Thursday, June 29, 2017

How Body Cameras Affect Community Members' Perceptions of Police
"Members of the public often do not accurately remember whether police officers with whom they interact are wearing body worn cameras (BWC). Yet despite this poor recall, this randomized controlled trial of BWC use in a single jurisdiction finds that community members are more satisfied with police encounters when the officer is wearing a body camera. While application of procedurally just practices is associated with greater levels of resident satisfaction with police than just wearing a camera, combining the two produces even higher ratings of police. These findings suggest that policies on camera use may enhance the technology’s ability to improve interactions between police and the public."

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America's Complex Relationship with Guns: An In-Depth Look at the Attitudes and Experiences of U.S. Adults
"As a nation, the U.S. has a deep and enduring connection to guns. Integrated into the fabric of American society since the country’s earliest days, guns remain a point of pride for many Americans. Whether for hunting, sport shooting or personal protection, most gun owners count the right to bear arms as central to their freedom. At the same time, the results of gun-related violence have shaken the nation, and debates over gun policy remain sharply polarized.
 
A new Pew Research Center survey attempts to better understand the complex relationship Americans have with guns and how that relationship intersects with their policy views."

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The Impact of Organised Crime in Local Communities
"Organised crime is changing. Traditional forms of organised crime centred around drug dealing and serious acquisitive crime are being supplemented with 'new or emerging' crimes, such as modern slavery, child sexual exploitation and cyber fraud. It is now one of the government's main national priorities and new organisations at the national and regional level have been specifically set up to tackle it. However, the public view of organised crime is that while it is seen as a serious problem, it is not seen as a problem locally where they live. Since Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are required to reflect local concerns when deciding how to allocate their force's resources, organised crime therefore tends not to attract the resources it requires.

This study looks at the nature, scale and impact of organised crime on local communities. It focuses on the more hidden aspects of organised crime and how it impacts on vulnerable individuals and communities. It also looks at the modi operandi of organised crime groups (OCGs) and the local response to their offending."

Step Back: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy from the Failed War on Terror
"In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched an international war on terrorism defined by military intervention, nation building, and efforts to reshape the politics of the Middle East. As of 2017, however, it has become clear that the American strategy has destabilized the Middle East while doing little to protect the United States from terrorism.

After 15 years of considerable strategic consistency during the presidencies of George Bush and Barack Obama, Donald Trump now takes the reins having promised to “bomb the sh—” out of ISIS and “defeat them fast.” At the same time, however, Trump broke sharply in his campaign rhetoric from Republican orthodoxy on Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever President Trump decides to do, an evaluation of the War on Terror should inform his policies.

We argue that the War on Terror failed. This failure has two fundamental—and related—sources. The first is the inflated assessment of the terror threat facing the United States, which led to an expansive counterterrorism campaign that did not protect Americans from terrorist attacks. The second source of failure is the adoption of an aggressive strategy of military intervention."

There is now Proof the NSA Overindulges in Data Collection
"National security officials are continually reassuring Americans that their communications aren’t getting caught in massive dragnets, and that when it does happen, the communications are handled responsibly. But recently-released opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)—the seven-judge panel charged with oversight of National Security Agency (NSA) spying programs—show just the opposite is true. 

The heavily redacted documents, released on June 13 by the Department of Justice in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), show troubling abuses of surveillance powers granted under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act." 

The Mental Health Crisis Facing Women in Prison
"More than two-thirds of incarcerated women in America reported having a history of mental health problems — a far higher percentage than their male counterparts, according to a study released Thursday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Although the prevalence of mental health disorders among people in prisons and jails is a well-known problem, the dramatic gender disparity exposed in the new report has been less discussed.

The survey, conducted from February 2011 to March 2012, asked more than 100,000 men and women in hundreds of U.S. jails and prisons whether they had ever been diagnosed by a mental health professional with a psychological disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety. The survey also posed questions about inmates’ mood and emotions in the previous 30 days.

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed said they had been diagnosed with a mental health condition. About 19 percent experienced an episode of serious psychological distress in the month before being surveyed.

When the data is broken down by gender, the differences are stark."

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Everyone is too Distracted to Stop Sharing Fake News, Study Shows
"Echo chambers, confirmation bias and ignorance. When explaining why fake news spreads on social media, we can be quick to blame the personal qualities of other people. But don’t be so hasty to point the finger at others for the popularity of false information on Facebook and Twitter. New research shows that everyone is prone to sharing less-than-truthful news when dealing with a never-ending stream of updates.

