Category Archives: Criminal Justice Reform

Quote of the Day: Penn’s Sunday School Lecture on Obama’s Drug War (Beyond) Hypocrisy Edition

What troubles me about this… I think it’s beyond hypocrisy. I think it’s something to do with class. A lot of people have accused Obama of class warfare, but in the wrong direction. I believe this is Obama chortling with Jimmy Fallon about lower class people. Do we believe, even for a second, that if Obama had been busted for marijuana — under the laws that he condones — would his life have been better? If Obama had been caught with the marijuana that he says he uses, and ‘maybe a little blow’… if he had been busted under his laws, he would have done hard fucking time. And if he had done time in prison, time in federal prison, time for his ‘weed’ and ‘a little blow,’ he would not be President of the United States of America. He would not have gone to his fancy-ass college, he would not have sold books that sold millions and millions of copies and made millions and millions of dollars, he would not have a beautiful, smart wife, he would not have a great job. He would have been in fucking prison, and it’s not a god damn joke. People who smoke marijuana must be set free. It is insane to lock people up.

Watch the segment from “Penn’s Sunday School” non-truncated rant here.


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The Nutmeg State’s Senate Passes Bill Protecting Right to Record Police AND Abolishes the Death Penalty in the Same Week

This week, the State of Connecticut made progress in the right direction on the criminal justice front on two issues I care deeply about: the right of individuals to record the police in public and abolishing the death penalty.

Earlier today, the Connecticut Senate passed a bill 42-11 that would hold the police liable for arresting individuals who record their activities in public. Carlos Miller writing for Pixiq writes:

The Connecticut state senate approved a bill Thursday that would allow citizens to sue police officers who arrest them for recording in public, apparently the first of its kind in the nation.

As it is now, cops act with reckless immunity knowing the worst that can happen is their municipalties [sic] (read: taxpayers) would be responsible for shelling out lawsuits.

Senate Bill 245, which was introduced by Democratic Senator Eric Coleman and approved by a co-partisan margin of 42-11, must now go before the House.
The bill, which would go into effect on October 1, 2012, states the following:

This bill makes peace officers potentially liable for damages for interfering with a person taking a photograph, digital still, or video image of either the officer or a colleague performing his or her job duties. Under the bill, officers cannot be found liable if they reasonably believed that the interference was necessary to (1) lawfully enforce a criminal law or municipal ordinance; (2) protect public safety; (3) preserve the integrity of a crime scene or criminal investigation; (4) safeguard the privacy of a crime victim or other person; or (5) enforce Judicial Branch rules and policies that limit taking photographs, videotaping, or otherwise recording images in branch facilities.

Officers found liable of this offense are entitled, under existing law, to indemnification (repayment) from their state or municipal employer if they were acting within their scope of authority and the conduct was not willful, wanton, or reckless.

While I think the fourth and fifth exceptions to the law could be problematic, this should go a long way toward holding the police accountable.

As if this wasn’t enough good news, just yesterday Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill to abolish the death penalty in the Nutmeg state. CNN reports:

(CNN) — Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill into law Wednesday that abolishes the death penalty, making his state the 17th in the nation to abandon capital punishment and the fifth in five years to usher in a repeal.

The law is effective immediately, though prospective in nature, meaning that it would not apply to those already sentenced to death. It replaces the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release as the state’s highest form of punishment.

“Although it is an historic moment — Connecticut joins 16 other states and the rest of the industrialized world by taking this action — it is a moment for sober reflection, not celebration,” Malloy said in a statement.

Connecticut isn’t a state that comes to my mind when I think of a death penalty state and for a good reason: only 2 people have been executed in that state in the last 52 years (both of which wanted to be executed), according to the governor. So, if the administration of the death penalty is so infrequent, why does this abolishing of the death penalty even matter? I think Gov. Malloy said it quite well in his signing statement: “Instead, the people of this state pay for appeal after appeal, and then watch time and again as defendants are marched in front of the cameras, giving them a platform of public attention they don’t deserve.”

