Thursday, May 8, 2014

Holding Probation Agents Accountable: Delays providing sex offender treatment increase risk to reoffend


I think we can all agree that, generally speaking, failure to promptly provide sex offender treatment (SOT) to convicted sex offenders on probation increases the risk of re-offending.  So why is it that recently convicted sex offenders often go for several months before they receive any SOT?

I've had sex offender probation revocation cases where the Department of Community Corrections (DOCC) probation and parole agents have dragged their heels getting court ordered sex offender treatment (SOT) to my clients, even where the sentencing judge intended that SOT begin right away, with no delays. When the probationer re-offends, the DOC launches revocation proceedings, arguing that the probationer should be revoked because he poses an increased risk to the community.  Never mind the fact that the agent failed to provide sex offender treatment promptly, despite court orders to do so.

In the exposé Free to Reoffend: A Bottom Line Investigation, Nakia Spencer reports Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge David Borowski as saying,

If they're not getting their treatment, that increases their risk to the community, it increases their risk of reoffending.
It's obviously the DOC's responsibility to follow through on that and the DOC is obviously not doing their job. 

In this respect, the agent is responsible for the increased risk to reoffend, but it is the probationer – and the community – who pays the price for this increased risk.  This lack of accountability has gone unchecked long enough.

The Bottom Line article reports that, "[t]he last defense in making sure sex offenders are getting this treatment is Judge Borowski. He began requiring probation review hearings for convicted sex offenders one year ago. If it wasn't for these hearings, these delay issues would have never come to light."

Thank you Judge Borowski for calling the DOC out on this one!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Another Article Points to - Too Many Prisoners in US


Too Many Prisoners is yet another article on the failing +prison system in America. I recently posted a blurb on my blog citing to a Frontline article on the very same issue, quoting the same sources.

For more on the Frontline article, visit my blog posting, Frontline Reveals Report Showing "Unprecedented Growth in US Prisons.  Thanks to +Cecelia Klingele for posting a link to the WPR article, Too Many Prisoners.  #prisoners #prisons #prisonpolicies

Friday, May 2, 2014

Frontline Reveals Report Showing "Unprecedented” Growth in US Prisons

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/locked-up-in-america/new-report-slams-unprecedented-growth-in-us-prisons/
A new article by Jason M. Breslow from Frontline's Locked Up in America series reveals what most of us have known for a long time - that tough on crime policies has resulted in overcrowded prisons with little deterrent effect or social benefit.

An excerpt from the article explains that,

"The past 40 years have seen the United States become home to more prisoners than any other country in the world. Yet despite this dramatic boom in incarceration rates, a new report finds that the deterrent effect of tough-on-crime policies remain 'highly uncertain.'

The report, published Wednesday by the National Research Council, describes the rise of incarceration in America as 'historically unprecedented and internationally unique.' It found that from 1973 to 2009, the prison population grew from about 200,000 to approximately 2.2 million. With this spike, the U.S. now holds close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, even though it accounts for just 5 percent of the global population.

'We are concerned that the United States is past the point where the number of people in prison can be justified by social benefits,' said Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the chair of the committee behind the study. 'A criminal justice system that makes less use of incarceration can better achieve its aims than a harsher, more punitive system.'”

Read more at Frontline's New Report Slams "Unprecedented" Growth in US Prisons

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What to Do if You Are Stopped By Police

Knowledge is Power. Know Your Rights!

I get a lot of calls from people asking what they should do if the police are at their door asking questions, or if they are stopped by police in the street. In these types of situations it is important to know your legal rights.

The ACLU has published a very helpful, pocket sized card called, What to Do if You Are Stopped By Police. Even if you think you'll never be in this kind of situation, I highly suggest that you print it out, fold it, put it in your wallet, and carry it with you at all times!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Confessing to a crime via social media: Is it the new social norm?


What makes a person confess to a crime - online?


Given my background in clinical psychology, the driving force behind what makes someone confess to a crime via social media fascinates me. Take the case of Derek Medina in Florida. By now we all have heard about how Derek confessed on Facebook to killing his wife, and how he even posted a picture of her corpse.  Sharing too much on the various social media platforms is nothing new.  But just what is it that makes someone go that extra step and post online the details of their involvement in a crime?

Physical isolation.

An article in CNN Tech by Dough Gross, Why people share murder, rape on Facebook, touches on the psychology behind cases like that of Derek Medina’s.  In this article, Gross paraphrased Michele Nealon-Woods, national president of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, in suggesting that "[t]he physically isolating aspect of social media is probably part of the equation .... When we can communicate with other people without seeing or hearing them, something in the brain makes it harder to remember that there are still consequences for what we say ...."

False sense of privacy.

In general, text messaging and social media forums have created in us a seeming need to announce and share our every move and thought. This, coupled with a false sense of privacy one gets when communicating with friends (or others we have let into our social circles) via Facebook or Twitter, or some other social media, is why sharing incriminating info online is likely to be unaffected by the potential for arrest.

