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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: justice

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!

Help Support Mike's Defense Fund

Nickie Phillips

Guest Post, Karen Iris Tucker

Thanks to Crimcast for giving me a forum to voice my concerns about my friend, Michael Smith-Baker. Mike is known to many of us as an amazing personal trainer, drill sergeant of a class instructor, and all-around amazing human.

Mike is currently being held at Manhattan Detention Complex for a crime I believe he did not commit and to which he has pled Not Guilty. It seems he has been pulled into a mess that can involve as much as 35 years behind bars if he is convicted. The charges are non-violent and the purported evidence is circumstantial, which makes the amount of time he could serve outrageous.

Mike, like many people who end up wrongly serving time, is having financial difficulty obtaining a good lawyer. Mike's family has recently found an excellent lawyer for Mike and has started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for pre-trial costs, which are very expensive--$20,000. It is vital for him to retain a lawyer who can help him get these charges dismissed or greatly reduced. We have very little time in which to make this happen.

Please contribute if you can—and/or contact me if you’d like to share a message with Mike. Please also share this message via email and/or social media with anyone you think would be interested.

Every Sunday after I trained with Mike, he would hug me and say, “I love you. Have a great week.” I can truly say that Mike has added a lot of light in my life. I feel grateful to know him.

Karen Iris Tucker (KT) Writer - Reporter

Polygraphs arrive in the UK

Terry Thomas

The UK has for many years resisted the introduction of the polygraph to its criminal justice processes. It was treated as too unreliable. Another example of American ‘exceptionalism’ alongside the electric chair and the Utah firing squads. Ok for the Americans, but not for us.

But now it’s arrived. Its introduction to the UK has been long drawn out and low key. The law permitting the use of polygraphs was passed as far back as 2007 (in the Offender Management Act) and even today not many people in the street would be able to tell you that it became available to the British police and probation officers from January 2014.

The polygraph is often described as a lie detector.  Its use is based on the notion that lying induces a ‘stress response’ in the automatic nervous system, a part of the Central Nervous System that is largely outside conscious control and which regulates the body’s internal environment.  The effect of this can be observed in changes in cardiovascular activity, breathing, and sweating.  The basis of the polygraph examination involves individuals being asked a series of questions while activity in these systems is recorded, with certain reactions said to be indicative of deception. 

President Richard Nixon, when considering polygraph tests for White House staff in 1971, famously declared:

I don’t know anything about polygraphs, and I don’t know how accurate they are, but I know they’ll scare the hell out of people.
— (quoted in Alder, 2007: 221)

and early 50 years ago the American academic Alan Westin declared:

The reliability figures cited by polygraph operators have been rejected in most scientific and legal journals...efforts to have different polygraph operators test the same subject to judge the reproducibility and independent validity of the polygraph have not been successful ... [and] a series of tests by the same operator with the same subject will show very significant changes in the results.
— (Westin, 1967: 213)

Today a study by the American National Research Council is often taken as the bench mark for the reliability of the polygraph. Its 2003 report stated that polygraph accuracy stood at about 80-90%.

British Experiences of the Polygraph

The British have been quite hesitant about the polygraph. The British Psychological Society have produced two reports in 1986 and 2004 expressing their doubts. The latter concluded:

Although psychological equipment does accurately measure a number of physiological activities, these activities do not reflect a single underlying process. Furthermore, these activities are not necessarily in concord, either within or across individuals.
— (BPS 2004: 29)

The 'stress response' which is measured, for example, may not be a response to 'deception' but could be prompted by surprise, cognitive load, loud noise, etc. The polygraph test is also said to be easily ‘beaten’ because if you bite the inside of your mouth or tongue on a question of no importance, unbeknown to the operator, he or she will begin to wonder - what’s the matter with this machine.

Having passed the enabling legislation in 2007 testing on sex offenders was piloted between April 2009 and October 2011 in the East and West Midlands’ probation regions. The study found that offenders who took the tests made twice as many disclosures to probation staff – for instance, admitting to contacting a victim or entering an exclusion zone, or thoughts that could suggest a higher risk of reoffending (Gannon et al 2014).

At the moment it will only be used on sex offenders –if the police use it they need the offender’s consent –probation can use it without their consent if it’s written into any parole conditions. The police say they will give extra attention to these who do not consent – not sure if that constitutes a free consent without duress being applied. No doubts the law will soon change to enable them to test without consent.

