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I love teaching and sharing knowledge. The Internet is a free passage to an amazing amount of knowledge provided by some of the greatest minds of the day. MIT, Oxford and other universities are now sharing lecture notes with the public and allowing us to dip into the overflowing fonts of wisdom that abound. Yale is but one university that has put actual lectures on the web.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Statute of Limitations Stands in Way of Justice

July 19, 2006

Report on Chicago Police Torture Is Released

CHICAGO, July 19 — Special prosecutors said today that scores of criminal suspects were routinely tortured by police officers on the South Side in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but that extensive legal research convinced them that there was no way to skirt the statute of limitations preventing prosecution.

After four years, more than 700 interviews and $6 million, the prosecutors said that they could prove at least three cases, involving five fired or retired officers, beyond a reasonable doubt in court, and that they found credible evidence of abuse in about half the 148 complaints they had thoroughly investigated. Yet they rejected arguments by lawyers for the abuse victims that there is an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct justice that allows criminal charges to be filed now.

“We want to make it really clear, we only wish we could indict in these three cases,” Robert D. Boyle, the chief deputy special state’s attorney, said ruefully at a morning news conference downtown.

The prosecutors’ long-awaited 292-page report attempts to reach closure on an excruciating chapter in Chicago history, one that has helped cement a chasm between African-American citizens and white police officials, driven changes in police procedures, and played a critical role in the national debate over the death penalty. Among those interviewed in the probe were Mayor Richard M. Daley, the county’s top prosecutor when some of the most egregious complaints were lodged, and his former assistant and successor, Richard A. Devine.

Mr. Boyle condemned Chicago’s former police superintendent, Richard Brzeczek, saying he “did not just do his job poorly, he just didn’t do his job,” but had only mild criticism for Mayor Daley, who received a letter documenting serious abuse in 1982 but delegated its investigation. “We accept his explanation, but would not do it the same way he did,” Mr. Boyle said of Mr. Daley.

Torture victims and lawyers representing them expressed profound disappointment in the report, and said Mr. Daley and Mr. Devine should face federal indictment along with a fired police commander, Jon Burge, and rogue officers under his command for obstruction of justice, perjury, racketeering and civil rights violations.

“Somebody needs to go to jail,” said one of the lawyers, Lawrence Kennon. “Burge needs to go to jail. His henchmen need to go to jail. They mayor should be indicted for covering up.”

Locke Bowman, another attorney for the victims, said the “report stops short” because “it fails to place responsibility at the doorstep of other individuals.” He added, “I’m talking about Mayor Daley.”

Mayor Daley was in San Francisco today and a spokeswoman said he would not respond to the report until later in the week. Mara Georges, the city’s corporation counsel, released a statement saying the report "is lengthy and comprehensive and reflects the hard work of the special prosecutor and his staff," adding, "we are in the process of thoroughly reviewing it and will comment on the report upon the completion of our review."

In a written statement, Mr. Devine said today that during his tenure as first assistant state’s attorney, "claims of systemic abuse at Area 2 had not crystallized," and that in terms of the critical complaint that came to his attention, "I had no reason to believe that the claims were not handled appropriately."

"We cannot undo the past," he added. "We can only commit ourselves to doing all in our power to prevent such abuses from happening in the future."

Mr. Brzezcek, who ran against Mr. Daley for state’s attorney in 1984 after resigning as police superintendent and now is a lawyer in private practice, said the report is "a big political cover-up" that he has no plans to read.

"I think it’s the work of two political appointees who had to fix the blame on someone who’s not connected to Daley — that’s me," he said in an interview, questioning why the lengthy investigation focused so heavily on a single case that occurred during his brief tenure when allegations stretch for many years before and after. "I read about 25 nonfiction hardcovers a year," he added. "I establish priorities for reading. I have some back issues of the National Enquirer that I’m going to read first."

Mr. Burge, who was fired over s0me of the allegations in 1993, has denied wrongdoing in the cases.

The report, along with 1,452 additional pages on the remainder of the 148 cases, will undoubtedly be used in five civil cases by abuse victims currently pending in federal court, as well as more than two dozen instances in which imprisoned victims are challenging their convictions based on the torture. Mr. Boyle said a copy had also been requested by the United States Attorney’s office, which gave the victims some hope.

