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  1. Professional Home Security Systems While many systems use wireless components that are installed using double-sided tape, some high-end systems use components that require professional installation. These soup-to-nuts systems typically cost considerably more than DIY systems and offer 24/7 professional monitoring, but you may have to enter into a multi-year contract and pay a hefty termination fee if you break it. They usually use touch-screen hubs that contain RF, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave radios, allowing them to communicate with and control a multitude of components including door and window sensors, door locks, glass break detectors, indoor and outdoor cameras, light switches, motion and water detectors, smoke/CO alarms, thermostats, video doorbells, and a host of other home automation devices. With a professionally monitored system, when a smoke or intrusion alarm is triggered, an agent will first try to reach you via the two-way control panel before calling your listed phone number. If you fail to respond, the agent will call 911 to dispatch an emergency responder to your home. The nice thing about professionally installed systems is you don't have to lift a finger; after you've placed your order a technician will come to your home, set everything up for you, and show you how the system works. It's important to note that in some areas you may have to file for a permit to have a security system installed in your home. Nearly all of the latest DIY and high-end home security systems offer support for voice control via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and in some cases Apple Siri, which allows you to unlock doors, change thermostat settings, open the garage, and arm or disarm your system with a spoken command to a connected device like an Amazon Echo or a Google Home speaker. Many also offer support for IFTTT (If This Then That) applets, which use triggers from IFTTT-compatible web services and devices to create an action. For example, you can create an applet that says if a garage door is opened to turn on the floodlight
  2. DIY Home Security Systems Do-it-yourself security setups are ideal for budget shoppers because they can save you a bundle on installation charges and subscription fees. Most DIY systems are easy to install and are sold as kits that you can configure to suit your specific needs. As your needs grow you can order additional sensors and other components at your convenience and pair them to the system in a matter of minutes. Your basic entry-level DIY system may only support one or two wireless protocols and usually offers a limited selection of add-on components, while more expensive DIY systems will support multiple wireless protocols and are compatible with dozens of add-on components. Some DIY systems are self-monitored, which means you'll receive alerts when devices are triggered, but it's up to you to contact the local authorities if there's a break-in or a fire. However, DIY vendors are increasingly offering professional monitoring services; some require a contract and some allow you to pay as you go so you're only being monitored when you need it, such as when you're away on vacation. There are a few things to consider before jumping into a do-it-yourself system. For starters, you'll have to figure out what kind of sensors you want and how many you'll need. Ideally you'll place door sensors on every doorway into your house. You'll also want to put a window sensor on every window, or at least every window that is large enough to provide access to your home. You don't have to install a motion sensor in every room in the house, but you should place them in main hallways, stairways, foyers, or any place where an intruder would have to walk through while entering or exiting your home. There are several types of motion sensors out there, the most common being PIR (passive infrared) sensors that detect body heat. These sensors are ideal for home security use as they are cost effective and work well indoors in any lighting environment. Active motion sensors emit microwaves to detect movement and are better suited to harsh environments, including outdoor use, but are prone to false alerts due to wind-blown debris. A dual motion sensor combines both active and passive technology to reduce false alerts and provide an extra measure of reliability. Other things to consider when building out your DIY system include placement of the hub and any security cameras. The main hub usually requires a wired connection to your router, although there are wireless systems out here. Either way, it should be in close proximity to your router for optimal connectivity. If you're installing a system with a touch-screen panel, make sure there's a power outlet nearby. Most indoor and outdoor security cameras run on AC power and will require access to a wall outlet. While this isn't much of an issue with indoor cameras, outdoor camera placement will largely depend on accessibility to a power supply. If you don't have a GFCI outlet nearby, you'll have to install one or be prepared to drill a hole in your house to snake a power cable through to an indoor outlet.
  3. Streamlining Security and Home Automation A smart home security system connects to your Wi-Fi network so you can monitor and control your security devices using your smartphone and an app. Entry-level systems usually include some door and window sensors, a motion detector, and a hub that communicates with these devices using one or more wireless protocols such as Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, or a proprietary mesh network. You can add extra door, motion, and window sensors to provide coverage for your entire house and build a comprehensive system that includes door locks, garage door openers, indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, lights, sirens, smoke/CO detectors, water sensors, and more. A word about wireless protocols: In a perfect world, all home security components would use the same wireless standard to communicate with the main hub, but factors such as power requirements, signal range, price, and size make it virtually impossible to settle on just one. For example, smaller components such as door/window sensors typically use Z-Wave or Zigbee technology because they don't require a lot of power and can be powered by smaller batteries. They also operate in a mesh topology and can help extend the range of networked devices. However, neither protocol provides the bandwidth that you get with Wi-Fi, which is why it is usually used in security cameras to provide smooth video streaming, and in other devices that require a fat pipe. Moreover, Z-Wave and Zigbee devices are connected and controlled using a hub, while Wi-Fi devices can be connected directly to your home network and controlled with an app. Finally, Z-Wave and Zigbee devices use AES 128 encryption, and since they operate in a closed system with a dedicated hub, they offer more security than Wi-Fi devices. Any smart security system worth its salt offers components that work together in a seamless environment and can be manipulated using customized rules. For example, you can create rules to have the lights turn on when motion is detected, have your doors unlock when a smoke alarm goes off, and have a camera begin recording when a sensor is triggered. Some systems store recorded video locally on an SD card or a solid state drive, while others offer cloud storage. Locally stored video is a good choice for do-it-yourselfers on a budget, but you have to be careful not to overwrite video you may need later. Cloud storage makes it easy to store and access recorded video, but it can cost hundreds of dollars per year depending on your subscription. Some systems offer both cloud storage and local storage, and some provide a dedicated storage drive that gives you DVR capabilities with time-lapse recording, which makes it easy to find a video event that took place at a specific point in time. All of the systems we've tested feature an app that lets you use your smartphone as your command center to arm and disarm the system, create rules, add and delete components, and receive push notifications when alarms are triggered. Most apps also allow you to do things like view live and recorded video, lock and unlock doors, change thermostat settings, and silence alarms. Some apps will even use your phone's location services to automatically arm and disarm the system according to your physical location. The more expensive systems usually come with a wall-mounted panel that acts as a communications hub, with a touch-screen display that allows you to do everything the app does. The display lets you communicate with a professional monitoring service when an alarm is triggered and view video from any of the installed security cameras.
  4. The Internet of Things has made it easier than ever to set up a smart home in which you can remotely control your door locks, lights, thermostats, vacuums, lawn mowers, and even pet feeders, using your smartphone and an app. It's also made it simple (and relatively affordable) to monitor your home from pretty much anywhere. Smart security systems are highly customizable and available as do-it-yourself kits or as full-blown setups that include professional installation and monitoring. Depending on your needs you can go with a system that you monitor yourself, or pay a subscription fee to have your home surveilled 24/7 by professionals who will contact your local fire and police departments when alarms are triggered. You can even take advantage of on-demand monitoring services for when you're away on vacation. Of course, the more coverage you have, the more you can expect to pay. If you're not ready for a dedicated security system, there are plenty of individual devices available that let you monitor your home from anywhere using your phone or tablet, including indoor and outdoor security cameras, video doorbells, motion sensors, and smart locks.
