Showing posts with label Criminal justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Criminal justice. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Second principle work - Bring back parole in Illinois

 Illinois Eliminated Parole in 1978. These Christians Want to Bring it Back.

A belief that people can change bolsters their movement.

For more click here.

Where do Unitarian Universalists in Illinois stand on this issue of SB2333 the proposed legislation in Illinois to bring back parole?

Friday, November 20, 2020

Good news - Jaythan Kendrick exonerated and released after 25 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Jaythan Kendrick was arrested for the murder of a 70-year-old woman during a robbery in Queens, New York in November 1994 — but he didn’t commit this crime.

Today (11/19/20), after 25 years of wrongful incarceration, Jaythan has finally been freed. A judge vacated his conviction based on newly discovered DNA evidence and witnesses that strengthened his long-standing claims of innocence.

For more click here.

Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations. UU A Way Of Life is a proud supporter of the Innocence Project.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Evidence Based Social Policy Advocacy - Criminal Justice, wrongful convictions

Of the 367 wrongful convictions exonerated with DNA evidence by the Innocence Project since 1989:

130 were wrongfully convicted of murder with 40 cases, 31% involving eyewitness misidentifications, and 81 cases, 62%, involving false confessions.

The major reasons for wrongful convictions of the 367 exonerated cases by DNA evidence since 1989 are:

  1.  69% eyewitness misidentification
  2. 44% misapplication of forensic science
  3. 28% false confessions
  4. 17% inaccurate incentivized informant testimony
  1. How many wrongful convictions have occured in the jurisdiction of your congregation in the last ten years?
  2. Are members of your congregation monitoring the performance of police and prosecutors in your service area?
  3. What actions has your congregation taken to improve the just performance of the police and prosecutors in your service area in the last ten years and what are you planning in the coming ten years?
  4. Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. How specifically is your congregation and its members doing in implementing this principle in its congregational, familial, and personal lives? Is it a time for an assessment?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Evidence Based Social Policy Advocacy - Criminal Justice, wrongful convictions.

Is the criminal justice system in the U.S. racist?

Of the 367 exonerees of the Innocence Project since 1989 cleared with DNA evidence:

225, 61% were African American

110, 30% were Caucasian

28, 8% were Latinx

2, 1% were Asian American

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What racial group in the United States is most heavily impacted by wrongful convictions?
Why would this be?


  1. Find out how many wrongful convictions have occured in your church's jurisdiction in the last 10 years.
  2. Identify the contributing factors to these wrongful convictions.
  3. Identify remedies for the criminal justice practices in both policing and prosecution to minimize, if not eliminate wrongful convictions in your jurisdiction.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Evidence based social policy advocacy, criminal justice, wrongful conviction exonerations

In 2019, the Innocence Project has helped exonerate 7 people with a combined total of 176 years of incarceration.

UU A Way Of Life supports the work of the Innocence Project as part of its evidence based social policy advocacy work.

Click on image to enlarge.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Great example of an incentivized informant.

The way to get away with crimes in America is to commit them with other people and then flip on them so the prosectuors can convict them with your help. The prosecutors now "owe you," and you will get reduced sentences which are in no way commensurate with the crimes you perpetrated.

This is a great example of the games "one or other," and "what about him/her?" It has nothing to do with truth, justice, equity, and compassion and everything to do with escaping culpability, and accountability. President Donald Trump and his companions are masters at this game and a good example of one of the most corrupt presidential administrations in American history.

This kind of behavior is in violation of several Unitarian Univeralist principles such as princples 2, 4, 5, and 6.

Evidenced Based Social Policy Advocacy - Criminal Justice, Use of Incentivized Informants

The fourth largest factor in wrongful convictions in the 367 people exonerated by DNA evidence by the Innocence project was use of incentivized informants with 17% of the cases.


Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. When people have conflicts of interest, it is human nature that justice, equity, and compassion often are set aside in the interests of self-preservation and self-aggrandizement. It takes a very mature person to rise above these perverse, narcissistic incentives.

What makes things worse for justice, equity, and compassion to be honored and implemented is when the incentives of a system are perverted to encourage such conflicts of interest, or they are overlooked in the service of an unjust or inequitable goal being achieved.

Unitarian Universalists, as they enact the second principle, should be alert to the perverse incentives in systems to favor some participants over others. When good people do bad things, it is usually because the system not only allows it, but incentivizes it in some way. No better and damaging examples can be given than those that occur in the criminal justice system.

What is the policy of the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in your jurisdiction when it comes to the use of informants and incentivized witnesses?

For more click here.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Evidence based social policy advocacy, Wrongful convictions, Tunnel vision in criminal investigations violate the fourth principle of Unitarian Universalists.

How does tunnel vision lead to wrongful convictions?

Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning and abhor tunnel vision and confirmation bias.

Does this mean that Unitarian Universalists would be better detectives and prosecutors? How can UU congregations advocate for fair and open minded policing and prosecutorial conduct in the jurisdications in which they reside? Should Unitarian Univeralists advocate for police and district attorney accountability boards to review their work and conduct?

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Evidence Based Social Policy Advocacy, Criminal Justice, Wrongful convictions based on misapplication of forensic evidence

 The second largest factor in wrongful convictions in the 367 people exonerated by DNA evidence by the Innocence project was misapplication of forensic science with 45% of the cases, that’s almost half.

 24% of all wrongful convictions in the U.S. are based on faulty forensic science.

Not only do the “experts” get the evidence wrong, but the law poses tremendous barriers to getting the faulty evidence claims reviewed.

 Examples of faulty forensic science involves incorrect hair analysis, faulty arson evidence, wrong comparative lead bullet analysis, etc.

