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Ebulletin #21

30th March 2005

VOICES RISING - Volume 3, Number 3

REMINDER: Nils Christie to deliver IPRT Annual Lecture, April 7th

The IPRT is pleased to announce that the world-renowned criminologist Nils Christie will be our guest for the 2005 IPRT Annual Lecture.

Nils Christie is a Professor of Criminology in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo in Norway.  His influential books include "Limits to Pain", "Crime Control as Industry", and "A Suitable amount of Crime".  His books and articles on crime and prisons have been translated into many languages.

Prof. Christie will be speaking on the topic "Crime Policy as Cultural Policy". The lecture will be held Thursday April 7th at European Union House, 42 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 and will begin promptly at 6pm.  Admission is free.

The IPRT Annual General Meeting will immediately follow the lecture.

REMINDER: IPRT 2005 Annual General Meeting

The IPRT's 2005 Annual General Meeting will be held on Thursday April 7th at European Union House, 42 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

The AGM will begin at 7:00pm immediately following the IPRT Annual Lecture by Prof. Nils Christie.

Coalition Against ASBOs formed

A broad-based coalition of church, civil liberties, children's rights, and youth groups has formed to fight Justice Minister Michael McDowell's proposal to introduce anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) as part of the forthcoming criminal justice bill.

The Coalition Against ASBOs includes the Children's Rights Alliance, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, the Irish Penal Reform Trust, and the Irish Youth Council.

In late February, the group made a submission opposing ASBOs to the Oireachtas Justice Committee outlining the failure of ASBOs in the UK, and our concerns these orders raise for the rights of children.  IPRT Board member and Coalition spokesperson Dr. Ursula Kilkelly also published an opinion piece in the Irish Examiner further examining the negative impacts of Minister McDowell's proposals.

Irish Youth Justice Alliance opposes ASBOs before Oireachtas Justice Commitee

On February 23rd, the Irish Youth Justice Alliance appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights to opposed the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), which has been proposed as part of the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill. 

The IYJA comprises the Children's Rights Alliance, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, along with professional workers, academics, human rights activists and concerned individuals.

The IYJA Submission is available on the IPRT website.Maria Corbett of the Children's Rights Alliance presented the submission of behal of the IYJA.

Irish Examiner Opinion Piece: "Dispensing Justice is not Child's Play" by Dr. Ursula Kilkelly

The Children Act 2001 represents an ambitious overhaul of the youth justice system. It incorporates family and community based responses to young offending and engages bodies like the Probation and Welfare Service and the Health Board in addressing its root causes.  The Children's Court hears prosecutions against young people in private to prevent the damage publicity can cause, and on conviction, it can choose from a wide range of community based sanctions, including fines and compensation orders, and orders placing young people under intensive supervision, in residential care or requiring them to pursue educational or other activities.  Detention must be ordered only as a last resort. 

These approaches reflect international best practice and comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Act when fully implemented will provide an effective and individualised response to young offending and, if properly resourced, will resolve a system widely accepted to be in chaos.  A team is about to report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with details of the structural and other measures necessary to address further the problems in this area.

However, rather than supporting these efforts, the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 threatens to undermine the letter and spirit of the Children Act and put the youth justice system under even greater pressure.

The Bill proposes to amend the Garda Diversion Programme, admission to which requires the young person to admit responsibility for the alleged offence in return for non-prosecution.  If passed, the amendment will allow details of a young person's involvement in the programme to be admissible, similar to a previous conviction, as evidence in court.  Altering the basis for entry into the programme not only makes it a far less attractive option for young people, it risks undermining the integrity of the Programme, which has been such a resounding success to date.  No case has been made out for this amendment.

A more serious challenge is presented by the proposed introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) copied from the UK where they were introduced amid considerable controversy.  Application for an ASBO, made by the police or the housing authority, must establish on the balance of probabilities that the person has engaged in behaviour causing 'harassment, alarm and distress'.  Hearsay evidence can be used in these proceedings, which are classified as civil, dispensing with the need for direct evidence from witnesses.  While the ASBO requires the person concerned to refrain from anti-social behaviour, it is characterised by the open-ended conditions that the judge may attach to the Order.  In the UK, these have included a ban on certain words, on association with certain people, walking down particular streets and going to parks, shops or other venues.  Significantly, the court may lift reporting restrictions and release details of the ASBO to the media.  This ensures not only that those subjected to the Order are 'named and shamed', but actively involves the community in its enforcement.  While applicable to anyone over 10 years, the evidence is that the majority of ASBOs are made against young people from disadvantaged areas with few amenities.  Yet, an ASBO does not activate necessary support structures or services to address the problem and not surprisingly, young people routinely breach these orders, which is a criminal offence. In the UK, one third have been so convicted, and the maximum penalty of custody has been ordered in half of these cases.  The net-widening potential is significant, therefore, as is their disproportionate impact on the rights of young people and their families.

No-one should be subjected to anti-social behaviour or low level criminality. However, there are already a plethora of measures that can be used against those who make lives a misery for others, including legislation penalising public order and alcohol and drug related offences, criminal damage and assault.  The need to introduce further measures, let alone draconian legislation that will criminalise otherwise non-offending behaviour, is completely unproven.