  5. About 25 years ago I was vacationing in Puerta Vallarta. My hotel neighbors were on their deck smoking cannabis. I had my sliding deck door open. There was a loud knock on the hotel room door and a hotel rent a cop tried to get in my face about the cannabis smell from my room. As a happenstance I wasn’t toking. “Not me” I said. The rent a cop grabbed my arm and said “ come with me”. I resisted. “ you have the wrong person,” Then my husband came into the room from the bar. He was a drummer and had played with the hotels band the 3 nights we’d been there. The rent a cop recognized him and said “ Senior Jerry”. This is your room?” My husband looked like Jerry Garcia. “Yes and that’s my wife you have your hand on”. I explained the scent was coming from outside and my deck doors were open - meanwhile my husband went on the deck and told the people to cool it. It’s funny because back then the only cannabis I could get in the US was bad Mexican cannabis. But the rent a cop was looking for a pay off. He thought he could scare us into paying him to not take us in. Last time I was in Puerto Vallarta things were very different. I could buy openly on any street corner. Smoke in the hotel and no one braced me for it wanting a pay off. Are narcotics legal in Mexico? Narcotics are not legal in Mexico. In November 2015 the Mexican Supreme Court (Primera Sala de la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación) ruled as unconstitutional the articles 233, 237, 245, 247 and 248 of the General Health Law (Ley General de Salud), articles pertaining to the prohibition of planting, cultivation, harvesting, preparation, possession and transportation of cannabis. This ruling, although defending the plaintiffs’ right to consume cannabis, did not change the law (amending the law corresponds to the legislative branch). Additionally, the court did not rule on the prohibition of the purchase and sale of cannabis, leaving no precedence (or defense) on this matter. Institutionalized corruption being prevalent in Mexico the use or possession of cannabis therefore represents a real danger for extortion, incarceration and deportation. quora.com
  6. Canada elected a new Liberal government in October 2015. One of their notable promises during the campaign was their effort to legalize marijuana — as well as tax it, and regulate it. They reinforced this promise last spring that they were to begin their legislative efforts in the succeeding spring. It is expected that this is when the marijuana issue will come to light. Although Canada is not for sure legalizing it, we can assume that it may happen, as the incumbent government says so. There are various motives for wanting to legalize marijuana, and various interests have different reasons. Some of the come reasons go as follows: The war on drugs, specifically marijuana, is ineffective. Drug use since the war on drugs emerged has not decreased as a result of it, and millions are being poured into this useless propaganda and prison machine. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper claimed that “marijuana is infinitely worse than tobacco”, a great contrast from the attitudes of the successive government. But not only that — it is a flat out lie. Marijuana is certainly not worse than tobacco, that much is for sure. There is very little to no evidence that marijuana has long term harmful effects on one’s body and mentality. Why is a drug which does not cause harm being kept illegal? Marijuana has potential beneficial effects. Marijuana is known to have been successful with people with certain physical illnesses, to reduce the pain and otherwise. Marijuana is also commonly used for mental purposes, such as a stress reliever. The government can generate huge revenues off of it. If marijuana is legalized, the government will definitely be able to indulge in the industry, taxing and regulating. There is a general trend growing of a more positive outlook on marijuana. It is about time this absurd war on drugs ends, and we start embracing the cannabis culture. The social and economic possibilities are endless. quora.com
  7. In my opinion, it’s not. Others disagree. The reasons vary; most seem misinformed. The most common is that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs. If it is a gateway drug, IMO, it is because it gives people an immunity to the fear of buying drugs on the black market. And also an introduction to buying goods, especially drugs, on the black market. So it’s not USING marijuana, it’s BUYING illegal marijuana that provides the gateway. Further, simply because some people who try marijuana try harder drugs doesn’t mean it’s a gateway, any more than the fact that people who smoke or drink are more likely to you use harder drugs makes those drugs a gateway. The second most common reason people think legalizing pot is bad is due to the belief that children will have more access to the drug. This may in fact be true. But if the police are vigilant about arresting adults who provide marijuana to children, and the police should have more time to focus on these instances since they will not be busy arresting all marijuana sellers and user but ONLY those who provide it to children, then legalizing the weed may make it less available to kids. The third reason is that people think children will believe marijuana is safe since it is legal. Well, children already think marijuana is safe. Second, if they think marijuana is unsafe because it is illegal, what will they think about heroin’s safety after they try pot and come to believe the dangers of marijuana are greatly exaggerated? That happened to me. I then figured if society exaggerated the dangers of pot, then the dangers of LSD, and cocaine, and heroin must be exaggerated as well. So now kids think anything society tells them about illegal drugs is a lie. This is especially true when kids see drunk friends get in all kinds of trouble, but their pothead friends don’t get in as much trouble (fights, car accidents, and rape are more closely correlated to alcohol use than marijuana use). Finally, there are some who think that marijuana corrupts your thinking, and turns you into a bad citizen. This is about as stupid as those who think marijuana highs provide insight and intelligence. Neither is really true. Pot can help your imagination, but the benefit goes away after you come down and isn’t really any more clarifying than drinking booze. Sort of. Sort of not, too, but that is another story. Pot is not safe. But making it illegal makes it more dangerous, and does little to discourage use among children who can easily buy it (more easily than adults, actually) and ENCOURAGES use by making it seem cool, rebellious, counter cultural and, finally, profitable, for those who figure out how easy it is to make money selling drugs in the black market. This makes kids more likely to use drugs, not less likely. Paul Andersen quora.com
  8. Drugs should be legalized There are numerous arguments for drug legalization. Criminal prohibition of drugs has not eliminated or substantially reduced drug use. The drug war has cost society more than drug abuse itself. Costs include the $16 billion the federal government alone spent to fight drugs in 1998. Of this $16 billion, $10.5 billion pays for measures to reduce the supply of drugs. Most of these measures involve law enforcement efforts to interdict or intercept drug supplies at the borders. Costs also include corruption, damage to poor and minority neighborhoods, a world‐wide black market in illegal drugs, the enrichment of criminal organizations through their involvement in the drug trade, and an increase in predatory crimes, such as robberies and burglaries, committed by drug addicts who are enslaved to drugs. Most illegal drugs are no more harmful than legal substances, such as cigarettes and alcohol, and therefore, drugs should be treated the same as these other substances. Legalization would free up billions of dollars that the government now spends on police, courts, and corrections to wage war on drugs and would produce significant tax revenues. The money saved could then be spent on drug education, drug treatment, and law enforcement initiatives directed at more serious crimes. Drug prohibition infringes on civil liberties. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that because drugs are such a horrible thing, it is okay to bend the Fourth Amendment (which relates to searches and seizures) in order to make it easier to secure convictions in drug cases. Drugs should not be legalized There are also many arguments against legalization. Legalization would increase the number of casual users which, in turn, would increase the number of drug abusers. More drug users, abusers, and addicts would mean more health problems and lower economic productivity. Although legalization might result in savings in expensive criminal justice costs and provide tax revenues, increased public‐health costs and reduced economic productivity due to more drug‐dependent workers would offset the financial benefits of legalization. The argument based on the analogy between alcohol and tobacco versus psychoactive drugs is weak because its conclusion—psychoactive drugs should be legalized—does not follow from its premises. It is illogical to say that because alcohol and tobacco take a terrible toll (for example, they are responsible for 500,000 premature deaths each year), a heavy toll from legalization is therefore acceptable. Indeed, the reverse seems more logical: prohibit the use of alcohol, tobacco, and psychoactive drugs because of the harm they all do. Additionally, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, crack, and the rest of the psychoactive drugs are not harmless substances—they have serious negative consequences for the health of users and addictive liability.
