Jacobs reported that in a recently published study, University of Alabama scholars Dana Pattonand Joseph Smith analyzed the transcripts of 3,583 oral arguments presented to the court over more than three decades. They found “female lawyers are interrupted earlier and more often, allowed to speak for less time between interruptions, and subjected to more and longer speeches by the justices compared to male lawyers.”
Their study, published in the Journal of Law and Courts,provides evidence that deep-seated gender bias infects even a top-level government institution that is rigorously committed to equal treatment.
Jacobs reports that the researchers analyzed written transcripts of all Supreme Court oral arguments from 1979 through the end of the 2013 term. It found 10.9 percent of the attorneys making these (usually 30-minute) presentations were women—a figure that increased to 14.2 percent after the 2000 term.
“Men were allowed an average of 225 words before the first interruption (by a justice), compared to 192 words for women,” they report. “Male lawyers spoke an average of about 95 words between interruptions, compared to 83 words for female lawyers.”
“Justices’ interruptions are both longer and more frequent during presentations by female lawyers,” the researchers add. “Justices interrupted women an average of 51.3 times, compared to 49.2 times for men.”
“Could this be explained by the fact that female lawyers represent different kinds of clients?” asked Jacobs. To control for that possibility, Jacobs said that the researchers compared the experiences of men and women lawyers representing the U.S. Office of the Solicitor General.
They found that, compared to their male counterparts, women representing the solicitor general’s office “are allowed fewer words at the beginnings of and during their presentations, and they endure longer and more frequent interruptions.”
OK, but is it possible that women are more likely to represent underdogs—perhaps ones with weaker cases that are more prone to challenge? Perhaps, but the researchers found it doesn’t matter.
“Female lawyers do not enjoy the well-documented positive effect of being on the winning side of a case,” they write. “While male lawyers are treated substantially more deferentially when they represent the winning side of a case, female lawyers enjoy no such benefit.”
Jacobs reported, somewhat surprisingly, “the increasing number of female justices on the court does not seem to have mitigated the disparate treatment of female lawyers,” the researchers add. The only element that tempers this tendency is “when the legal dispute concerns a gender-related issue.” In such cases, they found female attorneys are not disadvantaged, presumably because issues of sex and bias are front and center in the justices’ minds.
Jacobs points out that the researchers argue that their findings have implications that go far beyond the Supreme Court. If women professionals are treated unfairly “in a place one would least likely to expect it,” they write, “men likely receive more deferential treatment from bosses and coworkers in all manner of workplaces compared to their female counterparts.”
My opinion? It’s a terrible injustice to the legal system if these findings are correct and no reasonable explanation exists otherwise. Perhaps the findings show a larger disturbing trend. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, in 2014 the median pay for full-time female lawyers was 77.4 percent of the pay earned by their male counterparts. Also, in all law-related jobs, median pay for female workers in 2014 was 51.6 percent of the pay received by male workers.
As Jacobs states toward the end of his article, “Perhaps professional women are at an inherent disadvantage, no matter if the authority figure they answer to is wearing an expensive suit, or a judicial robe.”
In her article titled Visions of Freedom, author Hanna Kozlowska discusses a New York art exhibit where artists capture the artistic requests of inmates held in solitary confinement.
The project “Photo Requests from Solitary” offers inmates held in solitary confinement a chance to ask for any image that they want, and to get their request fulfilled by professional photographers, artists. The inmates’ ideas range from the mundane to the elaborate—from a simple photo of a frog in its natural habitat, to an imaginary scene where a black man dramatically unshackles.
According to Kozlowska, the exhibition opened Sept. 13 as part of Photoville, a photography festival in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. Viewers see the requests and the photos alike. It’s meant to raise awareness about solitary confinement, as a movement to abolish isolation in New York prisons is gaining ground. Meanwhile, the photos,sent to inmates in their cells, provide them some form of relief in conditions of extreme sensory deprivation and isolation proven to be psychologically damaging.
“The idea is that human imagination can survive even this,” said Jean Casella co-director of the watchdog group Solitary Watch.“When you ask people what they want to see, there’s never any shortage of images or fantasies… Part of the message of this show is that you can’t take that away, no matter what you do.” The exhibit also shows the inmate’s detailed requests, which the organizers say are just as powerful, if not more moving to the viewer.
When discussing a poetry exchange with inmates, someone asked if they could send the prisoners photos. But with each photo sent, the inmate would have to give up one of their own. Reynolds asked: “Why not ask them what they want?”
Tamms was shut down in 2013, and the project was expanded to other states. The Brooklyn exhibition shows requests and photos from New York.
Over the years, certain categories emerged in what the inmates wanted to see in their cells. “I think those categories are useful in thinking about the experience of being in prison,” Reynolds says.
