Animal Welfare Institute, Other Groups Urge Florida Governor to Reassign Raccoon Drowning Case

Washington, DC—In a letter sent Monday to Florida Gov. Rick Scott regarding the Ocala teacher accused of drowning animals in front of his students, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) urged the governor to reassign the animal cruelty case to another Florida state attorney. In May, Forest High School teacher Dewie Brewton allegedly trapped and, with student participation, drowned two raccoons and an opossum. He suspected that one of the raccoons had killed eight chickens who were being raised by Brewton’s agriculture class.

Brewton retired after the incident and State Attorney Brad King declined to pursue criminal animal charges against him. In justifying his decision, King explained that his office had recently lost an animal cruelty case involving a defendant who had used rusty scissors to cut the tails off four kittens. King also argued that Brewton “did not intend to torture or torment these nuisance animals.”

“The killing of these animals shocked the public’s conscience not only because of the brutality of the method used but also because of the involvement of students,” said Nancy Blaney, AWI’s director of government affairs. “The animals deserve better, the students and their families deserve better, and the community deserves better.”

The coalition’s letter insists that the State Attorney’s Office erred in a number of its findings, and calls on Scott to use his authority to reassign the case to best serve the “ends of justice.”

“The teacher’s actions clearly constitute animal abuse and are made even more serious due to the fact that he solicited student participation, instructing students to fill up the garbage bins with water and holding the animals underwater,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “Governor Scott should reassign this case to a different state attorney who will ensure that Florida’s animal cruelty laws are taken seriously.”

According to a thorough analysis conducted by AWI and ALDF, it was never established that the animals allegedly drowned by Brewton were, indeed, the same animals who had killed the chickens. Even if these animals were deemed “nuisances,” Brewton violated Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations, which require that any nuisance wildlife be released or humanely euthanized within 24 hours of capture.

Moreover, Brewton made no effort to consider nonlethal alternatives, the organizations wrote. His actions appear to constitute aggravated animal cruelty, “because his intentional act directly resulted in the animals’ cruel deaths.” “Reassigning this case would indeed meet the test of best serving the ‘ends of justice,’” said David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. “Animal abuse is a violent crime and animal abusers must be held fully accountable for their actions.”

To conclude, the letter reminds Scott of the national outrage provoked by the case:
“Justice for these animals—as well as confidence that Florida’s cruelty laws and regulations will be enforced properly—depends on your stepping in to assure Floridians and others horrified by this case that it will receive the attention it deserves.”

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Media Contact

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, margie@awionline.org

About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.

About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. The Animal Legal Defense Fund accomplishes this mission by filing high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, providing free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes, supporting tough animal protection legislation and fighting legislation harmful to animals, and providing resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law.

About the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) is a national 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., made up of elected and appointed prosecuting attorneys from throughout the nation. APA provides valuable resources such as training and technical assistance to prosecutors in an effort to develop proactive and innovative prosecutorial practices that prevent crime, ensure equal justice and help make our communities safer.

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Child Abuse Victims and Recantation: Practical Prosecution Tips

These cases are never easy. Even if the recantation can ultimately be shown to be untruthful, the mere suggestion that the victim is changing his or her testimony will cause serious complications, and can ultimately be fatal to a prosecution. But there are steps that can be taken in an attempt to attain a just outcome.

 

THE CASE BEFORE RECANTATION.

Begin with the case before the recantation – was it a strong case? If there is independent evidence to prove the elements of the case, the case can remain strong even with the recantation. Lack of independent evidence makes prosecution more difficult, but is not necessarily a barrier with sufficient investigation. It is incumbent upon the prosecution to paint the picture of what is occurring behind the scenes so the jury can see the truth. Identifying witnesses and physical evidence is critical. Expert testimony can help explain why victims recant, and the circumstances that increase the likelihood of recantation.

 

UNDERSTAND THE WHY?

