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Man gets maximum prison term for shooting at probation officers in Billings

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Billings Gazette on 9/17/2019 by Phoebe Tollefson

The man who fired 15 times at his probation officers inside his Billings home in 2018 was given the maximum prison term Tuesday.

Michael Jeffrey Anderson, 62, was sentenced to 40 years in the Montana State Prison, as prosecutors had sought.

Yellowstone County District Judge Donald Harris also imposed a 20-year parole restriction.

Defense attorney Joel Thompson had asked for 40 years in prison with 20 suspended.

Anderson fired a semiautomatic handgun at Probation and Parole officers Derek Skinner and Allan Kitterman during a routine home check on May 1, 2018. Anderson fired 15 times, according to Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito.

The two officers fired back as they fled out the front door of the house, and a two-hour standoff with the Billings Police Department’s SWAT team ensued.

The incident “was basically an ambush,” said Harris, the judge. “And it’s just a miracle people weren’t killed.”

Roughly two dozen members from the Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Division attended the sentencing, including Skinner and Kitterman. Neither chose to testify and instead a supervisor for the office, Candace Reinschmidt, spoke on their behalf.

Reinschmidt said probation and parole officers are aware of the risk of violence in their line of work — “And this just really drove it home.”

Anderson had seen no major problems on supervision until the day he fired at officers, Reinschmidt said. Before the gunfire, officers noticed minor violations, such as alcohol and a BB gun in the house.

More worrisome violations, Reinschmidt said, were the guns “numbering in the double digits hidden throughout his apartment,” and the surveillance system outside Anderson’s house officers noticed earlier in the day on their first, unsuccessful attempt to reach him at home.

Kitterman had been supervising Anderson on probation for roughly a year before the shooting. That day was the first time he had visited Anderson at home.

Anderson’s criminal history included an assault on a peace officer and a federal conviction for possessing a machine gun.

At the time of the shooting, Anderson had been on supervision for stabbing a bystander who tried to intervene in a fight between Anderson and his girlfriend in the parking lot of a Bozeman coffee shop in 2007.

Prosecutors originally charged Anderson with two counts of attempted deliberate homicide but later reduced those charges to assault with a weapon.

Harris said he didn’t believe Anderson would change and become less of a danger to the community, citing his history of violence and the fact that he was amassing firearms while on supervision.

Thompson, the defense attorney, said Anderson had long suffered from opioid addiction due to chronic pain and had turned to meth to cope with the opioid withdrawal symptoms. On the day he shot at officers, he had been awake for six days.

Thompson said his client made “a horrible decision,” but that it was not the “diabolical rationality” viewed by prosecutors.

“Murderous intent? I say no,” Thompson said. “It’s probably better explained by some kind of a psychosis that he was under” from the drugs and sleep deprivation.

Thompson said his client understands that he caused a traumatic experience for the officers.

“He has read their letters and statements, and never disputed the effect this must have had on all those who were doing their job,” Thompson said.

Anderson has been a “clear conduct inmate” in jail, he added, despite being in lockdown 23 hours a day and in continuous physical pain.

Anderson has been held at the jail on $750,000 bond since his release from the hospital two days after the shooting. A bullet lodged in Anderson’s lower back during the incident, Thompson said.

When it was his turn to speak, Anderson referred to Kitterman and Skinner as “two gentlemen” who work in the community.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about this and wish that there was some way that I could relive it and take it back, and do things differently,” Anderson said, in a level voice. “I know that it’s affected them for the rest of their life, what I did that day. And I just can’t express upon you, or come up with the words or terminology that — I am so sorry.”

Anderson was ordered to pay $8,630.77 in restitution for damage to his rental home during the shooting.

POPAI and IACCAC Testify at the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code

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on 9/18/2019

POPAI and IACCAC leadership made a joint presentation at the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code on September 18, 2019.  The topic was concerning trends in community supervision.