While ASBOs will increase the workload of An Garda Síochána, the courts, the Probation and Welfare Service and the Prison Service, it is unclear whether additional resources will be provided for this purpose.  If not, resources will be diverted from crime prevention and youth diversion programmes and the high visibility and community policing strategies that are known to reduce criminal behaviour. And the short-sighted will have been permitted to favour an apparently quick-fix solution over long-term strategies that have real potential to address its root causes making communities safer for everyone.

Dr Ursula Kilkelly is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at University College Cork. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Irish Penal Reform Trust.

IPRT speaks at 16th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in Belfast

On March 22 & 23, IPRT Executive Director Rick Lines gave presentations at the 16th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm.  Hundreds of international delegates attended the annual conference, held this year in Belfast.

Mr. Lines presented the findings of recent research on the effectiveness and safety of prison syringe exchange programmes as part of a panel on prison health.  He was also a panelist on the conference plenary debate entitled "Can harm reduction and drug-free services co-exists and cooperate in the prison setting?".

Sinn Féin Ard Fheis Supports Prison Syringe Exchange

On March 4th, the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis voted in support of establishing a pilot prison syringe exchange programme.  The motion, proposed by the Joseph Connolly Cumman in Dublin, received the overwhelming support of delegates attending the party's annual conference.

Said IPRT Executive Director Rick Lines, "We welcome Sinn Féin's endorsement of this important public health initiative, and call on the Government to take immediate action to implement these best practice HIV prevention programmes in Irish prisons."

"High Court Ends Death Penalty for Youths" by Hope Yen, Associated Press

A closely divided Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for juvenile criminals on Tuesday, declaring there was a national consensus such executions were unconstitutionally cruel and ending a practice that had brought international condemnation.  

The 5-4 decision, which overturns a 1989 high court ruling, throws out the death sentences of 72 murderers who committed their crimes as juveniles and bars states from seeking to execute others. Nineteen states had allowed death sentences for killers who committed their crimes when they were under 18.

The ruling was greeted with enthusiasm by numerous death penalty opponents, here and abroad.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said many juveniles lack maturity and intellectual development to understand the ramifications of their actions.

"The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest," Kennedy said.

The United States has stood almost alone in the world in officially sanctioning juvenile executions, a "stark reality" that can't be ignored, Kennedy wrote. Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.

"It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime," Kennedy wrote.

In an angry dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia disputed that a "national consensus" exists and said the majority opinion was based on the "flimsiest of grounds." The appropriateness of capital punishment should be determined by individual states, not "the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners," he wrote.

The ruling continues the court's practice of narrowing the scope of the death penalty, which it reinstated in 1976. Executions for those 15 and younger when they committed their crimes were outlawed in 1988. Three years ago, justices banned executions of the mentally retarded, citing a "national consensus" against executing a killer who may lack the intelligence to fully understand his crime.

In finding a similar consensus against juvenile executions, the court noted that most states bar them and those that allow them do so infrequently. Only three states - Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia - have executed people who committed crimes as juveniles in the past 10 years.

Legal experts said the ruling could have widespread ramifications for the future of capital punishment, with courts empowered to strike down the practice on evolving notions of decency.

"The lasting significance of this case is that it opens the door to the abolition of the death penalty judicially," said Jordan Steiker, a death penalty expert at the University of Texas law school. "If a national consensus can emerge without a majority of the death penalty states moving toward abolition, then it suggests that judicial abolition is a genuine prospect."

The impact was immediate. In Prince William County, Va., officials said Tuesday they will not prosecute a murder case against teen sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, who is already serving life in prison in two of the 10 sniper killings that terrorized the Washington area in 2002.

Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert had hoped to get the death penalty for Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the killings, but he said another trial would now be an unnecessary expense.

"Today, the court repudiated the misguided idea that the United States can pledge to leave no child behind while simultaneously exiling children to the death chamber," said William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Former President Carter, along with several other Nobel Prize winners, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case last year. In a statement he said the ruling "acknowledges the profound inconsistency in prohibiting those under 18 years of age from voting, serving in the military or buying cigarettes, while allowing them to be sentenced to the ultimate punishment."

Dianne Clements, president of the Houston-based Justice for All victims' advocacy group, criticized the decision and said she hopes that when there is a Supreme Court vacancy a strong death penalty supporter is nominated.

"The Supreme Court has opened the door for more innocent people to suffer by 16- and 17-year-olds," she said. "I can't wait for the Supreme Court to have judges more concerned with American values, American statutes and American law than what the Europeans think."

Justices were called on to draw an age line for executions after Missouri's highest court overturned the death sentence given to Christopher Simmons, who was 17 when he kidnapped a neighbor, hog-tied her and threw her off a bridge in 1993. Prosecutors say he planned the burglary and killing of Shirley Crook and bragged that he could get away with it because of his age.

The four most liberal Supreme Court justices - John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer - had gone on record in 2002 opposing the death penalty for juveniles, calling it "shameful." Those four, joined by Kennedy, formed Tuesday's decision.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia in seeking to uphold the executions.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor filed a separate dissent, arguing that a blanket rule against juvenile executions was misguided. Case-by-case determinations of a young offenders' maturity is the better approach, she wrote.

