Posts Tagged ‘prisoners’

First Step Act becomes law

President Trump has signed into law, Congress having passed by wide margins, the First Step Act, which will make substantial changes to incarceration practices at the federal level and lesser but still significant changes to sentencing practices. Joe Luppino-Esposito of the Due Process Institute responds to five criticisms that some conservatives have leveled against the bill in its later stages. Jonathan Blanks has more. Families Against Mandatory Minimums has a FAQ. And Caleb Brown interviews Shon Hopwood about the law for the Cato Daily Podcast.

Opioids roundup

  • Prisoners die of drug overdoses at a high rate in their first week after release. That’s in part a prohibition-related problem [Jeffrey Miron, Cato]
  • “Drug testing kits can detect the presence of fentanyl and other contaminants — but in many places, including Illinois, they are classified as illegal drug paraphernalia.” [Steve Chapman]
  • “Hospitalized Patients Are Civilian Casualties in the Government’s War on Opioids” [Jeffrey A. Singer, Cato, more]
  • Texas: “Opioid lawyers pumped $110K into LaHood’s campaign after Bexar County DA hired them” [David Yates, Southeast Texas Record] “State senator working with Watts on home turf opioid lawsuit, lawyers billing Hidalgo County $3,800 an hour” [SE Texas Record]
  • “Cities Vs. States: A Looming Battle For Control Of High-Stakes Opioid Litigation” [Daniel Fisher on Tennessee AG’s intervention]
  • All 50 states have now adopted prescription drug monitoring programs, but do they work as intended? [Jeffrey Singer, Jacob Sullum]

Alabama law enables sheriff to eat well

Under an Alabama law passed before World War II, many county sheriffs can keep what are deemed extra sums allocated for inmate meals but not used for that purpose. Some large counties require the surplus to be turned over to general county funds. Can sheriffs of other counties convert the funds to personal use? In Etowah County (Gadsden), a local resident says he was paid to mow the sheriff’s lawn with checks from from the sheriff’s “Food Provision Account.” [Connor Sheets, Al.com] And in a followup, four days later local police arrested the resident who had told the reporter about being paid for lawn-mowing. The raid, said to have been based on an anonymous call reporting the odor of marijuana issuing from within an apartment, resulted in charges against him later bumped up to felony drug trafficking based on weight: “Once that marijuana was mixed with the butter then the whole butter becomes marijuana, and that’s what we weighed.” [Sheets, Al.com]

Law enforcement for profit roundup

  • “When you find yourself threatening to find more reasons to put even more citizens in jail in order to protect your revenue stream, it’s maybe time to take a step back and think about what you’re doing.” [Scott Shackford on Alabama forfeiture debate]
  • How IRS spent $20 million on debt collection program that generated $6.7 million in payments [Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center]
  • “Federal Judge Strikes Down New York City’s Dragnet That Seized Thousands Of Cars Without Warrants” [Nick Sibilla, IJ/Forbes]
  • Prison phone calls and other captive markets: “Stop squeezing prisoners’ families for cash” [Megan McArdle]
  • “The high price of being wrongly accused in Alabama’s ‘monetized’ criminal justice system” [Ashley Remkus, Al.com]
  • “Cop Who Called Asset Forfeiture ‘A Tax-Liberating Goldmine’ Sued for Illegal Traffic Stop and Seizure” [C.J. Ciaramella; Kane County, Ill.]

When pizza incentives (allegedly) backfire

A class-action suit charges that the sheriff and public defender’s office in Cook County, Ill. have failed to protect female public defenders and law clerks from detainees who expose themselves and harass the women in other ways. According to the suit’s allegations, the authorities tried bribing serial offenders with free pizza if they refrained from misbehaving but the policy “backfired, allegedly, because some detainees who learned of it would then start acting out just so they could get pizza when they stopped.” [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar] “A spokeswoman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said the pizza rewards program described in the lawsuit never took place.” [ABC News]

Dark side of alternatives to incarceration: return of convict leasing

Rehab program sent men from drug courts in Oklahoma and elsewhere to chicken plant as unpaid labor [Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter, Center for Investigative Reporting] More: Digital History/University of Houston on history of convict leasing (“In 1883, about 10 percent of Alabama’s total revenue was derived from convict leasing.”); Ida B. Wells, “The Convict Lease System” (“The Convict Lease System and Lynch Law are twin infamies which flourish hand in hand in many of the United States”); Frederick Douglass speech on convict lease system; U.S. Department of Justice peonage files 1901-1945.

