Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Audit Slams RCMP on Mental Health, Public Safety Minister Says Findings "Disappointing"
"A third report that exposes the RCMP’s failure to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for employees led the public safety minister Tuesday to contradict Canada’s top Mountie on what ails the iconic police force.

It came after Federal Auditor General Michael Ferguson released an audit that found the RCMP failed to allocate enough money and staff to implement a mental health strategy it rolled out in May 2014.

'There’s a good strategy on paper, but the challenge is to actually make that work,' said Ferguson, whose audit directly ties mental health issues to operational effectiveness. 

'This audit is important because poor mental health has a direct impact on the well-being of members, their colleagues and their families. Left unmanaged and unsupported, mental health issues can lead to increased absenteeism, workplace conflict, high turnover, low productivity, and increased use of disability and health benefits.'

'Ultimately, members’ poor mental health affects the RCMP’s capacity to serve and protect Canadians.'”

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Monday, May 1, 2017

"Serious Problems" in Use of Segregation in Prisons, Ontario Ombudsman Reports
"The use of segregation in Ontario jails is full of 'serious problems,' including improper tracking and monitoring of prisoners, says the province’s ombudsman in a new report....

Dubé is calling on the province to clearly define what segregation is, noting that it is inconsistent among correctional facilities, saying it should reflect the conditions inmates are in, and not just simply if they are placed in a “'segregation unit.'

He called on the government to legislate a clear definition of segregation based on the conditions an inmate faces, rather than the actual location within the prison, and train correctional staff. He also urged the province set up 'independent panels to review all segregation placements and place the onus on the ministry (of community safety and correctional services) to show that each placement is justified.'...

The ombudsman’s report notes the toll that segregation takes on inmates, calling it 'a severe form of punishment that can have grave and lasting effects on a person’s mental state,' and said it should only be used as a last resort."

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After Decades of Decline, the Murder Rate Increased in 2015 and 2016
"After decades of declines in the murder rate, 2016 may have been the second bloody year in a row in America.

According to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the US murder rate rose by 7.8 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. It’s the second year in a row in which the murder rate increased.

The outlook was even worse in big cities. In the 30 largest US cities, Brennan estimated that the murder rate increased by 14 percent from 2015 to 2016, following an increase of 13.2 percent in 2015. These increases were heavily concentrated: More than half of 2015’s urban murder increase happened in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, DC. And more than 40 percent of 2016’s rise happened in Chicago alone, which had a particularly bad year.

Still, Brennan cautioned, the murder rate remained nearly half of what it was 25 years before: 'From 1991 to 2016, the murder rate fell by roughly half, from 9.8 killings per 100,000 to 5.3. With violence at historic lows, modest increases in the murder rate may appear large in percentage terms.'”

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An Intelligence in our Image: The Risk of Bias and Errors in Artificial Intelligence
"Machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence systems influence many aspects of people's lives: news articles, movies to watch, people to spend time with, access to credit, and even the investment of capital. Algorithms have been empowered to make such decisions and take actions for the sake of efficiency and speed. Despite these gains, there are concerns about the rapid automation of jobs (even such jobs as journalism and radiology). A better understanding of attitudes toward and interactions with algorithms is essential precisely because of the aura of objectivity and infallibility cultures tend to ascribe to them. This report illustrates some of the shortcomings of algorithmic decisionmaking, identifies key themes around the problem of algorithmic errors and bias, and examines some approaches for combating these problems. This report highlights the added risks and complexities inherent in the use of algorithmic decisionmaking in public policy. The report ends with a survey of approaches for combating these problems."

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Radicalisation in the Digital Era: The Use of the Internet in 15 Cases of Terrorism and Extremism
"This paper presents the results from exploratory primary research into the role of the internet in the radicalisation of 15 terrorists and extremists in the UK. In recent years, policymakers, practitioners and the academic community have begun to examine how the internet influences the process of radicalisation: how a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism associated with terrorism. This study advances the evidence base in the field by drawing on primary data from a variety of sources: evidence presented at trial, computer registries of convicted terrorists, interviews with convicted terrorists and extremists, as well as police senior investigative officers responsible for terrorist investigations. The 15 cases were identified by the research team together with the UK Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and UK Counter Terrorism Units (CTU). The research team gathered primary data relating to five extremist cases (the individuals were part of the Channel programme, a UK government intervention aimed at individuals identified by the police as vulnerable to violent extremism), and ten terrorist cases (convicted in the UK), all of which were anonymised. Our research supports the suggestion that the internet may enhance opportunities to become radicalised and provide a greater opportunity than offline interactions to confirm existing beliefs. However, our evidence does not necessarily support the suggestion that the internet accelerates radicalisation or replaces the need for individuals to meet in person during their radicalisation process. Finally, we didn't find any supporting evidence for the concept of self-radicalisation through the internet."

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Monetary Sanctions in the Criminal Justice System
"Monetary sanctions have always been part of the U.S. criminal justice system. Today they are receiving new attention, as recent social, political, and legal developments have raised questions about how they affect poverty, racial and socioeconomic inequality, and the fair and efficient admininistration of justice. This summary report draws on evidence culled from reviews of statutes and case law in nine states to draw attention to the policies and practices that govern the imposition, enforcement, and implications of legal financial obligations."

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Road Rage with Guns more than Doubles in Three Years, Report Says
"When the former N.F.L. player Joe McKnight was shot and killed last year in what the authorities described as a case of road rage, it was a high-profile example of what has been a marked increase in the use of guns in such confrontations, a new analysis shows.

The analysis was published by The Trace, a nonprofit news organization focused on gun violence. It found that cases of road rage involving a firearm — where someone brandished a gun or fired one at a driver or passenger — more than doubled to 620 in 2016, from 247 in 2014."

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Reviewers are Blinkered by Bibliometrics
"Science panels still rely on poor proxies to judge quality and impact. That results in risk-averse research, say Paula Stephan, Reinhilde Veugelers and Jian Wang.

There is a disconnect between the research that reviewers purport to admire and the research that they actually support. As participants on multiple review panels and scientific councils, we have heard many lament researchers' reluctance to take risks. Yet we've seen the same panels eschew risk and rely on bibliometric indicators for assessments, despite widespread agreement that they are imperfect measures.

Although journal impact factors (JIFs) were developed to assess journals and say little about any individual paper, reviewers routinely justify their evaluations on the basis of where candidates have published. Panel members judge applicants by Google Scholar results and use citation counts to score proposals for new research. This practice prevails even at agencies such as the European Research Council (ERC), which instructs reviewers not to look up bibliometric measures."

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