US Update…

     Dec 17, 2015

 The Sentencing Project (US)
Are Judges or Prosecutors Driving Racial Disparity in Post-Booker Sentencing?

Though the length of federal sentences have in fact decreased, the article wonders about the role of judges and prosecutors in unnecessarily harsh sentences for Blacks and Hispanics.  The 2005 Booker decision gave the US federal courts the power to increase the normal sentences and many did.  This report looks at the 2005-2008 applications of the Booker decision.  The report notes that Blacks have not benefited as much from the increased leniency since but also that Black women did not apparently suffer the excess at all.  Eventually, the report suggests that prosecutors in decisions that they take have a greater role than judges in the problem of racial disparity in sentencing.

 Columbus Dispatch (Ohio /US) – Alan Johnson
Executions in U.S. fewest since 1991, report shows

The US has had its fewest state executions in 24 years: 28 this year, down from 98 in its worse record year in 1999.  The report also shows that the death sentence was imposed only 49 times this year, the lowest since the 1970’2 and well below the record of 356 in 1996.  Obtaining approved execution drugs has been a major factor in the six states where executions took place this year.   Related article: International Business Times – Vishakha Sonawane   US Executions In 2015 Lowest Since 1991, New Death Sentences Down 33% From 2014

 N.Y. Times – Michael Schwirtz and Michael Winerip
New York State Agrees to Overhaul Solitary Confinement in Prisons

New York Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit against the state and after three years of negotiations a mutually agreeable resolution has been achieved with a price tag of $62 million.  “The agreement establishes a maximum sentence of three months for most disciplinary violations, except assaults, and 30 days for almost any prisoner who has committed a nonviolent infraction for the first time. Isolation will no longer be imposed for first-time violations for drug use or possession, which in the past have accounted for as much as one-fifth of the solitary population.”  The agreement still needs the consent of the federal court.

 VERA Institute of Justice – Ram Subramanian, Christian Henrichson, Jacob Kang-Brown
In Our Own Backyard: Confronting Growth and Disparities in American Jails 

The VERA Institute has an innovation for immediate information around mass incarceration and the role played by your county jail.  A web site offers immediate statistical information and comparisons with other years and places based on admissions at the front door of the facility.  The interactive web site is explained in a 20 page downloadable pdf at the link.   Link for the interactive site (put your mouse on a state of county and click for detail)

 United Nations
Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights 

The United Nations principles embody the three pillars for implementing the  “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework.  This 41 page downloadable pdf dates from 2011 but the three day annual forum in Geneva in November has highlighted a need for business to actively engage in the protection of human rights and pointed to the abuses in farm labour in North America.

 CBC News (Nova Scotia)
Landon Webb’s lawyer says client has lost phone and internet privileges 

Landon, say his parents, functions at the level of a ten year old.  NS Justice Minister Diana Whalen says that the case has prompted the recognition that the Incompetent Person Act has a major deficiency in that there is no provision for re-assessment of a decision previously taken under the act to account for changes and improvements.   The immediate problem was a decision taken by the institution and parental guardians to remove telephone and internet access for Landon to prevent outside contact thought to be disruptive of his care at the home.

The Independent (UK) – Paul Gallagher
Rye Hill: Inside the prison changing the landscape for serious sex offenders – Exclusive: The Category B training prison has won praise for its innovative approach to rehabilitation

Rye Hill, known as a Category B prison, is exclusively for sex offenders and run by a private prison company G4S.  Established in 2014, with 623 inmates, Rye Hill had its first inspection by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.  While the prison won points for its rehab programs, its health care is problematic as is the practice of sexual grooming among the inmates.