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Just Reported

Calls for Ireland to legislate against online hate crime

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By Michael Sheils McNamee | TheJournal.ie – 

A new report proposing changes to hate crime legislation has been launched today by a group of experts from the University of Limerick.

The report, entitled ‘A Life Free From Fear’, proposes that tougher legislative action be taken on hate crime.

It is proposed that when a offence involves “hostility, prejudice bias or hatred”, this should be treated as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

It is suggested that new legislation should include measures against abusive or threatening verbal abuse, incitement to discriminate on the grounds of race and active participation in a group that promotes discrimination on the grounds of race.

While written specifically in reference to racial crimes these initial measures would be expanded out to include hate crime more generally.

It is also suggested that legislation is introduced to look at hate crime online. It is suggested that Ireland should sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, co-author of the report Dr Amanda Hynes, said: ”I think that what the research shows is that it is an international issue and Ireland is no exception.”

She added:

Our research shows that people are commonly targeted on the basis of their sexuality. We see racist hate crime on people from different backgrounds, including the traveller community.  Disablist hate crime is another area that came up as well.

On the potential for legislation, Hynes said: ”It is very much our hope that the legislation is changed. It is not an option anymore. It is a necessity we address this issue.”

The research was carried out through consultation with 14 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) representing different groups who experience hate crime.

Of the groups asked, 13 out of the 14 thought that hate crime was an issue for those that they represented.

Groups that were found to have experienced hate crime were: 

  • People with disabilities 
  • Ethnic and racial minorities
  • The traveller community
  • Immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers 
  • Religious minorities 
  • People from the LGBT communities
  • Prisoners 

Hate crime in Ireland is currently legislated for under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. The Act is criticised in the report for its lack of effectiveness in achieving prosecutions.

One issue noted is that the Irish courts have yet to find hate crime to be an aggravating factor in considering prosecution.

Speaking at today’s launch, which took place in Buswells Hotel in Dublin, was Labour Senator Ivana Bacik. On the new report Bacik said:

The report shows that the current legal regime is incapable of addressing hate crime, and that legislative change is required. Crucially the report also presents useful proposals for the appropriate legislative model, and this is particularly welcome.

The report was authored by Jennifer Schweppe of the school of law along with Dr Amanda Hynes and Dr James Carr, both from the department of sociology.

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Juvenile crime in Grant County decreased by 40 percent since 2008

EPHRATA – The amount of juvenile crime in Grant County is decreasing, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Grant County Prosecutor Angus Lee stated the amount of requests from police to file charges dropped about 40 percent since 2008.

Police asked the prosecutor’s office 1,123 times to file juvenile charges in 2008. That number dropped to 664 by the end of last year, according to the prosecutor’s office. The biggest drop occurred between 2012 and 2013, with a 21 percent decrease.

“Juvenile crime prosecution has always been a priority for me,” Lee stated. “In 2009, we started prosecuting with a focus on preventing future crime by making sure there were swift and certain sanctions for juvenile offenders. This approach has paid off and we are seeing reduced crime from our juveniles.”

Police filed fewer requests for charges against juveniles for violent felonies between 2008 and 2013. The report shows the amount declined from 43 cases in 2008 to 22 cases in 2013. Requests for violent felony charges peaked in 2009 and 2010 at 54.

Moses Lake Police Capt. Dave Sands said Moses Lake has seen about a 6 percent decrease in requests for juvenile charges, from 237 in 2012 down to 224 in 2013.

The number of juvenile cases sent to the prosecutor’s office by the Ephrata Police Department increased from 2012 to 2013, from 52 to 54 cases, Chief Mike Warren said.

Statistics from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office and Quincy Police Department were not available.

Lee stated the decrease in juvenile crime gives the prosecutor’s office time to take additional steps to ensure long-term crime reduction, including dedicating a deputy prosecutor in juvenile court to gang prevention and prosecution.

Earlier this month, Lee announced the juvenile court prosecution team is enforcing truancy to ensure children are in school.

“When we are talking about long-term crime prevention and reduction, we need to talk about juvenile prosecution and truancy enforcement,” Lee stated. “Keeping kids in school and out of gangs will pay major dividends in the future.”

Kidnapped Ga. couple handcuffed, shot; woman survives

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Can We All Get Along?