The ultimate goal is to understand the “why.” The multidisciplinary team must become an integral part of that investigation, utilizing the strengths of each member. Law enforcement must remember that with these types of cases, there is always a chance of recantation. Therefore, corroboration, even if minimal, is key. Some of the juror feedback in included case study emphasized that they wanted law enforcement to at least attempt to corroborate aspects of the victim’s history. And after the recantation has occurred, law enforcement can be integral in investigating the pressures and family dynamics that may be present. The detective has had the case from the beginning, presumably before the recantation occurred. That insight in the search for what changed is invaluable.

 

INVOLVE CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES WHERE APPROPRIATE.

Child protective services is also an integral part of the team. There may be additional family history to give insight into the “why.” Have there been other referrals? Have they experienced difficulty with this family in the past? Has the victim made prior allegations, whether against this defendant or another person? The victim may have made statements to child protective services outside of the official law enforcement investigation. These statements could also prove instrumental if they contradict the new recantation.

 

ADDITIONAL FORENSIC INTERVIEWS.

Subsequent forensic interviews should be considered with members of the multidisciplinary team to determine if advisable. Factors such as circumstances of the recantation, amount of time between the initial interview and the recantation, age of the child, living circumstances of the child, the degree to which the non-offending caregiver is cooperating, and the safety of the victim should be discussed. If the jurisdiction allows the admission of the videotaped forensic interview, and allows for impeaching the victim, then this can be extremely powerful evidence.

Regarding forensic interviews, it can be exceptionally important to forensically interview child witnesses of these crimes, especially in a family situation. Regardless of the interview’s admissibility, if a child witness recants or cannot recall facts they observed years prior, a recorded forensic interview can mitigate that complication. In the case study included herein, the 5-year-old cousin was not forensically interviewed. The family also pressured that child into recanting what he saw. There were no prior inconsistent statements to impeach the child’s statements at trial.

 

IMPEACHMENT OF VICTIM.

The law relevant to recantation cases can vary greatly from one state to another. Some states do not allow for the impeachment of the victim, but may allow for limited use of prior inconsistent statements. However, the more modern approach, consistent with Fed. R. Evid. 603 allows any party to impeach a witness, including one’s own witness. In jurisdictions which allow for the impeachment of the victim, the case can likely proceed even with only the prior inconsistent statement. In jurisdictions that don’t allow for the outright impeachment of the victims, cases that have physical evidence or testimony inconsistent with the victim’s recanted statements can be utilized to essentially impeach the victim with your closing argument.

 

ADDITIONAL INVESTIGATION.

Traditional ways of preparing a case may be insufficient when the victim recants, and may require the prosecution team to think outside of the box. Interviewing the supportive people in the victim’s life, including family, friends, counselors or teachers, can prove extremely helpful. The victim may remain consistent with these potential witnesses. Even if the victim is not discussing the facts or has recanted to them as well, these individuals may be able to paint that important picture of the dynamics triggering the recantation.

Investigation should be extended to social media and other technology. Some of the reasons for recantation could be in the form of emails, texts, social media messages, and postings on social media pages. This investigation should extend beyond the victim, but also include those individuals that may be influencing the child. And if the defendant is incarcerated in a facility that records telephone conversations, the prosecutor must constantly monitor those calls to gather evidence or even an outright admission.

 

 

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Legislation Strengthens Stalking Prosecution

A bill strengthening how stalking offenders are prosecuted and sentenced is moving through the Wyoming legislature.

But Tara Muir, Public Policy Director with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said the bill has met debate every step of the way. She said lawmakers have been caught up on whether a prosecutor has to prove a victim suffered a substantial amount of fear. Muir added most states are moving towards an objective test that focuses on the behavior of the perpetrator.

“With an objective test we don’t have to put the victim on the witness stand to prove there’s some kind of substantial fear or damages or anything,” said Muir. “This is a criminal case. There is no other crime where you have to prove the victim was actually afraid. We don’t have to prove a banker was afraid [in a robbery]. But in a stalking case we seem to focus on that in Wyoming.”

Muir said the House Judiciary Committee strengthened the bill by taking out the language referencing substantial fear. It passed Committee of the Whole and is now up for a second reading in the House.

