The Long Wait: With Little Hope Left of Parole, Inmates Look to the Courts for Release

On a summer day in 1970, two Chicago Police officers assigned to the “walk and talk” team, meant to improve relations between police and the community at the Cabrini-Green public housing projects, were walking across a field when gunfire erupted. Surrounded by the high-rise buildings, snipers fired on the men, killing them both.

California Youth Crime Plunge Challenges Conventional Thinking

Unlike economists, if all criminal justice experts were laid end to end, they actually would reach a conclusion: there’s no way today’s young people could possibly have lower rates of murder, rape, other serious offenses, and all-around criminality than the sainted youth of the 1950s. Just look at the sweeping changes in American childhood: widespread family breakup beginning in the Sixties; escalating poverty levels since the 1970s; the rise of gang and drug cultures in the Eighties; widespread, vastly more explicit popular culture in the 1990s; soaring drug abuse, crime, and imprisonment among their parents’ generation; and defunded schools, services, and programs.

Consider also the fact that there are 6 million more American teenaged youths in 2011 than in 1990, with the fastest growth in racial groups with higher arrest rates. The rapid growth and increasing racial diversity of youth populations is a development two influential crime authorities branded “deadly demographics.” They forecast in 2003 that the United States would endure a skyrocketing youth and young-adult crime epidemic bringing well over 10,000 murders annually. Yet, falling crime numbers were debunking scary predictions. Now, the FBI’s latest 2011 data  shows youth arrests plummeted to lows not seen since the mid-1960s for robbery, assault, and drugs, and the lowest rates ever reliably recorded for homicide, rape, property offenses, and misdemeanors.

The Myth of the Young, Black Male: A More Subtle Racism

When I was a kid, around 10 or 11, I loved fantasy novels, especially The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. I read these books over and over, and with my friend Michael would act out the various scenes of the books. We would run around the yard with toy swords and trash can lids for shields, battling monsters until it got too dark to play any longer. One day we were pretending we were wizards, casting spells and dispensing vague wisdom to our imaginary comrades. As part of our costumes we made hoods out of pillow cases, and were blithely going about our business when my dad came home.

UPDATE: Trayvon Martin’s Parents Want Their Son’s Killer Arrested for Murder, Dismiss Self-Defense Claims

[UPDATE, March 23, 2012:] President Obama today waded into the growing national controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, commenting, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," the The New York Times reported. Obama dodged questions about whether George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Martin, should be arrested for the killing, saying he didn't want to impede any possible investigation by the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder. At a rally Thursday in Sanford, Fl., the orlando suburb where Martin lived, Rev. Al Sharpton, with Martin's parents at his side, called the case a civil rights issue, according to an Associated Press report. "We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us ... and then walk out with the murder weapon," Sharpton said.

Photo illustration: Clay Duda/JJIE.org

Law Enforcement Learns the ‘Social Media Beat’

It’s no secret: Social media has redefined the way people communicate, especially among the under-30 crowd. Now, law enforcement agencies are catching on and increasingly incorporating social media into their arsenal of crime-fighting tools.

Over the past few months a series of high profile social-media-turned-criminal acts have made headlines -- from flash mobs turned violent on the streets of Philadelphia to Atlanta house parties taped off as homicide scenes -- and law enforcement has taken note.

Some agencies have been quick to recognize the potential of embracing social media. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, has run a “Social Media Monitoring Center” since early 2009; Correction officials in California have worked directly with Facebook to thwart inmates from accessing social profiles while behind bars; And police in New York formed a special unit to monitor social channels for gang-related and other potential criminal acts.

FBI Releases iPhone App to Help Locate Missing Children

A missing or abducted child may be one of the most frightening possibilities a parent can imagine. And in those first moments of panic, when every second counts, providing an accurate description of the missing child to authorities is critical. That’s where the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) first smartphone app intends to help. The app, “FBI Child ID,” is free for iOS devices such as the iPhone or iPod Touch and stores important identifying information about your child such as height, weight and hair color. Using the camera on the handheld device, parents may also snap a picture of their child.

FBI Probing Possible Civil Rights Violation of Teen

The FBI is probing potential civil rights violations related to a video that shows Calhoun County, Ala., Sheriff Larry Amerson using manual force against a juvenile male. The FBI has launched a preliminary investigation to “gather facts” about whether Amerson’s actions, which were recorded by a surveillance camera, were a violation of the boy’s civil rights, an FBI spokesman told The Star Friday. The spokesman, Paul Daymond, said the FBI cannot disclose when the investigation began or what sparked it. “In general, what triggers a civil rights investigation, that could be a newspaper article, that could be a victim coming forward, it could be a number of things,” Daymond said. The video was first published by The Anniston Star after a source requesting anonymity gave it to the newspaper Wednesday.

Sex Abuse in Detention: Numbers are Low, But Still Troubling

The FBI did some extensive research on sexual victimization in juvenile facilities across the country and found that violent sex assaults are relatively rare, but the numbers are still disturbing. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) published Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2008-2009. The report found that out of about 26,000 kids in both state and privately run facilities, 12.2% (3,220) said they experienced sexual violence. Here’s a breakdown:

Youth-on-youth sex abuse incidents: 2.6%. Youth-on-youth incidents involving force: 2%
Staff-on-youth sex abuse incidents: 10.3%
Staff-on-youth incidents involving force: 4.3%

And here’s a surprising find: Facilities that housed only girls had the highest rates of youth-on-youth sex abuse (11%), while detention centers that housed only boys had the highest rates of sexual misconduct involving staff (11.3%).

Former Hall County School Bus Driver, Minister Sentenced To Six Years For Child Pornography

A former Hall County school bus driver and self-described “Patriot Preacher” will spend the next six years behind bars for distributing, receiving and possessing hundreds of images of child pornography. Senior United States District Court Judge William C. O'Kelley handed down the sentence Friday to John Cooper Spinks, 41, of Oakwood, Georgia. His punishment also includes 20 years of supervised release and a $2,000 fine. There is no parole in the federal system. “As a school bus driver, this defendant was in daily contact with the children of Hall County,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

FBI Targets Child Sex Trafficking

At Atlanta man is under arrest for sex trafficking involving children. Demetrius Darnell Homer is accused of recruiting and maintaining three young girls for prostitution.  U. S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This defendant allegedly recruited very young girls and turned them into prostitutes, robbing them of their youth, their dignity, and their freedom. Vigorously prosecuting those who exploit children and young women is a top priority for our office.”

Atlanta is considered a hot spot for child prostitution.  An estimated 7,200 men are paying for sex with teenage girls every month in Georgia, according to a study called “Men Who Buy Sex with Adolescent Girls.” The report, commissioned by the campaign called A Future Not a Past, paints an alarming picture of the sex trade in North Georgia. 12,400 men pay for sex with young females each month; 7,200 of them end up having sex with underage girls. While many men were not looking for sex with teenage girls, close to half were willing to go through with the transaction even after they found out they would be hooking up with someone under 18.