We were able to show the increase in community corrections population from July 2015 to September 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, there’s been an increase in the adult felony probation supervisions received from 2015-2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The number of admissions to the Department of Correction for technical violations of court supervision has decreased nearly 54% from 2015-2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our presentation can be found here.  The video of our presentation begins at 3:49:00 on the archived video for September 18, 2019.

 

Washington probation officers save woman’s life with gummy bears, apple juice

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K5 News on 8/27/2019 by Katherine Cook

It was a rewarding night’s work for two Washington probation officers when they saved a woman’s life while conducting a routine home check.

WOODLAND, Washington — The Washington State Department of Corrections is commending two community corrections officers who helped save a woman’s life. It happened in Woodland during a routine home check.

“Some days you wonder, ‘what’s going to happen today?’” said community corrections officer Christy Bivens.

Bivens and fellow community corrections officer, Jon Petrowski were checking on a supervisee, when the man’s wife came to the door.

“Something was off,” recalled Bivens.

“She kept slurring words kept repeating words,” said Petrowski. “I moved closer—I didn’t know if she’d been drinking—she said she had to go pick up her husband and I said ‘Yeah, I kinda don’t want you driving.’”

Bivens said when the woman turned around, the officers noticed she was wearing an insulin pump. For privacy reasons, KGW isn’t identifying the woman.
From what the pair could tell, the woman’s blood sugar was dangerously low, despite the reading on her insulin pump.

“Her symptoms and the number on her sugar weren’t coinciding,” said Bivins adding that as it turned out, the pump wasn’t hooked up correctly.

“She kind of went downhill pretty quickly,” said Petrowski, who called Emergency Medical Services for help. In the meantime, they knew they had to do something, right away.

“I asked officer Petrowski to see if he could find some sugar,” recalled Bivins.

“I found out the woman had some candy in the cupboard— gummy bears,” said Petrowski. “We gave her gummy bears, then she’d nod off again.”

Next, they gave her apple juice. That bought the woman some more time before help arrived. Then, another surprise.

“In the middle of all this, there was another person who was on supervision in another room,” said Bivens. “We didn’t know he was there, he ended up giving us a false name and false information.”

The man had an outstanding warrant so Petrowski took him into custody. Between that, and helping the woman, Bivens and Petrowski said it was a busy, yet rewarding day at work.

“She was very thankful,” said Petrowski. “I’m glad we were there that day.”

2019 POPAI Founder’s Award Winner: Troy Hatfield

Troy Hatfield, 2019 Founder’s Award Winner

On Friday, September 6, 2019 at the Probation Officers Professional Association of Indiana (POPAI) annual fall conference, Troy Hatfield, Deputy Chief Probation Officer of the Monroe Circuit Court Probation Department and vice president of POPAI, was awarded the “Founder’s Award”.

The “Founder’s Award” is a way of recognizing individuals who have significantly contributed to the field of probation in general and specifically to the POPAI organization. The recipient need not be a Probation Officer or POPAI member. The selected person however, shall be characterized by his/her commitment of influence and promotion of professionalism to Indiana probation.

Troy started as a juvenile probation officer in Owen County in 1998. He moved to Monroe Circuit Court Probation in 2004 where he quickly moved into leadership and supervisory roles. He became the community corrections supervisor in 2006 and was promoted to deputy chief in 2009. Troy has previously served as the Chair of the Probation Officer’s Advisory Board (POAB) and has served as an instructor at the State Probation Officer Academy. He has made presentations for the National Institute of Correction and to the Indiana General Assembly. He is also involved in the Indiana Evidence Based Decision Making Initiative, Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council, and Case Plan Technology Committee.

Sarah Lochner, Director of Court Services in Wabash County, states “Troy is an excellent POPAI board member and advocate for probation who is extremely committed to the improvement of our profession.”

Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff of the Monroe Circuit Court V states that Troy’s “performance of duties is exemplary. He is highly regarded by all who know him for his knowledge, skills, integrity and professionalism. He is one of those individuals who is willing, and frequently does, go the extra mile. He is highly respected by both those within his department and those he works with outside of it. The members of our County Council have frequently expressed their appreciation for his assistance and expertise.”

