Jason Pye, former contributor to The Liberty Papers and current Director of Justice Reform at FreedomWorks posted an article yesterday for Rare Liberty about some promising political developments in the area of criminal justice reform. Perhaps one of the most promising of these developments at the federal level is a bill being considered is S.502 – The Smarter Sentencing Act.
Jason explains why he believes this reform is a step in the right direction:
With federal prison spending booming, an unlikely bipartisan alliance has emerged to bring many of these successful state-level reforms to the federal justice system. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have joined with Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to reform federal mandatory minimums – a one-size-fits-all, congressionally mandated approach to sentencing.
The Smarter Sentencing Act would expand the federal “safety valve” – an exception to federal mandatory minimum sentences for low-level nonviolent offenders with little or no criminal history – and cuts in half mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. This more rational approach to sentencing will reduce costs on already overburdened taxpayers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated a net $3 billion cost-savings over a decade. The Justice Department believes the bill will save an eye-popping $24 billion over 20 years.
The benefits of the Smarter Sentencing Act may not end with the fiscal savings. It could also reverse the damage done by federal mandatory minimum sentences in certain communities, which, as Lee recently explained, “have paid a high cost for the stiff sentences that mandatory minimums require.”
… A relatively small number of officers are responsible for over half of police abuse claims. We have seen similar results in studies of malpractice cases of doctors. Yet, this small group of officers not only tarnish the reputations of all officers but cost massive amounts of money. …
Law professor Craig Futterman, who runs the University of Chicago’s Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project, has done some interesting work in this area. His study of the Chicago Police Department found the same officers fueling these costs. It suggests that a better job of self-policing could result in substantial savings for police departments and more importantly greater protection for citizens.
UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz has found similar results.
The problem is that we lack confidence in police efforts to police their own. As Turley notes:
…Most cities still resist keeping records that would help identify such officers and track patterns. This would seem to offer obvious areas of reform for departments. We have certainly seen anecdotally that officers involved in controversies often seem to have checkered histories of prior lawsuits or serious complaints. The problem is the political will to implement the academic findings.
The lengths departments are willing to go to remain ignorant of the bad apples in their barrels are reflected in the costs passed on to taxpayers. Chicago paid a half a billion dollars over a ten year period. New York City paid that amount over a five year period. A single division in Los Angeles cost the city $125 million.
Yet Lou Reiter a former Los Angeles deputy police chief who trains police departments on “liability management,” says departments rarely ask themselves what they could have done differently to avoid those costs. Instead they blame the courts or the public for not understanding the difficulties inherent in the job.
While New York City pays the Police Department’s skyrocketing legal bills, the department makes almost no effort to learn from lawsuits brought against it and its officers. The department does not track which officers were named, what claims were alleged or what payouts were made in the thousands of suits brought every year.
What’s more, officers’ personnel files contain no record of the allegations and results of lawsuits filed against them. Neither the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau nor the Civilian Complaint Review Board investigates allegations made in lawsuits, and police officials review only the litigation files of the few dozen cases each year that result in payments of $250,000 or more.
The majority of police officers are innocent of abuse.
Wisconsin Senate approves right-to-work bill, sends to state Assembly
BY BRENDAN O’BRIEN
The Wisconsin Senate narrowly approved a “right-to-work” bill on Wednesday that would bar private-sector employees who work under union-negotiated contracts from being required to join their unions or pay them dues.
The bill, which would make Wisconsin the 25th U.S. state with a right-to-work law on the books, cleared the Republican-led Senate on a 17-15 vote following hours of debate marked by periodic angry shouts from opponents in the Senate gallery.
Supporters of organized labor chanted “Shame!” as the legislation was passed and sent for further consideration to the state Assembly, where Republicans also hold a majority.
One Republican senator, Jerry Petrowski, broke with his party and joined all 14 Democrats in the chamber in voting against the measure.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a possible Republican presidential hopeful, is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Walker drew accolades from conservatives across the nation in 2011 when he ushered through legislation curtailing the powers of most public-sector unions in Wisconsin amid large protests at the state capitol in Madison.
Supporters of the right-to-work measure contend it could attract more businesses to the Midwestern state.