Police and prosecution roundup

  • Teacher killed in the crosswalk, with the light. NYPD: “The victim behaved recklessly by crossing the street.” [StreetsBlog]
  • North Carolina not among the 13 states in which legal standards require prosecutors to turn over evidence of innocence that they learn of after a conviction [Radley Balko, AP]
  • Fail to stop daughter’s 20 year old boyfriend from raiding beer in fridge, go to jail [Washington Post on Maryland lawmakers’ enactment of criminal penalties following car-crash injuries for parents who tolerated alcohol consumption]
  • “First, only terrorists had to hand over their phones. Now it’s people involved in traffic accidents, too” [@reuvenim on the proposed New York law discussed here] “In a bid to get around the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the textalyzer allegedly would… ” [ArsTechnica] But see Scott Greenfield (law “not a particularly effective one” in helping to fix blame, but “just not that big a deal.”)
  • Inmates’ contact with family is revenue source for prison, sky-high phone rates just the start [Scott Greenfield]
  • Federal oversight of local departments enables weak, reform-averse local pols: “Washington Can’t Fix Broken Policing” [Tim Lynch, Cato]

February 17 roundup

  • Cross-examination of Mr. Hot Yoga left jury steamed, especially when it came to explaining the luxury cars [Lowering the Bar; more on Bikram Choudhury litigation]
  • Forty-nine (!) Georgia corrections officers accused of taking bribes, drug trafficking [WXIA Atlanta; compare Baltimore jail guards scandal]
  • More reactions to Justice Scalia’s death: Lee Liberman Otis, Joseph Bottum, Emily Zanotti, David Wagner/Ninomania. His legacy on the Fourth Amendment [Jonathan Blanks, Cato] On canines in the curtilage and the Bill of Rights more generally [Jacob Sullum] Labor and employment law bloggers on his passing [Jon Hyman] Immune to internationalist argle-bargle, Scalia was actually one of SCOTUS’s more cosmopolitan members [Julian Ku/Opinio Juris]
  • Los Angeles joins San Francisco and Boston in banning chewing tobacco in Dodger Stadium and every other park and stadium in the city, because it can [Curbed LA]
  • “They are both highly educated attorneys” which means they should have known better than to launch that lurid plot to plant drugs on the rival PTA mom [Washington Post]
  • To get a cosmetology license in Ohio, you’ll need to undergo training in spotting signs of human trafficking [Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason; earlier on hair and beauty professionals as informants]
  • “British teenager creates robot lawyer to help people with their legal queries” [Mashable]

U.S. Chamber’s “Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2015”

Here. Their winner is the monkey-selfie case, and it, like five of the others, has been covered here before: aunt sues nephew for careless hug, cop spills free coffee on lap and sues, thrown roll at Missouri restaurant, California woman allegedly used fake medical records and pictures “from the Internet” to bolster McDonald’s coffee-spill case, and Washington bank robber injured while fleeing scene.

The four others:

4. Pennsylvania Nursing Student Fails a Course Twice and Sues the School for Not Helping With Anxiety
5. Two New York Women File $40 Million Lawsuit Over ‘Like, Five or Six Scratches’ They Received From a Gas Explosion Blocks Away
6. Colorado Inmate is Suing the NFL for $88 Billion Over the 2015 Cowboys’ Playoff Loss
7. Florida Woman is Suing FedEx for Tripping Over a Package Left at Her Doorstep

Our coverage last year of their 2014 list is here.