“Something as serious as police torture, there shouldn’t be a statute of limitations,” complained another lawyer, Flint Taylor, who likened the situation to Ku Klux Klan killings in the 1960’s that remain under investigation and have led to convictions in recent years. “It’s like murder.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Friday, July 14, 2006

Problems with Crime Statistics

About Crime
By John Roman
Special to's
Think Tank Town
Monday, July 10, 2006; 12:00 AM

New national FBI statistics show violent crime increased in 2005 -- the first jump in 14 years. For a public accustomed to the annual reassurance that the nation is becoming safer, this news is troubling.

Does it signal another epidemic of violence, rivaling the worst of the 1980s? Or is it just a blip in a long trend toward safer streets? It's a situation easy to politicize but hard to explain.

For those who study crime, the answer is simple: We don't know. Even though information costs are dropping quickly, criminal justice data are harder than ever to find. Key sources, such as those tracking drug use patterns or describing each criminal incident, have been discontinued or underutilized.

If this crime spike does herald a long-term trend, steps to strengthen data resources, anti-crime initiatives, and other tools need to be taken now, before negative momentum precipitates a crisis. It would help if we knew where to start: Drugs? Gangs? Demographics? Economics? Domestic violence? Again, policymakers and those who deal in policy information don't know.

This sorrowful and potentially dangerous lack of information aside, available data do allow some informed speculation. The statistics are straightforward: Murder and aggravated assault increased significantly between 2004 and 2005, particularly in middle- and large-size urban areas. Importantly, crime was down in the largest cities, the smallest cities, and rural areas. Property crimes also generally declined, as did rape.

The story of a suddenly more dangerous America is troubling. Many interpretations of the new statistics are suspect, however, and may be overshadowing more cogent explanations.

Criminology and law enforcement experts warn against reading too much into a single year's data. A one-year change may be nothing more than noise, background static. Data can swerve for any number of reasons, they argue, and it takes time to establish a trend. However, in the past thirty years, with the exception of 1987, every time the crime rate changed direction, a new trend followed.

Some believe that rates may have fallen as low as they can go. If so, the latest statistics simply represent a return to a higher, but more stable, level of crime. But crime rates were higher in 2005 than they were in 1970, and both those rates were much higher than rates in the 1950s and '60s. Nothing in the data suggests that crime rates couldn't go lower.

One plausible explanation is simply that 2005 was a very hot year. The "temperature aggression theory" posits that heat itself can spark violence. Last year ranked among the ten warmest years ever in 17 states, and among the top 15 in seven others. Nearly every Midwestern state made this list. However, in the South, where violent crime rates jumped, temperatures were moderate.
If, in the age of air conditioning, the weather thesis doesn't convince you, consider this: Each year since 1992, the percentage of all crime reported to the police has increased. For that reason alone, crime should be increasing annually. However, closer inspection of the 2005 statistics suggest that only about 25 percent of the crime increase can be explained by the rise in reporting.

Although all these factors could be at work, for my money, two competing explanations for the increase are much more compelling and troubling.

First, most experts agree that jumps in crime in the 1970s and 1980s were driven largely by increases in the drug trade, culminating in the crack epidemic. Two areas with large increases in violent crimes -- the Midwest and the South -- are where methamphetamine use is growing fast, and the drug has yet to penetrate markets in the populous northeast corridor, where violent crime increases were smallest last year.

Meanwhile, funding has increased for police and corrections, but not for community supervision. So while the nation's jails and prisons return four times as many ex-inmates to the streets than 25 years ago, there are only marginally more parole and probation officers to supervise them. Budgets for programs to ready inmates for life back home have also been cut over the past decade. As a result, ex-prisoners who received fewer services while incarcerated come home poorly supervised and less prepared to reintegrate -- not a recipe for crime-busting.

Nor can we keep locking up more and more people as we have for the past 25 years. Until 2005, crime had fallen by more than 20 percent over the past 15 years, while incarceration rates tripled. If last year's crime increase represents the start of a trend and more incarceration is the only available response, by 2014, one in ten Americans would be locked up every year.

Unfortunately, none of the theories described here can be easily tested until the federal government gets serious about understanding what causes crime in this country. And without that understanding, little can be done to stop crime.

John Roman is a senior research associate in the Justice Policy Center at the nonpartisan Urban Institute. The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its sponsors.
© 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

Television in the Supreme Court

Chief justice vetoes idea of televised hearings

- Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, July 14, 2006

(07-14) 04:00 PDT HUNTINGTON BEACH, ORANGE COUNTY -- Chief Justice John Roberts poured cold water Thursday on suggestions to televise U.S. Supreme Court hearings, saying that keeping the proceedings free from outside distractions was more important than putting them on public display.