Linda Brady, Chief Probation Officer of Monroe Circuit Court Probation, states “anyone who knows Troy knows that he is very thoughtful and analytical. When Troy speaks, his opinions are well thought out and researched.”

Finally, Thomas Rhodes, Assistant Chief and Community Corrections Director in Monroe County, states “Troy is a role model for probation leadership. He is a go-to person to turn ideas into reality. He quickly becomes an expert in a vast variety of subjects important to our profession.”

2019 Line Probation Officer of the Year Award Winner: Lindsay Long

2019 Line Probation Officer of the Year: Lindsay Long

On Thursday, September 5, 2019 at the Probation Officers Professional Association of Indiana (POPAI) annual fall conference, Lindsay Long, a probation officer with Miami County Probation, was presented the Line Probation Officer of the Year Award.

The Line Probation Officer of the Year Award was established in 2014 to recognize line probation officers who have performed their duties in an outstanding manner and/or made significant contributions to the field of probation at the local, regional or national level. The recipient may also have brought credit or honor to the profession of probation through participation or involvement in community activities or programs. This recognition is awarded to probation officers who are involved in the direct supervision of criminal defendants/juvenile offenders and/or other line probation officer duties such as conducting Presentence Investigations, Preliminary Inquiries, and Pre-dispositional Investigations.

Lindsay has been a probation officer since September 2009. Her Chief Probation Officer, Susan Rice, states “when needed, Lindsay is always willing to step up and go the extra mile. She quietly volunteers to help out when the department is short staffed and takes on additional duties without being asked.”

Judge Daniel C. Banina of the Miami Superior Court #2 states that Lindsay “is extremely mindful of her responsibilities and frequently goes beyond expectations. In dealing with her clients, she provides a good balance between aspects of rehabilitation and accountability. She is the kind of employee that needs little guidance and can be counted on to get her job done. She is a credit to her profession.”

Susan Rice goes on to state that Lindsay’s “significant contribution to probation comes as a result of her unique ability to provide the kind of supervision her clients need in order to help them realize success. She makes a difference by truly caring about what happens to her clients.”

Susan concluded by saying she could praise Lindsay’s accomplishments all day long but believes statements from Lindsay’s clients are much more telling of her character and commitment to probation. Some of the comments obtained from exit interviews include:

  • “Lindsay Long needs recognized for all of her hard work, not to mention how understanding she is. I never thought about my P.O. being normal, but she opened my eyes by not judging.”
  • “I would just like to thank Lindsay Long for being so wonderful through all of this. She was patient and understanding and I felt lucky to have her helping me.”
  • “Lindsay Long is amazing and has been a BLESSING.”
  • “Lindsay was great and was supportive of the things that I was changing in my life.”
  • “Lindsay is a great PO. She was very helpful and cares about her people.”
  • “Thank you Lindsay. It makes such a difference when you have someone who genuinely cares and believes in you.”

2019 Knepple Scholarship Award Winner: Elizabeth Darenski

2019 Knepple Scholarship Award Winner: Elizabeth Darenski

POPAI provides a scholarship in memory of probation officer Donald “Charley” Knepple. Charley lost his life on April 28, 1997, while performing his probation officer duties in Allen County, Indiana. In an effort to honor an outstanding professional and to promote further professionalism, POPAI selected a scholarship that would encourage continued education and advanced degrees for probation officers in our state.

The 2019 Knepple Scholarship Winner is Elizabeth Darenski of LaPorte County Adult Probation.

Elizabeth is presently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology from Walden University. In a letter of support, Judge Thomas Alevizos stated “Elizabeth exemplifies the duty of a Probation Officer in her work ethic and willingness to help those on her caseload. She excels at working with mentally ill offenders and has gone above and beyond in trying to get them the care they need, while still holding them accountable for their behavior.”

