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Posts Tagged ‘criminal justice

“Ask no questions and you’ll hear no lies”*…

Police thought that 17-year-old Marty Tankleff seemed too calm after finding his mother stabbed to death and his father mortally bludgeoned in the family’s sprawling Long Island home. Authorities didn’t believe his claims of innocence, and he spent 17 years in prison for the murders.

Yet in another case, detectives thought that 16-year-old Jeffrey Deskovic seemed too distraught and too eager to help detectives after his high school classmate was found strangled. He, too, was judged to be lying and served nearly 16 years for the crime.

One man was not upset enough. The other was too upset. How can such opposite feelings both be telltale clues of hidden guilt?

They’re not, says psychologist Maria Hartwig, a deception researcher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. The men, both later exonerated, were victims of a pervasive misconception: that you can spot a liar by the way they act. Across cultures, people believe that behaviors such as averted gaze, fidgeting and stuttering betray deceivers.

In fact, researchers have found little evidence to support this belief despite decades of searching. “One of the problems we face as scholars of lying is that everybody thinks they know how lying works,” says Hartwig, who coauthored a study of nonverbal cues to lying in the Annual Review of Psychology. Such overconfidence has led to serious miscarriages of justice, as Tankleff and Deskovic know all too well. “The mistakes of lie detection are costly to society and people victimized by misjudgments,” says Hartwig. “The stakes are really high.”

Science-based reforms have yet to make significant inroads among police and other security officials. The US Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration, for example, still uses nonverbal deception clues to screen airport passengers for questioning. The agency’s secretive behavioral screening checklist instructs agents to look for supposed liars’ tells such as averted gaze — considered a sign of respect in some cultures — and prolonged stare, rapid blinking, complaining, whistling, exaggerated yawning, covering the mouth while speaking and excessive fidgeting or personal grooming. All have been thoroughly debunked by researchers.

With agents relying on such vague, contradictory grounds for suspicion, it’s perhaps not surprising that passengers lodged 2,251 formal complaints between 2015 and 2018 claiming that they’d been profiled based on nationality, race, ethnicity or other reasons. Congressional scrutiny of TSA airport screening methods goes back to 2013, when the US Government Accountability Office — an arm of Congress that audits, evaluates and advises on government programs — reviewed the scientific evidence for behavioral detection and found it lacking, recommending that the TSA limit funding and curtail its use. In response, the TSA eliminated the use of stand-alone behavior detection officers and reduced the checklist from 94 to 36 indicators, but retained many scientifically unsupported elements like heavy sweating…

In a statement to Knowable, TSA media relations manager R. Carter Langston said that “TSA believes behavioral detection provides a critical and effective layer of security within the nation’s transportation system.” The TSA points to two separate behavioral detection successes in the last 11 years that prevented three passengers from boarding airplanes with explosive or incendiary devices.

But, says [Samantha Mann], without knowing how many would-be terrorists slipped through security undetected, the success of such a program cannot be measured. And, in fact, in 2015 the acting head of the TSA was reassigned after Homeland Security undercover agents in an internal investigation successfully smuggled fake explosive devices and real weapons through airport security 95 percent of the time…

You can’t spot a liar just by looking — but psychologists are zeroing in on methods that might actually work: “The truth about lying,” from @knowablemag.

[Image at the top: source]

* James Joyce, Ulysses (barmaid Miss Douce, in “Sirens,” 11.219)

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As we deliberate with Diogenes, we might recall that this date in 1954 was, according to the True Knowledge Answer Engine, the most boring day since 1900. The site analyzed more than 300 million historical facts and discovered that April 11, 1954 was the most uneventful news day of the 20th century. No typically newsworthy events occurred at all… though of course now the day has become a bit more newsworthy, because it has the distinction of being so completely uneventful.

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Written by LW

April 11, 2021 at 1:01 am

“There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress”*…

 

This is a comparison of probation vs parole rates by state (plus DC). The data used are from 2011. I expected the two variables to be strongly correlated, but they aren’t. Whether this is influenced by state laws, the behavior of the people, the attitudes of judges, or the leniency of parole boards, I don’t know, though I suspect it is a combination of all of them.

