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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: human rights

Graphic Justice Discussions NYC 2018

Nickie Phillips

We hosted the 2nd annual Graphic Justice Discussions Conference: Law, Comics, Justice on 20 October 2018 at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, NYC. The conference was sponsored by the Graphic Justice Research Alliance and the Center for Crime & Popular Culture. The conference featured scholars and creators working at the intersection of law, comics, and justice.

We were thrilled to have legendary writer, editor, filmmaker, and journalist Ann Nocenti as our keynote speaker who held the crowd rapt with tales of her experiences in the industry.

We also welcomed Vita Ayala (The Wilds) and Kwanza Osajyefo (Black; Black: America’s Sweetheart; Black AF: Widows and Orphans) (Black Mask Studios) to speak about their work and experiences as creators.

You’re invited to take a look at the photos from the event. Hope to see everyone at the next Graphic Justice Discussions!

Autism and Sex Offender Laws

Nickie Phillips

AUTISM AND SEX OFFENDER LAWS
SFC Professor’s New Book Details Trouble With Legal System

St. Francis College Professor Emily Horowitz, with co-editor, law professor Larry Dubin, J.D., are fighting to make the legal system more fair for people on the autism spectrum and those with developmental disabilities through the release of their new book, Caught in the Web of the Criminal Justice System: Autism, Developmental Disabilities, and Sex Offenses (Jessica Kingsley Publishers).

The book argues that the legal system needs to radically change the way it handles cases involving defendants with developmental disabilities charged with sex offenses; that they are overly harsh and don’t take into account the defendant’s lack of awareness or inability to comprehend the societal values that these laws police.

In addition to many scholarly approaches to the subject, Caught in the Web includes a first person account from Larry Dubin’s son, Nick and his years long legal struggle to put his life back in order after a sex offense conviction that even the defense team specialists determined was unwarranted and overly punitive.

Arguing for reform in the judicial treatment of people convicted of sex offenses, this book examines how sentencing policies are based on emotion rather than research. Using the lens of harsh sex offense prosecutions of those with developmental disabilities, Caught in the Web claims that hysteria is the underlying driver in our approach to sex offenses.

Professor Dubin was recently featured on NPR discussing issues related to sex offenses and autism spectrum disorders; Prof. Emily Horowitz delivered the keynote at the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws annual meeting at Southwestern Law School where she spoke about the disconnect between evidence and sex offense policies, and how even those with disabilities face the consequences of draconian punishments.

Dr. Horowitz is chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College. She is the author of Protecting Our Kids? How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing Us (a Choice American Library Association Book of the Year in 2015) and founder and co-director of the St. Francis Post-Prison program, which was recently featured in Kings County Politics. In recent months, her research on the sex offense registry been cited by publications such as USA Today, The Columbus Dispatch, The Sentinel, Alternet and in testimony to the Ohio Judiciary Committee. Last week, her comments were featured in an article about a major case before the 11th Circuit challenging Alabama’s sex offense laws which are among the harshest in the nation.

With introductions by Alan Gershel, J.D., and Mark Mahoney, J.D., the book is available directly from Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP) or from Amazon and other booksellers. JKP is best known for a long established list of publications on the autism spectrum, social work, and arts therapies. In 2016 JKP was named Independent Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards.
— R. Relkin, Director of Media Relations, St. Francis College

Wonder Woman, Deathworthiness, and the Neverending Quest for Peace

Nickie Phillips

While watching the new Wonder Woman blockbuster, our phones were buzzing with news alerts. On screen, as Princess Diana of Themiscyra (aka Wonder Woman) contemplated the nature of humanity and puzzled at our craving for war and violence, in the real world London was in the midst of two terrorist attacks that ultimately killed seven and injured dozens. In the coming days British Prime Minister Teresa May would declare "enough is enough" and call for the end of the so-called tolerance for extremist violence.

Some might dismiss the latest summer superhero movie as irrelevant, but we could not help but feel that Wonder Woman was speaking truth to power. The film is a deep reverie on the longstanding political and moral question of whether to meet violence with violence. We witness Wonder Woman seriously contemplating good versus evil. She comes to understand that humanity often cannot avoid evil, but in having freewill, choosing good is more meaningful.

Off-screen, we live in a destabilized global environment where both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump ushered in uncertainty about the fate of the European Union, NATO, and the Paris Climate Agreement. Armed conflicts rage in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mexico, and a myriad of other places. In the U.S., state-induced violence in the form of questionable police shootings dominates headlines. The world feels dangerous.

