002 and 2015.

According to a case study analyzing the WDOC’s belated response, the episode made clear that correctional and other public institutions need to develop the “situational awareness” to deal with crises for which they had little training.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, showed that authorities could have headed off the crisis earlier if they had responded to an inquiry from the father of an victim in 2012 who believed his son’s perpetrator had been released too early.

A request for a “fix” was sent to the Information Technology Unit (IT), but the WDOC failed to address it until 2015. Meanwhile, several of the erroneously released inmates had committed crimes, and were responsible for at least two deaths.

The sentencing miscalculation arose in 2002 following a Washington Supreme Court decision, In re King, which ruled that the WDOC had not awarded “good time” to inmates for the time spent in jail awaiting trial and during trial. But a change in the software programming used to recalculate each inmate’s release date to accommodate the ruling unwittingly led to total earned- time credits that exceeded the statutory maximum.

This resulted in inmates being released, on average, 55 days early.

WDOC’s failure to deal in a timely manner with the error once it was pointed out turned an “emergency into a crisis,” said the study.

Two of the three authors of the study, “The Making of an Institutional Crisis,” were key players in the episode. Dan Pacholke, the state’s Secretary of Corrections, led the emergency response. Sandy Felkey Mullins served on the governor’s staff as his senior policy advisor on public safety and government operations. Bert Useem of Purdue University conducted many of the post-crisis interviews with WDOC staff who had to decide whether and how to bring the inmates back to prison.

The WDOC leadership decided that bringing back offenders post-release to serve additional time on their sentence after several years of liberty would be “fundamentally unfair,” unless the offender had committed a class-A felony.

Specialized WDOC community response units accompanied local law enforcement to arrest inmates who it was decided did need to return to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentence. Unsurprisingly, the legitimacy of the arrest was often challenged by the former inmates—who argued they were being asked to “bear the burden of WDOC’s error” of being released and returned again.

Specialty teams for disturbance control were placed in prison facilities around the state in the event of possible unrest, though no noticeable inmate response arose. And a public communications strategy was developed.

Following the crisis, the WDOC redeveloped its IT procedures and issued instructions requiring anyone on headquarters staff who identified an issue that impacted public safety or critical operations to immediately inform his or her supervisor.

If the issue was not addressed, they were to go directly to agency leadership.

The principal lesson drawn from the episode, according to the study, was that large public agencies must train senior staff to have the flexibility to deal with incidents that are not part of their normal crisis training.

An agency needs to “develop in its culture the alertness not to solve, but rather to recognize, a crisis emergency and quickly mobilize a non-traditional response,” authors concluded.

“Agencies ….must develop situational awareness – thinking through the broad features of the situation and what must be done.”

TCR news intern Brian Edsall contributed to writing this summary. The full journal article is available for purchase only and can be downloaded here. Journalists can obtain free access by contacting TCR Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie at Victoria@thecrimereport.org

from https://thecrimereport.org

Alabama’s Jones Campaigned on Criminal Justice Reform

Doug Jones, Alabama’s senator-elect to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is a former federal prosecutor who has advocated for less-harsh sentencing and more alternatives to prison. Lauren-Brooke Eisen of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program calls Jones “a groundbreaking voice for prosecutorial reform to end mass incarceration.”

Doug Jones, Alabama’s senator-elect to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is a former federal prosecutor who has advocated for less-harsh sentencing and more alternatives to prison, The Marshall Project reports. Lauren-Brooke Eisen of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program calls Jones “a groundbreaking voice for prosecutorial reform to end mass incarceration,” adding that, “He was one of the first prosecutors to speak out about how prosecutors can and should help reduce unnecessary incarceration.” Jones, the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, was best known for obtaining the convictions of two former Ku Klux Klan members in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which killed four young black girls. The men were convicted in 2001 and 2002.

Democrat Jones, who defeated Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday, included criminal justice among his top campaign priorities, criticizing disparities in the use of mandatory minimum sentences that send a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos to prison. “These are bipartisan issues Democrats and Republicans agree on,” Jones told  Alabama State University students last month. “Try to reduce the crime, keep our communities safer and at the same time cut down the costs of the criminal justice system.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Florida Coalition Pushing Criminal Justice Reform

While many “red” states enact criminal justice changes, Florida has stood still and its prison population continues to grow, critics say. They are pushing for reforms in next year’s legislative session.