“I think this is something that is going to have a direct impact on the manufacturing sector in Wisconsin,” Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald said after the vote.
Opponents cast the bill as an assault on organized labor and blue-collar workers that would limit union revenues.
“They are evaporating the middle class, and no one in this room seems to care,” Senator Dave Hansen, a Democrat, said during the floor debate.
So ignore the rather clearly biased language in the piece and video linked above, if you bother clicking through and reading it… If you’ve seen one piece about the subject, you’ve pretty much seen them all, and this one is no different.
Wisconsin is debating “Right to Work” legislation in house committee right now, after passing in the senate. A right to work measure (which may or may not be substantially identical to the one passed by the senate) is likely to pass the house as well, and governor (and likely Republican presidential candidate) Scott Walker is likely to sign it.
As per usual, leftists are up in arms about anything that might favor individuals over organized labor…”Anti-worker, anti-poor, anti-little guy, anti-union, destroying the middle class, 1% evil” etc… etc…
Can someone tell me how making it illegal to force someone who doesn’t want to join a union, to join a union… is anti-union?
That’s all “right to work” means… You can’t be forced to join a union if you don’t want to, and employers can’t be forced by the government to recognize or deal with a particular union if they don’t want to.
The “right to work”, is simply the right to freely associate and form contracts as we choose, which is supposed to be a right guaranteed us in this country (of course, so often it is not… but that’s another issue entirely).
Wait… What? Unions can force people to join who don’t want to?
Yes, they can, and they do.
Most people don’t know this, but in 26 states, unions are given special powers and privileges by the government, which you as in individual, or a private company or other organization would not have.
One of these, is that you can be forced to join a union against your will, if you want to get a job in a particular industry, or at a particular employer, or to keep your job at an employer after a union comes in.
Worse, in some states, you can opt out of the union, but even if you do, the union can still take dues straight out of your paycheck against your will, as if you were a member. They can also negotiate for you against your will, and set the terms and conditions under which you work, against your will.
Of course, since you aren’t a member, even though they’re taking your money and controlling your job, you don’t get to vote in the union, control its decisions in any way, or get any of the benefits of membership. The union gets your money, and all the benefit as if you were a member, without actually having to be accountable to you at all. And there’s nothing you can do or say about it.
Oh and the union can then do things like use that money to get politicians you oppose elected, get legislation you oppose passed, and change the terms and conditions of your employment against your will, without your approval or consent.
In those same 26 states (as well as federally in some cases), employers can be forced to recognize and negotiate with a union, even if they don’t want to. In fact, even if the union doesn’t actually represent their employees in some cases, or only 50.01% of their employees decide that a particular union will represent them.
“Right to Work”, is about ending some of those, frankly insane, conditions that unions operate under.
… Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be about… It doesn’t always end up that way, because politics is what it is, so you have to be careful and pay attention to the details…
In “right to work” states, unions are still free to form, recruit members, and to collectively bargain in those members interests with employers. Workers are still free to join unions. Employers are still free to negotiate terms and contracts with the union, and if the employers don’t want to negotiate, unions are still free to use the power of their membership to make the employer negotiate through strikes, work stoppages and slow downs, and other organized labor actions.
The only difference, is that the union just can’t FORCE anyone to join the union, or force employers to negotiate with the union, or get the government to do it for them.
Why is this a bad thing?
It isn’t. Straight up, it isn’t.
It’s not bad for employees, it’s not bad for employers, it’s not actually bad for the unions if the unions are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, It’s not bad for consumers who consume the goods and services these employers provide.
In fact, in reducing union overreach to whatever extent it may (probably not too much, but one can hope), and in reducing the overall cost of doing business in the state of Wisconsin, it’s likely to benefit consumers with lower prices, and potentially with more business and more jobs in the state
This doesn’t always work out… It has generally done so in relatively business friendly states like Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama (I said relatively… relative to Illinois, New York, Wisconsin etc..). In those states, which are right to work, non union manufacturing has generally done well, in some cases even boomed. Not only that, but wages have substantially increased in those areas, not crashed as predicted by unions.