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q & a

September 2, 2014 03:43:00 am

By Cara Tabachnick

Photo by .v1ctor Casale, via Flickr

Can we learn from our mistakes? America’s system of justice may finally be ready to apply the same techniques for identifying crucial flaws that have been used or years in the medical and aviation worlds. 

At least that’s the hope of a landmark pilot project now underway under the aegis of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The project, called “Sentinel Events” reviews focuses on three cities—Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Baltimore, where major justice stakeholders—such as police, court officials and probation authorities—will examine together a case or incident that went wrong (e.g., a wrongful conviction) and try to identify the glitches or wrong turns—the ‘sentinel events’—that might have allowed them to catch mistakes before they ballooned into an injustice or egregious harm to public safety.

Next week, the NIJ will introduce the concept to the public for the first time, in a collection of essays written by some of the nation’s leading criminologists and justice practitioners. The volume, called Mending Justice, is intended to jumpstart a national debate about radically transforming the current system of “silos” in which each component—from courts to law enforcement—operates with little regard to what the others are doing. 

It will be available in hard copy and online September 8.

In an exclusive to The Crime Report, Milwaukee DA John Chisholm, one of the essayists (and a participant in the Sentinel Event pilot), discusses why he supports the concept, why he believes it should be a key tool for U.S. cities—and why its implementation might have prevented the tragic events in Ferguson MO last month—with Cara Tabachnick, managing editor of TCR.

The Crime Report: Why did Milwaukee decide to participate in the “Sentinel Events” project?

John Chisholm: As a jurisdiction, we’ve been committed to working not only among ourselves to try and improve the quality of our justice system, but we’ve recognized in order to do that most effectively we need to bring people in from the outside, in particular people who have the mix between academic experience and practical application. One of the processes we have been engaged in [over] the last couple of years is working with the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) and their evidence-based decision-making framework. The premise behind that is you actually can improve your systems by working collaboratively, by identifying points in the system of what actually works and doesn’t work.

The NIC project has focused on four major areas: reducing the number of individuals with mental health issues in the system, looking at risk factors in people entering criminal justice system, expanding our actions beyond the traditional ‘charge/ don’t charge [approach], and early intervention. We are also working with the Department of Corrections to develop ways of reducing failures with individuals who are placed on supervision. But the one thing we realized is that you still have significant system failures in different areas, and when those events occur we rarely take the time to focus on those failures.

We don’t determine what happened, why it happened, how it could have been prevented, and in some way that it could have been addressed in a much more effective way had we different process systems or players. Sometimes it’s as simple as people having better information.

TCR: What would you define as a significant event?

JC: When the National Institute of Justice suggested this they really had broad parameters of what a significant event can be. They left it to the jurisdictions to identify. Some of the obvious would be wrongful convictions or significant numbers of people who are detained in early stages of review for longer periods than are necessary or appropriate, or significant delays in the system that can cause you to lose victims, so they are no longer available as witnesses.

TCR: Was there something in particular in Milwaukee that needed to be fixed?

JC: One of our advantages we have had a community justice council for the past eight years. We sat down with the council and asked each of our key players to come up with an event that they thought was significant and should be addressed. The courts had a focus, prosecutors and defense attorneys had their focus, the police department had their focus, and as we were discussing it and laying out the different options, what we found was that the one area we all kind of agreed hasn’t been looked at hard enough is the juvenile justice system.

We have something of a bifurcated system here in Milwaukee. Our juvenile system is on a different campus than our adult system, but we’ve come to realize that there are a lot of intersections between the two systems. 

Fresh on everyone’s minds was a case when a man under correctional supervision—who had significant contact with the juvenile system—went out and committed a homicide. This case [allows the system] players who normally don’t get to talk to each other to sit down and map out exactly what happened. 

TCR: What did you find?

JC: We are in that process right now. We are meeting regularly and establishing a timeline—looking at everything from when this kid was born to the time he committed his offense. It’s a pretty fascinating stuff, I can tell you so far, We are looking at it from perspectives that normally wouldn’t be done. For example, [we’re examining] his public health background and trying to figure out if this kid was exposed to high lead levels. What kind of health interventions did he experience early on? How soon was he brought to the attention of the child welfare system? What were his parenting interactions?

We know they were extremely challenging, both his parents were deeply crime-involved and he was one of seven or eight kids from multiple fathers. At a very early age we know he was engaging in violent behavior. These are all things that are coming out in this process.

TCR: Should the criminal justice system be tracking challenging cases like this? Is this criminalizing youth without cause?

