Friday, December 14, 2012

In the news by Karen Franklin PhD: Judge bars Static-99R risk tool from SVP trial

In the news by Karen Franklin PhD: Judge bars Static-99R risk tool from SVP trial

Judge bars Static-99R risk tool from SVP trial

Developers staunchly refused requests to turn over data

For several years now, the developers of the most widely used sex offender risk assessment tool in the world have refused to share their data with independent researchers and statisticians seeking to cross-check the  instrument's methodology.

Now, a Wisconsin judge has ordered the influential Static-99R instrument excluded from a sexually violent predator (SVP) trial, on the grounds that failure to release the data violates a respondent's legal right to due process.

The ruling may be the first time that the Static-99R has been excluded altogether from court. At least one prior court, in New Hampshire, barred an experimental method that is currently popular among government evaluators, in which Static-99R risk estimates are artificially inflated by comparing sex offenders to a specially selected "high-risk" sub-group, a procedure that has not been empirically validated in any published research. 

In the Wisconsin case, the state is seeking to civilly commit Homer Perren Jr. as a sexually dangerous predator. Perren just completed a 10-year prison term for an attempted sexual assault on a child age 16 or under.

The ruling by La Crosse County Judge Elliott Levine came after David Thornton, one of the developers of the Static-99R and a government witness in the case, failed to turn over data requested as part of a Daubert challenge by the defense. Under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1993 ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, judges are charged with the gatekeeper function of filtering evidence for scientific reliability and validity prior to its admission in court.

Defense attorney Anthony Rios began seeking the data a year ago so that his own expert, psychologist Richard Wollert, could directly compare the predictive accuracy of the Static-99R with that of a competing instrument, the Multisample Age-Stratified Table of Sexual Recidivism Rates," or MATS-1. Wollert developed the MATS-1 in an effort to improve the accuracy of risk estimation by more precisely considering the effects of advancing age. It incorporates recidivism data on 3,425 offenders published by Static-99R developer Karl Hanson in 2006, and uses the statistical method of Bayes's Theorem to calculate likelihood ratios for recidivism at different levels of risk.

The state's attorney objected to the disclosure request, calling the data "a trade secret." 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Private prison corporations, they are in Wisconsin too... They purchased the company that supplies the GPS equipment and service to the WI Dept of Corrections.

Prison Legal News - Legal articles, cases and court decisions

Electronic Monitoring: Some Causes for Concern

by James Kilgore

Electronic monitoring (EM) looms high on the list of alternatives to incarceration for corrections officials seeking solutions to overcrowded prisons and budget deficits. First used in 1983, today some 200,000 people in the United States wear some sort of electronic monitor, typically an ankle bracelet required as a condition of probation, parole, bail or house arrest.

For high-profile lawbreakers like Martha Stewart and Lindsay Lohan, the ankle bracelet is a badge of privilege – a high-tech mode of avoiding time behind bars. For those with more ordinary cases, release on electronic monitoring may offer offenders an opportunity to reunite with their family and find employment. Nonetheless, the introduction of EM on a broader scale raises a number of concerns.

The Legal Framework

The first issue is that in most cases electronic monitoring programs operate under questionable legal frameworks, typically excluding or minimizing any rights or entitlements for the people being monitored. For example, laws in Illinois, Rhode Island and North Carolina deal primarily with the technical minutiae of supervision, emphasizing guarantees of public safety and spelling out penalties for rule violations. A small section includes a list of activities which a person on electronic monitoring “may” be allowed to do. Those include work, medical treatment and attending educational programs. Other frameworks, such as California’s Penal Code Section 1210.7-1210.16 and the State of Montana’s Policy Guidelines, contain no mention of approved activities for those being electronically monitored.

Since a primary selling point of EM for those on parole is the opportunity to work and reintegrate with family, assurances of access to such activities need to be established as rights. Moreover, in practice, the power to grant or deny “movement,” such as leaving one’s house, rests with parole officers. This can create problems. For example, most supervising authorities require a list of an offender’s movements to be submitted in advance, making responses to requests for job interviews, changes in work schedules, or tending to family emergencies or medical conditions extremely difficult. Further, parole officers usually have the power to impose a “lockdown” – 24-hour house arrest – for any reason or period of time.