The scientists found that when the news cycle is packed to the brim, people will struggle to discriminate between fact-based stories and fake news on social media. This consequence is inherently built into how social media platforms work, according to the study published Monday in Nature Human Behavior, and may also explain popularity bias in modern journalism."

Study: Gunfire Kills or Injures more than 7,000 Children per Year
"About 19 U.S. children per day are killed by or receive emergency treatment for gunshot wounds, according to a new study from federal researchers.
Among injury-related deaths, firearms are the second leading cause behind car accidents for children ages 1-17.
'These are preventable injuries that have a major public health impact on early death and disability among children,' lead author Katherine A. Fowler, Ph.D., said in an email interview.
Dr. Fowler and her colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data from national databases and published the findings in a new study, 'Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States,' (Fowler KA, et al. Pediatrics. June 19, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-3486).
Dr. Fowler called the work 'the most comprehensive examination of current firearm-related deaths and injuries among children in the U.S. to date.'” 
Screening of Police Charges could help Clear Crowded Courts, Study says
"Nearly half of all criminal charges in Ontario are withdrawn or tossed out before trial, a higher rate than anywhere else in Canada.

The finding comes in a new report that urges reform of the way charges are laid in the province, with the aim of relieving an overcrowded court system.

Using data from Statistics Canada, the study finds significantly heavier caseloads in the court systems of provinces such as Ontario — where police lay charges — versus British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick, where Crown attorneys screen charges before they are laid to decide whether there's a reasonable chance of conviction."

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Perspectives on Policing: Mixed Signals for Police Improvement: The Value of your Crime Severity Score May Go Up as well as Down
"The development of a Crime Severity Score for England and Wales by the Office for National Statistics represents an important step towards a more sophisticated 'two-dimensional' understanding of police-recorded crime data. In this paper I start to unpick what it tells us about recent changes in the policing environment, point out its limitations as a tool for understanding crime change and flag-up some potential hazards in its usage, particularly as a tool for making judgements about 'performance'. I argue that its main value is to make central a set of 'severe' (high-tariff, high-harm, high-demand) abuse crime that are recorded in relatively low (but growing) numbers, and for which changes in the volume recorded by the police are a poor indicator of change in actual incidence. This rebalancing should force us to reconsider the meanings we attach to the ups and downs of police-recorded crime (whether weighted or otherwise) and to challenge the habit of seeing progress in reduction. Finally, I put forward suggestions for some non-traditional crime data division - such as between 'abuse' and 'reduce' crime, 'patent' and 'latent' demand crime and 'initial' and 'repeat' victim crime - that might prove useful for disambiguating aggregate Crime Severity Scores, and providing a more three-dimensional perspective on crime, police practice and on the relationships between the two."

Can we Predict a Riot? Disruptive Event Detection Using Twitter
"In recent years, there has been increased interest in real-world event detection using publicly accessible data made available through Internet technology such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. In these highly interactive systems, the general public are able to post real-time reactions to 'real world' events, thereby acting as social sensors of terrestrial activity. Automatically detecting and categorizing events, particularly small-scale incidents, using streamed data is a non-trivial task but would be of high value to public safety organisations such as local police, who need to respond accordingly. To address this challenge, we present an end-to-end integrated event detection framework that comprises five main components: data collection, pre-processing, classification, online clustering, and summarization. The integration between classification and clustering enables events to be detected, as well as related smaller-scale 'disruptive events,' smaller incidents that threaten social safety and security or could disrupt social order. We present an evaluation of the effectiveness of detecting events using a variety of features derived from Twitter posts, namely temporal, spatial, and textual content. We evaluate our framework on a large-scale, real-world dataset from Twitter. Furthermore, we apply our event detection system to a large corpus of tweets posted during the August 2011 riots in England. We use ground-truth data based on intelligence gathered by the London Metropolitan Police Service, which provides a record of actual terrestrial events and incidents during the riots, and show that our system can perform as well as terrestrial sources, and even better in some cases."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Report: America's Prisons are so Polluted they are Endangering Inmates
"According to a new investigation from Earth Island Journal  and Truthout, mass incarceration has led to some of the most egregious examples of environmental injustice. '[M]ass incarceration in the US impacts the health of prisoners, prison-adjacent communities, and local ecosystems from coast to coast,' the authors of the special report said.

Prisons are often located in areas with known environmental hazards. Nearly 600 federal and state prisons are within three miles of a Superfund site on the National Priorities List, and more than  100 of those are just one mile from a site."

