UNLOCKING PRISON REFORM

first_imgBy Peter FuntBack on the Fourth of July, buried in the mumbo-jumbo of campaign rhetoric, was a statement by Democrat Martin O’Malley. The former Maryland governor said “patriotism” is rooted in helping others, and among those he singled out were people in prison.I don’t ever recall a major party candidate in a U.S. presidential election making a plea on behalf of prison inmates. For that matter, I don’t ever recall a sitting president visiting a federal prison to lobby for improvements in America’s criminal justice system — because until July 16 it had never happened.The tide of opinion is turning quickly concerning the gaping hole in America’s promise to treat citizens fairly. Our poorly run, overcrowded, shamefully inequitable incarceration system is all of a sudden under intense review.At the El Reno prison in Oklahoma, the president stood outside a 9-by-10 cell that confines three men at a time. “These are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different from the mistakes I made,” he said, referring to his experiments with drugs while growing up in Hawaii. “The difference is, they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.”The president made clear that his focus is on nonviolent offenders, many serving terms imposed under rigid mandatory sentencing laws which have caused the nation’s prison population to explode. This has disproportionately affected young Hispanic and African-American men.He noted that while the U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population, it has 20 percent of the world’s prison inmates.An influential group of Republicans, among them Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has joined the ranks of those urging prison and judicial reform. Immediately after Obama’s Oklahoma trip, House Speaker John Boehner added his voice to those calling for new sentencing guidelines. With bipartisan support, relatively quick action seems possible.Yet, it’s worth noting that only 15 percent of the nation’s inmates are held in federal facilities, so much of the needed reforms will have to occur at the state level — certain to be a slower process. By one estimate it could take a decade to restore America’s prison system to merely the level of adequacy of the 1950s.At this stage, the national focus — likely to work its way into the 2016 presidential campaign — revolves around two primary issues. One is unreasonable sentencing, particularly for nonviolent crimes. The other concerns deplorable prison conditions, made worse in many regions by the bad practice of privatizing prisons.If progress is made on those hot-button issues, it will be significant. But the problems go deeper. For example, juvenile prosecutions and incarcerations are seriously out of sync with what we know about child development and what we should know about the steps necessary to rehabilitate rather than simply incarcerate young offenders.High recidivism rates across prison populations create a spiral of crime, unemployment and, in turn, more crime. Over reliance on solitary confinement and inadequate mental health programs contribute to the complex web of concerns.Also, the continued existence of the death penalty, long after most of the civilized world has abandoned it, clouds our entire criminal justice system.Some activists fear that the current flurry of interest is but a passing social and political fad. Meaningful reforms, they predict, will take decades.“I signed a bill that made the problem worse.” So said Bill Clinton the other day about a mandatory sentencing measure he ushered into law in 1994. It’s taken over two decades to get that concession. How long will it take to actually correct the injustice?FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

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Eco bags get Crazy style

first_imgCrazy Bags’ new range is being targeted at bakery retailers as an eco alternative to plastic carrier bags. The non-woven polypropy-lene tote bag is available in six colours – magenta, red, white, black, reflex blue and green – and is 100% recyclable. The firm says the bags are “the ideal canvas for bakers to generate brand visibility as well as an additional profit centre for their stores”. The bags are 6cm wide +10cm gusset x 41cm high, and designs and images can be either transfer- or screen-printed on to the bags.Crazy Bags director Andy Steavenson said: “We have introduced this new range to offer clients a high quality environmental product at an affordable price.”The minimum order is 100 bags and samples can be requested from the firm’s website.www.crazybags.co.uklast_img read more

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News story: New noise camera trial to crack down on illegal vehicles

first_img Out of hours media enquiries 020 7944 4292 With growing pressure on the environment, including noise pollution, illegal exhausts fitted by some riders attract unwanted attention to the motorcycle community and do nothing to promote the many benefits motorcycles can offer. All manufacturers produce new motorcycles that follow strict regulations regarding noise and emissions and we welcome these trials as a potential way of detecting excessive noise in our community. Noise pollution makes the lives of people in communities across Britain an absolute misery and has very serious health impacts. This is why I am determined to crack down on the nuisance drivers who blight our streets. New technology will help us lead the way in making our towns and cities quieter, and I look forward to seeing how these exciting new cameras could work. The Department for Transport is targeting drivers who disturb communities with a crackdown on vehicles which are breaking legal noise limits.New camera technology to be trialled by the government aims to measure the sound levels of passing vehicles to detect those that are breaking the law on noise limits, and could use automated number plate recognition to help enforce the law.Research commissioned by the Department for Transport, found that a noise camera system could help tackle extremely noisy vehicles which breach legal noise limits. Roadside vehicle noise measurement: study, enforcement and technology The trial is not intended to target law-abiding drivers, but those who are flouting laws around noise. All vehicles must legally meet strict noise limits before they are allowed on the road. Once a vehicle is in service, exhausts and silencers must by law be maintained in good working order and not altered to increase noise.CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association, Tony Campbell, said: It could also help to catch those who rev car or motorcycles engines beyond legal limits, making life a misery for those who live close by.Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling said:center_img Switchboard 0300 330 3000 new technology will aim to detect illegal, excessively noisy vehicles, helping create quieter streets noise cameras could work like speed cameras to target law-breaking drivers automatically trials to take place at several locations over the coming months Media enquiries 020 7944 3021 Roads media enquiries Studies have found that exposure to noise can have significant physical and mental health implications – with heart attacks, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and stress all linked to long-term contact with loud environments.Currently, enforcement is mainly reactive and relies on subjective judgement. The trials of the new technology will determine whether the legal noise limit has been breached by taking into account the class and speed of the vehicle relative to the location of the noise camera.The government has commissioned a prototype noise camera to be tested at several locations over the next 7 months. If the trials are successful, recommendations will be made to further develop the system across the UK.last_img read more

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