References

Alder K (2007) The Lie Detectors: the history of an American obsession, Simon and Shuster, New York

British Psychological Society (2004).  A Review of the Current Scientific Status and Fields of Application of Polygraphic Deception Detection.  Report (26/05/04) from the BPS Working Party (http://www.bps.org.uk).

Gannon T et al (2014) An evaluation of Mandatory polygraph testing for sexual offenders in the United Kingdom Sexual Abuse: a journal of Research and Treatment 26(2): 178-203

Westin A (1967) Privacy and Freedom, Bodley Head, London

Terry Thomas, emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at Leeds Beckett University

Terry Thomas is emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at Leeds Beckett University. His research areas include sexual offending and police information systems. His most recent book is ‘Domestic Violence and Criminal Justice’ written with Nicola Groves also from the Leeds Beckett University criminology group. He is currently working on the third edition of his book ‘Sex Crime: sex offending and society’ due out November 2015.

Continuing Efforts to Exonerate Jesse Friedman

Nickie Phillips

Jesse Friedman will be back in court this week arguing for the release of documents that he believes prove his innocence. The New York Times reports on the continuing efforts to exonerate Jesse Friedman:

From the beginning, the case was deeply flawed. The only evidence that Jesse and his father, Arnold, had abused anyone consisted of statements to the police by children and one of Jesse’s friends. Many of the statements were made after repeated or hourslong visits from detectives who would not leave until they heard what they wanted. None of the children had previously complained to anyone of any abuse.
— New York Times

In the following clip, Jesse Friedman and attorney Ron Kuby discuss Jesse's case and explain his innocence.

Keeping Children Safe: ‘Disqualification by Association’

Terry Thomas

Everybody would agree that we need to ensure safe environments for children in our nurseries and schools. Unsuitable people should not be allowed to work in them. In the UK concerns have been raised that the authorities may have gone too far in their aim to keep children safe.

The policy of ‘disqualification by association’ now means you could be prevented from working with children not because of any misconduct on your part but because of the misconduct of others. If you already have a job working with children you could find yourself suspended from that work even if your work record has been exemplary and you have no criminal record.

image.jpg

‘Disqualification by association’ comes into play if any one you live with has been convicted of a serious offence or is otherwise disqualified from working with children. The policy has been in place for a few years but was recently highlighted in the case of a teacher who lost his job following conviction for having sexual relations with one of his students; under UK law he was guilty of the offence of ‘abusing a position of trust’ (Sexual Offences Act 2003 s16). But then the headlines followed that his wife, who worked in another school, was to be suspended from her job working with children.

The ‘disqualification by association’ Regulations have been a matter of concern in some quarters ever since their introduction by the Childcare Act 2006 s75 (4) and the Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009: 1547). The Regulations only apply to people registered to work with children under eight and Regulation 9 clearly states that:

  1. > Subject to regulation 10, a person who lives –

    (a) in the same household as another person who is disqualified from registration; or (b) in a household in which any such person is employed, is disqualified from registration.

Regulation 10 refers to the possibility of getting this suspension waived by applying to the Chief Inspector of Schools office – Ofsted.

At first the Regulations were applied only to people caring for children under eight in their own home as child-minders and in that context the Regulations made some sense. But then they were extended to anyone working in a school which had children under the age of eight attending.

It took some time for people to realise the consequences of this extension but slowly the truth has dawned (see e.g. ‘Teachers to be barred for living with offenders under new rules’ and ‘Schools suspend staff in child protection confusion’. The question is raised as to why someone with no convictions or other form of disbarment from working with children should be suspended simply because they live in the same house as someone who is. Surely this amounts to a disproportionate response to child protection? Further Department of Education guidance explains the thinking behind the law which:

‘guards against an individual working with young children who may be under the influence of a person who lives with them and where that person may pose a risk to children i.e. by association’ (DfE (2014) Keeping children safe in education: childcare disqualification requirements – supplementary advice, October).

What exactly ‘under the influence’ means is not elaborated on.