Read Original Story Here

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PRESS RELEASE: Prosecutors and Public Defenders Come Together For Lasting Criminal Justice Reform

Press Release

For Immediate Release

March 6, 2018

PROSECUTORS AND PUBLIC DEFENDERS COME TOGETHER FOR
LASTING CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Commonly Seen as Adversaries APA and NLADA are Now Collaborating
On Recommendations for Fundamental Changes to the Criminal Justice System


Washington, D.C.- Over the past year and a half, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) have been serving as strategic allies in a national effort to bring lasting changes to the criminal justice system, also known as the Safety and Justice Challenge.  The Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC or the Challenge) is a $100 million investment by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation aimed at changing the way America thinks about and uses its jails.  As strategic allies in the SJC, APA and NLADA are committed to supporting jurisdictions in fulfilling their criminal justice reform goals.

Defenders and prosecutors involved with the Challenge support twin goals of decreasing unnecessary criminal justice involvement and reducing racial and ethnic disparities within the law enforcement system.  The ultimate objective is to promote justice and create safer communities, which is paramount to ensure a more just and fair U.S. criminal justice system.

“This is the ultimate story of strange bedfellows making the best partners,” said APA President and CEO David LaBahn.  “Everyone involved in the Challenge recognizes that to make sustainable change requires collaboration from all criminal justice system stakeholders, including those who are traditionally adversaries in the courtroom, such as defenders and prosecutors.  It has been a joy working with NLADA on this very important project, and we look forward to continuing this essential partnership for years to come.”

“Cultivating unlikely, yet powerful alliances with prosecutors enhances problem-solving for sustainable criminal justice reform,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, President and CEO, National Legal Aid & Defender Association.  “We at NLADA are proud to be a part of the successful

collaboration cultivated by the Safety and Justice Challenge.  Working with APA on this critical initiative has been an honor and a pleasure. We look forward to realizing the transformative impact that this partnership can have on low-income people accused of crimes in a pretrial justice system so heavily weighted against them.”

The SJC’s national efforts required regular meetings where prosecutors and defenders shared information regarding effective collaboration strategies and developed new ideas on how to best leverage their respective roles and expertise to address systemic issues that contribute to jail incarceration.

As a result of those meetings, APA and NLADA were able to craft Beyond The Adversarial System: Achieving the Challenge.  Beyond The Adversarial System is a joint paper with recommandations aimed at promoting and improving successful collaborations between prosecutors and defenders.  Along with distributing the paper, APA and NLADA are hosting a joint webinar for the criminal justice community to learn more about this important partnership.

 

VIEW JOINT PAPER

 

Webinar: Beyond the Adversarial System- Achieving the Challenge. March 14, 2018 3 PM Register for the Webinar

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Stopping the modern slave trade of human sex trafficking

 

By | Orange County Register

–Irvine, CA. Last year, Irvine made national news when authorities busted a large, multi-state sex trafficking ring that forced numerous young women into prostitution. Most of the victims came from China and Korea with limited English skills. The victims were subjected to physical assaults at the hands of their “customers” while being forced to produce at least $800 each day for the traffickers. These women were repeatedly exploited through thousands of advertisements on a website known as Backpage.com, which has a notorious history of facilitating sex trafficking with impunity.

Last week, along with Reps. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri, and Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, I introduced legislation known as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, which would make it easier for prosecutors to crack down on websites that knowingly facilitate or promote sex trafficking, while providing legal recourse for victims of these heinous crimes.

I am proud this legislation includes an amendment I authored, which would allow sex trafficking victims to bring civil charges against the websites that knowingly facilitated their abuse. Commonly known as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, the Walters amendment is an important tool that allows trafficking survivors to seek justice in the courts.

The network of businesses, homes, and hotels used to facilitate the Irvine sex trafficking ring was expansive. However, the use of online platforms allowed the operation to grow exponentially. In fact, one prosecutor working the case called the ring the “Uber of sex trafficking.” An Orange County trafficking victims advocate stated that each ad posted to Backpage.com can produce between five and 25 “dates” per night.

Since my time in the California state Legislature, I have worked to end this barbaric modern day slave trade. While major sex trafficking rings have been uncovered across the country, fighting those who knowingly facilitate this online activity has been a tremendous challenge. Sadly, victims are often unable to seek justice because existing law unintentionally shields those who knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking.