While red-leaning states like Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana have made significant criminal justice reforms over the past decade, Florida’s GOP-led legislature has stood still. Thirty-three states have implemented such reforms since 2007, while Florida’s prison population continues to grow, with the state now spending more than $2.4 billion a year to incarcerate nearly 100,000 people, the third-largest prison population in the U.S., reports Florida Politics. Hoping to reverse that trend by pushing for measures addressing juvenile justice, adult citation programs and mandatory minimums is the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, a coalition of groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is intent on seeing some changes made next year. Members of the coalition met before in Tampa on Monday.

Raymer Maguire, the ACLU of Florida’s criminal justice manager, said the campaign is focused on encouraging rehabilitation over punishment, and preparing incarcerated individuals for a life post-release that allows them to have housing, jobs and to become productive members of society. Florida sends more children to adult prisons than any other state. From 2005-2015, the national average prison population increase was 3 percent. In Florida it was 18 percent, the nation’s highest. “The system is broken, and it’s been broken for a long time,” said state Sen. Darryl Rouson. Among bills he’s sponsoring include reducing raising the monetary value for felony theft offenses from the current $300 threshold to $1,000. The $300 figure has not been adjusted since 1986. The national average is $1,100, and in southern states, it’s over $1,400. The Florida Retail Federation is opposing the proposal.

from https://thecrimereport.org

CT Panel Considers Bail, Sex Registry Reforms

Connecticut’s Sentencing Commission hears public testimony on a range of justice reform proposals, including one affecting the state’s sex offender registry and another on bail reform.

The public got a chance this week to weigh in on three proposals that would change Connecticut’s criminal justice system. One proposal would allow sex offenders to be removed earlier from a sex offender registry; another proposes a constitutional amendment on pretrial release and detention, and a third would reduce a state sentence for a misdemeanor offense by one day to prevent more severe immigration consequences, the New Haven Register reports. The state Sentencing Commission is preparing to make its recommendations to Gov. Dannel Malloy and the General Assembly for the start of the 2018 legislative session.

Cindy Prizio of a group called Connecticut for One Standard of Justice told the commission in a hearing that the sex offender registry was too limited. The proposal would allow people on the registry to ask for a shorter registration period or apply for removal. The new system could actually lengthen some terms on the registry. On the bail issue, the legislature eliminated cash bail for most non-violent misdemeanors in a budget Malloy signed on Oct. 31. Now, the Sentencing Commission is exploring a constitutional amendment on pre-trial release generally. The bail industry opposes. Andrew Marocchini of the Bail Association of Connecticut contended that the state does not have a problem with indigents being held pre-trial.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why is Internet Gambling a Crime?

Sports bettors in many states risk prosecution even when their wagers are placed on offshore sites—a legacy of anti-gambling laws created during the pre-internet era. A New York attorney writes it’s time to test the validity of those laws, even if it challenges a lucrative source of state revenue.

Gambling on the internet has become an extremely popular pastime—even though it is illegal in many states.

Online sports betting, in particular, has increased on sites located in countries where gambling is legal—but is that also a violation of U.S. laws?

In an era when the internet is posing challenges across the entire legal landscape, the time is ripe for testing the validity of the various state gambling laws on their applicability to offshore internet gambling. Such tests would also place in the spotlight the activities of offshore gambling “bookies,” who give their customers the ability to place bets via the internet and collect payments or make payments to the bettors.

Some states have pursued criminal prosecutions against offshore bettors, but many of those prosecutions are based on laws that were enacted long before internet betting existed, in states such as New York. And even in those states where penal codes specifically reference internet betting, those statutes are vulnerable to constitutional argument regarding limiting the use of the web.

The statutes affect a sizeable number of Americans. In a New York Times article published on Dec. 5, columnist Adam Liptak writes, “Americans are estimated to annually place $150 billion in illegal wagers on sports”—an estimate that presumably includes betting activities both inside the U.S. and through offshore sites.

Addressing the legality of offshore gambling represents a challenge to authorities where it hits them hardest: their revenue streams.

Offshore gambling prosecution has become a source of income to state and federal governments. Based on their statutory ability to seize the proceeds of illegal activity, authorities have levied fines, and seized property and cash.