Right to work has not had as positive an impact in say, Indiana, or Michigan (yes, Michigan has been right to work since 2012… and yes, organized labor is still having a collective fit over that fact), which are comparatively less business friendly, higher tax, higher regulatory burden, and higher cost of living. In fact, mostly, companies have used the change in status to help them get rid of legacy contracts which were burdening their bottom lines, and then move to other states.
That however isn’t really the fault of right to work… it’s the decades of anti-business regulation and being forced to accept bad union contracts (and to be fair, decades of bad management as well).
Overall, right to work in and of itself is not a negative for anyone… well… except two groups.
The only parties it’s bad for, are union officials, and the politicians they’re in bed with). The officials depend on the politicians to pass legislation that favors the union officials, in exchange the politicians depend on the officials for large donations, and the use of their organization for street level politics (campaign volunteers, donor lists, call lists, phone rooms, rally fillers, doorbell ringers etc…). Without the forced membership and dues, the union officials don’t have as much money to donate to those politicians in exchange for favors, nor as many warm bodies to throw at their campaigns.
Also, if people can leave the union at will, it means that those officials have to watch their steps, and actually be accountable to union members…. Unfortunately something which has proven to rarely be the case today.
Leaving aside the corruption angle, and even the economics of it…
Does “right to work” reduce unions power? Potentially yes, if people don’t want to join, or want to quit the union.
However, I don’t see that as a bad thing. Why would that be a bad thing?
If people don’t want to be members of the union, why should the union get more power? Or any power at all?
Shouldn’t a union get it’s power from the strength of it’s membership, who support it, and in turn are supported by it? Shouldn’t a union attract and retain members because they are effective at doing so?
If they can’t do that… why should the union exist at all?
If they CAN do that, then why do they need the government to force people to join, and force companies to negotiate with them exclusively?
If the unions actually do what they’re supposed to do, and what they say they do… Why is this even an issue?
Right… thought so…
Here’s the thing though… Even if it were a provable economic net negative, that actually did harm jobs and wages, and even if all of the horrible terrible no good very bad things unions and democrats claim of right to work were true…
…I would still be in favor of right to work.
It’s a question of individual rights
I generally favor right to work, because I’m in favor of fundamental individual rights, including, but definitely not limited to: freedom of conscience, freedom of association, freedom of self determination, the right to private property, the right to the fruits of ones labors, and the freedom to make contract as one sees fit.
I generally support right to work legislation, presuming that’s what it really is (as with all legislation, what it claims to be, is often nothing to do with what it is, so pay attention to the details), because no-one should be forced to join any organization against their will (even if it’s absolutely for their own good), and no organization should have the right to control others in the way unions do, without those persons consent (even if doing so is to those persons benefit). It really is that simple.
For that matter, in general, I oppose involuntary collectivism, and preventing involuntary collectivism is what “right to work” is supposed to be about.
I’m all for voluntary collectivism… absolutely 100%. If you agree and consent to be a part of a group, and to take action as part of that group, or be represented by that group, great. More power to you, and to them.
In fact, I’m all for unions. I think collective bargaining is a wonderful and powerful tool, and I wish more people across more industries and market segments would take advantage of it.
An aside… I’m not just blowing theoretical smoke here. I’ve got a personal stake in this, both as a matter of principal, and as a practical matter in my own profession.
The level of worker exploitation, and in general negative, harmful, and just plain stupid labor practices in information technology, my chosen profession, is absolutely despicable.
Employers routinely extract far more labor from employees than they are paying for, or than that is reasonable for employees quality of life or professional development; while at the same time deliberately suppressing those employees wages, and denying them opportunities for improvement or advancement.
… and we allow them to do this. We accept it, because we don’t believe we have the power to change it, or we feel too insecure to do so.
The only way these conditions are going to change, is if they obviously and clearly no longer work to increase profits or improve stock prices.
Actually, it’s been repeatedly and conclusively proven they not only don’t help, but they substantially harm organizations, including their bottom lines… but execs still love them because the stock market loves them (That’s another issue entirely)
That being the case, the only way needed change is going to happen, is if enough of us in the profession stop accepting these conditions, and do something about them.
A company can’t be pumping its stock prices, if it doesn’t have anyone keeping it’s computers and networks operational…. or at least not for more than a few weeks.