  9. Policymakers in the United States have chosen to define drug abuse as a legal problem rather than a public‐health problem. This choice puts the criminal justice system at the center of a massive war on drugs. The drug war is an expanding enterprise with deep roots in the political and social fabric of the U.S. society. It is an effort that involves law enforcement, courts, corrections, education, health care, and a multitude of political groups. Started by the Reagan administration and expanded by the Bush and Clinton administrations, the drug war depicts the U.S. as fighting a deadly enemy. The term drug war refers to a situation created when the government puts its power behind the drug laws, zealously enforces them, and imprisons large numbers of drug offenders as if they were enemies in a real war. The main solutions to the drug problem focus on supply and demand. Supply‐side solutions include initiatives aimed at pressuring drug‐producing countries to halt the exporting of illegal drugs, intercepting drugs before smugglers can get them across American borders, passing tougher drug laws, cracking down on drug dealers, and sentencing drug manufacturers and dealers to long prison terms. Demand‐side solutions include drug education and drug treatment. A more radical approach suggests legalization (in other words, removal of drug offense from criminal codes) as the only viable solution.
  10. 6 Make all drug use safer Prohibition has led to the stigmatisation and marginalisation of drug users. Countries that operate ultra-prohibitionist policies have very high rates of HIV infection amongst injecting users. Hepatitis C rates amongst users in the UK are increasing substantially. In the UK in the '80's clean needles for injecting users and safer sex education for young people were made available in response to fears of HIV. Harm reduction policies are in direct opposition to prohibitionist laws. 7 Restore our rights and responsibilities Prohibition unnecessarily criminalises millions of otherwise law-abiding people. It removes the responsibility for distribution of drugs from policy makers and hands it over to unregulated, sometimes violent dealers. Legalisation restores our right to use drugs responsibly to change the way we think and feel. It enables controls and regulations to be put in place to protect the vulnerable. 8 Race and Drugs Black people are over ten times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offences than whites. Arrests for drug offences are notoriously discretionary allowing enforcement to easily target a particular ethnic group. Prohibition has fostered this stereotyping of black people. Legalisation removes a whole set of laws that are used to disproportionately bring black people into contact with the criminal justice system. It would help to redress the over representation of black drug offenders in prison. 9 Global Implications The illegal drugs market makes up 8% of all world trade (around £300 billion a year). Whole countries are run under the corrupting influence of drug cartels. Prohibition also enables developed countries to wield vast political power over producer nations under the auspices of drug control programmes. Legalisation returns lost revenue to the legitimate taxed economy and removes some of the high-level corruption. It also removes a tool of political interference by foreign countries against producer nations. 10 Prohibition doesn't work There is no evidence to show that prohibition is succeeding. The question we must ask ourselves is, "What are the benefits of criminalising any drug?" If, after examining all the available evidence, we find that the costs outweigh the benefits, then we must seek an alternative policy. Legalisation is not a cure-all but it does allow us to address many of the problems associated with drug use, and those created by prohibition. The time has come for an effective and pragmatic drug policy.
  11. 1 Address the real issues For too long policy makers have used prohibition as a smoke screen to avoid addressing the social and economic factors that lead people to use drugs. Most illegal and legal drug use is recreational. Poverty and despair are at the root of most problematic drug use and it is only by addressing these underlying causes that we can hope to significantly decrease the number of problematic users. 2 Eliminate the criminal market place The market for drugs is demand-led and millions of people demand illegal drugs. Making the production, supply and use of some drugs illegal creates a vacuum into which organised crime moves. The profits are worth billions of pounds. Legalisation forces organised crime from the drugs trade, starves them of income and enables us to regulate and control the market (i.e. prescription, licensing, laws on sales to minors, advertising regulations etc.) 3 Massively reduce crime The price of illegal drugs is determined by a demand-led, unregulated market. Using illegal drugs is very expensive. This means that some dependent users resort to stealing to raise funds (accounting for 50% of UK property crime - estimated at £2 billion a year). Most of the violence associated with illegal drug dealing is caused by its illegality Legalisation would enable us to regulate the market, determine a much lower price and remove users need to raise funds through crime. Our legal system would be freed up and our prison population dramatically reduced, saving billions. Because of the low price, cigarette smokers do not have to steal to support their habits. There is also no violence associated with the legal tobacco market. 4 Drug users are a majority Recent research shows that nearly half of all 15-16 year olds have used an illegal drug. Up to one and a half million people use ecstasy every weekend. Amongst young people, illegal drug use is seen as normal. Intensifying the 'war on drugs' is not reducing demand. In Holland, where cannabis laws are far less harsh, drug usage is amongst the lowest in Europe. Legalisation accepts that drug use is normal and that it is a social issue, not a criminal justice one. How we deal with it is up to all of us to decide. In 1970 there were 9000 convictions or cautions for drug offences and 15% of young people had used an illegal drug. In 1995 the figures were 94 000 and 45%. Prohibition doesn't work. 5 Provide access to truthful information and education A wealth of disinformation about drugs and drug use is given to us by ignorant and prejudiced policy-makers and media who peddle myths upon lies for their own ends. This creates many of the risks and dangers associated with drug use. Legalisation would help us to disseminate open, honest and truthful information to users and non-users to help them to make decisions about whether and how to use. We could begin research again on presently illicit drugs to discover all their uses and effects - both positive and negative.
  12. Portugal has led the way in decriminalising the possession of small quantities of any drug since 2001, in a radical experiment that has become the test case for many countries looking to reform their drug laws. Across Europe, 14 countries have brought in various decriminalisation models for the medical or recreational sale of cannabis. In December 2013, Uruguay became the first nation to make it legal to grow, consume and sell cannabis. That said, all sales must pass through a government-run marketplace. Twenty-three US states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for medical purposes and Washington became the first to permit the recreational use of the plant in 2012, despite a federal ban. Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have since followed suit. Cannabis went on sale in Washington in July 2014. Canada has also joined the marijuana gold rush this summer, becoming the first G7 country to fully legalise cannabis after lawmakers passed a bill allowing the growing, selling and consumption of cannabis for medical and recreational use. By comparison, the UK “has become increasingly isolated in its approach to drugs policy”, says Peter Reynolds, president of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform. “We are unique among modern democracies in maintaining an approach based on nothing but prohibition. In fact, we now stand closer to countries such as Russia, China, Indonesia and Singapore. The only thing that separates us from countries with such medieval policies is our lack of the death penalty for drug offences,” he says. What happens when drugs are decriminalised? Multiple studies of what happened in Portugal show the hugely positive impact decriminalisation has had over the past 15 or so years. The country has an extremely low rate of overdose deaths and has reduced the number of HIV-positive people addicted to drugs. It has also saved millions of euros in prison expenses while the level of drug use has not gone up. The legalisation of cannabis in some US states has not led to a rise in adolescent use, a US study found. It revealed that while cannabis use was generally higher in the states that had passed medical marijuana legislation before 2014, the passage of such laws did not affect the rate of marijuana use in those states. British experts pushing for medicinal and research use of the drug welcomed the news. “Patients with... severe health problems are currently being denied effective treatment in the UK,” Professor Val Curran, the UK’s foremost expert on medical marijuana.