FOSTA and the Walters amendment would update these laws to hold bad actors accountable for crimes they knowingly promote on their website. This legislation also maintains important safeguards to protect third-party content hosts who act in good faith and routinely monitor inappropriate or illegal activity on their websites.

The modern day slave trade of human sex trafficking is rampant through cities and towns in every state in our nation. It must be stopped. Thanks to broad bipartisan support, we are taking a major step toward achieving this goal and giving new hope to survivors across the country.

 

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Criminal (In)Justice Podcast: David LaBahn’s Interview

“Police have endured harsh public scrutiny over use of force cases, but prosecutors have also taken heat for choosing not to pursue cases when civilians are shot by police.

Older, more traditional prosecutorial professional organizations, such as the National District Attorneys Association, have fought against any changes. But one group, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, has taken a more open approach, arguing for the importance of prosecutorial independence and transparency.

David LaBahn is the CEO and president for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, a national association representing elected and appointed prosecutors. You can find the APA’s Use of Force Project report here.”

 – David Harris | Criminal InJustice

Here the interview here


The above interview was  conducted by David Harris with the Criminal (In)Justice Podcast Series. Criminal Injustice discusses the always current, sometimes disturbing, frequently confusing and often shocking aspects of the American criminal justice system. Weekly episodes examine issues like police body cameras, racial biases, use of force and incarceration through wide-ranging interviews with national figures in the know. It’s not a lecture hall, and you don’t need a law degree to keep up. The podcast is, above all else, a conversation, capped with Harris’ “Lawyers Behaving Badly” bonus feature that pokes fun at the worst in the legal profession…See the Podcast Series here
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North shore DA’s office taking more aggressive approach to domestic violence

When Assistant District Attorney Jo Heller calls a domestic violence victim in St. Tammany Parish, she often encounters anger and hostility, reactions that make the victim’s cooperation on the witness stand seem unlikely.

But Heller, who was hired by 22nd Judicial District Attorney Warren Montgomery to be one of two attorneys focusing solely on domestic violence cases, said those rocky beginnings can end with victims seeing the judicial process as a way out of a dangerous situation.

In one case, she said, a victim who had called her names and hung up the phone broke down in tears when she and investigator Jeff Montalbano showed up at the victim’s house two days before her abuser’s trial.

“I told her, ‘Look, I’m your friend, not the enemy. We’re here to help you,’ ” Heller recalled of the woman, who had been pregnant when the abuse occurred. “As soon as I told her that, she started crying and said, ‘Yes, he is bullying me. I want out of the relationship.’ “

That’s not an unusual scenario, according to Heller and Roy Burns III, the other attorney in the DA’s Domestic Violence Division. They said early and frequent contact with victims is one way to overcome their fear and reluctance to testify.

Adding additional resources, like a victim assistance coordinator, has been another key to bolstering domestic violence prosecutions in St. Tammany, they said.

When Montgomery took office in 2015, be began beefing up the Domestic Violence Division, Heller said. At the time, only one prosecutor was working on those cases, and a large backlog had built up. Montgomery doubled the number of attorneys and assigned a full-time investigator and secretary to the division. He also added the victim coordinator, Lindsey Rivenbark.

The team has eliminated the backlog, office spokeswoman Lisa Frazier Page said, and they’ve greatly reduced the number of cases dropped for lack of evidence or other problems. In 2014, the DA’s Office dropped 224 domestic violence cases, slightly more than the 222 that were prosecuted, most of which ended with guilty pleas.

But this year, the office has dropped only 39 cases through the end of September, with 100 defendants pleading guilty as charged, four found guilty as charged and 76 pleading guilty to reduced charges.

“In the past, I think the idea was, with domestic violence: You go to court, the victim doesn’t show up two or three times, the case goes away,” Burns said. “And that’s what happened, but that’s not happening anymore.”

