- A Glimpse
My entire life I’ve wondered how I would have turned out if my father was in my life. My mother was addicted to KJ (PCP) in the 1990’s. One night when I was five we got pulled over in San Jose, California and she got busted with sixteen joints of PCP. She went to prison for five or six years and I was left parent-less.
I’ve met my dad, that I can remember, three times in my entire life. With no father in my life I eventually turned to the streets for guidance and comfort.
My mom got out of prison and when I was eleven or twelve we started to get high together and selling bomb and crystal. Still no real role model except for my varrio.
My dad was sentenced to a seventeen-year prison term in 2000 or 2001.
In the hood I didn’t think of the consequences I would have for doing crimes and frankly I didn’t care, I was in and out of the juvenile hall system since 2003. I used to play sports in the community I grew up in, got kicked out of every school I attended in seven years and I wish I never did.
Today, I’m twenty years old and regret everything I’ve done to end up in the position I’m in now. In 2010, at the age of seventeen years old I got charged as an adult and got twenty-one years with eighty-five percent. My release date is 2028 if good, 2033 if not.
Now, (can you believe) I’m celled up with my father, the one that was never there for me and chose to be a gang membber than to be a father to me. I understand the responsibilities he had to do as a gang member, but what about the responsibility to being a dad?
In 2006, I had a son that was born. I was thirteen years old and I was there for him but not like I should have been. I too had responsibilities as a gang member. I messed up like my dad. It took twenty-one years, “almost” life to get a reality check. I forgive my father and have chosen to move on from here on out. I hope one day my son, Eli will forgive me and give me a chance for my mistakes and know that he has a Dad who loves him very much. I know he’ll break the negative cycle.
Since 1996, The Beat Within's mission is to provide incarcerated youth with consistent opportunity to share their ideas and life experiences in a safe space that encourages literacy, self-expression, some critical thinking skills, and healthy, supportive relationships with adults and their community. Outside of the juvenile justice system, The Beat Within partners with community organizations and individuals to bring resources to youth (between the ages of 11 -17) both inside and outside of detention. We are committed to being an effective bridge between youth who are locked up and the community that aims to support their progress towards a healthy, non-violent, and productive life. The following pieces come from our weekly workshops which were recently held in one the 18 juvenile detention facilities – from Hawaii to San Francisco to Washington DC – we venture into each week. From the writings we produce the national publication, The Beat Within. For more information please visit us at www.thebeatwithin.org.
- Is the Media Under-Reporting Sex Crimes in the Military?
The amount of coverage a crime gets in the media often depends on who the victim is.
Crimes against children, for example, get a lot of attention. And as I discussed in a prior column, missing white women often get a disproportionate amount of press.
The same is true to some extent when it comes to the identity of the alleged criminal.
For instance, the press loves to write about celebrities who’ve been arrested. Just look at the onslaught of coverage of actress Reese Witherspoon’s recent arrest for disorderly conduct.
What if an alleged offender is a member of the military? Do the media give such crimes the same attention as those committed by civilians? Or are these crimes downplayed, perhaps out of misguided patriotism?
Unfortunately, crimes committed by members of the military, particularly sexual assaults, are common.
On May 7, the Department of Defense (DOD) released its annual report on sexual assault in the military. The simple fact that the DOD is required to issue these reports annually says a lot about the extent of the problem.
The 729-page report says that, in 2012, there were 3,374 sexual assaults reported by service members, a 6 percent increase from 2011.
Clearly, sexual assault is a serious, prevalent and persistent problem in the military.
This conclusion was reinforced on May 5—just two days before the release of the report—when Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested on a sexual battery charge.
The kicker: he was in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force.
And to make matters worse, on May 14 the New York Times reported that an Army sergeant who served as a sexual assault and response coordinator at Fort Hood was under investigation for allegations of pandering, sexual contact, assault and mistreatment of subordinates.
The press has done an admirable job covering the DOD report and the various responses to it. But how good of a job did they do covering the underlying issue of sexual assaults in the military?
It’s hard to tell.
The Krusinski case got a lot of coverage. But the alleged assault didn’t occur on base and the victim wasn’t a member of the military. And she reported the incident to the police.
That fact illustrates one of the challenges in covering sexual assaults in the military: the press may simply be unaware that these crimes are taking place.
If the victims only report these crimes to military authorities and they’re handled internally, reporters may have no way of even knowing that these attacks occurred.
Another problem is that these crimes often aren’t reported to anyone.
For example, the DOD report includes the results of a confidential survey in which more than 26,000 members of the military indicated they’d been subjected to unwanted sexual contact in 2012 alone.
When you compare that figure to the number of reported sexual assaults, it’s clear that the vast majority of such conduct goes unreported to authorities.
A toolkit for reporters from the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women says that, according to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, while 46 percent of rapes/sexual assaults in general aren’t reported to the police, that number is even higher in the military—with 86.5 percent of rape/sexual assault cases going unreported.