  13. So what are the pros and cons of legalising drugs in the UK? Pro: the war on drugs creates addicts Russell Brand, Sir Richard Branson, Sting and Michael Mansfield QC were among high-profile signatories to an open letter asking the government to consider decriminalising possession of cannabis in 2014, The Independent reported. Cannabis has been classified as a Class B drug in the UK since 2008 and carries a prison sentence of up to five years for possession. Release, the drugs charity which organised the letter, says arresting users “creates more harm for individuals, their families and society”. It says that if users are not “caught up in the criminal justice system” they have a better chance of escaping addiction and argues that evidence from other countries supports this view. According to Release, users of ‘soft’ drugs like cannabis are more likely to try something harder, including heroin, when both are illegal. Con: legalising drugs would create addicts Kevin Sabet, a leading US academic and opponent of drug liberalisation, told The Guardian: “Legal regulation has been a disaster for drugs like alcohol and tobacco. Both of those drugs are now sold by highly commercialised industries who thrive off addiction for profit.” He concluded: “What we need is much smarter law-enforcement, coupled with real demand reduction in places like Europe and the US.” At a time when governments are uniting to stop people smoking, should they really be becoming more laissez-faire about drug use? Pro: if you can’t beat them, regulate them Sir William Patey, the former UK ambassador to Afghanistan, ruffled feathers when he came out in favour of legalising the trade in opium poppies, from which heroin is derived. Writing in The Guardian, Patey said it was impossible to stop Afghan farmers from growing and exporting opium illegally, and concluded that “if we cannot deal effectively with supply” the only alternative is to “limit the demand for illicit drugs by making a licit supply of them available from a legally regulated market”. This would create stability and peace in drug-producing nations. Con: sending out the ‘wrong’ message Prohibitionists argue that legalising drugs would suggest to the public that they are safe to take, flying in the face of evidence showing that even cannabis can damage people’s mental and physical health. This is the view of the Home Office, which said in May: “The legalisation of cannabis would send the wrong message to the vast majority of people who do not take drugs, especially young and vulnerable people, with the potential grave risk of increased misuse of drugs.” Pro: regulated drugs are safer One of the strongest arguments for legalisation and regulation is that it ensures the quality of drugs being consumed. Drugs sold by dealers are often cut with harmful substances, increasing the risk of suffering adverse effects. The result is that current UK drug policy has led to the highest ever rate of deaths from overdose. Deaths from heroin more than doubled from 2012 to 2015 while in 2016, 63 people died from ecstasy-related incidents in England and Wales – “deaths that could have been prevented if they’d known better what they were taking” says the Adam Smith Institute’s Matt Kilcoyne in City A.M. Con: the Pope wouldn’t like it Pope Francis has tarnished his glowing liberal credentials as the tweeting pontiff who spoke inclusively about gay people, denounced “unbridled capitalism” and reached out to Muslims, by speaking out against decriminalisation. Francis is a native of Argentina, which borders Uruguay, where cannabis is now legally grown and smoked. He said legalising recreational drugs was “highly questionable” and would “fail to produce the desired effects”, reported the Daily Mail. He added that legalisation was “a veiled means of surrendering to the problem”. Pro: big savings for the taxpayer Legalising cannabis could earn the Treasury up to £3.5bn a year in tax revenues, according to a new report from Health Poverty Action. The international development organisation says the money could be used to plug the gap in the NHS budget. “Prohibition has failed,” said Natasha Horsfield, the group’s advocacy officer. “From our perspective, it’s about regulating the market to improve public health outcomes and create a safer environment. But we can see the potential benefits from a taxation perspective if we were to regulate it.” A report from the Institute for Social and Economic Research suggests legalisation would save up to £300m in policing, criminal justice and drug treatment services in England and Wales. Health Poverty Action says it would free up the police and judicial systems to address more serious or violent crime and reduce the overall prison burden.
  14. Medical cannabis will soon be made available on prescription in the UK to treat conditions such as chronic pain, nausea caused by chemotherapy, and severe epilepsy. The Home Office decision, expected to be announced in parliament within a month, follows a high-profile campaign by the mother of 13-year-old Billy Caldwell, whose medical cannabis for his epilepsy was seized following a trip to the US in the summer. Following a public backlash and u-turn from Home Secretary Sajid Javid, patients are now able to apply to a panel of medical experts for permission to use the oil, although many have been rejected. The new law “will place Britain among the most liberal countries in Europe on medical cannabis”, says The Times. Yet many are saying it does not go nearly far enough and that the continued war on drugs has been a monumental failure and requires a complete overhaul. Last month Lord Falconer, who served as Tony Blair’s justice secretary and was Jeremy Corbyn’s justice spokesman until June 2016, said the ban on drugs such as heroin and cocaine was responsible for killing “tens of thousands” of British people and represented “an attack on the working class”. Claiming ten people a day die in Britain as a result of drug-related deaths, he argued it was “better to sell mild and medically safe versions of drugs that give a high than ones sold by gangsters” and publicly challenged Corbyn to live up to his radical image by scrapping Britain’s tough anti-drugs laws. The Daily Mail says Lord Falconer is “the most senior political figure to call for all drugs to be legalised”, and joins a growing number of scientists, doctors, politicians and police officers calling for drug legalisation. Writing in The Daily Telegraph in June during the cannabis oil row, former Tory leader and foreign secretary William Hague said the war on cannabis had “failed utterly” and used his weekly column to attack “deluded” policy-making in Whitehall. Calling for cannabis to be fully legalised, Hague wrote: “Everyone sitting in a Whitehall conference room needs to recognise that, out there, cannabis is ubiquitous, and issuing orders to the police to defeat its use is about as up to date and relevant as asking the army to recover the Empire. This battle is effectively over.”