Many tolerate violence by rationalizing it in a utilitarian framework: perpetrated in the interest of the greater good, perhaps even a future lasting peace. So it is with Wonder Woman. In her duty-bound quest to save the world from the ravages of chemical warfare in World War I specifically, and the devastation of human wars in general, she and her acquired team of rag-tag heroes engage in quite a bit of mass violence.

Yet Wonder Woman abhors war. Her whole mission is to eliminate war in the form of the god Ares. Such cognitive dissonance as warring against war is a recurrent theme in mainstream superhero comic books. Our book, Comic Book Crime, describes the typical mainstream comic book plot as giving great latitude to the use of violence if the situation is deemed a time of crisis--and as we detail, it is almost always a time of crisis.

The compelling tension in comic books revolves around putting aside no-kill principles, something morally uncomfortable but framed as necessary in practice. In true superhero form, Wonder Woman, is likewise a meditation on putting aside those principles, and on deathworthiness, a term that originally describes deliberations by a criminal court, but that we widen. We define deathworthiness as a superhero's (instead of a juror's) decision-making process around when and why killing someone else is justifiable.

Sans a court of law, superheroes are unburdened by due process constraints and act as stand-ins for the entire system: judges, jurors, and (at times) executioners. Such narratives of extralegal justice saturate American popular culture in general, and we argue, are important artifacts for understanding larger American notions of justice.

What we found fascinating about Wonder Woman's determinations of deathworthiness was her deeper contemplations of the means to the end, questioning the typical utilitarian framework. The process through which Wonder Woman realizes that killing a single enemy is futile in the larger quest for peace--is one that we as a society would do well to contemplate. A cynic may find Wonder Woman's message of love and hope in humanity to be too overwrought. But many who have experienced war firsthand come to similar profound conclusions.

Members of Veterans for Peace, for example, are "dedicated to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war, and healing the wounds of war," stopping at nothing short of "abolishing war as an instrument of national policy." If accomplished, this would entail a cultural shift away from utilitarian calculations and toward the use of non-violent solutions at times of crisis. Veterans for Peace and Wonder Woman are on the same important mission, responding to a violent world suffering too much loss of life.

In Comic Book Crime, we document how comic book creators reacted to 9/11 and how our cultural perspectives on crime fighting and terrorism both reflect and shape these narratives. We are now in a new era, one that warrants more exploration of how to achieve global peace, not less. Those on Fox News who lament that Wonder Woman is not "American" enough are perhaps willfully ignorant as to her origins and international relevance. Global peacekeeping has long been a top priority for Wonder Woman--a goal that clearly calls for a bit more attention here in the real world. Achieving peace and reducing violence continue to be among the planet's biggest challenges, regardless of what Trump says.

On the evening of the United States' premiere of the Wonder Woman film, Bill Maher engaged in banter with Senator Ben Sasse on HBO's Real Time about how young adults just can't seem to grow up, alluding to comic books as part of a kind of chronic Peter Pan problem. Maher did not make reference to Wonder Woman, instead he made a more general claim that it's foolish to “…treat comic books as literature.” The implication is that comic book fans, publishers, marketers, and creators are stunted in emotional maturity and unable to deal with the harsh truths of real life. Tell that to Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughn, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alison Bechdel, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, and many others who have won accolades for telling very adult truths in graphic form.

The sad truth is that we "adults" excel at waging war, but we are terrible at sustaining peace. Rather than dismiss the notion that comic books (and comic-book inspired films) have nothing to contribute to the world of grown-ups, it would do us some good to heed Hippolyta's words to Diana and ask ourselves whether humankind truly deserves Wonder Woman, or the people like her off-screen who work so hard to wage peace.

Parenting, Prisons, and Pups

Nickie Phillips

By Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox, Associate Professor, Pace University’s Dyson College, Criminal Justice Department; Chief Investigator for Parenting, Prison, and Pups

The Parenting, Prison and Pups Program (PPP) is a combination of several components that work together to benefit incarcerated women. The program is a partnership between Pace University, The Good Dog Foundation, the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC - a federal jail) and the Westchester County Department of Correction (WCDOC - a county jail). The PPP is a first-ever prison-based parenting program that is enhanced by the inclusion of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT).