My opinion? It’s a wonderful idea. Legally speaking, there’s strong debate that solitary confinement is “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Cruel and unusual punishment includes torture, deliberately degrading punishment, or punishment that is too severe for the crime committed.
Artistically speaking, inspiration can come from many places. Dark and lonely places; even, where people are forgotten, downtrodden, separated from families and their aspirations destroyed by their choices and terrible circumstances. What do prisoners think about when placed in solitary confinement? What does one dream and yearn for? These visions of freedom are powerful indeed.
The report indicates that the increase can be attributed in large part to victims feeling more comfortable reporting bias crimes due to enhanced trust, improved reporting mechanisms and ongoing community outreach by the Department.
“SPD continues to be a national leader in investigating and reporting bias crimes as well as outreach to communities experiencing these acts,” said Chief of Police, Kathleen O’Toole. “In the spirit of transparency and accountability we continue to release these reports letting the community know that the Department works hard every day to make sure our most vulnerable victims are heard and we pursue the justice they deserve.”
Highlights From the Report:
Bias crimes often occur between complete strangers and take victims by surprise. Many of them are property crimes committed anonymously under the cover of darkness. The Seattle Police Department’s clearance rate for these incidents is 39%. Many of these arrests are made by patrol officers arriving on the scene soon after an incident has occurred. Detectives work hard to locate suspects not found at the time of the incident. 13 cases from this period remain open and may be cleared by arrest.
The Seattle Police Department’s Bias Crime Coordinator partnered with community organizations to reach out to some of Seattle’s most vulnerable populations. Refugee and immigrant populations were a focus for outreach during this period. Information has been distributed in 18 different languages describing how to report a crime.
The highest rate of increase in reporting is in the category of crimes with bias elements, which are incidents which are not primarily motivated by bias, but bias language is used during the commission of a crime. These incidents went up 64%. Officers and the community recognize and report bias when they observe it.
“The first half of 2017 was characterized by a high level of interest in the community regarding hate crimes, as evidenced by the high rate of reporting in Seattle. I was contacted many times by people wanting to report incidents they had witnessed, or asking how they could help if they were to see someone being victimized,” said Detective Beth Wareing, Bias Crimes Coordinator. “We rely on the community to stay involved and aware for our efforts in combating hate crimes to be successful. The community is our most valuable partner.”
“SPD has adopted a number of best practices with regards to hate crime prevention, response and reporting,” said Dr. Jack McDevitt, Director of Institute on Race and Justice, at Northeastern University and a leading expert in bias crimes. “The Department has made numerous efforts toward improving both the data collection and reporting of bias crimes incidents. This data is not only collected, but analyzed monthly, a rarity in law enforcement.”
The Seattle Police Department encourages you to call 911 immediately if you’ve been a victim or witnessed a bias crime and lists the following resources available to victims of hate crimes:
“I’m convinced that the 1033 Program has been one of the single greatest contributors to the public losing trust in law enforcement,” said Major Franklin.
He further said that scrapping Executive Order 13688 means police departments will again have unfettered access to high caliber guns, grenade launchers, and armored vehicles, among other forms of military equipment. “During a time when criminal justice and police reform have bipartisan support, this decision shows a clear misunderstanding both of what Americans want and, more perilously, of what’s truly effective at improving public safety.”
In his article, Major Franklin said that the use of such equipment for regular police work damages police-community relations. Militarization has eroded public trust in police, the effectiveness of law enforcement overall, and ultimately, public safety.
“Officers need to engage in crime prevention and crime fighting activities that work,” said Major Franklin. They do not need to participate in programs that waste resources and create dangerous situations for both law enforcement and the public. He claimed that in the SWAT raids studied by the ACLU for its 2013 report, War Comes Home, 79 percent of SWAT deployments were issued to execute search warrants, mostly for drugs. Somewhere between 36 and 65 percent of those drug searches resulted in no discovery of illegal contraband. “Even if everything goes smoothly and nobody gets injured or killed during a raid, it’s still an enormous waste of time and extremely dangerous for both officers and civilians.”
“An all-too-common SWAT scenario is one where SWAT’s involvement escalates a nonviolent situation into a deadly one,” said Major Franklin. “Imagine that you are awoken at dawn by the sound of men shouting and battering down your door. You can’t hear what the voices are saying, but you realize your home is being invaded. Your instinct tells you to grab your lawfully owned gun and face the intruders. You race downstairs and make it to the front door only to find the intruders are police – and they think you have drugs. The police are scared of an armed man running toward them, and you’re barely awake. You’re confused. And then shots are fired. Nobody remembers who pulled the trigger first.”
“With each of these incidents, public trust in the police erodes,” said Major Franklin. He claimed that research shows people who don’t trust police are less likely to report a crime. “I can tell you from experience it makes them much less likely to cooperate in investigations. Without the community to help us, police work — the hard work of solving rapes and homicides and kidnappings — becomes nearly impossible.