While Hamilton Country, Indiana offers specific avenues of appeal to challenge denials of movement, most jurisdictions provide no such guarantees. In general, a parole officer’s decisions may only be contested after the fact through the courts. This may bring some relief in the long run, but in the short term a parolee’s opportunity to successfully reintegrate into society can be jeopardized by overzealous enforcement of EM rules.

This problem with the legal framework of electronic monitoring highlights an issue raised by legal scholar Erin Murphy, who contends there has been insufficient legal scrutiny of “deprivation of liberty by technological means” – a situation which is increasingly becoming an issue as GPS monitors and similar devices are used with greater frequency.

Further Concern: Private Corrections Companies

Another concern is the involvement of private corrections firms in the EM industry. The giant in this market is Behavior Interventions, Inc. (BI), a Colorado-based company that controls about 30% of the electronic monitoring market in the United States. In 2011, BI was bought out by The GEO Group, the second-largest corrections corporation in the U.S., which positioned GEO for growth in the EM sector. [See: PLN, April 2011, p.40].

The role of private corrections companies in electronic monitoring programs raises several questions. First, such firms exaggerate the cost savings of EM by simply comparing per diem costs of EM with those of incarceration. The comparison is not that simple. Many people who are placed on electronic monitoring would not have been incarcerated before the advent of EM technology; they would have been supervised non-electronically, a practice that is still prevalent.

Second, comparing per diem costs between prison and EM distorts the reality. A large part of corrections costs are fixed. For example, if 10% of a state’s prison population was released on electronic monitoring, staffing and other over-head costs would not decrease by 10%. Hence, the savings delivered by electronic monitoring need to be calculated holistically, not by merely using the rosy estimates of those who advocate EM, including the companies that offer such services.

Then there is the need to generate profit. At present, EM programs are increasingly turning toward user fees, typically $10–15 per day plus startup costs. While such fees don’t present a problem for the wealthy, like Stewart or Lohan, most people on parole or probation fall in an entirely different income bracket. The questionable history of firms like The GEO Group in terms of prisoner abuse, corruption, lobbying and political contributions foreshadows a range of misdeeds and improper influence with regard to electronic monitoring.

At the most basic level, a continual incremental increase in user fees due to the need for EM companies to generate profit would further disadvantage the predominantly poor people of color who are placed on electronic monitoring. Further, since people who complete their term of EM no longer generate revenue, monitoring companies have a financial incentive to push for longer terms of supervision or stricter rules that would lead to increased recidivism.

In fact, such companies are already seeking to expand their market; i.e., to find new populations to bring under the net of electronic monitoring. Currently at least two new groups are being considered for EM services: immigrants awaiting judicial decisions and high school students with records of extensive truancy.

With respect to immigrants, in 2009 BI signed a five-year, $372 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enorcement (ICE) to monitor some 27,000 people awaiting asylum or deportation hearings. In the high school student market, a major EM firm in Texas, iSECUREtrac, funded a pilot monitoring project for students with truancy records in a largely Black and Latino school district in Dallas.

It is unlikely the quest for new EM “customers” will stop there. For example, future lobbying efforts by private monitoring companies might advocate electronic supervision for those with drug or mental health histories, people receiving public assistance or immigrants with green cards. It is difficult to say how far EM services may eventually expand.

Thus, while there might be cause in the near future to celebrate the transfer of thousands of people from prison to electronic monitoring programs, those involved in trying to transform the criminal justice system need to pay close attention to how such programs evolve. Without more careful regulation of EM services and the private companies that provide them, we may one day be lamenting the problem of mass monitoring in addition to mass incarceration.

James Kilgore is a researcher, criminal justice activist and fiction writer. His two novels, We Are All Zimbabweans Now and Freedom Never Rests, were written during his six-and-a-half years of incarceration in California. This article emerges from a larger research project on electronic monitoring.    

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Think the Obama Administration is NOT trying to kill the Constitution? This is just the start of the disenfranchising of our United States.

"They who can give up essential Liberty to obtain a little temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Column: Accused students deserve protection

The Obama administration's interpretation of due process as a form of discrimination has shaken the academic community.