Advocates of television coverage had hoped that Roberts, the first Baby Boomer to head the nation's courts, would lobby his colleagues to drop their resistance to cameras, which are allowed in many state courts and some federal appeals courts. But when the subject was raised in a question-and-answer session at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' annual conference, he showed little inclination to disturb the status quo.

"There's a concern (among justices) about the impact of television on the functioning of the institution," Roberts said. "We're going to be very careful before we do anything that might have an adverse impact" on oral arguments.

One justice, David Souter, has said TV cameras would be admitted into the Supreme Court "over my dead body." Roberts did not express any such personal feelings, or go into detail on the ill effects of television coverage. But he said his fellow justices "see themselves as trustees of an institution that by and large functions well."

Roberts said he understands the argument that the public would benefit from seeing how the court works. He noted that the court has increasingly made audiotapes of arguments in major cases available to the media as soon as a hearing ends.

But, he added, "we don't have oral arguments to show the public how we function. We have them to learn about a particular case in a particular way."

His appearance came two weeks after the end of his first term on the court, a term that began with a string of unanimous decisions and talk of a new era of harmony but ended with the usual divided rulings in closely watched cases, on issues such as wetlands regulation and presidential powers. Still, the court showed more consensus than in most terms, voting unanimously in nearly half its cases.

"I think it promotes the rule of law to have the court speaking, to the extent possible, with one voice," Roberts said. For lower federal courts, such as the one on which he served before President Bush elevated him to the high court last fall, "it's much easier to figure out what the (Supreme) Court meant when they're speaking with one voice than when they're splintered," he said.

He twitted journalists for dramatizing the midterm split rulings.

After the early unanimous decisions, the most at the start of the court's term in the modern era, the court issued some divided opinions, and "I saw an article saying, 'So much for the vaunted unanimity,' " Roberts said.

"When (Joe) DiMaggio finally ended his hitting streak, sportswriters didn't say, 'He's all washed up.' "

The questions from a panel of two judges and a lawyer steered clear of sensitive topics, like the Supreme Court's frequent reversals of rulings by the more-liberal Ninth Circuit and Republican-sponsored legislation to split up the San Francisco-based circuit, the nation's largest appeals court.

The breakup plan, opposed by nearly all the circuit's judges, would put California and Hawaii in one new appeals court and Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska in another.

Chief Judge Mary Schroeder attacked the proposal in her State of the Circuit speech, saying it would be expensive and inefficient and would leave the new California-Hawaii circuit with an overwhelming workload and not enough judges.

Roberts was asked about one mildly controversial subject, his support of higher pay for federal judges. The chief justice makes about $202,900 a year -- far less than he earned as a top appellate lawyer in Washington, D.C. -- and his eight colleagues make $194,200.

At current salaries, "you no longer can draw the best trial lawyers, on a regular basis," to the federal bench, Roberts said. While no one becomes a judge to get rich, he said, the government "ought to pay them enough so they can educate their children and have a reasonable lifestyle."

"We don't want to get to the point where we have the judiciary staffed solely by people of independent means, or by people for whom the judicial pay scale is a raise," he said.

E-mail Bob Egelko at

©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Crime Rate Upsurge Attributed to Juveniles

Where should the public focus be?

Gang control?

Increased sentences for juveniles?

Does lack of parental oversight contribute?

Should parents be held accountable?

Cities grapple with crime by kids

Updated 7/12/2006 11:44 PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS — Barely 15, the skinny youth from the city's troubled North Side already had a long rap sheet.

His juvenile court record included citations for 19 offenses, dating back three years. Last Thursday, police pulled up beside him with a warrant to arrest him again: He allegedly had violated the terms of his probation from a robbery citation last month by cutting off a leg bracelet that allowed Hennepin County authorities to monitor his whereabouts.

After a chase on foot through a crowded city park, "Killer," one of several aliases the youth uses, was back in handcuffs. "I am a maniac!" he screamed, declaring his affiliation with a local gang. "I am a maniac!"

The fugitive, whose name was not released by police because he is a juvenile, was among eight frequent-offender youths pursued last week by a team of officers from the Minneapolis Police Department, the county Probation Department and the U.S. Marshals Service.

The team was formed last month as part of a crackdown on violent young offenders who represent an increasing problem at a time when crime rates are ticking upward.

RISE IN CRIME: Police tie jump to juveniles

After nearly a decade in which violent-crime rates fell or were stable throughout the USA, the FBI reported last month that there was a 2.5% rise last year in violent crimes, which include homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults.