Judge Jeffrey Thorne states Elizabeth “is certainly committed to her position as a Probation Officer and to the fair and equal administration of justice.”

When asked about how the scholarship would benefit her in her career of probation, she stated: “Working towards my Master’s in Forensic Psychology is allowing me to see what new research is present and what best practices are happening within the psychology field in regards to those involved in the criminal justice system. Part of my upcoming curriculum is looking at corrections and mental health.” and “My hope is to be able to collaborate with treatment providers within my community to give my probationers the best chance at successful completion of probation and life.”

Chief Justice Rush Reflects On Lack Of Judicial Diversity In Indiana

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Indiana Public Media on 09/13/2019 by Brandon Smith

A recent study shows state Supreme Courts across the country lack gender and racial diversity – and Indiana is no exception. All but three of the 110 justices in Hoosier State history have been white men.

Indiana Public Broadcasting Statehouse reporter Brandon Smith talks with Chief Justice Loretta Rush – the state’s first female chief justice – about the issue.

Brandon Smith: So, this report from the Brennan Center indicates that Indiana’s certainly not alone but its state Supreme Court, both currently and in its history, really lacks a lot of diversity. Do you agree with that?

Chief Justice Loretta Rush: Yes

Smith: Why do you think that is?

Rush: Wish I knew. And we’re looking at that issue because it really isn’t acceptable. When you look at the role of the judicial branch and our responsibility for the people to come – I mean, the 1.3 million cases that we have coming before us – I think it’s important that our branch represent the diversity of our people.

Smith: Is this a problem that permeates further than the state Supreme Court? Is this a problem of the judiciary in Indiana as a whole?

Rush: I think it’s a problem of all government. I mean, I think it’s not just the judiciary and I think the Brennan Center report is great because it also talked about different rationales that they came up with in their studies on the whys. And I just ran the numbers in Indiana, so we can look at who are our attorneys in Indiana. We have 22,000 attorneys and they are able to – you don’t have to put your race down, the majority do. So, 75 percent are white. 3.24 percent are African American. 1.41 percent are Hispanic. And then, when you look at the judges, we have 677 judicial officers of which 80 percent are – I mean, it sort of matches the same – 80 percent are Caucasian, 12 percent are unknown, over 5 percent are African American, over 1 percent are Hispanic.

So, what can we do to bolster those numbers? What can we do to sort of look back and tap on the shoulders – and we’re working on that. So, when you look at the ICLEO program – Indiana Continuing Legal Education Opportunity – we’ve had 605 graduates from the program. And those are traditionally law students of color, traditionally underrepresented for diversity in it. And then, going back even further, I just had a conversation with IU in Bloomington (Maurer School of Law) Dean (Austen) Parrish in the last couple weeks about starting a program for undergraduate students, again a feeder program to get more traditionally underrepresented individuals in the pipeline towards being lawyers and then judges.

I have looked at, we make a real effort to – and we’re successful – in appointing a number of attorneys of color to some of our boards and commissions. Again, those are different ways that are a path.

Smith: I think when people hear about the idea of diversity, it feels to a lot of people like a box that just has to be checked: ‘Oh, we need to be more diverse.’ Why is it important that our state courts are more diverse?

Rush: You know, I mean I guess I’m a living example. When I graduated from law school in 1983, less than 20 percent of the law school class were women. If somebody asked me can you be a judge, we had never had a woman on the U.S. Supreme Court at the time, so I didn’t see myself as a judge. Now, you know, I had a little girl send me – a fourth grader, name was Maddie, who I didn’t know – and she sent me a picture of herself for history day this year. She had a black wig on, thick black glasses and a robe and she dressed up as the Chief Justice of Indiana. We were in the Supreme Court and this dad was there with his daughter and the daughter goes, ‘OMG Dad, the Chief Justice is a girl.’ I mean, I think you need to see it.

Smith: The two justices of color – Myra Selby and Justice [Robert] Rucker – were both appointed by Democrats. Do you think there’s partisanship behind some of the lack of diversity?

