Posts tagged with: Law/Crime

prison reformThe numbers are discouraging: 1 in 28 American children has at least one parent in prison. Even though crime rates have dropped, our prison population has quadrupled; there are now about 2.4 million adults behind bars. It is costing us $80 billion a year to maintain our prison system. At one point, society thought that prison was about reform. We’ve all but dropped any pretense of reform; we’re just warehousing people.

Can we fix this?

One organization is trying. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) would like to see changes in harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws, many of which involve drug cases.

In 1990, Julie Stewart was public affairs director at the Cato Institute when she first learned of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Her brother had been arrested for growing marijuana in Washington State, had pled guilty, and — though this was his first offense — had been sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole. The judge criticized the punishment as too harsh, but the mandatory minimum law left him no choice.

Motivated by her own family’s experience, Julie created Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) in 1991. Though her brother has long since left prison, has a beautiful family and a good job, Julie continues to lead FAMM in the fight for punishments that fit the crime and the offender.

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contraceptive-mandateToday the Department of Health and Human Services issued yet another revision regarding its contraception mandate. Details on the new regulations should be announced within a month. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Justice Department lawyers said in a brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that the federal government would issue new regulations in the next month that will apply to all nonprofit institutions that say the faith with which they are affiliated is opposed to the use of most forms of contraception.

“The Wheaton College injunction does not reflect a final Supreme Court determination,” the brief said. “Nevertheless, the Departments responsible for implementing the accommodations have informed us that they have determined to augment the regulatory accommodation process in light of the Wheaton College injunction and that they plan to issue interim final rules within a month. We will inform the Court when the rules are issued.”

A senior administration official said the details of the rules are still being worked out. But it is likely that the Supreme Court’s order will shape the new compromise arrangement, and that nonprofit institutions will be able to write a letter stating their objections, rather than filing a form. That would leave the federal government to work out how those employers get access to contraception coverage.

In reply to this news, Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, says:

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arrestedIn the world of human trafficking, there are pockets of hope across the U.S. In Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Tom Dart works relentlessly to improve not only the prosecution of human traffickers, but also the aid that law enforcement brings to victims. Dart began to realize several years ago that prostitutes were cycling through the justice system over and over, receiving no help to stay out of jail.

Knowing that the women are, as he put it, “victims of crimes of violence, who have been through unspeakable horrors and betrayals,” Dart wanted a better way to restore those trapped in prostitution and keep them out of jail.

To do this, he developed the Women’s Justice Program, which employs previously prostituted women to serve as peer counselors to those arrested for prostitution. These counselors work to convince the women to leave prostitution behind when they’re released and provide ongoing counseling and resources to help them do it. Dart knows that women will struggle to trust the police who arrested them. But they might listen to someone who has walked in their shoes and managed to escape the pain and abuse that they feel.

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Education is becoming part of juvenile justice in Nicaragua.

Education is becoming part of juvenile justice in Nicaragua.

Rule of law. It’s necessary, vital…and dull. There are no rock stars shouting out about it from the stage at an arena concert. Celebrities don’t staff the phones for rule of law fundraisers. Newscasters are not breathlessly interviewing experts about rule of law.

Yet without it, there is chaos, crime, corruption. The current border crisis bears this out.

The Economist takes a revealing look at crime in Latin America, the confidence that citizens of countries in that region have in their governments, and how this relates to the U.S. border crisis.

According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Latin America is the only region in the world where murder rates increased in the first decade of this century. Robberies have nearly trebled over the past 25 years; extortion is growing fast. So fed up are clothing businesses in Gamarra, the centre of Lima’s rag trade, with paying an average of $3,000 a month to extortionists that they held a conference in June to publicise the problem.

Plenty of factors explain Latin America’s crime disease. The external demand for cocaine, and attempts to suppress the drug trade, prompted the spread of organised criminal mafias; growth in domestic consumption of drugs has since compounded the problem. A bulge in the number of young men, many of whom are poorly educated and command low wages in the legal economy, is another factor.