Here and in cities across the nation — including Washington, Milwaukee and Boston — police are linking the increase to a growing problem: Crime by kids as young as 10, many of whom have been recruited by gangs.

Budget cuts may be factor

The reasons for rising crime among juveniles are complex.

Tight local budgets and reduced federal funding for police, along with new anti-terrorism duties, have stretched police departments and led to cuts in community programs for youths. Historically low crime rates in recent years often have been linked to a booming economy. Now, with the economy slowing, officials in several cities are tying poverty and financial uncertainty to rising crime, particularly among juveniles.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says 41% of the children in his city are in households in which the annual income is below the federal poverty line, about $20,000 for a family of four. "A lot of young people have no hope in their lives," Barrett says, and many "think nothing of carrying a gun."

"We have a lot of young people involved in robbery," Milwaukee Deputy Police Chief Brian O'Keefe says. "Some are 10 and 11. A lot of the kids we see never know anything but violence."

Many officials, including Boston police Superintendent Paul Joyce, say the release of thousands of felons who were imprisoned during drug crackdowns in the 1990s also has become a significant factor in boosting juvenile crime.

Joyce says just-released gang members, seeking to stake out turf without getting arrested again, have recruited juveniles to carry weapons for them or make drug deliveries. Earlier this year, Joyce says, Boston police found a 13-year-old boy with a handgun, standing with a 23-year-old gang member.

"The young kids don't think about the consequences of their actions," Joyce says.

"We have videotapes of young children working as mules for gang members," says Tom Cochran, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The group has hosted two summits during the past year to discuss the gang problem and plans to examine juvenile violence when it meets in September.

Juveniles "are carrying the guns and the drugs for the gang leaders so (the leaders) can avoid prosecution," Cochran says. "This is a major problem."

In Minneapolis, police began looking for "Killer" early last week, after he removed the leg bracelet. Keeping the bracelet on was a condition of the youth's probation, Hennepin County probation officer Mick Sandin says. The group that rounded up the fugitive youths represents an effort to reduce a backlog of 500 juvenile arrest warrants that grew after budget cuts forced the closure of the police department's Juvenile Division in 2001. The division was re-established in May.

"Before now, the pursuit of juveniles had not been a high priority," says police Lt. Bryan Schafer, who heads the Juvenile Division. "That created a perception that nothing much happens to juveniles" who commit crimes. "So (adult gang members) began sending the kids out to carry their guns, because they knew nothing would happen to them. We think we're changing that perception."

Since the fugitive-hunting team began work, many parents and family members of juvenile suspects have been reluctant to provide information to police, says police Sgt. Ron Stenerson, who leads the team.

That wasn't the case with "Killer," however. A concerned family member provided the tip that led to his capture by telling police they should search a park near his home.

Sandin spotted the youth at the park. When Stenerson called his name, the teenager turned toward the officers and then sprinted away. After running about 50 yards, he was hauled down by Deputy U.S. Marshal Justin Payton, who's training for a triathlon.

Witnesses told investigators that the youth had tossed a gun into some tall grass before he was chased, police Lt. Bryan Schafer says. Police found a loaded .38-caliber gun, and are investigating whether it belonged to the youth.

Proliferation of guns

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, noting that the number of juveniles suspected in violent crimes jumped by 18% from 2004 to 2005, says a "shocking proliferation" of guns is partly to blame.

Rybak has recruited local businesses to fill gaps in community programs for young people, from evening recreation events to summer job placements and college tuition assistance. He says the key is "winning back" kids who have drifted into delinquency.

"The issue of hopelessness is what we are addressing."

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Cheaper than 2nd prison term

The New York Times

Wouldn't it be even better if once the newly released had his/her company up and running that other newly released felons were given a job at the company?

They do not allow sexual predators into the program which is laudable but don't drug dealers prey on children as well (legally until the age of majority one is a child)?

July 1, 2006

Thinking Outside the Cellblock: Inmates With Ambition

BRYAN, Tex., June 27 — Bill Sterling was big in import-export, the C.E.O. of his own multimillion-dollar business with a loyal customer base and high product demand that earned him 90 percent profit margins and 19 years in the Texas prison system.

But with his drug-trafficking career long behind him and his release approaching, Mr. Sterling, 58, ended Tuesday night on the basketball court behind the barbed-wire fences of the minimum-security Hamilton Unit here buttonholing visiting business titans and investors about his latest venture.