The two elements that trigger prosecution in many of the state gambling statutes are (1) bets must have been accepted by the defendant in the state; and/or (2) the bets must be made in the state.

The argument that a bet is not made in internet gambling until it is received at the offshore site needs to be decided by the various states.

Decisions upholding the theory that when the bet reaches and lands on the site in a foreign country, it is made there—and not in the state—would have far-reaching effects on gambling prosecutions. Such bets would not satisfy the argument that a bookie accepts and receives them.

Pursuant to Title 18 §981(a)(1)(c) of the U.S. penal code, which makes property forfeitable if derived as the proceeds of illegal activity, the government—by merely filing a complaint with the court—may get a warrant issued allowing the seizure of property.

Still, the law is underdeveloped, because plea deals are usually structured to maximize financial benefit for the prosecution and allow those arrested to avoid incarceration. Since gambling is prevalent throughout the U.S. in many legalized forms, and engaged in by a large portion of the population, prosecutors are not comfortable that juries will convict their fellow citizens for these crimes.

If the laws were contested, however, we would see fewer arrests and a stronger negotiating position for defendants against whom charges are brought.

The Federal Gambling Statute (Title 18 §1955) requires a finding of a violation of state gambling laws to bring charges against someone who was involved in such illegal activity. According to the statute, an illegal gambling business is defined as being “in violation of the law of a state or political subdivision….”

If there is no state law violation, then there is no federal prosecution.

In fact, efforts to contest the validity of state gambling laws are likely to result in a finding that many are inapplicable to offshore gambling. When those laws are invalidated, there can be no federal violation and no property seizures.

The laws of the 50 states concerning gambling are varied and contain significantly different provisions. Many like NY Penal Code §225.10, which defines promoting gambling in the first degree (the felony section), contain the material element that the defendant “receives or accepts … bets … .”

See also: Video Gambling Linked to Crime Spike: Study

Typically, a defendant is charged with being a bookie because he/she is the person arranging for the bettor to have the ability to use the offshore website to place bets. The bookie also collects and distributes funds to the bettor based on wins or losses. Before internet gambling, the bookie would receive the bets from the bettor.

The law in New York was written to make such activity illegal and required that the defendant “receives or accepts … bets …

Similarly, in Alabama, bookmaking is described as “unlawfully accepting bets from members of the public as a business …” This echoes New York’s requirement that bets must be accepted to violate the law.

However, under Alaska’s penal code §11.66.200(a) “a person commits the crime of promoting gambling in the first degree if the person promotes or profits from the unlawful gambling enterprise.”

Here, there is no requirement of accepting bets to violate the statute. Additionally, Indiana’s penal code §35-45-5.3 declares that gambling is committed if one “… accepts or offers to accept, for profit money or property risked in gambling …”

The mere acceptance of money or property without the requirement of accepting bets violates the Alabama statute. With internet gambling, the defendant never receives nor accepts bets. The bets are sent by computer to a site in a country where gambling is legal and where the bets are received and accepted.

This material element of the New York statute is not violated by internet gambling.

This issue was never tested in New York, although hundreds of offshore gambling cases have been brought under this statute. In a September, 2017 case in the Supreme Court of Queens County (New York), I made a motion to dismiss an indictment under this theory.

While the Court denied the motion, the defendant was offered a far better plea resolution than the prosecution might have presented if there were no risk to the prosecutors of a reversal on appeal.

There are states whose gambling statutes make it illegal to use the internet to promote gambling. An example is the above-mentioned Indiana Statute, which states that a person commits professional unlawful gambling when he or she is “an operator who knowingly or intentionally uses the internet to engage in unlawful gambling in Indiana.”

This is a felony.

While most states have not reached this level of sophistication, the challenges passed by such laws differ from those discussed above. However, because of the various constitutional issues involved in criminalizing the use of the Internet, there are often safe havens that exist in the statute.

Indiana’s law states that “a prosecuting attorney may send written notice to an operator … The notice must (1) specify the illegal gambling activity; (2) state that the operator has not more than thirty (30) days…to remove the illegal gambling activity and…” if he does not do so he can be criminally prosecuted.

This section specifically refers to an operator who is defined as “a person who owns, maintains or operates an internet site that is used for interactive gambling.”

Thus, compliance with notice would seem to avoid criminal prosecution.