For those wondering about the difference between probation and parole, you can read a detailed description here:http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=qa&iid=324. The most fundamental difference is that parole is a supervised release from jail while probation is a sentencing by a judge that requires supervision of the individual.

What I found most amazing about these data is that 4.6% of Georgia’s population is on probation. If you rule out minors from the population pool, more than 1 in 20 adults is on probation there.

Data sources: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1997 andhttp://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2026

Just one of the fascinating data visualizations at Seth Kadish‘s marvelous Vizual Statistix.

* Mark Twain

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As we remind ourselves that, America’s astronomical incarceration rates notwithstanding, crime is a universally human phenomenon, we might recall that on this date in 1965, the infamous British gangsters the Kray Twins were charged with demanding money with menaces in the County of London.  Starting in the early 1950, Ronald and Reginald Kray used the cover of night club ownership to build a powerful gang, The Firm, that dealt in extortion, hijacking, armed robbery, arson, and murder.  The Kray’s, who had become celebrities– friends of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Diana Dors– by the time of their 1965 arrest, beat that rap.  But were convicted of a broader array of offenses in 1968, and imprisoned for (what turned out to be) life.

Still, in 1985 officials at Broadmoor Hospital discovered a business card of Ron’s, which prompted an investigation that revealed the twins – incarcerated at separate institutions – along with their older brother, Charlie, and another accomplice who was not in prison, were operating a lucrative bodyguard and “protection” business, Krayleigh Enterprises, for Hollywood stars– including Sinatra.

Ronnie was ultimately certified insane (paranoid schizophrenic) thus his time at Broadmoor, where he died in 1985.  Reg was freed on compassionate grounds in 2000, at age 87, with inoperable bladder cancer; he died 8 weeks later.

The Kray twins, Reginald (left) and Ronald (right), photographed by David Bailey

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Written by LW

January 7, 2014 at 1:01 am

Orange Is The New Black (Ink)…

 

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This year Sweden closed four prisons and a detention center… there simply aren’t enough prisoners to justify them.  Sweden has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the world.  And they seem to mean to do even better: though the crime rate is rising, the government is investing in prevention, not detention.

Conversely, the U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate (not counting North Korea, on which data is not available– though the Committee on Human Rights estimates that the rate is roughly equal to America’s).  And though there are a few states (like Pennsylvania) in which prison populations are falling, it’s not looking to shrink overall.

Among the reasons: private prisons.  Virtually nonexistent until the 1980s, private jails have spread across the nation, as for-profit corporations have built new facilities and bought older ones from cash-strapped states, operating them on contract.  Lately, these companies have prevailed on their customers– the states– to agree to minimum guarantees.  Some examples: Arizona has three private prison contracts requiring 100 percent occupancy; Oklahoma has three contracts at 98 percent occupancy;  Louisiana and Virginia have occupancy rate minimums at 96 and 95 respectively.

As In the Public Interest (ITPI) reports

These contract clauses incentivize keeping prison beds filled, which runs counter to many states’ public policy goals of reducing the prison population and increasing efforts for inmate rehabilitation… some worried the terms would encourage criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the occupancy rates required by a contract…

Bed guarantee provisions are also costly for state and local governments.  As examples in the report show, these clauses can force corrections departments to pay thousands, sometimes millions, for unused beds — a “low-crime tax” that penalizes taxpayers when they achieve what should be a desired goal of lower incarceration rates.  The private prison industry often claims that prison privatization saves states money.  Numerous studies and audits have shown these claims of cost savings to be illusory, and bed occupancy requirements are one way that private prison companies lock in inflated costs after the contract is signed…

Read ITPI’s full report (pdf), “How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits Guarantee Profits.”

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As we rattle our chains, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Margaret Sanger, fresh back from a stint in the Raymond Street jail, reopened the Brownsville Clinic in Brooklyn, NY– the first birth control clinic in the U.S.  Sanger had been shut down and arrested before for obscenity (she offered a booklet called “What Every Young Woman Should Know,” explaining the female reproductive system and several contraceptive methods).  This time, the police leaned on her landlord to evict her, and the clinic closed almost as soon as it reopened.

Sanger (center) at the Brownsville Clinic

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Written by LW

November 16, 2013 at 1:01 am

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