Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Victims of the State

The website Victims of the State has reviewed Todd's case and provided a summary of it. Dan Rastatter, who produced the website and wrote the summary of Todd's case has collected well over a thousand cases nationwide that reveal a widespread disregard for truth seeking in our criminal justice system.

Friday, August 21, 2009

When is science not science?

Anderson Cooper reports on CNN that "Of the 241 wrongful conviction cases the Innocence Project has helped to overturn, 50 percent of them hinged on forensic science problems."

For us that's not surprising, because in our case evidence was significantly mishandled. Although The trial judge concluded that the State had "dropped the ball," the evidence--which had been altered while in the state's possession--was still deemed admissible. Over a year after the trial, the Colorado State Attorney General's office finally dropped its claim that the State was not responsible.

In May, we filed an allegation of negligence or misconduct in the handling of the evidence. So far none of the oversight agencies have responded to the allegation.

It seems that evidence and the search for truth is not an integral part of our criminal justice system. Perhaps too many in our criminal justice system share the opinion of Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas, who in a recent opinion, according the NY Times, "suggested there was no constitutional problem with executing a man who could prove he was innocent."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Prison Reform, Education, and Healthcare

Nicholas Kristof makes the connection today in the NY Times between criminal justice reform and health and education. He writes, "It’s time for a fundamental re-evaluation of the criminal justice system, as legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Webb has called for, so that we’re no longer squandering money that would be far better spent on education or health."

Bottom line: "Opponents of universal health care and early childhood education say we can’t afford them. Granted, deficits are a real constraint and we can’t do everything, and prison reform won’t come near to fully financing health care reform. Still, would we rather use scarce resources to educate children and heal the sick, or to imprison people because they used drugs or stole a pair of socks? "

What do these priorities say about us?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Unsustainable Incarceration

"Put them in prison and make them worse criminals, or put them in rehab, possibly make them better, and save some money. Sounds like a no-brainer." These are the words of NY Times columnist Charles M. Blow. In today's Times, he contrasts the staggering cost of ineffectively incarcerating substance abusers with the savings and effectiveness that can be achieved through alternatives to incarceration. In a time of economic crisis the importance of spending public treasure wisely grows. It remains to be seen if the wisdom of policy makers will grow to meet this challenge.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Folsom Prison Blues

We often hear it said: "If you want to see the future, look at California." If that's true, the future for prisons is bleak. Today's edition of All Things Considered chronicles the descent of California's Folsom Prison from the pinnacle of effective to an abject failure. Laura Sullivan reports that in 1968 almost every Folsom inmate "was in school or learning a professional trade. The cost of housing them barely registered on the state budget. And when these men walked out of Folsom free, the majority of them never returned to prison."

But now:

  • It now houses 4,427--more than twice the 1800 it housed in 1968.
  • It's once-vaunted education and work programs have been cut to just a few classes, with waiting lists more than 1,000 inmates long.
  • Officers are on furlough.
  • Its medical facility is under federal receivership.
  • And like every other prison in the state, 75 percent of the inmates who are released from Folsom today will be back behind bars within three years.

So what happened? Simple. Californians decided to "get tough" rather than "get smart" on crime. Thanks to harsh sentencing laws, habitual offender policies, and the war on drugs, California's prison population exploded from 20,000 to 167,000.

The result: Californians today are less safe and facing insolvency. If you are interested in criminal justice reform, you must listen to this report.