Again, since internet offshore gambling did not exist when many of these laws were written, they cannot be held to be applicable.

Jeffrey Hoffman

Jeffrey Hoffman

It’s time to litigate the underlying premises of the various state illegal gambling statutes, particularly those that require the acceptance of bets.

 Jeffrey C. Hoffman is a white-collar defense and corporate investigation lawyer at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, LLP, a full-service law firm headquartered in New York City. In his 40-plus years as a lawyer, he has tried more than 100 criminal jury trials and has represented clients in matters involving money laundering, criminal forfeiture of property and restitution. He can be reached at jhoffman@windelsmarx.com. He welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Justice Reform Subverted by Politics, says Bill Moyers

When prosecutors and judges are turned into vote-seekers, efforts to develop more humane approaches to punishment and law enforcement suffer, the veteran TV journalist said in an interview aired on CUNY’s “Criminal Justice Matters” program Tuesday. He charged that the Trump administration’s “tough on crime” rhetoric has made things worse.

Political “ambition” and rhetoric have subverted efforts to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, says veteran TV journalist Bill Moyers.

“No other nation in the world permits its justice system to be organized around political ambition,” Moyers said in an interview aired Tuesday on CUNY-TV, the public network operated by the City University of New York.

Moyers said the practice in many jurisdictions across the country of electing judges and prosecutors clouds serious debate about challenges like prison reform by appealing to the kind of “tough on crime” rhetoric that appears to win elections—but is often unrelated to fact.

“You get political appeals, not the appeal of data and reason brought to bear,” said Moyers, who was most recently executive producer on “Rikers: An American Jail,” a hard-hitting documentary about New York’s troubled detention facility.

Moyers told Stephen Handelman, host of the monthly “Criminal Justice Matters” program and editor of The Crime Report, he believed there was a rising public awareness of the need for justice reforms in both “red states and blue states.”

But he added there was also a need for more public service journalism that could provide the facts required by the public to weigh the variety of options for change, especially at a moment when President Donald Trump and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions are arguing that the only way to deal with criminals “is to lock’em up and throw away the key.”

Moyers, who served as a special assistant to President Lyndon Baines Johnson when the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice was established in 1965, warned that many of the principles established in the commission’s landmark report were in danger of being reversed by the new administration.

LBJ

President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Photo by manhhai via Flickr.

Recalling that LBJ had once told him that “A man’s judgment is no better than his information,” Moyers said the commission’s first challenge was to gather data on operations of the justice system that until then had never been tabulated on a national level.

“Data is the backbone of reform (and) in 1965 we had no national data on crime,” Moyer said. “We did not consider criminal justice as a system. Even LBJ believed that the federal government had nothing to do with local justice.”

After exploring the relationship among police, prosecutors, courts, and corrections, the commission report, released in 1967, developed recommendations aimed at making the prison system “less venal and the justice system more efficient,” said Moyers, whose 40-year career as a public broadcaster earned him 46 Emmys and nine Peabody Awards.

His groundbreaking public affairs series have included NOW with Bill Moyers (2002-05), Bill Moyers Journal (2007-10), and Moyers & Company (2011-15).

Moyers said such an approach was still crucial to helping raise public awareness of the need to develop further solutions to problems such as prison overcrowding or bail reform.

Editor’s Note: In March, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation to create a national justice commission, the first nationwide review of the justice system since the LBJ commission 50 years ago.

Moyers described his Rikers film, released last year, as an effort to bring people face to face with the stories of those suffering from the “culture of brutality” in many jails across the country.

While “brilliant reporting” by journalists has exposed the patterns of violence that have made Rikers a notorious example of that culture, Moyers said he wanted to let former inmates speak directly to the camera, “unfiltered” by journalists, to bring those issues home.

He said that he hoped the film would prod authorities to undertake the reforms suggested by a New York City commission, chaired by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman—including replacing Rikers with smaller facilities situated in the neighborhoods where many of the offenders came from.

“Until you see the person who is suffering (from the system), you can’t understand it on an emotional and conscientious level,” he said.

At the same time, he called journalists to concentrate on policy and data, rather than be deflected by the political rhetoric.

Moyers was named last week by John Jay College and The Crime Report as the 2018 Justice Media Trailblazer, an annual honor recognizing individuals in the media and media-related fields who have made a major impact on the justice debate.

