Daily Archives: June 21, 2007

Some CT prison population fun facts

Via the Office of Policy and Management‘s “Comprehensive Plan For the Connecticut Criminal Justice System 2007 [pdf]”:

  • Connecticut’s Rate of Incarceration per 100,000 of population is the highest in the Northeast at 373.
  • The average for the Northeast is 298 per 100K
  • Connecticut’s Rate of Incarceration is 28th in the country, however.
  • The top offense among the incarcerated population is Violation of Probation, accounting for 13.57% of all inmates
  • Second on the list is Sale of a Narcotic substance, accounting for 11.12%.
  • The rest are all under 5.32%
  • 92% of the prison population is male.
  • Parole is granted in 82% of cases that make it to a full panel or administrative review.
  • There are 1663 crimes in the State of Connecticut for which incarceration is a possible sentence.

There is also a 2007 Recidivism Study, which reveals the following information:

  • The overall reconviction rate was 39%.
  • The overall resentenced to prison rate was 22%.
  • Not shockingly, inmates released from prison with no community supervision were most likely to be reconvicted and resentenced to prison for a new offense.
  • Inmates convicted of property offenses have the highest recidivism rates.
  • Recidivism rates for sexual offenses was the lowest (22%), even lower than motor vehicle offenses (31%) [Full chart on page 6]

There is so much more in these reports. I will continue to sift through the information and present it.

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What’s in a word?

A legal conclusion, perhaps. So thought a judge in Nebraska, who banned the use of the words rape, assailant, sexual assault rape kit, victim and sexual assault from a trial. This has Dahlia Lithwick of Slate unhappy. Corey Yung of Sex Crimes is also unsure of it.

Barring a slippery-slope argument (which may be a strong one), I don’t see what the hubbub is all about [NOT from an emotional point of view; simply a legal one].

Replace:

“Did he rape you?”

with

“Did he attempt to have sex with you?”
“Did you consent to having sex with him?”

Rape becomes non-consensual sex. In some cases, the jury is called upon to decide whether the “victim” was indeed “raped”. To continually refer to the act as “rape” (which is a fact for the jury to decide), might subconsciously “poison” the minds of the jury.

In CT, a 2005 Supreme Court decision left standing an Appellate Court decision [State v. Cortes (pdf)]which held that the use of the word “victim” by the court (76 times) deprived the defendant of a fair trial.

In cases in which the fact that a crime has been committed against the complaining witness is not contested, but only the identity of the perpetrator is in dispute, a court’s use of the term ‘‘victim’’ is not inappropriate. In cases in which the fact that a crime has been committed is contested, and where the court’s use of the term ‘‘victim’’ has been the subject of an objection and has not been the subject of a subsequent curative instruction, a court’s use of the term may constitute reversible error. The danger in the latter type of case is that the court, having used the term without specifically instructing the jury as to its intention in using the term, might convey to the jury, to whatever slight degree, its belief that a crime has been committed against the complainant.

We agree with the defendant that given the particular circumstances of this case, as well as the fact that the complainant’s credibility was a critical issue, the better practice would have been for the court to refer to the complainant by some term other than ‘‘victim.’’ We conclude that the court’s instructions constituted reversible error.

Now, the slippery-slope argument that Dahlia Lithwick makes is a valid one, but perhaps not fatal to this judge’s position. How many times, in a trial, does a prosecutor ask of a witness: “Is the defendant the man that murdered the victim?” Not many. It is more likely that the question posed is: “Did you see the defendant shoot the victim?” “Is the defendant the man that killed the victim”?

Shoot; kill – not legal conclusions. Murder, probably.

However, despite this lengthy post, I could be convinced to change my position. Have at it!

Live Blog With Judiciary Committee co-chair

It’s not really live, since it was last night, but State Rep and Judiciary Committee co-chair Mike Lawlor stopped by CT Local Politics to participate in a live blog and answer questions from anyone who wanted to participate. I posed some questions, the answers to which I will get to in a second, but near the end of the chat, he dropped this:

Oh, and I should point out that all conviction information, for everyone, will be on line soon at both the judicial and department of public safety websites. Everything from sex offenses to shoplifting will be there. I support full disclosure of criminal conviction information.

He further clarified:

The list of all criminal conviction information is already available from the state police. This will now be online. Thats a bit different than the sex offender website, which contains a lot more information. If you want to check someone’s record, here is how to do it now…

It has now been 11 hours since that and I still don’t know how I feel about it. It is a public record, but will this fuel mass hysteria and cause people to start spying on one another? (Not in the clandestine sense, but in the “I’m going to watch you more closely and see if what you’re doing is dangerous or illegal” sense) How will this affect prospective employees? Landlords? Liquor stores? Or is this necessary and useful? Will this cause people to be more careful and aware? What do you guys think?

Anyway, on to the questions. I asked and he replied (to question #1):

Gideon asks:

Second, SB 1458, which creates a “tender years” exception to hearsay. Were you not concerned about the Constitutionality of this legislation in light of Crawford v. Washington? Thank you for your time.

The final language of the bill was agreed upon by the judges’ rules committee, the prosecutors and public defenders. It was changed substantially from the original proposal to meet the concerns expressed, especially from the defense bar. Many other states have adopted similar rules post Crawford.

My second question (and his response):

Rep. Lawlor,

You mentioned that you were on the sentencing commission and the risk assessment board. As part of the sentencing commission, what will you be looking at and what steps do you think the State should take to deal with prison overcrowding?

Hey, sorry for missing this one. The Commission should have its own website up by now, and I will check into why its not available. In the meantime, check out the great, and recent, OPM reports on justice trends and stats in CT.

http://www.opm.state.ct.us/

I’ll be looking for that website, but the one he provided a link for does have some interesting reports. I plan on sifting through it later.

The rest of the questions were about politics, gay marriage and the budget.

All in all, I have to say that it was an excellent example of the good that can come of the blogosphere.