Rush: I don’t know. I can’t tell you that I see that. I’d love to see it on a nonpartisan basis and maybe that would be another way that we could have a larger pool. When I look at the federal appointments right now, I feel like we’re going backwards on our federal judiciary. And I think it’s important that we be aware that. I mean, whether it’s county council, whether it’s school board, you know we haven’t had it with regard to our governor, the Speakers (0f the House) – I mean, there’s a lot of room for growth.

Smith: Thank you so much for sitting down to talk with me.

Rush: Thank you.

2019 IACCAC Fall Training Institute

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Conference Theme: “Stages of Change”

The 2019 IACCAC Fall Training Institute will be held on November 20-22, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency  Indianapolis, located at One South Capitol, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204.
(Intensive sessions begin on November 19, 2019).

The 2019 IACCAC Fall Training Institute will feature…

Wednesday – Keynote:
Dialogue and Collective Leadership: Co-Creating Cultural Change
Tom O’Connor & Samantha Collins – Transforming Corrections

Thursday – Keynote:
A Story of Triumph Over Tragedy: Your Role In The Journey
Michelle Corrao, Prevail, Inc.

Intensive Sessions (Pre-registration Required):

Leaders Who Coach Effectively
Tom O’Connor, Transforming Corrections
Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

How Being Trauma Informed Improves Criminal Justice System Responses
Melissa Stephenson, Grant County Correctional Services
Tuesday, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Click here for information on registration and hotel reservations.

 

Do Cash Rewards For Crime Tips Work?

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NPR on 09/17/2019 by Cheryl Corley

Remember those old “wanted” posters on TV Westerns? They offered rewards for handing over a person to law enforcement. In more recent times, rewards are less about bounty hunting and more about persuading people to provide information that can help solve a crime. It’s an attempt to use money to overcome fear and apathy, and sometimes that can be difficult.

Recently, on a corner outside a Family Dollar store in Maywood, Ill., a suburb west of Chicago, a crowd of relatives, friends and activists gathered and held up pictures of 19-year-old Isiah Scott. They also distributed flyers offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who shot and killed Scott last March. He had just talked to his girlfriend on the phone about going to prom.

Scott’s mother, Keisha Stansberry, says she raced to the parking lot of the Family Dollar after she saw her son strapped to a gurney on a live social media feed. Stansberry says she knows people saw what happened to her son. She says the suspected shooter threatened other kids, and they were afraid to go to school.

“It’s shameful that I would have to put $5,000 out there for somebody to do what’s right,” said Stansberry. “That was the most horrific thing I’ve ever been through — to watch your child take his last breath on Facebook, on Snapchat. They got him on a gurney on Snapchat. Tubes down his throat.”

Stansberry says lots of people helped her raise the reward money in an effort spearheaded by Michael Pfleger, an activist Chicago priest, and a support group of parents of murdered children. Pfleger says they’ve had some success — paying out rewards in nearly 30 Chicago cases after arrests were made and police verified the information was useful. He says in other instances, rewards haven’t worked but it’s important to continue to offer them.

Continue reading…

Jury awards husband and wife prison employees $11.4M in racial discrimination case

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Detroit Free Press on 9/9/2019 by Paul Egan

LANSING – An all-white jury in Genesee County awarded $11.4 million Monday to two black Corrections Department workers in a case alleging racial discrimination and retaliation.

The jury found that Lisa Griffey, a probation officer, was discriminated against and harassed because she is black. The jury found that her husband, Cedric Griffey, was retaliated against until he was forced to resign because he and his wife complained about the harassment.

Jonathan Marko, who represented the Griffeys in a six-week trial in Genesee County Circuit Court, said he expects the department will be required to pay an additional $1 million in attorney fees and costs.

Lisa Griffey, who still works for the department, was discriminated against from the moment she transferred in 2014 from a probation office in Detroit to an all-white office in Lapeer, Marko said following the verdict.