The attorneys give a lot of credit to the addition of Rivenbark, the coordinator, which Burns said “amped up” the division. But they also point to other changes, including immediate access to police reports that allows Rivenbark to make contact with victims sooner, plus the prosecutors’ own aggressive screening of cases.

They will also begin taking on the prosecution of some felony domestic abuse cases. Burns and Heller now screen all the domestic violence cases, whether they are considered misdemeanors or felonies. But they have been in charge of prosecuting only the misdemeanors, with the felonies being handled by other lawyers. Now, Burns said, the pair will stay with the cases of people they deem to be career criminal domestic abusers all the way through a felony jury trial.

“Domestic violence is about control,” Burns said. “The defendant has a great amount of control over the victim in these cases … before, during and after.” That can happen through direct contact with the victims or through other family members who put pressure on the victims — pressure that often escalates into bullying.

Victims are most willing to move forward right after the violence happens, Burns said. But if the prosecutors don’t stay in touch, the abuser is often able to regain control.

“They go MIA, go missing. And if you don’t have constant contact with them … you lose them. But with (Rivenbark) the contact stays, we continue to talk to them, and the results get a lot better,” Burns said.

Heller described the coordinator’s role as hand-holding and offering help with navigating the system, allowing the attorneys to focus on fact-finding to build a strong case.

Now, Rivenbark said, she has immediate access to police reports from the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, which provides her with victim contact information. That change happened within the last couple of months, she said, and it enables her to reach out to victims within 72 hours of the incident.

“Some defendants need to be punished and need to go to jail,” Rivenbark said. “Some people need help. … I usually have to tell them, the more they cooperate with us the easier it is to get that outcome for their loved one. We want to help families stay together, if possible.”

Help can take the form of anger management classes, substance abuse treatment, mental health evaluation and probation that includes regular drug testing, the team members said.

Most victims of domestic violence are women who are battered by a man, the attorneys said, with Burns pegging it at 85 percent.

But cases also can involve children. Heller cited the case of a 12-year-old girl whose father punched her in the face. The child was adamant that he be held accountable for the crime, she said, calling it a difficult situation.

Men also are victims in some cases, the attorneys said, and Burns and Heller are beginning to see cases coming in under a recently enacted law covering battery of a domestic partner.

The state Legislature is also providing more penalty enhancements for domestic abuse cases, including a pregnancy and child endangerment enhancement and another for injuries caused by fire.

“All penalties for other crimes are going down … but for domestic violence crimes, the penalties are going up,” Burns said.

Legislators “see this as a huge issue that affects everyone — poor, middle class, upper class, it doesn’t matter. And the consequences, if it continues, are so bad,” Burns said. “Murder, that’s what it comes down to. We’re preventing murders.”

Louisiana is second only to Alaska for per capita incidents of domestic homicide, according to Kim Kirby, executive director of Safe Harbor, a shelter for victims.

According to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, St. Tammany’s rate of domestic violence is on par with other parishes with similar populations. Its two-year average for 2015-16 was 0.82 incidents of violence per 100,000 residents, compared with 0.86 for Lafayette Parish. But Louisiana’s domestic homicide rate is twice as high as the national average.

Montgomery sees the problem that way. In a Youtube video promoting his domestic violence efforts, he said many of the murders in the 22nd Judicial District are the result of domestic violence.

By adding resources, he said, “We are not only reducing murders and domestic violence, but we are also encouraging individuals to enter into programs to help them establish and maintain healthy relationships.”

Originally featured in the New Orleans Advocate. Read Story Here

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Westport animal advocates continue push for special prosecution unit

WESTPORT — The town’s animal rights activists clapped in unison when selectmen voted unanimously on last week to support their push for the Bristol County District Attorney’s office to create a special animal abuse unit.

The district attorney’s office indicated later in the week that the celebratory cheers could be in vain. DA spokesman Gregg Miliote indicated that the district attorney has reviewed this request, after meeting in person with Stop the Insanity members, as well as other animal advocates.

But such a unit might not be necessary, according to the DA’s office.

This request comes after Bristol County District Court Judge Gilbert Nadeau last month granted a continued without a finding charge against town employee Nicole Botelho, following animal abuse charges that resulted from the finding of two dead dogs and a dead bearded dragon, and other issues in 2015 at an abandoned Sanford Road home.