5:41PM EST December 5. 2012 - Six years ago, prosecutors finally dropped rape charges against former Duke University lacrosse players accused of attacking a stripper. Perhaps the greatest offense against the players was not the false accusation by Crystal Mangum, but the assumption by Duke that the students and anyone associated with them were guilty. In the wake of this scandal, many schools learned a hard lesson from Duke's bad publicity and sought to protect students and faculty from a future rush to judgment. However, school efforts to reinforce due process protections have run into opposition from an unexpected source: the Obama administration.

Last year, universities received a seemingly friendly "Dear Colleague" letter from the administration demanding that schools actually reduce due process protections in disciplinary hearings for accused students and faculty in sexual misconduct cases. If they did not, the letter warned, they could lose federal funding and face discrimination charges discrimination. The helpful "colleague" on the other side of the letter was Russlynn Ali, then assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education. She explained that the reduction of protections for students was essential for preserving education as "the great equalizer in America."

Ali just resigned, providing an opening for the Obama administration to reconsider. That's overdue because the interpretation of due process as a form of discrimination has shaken the academic community, which is deeply divided on whether to yield to the overt threats. It is a Faustian bargain for academics: Either strip students and faculty of basic due process protections or be declared discriminatory.

In the past, many schools have required significant evidence to find students or faculty guilty, often a "clear preponderance" or "clear and convincing evidence." These standards require less than the criminal "beyond the reasonable doubt" standard but still a 75% or 80% certainty of guilt. The administration, however, demands that schools adopt the lowest evidentiary standard short of a presumption of guilt — "preponderance of the evidence," just slightly above a 50-50 determination.

Because many of these cases involve the classic "he-said-she-said" situation, they come to the university as an even split based on opposing testimony. Add in the fact that many of these cases involve drinking, and the "preponderance" standard becomes a recipe for injustice. Even the slightest evidence can dictate the result and tends to favor conviction.

While this low standard is used in some civil cases, the accused is generally afforded other protections that the Obama administration directive strips from the accused. For instance, the directive discourages schools from allowing a student or faculty member to question the accuser. And schools have seized on that. Last month, a Georgia college student was expelled after rape allegations without the opportunity to confront the accuser or even, the student alleges, know the names of other witnesses in the case. After a judge halted the expulsion, the parties reached an "undisclosed resolution."

The Supreme Court has insisted in criminal cases that the right to confront the accuser must be honored even when a court believes that the victim's testimony is highly credible. The court stated in 2004 that "dispensing with confrontation because testimony is obviously reliable is akin to dispensing with a jury trial because the defendant is obviously guilty." Yet, the administration insists that this right "may be traumatic or intimidating (for the victim), thereby possibly escalating or perpetuating a hostile environment."

Adding to the unfairness is the fact that many schools like George Washington, where I teach, do not even allow for legal representation of students in these proceedings. Likewise, most do not account for potential criminal prosecutions. University investigations can undermine the rights of criminal defendants by forcing them into a process without other constitutional protections that the accused have in criminal court, such as the right to remain silent. Thus, evidence that would be viewed as improper, if produced by prosecutors in criminal court, can be admitted if generated first by a university.

The Obama administration has created the perfect Potemkin village — a legal fa├žade with the outward appearance of a due process without its substance. Weighting the system to guarantee more convictions is not combating sexual violence or harassment. It is achieving a statistical success rather than the harder process of assuring justice for both alleged victims and the accused. Students are not statistics and deserve more than the equivalent of a coin toss with two lives in the balance.

If there was ever a need for a Registry....

Man sentenced to prison for 10th OWI | News -

JANESVILLE, Wis. - A man was sentenced Wednesday to prison for his 10th offense of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Paul G. Barber Jr., 52, was sentenced in Rock County Circuit Court to six years in prison followed by five years of extended supervision.

During sentencing, Rock County Assistant District Attorney Jodi Dabson Bollendorf emphasized that Barber had previously been arrested 21 times for the offense of operating while intoxicated in multiple states dating back to 1982; however, in Wisconsin, prior convictions occurring prior to 1989 are not counted under the law.

