Felony Sentences in State Courts, 2006

By , December 31, 2009 11:32 am

Presents findings from the 2006 National Judicial Reporting Program (NJRP), which compiles detailed information on the sentences that felons receive in state courts nationwide and on characteristics of the felons. The survey excludes federal courts and state or local courts that do not adjudicate adult felony cases. The tables in this publication provide data on the number of felony offenders in state courts, sentences received, demographic characteristics of convicted felons, and types of convictions. The report also covers comparisons to felony sentences in federal courts, using data from the Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP). The 2006 NJRP was based on a sample of state courts in 300 counties selected to be nationally representative. The survey included only offenses that state penal codes defined as felonies. Felonies are widely defined as crimes with the potential of being punished by more than 1 year in prison. NJRP surveys have been conducted every 2 years since 1986.

Highlights include the following:

* In 2006 an estimated 69% of all persons convicted of a felony in state courts were sentenced to a period of confinement–41% to state prison and 28% to local jails.

* State prison sentences averaged 4 years and 11 months in 2006.

* Men (83%) accounted for a larger percentage of persons convicted of a felony, compared to their percentage (49%) of the adult population.

via Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – Publication & Product Detail.

High expectations? States weigh marijuana reform

By , December 30, 2009 8:19 pm
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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington is one of four states where measures to legalize and regulate marijuana have been introduced, and about two dozen other states are considering bills ranging from medical marijuana to decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the herb.

“In terms of state legislatures, this is far and away the most active year that we’ve ever seen,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which supports reforming marijuana laws.

Nadelmann said that while legalization efforts are not likely to get much traction in state capitals anytime soon, the fact that there is such an increase of activity “is elevating the level of public discourse on this issue and legitimizing it.”

“I would say that we are close to the tipping point,” he said. “At this point they are still seen as symbolic bills to get the conversation going, but at least the conversation can be a serious one.”

via High expectations? States weigh marijuana reform – washingtonpost.com.

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Study: End death cases, save money

By , December 29, 2009 12:36 pm

If the state stopped trying to execute killers, it would free up $11 million a year, according to a study by a Duke University economist published this month.

There is little return on the dollars spent on seeking the death penalty, says Philip Cook, an economist at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Of the 1,034 people charged with murder in North Carolina in 2005 and 2006, prosecutors initially sought the death penalty against about a quarter of them. Only 11, though, were sentenced to death for their crimes.

“The idea that the state could spend so much money on someone they think is completely undeserving is very interesting,” Cook said. “I have to believe that there are some people that would find this cost issue irritating.”

via Study: End death cases, save money – Local/State – NewsObserver.com.

New York – More Blacks Are Arrested for Marijuana

By , December 23, 2009 5:35 pm

New York City is now entering its 10th year of pouring tens of millions of dollars into arresting people for the lowest-level misdemeanor marijuana cases.

But the SoHo bouncers and the Chelsea graphic artist don’t have much to worry about, at least from the police: they are white. Even though surveys show they are part of the demographic group that makes the heaviest use of pot, white people in New York are the least likely to be arrested for it.

Last year, black New Yorkers were seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession and no more serious crime. Latinos were four times more likely.

via About New York – Study by Harry Levine Shows More Blacks Are Arrested for Marijuana – NYTimes.com.

Plea Bargains Get Renewed Scrutiny – WSJ.com

By , December 21, 2009 5:59 pm

A surprise twist in the criminal case against Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry Samueli again raises questions about plea bargains, one of the most important and controversial aspects of the justice system.

In a Santa Ana, Calif., court last week, federal Judge Cormac Carney dismissed the criminal complaint charging Mr. Samueli with lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission in its investigation of whether Broadcom misstated its earnings by improperly accounting for executive stock options. Judge Carney's dismissal came even though Mr. Samueli had stood before him in 2008 and pleaded guilty to that very crime.

Mr. Samueli did what lawyers and legal scholars fear a disturbing number of other people have done: pleaded guilty to a crime they didn't commit or at least believed they didn't commit. These defendants often end up choosing that route because they feel trapped in a corner, or fear getting stuck with a long prison sentence if they go to trial and lose.

The evolution of the criminal-justice system in recent decades has put many defendants “under all but impossible pressure to plead guilty, even if they're not,” said Yale law Prof. John Langbein, a critic of the plea-bargain system.

via Plea Bargains Get Renewed Scrutiny – WSJ.com.

Former Police Chief Norm Stamper: ‘Let’s Not Stop at Marijuana Legalization’ | Rights and Liberties | AlterNet

By , December 20, 2009 12:53 pm

These days, it seems like everyone is talking in earnest about marijuana legalization, once dismissed as little more than a Cheech and Chong pipe dream. Indeed, a new poll reveals that 53 percent of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition.