"The court's analysis is premised on differences in the aggregate between juveniles and adults, which frequently do not hold true when comparing individuals," she said. "Chronological age is not an unfailing measure of psychological development, and common experience suggests that many 17-year-olds are more mature than the average young 'adult.'"

The 19 states that allow executions for people under age 18 are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Texas and Virginia.

The federal government does not execute juveniles.

The case is Roper v. Simmons, 03-633.

© The Associated Press

New Report: "Women in Prison in Massachusetts: Maintaining Family Connections" by Erika Kates, Paige Ransford with Carol Cardozo

New report published by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, McCormack Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Boston.


Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy joined State Representative Kay Khan and Department of Correction Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy at the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston on Wednesday March 2, 2005, for the release of the report Women in Prison in Massachusetts: Maintaining Family Connections.

The lieutenant governor and other distinguished guests reviewed the findings of report with policy makers in the departments of criminal justice, correction, social services and mental health. The research was prompted by Representative Khan's Caucus of Women Legislator's Task Force on Criminal Justice and Substance Abuse.

As the nation's population of incarcerated women increased ten-fold since 1978, Massachusetts experienced an equally dramatic growth in prison populations. On January 1, 2003, there were 564 women (6 percent of the total population) in Massachusetts state prisons, with women's commitments increasing 7 percent over 2002.

"Typically, over three-quarters of the women in prison are mothers, the majority of whom had been the primary caregivers of their children prior to their arrests. In this respect their situations differ significantly from their male counterparts and warrant special focus with regard to correctional policies and practices. Yet until recently -- ostensibly because women constitute a small proportion of inmates - such a focus has been largely absent," the researchers found.

The report was prepared by Erika Kates, research director for the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, research assistant Paige Ransford and research associate Carol Cardozo.

Site visits included the state prison for women in Framingham, the houses of correction for Hampden and Suffolk counties and the Essex County Women in Transition (WIT) pre-release program.

The report includes recommendations for public policy changes to improve services to the families of incarcerated women and to inmates themselves.

Published by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, McCormack Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Boston.

New Report: "Cost-Saving or Cost-Shifting: The Fiscal Impact of Prison Privatization in Arizona" by Kevin Pranis

This in depth report looks at past research on Arizona private prison cost studies concludes that research used to justify the expansion of private prisons is methodologically flawed, outdated, and in one case, discredited by the researcher's financial ties to the private prison industry. Published by the Private Corrections Institute.

Executive Summary

Arizona's corrections budget has doubled over the last fifteen years, placing a tremendous burden on taxpayers and on the families of state university students. Despite the growth in corrections spending, however, the state prison system remains under funded and dangerously overcrowded.

Arizona's corrections crisis has led many to call for an overhaul of the state's sentencing system, which packs state prisons with non-violent, substance addicted offenders who make up half of all prisoners. Others argue that privatization is the answer to the state's prison woes because private companies can operate prisons at lower cost and finance new prisons the state cannot afford.

Bolstered by reports that Arizona's private prisons have generated cost-savings for the state, supporters of privatization have won legislative approval for thousands of new permanent private beds, including a 1,400-bed DUI prison in Kingman; a 1,000-bed prison for sex offenders expected to be sited in Florence; and a proposal to build a 3,200-bed women's prison that has been withdrawn by the Department of Corrections (DOC). Even without the women's prison, the number of private beds will have nearly tripled between 2003 and 2005.

Unfortunately, our investigation shows that the research used to justify the expansion of the private prison program is methodologically flawed, outdated and, in one case, discredited by the researcher's financial ties to the private prison industry. Further, critical issues such as the implications of municipal bond financing of private expansion have never been addressed. Among our findings:

- No rigorous, independent evaluation has ever been made of Arizona's private prison program, nor have the cost-comparison figures reported by DOC been independently audited. Further, existing research fails to account for key factors such as population characteristics, facility design and proper allocation of costs.

- Prisoners housed in private facilities were far less likely to be convicted of serious or violent offenses, or to have high medical and mental health needs, than prisoners housed in public facilities used to generate cost comparisons. Public prisoners were seven times as likely to be serving time for violent offenses, three times as likely to be serving time for serious offenses and twice as likely to have high medical needs than those housed in private facilities.

- Private prison costs appear to have risen rapidly since 2002 due to generous contracts approved by former DOC Director Terry Stewart. The new rates, which are nine to 35 percent higher than the rates provided in the contracts that were effective in fiscal year 2002, are likely to push private prison costs above public costs even before accounting for differences in population characteristics.

- The use of municipal bonds to finance construction of new private prisons and re-finance existing facilities carries significant risks for both the state and host counties that have assisted with financing.

In sum, it is impossible using the available evidence whether privatization has delivered cost-savings or merely shifted costs from the private sector onto the public sector. Based on these findings, we recommend that the state of Arizona exercise great caution when considering further privatization until there is reliable evidence to support cost-savings claims.

 © Private Corrections Institute, 2005.

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