Incarcerated women face unique challenges. Overwhelmingly, they are mothers and were primary caregivers prior to incarceration. Prison-based parenting programs can help women develop healthy bonds with their children by empowering mothers to feel more confident about their parenting skills by increasing their knowledge of effective parenting techniques and by promoting a healthy parent-child relationship. These programs offer support and attempt to lessen the emotional effects surrounding the separation from their children. A parenting program, in a correctional setting, as part of a larger reunification focus, will enable mothers to maintain a bond with their children, which is beneficial for the mother and the child alike. Incarceration damages the child-parent attachment. Since children of incarcerated mothers are at a high risk for future incarceration, it is important for children to maintain a bond with their mother to reduce intergenerational offending. Relationships with their children can serve as a vehicle toward criminal desistance for female offenders. By improving a woman’s parenting skills and mitigating her future criminality, we also improve the future success of her children.

The PPP incorporates undergraduate Pace students as teaching assistants to help with program delivery. As part of a service learning Corrections course, the program introduces students to the experience of incarceration, a rare opportunity, to help them become caring professionals. They come to understand that regardless of their career choices within the criminal justice system, the decisions they make as lawyers, police officers, case managers, etc., will directly impact this population of women.

As you can imagine, coordinating numerous partner organizations was not simple. We began working on this program in the fall of 2015 but it was not until March 2017 that I launched the first “control” group of 12 female inmates at MCC using the parenting curriculum without AAT. The program provides us with a platform to conduct research on AAT, a growing field that is in need of more empirical data. Strong social science research compares a treatment group to a control group. The first class, recently concluded at MCC, serves as one control group.

Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox and Andre

Dr. Kimberly Collica-Cox and Andre

In spite of the delays and numerous challenges and the fact that we are in the control phase, not the test phase, PPP has already made an impact on the lives of our student inmate mothers and our Pace service learning students. What began as a somewhat disconnected and slightly disinterested and occasionally angry group of strangers, morphed, by our third class, into a community of mothers who cared and supported one another through this process. Confidentiality, which is difficult to maintain in the correctional environment, was never broken, demonstrating the true commitment of these moms. We laughed, we cried, and we shared. We spoke about being broken. We encouraged women to break down in our safe space of community but recognized that we would not remain broken. Regardless of past trauma, mistakes, regrets, or shame, each woman worked through her issues week by week with the support of her sisters. We had done the impossible – we created a supportive caring community within a jail. Such communities are easier to develop in a prison, where women have the luxury of time to develop deep and trusting connections with one another. In the jail setting, a place where people come and go, is challenging, appeared improbable but, against all odds, was achieved. We will deliver the course with the AAT starting in the spring of 2018. Given the positive outcomes of the control group, the treatment group also promises to be successful.

The control group of women completed 14 lessons – Parenting Styles; Effective Speaking; Effective Listening; Effective Problem Solving; Understanding the Parent and Child’s Job; Bonding Through Play; Directions and Encouragement; Rewards and Consequences; Time Out With Back-Up Privilege Removal; Yoga, Meditation and Stress Management; Going Home and Expectations With their Children; Healthy Adult Relationships; and the Family Reunification Day. The women in the class, including two who did not want to be there at the beginning, really worked very diligently to enhance their parenting skills and to begin to deal with guilt that they felt as a result of choices which led to their separation from their children. The Pace students felt the change was transformative and each Pace student stated this was the best class at Pace. It really helped to provide them with a realistic view of corrections and, as expected, it was completely different from what they previously imagined. Our moms, who were hesitant about having students in the class, really began to appreciate their presence, their help and their insight.

In fact, PPP became so important to our inmate students, they requested that Good Dog mount a website their families could visit, proving our inmate mothers and grandmothers were working hard to improve parenting skills while in prison.

One woman, who broke down in tears on our first class, worked on repairing the relationship between her family and her in-law’s family. By the end of our class, the lines of communication, once firmly closed, began to open. Another woman, afraid of telling her grandchild about where she was, made the decision to be honest. Although initially upset, the grandson did not rescind his love or his desire to see his grandmother. Another woman, whose son would not talk to her because he said he hated her, began talking to her by the end of our class. Despite her depression, the group’s encouragement motivated her to be consistent in reaching out to him and in utilizing the skills we learned in class; although he has not forgiven her, he will now answer the phone when she calls. Another woman who had difficulty communicating with her child’s caregiver, utilized the skills we learned in class regarding effective communication and was able to receive a visit from her child. As each woman faced challenges, she brought these challenges to the group. The group worked actively to help problem solve and the women would report on their progress. I have to say the love, care and concern shown by each woman throughout our course was very touching. They thanked us after each visit and told us they looked forward to each visit. The Pace students and I looked forward to our visits as well. The hard work and progress of each mom really motivated us to put 100% of our time and energy into making this program successful. During one of our classes, I was given the MCC Volunteer of the Year Award. It was one of the best moments of my professional career.