  15. Research capacity There are several reasons why law reform commissions are particularly well-placed to undertake criminal law reform. First, law reform commissions are renowned for their research and analytical abilities. Nearly all law reform projects involve the task of ascertaining what is the current law, what is its purpose, and what are the fundamental principles and policies underlying it. A standard law reform commission methodology is to undertake research into the history of a particular law. Tracing the legislative or common law development of an area of law is usually a very enlightening process, since laws emerge from, and develop within, particular social and political contexts which may, or may not, continue to be relevant. This can, of course, take considerable time. The end result is that commissions are better informed to make judgements about the need for change, the appropriate policy to guide such change, and the legislative form to achieve it. Economic factors There are a number of other factors that support the argument for a role for law reform commissions in principle in criminal law reform. The first is what might be called an economic one. If a law reform commission is already in existence, there is already dedicated funding (in most cases, government funding) for the operation of the commission. There is already a group of commissioners and legal staff to undertake the task. Additional resources can be provided by the government if it is considered that additional commissioners, staff or consultants with specific criminal law expertise should be appointed to work on such a project. Removal from political pressures Another advantage that a law reform commission has in undertaking reviews of the criminal law is that they are one step removed from the day to day political pressures that a government faces. They have statutory independence, and can spend time researching and consulting on appropriate policies and principles which a government, taking account of political considerations, may be unable to do. Law reform commissions have the luxury, as it were, of being able to take the “high moral ground”. It can be an advantage to a law reform commission that it is not ultimately responsible for the implementation of its recommendations. This frees the commission to develop what it considers the most principled solution to a problem. On the other hand, the government is ultimately responsible for implementation, and may decide that a law reform report is not politically acceptable to implement. As noted earlier in this paper, the New South Wales Law Reform Commission has done many criminal law projects over the last 15 years. These have included both large and small projects. The project on criminal procedure was a large one which extended over several years, but it was never completed. After several years of work, the then Attorney General requested in 1989 that a report on one aspect of the project be completed (Police Powers of Arrest and Detention After Arrest) and that, if further work was to be undertaken, new terms of reference should be formulated. This occurred at a time when the very existence of the Law Reform Commission was a matter of public debate in New South Wales, and it brought into sharp focus the issue of the Law Reform Commission undertaking very long-term projects extending over several years. Such tensions tend not to arise with smaller, short-term projects, as they are generally easy for governments to implement, and hence claim the political kudos. But, there are clearly advantages in undertaking comprehensive reviews of the criminal law from time to time, rather than proceeding in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion. This is both a better way for the law to develop and a more efficient use of limited resources.
  16. The short answer to the question whether there is a place for the principled study of criminal law issues by law reform commissions is an emphatic “yes”. The Australian model of law reform commissions is uniquely placed to undertake detailed, principled research into areas of law, and this includes the criminal law. They are permanent, independent organisations, able to coordinate large research projects, engage in community consultation, and write detailed, reasoned arguments for their recommendations to government. There has been no consistent pattern of review of criminal law and procedure by Australian law reform agencies over the last 25 – 30 years. The Western Australian Law Reform Commission has recently completed a major review of criminal law and procedure in that state. The first Victorian Law Reform Commission did a significant amount of important criminal law work in the 1980s, and the recently re-established Commission has as one of its initial projects the law relating to sexual assault. The New South Wales Law Reform Commission has, perhaps more than any other law reform commission in Australia, done a significant number of criminal law projects, both large and small, over the last 20 years. This paper focuses primarily on the criminal law work undertaken by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission and considers the advantages of law reform agencies conducting criminal law reviews, as well as the practical and political constraints they face. NATURE AND ROLE OF LAW REFORM COMMISSIONS Governments began to set up law reform agencies in the 1960s and 1970s, in recognition of the need to regularly review and update the law. A more structured and principled consideration of changes to the law was required, rather than a development based on ad hoc or short-term political considerations. Law reform commissions proliferated in Commonwealth countries, based largely on the model of the Law Commission of England and Wales established in 1965. Law reform agencies based on this model have generally been set up as permanent bodies with relatively small numbers of full-time commissioners and legal research staff. They operate independently of the government of the day, and are given significant autonomy in conducting law reform projects. Many commissions work only on projects referred by the Attorney General, whereas others have the responsibility of developing their own reform program, which is then submitted to the Attorney General for approval. Some commissions operate with large numbers of part-time commissioners with expertise in the subject matters under review. Other commissions rely more on paid and unpaid consultants to undertake research and writing, either as an addition or an alternative to having permanent legal research staff. The Australian states of New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland have had continuously functioning law reform agencies for more than 20 years. Victoria had a very productive law reform commission until 1992, when it was abolished. It has recently been re-established. Tasmania has also recently re-established a law reform agency. The Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory have also had part-time law reform committees operating for many years. South Australia also had such a committee until the early 1980s. In addition, the Australian Law Reform Commission, which reviews Commonwealth law, has operated since 1975. Law reform commissions in Australia have developed expertise in undertaking large-scale research projects, often requiring detailed empirical research, and have special expertise in seeking community input into their research projects. They generally conduct community consultations by public meetings, seminars or focus groups. Such community input is important to ensure that law reform agencies’ reports reflect the diverse viewpoints in the community, as well as obtaining input from people with expertise and experience in the areas of law under review. Policy analysis and development is something that law reform commissions do very well.
  17. It is always dangerous to prophesize, particularly, as an old Danish proverb warns, about the future. Unfortunately, the temptation to make an educated guess about the future is irresistible. After all, if the prediction game was like baseball a 30-per-cent success rate would make an all-star. So, here are my top five predictions about criminal justice for 2018. The Liberals came to power in 2015 on the back of some very big promises. The problem with public election promises is that they are easily measurable and this is especially true when they are reduced to black and white and released as ministerial mandate letters. The instructions provided by the prime minister to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould were ambitious. Wilson-Raybould was instructed, among other things, to modernize the justice system, increase the use of restorative justice, increase the government’s Charter compliance and address gaps in the justice system that allow the most marginalized Canadians to fall through the cracks. In short, the Liberals promised a necessary and massive reform of the justice system — including reforms to laws on minimum sentences. In early 2017, Wilson-Raybould said legislation would be introduced in the “very near future.” Months later, she indicated that the government was set to introduce legislative reform in the spring of 2017. That legislation never came. Then she indicated that the much-anticipated legislation would be introduced in the fall. But then autumn came and went, without any transformational justice legislation. Prediction: In 2018, Wilson-Raybould will table an omnibus justice bill that promises of transformational criminal justice reform, but the bill will ultimately be viewed as a disappointment. While the federal government has been sitting on its hands when it comes to the justice file, the same