Bolstered by increasing public support for something once considered to be a political third rail, lawmakers from Rhode Island to Washington State have put the issue on the table for consideration. And citizen initiatives (particularly in California) are cropping up faster than ditch weed.

These are welcome developments to a retired police chief like me who oversaw the arrests of countless people for marijuana and other drugs, but saw no positive impact from all the blood, sweat and tears (and money) put into the effort. Soon, it seems, cops may no longer have to waste time and risk lives enforcing pot laws that don’t actually prevent anyone from using marijuana.

Yet, I’m alarmed that the above-mentioned poll showing majority support for marijuana legalization also found that fewer than one in 10 people agree that it’s time to end the prohibition of other drugs.

via Former Police Chief Norm Stamper: ‘Let’s Not Stop at Marijuana Legalization’ | Rights and Liberties | AlterNet.

From Military Industrial Complex to Prison Industrial Complex

By , December 20, 2009 9:23 am

In the 1950s and through the 1960s and 70s, you had a huge number of revolutions going on. Colonized peoples were kicking the French out of Algeria, the U.S. out of Vietnam, and so forth, all over the world. Here at home, there were also the beginnings of a revolution: everything from the civil rights movement to the anti-war movement to groups like the Black Panthers getting together and saying “we’re not going to take this any more.” People around the world were trying to liberate themselves from the institutions of colonialism, racism, and capitalist oppression. In my view, the origins of the modern PIC emerge out of the contexts of those struggles. More specifically, I think that the origins of the modern PIC are in what we might call the counter-revolution: the reaction to these struggles.

I find it hard to accept arguments that suggest a lot of guys woke up one morning and said “hey, I have an idea, let’s be mean to black people,” and got all their friends on the phone and went into a smoke-filled room and got busy. And that black people were just walking around minding their own business and then all of the sudden they got snapped up in the dragnet. Especially because, the morning before, these guys were already being mean to black people.

I like to think about it this way: in the 1950s and 60s, there really were people struggling on radical and reformist fronts, struggling for example to get rid of American apartheid. People were fighting really, really, hard and dying a lot in this struggle. The problem that the U.S. faced was that even though they could demonize this or that little group, there was enough of a positive response to anti-racist or anti-colonialist struggle that the state couldn’t really contain it. They really didn’t know where it was going to go. There really was disorder in the streets – and not all of it was following a political agenda, not all of it was fleshed-out in many years of study groups. Some of it was spontaneous and erratic and some of it was spontaneous and really great. And so the state’s response was “what do we have? We lost Jim Crow. Culturally, we still have racism, so we don’t have to worry about it too much, but legally Jim Crow is no longer a weapon. What do we have left in the arsenal? Well, we have all the lawmaking that we can do. And we do have the cultural idea that there’s something wrong with ‘those people’: the colonized or the victims of apartheid.” During this time, we saw the conversation around race change from “they’re just not smart enough” to “they’re not honest enough.” “Crime” became the all-purpose explanation for the struggles and disorder that were going on.

via Recording Carceral Landscapes.

Harvard Tenure Battle Puts ‘Critical Legal Studies’ on Trial – NYTimes.com

By , December 19, 2009 9:38 am

A LONGSTANDING battle that has turned Harvard Law School into what departing professor David M. Trubek called “the Beirut of legal education” has flared again this summer because of a bitter tenure dispute. Members of a heterodox scholarly movement known as Critical Legal Studies contend that conservatives at Harvard blocked the tenure bids of two of their adherents, Clare Dalton and Mr. Trubek, because of their political views, an assertion that the school’s dean denies.

Scholars allied with the movement believe that the law is not founded on independent, neutral principles of justice. Rather, they contend, it is an expression of an oppressive social and economic status quo. The movement derived in part from the “legal realists” of the 1920′s and 1930′s, a skeptical group opposed by the more conventional theorists who have come to prevail at most law schools. But in some ways, the standoff is a war of the generations. The “crits” are a diverse group, but many were educated in the 1960′s and exposed to radical ideologies.

via Harvard Tenure Battle Puts ‘Critical Legal Studies’ on Trial – NYTimes.com.

Prison Health Crisis Persists in California

By , December 17, 2009 5:09 pm

Three years into government control of California's prison health care system, prisoner deaths are dropping, but preventable deaths are still too high. And one report pins some of the blame for the crisis on uncontrolled overtime for prison nurses, who were more likely to earn overtime than any other state employees in 2008.

The Sacramento Bee reports that California spent $60 million on overtime for nurses in 2008, and another $111 million for the guards that protect medical workers during procedures. All of this in a year when 66 prisoners died of afflictions that could have been prevented or treated had they been diagnosed.

via Prison Health Crisis Persists in California | Criminal Justice | Change.org.

Incarcerex : Prison Industrial Complex Video

By , December 15, 2009 10:50 am

Incarcerex : Prison Industrial Complex Video

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