Major Franklin said his philosophy is instead guided by the Nine Principles of Policing set forth by Sir Robert Peel and his commissioners nearly 200 years ago, which have set the standard ever since. The very first principle is to prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force.
“I support replacing the 1033 Program with one in which officers must demonstrate competence, be trained in proper equipment usage, and may only use military equipment for hostage, active shooter, and barricade scenarios. I believe this because I became a police officer to protect people. When people fear the police more than they fear crime itself, the legitimacy of the career I loved so much becomes meaningless,” said Major Franklin.
Great article from Lawyer Monthly on the issue of whether police should be allowed to use deadly and lethal force under various circumstances.
It wrote that according to civil rights attorney Rodney Diggs with Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt, “The LAPD faces a need for systemic change”. In May 2017, the LA police commission unanimously approved 25 new recommendations, after discovering alarming findings in the LAPD’s first ever, Use of Force Report.
Diggs, who has handled multiple wrongful death lawsuits stemming from officer-involved shootings and individuals with mental disabilities, believes these recommendations are a step in the right direction.
“Over the years I have practiced, I have seen [approximately] 50-60% increase in wrongful death cases related to individuals suffering from mental disabilities/illness.”
According to the article, Lawyer Monthly surmised that such a vast increase of wrongful deaths is cause for huge concern. Therefore, what accounts towards this increase?
“The changes are due to the officer’s lack of being trained and dealing with individuals who suffer from mental illnesses,” says Diggs. “Conventional police training directly clashes with effective tactics for resolving a typical mental health crisis. Unfortunately, much of that training relies on a command-and-control approach that can lead to dangerous escalations in the use of force.”
HANDLING CITIZENS WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
“It’s more of a lack of training,” said Diggs. “Proper training takes time and money and the reason to why departments may not choose to use resources needed to train officers, is because the value may be hard to quantify. Once departments realize that it may cost money upfront for training but ultimately will save money and lives, they will see the return on investment.”
Training ought to enhance the public’s trust and to lessen the cases we are seeing involving mishandling alleged perpetrators. Rodney says: “Training will teach officers that they do not have to approach a situation and take action right away. But in a medical emergency, slowing it down, getting additional resources and perhaps even stepping back should be the norm.
“When the public sees that someone’s life is saved because an officer properly assessed a situation and now that family doesn’t have to lose a loved one, then the public will trust that the police are equipped to handle these situations.”
“Additionally, the media plays a big role in the perception of its viewers,” said Diggs. He elaborated that the media can either assist in enhancing the public’s trust or incite fear. “So if we want to bridge the gap between officers and civilians, the media needs to highlight instances in which officers do the right thing in a very sticky situation.”
USE OF WEAPONRY
“Use of force is never acceptable unless the force used is objectively reasonable and used only when necessary to accomplish lawful objectives,” said Diggs. “Officers have to assess the situation and determine which use of force should be used in their specific situation.”
USE OF FORCE AND WEAPONRY
In the article, Rodney outlines the factors officers should use when deciding whether to use force and what type of force option to use:
(1) Whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or others;
(2) The severity of the crime;
(3) Whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest; and
(4) Whether the suspect is a flight risk or attempting to escape custody.
Further, deadly force should only be used if there is an immediate threat of death or severe bodily injury to the officer or another.
However, implementing an effective process will not be easy. The article states that one possible method of improving often involves implementing better and stronger sanctions; so, we wonder whether those involved in wrongful deaths need to be better sanctioned.
“A lot of times we see that criminally, officers are not charged with murder or even disciplined within their own departments,” said Diggs. “Despite the monetary compensation that may be awarded to families, the officers face no discipline and the money that is being paid is not being paid out of the officer’s pockets. Monetary compensation by way of settlement, or event civil verdicts, does not equate police reform.
“Greater sanctions would cause a deterrent and would cause officers to think twice and consider the reasonable and appropriate force options available to them or opt not to use force, especially deadly force, when it’s not needed,” says Diggs.
Crocker reports that because sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, some advocates say that these figures likely underestimate the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.
“They’re similar to law enforcement statistics on sex offenses in that they’re not an accurate representation of the magnitude of the problem,” said Christopher Krebs, lead author of the National Institute of Justice’s’ 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study—the source of the widely cited “one in five” figure that has since been challenged. (Krebs himself has previously said that the number is “not a nationally representative statistic.”)
Krebs has since co-authored the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study (CCSVS), which surveyed 23,000 students at nine colleges from 2014 to 2015 and compared their findings to Clery Act data. Released last January, the study found that participants reported 2,380 rapes compared to the 40 rapes reported under the Clery Act by the same nine schools during that 2014-2015 period.
“770 of these rapes occurred on campus, and only 160 of them were reported to authorities who would have been required to report them under the Clery Act,” said Krebs.