The sentence means that Botelho, who was charged along with her former estranged husband, Stephen Botelho, will not serve any jail time and will have these charges dropped if she is not involved in any more abuse cases between now and March 2019. The district attorney’s office requested probation, which Stephen Botelho received last year.

This case was preceded by a landmark animal abuse case last year on a former American Legion Highway tenant farm, which led to an estimated 1,400 animals removed from the property and more than two dozen people charged with animal abuse from the state attorney general.

In a letter read on Monday by animal activist Constance Gee, she and fellow activists called Westport the “Ground Zero” of animal abuse cases.

“We, your constituents, respectfully request that the Westport Board of Selectmen formally endorse the creation of an Animal Abuse Unit within the Special Victims Unit of the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office,” Gee read from the letter at Monday’s meeting. “Please note that such a unit should include the regular services of animal advocates in the courtroom — advocates to speak for victims who are unable to speak for themselves. We ask you to please send District Attorney (Thomas) Quinn a letter supporting this request.”

She added, “We also ask you to formally support H.852 ‘An Act Relative to Establishing an Animal Abuse Registry.’ Such a registry, similar to the registry on sex offenders, is long overdue.”

Selectmen did not take action on the latter request, which was not on the agenda. Selectmen also cited a need for further review.

Selectman R. Michael Sullivan noted that he was contacted by the DA’s office after making critical comments at a selectmen’s meeting. Sullivan at first urged selectmen not to take any action in support until after his meeting.

But Selectman Brian Valcourt had a different take.

“I have seen enough and heard enough,” he said. He later added, “We should put pressure on the DA and the judiciary to take these things seriously and having a special animal abuse unit is step one.”

Gee said that one Animal Rescue League said this county has a “lax record” when it comes to animal abuse cases.

Valcourt called that “an embarrassment” and called on selectmen to contact Governor’s Council member Joseph Ferreira, whose council selects district judges.

Activist Chris Wiley mentioned that Nadeau has also been asked by activists to revoke his sentence against Botelho in favor of a harsher penalty.

Miliote recently spoke about the animal abuse unit request.

“We certainly understand the frustration with the judge’s decision in this one case,” he said. “We do already have a prosecutor dedicated to animal cruelty cases, and our office will continue to vigorously prosecute any cases where animals are being beaten, treated inhumanely or being neglected. As a pet owner himself, the district attorney cares deeply about this issue and believes any abuse of an animal to be completely unacceptable in our society.”

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Nation’s top cops, prosecutors urge Trump not to roll back successful crime policies

A coalition of police chiefs and prosecutors from the nation’s biggest cities implored the Trump administration Wednesday not to return to the “lock ’em all up” crime-fighting policies of the 1980s and 1990s and not to waste resources on low-level drug offenders, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has advocated recently.

The Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration sent a letter to Sessions and President Trump, and held a summit meeting in Washington, in which they were adamant that crime has been steadily declining across America for a quarter-century, not spiraling upward as the president is sometimes inclined to claim. They think  the decline is a result of smarter policing and more careful prosecution. But Sessions has called for increased drug prosecution and ordered federal prosecutors to seek the stiffest possible sentences in all cases, regardless of circumstance.

“The measure isn’t how many people we put in jail,” said Ronal Serpas, former superintendent of the New Orleans police and the founder of the Law Enforcement Leaders group. “The measure is whether the right people are put in jail. And that’s the people we’re afraid of, not the people we’re mad at.”

Police chiefs from Houston, San Francisco, Detroit and Washington, D.C.,  joined Serpas at the National Press Club in urging that the Trump administration support a recently introduced criminal justice overhaul bill that would revamp federal sentencing guidelines and reduce mandatory minimum terms while giving judges greater sentencing discretion. Sessions strongly opposed the bill as a senator. The presidents of the National District Attorneys Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a board member of Law Enforcement Leaders, also appeared at the press club to endorse the call for more focus on violent offenders and less time spent on turnstile jumpers and drunks.