We recently had our reunification day. Families came to see their loved ones graduate with their parenting certificates. Not all families were present but even if the women do not have anyone visiting, they all made a commitment to attend and to help me work with the children who were able to visit. It is my hope that they will continue to serve as a support for one another, long after our class is completed. I will return to check in with them. Some of them are leaving in the next weeks to begin their new lives. In fall 2017 we will begin the second control group training at the jail in Westchester County, with another group of women. This program serves as the chance for many new beginnings and for the true opportunity to believe when we have a bad day, we can start our day over anytime we like, and we can begin to mend and heal not only the relationships we have with our families and our children, but most importantly, the relationship we have with ourselves.

ASC Board Statement on Trump Administration Policies Relevant to Criminal Justice Policies

Nickie Phillips

In Brief:

  • Immigrants do not commit the majority of crime in the United States
  • The proposed travel ban is not empirically justified and targets the wrong countries
  • The U.S. is not in the midst of a national crime wave
  • The U.S. government plays an important role in police reform

Women's March 2017: NYC + MADISON (WI)

Nickie Phillips

NEW YORK...

MADISON...

Chase Madar on Chelsea Manning - Wikileaks Whistleblower

Nickie Phillips

Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower, spoke about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and her conviction for leaking nearly half a million classified government documents to Wikileaks. Madar discussed government transparency, the consequences of overclassification of documents, and the necessity for criminal justice reform.

Madar is a civil rights attorney and has written for numerous outlets including The Nation, Mother Jones, Al Jazeera America, and Vice

Hudson Link @ SFC Post-Prison Program Begins Third Year

Nickie Phillips

Beginning its third year and with just two semesters until the first person graduates, the Hudson Link @ SFC Post-Prison Program began the Fall semester with a welcome back gathering of students, faculty and special guest Keston Jones on Monday, September 12.

Formerly incarcerated, Mr. Jones is currently a Ph.D. student at Yeshiva University. He also serves as program director for the Fatherhood Program that works with community organizations and individuals to raise awareness around issues of fatherhood.

In addition to welcoming one new student, current students in the program expressed how the program has been instrumental in shaping their life trajectories including providing support and resources.
Johnny Perez

Johnny Perez

Johnny Perez ‘17 is set to graduate with a degree in Criminal Justice in May. “My upcoming graduation is not only an educational victory, but marks a day in my familial history as the first person in my family to graduate from college and therefore break the cycle of ignorance within it. That would not be possible without St. Francis College,” he said.

The Post-Prison program was recently featured in the Association of American Catholic Colleges publication, ACCU Peace and Justice and was recognized during The White House College Opportunity Day of Action which supports President Barack Obama's commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.

Dangers for Female Prison Guards - New York Times

Nickie Phillips

“We’re trained how to deal with inmates. We’re not trained to be sexually assaulted by our co-workers, especially our supervisors.”
— Lisa Sullivan, NY Times

"A new Justice Department study shows that allegations of sex abuse in the nation’s prisons and jails are increasing — with correctional officers responsible for half of it  — but prosecution is still extremely rare." - Joaquin Sapien, Propublica

Notable Criminal Justice Docs at Tribeca Film Festival

Nickie Phillips

When the most powerful lobbyist in Florida discovers that the nanny has sexually abused his daughter, he harnesses his extraordinary political power to pass the toughest sex offender laws in the nation. UNTOUCHABLE chronicles his crusade, and its impact on the lives of several of the 800,000 people forced to live under the kinds of laws he has championed.
— Untouchablefilm.com
 