He will receive the award at a dinner at John Jay College in New York on Feb. 15, 2018.

Judge Lippman will introduce him.

The dinner is open to the public, but advance reservations are required. Information about the dinner is available here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Three-Door Jail and the Future of Incarceration

Modern jails should be smaller, smarter, greener, and kinder, says an architect who has designed detention facilities for 40 years. Some municipal authorities agree, but will others follow suit?

We’ve all heard it before. The U.S. incarcerates at the highest rate of any nation on earth. Prisons and jails are full. Mass incarceration is endemic to a rotten system.

There are many programs underway that are rethinking our approach to punishment, in ways that emphasize accountability and pro-social behavior: quit drug habits, learn a skill, get a job, be reliable, be punctual, support your family, and pay your debts to your victims.

But few have given much thought to how our current design of correctional institutions undermines these enlightened approaches.

I have been designing jails (not prisons) for the past 40 years. In that period, the philosophy behind jail design has changed radically—for the better. Today, many are indeed safer and more humane than they used to be.

But too many are not.

The physical plants where individuals are detained only emphasize the fact that modern jails are being asked to do too much. They are being asked to address the failure of the courts, the prosecutors, the mental health regime, the education regime, and civil society as well—all of which creates a stream of young, disturbed, addicted and disabled citizens flowing into jails that fall well short of recognized standards.

And the damage is long-lasting, as I can attest from personal knowledge.

The son of one family friend was recently arrested on felony charges after an episode in which he appeared to have gone off his meds. The young man had a successful career, and was voluntarily admitted to a local mental hospital.

But the District Attorney filed criminal charges against this schizophrenic young man and asked the judge to send him to the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City—a facility built on a landfill in 1935 and which has barely changed its profile since.

It’s not surprising that he is now desperate and suicidal.

Rikers

The Rikers Island jail complex in New York City . Photo by David Oppenheimer via Flickr

Rikers is just one example of the poor state of jails around the country. Physical plants are often outmoded, and many lack funding even for basic repairs.

Even as admissions to county jails both large and small are showing a downward trend, roughly 40 percent of those admitted are diagnosed as having mental health issues, and these inmates are staying longer and longer in jail—typically for six to nine months.

Jails are most definitely not designed to hold the mentally ill for many months and often years. Just as jail personnel are not trained to take on complex behaviors that often turn violent.

There’s an alternative approach.

Smaller counties around the U.S. are moving toward what has been called a “three-door” jail.

Some examples include jails in Montgomery County MD; Maricopa County, Az; and Duchess County, NY.

Images accompanying this article show photos and architectural renderings of what new and more humane jails can look like.

jail

House of Detention, Orange County, NY. All photos by Mikiko Kikuyama.

youth jail

Rhode Island Youth Detention Facility

Under this model, an individual apprehended on the street for troubling behavior is processed through one of three approaches or “doors:” Detention, Diversion or Deflection.

Detention is the classic secure jail setting.Diversion allows for release on recognizance or Third Party release, and Deflection would move the individual into a ‘stabilization” center or a “sobering” center.

The Deflection option also allows police to avoid arrest altogether by diverting individuals exhibiting signs of mental distress immediately to a hospital or clinic for treatment.

jail

Brooklyn Detention Center, Brooklyn NY. Digital rendering courtesy Ken Ricci

In the “Three-Door Jail,” detention, magistrate, probation and mental health professionals are under one roof. Detainees arriving are processed and evaluated, then channeled into one of the appropriate “three doors.” Most leave in 24 hours.

The result is a smaller jail, since a good portion of detainees don’t linger waiting for court.

Since most states no longer allow involuntary admission to a mental facility (except in extraordinary circumstances) the stabilization model requires skilled mental health staff to convince the detainee of the benefit of staying overnight on a voluntary basis.

More municipal and county authorities need to think of ways to redesign jails to fit this three-door model.

In New York, Mayor Bill DeBlasio has announced his intention to replace the discredited Rikers Island facility over the next ten years with replacement jails in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. But the size of these proposed borough jails threatens to replicate the discredited warehouse model, emphasizing security over deflection and diversion.

jail

Union County (NJ) detention center

jail

Union County (NJ) Detention Center. Photos by Mikiko Kikuyama.