So if the papers and Internet aren’t inundated with stories on sexual assaults by service members, it’s hard to fault the media.
The documentary “The Invisible War” increased public and media awareness of what it describes as an epidemic of sexual assaults in the military and may have led to increased press coverage of these assaults when they’re brought to light.
However, simply reporting on these crimes isn’t enough.
It’s also important that when reporting sexual assaults in the military, journalists don’t let support for the armed services shade their coverage of these crimes.
For example, the website Take Back the News warns against the use of a “tone of shock and anomaly” when the accused is a member of the military, which sometimes results in the accused being portrayed as patriots rather than criminals.
In fact, when questioned about the Defense Department report, President Barack Obama deemed the Pentagon statistics a betrayal of the uniform that’s “not patriotic.”
Robin L. Barton, a legal journalist based in Brooklyn, NY, is a former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a regular blogger for The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.
- Police, Feds Use Popular Polygraph Device That Makes Critical Errors
Police departments and federal agencies across the U.S. use a type of polygraph despite evidence of a technical problem that could label truthful people as liars or the guilty as innocent, McClatchy Newspapers have found. As a result, innocent people might have been labeled criminal suspects, faced greater scrutiny while on probation, or lost out on jobs. Just as alarming, spies and criminals may have escaped detection. The technical glitch produced errors in the computerized measurements of sweat in one of the most popular polygraphs, the LX4000. Polygraphers first noticed the problem a decade ago, but many government agencies hadn’t known about the risk of inaccurate measurements until McClatchy raised questions about it.
The manufacturer, Lafayette Instrument Co. Inc., described the phenomenon as “occasional” and “minor,” but it couldn’t say exactly how often it occurs. Even after one federal agency became concerned and stopped using the measurement and a veteran polygrapher at another witnessed it repeatedly change test results, the extent and the source of the problem weren’t independently studied nor openly debated. In the meantime, tens of thousands of Americans were polygraphed on the LX4000. The controversy casts new doubt on the reliability and usefulness of polygraphs, which are popularly known as lie detectors and whose tests are banned for use as evidence by most U.S. courts.
- Oakland Police, Crime Rising, Trying to Rebuild Force, Earn Public Trust
Managing expectations amid a rising crime rate is the latest challenge in Oakland, California's most violent city, says the Los Angeles Times. The police department is under pressure to satisfy conditions of a decade-old federal court settlement that stemmed from racial profiling and improper use of force. Two chiefs have left in two years. A quarter of its sworn officers have been lost since 2008 to budget cutbacks. The city handles about twice the emergency calls per capita as the average law enforcement agency in the state. As the department works to rebuild its force and earn citizens' trust, it offers lessons on how deeply the nature of policing changes when resources are cut to the bone. "There are places in the country right now like Oakland that are at a tipping point," said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. "They are really testing how much police make a difference."
Oakland is now the nation's robbery capital, after a 24 percent jump last year. A 43 percent rise in burglaries left the lone full-time investigator drowning in 13,000 cases. Neighborhoods plagued by burglaries and robberies pushed to keep "problem-solving officers," who analyze patterns and causes of crime. The rising number of homicides and shootings in gang-afflicted areas forced a reshuffling. It's not an uncommon story: A fourth of agencies surveyed nationwide in 2010 by the Major Cities Chiefs Association had cut back on traffic, property crime and drug investigations; more than a third had sliced into community policing. In 2011, the Justice Department tallied 12,000 law enforcement layoffs and 30,000 unfilled positions.
- Re-Abuse Common for Teens Who Seek Orders of Protection
About one in four New York teens who seek Orders of Protection in response to dating violence suffer further violence at the hands of their original abusers, according to a recent study.
Researchers analyzed 1,200 Orders of Protection sought in New York family court in 2009 and 2010, the first two full years after a state law made it possible for teens to secure orders without parental involvement. In addition, they obtained criminal histories and police incident files for abusers and conducted focus groups with victims.
More than 90 percent of Order of Protection petitioners were female. While all of the victims were teens, the average age of their abusers was nearly 21 years old.
The majority of the teen petitioners returned to court more than once, but most received orders lasting only a month or so, according to the study.
“However, analysis of arrest and police incident reports, as well as new petitions taken out by study petitioners, indicated that a little more than a quarter of the respondents reabused their victims from one to three years after the initial petition,” researchers wrote.
Read the study HERE.
- Can New Orleans Truly Be U.S. Murder Capital, Otherwise Fairly Safe?