In 2012, California amended its ‘Three Strikes’ law—one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country. The passage of Prop. 36 marked the first time in U.S. history that citizens voted to shorten sentences of those currently incarcerated. Within days, the reintegration of thousands of ‘lifers’ was underway. The Return examines this unprecedented reform through the eyes of those on the front lines—prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, reentry providers helping navigate complex transitions, and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law.
— The Return Project
Do Not Resist is an urgent and powerful exploration of the rapid militarization of the police in the United States. Opening on startling on-the-scene footage in Ferguson, Missouri, the film then broadens its scope to present scenes from across the country—a conference presentation where the value of high-end weapons technologies is presented to potential police buyers, a community that has just received its very own military-grade tank, and a SWAT team arriving at a home to execute a warrant. The cumulative effect of these vignettes paints a startling picture of the direction our local law enforcement is headed.
— Do Not Resist, Deborah Rudolph
Solitary investigates an invisible part of the American justice system: the use of isolation and segregation in US prisons, commonly known as solitary confinement.
— Tribeca Film Institute

Exclusive clip of Solitary at Deadline.

Randy Williams Speaks Out about Wrongful Conviction

Nickie Phillips

The ripple effect of wrongful convictions resonates throughout families and communities. Randy Williams’ time behind bars can never be returned, nor his time away from his family and the promise of his future.
— Private Investigations by Management Resources Limited of NY

Randy Williams and Bob Rahn

Randy Williams served nine years of a 22 years-to-life prison sentence as a result of a wrongful conviction. He was released in 2016.

On April 14, 2016, Randy and his mom, Rosie, spoke with students at St. Francis College to share their story. They discussed how Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin, of Private Investigations by Management Resources Ltd of NY, worked tirelessly on behalf of Randy uncovering false eyewitness testimony and police misconduct.

Criminologist Nickie Phillips, Rosie Benjamin, Randy Williams, and Bob Rahn

Brooke Georgia Guinan Inspired in Lost in Trans*lation

Nickie Phillips

Brooke Georgia Guinan

Brooke Georgia Guinan

We were honored to host third-generation New York City Fire Department member Brooke Georgia Georgia Guinan (3/15) as part of the Spring 2016 Senior Lecture Series: New Protest Movements at SFC (Profs. Emily Horowitz and Sara Haviland).  

Brooke is the “first and only transgender firefighter” in the FDNY (read more in this inspiring Village Voice piece), and she shared her personal journey about coming out as a transgender person and her professional triumphs as the first openly transgender firefighter in New York City. 

Brooke Georgia Guinan

Brooke Georgia Guinan

Brooke Georgia Guinan

Brooke Georgia Guinan

The Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition at SFC

Nickie Phillips

Solitary confinement is torture...and should completely be abolished.
— Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition
The Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition - SFC March 12, 2016

The Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition - SFC March 12, 2016

The Confined Arts: Solitary Confinement Edition - SFC March 12, 2016

Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2015 - Protecting Our Kids: How Sex Offender Laws are Failing Us

Nickie Phillips

Protecting Our Kids: How Sex Offender Laws Are Failing Us by Professor Emily Horowitz has been named among the Outstanding Academic Titles of 2015 by Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries.

"Dr. Horowitz makes a persuasive case for why the current rash of draconian sex offender laws in the United States violate civil liberties, create an entire class of pariahs and outcasts, and above all, fail to protect children. Her interviews with offenders bring reality, insight, and clarity to a subject usually blurred by panic and hysteria." - Gavin de Becker, bestselling author of The Gift of Fear

Portia Allen-Kyle on Activism & Police Tactics in St. Louis

Nickie Phillips

The talk was part of the Fall 2015 Senior Citizen Lecture Series:
Urban Policing and Racial Conflict: Current Crises and Historical Context which is sponsored by the Senior Citizen Lecture Series, the Center for Crime & Popular Culture, the Institute for Peace & Justice and co-Coordinated by professors Nickie Phillips & Emily Horowitz.

Nickie Phillips, Portia Allen-Kyle, Emily Horowitz

Portia Allen-Kyle, J.D., is currently working on her dissertation in sociology at Rutgers University. She spent the past summer doing fieldwork in Ferguson, Missouri, studying the impact of executive emergency curfews on the community. Her dissertation focuses on the relationship between executive emergency curfew laws and social inequality.

Vice: Fixing the System - Full Episode

Nickie Phillips

“Vice” also takes time to dig into the human side of the criminal justice system, not only in how Obama sits with prisoners and speaks to them about the choices and quirks of the system that led them to this place, but in interviewing family members left behind, whose lives are left with gaping holes, thanks to a generation lost to incarceration. -- LA Times Recap