The campaign group UNLOCK for ex-offenders calls the arrangements ‘ridiculous’: ‘The regulations have clearly come as a surprise to thousands of people working in primary schools. Schools themselves seem unclear of how the regulations work, with many asking existing staff and new employees to make very broad declarations about not only their criminal record, but also of those that they live with. This has led to hundreds of people making declarations and being suspended as a result, where they have otherwise been working for many years with no problems’ (UNLOCK (2015) Charity for people with convictions calls for “ridiculous” ‘disqualification’ regulations for primary schools to be urgently reviewed 20 January (press release)) ‘Disqualification by association’ seems to have slipped in while no one was looking but its chickens are now coming home to roost.

Terry Thomas is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, Leeds Beckett University U.K. and a Crimcast correspondent.

Changes in the UK law to contain sex offenders

Terry Thomas

 
 

There are noticeable difference between the way the USA and the UK try to protect the public from sex offenders who are living in the community. Both countries have a sex offender register but thereafter there is a departure in the way the register is used and how each try to contain the offender in the interests of public protection.

 
image.jpg

In the USA the register is publicly available to anyone who wants to consult it including availability on the internet. This ‘universal’ approach of ‘community notification’ is in contrast to the more ‘selective’ approach of the UK where only certain people are allowed to know information about a person’s sexual convictions and their registration status.

The USA has blanket residency restrictions with geographic zones that sex offenders are not allowed to live in. The UK has targeted restrictions on a person’s lifestyle and where they might want to live using individualised preventive civil orders. Another example of the ‘universal’ and ‘selective’ approaches taken by the respective countries.

But is the UK slowly moving towards a wider interpretation of the conditions the state can impose on a sex offender in the interests of public protection?

A recent case heard in the UK Court of Appeal [Richards, R (on the application of) v Teesside Magistrates' Court & Another [2015] EWCA Civ 7] involved a registered sex offender being ‘contained’ by a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) – one of the preventive civil orders introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003. These Orders are applied for by the police on certain qualifying individuals and they allow the courts to impose various negative restrictions on a person’s behaviour.

The appeal in this case was against the court’s decision to require the sex offender to wear an electronic tag to monitor his movements. He argued that (a) there was nothing in the law on SOPO’s that said anything about electronic tags being worn unlike all other legal references to tags which were in the statute book, and (b) the requirement to wear a tag was a ‘positive’ when all other restrictions by SOPO’s were ‘negative’ as the law suggested they should be.

The case was lost and the presiding judges ruled that:

The only restrictions to what may be placed in a SOPO are … that it must be ‘necessary’ to impose the prohibition in order to protect the public or particular members of the public from serious sexual harm from the defendant …[and] Parliament did not restrict or limit the prohibitions which may be included in a SOPO. Given the myriad ways in which such harm may be caused, the absence of a list of permitted prohibitions is understandable (para.29)

But SOPOs themselves are about to disappear. The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 Part 9 replaces them with Sexual Risk Orders and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders. Exactly when these new Orders will become active is as yet still unknown. What we do know is that they are going to be even more widely drawn than the existing SOPO (see e.g. ‘New Home Office Rules give police sweeping powers to curb sex offenders’ The Independent 9 October 2013). If we thought the SOPO was vague wait till we see what comes next.

Terry Thomas is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, Leeds Beckett University UK – for a longer account of the changes in the UK law about to take place see Thomas T and Thompson D (2014) New Civil Orders to contain Sexually Harmful Behaviour in the Community British Journal of Community Justice 12 (3): 19-33.

Civil Rights Versus National Security with former Head of MI6 Counter-Terrorism

Nickie Phillips

October 7, 2014 - St. Francis College hosted the Civil Rights Versus National Security Panel

  • The Honorable Paul Gardephe, United States District Judge of the Southern District of New York moderated the discussion which featured a distinguished panel, including:
  • Richard Barrett, Former Head of Counter-Terrorism with British Intelligence MI-6, talked about the "The Nature of Tension,"
  • Scott Horton, Harper's magazine, spoke about "Enhanced Interrogation,"
  • Jeff Dannenberg, a published legal scholar, spoke about "Whistle Blowing,"
  • Bruce Green, Professor at Fordham University, talked about "Prosecutorial Ethics," and 
  • Lawyer Richard Zabel will examine the issue of "Courts vs. Tribunals"

Graphic Futures: Imagining Law's Potential in Comics and Graphic Novels - Call for Participants

Nickie Phillips

Graphic Futures

Imagining Law’s Potential in Comics and Graphic Novels

Call for papers and comics creators

Many jurisprudential texts tell the history of legal philosophy and moral thought—from Classical Greece and the medieval period, through the Enlightenment to modernity, and today’s uncertain epoch of ‘late modernity’. In such texts, it is hoped that by recounting this history—this tale of development, progression and change—our current jurisprudential state is uncovered and we are enlightened as to the issues at play in determining the nature of what law both is and should be.