“The message to the president is very clear,” Vance said. When arresting or prosecuting a case, authorities must ask two questions, Vance said: “Does it make us safer, and is it fair?”

Serpas said that almost 30 states have passed criminal justice policy changes, including his home state of Louisiana, which is planning to reduce its prison population by 10 percent. “When Louisiana can reform its criminal justice system, but the federal government can’t,” Serpas said, “we all have to go, ‘Come on.’ ”

In addition to sentencing policy changes, the letter to Trump and Sessions calls for prioritizing federal resources on violent crime. “Attorney General Sessions’s regular statements encouraging law enforcement to focus on drug and nonviolent offenders,” the letter states, “divert officers away from that vital mission” of combating violent crime. The letter also asks for increased resources for mental health and drug treatment, noting that “Republican governors have made treatment programs a centerpiece of their public safety efforts,” including Texas with then-Gov. Rick Perry. The chiefs say that the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget cuts nearly $400 million from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at a time of rampant opioid abuse.

The letter also calls for increased support for community policing and expanded reentry programs for prisoners to reduce recidivism. “We have to find ways,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said, “to reduce unnecessary arrests and unnecessary jail time. That gets into closing the revolving door of recidivism.” Scott said San Francisco had launched a “jail re-envisioning initiative” using multiple social service agencies to keep prisoners from returning to jail.

“I think we have a chance as law enforcement leaders to really change the landscape in criminal justice,” Scott said.

Serpas, who also served as police chief in Nashville and head of the Washington State Patrol, said that “meaningful rehabilitation and reentry” for prisoners is a viable concept. “For people who want it, it works,” Serpas said. “They can be successfully helped, no doubt about it.”

Richard Stanek, the sheriff of Hennepin County, Minn., said local courts need to be more involved, particularly those that are only open eight hours a day during the work week, while police and sheriffs are operating, and arresting, 24 hours a day. Closed courts mean arrestees sit in jail far longer than needed because no judge is available to release them. “Forty hours a week isn’t good enough,” Stanek said, “when residents are subject to arrest 24/7.”

The letter to Trump and Sessions doesn’t mention gun control issues, though both D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said it was time to revive that conversation. “If we’re really interested in impacting violent crime,” Acevedo said, “let’s have some gun sense.”

“Having the government issue licenses before someone is able to possess and carry firearms is critically important,” Newsham said. D.C.’s strict gun laws have come under attack in the courts in recent years.

Both chiefs and prosecutors stressed that there was bipartisan political support in their groups for the measures proposed, and for not going back to the “overly punitive” approaches launched in the crack-drenched years of the 1980s and 1990s, with heavy emphasis on mass arrests and long mandatory minimum sentencing.

“The strategies we’ve been applying for the last couple decades actually worked,” Acevedo said, as crime nationwide steadily declined, with occasional upward jags in cities such as Chicago and Baltimore. “We do evolve,” Serpas said. “We do get smarter.”

Serpas said the chiefs’ group has lobbied members of Congress and testified in favor of the justice reform bill, and “we would enjoy the opportunity to sit down with President Trump.” Michael Freeman, the Hennepin County, Minn., district attorney and head of the National District Attorneys Association, said his group had met with Sessions and “he does understand our work.” He said his goal was to limit the partisanship of the prosecutors’ group, and that “justice doesn’t have an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to it.”

An interesting participant in Wednesday’s meeting at the press club was Koch Industries, the Kansas-based company known for its heavy conservative political involvement but which is not always enamored of Trump or his policies. Serpas said Koch has been supportive of the chiefs’ group from the start, and company general counsel Mark Holden moderated the prosecutors’ panel. Holden said Koch’s “involvement is based on our goal of removing barriers to opportunity for all Americans, especially the least advantaged. We want to end the two-tier justice system that provides the rich and connected far better treatment than the poor, because it is immoral, constitutionally dubious, and fiscally ruinous.”