Crocker reports that when weighing their data against Clery Act requirements, which only counts reported rapes that occured on or adjacent to campuses, the CCVS survey counted only 60 rapes—not a significant difference from the 40 rapes reported by the nine schools in Clery Act data.
According to Krebs, the discrepancy between the 2,380 rapes reported by CCVS survey participants at nine schools and the 40 rapes reported under the Clery Act by those schools shows that the law’s standards are too narrow.
“To fully grasp the prevalence of campus sexual assault, you need survey data that are collected in a reliable and methodologically rigorous manner,” he said.
“We’ve always emphasized that zero is a red flag, and we know that the reported incidents are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Anne Hedgepeth, the AAUW’s government relations manager. “Schools are out of touch with reality if they continue to claim that they have no sexual violence on their campuses,” she added. “It simply doesn’t square with a lot of research on campus sexual assault.”
Still, Hedgepath emphasized that the increased reports of sexual assault in the latest Education Department study—which included “fondling” in its definition of sexual assault for data collected between 2014 and 2015—suggests victims feel increasingly safer reporting campus sexual assault.
“There may still be a lot of ‘zero incidents’ on college campuses, but it’s a positive thing that more students are coming forward to report their assaults,” she said.
Crocker reports that both Hedgepath and Krebs stressed that climate surveys about campus sexual assault conducted by universities (or looking closely at specific universities) can shed light on the most effective methods of combat sexual violence within those communities.
“Asking students about their experiences can show schools where their Clery Act numbers may be falling short on what’s really happening on their campuses,” said Hedgepath Indeed, sexual assault statistics vary across universities just as they vary across in cities across the country. According to federal data, Brown University
“It’s really easy for media outlets to pick a number like the ‘one in five’ statistic” as indicative of campus sexual assault on a national scale, said Krebs. But that figure differs from school to school.
“Universities need to understand sexual assault in their individual communities to adequately address it, and rigorous survey data are the only thing that accurately reflect the scope of the problem.”
My opinion? Rape is awful. Our college youth who experiment with drugs and alcohol unknowingly create a party atmosphere which can lead to sexual assaults. Fortunately, colleges know that educating students is the most important steps toward prevention. If you, a friend or family member are accused of sexual assault, then immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Chances are, the matter is being investigated by police. Hiring experienced counsel can preserve your rights and ensure your defenses in the face of these terrible accusations.
Sessions claims this report raises serious questions about the efficacy of marijuana ‘regulatory structures’ in Washington State. Here are some of Sessions’ key assertions that Washington state officials are disputing and why.
CLAIM #1: LEGAL MARIJUANA LABS ARE EXPLODING – LITERALLY.
According to Inslee and Ferguson, Sessions’ repeatedly fails to distinguish between marijuana activity that is legal and illegal under state law.
“Instead, it conflates the two in a manner that implies that state-legal marijuana activity is responsible for harm actually caused by illegal marijuana activity,” Inslee and Ferguson wrote. One example is when Sessions cites 17 explosions at THC extraction labs in Washington state. (THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.)
“…None of these explosions were at labs operating legally under state license,” Inslee’s and Ferguson’s letter says. “In the history of our licensing system, no legal extraction lab has ever had an explosion.”
CLAIM #2: WASHINGTON STATE IS ALLOWING A BLACK MARKET TO THRIVE.
Inslee and Ferguson cite similar problems with Sessions’ assertion that marijuana from Washington has been diverted to 43 other states. They say that statistic covers years before Washington’s recreational sales began “and reveals nothing about whether the sources of the marijuana were legal or illegal.”
Rivers, Sawyer, Keiser and Condotta add that Sessions is ignoring the effects of the state’s move in 2016 to eliminate unlicensed medical-marijuana dispensaries in Washington state, as well as to start carefully tracking medical marijuana. The 2016 report that Sessions cited about the state’s marijuana market came out before those reforms went into effect.
CLAIM #3: YOUTH USE OF MARIJUANA HAS INCREASED.
In short, the lawmakers say the notion that minors’ marijuana use increased after legalization is inconsistent with the available facts. As evidence, the lawmakers cite the state’s 2016 Healthy Youth Survey, which found that rates of teen marijuana use have remained steady despite the legalization of marijuana in 2012. The lawmakers also say that marijuana businesses have better rates of complying with laws banning sales to minors than businesses that sell liquor.
CLAIM #4: MOST DRIVERS DON’T THINK MARIJUANA IMPAIRS THEM.
Here, Sessions had cited a statistic that 61.9 percent of drivers do not believe marijuana makes a difference in their driving ability. However, the study that Sessions references doesn’t actually say that. Instead, it found that 97 out of 893 drivers surveyed reported having previously used marijuana within 2 hours of driving. While 61.9 percent of that group said marijuana didn’t hinder their driving ability, that number reflected only 6.7 percent of all the 893 drivers surveyed.
