Trumps Prison Reform

The First Step Act, which passed with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats, takes modest steps to alter the federal criminal justice system and ease very punitive prison sentences at the federal level. It affects only the federal system — which, with about 181,000 imprisoned people, holds a small but significant fraction of the US jail and prison population of 2.1 million.

The law allows thousands of people to earn an earlier release from prison and could cut many more prison sentences in the future.

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Rand Publishes, “Using Certainty and Celerity to Deter Crime”

November 30, 2018

Rand published, through there website, a study on Using Certainty and Celerity to Deter Crime.

The study by Kilmer and Midgette found that of 16,513 individuals who were arrested for a second or third drunk driving event in South Dakota between 2004 and 2011 were estimated to and a 49% lower rearrest rate than the control group in the first twelve months after arrest, a 35% lower rate of rearrest rate 24 months after arrest and a 26% lower rearrest rate 36 months after arrest.

It is important to note that during this timeframe, 85% of the participants in South Dakota participated in the 24/7 program through in person twice a day testing and 15% through transdermal alcohol testing.

An interesting conclusion that Kilmer and Midgette arrived at was that, “It is important to stress that 24/7 does not require participants to enter treatment or engage in other services; this seems to be largely a detterrent effect, although one mechanism through which that deterrence might work is given participants a reason to seek treatment on their own, whther paid profession treatment of self-help (e.g. Alcoholis Anaonymous).”

Kilmer and Midgette went on to suggest that the performance with regards to rearrest rates for third offense participants on a 24/7 program were comparable to much more expensive DUI-treatment courts.

Judges Can Require Drug Users On Probation To Remain Drug-Free

Jonathan Wiggs, Staff Writer for the The Boston Globe reported that on July 16th Massachusetts’ highest court ruled that judges may jail someone with an addiction who is on probation if that person does not remain drug-free.

In a unanimous ruling, Supreme Judicial Court justices rejected the argument that it is unconstitutional to incarcerate someone who violates probation by relapsing because relapse is a symptom of the disease of addiction.

The decision centered on the case of Julie Eldred, who in 2016 was sentenced by a Concord District Court judge to 10 days in jail after she tested positive for fentanyl.

In a lawsuit, Eldred contended that the court had violated her constitutional rights by ordering her to remain drug-free because her substance use disorder made it “virtually impossible” for her to abstain through sheer will.

The Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled that judges, while they should consider the challenges of drug addiction, “must have the authority to detain a defendant” who has violated probation by using drugs.

“Such decisions should be made thoughtfully and carefully, recognizing that addiction is a status that may not be criminalized,” Justice David A. Lowy wrote for the seven-member court. “But judges cannot ignore the fact that relapse is dangerous for the person who may be in the throes of addiction and, often times, for the community in which that person lives.”

Repeat Impaired Driving in Pennsylvania – What Can Be Done?

Judge John S Kennedy (retired), wrote an op ed, Catch and Release of Repeat Impaired Drivers in Pennsylvania Needs to End, after yet another repeat DUI offender injured innocent civilians.  Judge Kennedy suggests that, programs like Target 25  and 24/7 programs should be utilized to combat the recidivist behavior of drunk drivers.

Judge Kennedy’s Target 25 program in York County, PA reduced victims’ claims by 50%.  Equally impressive results have been generated in evidence based 24/7 programs across the country that follow the National 24/7 Advisory Council’s ‘Best Practices’.

Due Process: Unscrambling SCRAM

At the American Academy of Forensic Science’s 70th Annual Scientific Meeting in Seattle, Washington earlier this year, Gil Sapir and Donald J. Ramsell, co-authored and presented, Due Process: Unscrambling SCRAM.

The authors suggested to the forensic science community that the “use of convenient biomonitoring devices should not usurp scientific accuracy and reliability in the judicial process.”

The presentation was insightful and raised some interesting points to consider for those interested in the testing methodology.

Is addiction a brain disease? Should an addict’s relapse be punished with a criminal sanction?

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ highest court, Julie Eldred is challenging a condition of her probation.  Are sanctions for positive drug tests a cruel and unusual punishment for a person with a substance abuse disorder?

Jan Hoffman wrote a piece in the NY Times, She Went to Jail for a Drug Relapse. Tough Love or Too Harsh that reviews this pivotal case.