So much for jurisprudential past; but what of jurisprudential future? What challenges and laws await us as we emerge from the throes of modernity? What awaits our nature as humanity integrates with advancing technology? What form will morality take in a world where official systems of order and control, or the modes of thought that created the modern state, have dissipated? What of justice without law? What of law after the human? What of knowledge and judgment after the reification of modernism has been undone? What is the next jurisprudence? It is these, and related, questions that the proposed network addresses, through innovative engagement with the medium of graphic fiction.

Comics and graphic fiction have been an under-utilised resource in the history of legal studies. Yet their unique epistemological grounding (at the borders of the visual, the linguistic, the aesthetic, and the rational), and their capacity for futuristic imagination, arguably make them an apt tool for exploring worlds, laws and ideas beyond the boundaries of the present. Engaging with futuristic visions in graphic fiction and comics, this project aims to imagine (or challenge our ability to imagine) the landscape(s) of jurisprudence in the emerging world(s) as modernity recedes.

The aim of the project is to imagine the potential future(s) of law and justice. The overarching problematic will be addressed through a series of international workshops in US, Australia and USE across 2015-2018, with each participant contributing their own perspective and particular critical ‘take’ on the issue of comics and legal futurity. There will be 8 workshops, feeding into a series of edited collections and graphic novels (funding is being sought to cover participants' expenses). These workshops will tackle four main sub-themes of the central problematic of legal futurity:

  1. Approaching Graphic Futures—focusing on the project’s epistemological issues, such as: the limits of legal language in relation to the language of comics; the particular value of the comics medium in tackling the project’s core problematic; and, how can such imaginative speculation help inform our world today.
  2. Criminal Futures—focusing on issues relating to crime and criminal justice, such as: what problems future criminal law enforcement might face; concerns of pre-emptive justice; and, the dominant ideals of ‘justice’ (e.g. retribution, deterrence, something else) that might prevail as modernity recedes.
  3. Legal Futures of Technology—focusing on issues relating to advancing technology, such as: the legal challenges of human-machine integration; the advent of artificial intelligence; and, how technology might change the face of legal institutions and regulation.
  4. Law after the State—focusing on issues relating to rights and political theory, such as: how might human relations be regulated if the modern state fails; what shape might rights take in the future; and, concerns of trans-temporal responsibility (for example, our responsibility to the future, or the future’s responsibility to the past).

Please send abstracts of no more than 200 words, 3 keywords, and an indication of which theme your work would ‘fit’ under, to thomas.giddens@smuc.ac.uk no later than 14 November 2014.

The project is also seeking comics creators (writers and/or artists): email thomas.giddens@smuc.ac.uk if you are interested in being involved in a creative capacity.

Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

Nickie Phillips

The idea for a new law placing a duty on all professionals working with children to report child abuse when they come across it, has raised its head again. Paula Barrow of Manchester has started gathering signatures to get a debate in parliament on the subject http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/change-the-law-to-better-protect-vulnerable-children-like-daniel-pelka.

Teachers, youth workers, probation officers and others would be obligated to report any child abuse concerns they come across to the police or local authority Children’s Services. Meanwhile the NSPCC has come up with the idea of an additional new law to criminalise anyone who covers up child abuse they knew about (see http://www.nspcc.org.uk/news-and-views/ceo-news/reporting-abuse-policy/covering-up-abuse-crime_wda103339.html.)
All this has been played out against a back-drop of missing files listing paedophiles in high places and popular entertainers going to prison for ‘historic’ offences. But do we need such ‘mandatory reporting’ as it is known?

We have considered such laws before and some people wanted ‘mandatory reporting’ to be written in to the Children Act 1989. A preliminary discussion paper looked at the idea but ruled it out seeing reporting on a legal basis as being unnecessary because we could depend on the professional judgement of the workers concerned (1).