is not true of the provinces and the courts. Courts have continued to strike down unconstitutional laws and Alberta has announced plans to largely decriminalize drunk driving. Provincial intervention is a less than ideal workaround to Wilson-Raybould’s inaction as it cuts pretty close to an unconstitutional intrusion on the federal criminal law power. But Alberta says immediate action is needed to cut justice costs. Prediction: In 2018, the provinces, the Senate and the courts will continue to do what the federal government won’t — take action on meaningful criminal justice reform. In June of 2016, Canada’s Supreme Court gave the government guidance on amendments that would be necessary to close the bestiality loophole. You see, in Canada, bestiality is limited to acts involving penetration — everything else is legal. The government did not take action to close this abhorrent loophole, but Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith did, through a private member’s bill. Erskine-Smith’s bill was defeated with most Liberals and Conservatives voting against it. Interestingly, however, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel broke ranks with her party and supported Erskine-Smith. Rempel has since introduced her own private member’s bill to close one of the most disgusting loopholes in the Criminal Code. Prediction: In 2018, the bestiality loophole will finally be closed, but the government won’t let Rempel beat it to the legislative party and will introduce its own bill to steal her thunder. One of the big legal stories of 2017 was the impact of the Supreme Court’s Jordan decision, which imposed strict time limits for the prosecution of criminal cases. In 2017, it was fashionable to predict that the criminal justice sky would fall as a result of Jordan. It did not. The year 2018 will mark the two-year anniversary of the Jordan rules, but there are still predictions of impending legal chaos. Prediction: This year will be nothing like 1991 when more than 47,000 criminal charges were thrown out of Ontario courts alone because of unconstitutional trial delays. In 2018, the predicted Jordan tidal wave will never come. One of the biggest justice stories of 2017 was the government’s introduction of legislation to (sort of) legalize marijuana in some circumstances. The pot bill attracted some justifiable criticism that it did not go far enough to fulfil the Liberals’ election promise. But more troubling was the fact that the proposed legislation contained massive constitutional flaws. For example, the bill continues to criminalize anyone under 18 who possesses more than five grams of marijuana — an activity that will be perfectly legal for adults. Nowhere else in the Criminal Code is a youth criminalized for an act that is legal for an adult. The disproportionate criminalization of youth is counter-productive, irrational and likely unconstitutional criminal justice policy. The Liberal pot bill also disadvantages the poor. If an accused is given a marijuana ticket and if they can pay the fine in 30 days, then their court records must be sealed. But if you are poor and can’t pay the fine in 30 days, your court records won’t be sealed and can be disclosed to almost anyone — including employers, schools and foreign countries. The simple fact is that the marijuana ticket regime discriminates against the poor and will inevitably be found to violate the Charter. Prediction: In 2018, marijuana will be legalized and we will see the first constitutional challenge to the new laws. And one final prediction: I probably got most of this wrong because, by its very nature, the confluence of politics, the law and the courts makes for a very unpredictable beast. In other words, I would be very happy with a .300 batting average. Michael Spratt canadianlawyermag.com
  18. Reforms to the law are required to protect victims from online and social media-based abuse, according to a new Report by the Law Commission for England and Wales. The full scoping report and a summary can be found here. In its Scoping Report assessing the state of the law in this area, published today [1st November 2018] the Law Commission raises concerns about the lack of coherence in the current criminal law and the problems this causes for victims, police and prosecutors. It is also critical of the current law’s ability to protect people harmed by a range of behaviour online including: Receiving abusive and offensive communications “Pile on” harassment, often on social media Misuse of private images and information The Commission is calling for: reform and consolidation of existing criminal laws dealing with offensive and abusive communications online a specific review considering how the law can more effectively protect victims who are subject to a campaign of online harassment a review of how effectively the criminal law protects personal privacy online Professor David Ormerod QC, Law Commissioner for Criminal Law said: “As the internet and social media have become an everyday part of our lives, online abuse has become commonplace for many.” “Our report highlights the ways in which the criminal law is not keeping pace with these technological changes. We identify the areas of the criminal law most in need of reform in order to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account.” Responding to the Report, Digital Minister Margot James said: “Behaviour that is illegal offline should be treated the same when it’s committed online. We’ve listened to victims of online abuse as it’s important that the right legal protections are in place to meet the challenges of new technology. “There is much more to be done and we’ll be considering the Law Commission’s findings as we develop a White Paper setting out new laws to make the UK a safer place to be online. Jess Phillips MP, Chair, and Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Co-Chair, of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse and Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, welcomed the Report saying: “Online abuse has a devastating impact on survivors and makes them feel as though the abuse is inescapable. Online abuse does not happen in the ‘virtual world’ in isolation; 85% of survivors surveyed by Women’s Aid experienced a pattern of online abuse together with offline abuse. Yet too often it is not taken as seriously as abuse ‘in the real world’. “The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse has long called for legislation in this area to be reviewed to ensure that survivors are protected and perpetrators of online abuse held to account. We welcome the Law Commission’s report, which has found that gaps and inconsistencies in the law mean survivors are being failed. We support the call for further review and reform of the law”. The need for reform We were asked to assess whether the current criminal law achieved parity of treatment between online and offline offending. For the most part, we have concluded that abusive online communications are, at least theoretically, criminalised to the same or even a greater degree than equivalent offline offending. However, we consider there is considerable scope for reform: Many of the applicable offences do not adequately reflect the nature of some of the offending behaviour in the online environment, and the degree of harm it can cause. Practical and cultural barriers mean that not all harmful online conduct is pursued in terms of criminal law enforcement to the same extent that it might be in an offline context. More generally, criminal offences could be improved so they are clearer and more effectively target serious harm and criminality. The large number of overlapping offences can cause confusion. Ambiguous terms such as “gross offensiveness” “obscenity” and “indecency” don’t provide the required clarity for prosecutors.
  19. Opposition to reform Opposition to criminal justice reform typically is expressed by conservatives who do not perceive errors in the criminal justice system. Those that believe this also typically reject the claim from reform activists that the criminal justice system acts in a way that is racially disparate, and do not acknowledge the War on Drugs as "the new Jim Crow." Instead, "blue racism," or discrimination against law enforcement is seen as existing. Policing is viewed as a colorblind process that has no consideration for the race of offenders. Right wing media outlets frequently fight the notion of racially disparate policing that groups such as Black Lives Matter and Campaign Zero with the idea that police officers are reacting to compromising situations in a normal and rational way. Crime is cited as the rationale for any police reaction, and “violent criminal attacks are (cited as) the best predictor of whom police might shoot in America" according to those opposed to reform. Reform organizations Several non-profits, organizations, and initiatives also focus on criminal justice reform including the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), Campaign Zero, Right on Crime, The Innocence Project, The Sentencing Project, and the Marshall Project. The goals of these organizations is to spread awareness about perceived injustices within the criminal justice system and to promote action against it through social and policy change. In 2015 a number of reformers, including the ACLU, the Center for American Progress, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Koch family foundations, the Coalition for Public Safety, and the MacArthur Foundation, announced a bipartisan resolution to reform the criminal justice system in the United States. Their efforts were lauded by President Obama who noted these reforms will improve rehabilitation and workforce opportunities for those who have served their sentences.