CLAIM #5: YOU CAN COMPARE VEHICLE CRASH RATES BEFORE AND AFTER LEGALIZATION.
Inslee and Ferguson disagree with Sessions’ assertion that driving while under the influence of marijuana has increased in Washington state since marijuana legalization. Those statistics aren’t reliable, Inslee and Ferguson say, because testing for THC during DUI stops used to be much rarer.
“Prior to marijuana legalization, blood testing for THC at suspected DUI traffic stops was substantially less common,” Inslee and Ferguson’s letter reads. “Consequently, comparable statistics do not exist.”
My opinion? Misinformation and exaggeration are tools used by many who rail against Washington’s legalization of marijuana. Hopefully, the current administration won’t take any adverse actions such as conducting federal investigations and/or prosecutions of citizens in Washington state who ingest marijuana. And hopefully, other states also legalize. Perhaps some momentum in that direction would persuade the feds to not be so aggressive in demonizing and outlawing marijuana.
Excellent article by John Tozzi of Bloomberg claims that Americans are drinking more than they used to, a troubling trend with potentially dire implications for the country’s future health-care costs.
The number of adults who binge drink at least once a week could be as high as 30 million, greater than the population of every state save California, according to a study published on Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry. A similar number reported alcohol abuse or dependency.
Between the genders, women showed the larger increase in alcohol abuse, according to the report.
Tozzi reports that while underage drinking has declined in recent years, adult consumption increased across all demographics. The jump was also especially large for older Americans, minorities and people with lower levels of education and income.
The share of adults who reported any alcohol use, high-risk drinking or alcohol dependence or abuse increased significantly between when surveys were conducted in 2001-02 and in follow-up surveys during 2012-2013. Researchers personally interviewed tens of thousands of people with similar questions, offering a robust, nationally representative look at how American drinking habits have evolved in the 21st century.
About 12.6 percent of adults reported risky drinking during the previous year in 2012-13, compared with 9.7 percent in 2001-02. Behavior was considered high-risk if people surpassed the government’s guidelines for excessive alcohol intake, set at four drinks in one day for women and five drinks for men, at least once a week.
That 3 percentage point increase may not seem like a huge jump, but given an adult U.S. population of about 250 million, it represents roughly 7 million more people binge drinking at least once a week.
The increase in alcohol abuse or dependence was even greater: Some 12.7 percent of respondents reported such behavior in the 2012-13 period, compared with 8.5 percent in 2001-02. That percentage increase is roughly equivalent to 10.5 million people at the current population. The surveys assessed abuse or dependence using standard diagnostic criteria (PDF), with questions such as whether people had difficulty cutting down on drinking, or if they continued drinking even when it caused trouble with family and friends.
There’s no single explanation for the increase. Researchers point to economic stress in the aftermath of the Great Recession; more easily available alcohol at restaurants and retailers; and the diminished impact of alcohol taxes. As a percentage of average income, alcohol is cheaper today than at any point since at least 1950.
Pervasive marketing by the alcohol industry and new products such as flavored vodkas or hard lemonade and iced tea may also be driving some of the increases among women and other demographics, said Jernigan.
The consequences for health care, well-being and mortality are severe. Excess drinking caused on average more than 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year from 2006 to 2010, the Centers for Disease Control estimates—more than twice the number of deaths from prescription opioids and heroin last year. The total includes drunk-driving deaths and alcohol-linked violence, as well as liver disease, strokes and other medical conditions. The CDC says drinking too much is responsible for one in 10 deaths among working-age Americans.
The estimated cost of excess alcohol consumption is almost $250 billion a year in the U.S.
“We pay for all of it,” said Jürgen Rehm, senior director of the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The costs show up in higher health-care needs, lost productivity and prosecuting alcohol-fueled crimes, from drunk driving to homicide.
Rehm said alcohol doesn’t command the attention of policymakers the way tobacco, illicit drugs or prescription opioids have. “The response of society should be commensurate to the level of the problem,” he said. Yet there is no national strategy in the U.S. that matches recent, high-profile efforts to combat opioids, smoking or illegal drugs. “Alcohol,” Rehm said, “we just tend to overlook.”
My opinion? Alcohol is a factor in roughly 70% – 80% of my cases. DUI crimes are most commonly associated with alcohol use, but it doesn’t stop there. Assault, domestic violence and sex offenses also overwhelmingly involve alcohol in some way, shape or form. And although voluntary intoxication is a valid defense in some cases, juries and judges tend to be pessimistic of its viability. This is because previous research finds that Americans tend to consider excess drinking a character flaw rather than a medical problem.