Practitioners and professionals have always prided themselves on providing a confidential service to members of the public, qualified only by the need to breach that confidentiality when someone was seemingly at risk of harm. The interaction between worker and service user was accorded a form of ‘confidential space’ where the boundaries were known and crossed only if necessary. Mandatory reporting will arguably reduce the size of that ‘confidential space’.
One of the problems of reporting child abuse has always been how you define child abuse. No problem when it is extreme and obvious but often it is not. The recent inclusion of ‘emotional abuse’ as child abuse for example is going to need some defining. Child abuse is not a legal term. If reporting becomes an obligation then more reporting is likely to take place just ‘to be on the safe side’ and to avoid any possible prosecution. Who would want to be the first practitioner prosecuted for not reporting?

The police and local authorities could find their workload in this area growing rapidly. That in turn could mean investigating a flood reports which will overwhelm both agencies already hit by reduced resources. When many of those reports are vague and ill-founded workers could be performing extensive investigations that could take them away from the serious allegations.
Mandatory reporting is also yet another attack on the professionalism of many workers who are considered incapable of making reporting decisions without a law. Already surrounded by bureaucracy, guidance, managerialism and procedures this will be yet another form of direction imposed on the practitioner. Who needs three years of study when it’s all in ‘the book’? Anyone else noticed that probation officers no longer need any qualifications in future?

Other questions arise. Will mandatory reporting have an impact on the therapeutic process? Will people be less open with their therapist knowing the worker has no margin of discretion and less ‘confidential space’ to work in? If a report has to be made what will happen to the working relationship that had been established?

Mandatory reporting is not the panacea it appears at first sight and in the rush to do ‘something’ we may end up with a worse situation than we have now.

(1) DHSS (1985) Review of Child Care Law HMSO: London (paras 12.3-4)

Author: Terry Thomas, Visiting Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, Leeds Metropolitan University

Live Stream - The Internet and Free Speech: A Preview of The Internet’s Own Boy Event

Nickie Phillips

The Paley Center will host The Internet and Free Speech: A Preview of the Internet's Own Boy.   The Live Stream will be held at 8:20 pm ET/5:20 pm PT.

For information and tickets to the live event in NYC, go here.

The Internet and Free Speech: A Preview of The Internet’s Own Boy

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 6:30 pm New York

...Variety has stated that the film “may be the most emotionally devastating movie ever made about hacking and the freedom of information....

The event will include:

Brian Knappenberger, Director Christopher Soghoian, Principal Technologist, Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, ACLU Jane Hamsher, Publisher, FireDogLake.com Moderator: Tim Wu, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director, Program on Law & Technology, Columbia Law School

Go here for more information.

Lineage Project: Yoga and Meditation for At-Risk Youth

Nickie Phillips

The Lineage Project, in partnership with Laughing Lotus Yoga Center,  is hosting a raffle to increase their yoga and meditation classes for at-risk, court-involved and incarcerated youth.

Go here for more information.

The Lineage Project:

Through yoga, meditation, discussion and other mindfulness techniques, we help young people to value themselves and feel that they can make a lasting and important contribution to their communities.

We work in juvenile detention centers, alternative-to-incarceration programs and public schools for struggling students.

Tickets are only $10 each or 12 for $100. They can be purchased online or at the Front Desk at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center.

Please note: YogaTeesNYC is donating 10% of all sales to Lineage Project until the end of the raffle on June 22.

 

 

Rehabilitation and Good Eats: London's The Clink Restaurant

Nickie Phillips

By Staci Strobl

bef9f1d8e41b68cca9651a9a80803c0c

I like to eat and I support the ideal of the rehabilitation of offenders.  So what could be more perfect that The Clink Restaurant at Brixton Prison in South London?  I immediately made a reservation (in this case, well in advance because the prison must do its security checks on guests) for my husband and I to enjoy high-class dining, complements of inmates training as chefs, sous-chefs, and waiters.  I'll be perfectly honest: the concept is so grand that I was going to love it even if the food was bad.  But it most certainly was not.  Seared tuna on a bed of sesame oil and greens, Hake and mackerel fried medallions and thrice-fried chips, apple crumble, and fair-trade coffee.  Simply delicious.