Co-workers “called her mammy,” and “asked if she wanted chitlins on her pizza,” among other racial insults, Marko said.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose office defended the Corrections Department in the case, said she was “extremely surprised and disappointed” with the verdict.

“We are reviewing our options with our client but we fully expect to appeal,” Rossman-McKinney said.

Lisa Griffey took the transfer because her husband had been promoted to deputy warden at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, Marko said. Cedric Griffey had a spotless 29-year record with the department, he said. But soon after he and his wife complained about her treatment, he was brought up on “trumped up” charges alleging he had not properly administered discipline and was eventually forced to resign, he said.

The jury upheld counts of racial harassment and discrimination against Lisa Griffey and retaliation against her husband, Marko said.

Marko said the department tried to smear both employees but jurors instead repudiated the department.

Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Corrections Department, declined comment.

A sixth person died from vaping-related lung disease. Here’s what you need to know

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CNN on 9/12/2019 by Jacqueline Howard

(CNN) A sixth person in the United States has died from lung disease related to vaping, Kansas health officials said Tuesday. The woman was older than 50 and had a history of health problems. She became seriously ill shortly after she started using e-cigarettes and her symptoms progressed rapidly. It’s not clear what type of vaping products she used, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said.

The death marks the first in the state, but raises even more concern about the safety and regulation of e-cigarettes.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments have been investigating this outbreak. Health officials say they haven’t found a definitive cause or a clear connection between cases, but some are zeroing in on potential clues.

Here is what you need to know about vaping and vaping-related illnesses in the United States. Continue reading →

AZ Court: State Can’t Force Defendants to Pay for GPS Monitors

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Public News Service on 8/27/2019 by Mark Richardson

KINGMAN, Ariz. — An Arizona appeals court has ruled a defendant whose trial is pending cannot be forced to either pay hefty fees for GPS monitoring or wait in jail.

The ACLU of Arizona challenged before the Arizona Court of Appeals the case of a man who was released while awaiting trial, couldn’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars a month for an ankle monitor and was therefore ordered to jail until his trial.

ACLU attorney Jared Keenan said the Arizona law doesn’t require courts to determine if a defendant is financially able to afford the monitoring fees – although he thinks it should.

“One of the arguments we made to the Court of Appeals was that before you impose any relief condition – whether it’s a cash bail amount, or some sort of other condition that could cost someone money – the court has to consider one’s ability to pay,” Keenan said.

The appeals-court ruling applies only to the defendant in the Mohave County case, but Keenan said he sees it as a strong indicator of how the judges might rule when they consider the constitutionality of the state bail law.

He said it boils down to the belief that, in most cases, a court can’t put a person in jail simply because they can’t afford to either make bail or pay monitoring fees. In the Mohave County case, he said, the judge required GPS monitoring for the defendant solely because of state legal requirements, not because the person was considered a flight risk.

“It has less to do with who’s paying for the monitoring and more to do with the fact that it mandates pre-trial electronic monitoring for everyone based on charge alone, without any kind of individualized assessment of the necessity of pretrial monitoring related to that particular defendant,” Keenan said.

The state Attorney General agrees with the appeals court, saying state law doesn’t give courts the power to force people to pay for their own mandatory pretrial monitoring.

Mohave County probation officials said they contract with a private firm to provide ankle monitors, and the county doesn’t have a budget to pay for GPS monitoring fees.

To Safely Cut Incarceration, States Rethink Responses to Supervision Violations

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Pew Charitable Trust on 7/16/2019 by Issue Brief Pew Charitable Trust

Overview

Recent research from The Pew Charitable Trusts found that about 4.5 million people in the United States are on community supervision as of 2016. Probation and parole provide a measure of accountability while allowing those who would otherwise have been incarcerated or have already served a term behind bars to meet their obligations to their families, communities, and victims.