Fortunately, in some cases Prosecutors can be persuaded to give some leeway to those who obtain alcohol evaluations and undergo treatment. These actions show the defendant is taking accounability for the alleged crimes they committed while under the influence of alcohol, and that the incident may have been isolated to those particular circumstances.
If you have received a DUI or any other crime involving alcohol use/abuse, you should contact an experienced attorney who can help you through the various requirements from the courts, prosecutors, judges, probation and the Department of Motor Vehicles. You should have a alcohol evaluation done promptly, and have your attorney prep your thoroughly before hand.
Kelly suggest reforms to rein in the charging powers of prosecutors. He recommends the creation of independent panels of clinical experts that would screen offenders and recommend to prosecutors who ought to be diverted to treatment.
“There is nothing about punishment that changes the underlying conditions, disorders and deficits that the majority of criminal offenders bring into the justice system,” Kelly says. Arrestees with mental illness, substance-use disorders, homelessness and other problems churn through the system and into prison, where the underlying issues that led to a lawless life are ignored.
In a conversation with TCR Contributing Editor David J. Krajicek, Kelly explains why he believes the system should incorporate more carrot and less stick for offenders and how the Trump administration’s approach threatens to make things worse. He also suggests that the public already has a more sophisticated view of how to fix the system than our political leaders.
The Crime Report: What is the impact of the country’s justice policy failures?
William R. Kelly: The short financial and statistical answer is that over the past 45 years, we have spent $1 trillion on the war on crime, $1 trillion on the war on drugs and have accomplished a recidivism rate of 65 percent. Nearly all of this effort has focused on trying to punish crime out of people, based on naïve conceptions of criminality such as “hanging around with the wrong people” and “making bad decisions.” The evidence is quite clear that crime has much more complex origins and correlates.
What we have accomplished is a nearly perfect recidivism machine, placing all of us at the unnecessary and avoidable risk of criminal victimization, and wasting extraordinary amounts of money.
TCR: You refer to “the culture of American criminal justice.” What are its key characteristics and how do you change it?
Kelly: It is squarely based on the “tough on crime” mantra. This has dictated the decisions of legislators, prosecutors, judges, and corrections officials. The focus over the past 45 years has been driven by retribution and misguided assumptions that punishment deters re-offending. The question that has been routinely asked is how much punishment does this offender deserve. A more productive question for many offenders is how do we reduce the likelihood a particular offender will reoffend…
We need to provide clear incentives to motivate changing how we think about crime and punishment. Cost-benefit analyses conclusively show that behavioral change through clinical intervention like mental health and substance use disorder treatment is much more effective and cost efficient. The financial advantages should motivate legislators and local government officials. Reducing recidivism should be an incentive for prosecutors, judges, public defenders, and probation and parole officers, who will benefit from reductions in caseloads. Then there is the greater good of enhanced public safety, something we incorrectly assume the justice system already does.
TCR: You say the facile American view of crime and punishment got us here. Have voters grown more sophisticated, or are reform-minded pols still at risk of being Willie Hortoned?
Kelly: Public opinion data demonstrate that much of the public has a more nuanced view of crime and punishment than many legislators, prosecutors and judges. The public believes that the purpose of corrections is to rehabilitate offenders and therefore reduce recidivism. Many have moved beyond “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”
Unfortunately, many policymakers, elected officials and some segments of the public still seem to be holding on to the idea that criminals are just bad people deserving maximum punishment. I’m sorry to say that Willie Horton is alive and well…There appears to be a reluctance to really embrace meaningful, comprehensive criminal justice reform.
TCR: You write, “We have arrived at the nadir of politics and policy.” Did you write that before or after Donald Trump’s election?
Kelly: I wrote that before Trump was elected when I incorrectly believed that we had already reached bottom. Who would have thought that anyone with any sense of history and even a superficial exposure to the evidence would run as the law-and-order candidate and resurrect the war on drugs?
TCR: How do you demonstrate that “tough” and “dumb” are synonyms when it comes to criminal justice?
TCR: Who’s to blame for the state of “correctional malpractice” you say we are in?
Kelly: First and foremost, elected officials who have blindly championed “tough on crime” policies to their political benefit, but to the detriment of public safety and the prudent use of tax dollars. State legislators and Congress have provided the mechanisms for tough on crime—mandatory sentences, restrictive parole release laws, and an ever-expanding criminal code that seems to make criminal justice the go-to system for just about every social ill.
But the culpability of elected officials goes well beyond that. The vast majority of offenders in the criminal justice system have a substance-use disorder, 40 percent are mentally ill, and 60 percent have had a least one traumatic brain injury often leading to neurocognitive dysfunction…The decision to not properly fund public health, schools and social welfare agencies has created problems that by default are managed by the criminal justice system.
Criminal justice reform means much more than merely reforming the criminal justice system. It requires massive changes to and investment in a variety of collateral institutions.