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SurveillanceAs surveillance technology continues to cost less, we live in a world in which our activities are being increasingly monitored. And it’s not just the NSA doing it–even employers are utilizing surveillance technology in the workplace. The basis for this surveillance has been to catch employees abusing work time (e.g. scrolling through Facebook posts), to protect against sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits, and to discover if any company secrets are being leaked. It also helps deter workers from breaking the rules if they know they are being watched. Workplace surveillance is something that all employers will have to carefully consider. Take Ryan Tate, for example, the CEO of a Christian publishing firm who fired 25 employees over an anonymous email. In a recording of a business meeting that was leaked, Tate can be heard threatening to use electronic records to discover those involved.

Could employers, even Christian ones, be going too far in some cases? What happens if your employer discovers personal information that doesn’t have anything to do with work? And is this surveillance even legal, or is it an invasion of privacy rights? (more…)

7figuresLast week the State Department released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, a congressionally mandated report that looks at the governments around the world (including the U.S.) and what they are doing to combat trafficking in persons – modern slavery – through the lens of the 3P paradigm of prevention, protection, and prosecution.

Here are seven figures you should know from the latest report:
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corporations_are_people_too_by_biotwist-d4hnskt[Note: “Argument Outline” is a new occasional series that provides summaries of religious, economic, and public policy arguments presented in the public square.]

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) states that government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except in certain conflicts with a compelling governmental interest. That seems straightforward enough, but what does this law mean when it refers to a “person”? For instance, can a corporation like Hobby Lobby be a person under this Act?

Even some people who are sympathetic to Hobby Lobby’s fight to avoid being forced to violate their conscience may wonder if it makes sense to give such broad-based religious liberty protections to corporate entities. But in a recent article in the Harvard Law Review, Alan Meese and Nate Oman make the case that the most natural reading of the term ‘person’ in RFRA includes for-profit corporations, and why they should be afforded the same religious freedoms as individuals.

The following is a summary outline of the argument they present in this law review article:
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prison-rape-ad“Prison rape occupies a fairly odd space in our culture,” wrote Ezra Klein in 2008, bringing to the fore a subject that is still too often ignored. “It is, all at once, a cherished source of humor, a tacitly accepted form of punishment, and a broadly understood human rights abuse.”

We are justifiably outraged by the human rights abuses occurring in foreign lands. Why then are we not more outraged by atrocities here in our own country? Our reactions to the problem range from smirking indifference to embarrassed silence. But how can we be indifferent and silent when, as reports by the National Prison Rape Commission continue to show, rape and other forms of sexual assault are becoming endemic to our prison system?

In 2004 the corrections industry estimated that 12,000 rapes occurred per year—more than the annual number of rapes reported in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York combined. Three years later a survey by the U.S. Department of Justice found that more than 60,000 inmates claimed to have been sexually victimized by prison guards or other inmates during the previous 12 months.
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7figures“Inmates are still people, and therefore need to be treated as such, with all the challenges and potential that face all human persons,” says Acton research fellow Jordan Ballor. “One of the things it means to treat someone with the dignity they deserve as a human being is to not subject them to conditions where the threat of rape is rampant.”

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported on one of the most overlooked threats to prisoner dignity — sexual victimization by correctional authorities. Here are seven figures from that report:
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article-photo-Elaine“This ruling is more in the spirit of Nero Caesar than in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson,” said Russell D. Moore. “This is damaging not only to the conscience rights of Christians, but to all citizens.”

Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on a case involving Elane Photography and its owners Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Elaine received an email in 2006 asking her to photograph a “commitment ceremony” between Vanessa Willock and her same-sex partner. Willock asked if Elaine would be “open to helping us celebrate our day . . . .” Elaine politely declined to use her artistic talents to express a celebratory message at odds with her deep convictions. (Elaine had previously declined requests from others for things such as nude maternity photos.)

Willock, a licensed attorney who has served in various paid “diversity” positions, filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. After a one-day administrative trial in 2008, the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees. The case made its way through the state court system, with the New Mexico Supreme Court ultimately affirming the commission’s coercive decision. In an ominous concurring opinion, one justice wrote that the Huguenins “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” adding “it is the price of citizenship.”

ADF attorneys representing the Huguenins are presenting only one claim to the U.S. Supreme Court—that the punishment of Elane Photography violates the constitutionally protected freedom “not to speak,” known as the compelled speech doctrine.

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