Stop working for companies that use these practices. Insist on being paid for our time. or in receiving compensatory time off. Report companies for labor law violations, and make sure the laws are properly and evenly applied, through the use of the media and political pressure (I think most labor laws are horrible and stupid and shouldn’t exist, but so long as they do, the greater tyranny is that they are applied capriciously and unevenly based on political whim, and lobbying).
Most importantly, as managers, leaders, and thought leaders in the industry, don’t allow and accept these practices in your own organization. When they pop up… and they will.. gather together, and pound them into the dust before they can take over.
One of the more effective ways we could do all of that, is with collective bargaining, and collective and consistent messaging to the media, and politicians (though sadly, I don’t think it’s likely to happen any time soon). Not necessarily a union, but some type of voluntary collective organization to increase our negotiation power and leverage, and help to prevent things like companies requiring hundreds of hours of uncompensated overtime.
If enough of us act… whether collectively or as individuals, we can force changes. Without enough of us acting in concert, we can’t… And if we can’t, we’re left depending on the government to “fix” things… and you know how I feel about that.
It’s when you take that choice away by force, that I have issues. Forced unionization is never OK… and that includes “democratic” forced unionization.
Just because you got a few dozen of your friends together and you all voted to give you the “right” to control everyone else, doesn’t actually give you the right to control everyone else. Even if there’s 50 million of you, and 1 of everyone else. Otherwise, there are no individual rights, only privileges and entitlements dispensed by the will of the majority. That’s no less tyranny than a dictatorship of one man… and in some ways is a greater one.
“Oh, but democracy is great. It’s the will of the majority, so you just have to go along”
Right… because giving more control over your life to everyone else is always a great idea, especially when jobs and money are at stake.
Giving your coworkers a vote on how much you can make, how much you can get paid per hour and how much of a raise you can get when, how many hours you can work, what tasks you can do, how you can do them, whether or not you can be promoted and when…
…Actually, often a veto, not just a vote…
And people like this idea why?
No thanks. Not up for that.
I have no problem with unions, in fact I think they’re great in theory, and I’d like to see a lot more of them, a lot more active, doing what they are supposed to be doing…
… So long As:
1. Participation (including fees or dues) is voluntary
2. They are not given special privileges or powers over individuals or employers by the government
3. Individuals and employers are free to negotiate and form contracts outside the union
4. The union cannot set the wages, benefits, conditions and terms of employment, and working conditions; for individuals or employers, without their consent.
If they’ve got consent for collective representation of all the workers, and the employer agrees to the conditions and terms… GREAT. That’s what collective bargaining is for.
Otherwise, what gives you or anyone else, the right to determine those things for me, my employer, or anyone else?
I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.
Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra
I think age often brings humility. Back in the day, shoot- I thought I had all the answers. Now, I have to admit to myself that I’m still learning. I’m no longer afraid of saying, “I don’t know” when asked my opinion on something that I don’t understand. I’ve made it a rule to not comment unless I believe that I can defend my view if I’m challenged. I don’t understand the Israel/Palestine conflict enough. Net neutrality confuses me. Bitcoin sounds cool but I don’t get the mining part. It’s not me refusing to take sides because I’m scurred but rather: I’m ignorant and I’ll admit it. -Julie Borowski (Facebook status update)
It’s not possible to be adequately informed on every issue and it’s refreshing to see an intelligent person with a decent sized megaphone say so.
It so happens these very issues I don’t quite have a handle on either. Israel/Palestine is a much more complicated issue than most Americans understand (I don’t necessarily think Israel is always in the right and saying so doesn’t make me an anti-Semite). On Net Neutrality my instinct is just leave the internet alone; its working just fine as it is (but then again, this is just my instinct I could be wrong). Bitcoin – I like the idea and I hope it’s as good as advertised but I also worry it’s a giant “pump and dump” scam. Don’t buy more Bitcoin than you are willing to lose.
Chicago’s police department is running an “off-the-books interrogation compound” that attorneys liken it to the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site, according to a chilling report from the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman.