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Police-Reported Hate Crime in Canada, 2015
"In 2015, police reported 1,362 criminal incidents in Canada that were motivated by hate, marking an increase of 5% or 67 more incidents than were reported the previous year. The increase in the total number of incidents was largely attributable to an increase in police-reported hate crimes motivated by hatred of a religion (+40 incidents) or of a race or ethnicity (+30 incidents)."
 
Experts Question whether British Police should Carry more Guns after Deadly Terror Attacks
"Police were at the scene of the deadly terror attack on London Bridge within two minutes of receiving the first call. In eight minutes, armed officers had shot dead all three attackers in the Borough Market area.

Seven people were killed in the weekend terror attack and 48 injured, including a police officer armed only with a baton who tried to fight off an attacker wielding a long hunting knife.

The incident, being described as eight minutes of terror, raises questions about the long-standing practice throughout Great Britain of having only specially armed police units. As lone-wolf terrorists use low-technology tactics to target civilians more frequently, should the U.K. consider providing all police officers with guns?"

Trump's "Travel Ban" is Based on an entirely False Legal Premise 
"Donald Trump fired off several tweets this morning about his executive order barring for at least 90 days all immigration or travel to the United States for six Middle Eastern and African nationalities, stating that he thinks it should actually be much broader. I have previously explained why President Trump’s national security justification for the order is completely devoid of evidence. But another fact that we highlighted in our amicus brief deserves attention here: that the order’s supposed 'security' purpose is based on an entirely false legal premise."
 
What are Inmates Learning in Prison? Not Much
"...A report released Thursday by the advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums provided an inside look at educational opportunities within the federal prison system that inmates say suffers from a glaring lack of trained instructors and a scarcity of classes.

The survey found that nearly all continuing education classes are led by fellow prisoners with little teaching experience. Job skills programs are only available to inmates who are nearing release, and college courses are too expensive for inmates whose incomes rely on the few dollars they earn from prison jobs. Very few respondents said they had access to a computer. In one case, a survey respondent said his prison geology class consisted of watching episodes of the BBC television show Planet Earth."

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Drug Deaths in America are Rising Faster than Ever
"Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times.

The death count is the latest consequence of an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

Although the data is preliminary, the Times’s best estimate is that deaths rose 19 percent over the 52,404 recorded in 2015. And all evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017."

The Price of Prisons: Examining State Spending Trends, 2010-2015
"From the early 1970s into the new millennium, the U.S. prison population experienced unprecedented growth, which had a direct influence on state budgets. In recent years, however, lawmakers in nearly every state and from across the political spectrum have enacted new laws to reduce prison populations and spending. This report, which builds upon the information found in Vera’s 2012 publication The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers, found that 13 states were successful in reducing both population and spending. However, no single reason explains a rise or fall in spending; instead, a multitude of factors push and pull expenditures in different directions."

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Still Life: America's Increasing of Life and Long-Term Sentences
"The number of people serving life sentences in U.S. prisons is at an all-time high. Nearly 162,000 people are serving a life sentence - one of every nine people in prison. An additional 44,311 individuals are serving 'virtual life' sentences of 50 years or more. Incorporating this category of life sentence, the total population serving a life or virtual life sentence reached 206,269 in 2016. 
This represents 13.9 percent of the prison population, or one of every seven people behind bars. A mix of factors has led to the broad use of life sentences in the United States, placing it in stark contrast to practices in other nations.

Every state and the federal government allow prison sentences that are so long that death in prison is presumed. This report provides a comprehensive profile of those living in this deep end of the justice system. Our analysis provides current figures on people serving life with parole (LWP) and life without parole (LWOP) as well as a category of long-term prisoner that has not previously been quantified: those serving 'virtual' or de facto life sentences. Even though virtual life sentences can extend beyond the typical lifespan, because the sentences are not legally considered life sentences, traditional counts of life-sentenced prisoners have excluded them until now."

Death Penalty in 2016: Facts and Figures
"At least 1,032 people were executed in 23 countries in 2016. In 2015 Amnesty International recorded 1,634 executions in 25 countries worldwide - a historical spike unmatched since 1989.

Most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan – in that order.

China remained the world’s top executioner – but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is considered a state secret; the global figure of at least 1,032 excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China.

Excluding China, 87% of all executions took place in just four countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

For the first time since 2006, the USA was not one of the five biggest executioners, falling to seventh behind Egypt. The 20 executions in the USA was the lowest in the country since 1991."

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