  20. Arguments on criminal justice reform Arguments exist for and against criminal justice reform in the United States. While it is more common for those on the left to support reform, some conservative groups and individuals also believe that the system must be reformed. Support for reform Conservative support for reform There is a push from conservative groups such as Right on Crime to reclaim ground in the debate for criminal justice reform. Although support for reform is typically associated with liberal ideology, conservative criminological views emphasize the role of individual responsibility in crime. This parts from the liberal viewpoint that societal pressures contribute to crime in society. Conservative responses to crime emphasize holding prisoners accountable. They also strongly believe in the concept of victim reconciliation, or restorative justice. Restorative justice focuses on mediation between a victim and offender in order to satisfy both parties. Furthermore, they believe that victim engagement benefits victims and offenders because a large part of rehabilitation is the recognition of the impact of their criminal acts. The conservative case for criminal justice reform is based on a moral belief in the need to help offenders turn their lives around, but also necessary for public safety. The conservative belief is that high incarceration rates reflect an expansion of government power. Fiscal discipline reflects a large portion of conservative support for reform. Those that have been advanced in support of criminal justice reform include that the prison population of the United States costs about $80 billion per year to maintain. The push for reform emphasizes that it is inefficient to continue to spend such a large portion of state and national taxpayer dollars on incarcerating such a large number of individuals. Additionally, conservatives believe that the government should have greater accountability in reducing rates. Their proposed reforms have been criticized by some who claim the reforms are driven primarily by cost benefit analysis and recidivism, not a concern for justice and human rights, including sociologist Marie Gottschalk, who stated "cost-benefit analysis is one of the principal tools of the neoliberal politics on which the carceral state is founded." Liberal support for reform Liberal reformers believe that since the civil rights era, a form of color-blind racism has developed, reflecting a shift from de jure to de facto racism. Within this, racial minorities, most often African Americans of a low socioeconomic status, “are subject to unequal protecton of the laws, excessive surveillance, extreme segregation, and neo-slave labor via incarceration, all in the name of crime control.” Beyond tangible punishments there are “invisible punishments” such as felony disenfrachisment, restrictions on holding public office, occupational bans on professions such as law enforcement, teaching and child care, bans on welfare and federal assistance, and federal financial aid for education. Because mass incarceration and “invisible punishments” that also impact communities of color are thought of and referred to as the New Jim Crow, or another form of racialized social control, prison abolitionists draw parallels between prison abolition and the abolition of slaves. The prison abolition movement, typically believed to be on the far left, view prisons as a form of Neo-slavery that is unjust and racist. The movement dates back to Emma Goldman's 1911 abolitionist essay, The Priest and the Devil to open Prisons: A Social Crime and Failure. There exists the belief that prisons are obsolete, financially motivated, and better replaced by more humane institutions that directly focus on the rehabilitation of individuals. The abolition movement believes that prisons should not be reformed by replaced as they are not productive social institutions and instead only serve to incapacitate individuals.
  21. Re-entry Those that believe re-entry programs need reform typically point to recidivism rates within the United States criminal justice system. While those against reform claim that recidivism rates are indicative of inherent criminality amongst certain groups, those in support of reform believe it is indicative of the ineffectiveness of re-entry and parole programs. Different types of disenfranchisement exist that affect ex-offenders after their release. Advocates of criminal justice reform in the United States often also push for the reform of restrictions on federal aid and societal participation. Federal restrictions that exist include bans on the use of welfare programs and federal financial aid for education. Restrictions on societal participation include felons not being allowed to hold public office, teach or work in child care, or vote. Voting restrictions are known as felony disenfranchisement. This refers to the regulations that prevent those with a felony conviction from voting in local, state, and federal elections on the basis of their conviction. 6.1 million individuals were unable to vote due to felony disenfranchisement in 2016. Former prisoners are incarcerated multiple times, increasing recidivism rates, because they are unable to follow strict rules and regulations. Advocates of parole reform perceive these regulations as not being focus on community well being but instead on controlling parolees. A report for Columbia University's Justice lab showed that in the four years since January 1, 2018, New York City's jail population declined by 21%. However, during this time period, the population of individuals incarcerated due to parole violations increased by 15%. The Second Chance Act was passed with bipartisan support in an effort to reduce recidivism rates and improve outcomes for individuals following their released from juvenile facilities, jails and prisons. Second Chance Grant Programs include those that focus on substance use and mental disorders, mentoring and transitional services for adults, improvement for the outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system, and technology career training. Juvenile justice reform The push for reform within juvenile justice highlights the notion that Black and Latinx individuals, especially males, are criminalized prior to adulthood. The juvenile justice system is viewed in the same light as the criminal justice system as a form of social control that incapacitates Black and Latinx youth. Criminalization is also thought to occur in other social institutions such as school businesses, the streets and community centers. The juvenile justice system itself is also often criticized by reformers for perpetuating the notion that non-criminal individuals are criminal. The majority of individuals that enter the system have committed non-violent offenses, but still experience the effects of indirect punishment, direct punishment, and criminalization of their violent counterparts. Overall, this criminalization is thought to be harmful due to its impact on the perception and Black and Latinx youth have of themselves and their capability to be successful within society. Many also believe that the juvenile justice system is a part of the school to prison pipeline which funnels individuals from public school to the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Harsher disciplinary rules prevent individuals from re-entering schools following an offense, making it more likely for them to experience social pressures such as law income and unemployment that reform groups perceive to lead to criminal activity. Additionally, in school arrests contribute to the pipeline. Advocates of reform point to the fact that 70% of students arrested at school are Black, further contributing to the criminalization and mass incarceration of Black individuals.
  22. Broken windows policing Broken windows policing, or quality of life policing, is based on a criminological theory known as broken windows theory. This theory suggests that repairing broken windows in buildings and other form of physical disorder within a city indicate whether or not there is crime. When translated to policing tactics, minor offenses are targeted as a way to deter greater, more serious crime. Reformers point to the ways that broken windows policing negatively impacts communities of color through criminalization and excessive force. Additionally, it is typically seen as responsible for over policing and the militarization of neighborhoods. Offenses such as drug possession, “suspicious” activities or mental health crises often lead to the characterization of a neighborhood as disorderly and in need of stronger policing. Opponents of broken windows policing and theory suggest that this leads to the inherent criminalization of poor, minority and homeless individuals. It creates a stigma that reinforces the underlying problems that lead to the perception of crime within the neighborhood. Additionally, those that oppose the theory suggest that these issues are improperly addressed by law enforcement and instead should be treated by social workers or healthcare professionals. Predictive policing Predictive policing is an analytical technique used by law enforcement in order to predict where crime is likely to occur. It involves predicting both the potential time and place of crimes and individuals likely to commit them. It is used as an alternative to full reliance and trust in the “hunches” and instincts of law enforcement that are believed to come with training. Proponents of predictive policing believe that it is a way to minimize bias and discriminatory practices within policing. Opponents of predictive policing point to the fact that (1) the data used to isolate patterns of criminal behavior uses a privatized algorithm that only companies have access to and (2) its potential to reinforce existing biases against poor and minority communities. Because predictive policing algorithms use existing data to make predictions, it would follow that existing bias within the system is not eliminated but amplified. Additionally, opponents believe that it is a way to “manufacture” crime; it reinforces the idea that crime in an area exists and just needs to be found by law enforcement. Stop and frisk Stop-and-frisk stops refer to “a brief non-intrusive police stop of a suspect” warranted by “reasonable suspicion” that often involve a pat down of the suspect. Stop-and-frisk policies became a large part of criminal justice reform efforts following (New York Police Department) NYPD's use of the tactic. NYPD vowed to end its implementation of stop and frisk policies August 12, 2013 when ruled unconstitutional in Floyd v. City of New York. Although this is the case, similar policies are used in other cities throughout the U.S. Opponents of stop-and-frisk believe that it is unconstitutional, ineffective, and racist. Most cases in which stop and frisk is used are a result of the War on Drugs. In line with this, the majority of those targeted are racial minorities, specifically African Americans. A report by the Public Advocate's office indicates that of the 532,911 stops made in 2012 in New York City, 53% of individuals were Black and 31% were Hispanic. Additionally, the New York Civil Liberties Union indicated that only 97,296 stops were made in 2002, or less than a fifth of those made in 2012. Opponents point to the fact that stop-and-frisk is often unproductive and fails to fulfill its aim. Of the 2.3 million instances of police stopping Black males based on reasonable suspicion between 2004 and 2012, only 16,000 resulted in the seizure of illicit goods.