The Clink is the third such restaurant opened in the United Kingdom in recent years.  The brainchild of Chef Alberto Crisci, and founder of the The Clink Charities, the prisoners work a 40-hour week, training towards the national certifications they need to enter the restaurant and hotel industries upon release.  Thereafter, they receive additional mentoring not only in securing job placement, but also with social and psychological issues that may trigger re-offending.

Anyone who has been keeping up with the rehabilitation literature knows that no one program fits all, but that in general, job training programs are the most likely to succeed with the biggest proportion of offenders.  And, according to the statistics provided by The Clink, and verified by an independent examiner, since its founding in 2009, the recidivism rates after one year of release are between 12.5% and 14%.  Compare this to the national average of 49% and it appears the program is a winner.  Granted, these inmates are selected for the program because they have the potential for success (and in that sense may not be typical of most U.K. prisoners), nonetheless, the success rates are quite suggestive that the program makes a real difference in prisoners' lives.

Could the model be imported to the U.S.?  Given the cultural emphasis on consumerism and work-- as in, there is something wrong with you if you can't consume because you don't have a job-- it would seem that the program would resonate for American prisoners as well, providing them an avenue for returning to mainstream society in a dignified way.  Unfortunately, the political buy-in from the public for such a program would certainly be harder to come by.  In the U.K., though there are strains and pockets of retributivism, they aren't as deeply engrained as they are in the U.S.  The British couple sitting next to us at The Clink speculated that at least half of Britons have a compassionate stance toward prisoner-integration programs, more so in an urban environment like London.  Alas, I am not sure half of the American population would be inclined to support such an intensive program which may provide better job training than that  to which the law-abiding citizen has access.

As a criminologist, I hope for a quality social science study of The Clink in order to glean out more clearly what works and how much it works.  I would do it myself, if I could ever find the time with my ten other projects in the fire.  But if anyone reading this needs a dissertation topic, it's up for grabs.

Kings Park Documentary Screening, NYC

Nickie Phillips

The NYC Mental Health Film Festival is screening Kings Park - May 18 2014

On June 21, 1967, at the age of 17, Lucy Winer was committed to the female violent ward of Kings Park State Hospital following a series of failed suicide attempts. Over 30 years later, now a veteran documentary filmmaker, Lucy returns to Kings Park for the first time since her discharge. Her journey back sparks a decade-long effort to face her past and learn the story of the now abandoned institution that once held her captive. Her meetings with other former patients, their families, and the hospital staff reveal the painful legacy of our state hospital system and the crisis left by its demise.

Sunday, May 18th, 2:00 pm
Q&A with filmmakers & cast
St. Francis College
Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY
http://www.communityaccess.org/filmfestival
Telephone: (212) 780-1400 x7726 
Email: crabinowitz@communityaccess.org

For more information, go to the 10th Annual NYC Mental Health Film Festival.

Bearing Witness: Art and Resistance in Cold War Latin America

Nickie Phillips

June 2, 1986, =

Wednesday, 7th of May, 2014 from 5:30pm-7:30pm

Attend the opening of the exhibition Bearing Witness: Art Resistance in Cold War Latin America.

The exhibition runs from May 8, 2014-September 12, 2014

at ANYA AND ANDREW SHIVA GALLERY JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CUNY 524 WEST 59TH STREET L2.73.14 NEW YORK, NY 10019

Gallery Hours: 1pm-5pm, M-F, or by appointment

While censorship, kidnapping, torture, and murder became common tactics for repressive governments throughout Latin America during the Cold War, many artists from the region responded by producing poignant works of art that speak out against these atrocities. This exhibition brings together three distinct bodies of work that do so through documentation, poetic subversion and revelation.

Sex in Prison: Myths and Realities

Nickie Phillips

Prison_Life_by_sultan_f

Crimcast welcomes Tammy L. Castle, co-editor along with Catherine D. Marcum of Sex in Prison: Myths and Realities (2014), to discuss issues surrounding sexual behavior, sexuality, and policies regarding sex in prison. Dr. Castle’s book brings together work from experts covering a variety of topics such as sexual assault, health issues, challenges facing LGBT inmates, and the implications of incarcerating millions of people in institutions that prohibit sexual intimacy.

How did you become interested in the topic of sex in prison?