Keep up the good work Connecticut!

Hat Tip: The Agitator

Frontline Investigates the State of Forensic Science in “The Real CSI”

Is the forensic science used in the courtroom reliable? The PBS documentary series Frontline makes an attempt at answering this question in an episode entitled: “The Real CSI.”

I cannot recommend this episode enough.

Watch The Real CSI on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Also, the producers of this episode hosted a live chat for viewers to ask some follow-up questions (I’m sorry I missed it). Here is the archive from the chat.

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Quote of the Day: In Response to Van Jones’ Remarks About “so-called libertarians”

Over at Reason, Mike Riggs responded to President Obama’s former Green Jobs czar Van Jones’ tirade about “so-called libertarians” at an Occupy rally in L.A. In case you missed it, Van Jones said that libertarians “say they love America but they hate the people, the brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings.” Clearly, he has never been to a Libertarian Party convention; I have. These people are more welcome in the LP than either of the big two political parties, I assure you.

Riggs responds:

I’m going to have to mic check you there, Mr. Jones. You’re not talking about so-called libertarians, but your former boss and current president. See, it’s Barack Obama who supports “traditional marriage”; Barack Obama who supports a drug war that sends an alarming number of black men to prison and destroys their employment prospects; Barack Obama who supports a foreign policy that kills children; Barack Obama who supports regulatory barriers that require the poorest of the poor to borrow their way into the workforce; Barack Obama who supports an immigration strategy that rips apart families and sees the children of undocumented workers put up for adoption.

Whether Obama’s support for those policies means he hates gays or brown folk is not for me to say. As the scriptures tell us, “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”

Libertarians, on the other hand, love brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings, and immigrants. Many of us, after all, fit rather neatly into those categories, and we show our affection for ourselves and our neighbors by supporting the right of all peoples to live free of state-sponsored violence, discrimination, undue imprisonment, and theft; as well as the entirely predictable consequences of both left-wing and right-wing social engineering.

In fairness to Van Jones, there are a fair number of social conservatives,* NeoCons, and yes, certain unwelcome elements who do advocate these things who try to call themselves libertarians, but damn man. Would it be too much trouble for Jones to go on the series of tubes that is the interweb and do a search on the Libertarian Party Platform before shooting off his mouth about “so-called libertarians”? If so, he would find that true libertarians are the polar opposite of what he described.

» Read more

Signs of Intelligent Life in the Colorado Senate

Several members of the Colorado Senate introduced a bill yesterday that would reduce drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, favoring drug treatment programs over incarceration in state prisons.

Lynn Bartels reporting for The Denver Post writes:

Senate Bill 2012-163 deals with drug offenders who primarily are users and addicts rather than dealers, and enhances their access to treatment.

“We have so many people throughout this country who are the casualties of a failed war on drugs,” said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder. “And in one sense, when you get a felony, not only do you get a criminal penalty, but what you have is a sentence to life without employment.”
During a news conference at the Capitol, Levy presented the bill with Sens. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, and Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield.

[…]

“Let’s be clear. This is not legalization. This is not decriminalization,” Mitchell said. “This is simply a smarter approach to fighting the evils of drug abuse in our society.”

While this bill doesn’t go as far as I would like, this is certainly a step in the right direction. I’m not a big fan of forced drug treatment programs but it’s a far better alternative than a felony conviction that never goes away. In addition to this proposed legislation, Coloradans will have an opportunity to legalize marijuana (with the same regulations as alcohol) in November. If both of these become Colorado law, this would be a pretty significant blow to the war on (some) drugs and the prison industrial complex IMO.

Will either of these reforms pass? It’s hard for me to say but I’m a little skeptical. Still, the fact that these sorts of reforms are being proposed outside of libertarian debate societies by people who can actually change the criminal code is quite exciting and quite encouraging.

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