From the L.A. Times
Decline in inmates prompts closure of new Colorado prison
Alternative ways of handling nonviolent offenders has helped cut the number of prisoners so much that a $184-million penitentiary is being closed after just 18 months.
by Jenny Deam, Los Angeles Times
April 2, 2012
CANON CITY, Colo. — Sometimes if you build it, they don't come.
When construction was first planned in 2003 for a $184-million high-security facility within the Colorado prison complex in Canon City, the number of inmates being locked up in the state was increasing at what officials considered an alarming rate.
But something happened between the first shovelful of dirt in 2007 and the final paintbrush stroke in 2010: The Colorado prison population started decreasing, first a little and then a lot.
So much, in fact, that officials announced in March that the new facility — open just 18 months and two-thirds empty — would close next year.
The 316-bed prison, called Colorado State Penitentiary II, is the fourth correctional facility in Colorado ordered closed in the last three years because of a dwindling prison population. At its peak in July 2009, the state's inmate population was 23,220. As of February, it had dropped to 21,562. A decrease of 900 more inmates is expected by June 2013.
Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Center on the States, said what was happening in Colorado was also happening elsewhere — in about half the states — where efforts are underway to reduce prison populations. Other states and the federal system still show increases.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently reported that the overall prison population in the U.S. had declined for the first time in four decades.
Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, said the state was part of a seismic shift in attitudes in the U.S. about the wisdom of locking up nonviolent offenders for long periods.
In some states, decades of get-tough sentencing have given way to alternatives to prison. They include probation and parole, mandatory drug treatment, mental health care and community supervision such as halfway houses, GPS ankle bracelets and regular drug testing.
Research has shown that if alternatives are well implemented and include good supervision, repeat offenses can be cut by 30% and the cost is about one-tenth of the $30,000-a-year average for housing a prisoner, Gelb said.
"This is not about being soft on crime or being hard on crime," Clements said. "This is about being smart on crime."
Falling crime rates and the high costs of incarceration may account for the decrease in prison populations, but Gelb of the Pew Center sees the trend much more as a rethinking of policy. And one of the things he finds fascinating is who is backing shorter sentences and alternatives to prison.
"Conservatives who in the past would not have been supportive are now out in front of it," he said.
Gelb remains cautious about making sweeping pronouncements. "It's too soon to tell if this is a tap on the brakes or a shift into reverse," he said.
In Canon City, a public hearing was held March 20 on the closure plan. About 50 people attended, mostly employees worried about jobs. Clements has said it is not clear what will become of the building when the prisoners are reassigned, but he has said he is confident there will be no layoffs.
Sean Foster, associate warden, walks through the mostly empty corridors and shakes his head. He's been working in prisons for 22 years, and throughout his career he has seen only increases in the numbers of prisoners. This will take some getting used to.
From the Washington Times
Army's ‘chilling trend' puts women at risk
by Rowan Scarborough
The Army is pushing more women closer to the front lines and in closer contact with men even as the number of sexual attacks on female soldiers has surged during the past six years.
Army figures show that reports of violent sex crimes have nearly doubled, from 665 in 2006 to 1,313 last year.
Nearly all the victims were women. Most were young soldiers moving from one post to another, a time when they were most vulnerable, according to “Generating Health and Discipline in the Force,” a comprehensive study into the Army 's mind and body.
“This chilling trend suggests that the increase in offenses going forward will likely continue unless directly mitigated by other factors,” the report says.
Military analysts now are asking what this “chilling trend” means for the future force.
The Pentagon announced this year that it is opening 14,000 more combat support jobs below the brigade level to women. Female troops make up 14 percent of the 570,000-member active force.
Previous policy barred women from “co-locating” with direct land combat units, such as infantry and armor, below a brigade combat team, the Army 's central fighting unit above battalions, companies and platoons.
‘ Amazon ‘ myths
The policy change means more Army women will be serving in smaller units outside large bases, in close quarters with men on or near the battlefield.
Elaine Donnelly , a social conservative who heads the Center for Military Readiness , views the 14,000 openings, a small percentage of jobs still off-limits to women, as the Obama administration 's strategy to one day hand direct land combat roles to women.
She said the stark sex-abuse numbers give a reason why the Army should not have moved women to the battalion level and noted the report's findings that violent sex crimes in the active-duty Army soared 97 percent and that 95 percent of the victims were women.
“Instead of implementing misguided policies that are based on ‘ Amazon ‘ myths, Pentagon officials need to face up to reality,” Mrs. Donnelly said. “These disturbing numbers and trend lines reflect actual experience, not social theories about human perfection.
“The Army 's own analysis of risk factors contributing to this ‘chilling trend' suggest that such problems would be worsened, not improved, if women are assigned to direct ground combat infantry battalions.”
On the other end of the political spectrum are women's advocates calling for an end to all military occupational barriers as a way to put women on a level playing field and reduce sexual harassment and abuse.
“The services must remove institutional barriers,” said the 2011 Military Leadership Diversity Commission. “An important step in this direction is that [the Department of Defense] and the services eliminate combat exclusion policies for women.”
The Army study, one of its most extensive health reviews ever, developed a timeline for sexual assaults. It showed the majority of attacks have occurred as Army women, ages 18 to 22, were moving into new assignments.