It's a favorite talking point of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune: Their city is the nation's murder capital, but other than that, it's a reasonably safe place. It's significantly less dangerous, they say, than Orlando, perhaps the most popular family destination, which had a violent crime rate 35 percent higher than New Orleans in 2011. New Haven, Ct., Little Rock, Ar.; Springfield, Il.; Amarillo, Tx.; St. Petersburg, Fl.; Boston; Chattanooga, Tn.; and hundreds of other cities are all more dangerous than New Orleans.\
More than semantics are at stake. Countless tourism dollars and economic development chances ride on the city's reputation as a safe place to live and do business. Crime stats are held out as an objective indicator of how safe visitors and residents should feel. The city's crime numbers are so counterintuitive that many criminologists find them hard, if not impossible, to swallow. They regard murder as the most reliable category because killings are almost always reported and are thus hard to manipulate. A high murder rate typically signals high levels of other crimes, especially violent ones. Several criminologists say crime data for New Orleans dating back many years suggest that either the city is fudging the numbers, or that New Orleans residents are less apt to report serious non-fatal assaults than residents of other murder hotbeds. Rick Rosenfeld, a criminologist at University of Missouri-St. Louis, finds it "hard to believe New Orleans would be so out of sync with so many other comparable cities - my city of St. Louis, Baltimore, Cleveland, other impoverished cities."
- Cleveland Police Came to Block of Kidnapped Women 160 Times in 10 Years
For a decade, while authorities say Ariel Castro kept three women imprisoned in his dilapidated white colonial, residents of the short stretch of Seymour Avenue in Cleveland where he lived reported a litany of other crimes that brought police to the block, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Since 2002, when Michelle Knight disappeared, police came to Castro's section of the street to take crime reports nearly 160 times — a little more than once month — for fewer than 20 homes. The Plain Dealer analyzed its database of thousands of police crime reports to draw a picture of what drew officers to the now infamous street while the missing women were captives there.
The newspaper found there were more than 35 assaults, many of them domestic crimes against women, which resulted in busted lips, bleeding noses, and violated protection orders. Police investigated a dozen drug-related crimes — including a crop of 9-foot tall marijuana plants growing in a garden within view of the sidewalk. Ten people were reported missing, though several of the cases involved multiple reports about habitual runaways. All appear to have returned home. Ronnie Dunn, an associate professor of urban studies at Cleveland State, said a transient community that lacks block clubs or social supports can lead to a culture of fear where people shutter themselves in their homes and close their blinds. "That is the perfect environment for crimes to proliferate," he said. And for crimes to possibly go unnoticed or unreported.
- Paper Questions Gallup Finding That Memphis Is Worst in "Safe at Night" Index
The Memphis Commercial Appeal asked readers to comment on a Gallup survey finding that only 55 percent of people surveyed in Memphis feel safe walking alone at night--lower than any of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas. (The Detroit figure was 70 percent; Baltimore, 66 percent, New Orleans, 59 percent. (The survey results last month can be found here.)
Noting a divergence of opinion at facebook.com/SafeInMemphis, the newspaper cites a caveat by Gallup that its survey of people in a "Metropolitan Statistical Areas include both a central city and suburban areas, and certainly residents in parts of lower-ranked metro areas may feel very safe, while those in certain parts of other highly ranked metro areas may feel very unsafe."
- Court: Crack Penalty Adjustment Should Apply to All Cases Retroactively
People convicted of crack cocaine offenses have a right to resentencing hearings under a 2010 law that lessened penalties for possession and dealing, says a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reported by the Associated Press. Expanding the Fair Sentencing Act to people whose cases played out before the law's passage could open the door for thousands of inmates to ask judges to reduce their prison time. The Supreme Curt may end up deciding the issue.
The ruling in the case of two Kentucky men sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession and distribution of crack cocaine expands on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from June 2012. Judge Gilbert Merritt, for the majority in the Kentucky case, said the law "can and should" be interpreted to replace "the old, discriminatory mandatory minimums," which weighed heavier on black defendants. Letting discriminatory sentences go forward is unconstitutional, Merritt wrote. Dissenting Judge Ronald Lee Gilman said the fact that a disparity still exists, but somehow is constitutional, cannot be explained by the majority. "Congress is of course free to amend the Fair Sentencing Act to make it fully retroactive, but that is a legislative prerogative and not appropriate for this court to simply decree," Gilman wrote.
- Arrests in New Orleans Parade Shooting Show Major Change In Police Tactics
With the capture of two suspects in a Mother’s Day parade shooting, New Orleans become the second city this year after Boston to endure episodes of large-scale street violence allegedly initiated by brothers, a massive law-enforcement manhunt, and the capture of the wanted individuals, says the Christian Science Monitor. At least two shooters, identified as Akein and Shawn Scott, attempted what even hardened criminologists called the unspeakable: a gang hit on a street full of paradegoers a few blocks from the French Quarter. Of 20 people hurt, seven were women and two were children.
The long-suffering New Orleans Police Department helped turn the emotional response around by tracking the alleged shooters down. It appears to be an example of a dramatic shift in gang-war policing that the city has made. “In this case, Police Department intelligence is way better than what it used to be,” says Dee Wood Harper, a criminologist at Loyola University New Orleans. New Orleans has dramatically shifted its priorities away from low-level shakedowns of street dealers, a popular practice among police but one that can alienate neighborhoods. Instead, it’s building deeper cases against members of the most violent groups, the people posing the greatest threat to their neighbors.