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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

The Sentencing Project 2018 Annual Report

“Criminal justice reform is a challenging undertaking, but if we take the long view we can recognize that success is possible, even if incremental at times. This was the story of reform in 2018, a year in which we saw significant gains in sentencing policy and public understanding of mass incarceration.Most prominent, of course, was passage of the Fair Sentencing Act in Congress. The legislation, a mix of sentencing reform provisions and expansion of programming in federal prisons, represented the culmination of years of advocacy. Yet its passage was far from assured at several key points in the process.The original version of the bill passed by the House contained no elements of sentencing reform. We and our allies worked closely with Senate leadership, particularly Sen. Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Durbin (D-IL), to hold firm to only pass a bill with sentencing provisions, which ultimately were included in the package.The final bill is best described as one of mixed success. No, it won’t end mass incarceration, though a single bill only applying to the federal system could never accomplish that anyway. And the bill falls far short of the indisputable need to repeal mandatory sentencing laws and to rein in excessive prison terms. But the legislation will make a difference in sentencing and time served in prison for thousands of individuals in federal prison, and produce an overall decline in the system’s population. In political terms, the bipartisan support for the legislation is also a welcome indication of how far we’ve come from the days of bipartisan support for “tough on crime” sentencing policies..”

Seeing Justice Done: The Impact of the Judge on Sentencing

“The recent sentencing of Paul Manafort by federal judges in two different district courts has renewed interest in the sentencing practices of individual judges. Countless studies over the years have documented a basic fact: while decisions should be determined by the law and the facts, in reality there is a third very important force at… Continue Reading

Newly Arriving Families Not Main Source for Immigration Court’s Growing Backlog

“Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse: “”The Immigration Court backlog continues to rise. As of February 28, 2019, the number of pending cases on the court’s active docket topped eight hundred and fifty-five thousand (855,807) cases. This is an increase of over three hundred thousand (313,396) pending cases over the backlog at the end of January 2017… Continue Reading

Survey finds extensive evidence of sexual assault and bias against female economists

“The American Economic Association is today releasing results from a survey of current and former members about the professional climate in economics, conducted under the auspices of the AEA’s recently created standing Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Professional Conduct (CEDPC). For the Committee’s summary report of the survey results, see here. As the deadline for… Continue Reading

Lawsuit Could Change How We Prosecute Mass Shootings

Politico “…the Connecticut Supreme Court allowed a claim brought by surviving family members of the Sandy Hook massacre against the manufacturers, distributors and direct sellers of the weapon to move forward toward trial. Soto v. Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC, has monumental implications not only for the surviving families, but potentially for the entire gun industry.… Continue Reading

Government Is Using Most Vulnerable People to Test Facial Recognition Software

Slate – Our research shows that any one of us might end up helping the facial recognition industry, perhaps during moments of extraordinary vulnerability. “If you thought IBM using “quietly scraped” Flickr images to train facial recognition systems was bad, it gets worse. Our research, which will be reviewed for publication this summer, indicates that… Continue Reading

Digital Pro Bono: Leveraging Technology to Provide Access to Justice

Vinson, Kathleen Elliott and Moppett, Samantha A., Digital Pro Bono: Leveraging Technology to Provide Access to Justice (2018). St. John’s Law Review, Vol. 92, No. 551, 2018; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 19-8. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3347381 “…This article examines how law students, law schools, the legal profession, legal services’ agencies, and low-income… Continue Reading

OECD – Fast Forward to Gender Equality

Mainstreaming, Implementation and Leadership – “This report maps strategies, governance tools, institutional settings and innovative approaches used by governments across the OECD to drive and support society-wide gender equality goals. It covers all state institutions, including legislatures and judiciaries, and discusses the challenges faced by OECD countries in achieving long-lasting impact. Finally, the report provides… Continue Reading

Around the World, More Say Immigrants Are a Strength Than a Burden

Publics divided on immigrants’ willingness to adopt host country’s customs – “Majorities of publics in top migrant destination countries say immigrants strengthen their countries, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey of 18 countries that host half of the world’s migrants. In 10 of the countries surveyed, majorities view immigrants as a strength rather than… Continue Reading

How a Major SCOTUS Decision in Favor of Arbitration Is Shaping the Landscape for Workplace Lawsuits

National Law Journal [paywall – alternative – free acces via Yahoo and GitHub data and methodology for the research: “The case before U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh Jr. was not unlike others he’d seen before. A woman alleged sexual harassment in the workplace so severe she had been forced to quit her job. Her former… Continue Reading

Millions of online photos scraped without consent

NBC News – People’s faces are being used without their permission, in order to power technology that could eventually be used to surveil them, legal experts say. “Facial recognition can log you into your iPhone, track criminals through crowds and identify loyal customers in stores. The technology — which is imperfect but improving rapidly —… Continue Reading

Forensic genealogists using DNA databases to solve cold cases

Topic.com: Forensic genealogists at Parabon NanoLabs are using DNA databases to solve cold cases faster than anyone could have imagined. But how will their techniques hold up in court?…Forensic genealogy can best be described as a still-nascent technique of forensic science that combines DNA analysis and family-tree building. (The TV pitch would be a cross between… Continue Reading