The Great Recession Has Forced a New Exploration of Rehabilitation Instead of Retribution in Sentencing

An interesting debate as been growing in the media about whether refocusing the criminal justice system back towards rehabilitation is a smart budget cutting move. Michigan Department of Corrections Director Patricia Caruso has channeled significant resources into rechanneling corrections towards community based supervision and away from incarceration. Despite significant evidence that this works, vast improvements criminogenic predictive tests, and technology for enhanced supervision, prosecutors continue to argue that the only cure is long prison sentences. Earlier this month, the New York Times had a fascinating story about this. Meanwhile a report from Texas (of all states) notes a significant cost savings and reduction in reoffenses in cases utilizing a similar approach. To read the story, click here. Similarly, a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures notes similar trends in many states. For more information on these sentencing/parole predictors from an academic perspective, explore this article (pay access) by Professors Davis, Severy, Kraus, and Whitake

SCOTUS 2.0: A New Website for a New Century?

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court unveiled its new completely rewritten website designed to make the information more approachable. Unlike the prior website which was run by the Government Printing Office, the Court has brought this website in house. As the BLT Blog has noted: this update brings the Court into the 21st century, ten years too late.

SCOTUS Set to Rule in G'tmo Case

SCOTUS Blog is predicting that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on an attempt by Guantanamo Bay detainees to keep open their option of challenging their transfers to countries where they fear torture, death, or further detention. SCOTUS Blog is predicting that the Court will remand the matter to the lower court for further proceedings as it has done in other related cases. The (sub)case likely to force expedited treatment involves an Algerian national, Ahmed Belbacha, who is close to transfer. Last month, in a still-classified order, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., wiped out an earlier order that barred Belbacha’s transfer to Algeria until after his attorneys had a chance to pursue a challenge. Belbacha’s attorneys are now trying to get the order put back into effect, so that the prisoner stays at Guantanamo for the time being. (He was cleared for release by the Pentagon more than three years ago; he is now in his eighth year as a detainee). A new thread in this case involves four of the seven Chinese Muslim Uighurs who were involved in “Kiyemba I,” and the Court decided on March 1 that lower courts should examine new factual developments involving the status of those seven, each of whom now has or previously had an offer to be re-settled somewhere other than in their homeland, China.

Is Texas About to Execute Another Innocent Defendant?

Today’s New York Post contained a troubling story involving an a demonstrably false allegation of rape. Biurny Peguero Gonzalez repeatedly told police, prosecutors, the grand jury, and the petite jury that she had been raped by William McCaffrey. The jury believed Ms. Gonzalez and convicted the defendant. Mr.McCaffrey served more than four years in prison before exonerated by DNA test. At that point, Ms. Gonzalez coached on by her priest recanted her testimony and admitted she was never raped. What is sickening about the case is her underlying reason for the false allegation of sexual abuse. Ms. Gonzales was out with friends and temporarily left with the Mr. McCaffrey. Her friends were upset with her for leaving. In order to garner her sympathy, she invented the story that she was raped. At the original trial, she testified that she was 110% sure that the police have the right defendant and that he had raped her. Like many allegations of sexual abuse, the state had relied on her contemporaneous and distressed outburst over it to demonstrate that it was not a fabrication. While I recognize the danger of anecdotal evidence, the Gonzalez case demonstrates just how difficult it is to tell a genuine allegation of sexual abuse from a false one. It also paints a troubling picture about how easily some people won't make up such a damning lie. Click here to read the New York Post story.


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New York Test Case Highlights Deplorable Nature of Appointed Counsel System

Today’s New York Times contains an interesting article concerning the deplorable state of court-appointed counsel in New York State and the lawsuit brought by people challenging the court appointed counsel system. Kimberly Hurell-Harring was represented by court appointed counsel in Washington County, New York.

She was charged with smuggling a small amount of marijuana into a prison for her husband (an inmate at the facility). The court appointed counsel was a local favorite and the low ball bidder on the public defender contract. Counsel had multiple reprimands, suffered from depression, and was in trouble with the bar on other matters of neglect. He pled his client guilty to a non-existent felony. Tipped off about the case, the New York Civil Liberties Union sent an observer into the courthouse and watched. They reported that the attorney had virtually no contact with his client who rushed the case through. Ms. Hurell-Harring is the lead plaintiff in a civil suit challenging whether New York is providing adequate counsel to its indigent defendants and challenging the decision to leave the appointed counsel system in the hands of various counties. Except for the name of the suit, this could be Michigan. A similar suit is pending in the Michigan Courts and is currently on appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Except for the names of the parties, the facts are virtually the same. The ruling in this case could have a dramatic effect on Michigan law.