Los Angeles is thinking about building a 20-storey high rise to house mentally ill detainees. That goes against arguments that housing for this population should be on a more humane scale, low rise, and therapeutic.

The prevailing philosophy of jail building design is clearly colliding with enlightened approaches to incarcerating prisoners, such as the “three-door jail.”

Big systems like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, are stuck in a conceptual quagmire. Big bureaucracies only know how to mobilize large-scale solutions. Lacking suitable sites (due to NIMBY, environmental reviews, etc.), they are tempted to resort to high-rise buildings or to sites away from the community.

Either solution is conceptually deficient and operationally obsolete at the outset. Many law-breakers are high or crazy. Sometimes both. While putting them in jail is the only solution right now, defining the “problem” in a new way may lead to a new solution.

Modern jails should be smaller, smarter, greener, and kinder.

Small strategies include providing services under one roof. This speeds up the detention decision process, reduces lengths of stay and gets most arrestees out into the community faster and requires fewer cells.

The new Denver Detention Center, for example, has two pretrial courtrooms on the same floor as the intake housing area. Recent arriv­als simply walk across the corridor to visit the courtroom for pretrial hearings. About 40 percent of those admitted are released within four days; most of them never use an elevator to go to court.

Smarter jails look like libraries. Their design allows them to fit in the neighborhood without lowering property values. Modern technology provides distance visitation and distance learning; remote arraignment and bail hearings; air conditioning and noise control.

Green jails require a green justice system that supports and contributes to sustainable com­munities. Locat­ing the new jail connected to the courthouse eliminates the need for lengthy bus trips to court, reduces air pollution and speeds the adjudication process.

Kinder jails have more sunlight, good sightlines, smaller housing units, direct supervision, and environments with connections to the outdoors.

Ken Ricci

Ken Ricci

The moral irony here is that the closure of mental institutions has resulted in the criminalization of many mental health episodes. And obsolete philosophy behind jail design only makes the situation worse.

We can do better.

Ken Ricci graduated from the Pratt Institute School of Architecture and was elevated to the College of Fellows for his career dedicated to improving environments for the incarcerated. His designs have been recognized for their light-filled interiors and for their optimism that belies the building type. Jail administrators and county commissioners in large and small cities are his clients. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Three Dozen States Have Enacted Some Justice Reform

Reform efforts can bring together legislators with diverse backgrounds and interests. These include controlling crime, reducing prison costs, embracing religious ideas about redemption, reducing the size of government, grappling with the effect of imprisonment on families and minority communities, and questioning the morality of locking up so many people.

Over the last decade, 36 states have enacted some kind of criminal justice reform, eight of them more than once, Adam Gelb of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project tells the American Bar Association Journal. Such reforms can be a struggle to get through legislatures, but they tend to win approval, even in “red” states like Louisiana, because they have bipartisan support. They bring together legislators with diverse backgrounds and interests. These include controlling crime, reducing prison costs, embracing religious ideas about redemption, reducing the size of government, grappling with the effect of imprisonment on families and minority communities, and questioning the morality of locking up so many people.

“The reason that it is so bipartisan and cross branch is that it meets many objectives,” says Alison Lawrence of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “I would say behind all of it, everybody cares about public safety, and that’s the underlying factor.” Louisiana is part of a nationwide movement toward justice reinvestment—policies aimed at simultaneously reducing crime and reining in corrections spending, while holding offenders accountable. Gelb calls those goals “our holy trinity.” States are receptive, Gelb says, in part because they’ve seen the success of earlier adopters—especially Texas, which is the widely acknowledged godfather of justice reinvestment. In 2007, Texas officials decided to avoid building more prisons and to spend $241 million on behavioral health and alternative sanctions programs. Some other states have seen similar results. Pew says South Carolina’s 2010 reforms dropped the state’s prison population by 14 percent as of 2016, allowing it to close six prisons and avoid building new ones. The state saved $491 million and its crime rate dropped 16 percent.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Simple Way to Prevent False Confessions

If a lawyer were present at all police interrogations–including of children under 15—prosecutors could avoid scandals like the 15 men exonerated in Chicago this month on the grounds of false confessions, says a juvenile justice advocate.

This month, Cook County prosecutors in Chicago dropped charges against 15 men, and two others claiming innocence won a new trial—all based on false confessions.