JC: There are a number of structural and legal obstacles that need to be addressed. For example, any time you try and collect information not just on an individual‘s background but a population’s background, ideally you would need access to all databases that had contact with the individual. We have already started that process with Dr. Mallory O’Brien (an epidemiologist that works with the DA’s office). She is working on building a data hub that would merge the data systems from about 7-8 different systems.

If you link all these systems and hide their identity on an individual basis –using a code in each system—and then link them that way you would be able to look across the population and identify high-risk kids. For example, if you have kids that have high exposure to lead and you can track them through the juvenile court system, then through the public school system, then the welfare or foster care system or involvement with law enforcement, you can actually create a profile of what are the risk factors that really stand out and how they are linked. It could be poor performance in the public school system or low reading scores, which is a huge red flag or behavioral disorders showing up early. Then we can check to see if they are in the child welfare system, and then we can see them show up very early at 16 or 17 years old into the criminal justice system.

TCR: So how would you address these types of cases now?

JC: Hopefully through this process we’ll identify what really works. What has been eye-opening for a lot of criminal justice professionals, in particular prosecutors and police, is that most of us have grown up in a system that believes you charge a criminal offense because there is a necessity for accountability and punishment; but that there is also a belief that by doing so you are deterring the behavior in the future. We are coming to understand that while that may be true, there are sometimes much more effective ways of deterring behavior [rather than making young people] wards of the system for a long time.

If you intervene in a different way early on, often through extensive wrap-around services that address the behavioral needs, you can stop an individual from entering the criminal justice system. For a very small percentage of individuals who have a large number of these red flags, you need to do the intensive work, and make sure that they are properly supervised and getting the type of [help] that will be shown to prevent behaviors that result in tragedies.

TCR: Do you think this type of system could have prevented the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death and aftermath in Ferguson, MO?

JC: What is unfolding now is part of the explanation why systems don’t engage in this process. When a terrible event happens everybody descends upon it and has their own take on what is really going on. And what is absolutely [missing], as far as I can tell right now, are any actual facts.

Everybody has his r own perspective on what happened, but there isn’t any space [for analysis]. Everyone demands a response from the system based on their preconceived idea of what should happen on the case; but it’s all done in a complete vacuum of facts. And until those facts are developed and the system is allowed to do that in a professional, thorough and independent way, you really can’t comment. That is the potential advantage of doing retrospective analysis: you ‘ve got the time and space to get people to open up about what they did do and what they didn’t do, but you often can’t do that doing exigent circumstances. So a lot of times people just don’t do it. In fact most of us just don’t do it; we just don’t take the time to go back and look. We should be looking not just at Ferguson, but police-related shooting cases as a whole.

TCR: Can these ideas expand to other cities?

JC: People think of the criminal justice system in the United States as a monolithic system, but in reality it’s not. there are 3,200 or even more counties, and the counties are generally the organizational structure for most criminal justice systems. Even though they all operate generally under state and federal laws, even within the states themselves those laws change. And at the local level, the ordinance and local laws are different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The number of social services or the size of police forces also differ.  

Milwaukee is in the top ten when it comes to the most challenging demographics and poverty and a host of other significant challenges—but that doesn’t make it any different than any other jurisdictions. The challenges are the same, just different magnitudes. The benefit of this process right here is that it could be used and adapted to any size jurisdiction at the local level. They just need to work with one another in an open and honest way, and there should be no pointing blame during these reviews, which are aimed at achieving some level of clarity and honesty, and (ultimately) a commitment to change. There isn’t any system in the United States that is perfect, there just isn’t.

TCR: What should other jurisdictions be reviewing in their own system?

JC: Do they talk to each other on a regular basis? That would be the first question I would ask. They need to talk to each other in some type of structured way on a regular basis. It is an essential thing that should exist at each county level. There needs to be a commitment from system actors that they sit down on a regular basis and examine their system, and to be open to bringing other people in to review.

If you don’t do that, then you get what you usually see, which is different parts of the system pointing fingers at other parts of the system. Police pointing fingers at social workers not doing their job; the court saying that prosecutors and defense aren’t doing their job. It’s a vicious circle. That’s the game that is played constantly, fingers are pointed, and everyone says ‘that is not my responsibility; I’m doing my job.’ As long as you are locked in that paradigm you are not going to get any change.

Cara Tabachnick is managing editor of The Crime Report. She welcomes comments from readers.