  23. Policing Policing reform typically focuses on police brutality and the use of dangerous force against minority individuals. Police brutality refers to the "use of excessive physical force or verbal assault and psychological intimidation" by law enforcement against individuals. According to Mapping Police Violence, police killed 1,147 individuals in 2017. This shows an increase from previous years with 963 individuals killed by fatal force in 2016 and 995 killed in 2015. The distribution of these killings varies widely by state with the majority of incidences occurring in states such as California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona and the least in Rhode Island, Vermont and North Dakota. While the distribution of killings by state within the U.S. is not even, overall more individuals die due to police shootings and other acts of excessive force than in any other Western, developed nation. Additionally, there are racial disparities within statistics of police killings. Of the 1,147 individuals killed by the police in 2017, a quarter were Black, meaning Black individuals were three times as likely to be killed by the police than their White counterparts. 30% of the Black victims were unarmed, compared to 21% of White Victims that were. Police brutality Those in favor of criminal justice reform point to recurring examples of discriminatory violence towards individuals such as the Watts Riots of 1965, the beating of Rodney King in 1991, and the death of Amadou Diallo in the 1990s. Theories from various fields including sociology and psychology have attempted to explain the phenomena of police brutality. Sociological theories of brutality focus on the way in which interactions between police and individuals are influenced by the status of the individual. This means that differences race, gender, and socioeconomic status result in disparate treatment by law enforcement. Additionally, “situational factors” such as the character of the neighborhood also affect the interactions. Each of these factors are cues that push officers to make judgements about how to proceed. So, according to this theory minorities are overrepresented in police killings simply due to perceptions of their race. Psychological theories of police brutality emphasizes that different outlooks and personalities result in differing behavior by the police. This follows behavioral psychology in suggesting that differences in gender, socioeconomic status, educational and experiences affect one's responses. Organizational theory suggests that police brutality is a result of the organizational structure of law enforcement. The use of excessive force is seen as a response to disrespecting their authority. In his book Punishing Race, Michael Tonry of University of Michigan, claims that White individuals and groups typically excuse police brutality due to a deep seated prejudice towards Blacks. Media representations of Black individuals and disparate sentencing contribute to the idea that Black individuals are inherently more criminal. Research reveals that Black males with features considered Afrocentric such as darker skin tone, broad noses, and full lips, receive longer sentences than their lighter skinned counterparts with Eurocentric features.
  24. Sentencing regulation Individuals are sentenced more often and for longer with the average sentence in the U.S. being nearly twice as long as Australian and five times as long as German sentences. Truth in Sentencing laws and mandatory minimums are perceived to be two forms of draconian policies that contribute to prison overcrowding. Truth in sentencing law requires that offenders serve the majority of their sentences before being eligible for release, restricting or eliminating sentencing exceptions such as good-time, earned-time, and parole board release. The majority of truth in sentencing laws require offenders to complete at least 85% of their sentence. Due to the formation of the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing Incentive Grants Program by Congress in 1994, states are given grants if they require violent offenders to serve at least 85% of their sentences. Mandatory minimum laws are those that require judges to sentence an individual to a specified minimum for the committed crime. This shifts power from the power of judges to prosecutors who have the ability to use the threat of an extremely long sentence in order to pressure defendants into accepting a plea bargain. Drug policy Proponents of drug policy reform point to the war on drugs, marijuana law reform, and reducing drug harm as key issues. Advocates for policy change such as the Drug Policy Alliance believe that the War on Drugs was and is a policy failure that has led to wasted resources, human potential, and a violation of rights. The mass incarceration of drug users is viewed as a waste of taxpayer money by drug reform advocated. The United States spends over $51 million yearly on the war on drugs. Organizations that focus on reform such as the Sentencing Project and Campaign Zero also claim that the likelihood of imprisonment for drug related charges is racially disparate. In her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander originates the claim that the War on Drugs is a new form of systematic oppression and social control that resembles Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation. The enactment of the War on Drugs in the 1980s is primarily responsible for the dramatic rise in incarceration rates in the U.S. In the 1980s, 40,900 individuals were incarcerated due to drug offenses, and by 2015 there were 469,545. In 2016 1,572,579 individuals were arrested for drug law violations (84% of which were due to possession). Of this number, 643,249 were arrested due to marajuana violations (89% of which were due to possession). Approximately half of the individuals currently incarcerated in federal prisons are there due to a drug offense. Half of the individuals in federal prison are there due to a drug offense. Compared to 1980, there are ten times as many people in state prisons for drug offenses. The focus of the War on Drugs is cited as being misguided for stigmatizing drug users. Drug use is framed as a criminal rather than addiction and health issue. The Drug Policy Alliance points to countries that focus on the reduction of drug related harms such as overdose, addiction, and disease as metrics for drug policy success. Portugal is often cited as extremely successful for their drug policies since decriminalizing low level drug possession in 2001 and shifting towards a health-based approach to drug use. Since doing so Portugal has seen a decrease in violent crime, addiction, and the transmission of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
  25. Criminal justice reform in the United States is aimed at fixing perceived errors in the criminal justice system. Goals of organizations spearheading the movement for criminal justice reform include decreasing the United States' prison population, reducing prison sentences that are perceived to be too harsh and long, altering drug sentencing policy, policing reform, reducing overcriminalization, and juvenile justice reform. Criminal justice reform also targets reforming policies for those with criminal convictions that are receiving other consequences from food assistance programs, outside of serving their time in prison. There are many organizations that advocate to reform the criminal justice system such as: Penal Reform International, Sentencing Project, Brennan Center for Justice, Cut 50 ( funded by the Koch Brothers) and the Innocence Project. Most states have a criminal justice reform act as well. These organizations use legal disputes and public events to make the problems aware to the public but mostly the state and federal governments. Areas for reform Sentencing Sentencing laws within the U.S. criminal justice system are criticized for being both draconian and racially discriminatory. Additionally, they are cited as a main contributor to the growing and excessive prison population known as mass incarceration. Discriminatory sentencing In 2016, according to the Sentencing Project's Fact Sheet on Trends in U.S. Corrections, 2.2 million individuals were in America's prisons or jails. This reflects a 500% increase since the mid 1980s, which has come to be known as mass incarceration. Those in support of criminal justice reform perceive the issue to be an increase in surveillance and the use of draconian sentencing laws, especially within communities of color. While some researches claim that racial sentencing disparities are a reflection of differences in criminal activity, crime seriousness, and recidivism between different communities, other researchers believe that racial minorities are punished more harshly than their white counterparts who commit similar crimes. Findings from a study done by Cassia C. Spohn, explained in “Thirty Years of Sentencing Reform: The Quest for a Racial Neutral Sentencing Process” indicate that an individual's race and ethnicity play a role in sentencing outcomes.
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