I began writing about sexual behavior in prison while working as a research assistant for a professor in my graduate program. He had recently finished interviews with inmates about the topic, and I worked with him on several manuscripts that were published using that data. I also contributed a chapter to his book, which explored the contemporary practice of and policies related to sexual behavior in prison. The research at that time was dated, in part due to the stigma associated with researching such a topic both inside and outside the academy. It was because of my prior research in this area that Dr. Marcum contacted me to contribute a chapter and serve as co-editor of the book.

Your book reports that collecting accurate statistics on the extent of rape and sexual assault of men and women in prison is extremely difficult. Catherine Marcum, in her chapter “Examining Prison Sex Culture,” reports that sexual assault rates vary from 1 to 41 percent. How can we make sense of such a disparity?

The first issue to consider is the difficulty of collecting this type of data in prison/jail. Although the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) signed in 2003 requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics to report sexual assault rates, they can only report incidents that come to the attention of prison/jail staff. As noted in the book, inmates are hesitant to report for a variety of reasons including the stigma of being assaulted, fear of retribution by other inmates or staff (if a staff member was the perpetrator), and the desire to avoid the negative consequences of reporting (e.g. removal from general population).

Also, the number of sexual assaults reported varies from facility to facility. In some institutions, sexual coercion through manipulation is much more common. The institutions vary in what behavior gets defined as a sexual assault.

Your book addresses an overlooked area of research, that of consensual sex in prison. Kristine Levan points out that, aside from the obvious power imbalance between guards and inmates, some researchers have found that most sexual activity that occurs in prison is consensual. Why do you think that the myth persists among the general public that nearly all prison sex is coercive?

Photo: Jelle Vancoppenolle

Prisons are closed institutions—secure and often located in rural areas—and it is difficult for the general public to find information on the realities of prison life. For that reason, most of what they know comes from the media. The depictions of prison sex in the media are almost always sensational, whether it is being romanticized (as in the TV show ‘Orange is the New Black’) or portrayed only as a violent act (e.g. gang rape). The commonly held myth that prison rape occurs frequently, and is a natural consequence of living in prison, is found in most films that depict prison life.

Given that many members of the public are opposed to any perceived “amenities” or activities that prisoners might find pleasurable, why might a policy of conjugal visitation be worthwhile for both the inmates and society-at-large?

It is difficult to influence public opinion on attitudes toward inmates and amenities. Even with sexual assault, the public is often less than sympathetic to a “deserving” population. However, conjugal visitation in several states represents one component of a larger program aimed at family preservation. In other countries, specifically in Latin America, family preservation programs are more much common and accepted. Surveys on inmate amenities find stronger support for family visitation programs among the general public, who view the family members as “undeserving” of the negative impact of incarceration on the family unit.

These programs have been found to impact adjustment both during and after incarceration. Studies have shown that increased visitation results in fewer infractions while in prison, and provides participants with incentives to behave. Maintaining the connection with family also lowers recidivism rates and produces a “normalizing effect” on the inmates. Finally, states with conjugal visitation programs report lower rates of sexual assault. Some prison staff argue that programs such as these lower tension and hostility in the institutions overall.

What are the most overlooked health issues with regard to sex in prison?

As Potter and Rosky discussed in their chapter on health issues, disease transmission among inmates is the most pressing health concern. Some inmates enter prison with bacterial STDs or HIV, and then spread it via sexual contact. However because most correctional health data is not published it is difficult to estimate the rates of transmission. Most prison sex policies are prohibitive rather than preventative, although correctional facilities can decide whether to support harm reduction measures in an effort to reduce transmission.

Tell us about your current research and let us know if we can expect future work from you in this area.

This book culminates several years I spent working on the topic, and given the access to data provided by the PREA, I do feel that there is more work to be done by scholars who wish to explore this taboo subject. My other research interests include comparative justice and media, including my recent article Achieving Justice through the International Criminal Court in Northern Uganda: Is Indigneous/Restorative Justice a Better Approach? that examines the dimensions of justice and role of the International Criminal Court in Northern Uganda.

Tammy L. Castle

Tammy L. Castle is an Associate Professor in the Department of Justice Studies at James Madison University. She has published broadly in the areas of sexual violence and prisons, although her current research focuses on hate propaganda. For further information or discussion about the book, please contact her at: castletl@jmu.edu.