TCR: Your book articulates and recommends a scientific approach to justice reform. Yet science is out of favor in Washington and many state houses. Is there a scientific path forward?
Kelly: Yes there is, but I am afraid that we need to disguise it for some, by minimizing the science and emphasizing the public safety benefits and cost savings.
TCR: You note an overlooked data point: The country has 21 million people with substance-use disorders, the world’s third-highest rate. What explains this particular American exceptionalism?
Kelly: It is largely a result of the lack of public substance abuse resources, including inadequate treatment capacity and insurance coverage. Much of it can be attributed to the failure of the war on drugs and the belief that we can either punish or threaten substance abuse out of people. Criminalizing substance abuse rather than treating it as a public health problem has led to the failure to provide adequate funding for treatment.
Unfortunately, the picture is bleaker. The majority of substance abuse and mental health treatment in the U.S. is paid for by Medicaid. Current versions of repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act call for substantial cuts to Medicaid. That does not bode well for a problem that is crippling the country, the economy, communities, families, and the justice system.
TCR: You write that we have used an absurdly simplistic approach (lock ‘em up) for a boundlessly complex problem. Explain briefly the research on co-morbidity among inmates.
Kelly: The vast majority of offenders in the criminal justice system have clearly identifiable disorders, deficits and impairments. Many have more than one disorder, known as co-morbidity or co-occurring disorders. For example, the majority of offenders with a mental illness also have a substance-use disorder. Neuro-cognitive problems are often co-morbid with mental health and substance abuse. It does not require a clinician to appreciate that “lockin’ ‘em up” does nothing to alleviate these conditions and in fact typically exacerbates them.
When we do attempt to address these problems–diversion to a drug court or a mental health court–our focus is on just one crime-related condition. Our correctional treatment and rehabilitation efforts typically ignore co-morbidity.
TCR: What do the rest of us in a presumably civilized society owe these damaged people?
Kelly: I don’t think it’s so much what we owe them, but what do we owe ourselves: lower crime and recidivism, lower risk of being victims of crime, and lower cost of criminal justice. We have the tools to accomplish these things, but making it a political priority has been elusive.
TCR: You compare the U.S. system to those of Germany and Holland; it doesn’t stack up well. You cite one lesson we can learn from those countries: “If you treat inmates like humans, they will act like humans.” How is it possible that we don’t know that already?
Kelly: In order to justify our draconian and dysfunctional reliance on punishment, we need to think of criminals as “not like us” in fundamental ways, as deserving retribution and harsh punishment. Punishment is what we have been told is the only thing “these people” will understand.
Psychological research confirmed a long time ago that, in most cases, incentives work much better than punishment for changing behavior. This is another example of the disjuncture between scientific evidence and criminal justice policy.
TCR: Your key recommendation is an “unprecedented expansion” of diversion away from court toward intervention and treatment. Describe the panel review process you suggest.
Kelly: Traditional criminal prosecution, conviction and punishment are entirely appropriate for many offenders. For example, violent offenders and chronic, habitual offenders probably need to be separated from society through incarceration in the interest of public safety. For many others, such as non-violent offenders and many drug offenders, we have a much better chance of reducing recidivism by diverting them and mitigating the factors that are associated with their criminality. One of the key issues here is making good decisions about who to divert and who to prosecute.
We developed the concept of independent panels of clinical experts to facilitate better decision-making, both in terms of who should be diverted and what treatment or intervention will decrease the probability of recidivism. Offenders often have complex clinical needs that require the special expertise of psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers who can assess and diagnose, determine the risk of re-offending, and make recommendations to prosecutors.
The goal is to divert appropriate individuals away from traditional prosecution to situations where their risk can be supervised and managed and where they can receive adequate treatment and intervention.
TCR: And this is the “disruptive innovation” of your book title?
Kelly: The panels are part of it. Implementing this concept will require a substantial shift in how prosecutors do their jobs, as well as how we think about crime and punishment. In effect, this requires changing the criminal justice culture.
We also argue that all levels of government need to address major deficiencies in public health, a fundamental consideration in assuring adequate capacity and expertise for intervention and treatment. The bigger picture is that criminal justice reform requires disruptive innovation of collateral institutions, such as public health.
TCR: And how might it be greeted by prosecutors, who hold all the power right now?
Kelly: This will not be easy. However, reasonable incentives for prosecutors should be recidivism reduction, in turn reducing caseloads.
The primary reasons that prosecutors’ caseloads are so large and unmanageable relate to the failure to reduce recidivism.
TCR: You say these changes will force us to redefine success in our justice system. How so?
Kelly: Success should be measured by recidivism rates, something directly related to performance of criminal justice. As it stands now, there really is no accountability. Everyone involved in criminal justice–legislators, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and corrections officials–should all be held responsible for recidivism reduction. That would also be a disruptive change.