Recent examples.

There are many recent examples in the news of people taking photos or videotaping their involvement in a crime and then posting it on social media.  See When oversharing online can get you arrested, by Lauren Russel on CNN Tech.  Two 2013 incidents include: 1) the two Steubenville football players who were found guilty in early 2013 of raping a drunken 16-year-old-girl, and 2) a Facebook status update posted by Astoria, Oregon resident Jacob Cox-Brown, 18, which read, "Drivin drunk... classsic ;) but to whoever's vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P"

The new social norm?

The inability to keep secret one’s involvement in a crime is nothing new.  What is new is the use of social media to do it.  As Professor Susan Rozelle at Stetson University College of Law said in Russell’s article, "People have always said foolish things … but now they have the ability to say it louder and to more people."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Is there a way to stop the DOT from suspending my license before my case is over?

Possibly. If you have filed the Department of Transportation (DOT) form requesting an "administrative suspension review hearing" before the 10 day deadline, you or your lawyer will have a chance to cross examine the officer who arrested you at an informal hearing held at the DOT. If, after the hearing, the DOT decides to suspend your license, your lawyer may be able to get a court order preventing that suspension.

About a week or so after the hearing, you should receive a notice from the DOT with their decision and a form to request a judicial review of their decision. Some judges believe that the statute governing this procedure prevents them from reviewing the DOT decision before the day of the trial. This is a common misinterpretation, by lawyers and judges alike. The confusion lies in a subtle distinction in the wording of the statute.

Wisconsin Statutes § 343.305(8)(c) does indeed provide that the review shall be heard at the time of the trial. The “review” described in subsection (8)(c), however, pertains to a judicial hearing held for the purposes of determining whether to rescind or sustain the administrative suspension. A "stay," on the other hand, is a separate determination, made available to the court by subsection (8)(c)2, pending or in advance of the court's decision to rescind or sustain the administrative suspension. Subsection (8)(c)2 provides, in relevant part:

The department shall vacate the administrative suspension under sub. (7) unless, within 60 days of the date of the request for judicial review of the administrative hearing decision, the department has been notified of the result of the judicial review or of an order of the court entering a stay of the hearing examiner’s order continuing the suspension.
In other words, section 343.305(8)(c)2 acknowledges two separate mechanisms by which the court may change the status of the administrative suspension: a judicial review hearing, or a discretionary stay of the suspension.

Because the legal issues yet to be adjudicated in the underlying OWI (operating while intoxicated) charge may determine whether the suspension will be enforceable in the first place, your lawyer may be able to persuade a judge to sign a legal motion and order "staying" or temporarily preventing the DOT from administratively suspending your license until such time as a final determination may be made by the court at a judicial review hearing.

This information is not meant to serve as legal advice. You should consult with a qualified attorney before making any decisions about your case and never rely solely on information found on the Internet.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Guilty or No Contest?

Why Knowing the Difference Can Make All the Difference.



The two most common pleas a person can enter before sentencing are the guilty plea, and the no contest plea. Both pleas can seem very similar, since both result in a conviction. However, in situations where there is a victim who is injured (and who may later sue for damages), it is important to understand the distinction.

Guilty? No Contest? What’s the difference?

In a nutshell, the basic difference under Wisconsin Statute Section 971.06 is this:

  1. Guilty plea: the defendant admits that he or she committed the acts alleged by the prosecution.  Guilty pleas are the most common type of plea in Wisconsin.
  2. No Contest plea: the defendant does not admit to the facts alleged by the prosecutor.  However, he or she also does not dispute that the jury could find him or her guilty  - if the case went to trial.

Put another way, when you enter a plea of guilty, you are admitting that you did the crime. When you enter a plea of no contest, you are essentially admitting that a jury could find you guilty based on the evidence the State has against you, but you are not going that one extra step and admitting that you actually did it.  So why doesn’t everybody plead no contest then? Simply put, not all judges accept no contest pleas. Why? Because they feel going that extra step is necessary to show that you truly acceptance responsibility for your actions.

What does this mean for you?

The significance of this distinction is that anyone who files a civil lawsuit against you for the same conduct as that in the criminal case, cannot use the conviction in your criminal case as evidence of guilt in the lawsuit.

If the crime to which you are pleading involves a victim with injuries or damaged/stolen property, it is better to enter a no contest plea to prevent your conviction from being used as ammunition against you if you get sued.

The bottom line.

Remember, both the guilty plea and the no contest plea will result in a conviction.  But a no contest plea is the better plea to enter in situations where a victim could later sue for damages in a separate civil suit.

This information is not meant to serve as legal advice. You should consult with a qualified attorney before making any decisions about your case and never rely solely on information found on the Internet.