“It is essential that commanders sponsor and quickly integrate young female soldiers into a formal chain of command to reduce potential sex crime victimization,” the report said.
Principles, prevention, discipline
The Army also reports another troubling trend: More than a quarter of 4,000 complaints about violent sex crimes in the past six years were proved to be unfounded. Soldiers are making false allegations as a way to cover up consensual sex or exact retribution for some perceived betrayal.
Army officials say they are tackling the sex-offense problem head-on.
“It goes without saying that sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable behaviors and are not in keeping with the long-standing need for good order and discipline of the Army ,” said George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon . “We aim to bring the full weight of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on those who violate those principles.”
Some of the steps the Army has taken:
• Instituting the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, which includes the “I. A.M. Strong” campaign to encourage soldiers to discourage abuse by their peers and to report bad behavior.
• Expanding training at boot camp, at officer basic training, at drill sergeant school and at West Point.
• Requiring participation in a self-study called “Team Bound,” described as “an interactive, multiple-scenario video in which soldiers become the lead character and must make choices in realistic situations dealing with sexual harassment and sexual assault.”
Women have come to the forefront in the war on terrorism by exchanging fire with the enemy on police raids and guarding convoys. Like men, they have been susceptible to buried explosives, gunshots and mortar fire in a counterinsurgency war that has no front lines. In Iraq and Afghanistan, 144 female troops have been killed.
“Female soldiers have served with great honor, distinction and valor, and some with great sacrifice, over the last decade,” Mr. Wright said.
From Google News
Trayvon Martin: Are rallies a rebirth of civil rights movement?
A Trayvon Martin rally in Miami Sunday brought out basketball stars, civil rights leaders. The 911 call has Trayvon Martin crying for help, not George Zimmerman, according to analysis of 911 call.
by Christine Amario
The rally in Miami Sunday for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was one of the largest yet and drew basketball stars Alonzo Mourning and Isaiah Thomas , singers Chaka Khan and Betty Wright, politicians and civil rights leaders.
Martin's father, speaking briefly, promised the crowd he would not stop fighting "for my Trayvon and for your Trayvon."
"Each and every one of us feels the pain of this family simply because Trayvon Martin could have been one of all of us," said Mourning, the former Miami Heat player.
The rally came a day after thousands marched through Sanford, the central Florida town where 28-year-old George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in February. Martin was walking back from a convenience store, where he had gone to buy candy and iced tea, when he and Zimmerman got into an altercation. Zimmerman says he was attacked and has claimed self-defense; Martin's family disputes his version of events.
They point to 911 calls, a surveillance video of Zimmerman from shortly after the fatal shooting, and other records that they say prove Martin was not the aggressor. Zimmerman has not been arrested, though state and federal authorities are investigating.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that voice analysis of 911 emergency calls made in the last seconds of Martin's life indicates that likely it was the teenager – not Zimmerman, as his family contends – who cried out for help.
The case has led to protests across the nation and spurred a debate about race and the laws of self-defense. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
Martin's death occurred more than a month ago, but absent an arrest, his family and others vowed to continue holding protests. Rep. Frederica Wilson organized the rally in Miami, and an attorney for Martin's parents said demonstrations are being planned for in the coming weeks in cities including Los Angeles and Chicago .
The Rev. Al Sharpton led the crowd in circulating buckets to collect contributions that he said would help pay for the Martins' legal fees and travel.
"This is not a fit," Sharpton said. "This is a movement."
Speaking at the rally Sunday, the Rev. Jesse Jakson said the case was about ending all types of racial profiling — not just in criminal cases, but by banks, insurance companies and in the job market.
"End profiling now," the civil rights activist said to applause.
Jackson also said Martin's case illustrated the high number of black students who are suspended from school. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Education last month found that black students are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled. Martin had been suspended from school for having a baggie that contained marijuana residue shortly before he was killed.
"We must stop suspending our children," Jackson said, asking the crowd to repeat: "Invest in them. Educate them."
Many of the people who gathered at the bayside park on a sunny afternoon wore T-shirts with Martin's image and the words "Justice for Trayvon." Others wore buttons that said, "Do I look suspicious?" One man had a Mohawk with an image of Trayvon Martin painted on one side. A marching band from a high school that the teen attended danced, sang and beat drums.
Numerous supporters came dressed in hooded sweat shirts like the one Martin was wearing when he died.
Among them: Mourning's 15-year-old son, Trey.
"It could have been me," Trey Mourning told the crowd.
Grammy winner Chaka Khan said Martin's death had affected her. "The message I bring to you today is fear kills and love heals," she said.
Emerson kids can collect ‘cop cards'
EMERSON — A program aimed at fostering a healthy relationship between children and the Police Department is returning this month.
The "Cop Cards Program" was launched by the community policing unit in 2003, Police Officer Joseph Alasio said during a recent Borough Council meeting.
Alasio said the department raised its own money to produce the limited-edition baseball cards, featuring photos of all 17 officers on the force and the department's dispatch staff.
Children are encouraged to go up to police officers and ask for their cards, Alasio said. Each officer will get 1,200 cards.
The cards have a small biography of each officer, with information about their hobbies and favorite sports teams. Children who can't find officers on the streets can go to police headquarters.
Children who collect a complete set will be entered into a raffle, Alasio said.
The 2003 raffle winners received computers. This year, children could win one of 15 iPads, Alasio said.
— Chris Harris