TCR: Tell me about the process of partnering with Robert Pitman and William Streusand in this book.
Kelly: I wrote the book, but both Pitman and Streusand played very important roles in devising solutions. For example, Pitman, a former U.S. Attorney who is now a federal judge, brought his knowledge and expertise to the task of developing statutory and procedural details for how the expert panels would fit into the roles and responsibilities of prosecutors, defense counsel and judges.
The input of Streusand, a psychiatrist, was crucial in the development of the clinical protocol for the expert panels and assessing offender dysfunction, as well as the discussions about fixing public health.
TCR: You were going through a serious health crisis while writing this book, as you point out in the introduction. I hope you are doing well. I wonder if that diversionsomehow informed the book’s content.
Kelly: Thank you. I am in complete remission and feel very blessed. To be honest, it could not have worked out any better. I was diagnosed in early March of 2016, when I had a rough draft of one chapter written. I was so fortunate that I had this project to distract me from the reality of being pretty sick and going through some difficult chemo. It was also fortuitous that I had two collaborators who are very good friends and played important roles in my recovery.
I’m not sure that being sick informed the content, but I suspect it influenced the tone. If I sound impatient at times in the book, it is probably a result of being confronted with the reality that life is short.
**Excellent article, and excellent book by Mr. Kelly.
“Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved,” Sessions said.
In April, Sessions promised the task force would “undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing and marijuana to ensure consistency with the department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime.”
That was after Sessions told reporters in February that the nation was seeing “real violence” around the “unhealthy practice” of marijuana use, according to POLITICO.
According to Santos, however, Mr. Sessions’ statements run contrary to the experience in Washington state, which became one of the first two U.S. states to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults in 2012.
Since voters approved Initiative 502, FBI crime statistics show lower rates of violent crime in Washington than before legalization. According to the FBI data, in 2011 there were 295.6 violent offenses reported per 100,000 Washington residents. In 2015, the most recent full year of data available, that rate had fallen to 284.4 violent offenses per 100,000 people.
Other data compiled by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs showed some fluctuations in violent crime rates but still found no statistically significant increase. According to those reports, in 2012 there were 3.6 violent offenses per 1,000 state residents. In 2016, the state’s violent crime rate was 3.3 offenses per 1,000 people.
Santos writes that the downturn in violent crime in Washington is consistent with national trends. A Pew Research Center analysis of the FBI data found that nationwide, the rate of reported violent crimes in 2015 was roughly half what it was in 1993.
Still, Washington’s violent crime rate in 2015 was substantially lower than the national rate, according to the FBI data.
Neither the FBI data nor the data from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs specifically tracks violent crime that might be related to marijuana. A spokeswoman for the Tacoma Police Department said her agency doesn’t track offenses that way, either.
“In Washington state, I think it would be a strain to correlate violent crime with marijuana usage,” said Mitch Barker, the executive director of the sheriff and police chiefs group. “I would struggle to believe that the legalization of marijuana or more legalization relates to violent crime — somebody would have to make that case to me.”
State Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma and the chairman of the House committee that deals with marijuana, said some state officials initially expected crime to go up with marijuana legalization, especially since the state’s weed stores run entirely on cash.
That didn’t happen, Sawyer said.
“As far as I’m aware there is no credible study linking violent crime and marijuana,” he said. “I think what more people are realizing is violent crime is linked to keeping marijuana illegal . . . In general, legalization takes money out of the hands of criminals,” he said, referring to drug cartels.
Rivers said she still thinks it would be too costly and difficult for the federal government to try rein in states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states plus Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational use of pot, while 29 states have legalized medical-marijuana use.
Yet in May, Sessions asked Congress to lift a restriction that prevents the Justice Department from using federal money to interfere with states that have legalized medical marijuana. Sessions called the restriction on federal prosecutions “unwise… particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” according to reports by Massroots.com and The Washington Post.
Sawyer said he remains concerned that Washington’s system could be at risk.
“I think it’s a very real possibility,” Sawyer said. “But we’re going to see what the administration chooses to do.”
VIOLENT CRIME RATES IN WASHINGTON STATE
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports violent crime rate in Washington has declined since voters here legalized recreational marijuana use in November 2012. The FBI numbers are based on crimes reported to law enforcement agencies.
2010: 313.5 offenses per 100,000 city inhabitants
2011: 294.6 offenses per 100,000 city inhabitants
2012: 295.6 offenses per 100,000 city inhabitants
2013: 289.1 offenses per 100,000 city inhabitants
2014: 285.8 offenses per 100,000 city inhabitants
2015: 284.4 offenses per 100,000 city inhabitants
The state’s rate of violent crime in 2015, the most recent year of data available, also was substantially lower than the national average, according to the FBI. Nationally, the estimated rate of violent crime was 372.6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015.