Even for Chicago, the so-called “false confession capitol of the nation,” this was extraordinary. The Chicago Tribune called it the largest mass exoneration in Cook County history.

Cook County Prosecutor Kimberly Foxx did no more than her duty.

When I was an indigent appellate defender in the northern part of Illinois in the 1980s, prosecutors routinely confessed error and/or dropped charges to correct a miscarriage of justice.

The role of the prosecutor is not to convict, but to seek justice. Justice is based on fairness, which means ensuring that the rights of all are protected throughout the process. Coerced confessions have no role in a just system—prosecutors fulfill their ethical duty in correcting such injustice.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Illinois has a false confession rate more than three times higher than the national average—and nearly one in four of the false confession cases in Illinois come from Cook County. Millions are spent in settlements in false confession cases, and the lives of innocent people and their families are forever altered, if not ruined.

And, of course, when the wrong person is convicted, then the actual offender is still at large, so the public is left at risk.

There is a simple answer to prevent false confessions, one urged by the U.S. Supreme Court more than 50 years ago in Miranda: Just give everyone a lawyer throughout interrogation.

Shockingly, an examination by the Police Accountability Task Force of arrests in Chicago in 2014 and 2015 found that less than one percent of all arrestees–adult and juvenile–had the assistance of a lawyer at any point during interrogation.

So police in Chicago are interrogating children—and adults—without the protection of a lawyer in nearly every case.

See also: Third Degree Lite: The Abuse of Confessions

There have been movements to expand access to counsel. Last Spring, the Cook County Chief Judge issued an order appointing the public defender to be available to represent children and adults during police interrogation, so that persons arrested in Cook County would have access to a lawyer without charge.

Also, the Chicago Police Department agreed to comply with an Illinois statute that requires all police to post a sign with information on the right to legal assistance during interrogation.

In addition, troubled by the lack of legal assistance for children during interrogation, the Illinois Legislature unanimously approved a reform requiring lawyers throughout interrogation for children under the age of 15 in serious cases, and required the videotaping of all felony interrogations of all children.

The bill was watered down from the original proposal to provide lawyers to all children under age 18. Opposition to the original proposal came from law enforcement.

The first argument from law enforcement was that there would not be enough lawyers—that it would be too hard to find a lawyer during off hours. If this is an acceptable argument, we should be honest and revise the Miranda warning to tell arrestees that they have a right to a lawyer but that one will only be provided to them from 9-5 on Monday through Friday.

The second argument is that it is too expensive to provide lawyers 24/7.

Having a public defender on call 24/7 is certainly a cost to the public, but so is the cost of paying police, sheriffs, county jail staff, and county detention staff 24/7. So if we agree to pay the cost of all these law enforcement staff 24/7, then why can’t we have also pay for a lawyer to be on call 24/7?

After all, if a person is coerced into a confession, then as a society we pay substantial costs in prosecution, decades of incarceration and eventually in false confession settlements. Surely the meager cost of an on-call lawyer is far less than the extraordinary incarceration and exoneration costs to taxpayers.

Another argument is that police will never solve cases if lawyers are present because suspects will not talk. But in England, where the law has required lawyers for decades, research clarifies this is not the case—arrestees are just as likely to give statements with lawyers present.

An arrestee with an alibi is just as likely to give the alibi with a lawyer present. The difference is that the statement is more likely to be reliable.

Further, as the report by the Police Accountability Task Force documents, the practice of excluding lawyers and coercing confessions has a chilling impact on community relations. Police therefore find it harder to get community cooperation in solving crimes.

Community cooperation, based on community trust that police will treat everyone fairly, is much more critical in solving crimes than individual statements, especially those made without legal protection. Finally, confessions alone are not the only way to prove a connection to an offense. Police have a wide variety of tools.

Elizabeth Clarke

Elizabeth Clarke

Lawyers are essential. Police agree—and police contracts contain numerous protections including access to a lawyer and limits on custodial interrogation to protect the rights of police during questioning and withstand complaints about their conduct.

The sad litany of exonerations based on false confessions illustrates that all arrestees need the protection of a lawyer. It is time for Illinois to follow the recommendations of the Police Accountability Task Force and ensure that all persons have a lawyer during interrogation, especially children.

Elizabeth Clarke is founder and president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative. She welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org