Holden rattled off statistics about the United States’ position as the world leader in incarceration, and said: “I’m really hopeful that the administration and the Department of Justice will listen to you all. Your voice matters the most.”

by Tom Jackman  |  Washington Post

See the original story here

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Press Release
For Immediate Release
October 18, 2017


APA President David LaBahn Joins National Law Enforcement Partners for National Law Enforcement Summit on Crime

Washington, DC- Today, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) joined police chiefs, sheriffs, attorneys general, and fellow prosecutors from across the country for the National Law Enforcement Summit on Crime.  This unique summit marks the first time that the national law enforcement community has come together to discuss a coordinated response to recent crime trends.

During the summit, APA President and CEO David LaBahn participated in a panel discussion on prosecuting crimes without increasing incarceration.  The panel was moderated by Mark Holden, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Koch Industries, and included New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, and President of the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys Hal Hardin.

Here are Mr. LaBahn’ s full remarks:

Being on this panel with DA Vance and County Attorney Freeman allows me to address more of the 30,000 foot view of policies, while they run incredible offices and have the local perspectives. APA’s mission is to support and enhance the effectiveness of prosecutors in their efforts to create safer communities, ensure justice and uphold public safety. APA

policies demonstrating support for evidence-based sentencing and prosecutorial practices that prevent crime, ensure equal justice, and ultimately make communities safer.

 

I want to briefly highlight our key principles:

 

First, Criminal sentences should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime committed and incarceration should be limited to cases where its use improves public safety.

 

Second, Diversion programs are only sustainable if community resources exist to treat, rehabilitate and address the needs of individuals who commit offenses.

 

Third, there must be optimal selection of individuals into diversion programs requires leveraging a data-driven scientific approach to ensure maximum reductions in the rate of recidivism.

 

And finally, Regardless of whether an individual is ultimately incarcerated or diverted, the top priority of sentencing should be rehabilitation and re-integration, and individuals should face minimum collateral consequences upon re-entering society.

 

By utilizing a community-based problem-solving frame-work, key partners can work collaboratively in creating and implementing strategies for safer communities.

 

While on this topic, APA was pleased to be a part of putting together the Law Enforcement Leader’s policy for the new administration. In combining our efforts with those of other Law Enforcement Leaders, we prioritized 5 policies that the Administration should support in

advancing community safety and I believe these continue to be relevant past the first 100 days.

 

First, it is necessary to prioritize resources to combat violent crime. In an over-burdened system, low-level offenses must be diverted away from the criminal justice system so that resources can be concentrated on violent criminals. By focusing our priorities and resources on the most dangerous threats to our communities will make our nation safer

for all.

 

Second, we support reducing unnecessary incarceration. As prosecutors, we recognize the importance of treatment, alternative programs, and seek to reduce recidivism by safely diverting individuals from arrest and jail booking into community-based programs.

 

 

 

Alternatives should be available for anyone who does not pose a public safety threat.

 

This is especially true for those who suffer from substance abuse, mental health issues, or a dual diagnosis, who often become entangled in the criminal justice system. Community-based treatment programs and other supports are the most appropriate method for addressing

their needs, while community supervision also may be necessary in certain circumstances. Preferably, justice, health, and community resources should be allocated to intensive and comprehensive services that demonstrate the greatest capacity to reduce recidivism, protect

public order and safety, and promote public health, while also mitigating the need for costly justice supervision.

 

To ensure success, prosecutors’ offices should operate collaboratively with all other criminal justice and community partners. Through joining forces with other community agencies, there can be better integration of services, as well resources. Consequently, all members of the

community will have a greater stake in the outcome, and will be able to provide a meaningful contribution to the overall goal of improved community safety.

 

Finally, investments in reentry are critical to preserve and expand recidivism reduction. The reentry process should begin at intake, and services should be frontloaded upon release. Expanding reentry services will help decrease the overall rate of recidivism. In turn, this

will reduce crime while decreasing the number of incarcerated individuals while reducing the number of crime victims and saving taxpayer dollars.

 

In closing, thank you for involving the prosecutorial profession in your

efforts to both reduce incarceration as well as provide for safer communities. We stand with you and look forward to continued collaboration to make our nation safer.

Tasha Jamerson  / Director of Media and External Relations / Office: 202-861-2485/Cell: 202-807-9562

 

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