"I'd like to standardize the making of 'No Child Left Behind' tests," he said.

Mr. Sterling and several hundred fellow inmates in white short-sleeve uniforms were competing for a cherished slot in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, a two-year-old, nonprofit effort that capitalizes on their penchant for creative self-employment (and meager job prospects on the outside).

The Texas program, which is expected to expand soon to California, was started by Catherine Rohr, a young venture capitalist inspired by the prison ministry of the former Watergate conspirator Charles W. Colson. It offers an intense four-month business curriculum, matching participants with volunteers from the corporate world, some of whom have had their own scrapes with the law.

"Many of you were dope dealers, we give you credit for that — you're already entrepreneurs," Ms. Rohr, 29, said in welcoming candidates for the fourth and latest class of up to 100 students.

The class is scheduled to begin Sunday night with an English test based on The Associated Press stylebook. To be chosen for it, inmates cannot be sex offenders and must fill out a 23-page questionnaire. They must also offer credible business aspirations and show evidence of "heart."

Among the graduates with testimonials was Kenneth Broderick, 47, who said he got out in November after 16½ years and is now the proud owner of a shipping brokerage, Resource Freight Logistics.

"Today's a gift," Mr. Broderick said, beaming. "That's why they call it the present."

Since the program began in 2004 at another Texas prison before settling in at this prerelease facility of 1,200 men near Texas A&M University and about 100 miles northwest of Houston, 165 inmates have graduated. Only four have been sent back to prison — a far better percentage than the usual 69 percent recidivist rate, Ms. Rohr said. They get help buying business attire, finding loans, housing and medical care, and consulting with business professionals.

"I think of it as God's work," said Ms. Rohr, who gave up a lucrative career as a private equity investor in California and New York before moving to Houston with her husband, a lawyer. (The night they arrived, their van was broken into and many of their belongings stolen, an event Ms. Rohr shrugs off.)

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (, which is based in Houston, raised $342,000 in donations last year and hopes for $1.5 million this year. It got a boost here Tuesday night when one executive pledged a $50,000 contribution. About 600 executives have signed up to volunteer their services.

It is a good return on investment, said Ms. Rohr. It costs $3,700 a year to put an inmate through the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and $22,000 to keep him in prison.

Cheering on former cellmates was Patric Weaver, 33, who got out last month after 38 months behind bars. "I was a National Merit Scholar," Mr. Weaver said. "I was also an interstate drug trafficker."

"The penitentiary saved me," he said, crediting the entrepreneurship program with helping him start his Houston business, StrongArm Canine, which keeps guard dogs on their toes by testing them with simulated break-ins and assaults. "We're essentially live bait," he said. "I wear a bite suit."

A graduate of the first class, Brent Taylor, 23, had done 18 months for robbery, and said he was now earning $120,000 a year selling used vehicles. "Everybody here has an 'X' on their back — but you can do it," Mr. Taylor said.

After serving six years in prison for distribution and possession of cocaine, Lafayette Moore, 52, said he was building home gyms in customers' spare rooms with the motto: "Why drive to the gym if you can work out in your own personal fitness room?"

Among the two dozen executives and M.B.A.'s who signed up to meet with the inmates was Dan Rouse, owner of a large heavy-equipment leasing company in Dallas, who confessed a personal interest. "I have a 23-year-old at home who's a recovering crack addict," Mr. Rouse said. "We have to stop the vicious cycle of drugs eating our children."

Chuck May, owner of a Dallas consulting firm, said his daughter had repeatedly spent time in prison for drugs. "I know what it means," Mr. May told the inmates. But he said he had recently shared the stage with the billionaire investor Boone Pickens, who readily admitted to many failures.

"If you haven't failed," Mr. May said, "you don't qualify."

Two of the executives who showed up on Tuesday night had spent time behind bars, Ms. Rohr said.

Some prisoners seemed close to tears, saying it was their first happy experience with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "Man, I get emotional; this is something I've never seen," said an inmate with 25 years behind bars who gave his name as Mr. Amarillo.

Mr. Sterling, the ex-drug dealer turned test maker, said the program sounded almost too good to be true.

"I'm thinking there's some kind of ulterior motive," he said. "Maybe I've been here too long."

Among the inmates who ended the evening crowding around the businessmen for advice, hoping the program would take them on, was Byron Maddox, 55, who said he was getting out of prison after 30 years and 5 months for murder and robbery.

Mr. Maddox said he was hoping to start a leather and furniture business with a highly placed partner. "God's a miracle worker," he said.