People under supervision are expected to follow a set of rules, such as keeping appointments with probation  or parole officers, maintaining employment, not using alcohol or other drugs, and paying required fees.  Failure to follow the rules—referred to as technical violations—may result in revocation of the supervision and  in some cases a term of incarceration. A 2019 report by the Council of State Governments showed that technical violations account for almost 1 in 4 admissions to state prison and $2.8 billion in annual incarceration costs.1

Such technical revocations are costly, and failure to comply with supervision conditions does not necessarily indicate that a person presents a public safety threat or will engage in new criminal activity. Further, although studies have not demonstrated that incarcerating people for breaking the rules of supervision reduces recidivism, they have found that long periods of incarceration can make re-entry more difficult, causing people to lose  their jobs, homes, and even custody of their children.2

This brief examines policies that states implemented through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) that have reduced technical revocations, highlights some of the results of those changes, and provides sample legislation for each policy. JRI is a public-private partnership among Pew, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, state governments, and technical assistance providers; it seeks to improve public safety and control costs by prioritizing prison space for people sentenced for the most serious offenses and investing in evidence-based alternatives to incarceration and other programs shown to reduce recidivism. These state efforts have not been without challenges, and more can be done to improve supervision outcomes. Nevertheless, the examples provided show that states can take meaningful steps to reduce prison populations and protect public safety  while strengthening systems of supervision and services in the community. Continue reading →

Scientists Unveil Weed Breathalyzer, Launching Debate Over Next Steps

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NPR on 09/05/2019 by Francesca Paris

The alcohol Breathalyzer came to life slowly, over the course of decades.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, scientists, lawmakers, police and the public quarreled over the veracity of the numbers spit out by the device, the appropriate legal limit for drivers and whether they could trust a machine over a cop’s testimony.

Today, the same debate is playing out over cannabis.

As 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot in some form, Breathalyzer-type devices that could theoretically aid police enforcement have begun appearing in various stages of development. But legal experts and scientists say there’s a long way to go before those devices can actually detect a driver’s impairment.

Last week, a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh announced the latest tool to detect THC — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component in pot — in breath.

The university’s Star Lab, led by Alexander Star, began developing the box-shaped device in 2016, in the midst of a wave of pot legalization across the United States. Star, a chemistry professor, partnered with Ervin Sejdic, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who’s also at the university, to build the prototype.

The device uses carbon nanotubes, which are 1/100,000 the size of human hair, to recognize the presence of THC, even when other substances are in the breath, such as alcohol. The THC molecule binds to the surface of the tubes, altering their electrical properties.

“Nanotechnology sensors can detect THC at levels comparable to or better than mass spectrometry, which is considered the gold standard for THC detection,” says the news release from the university’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Continue reading…

Indiana Officials Call Meth Emerging Drug Crisis

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WBAA on 8/9/2019 by Carter Barrett

Meth – this is the drug the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse says needs more attention.

The commission met Thursday to discuss the emerging drug, in a shift that comes after years of statewide focus on the opioid epidemic. A recent preliminary Centers for Disease Control report shows promising signs that the opioid epidemic may be slowing.

Officials warn that meth continues to be a statewide problem. Since 2015, charges for possession of meth has grown 170 percent according to data from the Indiana Prosecutor Case Management system. Although in most recent 2018 data, these numbers appeared to have leveled off.

“Meth has certainly not gone away, never did go away,” says David Powell, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council executive director. “It is a serious problem and I think we’ll show you some numbers that should alarm everyone in the room, certainly alarms me.”

Indiana had more meth possession charges in the first seven months of 2019, than in all of 2016 combined.

Changes to state law reduced the number of meth labs in Indiana, but the price of the drug has dropped as it’s smuggled into the U.S, Indiana State Police’s Taylor Shafer told the commission. Police have reported seeing an influx of drugs from the southern border.

Shafer says finding large amounts of meth – in the dozens of pounds – is much more common than in previous years.

Representatives from the Indiana Department of Education, Family and Social Services Administration and Department of Corrections all presented how each administration is addressing the rise in meth.