Suspects, like the trio of potheads who wanted to attack Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters with a slingshot and marbles in protest of the NATO summit, are taken to “Homan Square.” But no one is ever booked inside it walls. No public, searchable record of their time there is generated. Neither their families nor their attorneys are informed of their whereabouts. Lawyers attempting to gain access are turned away, even if their clients are in custody inside.
At some point they have to do the paperwork and prosecute you. After they get your confession, you wind up back in the paperwork.
Suspects allege being beaten, kept in chain link cages, and shackled for extended periods while held inside Homan for as long 24 hours, without access to a lawyer, before being transferred precincts for booking or simply released.
“They just disappear,” said Anthony Hill, a criminal defense attorney, “until they show up at a district for charging or are just released back out on the street.”
Brian Jacob Church, one of the NATO Three, was picked up for suspected terrorist plotting in connection with protests against the NATO summit. He was taken to Homan Square, handcuffed to a bench for 17 hours, and interrogated without being read his Miranda rights. Anticipating he might be arrested in connection with the protests, Church had scrawled an attorney’s phone number on his arm, and explicitly demanded an opportunity to call that lawyer. That request was denied.
“I had essentially figured, ‘All right, well, they disappeared us and so we’re probably never going to see the light of day again,’” Church said.
Since the raid that resulted in Church’s arrest was well publicized, a team of attorneys was simultaneously searching for him to offer their services. Through 12 hours of active searching, he and his co-defendants could not be located. No booking record existed. Attorneys ultimately complained to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Only then did they learn about Homan Square, and only hours later were Church and his co-defendants taken for booking at a police precinct.
“Homan Square should be on the same list as every other facility where you can call central booking and say: ‘Can you tell me if this person is in custody and where,’” Brzeczek said.
“If you’re going to be doing this, then you have to include Homan Square on the list of facilities that prisoners are taken into and a record made. It can’t be an exempt facility.”
The NATO Three were ultimately found guilty of lesser charges (possessing an incendiary device and “mob action”), but acquitted of terrorism related offenses.
[D]efense attorneys, bolstered by undercover police recordings that prosecutors played in court, argued that the three were “goofs” who talked big and were goaded on by two undercover police officers.
[T]hey were frequently drunk, high and unable to complete simple tasks, once missing out on a protest because Church had to wait for his pot dealer.
One of the undercover officers told an apologetic Church that he needed to make a to-do list in the morning before smoking pot.
Church also said he wanted to attack four police stations but didn’t want to Google the locations of two of them. Chase advocated attacking Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters with a slingshot and marbles.
Church declined when Nadia Chikko, one of the undercover officers, asked Church if he wanted to try out one of the Molotovs they’d built with four empty beer bottles, some gasoline and a cut-up bandana from Mehmet Uygun, the other undercover officer.
“I’m too (expletive) cold to be going anywhere. I want to wrap up in my blanket and sleep,” he said.
A lawyer named Eliza Solowiej told The Guardian that she had represented a man who had already been entered into Chicago’s central booking station, and she had personally observed him in a police station without any injuries. Thereafter, someone changed his name in the system and had him moved to Homan Square without any record of the transfer. After his time in Homan Square, he was then taken to a hospital to be treated for head injuries he had incurred sometime in the interim.
Another lawyer reported taking a call from a worried mother. She believed her 15-year-old son had been arrested, but she was having trouble finding where he was being held. After “12, maybe 13” hours, the 15-year-old was released without charges.
Chicago police at first did not respond to The Guardian’s questions about the facility. Once the story was initially published, the department issued a statement insisting there was nothing untoward taking place at Homan, that records are generated for arrests, and that if “lawyers have a client detained at Homan Squire, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them.”
As noted by The Guardian, the statement does not address how long into an arrest or detention those records are generated, or whether they are made available to the public, such as family members looking for relatives who have been picked up and attorneys searching for their clients. The department did not respond to The Guardian’s request for clarification on that issue.
[A] retired Washington DC homicide detective, James Trainum, could not think of another circumstance nationwide where police held people incommunicado for extended periods.
“I’ve never known any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours. That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist,” said Trainum, who now studies national policing issues, to include interrogations, for the Innocence Project and the Constitution Project.