Both the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Dabson Bollendorf argued for the maximum sentence of seven and a half years confinement followed by five years of extended supervision.

The criminal complaint said that on May 25, Wisconsin State Trooper Bauer located Barber in his vehicle parked on the shoulder of Interstate 39/90 and observed that Barber's vehicle had fresh damage on the left side.

Barber initially stated that he had rolled his vehicle, then changed his story and could not remember what happened, according to the complaint.

Bauer could smell an odor of intoxicants coming from Barber's breath and began field sobriety tests until Barber refused to complete any more tests and stated, "I'm done with this," according to the complaint.

The complaint said Barber's blood was tested and the results showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.296.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Recommendations advance for treating sex offenders - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Recommendations advance for treating sex offenders - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota lawmakers will consider a recommendation to reform its costly, high-security sex offender program.
A task force headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson is recommending the state replace its prison-like treatment of dangerous sex offenders with a network of less restrictive regional facilities.
The Minnesota Sex Offender Program confines and treats the most dangerous offenders under the court's direction after they have finished their prison sentences. The number of offenders in the program has grown to more than 600. They are confined to high-security treatment facilities at a cost of about $120,000 per person annually.
A federal magistrate ordered the state to form a task force to study alternatives to the current program. The Star Tribune ( ) reports Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson plans to meet with lawmakers in coming weeks to discuss the recommendations.
Information from: Star Tribune,

Judge Upholds Sex Offender Residency Law; ACLU to Appeal | American Civil Liberties Union

Judge Upholds Sex Offender Residency Law; ACLU to Appeal | American Civil Liberties Union

R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter today upheld the constitutionality of a state law that makes it a felony for any person required to register as a sex offender to reside within 300 feet of any school. RI ACLU volunteer attorney Katherine Godin, who brought the lawsuit, said the ACLU would appeal the ruling. Across the country, experts involved in the treatment of sex offenders, as well as victims’ rights groups, have opposed sex offender residency laws as being ineffective, counter-productive, and potentially more, rather than less, harmful to public safety. If the ruling is formally implemented pending appeal, a number of ex-offenders in Rhode Island who have not been deemed a public safety risk may likely face potential homelessness.
Two of the plaintiffs reside in Warren Manor II, a Providence facility operated by NRI Community Services, a non-profit provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment. The plaintiffs have developmental disabilities and rely on the staff there to assist them with medication, meals and various other daily activities. They have lived at the facility for three or more years. If forced to leave, the complaint alleged, they are “unlikely to find and be placed in a comparable assisted living facility.” They are designated at the lowest level offender classifications, and are not subject to community notification requirements.
However, the judge rejected the ACLU’s arguments that the statute was punitive in nature, as well as data submitted by the ACLU demonstrating that laws such as these do not protect the public. Attorney Godin said today: “We are extremely disappointed by the ruling and concerned that implementation of the law will have precisely the opposite effect of its stated purpose.”
Among the groups that have publicly raised concerns about broad sex offender residency laws, both locally and nationally, are the RI Disability Law Center, the RI Coalition for the Homeless, Day One Rhode Island, the American Correctional Association, the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, and the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center. A year before the Rhode Island law was adopted, the Rhode Island Sex Offender Management Task Force prepared a draft statement on residency restrictions that noted that “research shows that sex offenders with residential and family stability (which can be disrupted by such restrictions) are less likely to commit new sex offenses.”
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Chris Stephens, the President/CEO of NRI Community Services expressed concern that subjecting the plaintiffs to potential arrest and eviction under the statute “is not only contrary to their medical needs and increases their risk of homelessness, but it categorically does nothing to make the community safer.”
Shortly after Iowa became the first state in the country to implement a sex offender residency statute, the Iowa County Attorneys Association issued a statement opposing that statute, pointing out that “there is no correlation between residency restrictions and reducing sex offenses against children or improving the safety of children.” Other groups have noted that laws like these perpetuate the myth that most child sex offenses are committed by strangers, when in fact the overwhelming majority are committed by relatives and people the child knows.
In addition to NRI Community Services, representatives from the RI Disability Law Center and the RI Coalition for the Homeless have expressed support for the lawsuit.