 Americans have become enamored with TV crime shows which show convictions based on forensic evidence which gives the viewers the satisfaction of the experts and detectives outsmarting the offenders, but what about when the experts are wrong and the “evidence” is not valid and reliable?

 As people of faith, Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. UUs can be helpful to wrongfully accused and convicted suspects when overzealous prosecutors misuse evidence in a fraudulent fashion to advocate on the suspect’s behalf to have the evidence accurately and impartially reviewed.

For more click here.

Editor's note:

I support the Innocence project with what little money I have. I encourage you to do the same. Click here.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Evidence based social policy advocacy - False confessions

The third largest factor in wrongful convictions in the 367 people exonerated by DNA evidence by the Innocence project was false confessions with  with 28% of the cases, that’s over ¼ or 1:4.

Of these false confessions

49% were by people 21 years old or younger at the time of arrest.
33% were under 18.
10% of false confessions were by people with mental health or mental capacity issues.

Plea bargaining and threats of draconian sentences with prolonged interrogation techniques often result in a false confession just to end the intimidation and harassment.

Have you ever been arrested, taken in to custody, and subjected to intimidation and coercive techniques? Has anyone you love and care about?

To what extent does this occur more often to poor people who don’t have access to a lawyer?

For more click here.

What can you do about it?

Check with your local police department to find out what kind of interrogation policies and procedures they use in interviewing suspects and witnesses.

Check with your district attorney's office to find out what kind of confessions they use use in their prosecutions.

Check with your local bar association, defense attornies section, to find out what their experience has been with false confessions.

Encourage everyone you know not to speak with police without an attorney to represent you.

Unitarian Univeralists convenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Does your congregation have a social justice committee to monitor criminal justice practices in your congregation's geographical area? Does your congregation have any policy and procedures for how to assist people who come into contact with the criminal justice system?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Evidence based social policy advocacy - Criminal justice - eyewitness misidentification

Of the 367 wrongful convictions that were exonerated since 1989 by the Innocence Project, 71% involved eyewitenss misidentification.

Supposed human memory every often is distorted and biased due to multiple factors.

Here's an interesting video dealing with the topic.

 What can be done to mitigate the possibility of witness misidentification? There are many things. To learn about them, click here.

Here's part of what is stated on the Innocence project web site about police and prosecutorial reforms when it comes to using eyewitness testimony in prosecutions:

How to Improve the Accuracy of Eyewitness Identifications
The Innocence Project endorses a range of procedural reforms to improve the accuracy of eyewitness identification. These reforms have been recognized by police, prosecutorial and judicial experience, as well as national justice organizations, including the National Institute of Justice and the American Bar Association. The benefits of these reforms are corroborated by over 30 years of peer-reviewed comprehensive research.
1. The “Double-blind” Procedure/Use of a Blind Administrator: A “double-blind” lineup is one in which neither the administrator nor the eyewitness knows who the suspect is. This prevents the administrator of the lineup from providing inadvertent or intentional verbal or nonverbal cues to influence the eyewitness to pick the suspect.
2. Instructions: “Instructions” are a series of statements issued by the lineup administrator to the eyewitness that deter the eyewitness from feeling compelled to make a selection. They also prevent the eyewitness from looking to the lineup administrator for feedback during the identification procedure. One of the recommended instructions includes the directive that the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup.
3. Composing the Lineup: Suspect photographs should be selected that do not bring unreasonable attention to him. Non-suspect photographs and/or live lineup members (fillers) should be selected so that the suspect does not stand out from among the other fillers. Law enforcement should select fillers using a blended approach that considers the fillers’ resemblance to the description provided by the eyewitness and their resemblance to the police suspect. (More detailed recommendations can be provided upon request by the Innocence Project.)
4. Confidence Statements: Immediately following the lineup procedure, the eyewitness should provide a statement, in his own words, that articulates the level of confidence he or she has in the identification made.
5. The Lineup Procedure Should Be Documented: Ideally, the lineup procedure should be electronically recorded. If this is impracticable, an audio or written record should be made.
Which states have implemented these reforms?
24 states have implemented the core reforms promoted by the Innocence Project either through legislation, court action, or substantial voluntary compliance. These states are:
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
How is your state doing in instituting these reforms?
Would you and/or a group of social advocacy minded parishoners in you congregation want to study how the eyewitness testimony is obtained and used in your jurisdiction, and advocate for recommended reforms is necessary?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Evidence Based Social Policy - Criminal Justice

Of the 367 people exonerated by the Innocence Project with DNA evidence since 1989 the demographics are interesting.

Number of 367 exonerees who are Africian American? = 225 (61%)
Number of 367 exonerees who are Latinx? = 28 (8%)
Number of 367 exonerees who are white? = 110 (30%)

Are African Americans wrongfully convicted at twice the rate as whites = Yes

Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. What can we do to rectify wrongful convictions of everyone but especially of African Americans who are over represented in the exonerees based on their race. For more click here.

In our next article we will explore some of the reasons for wrongful convictions in our U.S. criminal justice system.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Evidence Based Social Policy Advocary - Criminal Justice

Today , UU A Way Of Life, is beginning a new feature, tagged, "Evidence based social policy."

Unitarian Universalists have a long history of advocating for social justice. This advocacy activity is generated from its second principle, the affirmation and promotion of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

The first topic chosen is criminal justice.

Here at UU A Way Of Life, we are long time supporters of The Innocence Project which has a history since the late 80s of advocating for prisoners who have been falsely accused and punished for crimes they did not commit.

At UU A Way Of Life we encourage people to support the work of the Innocence Project and to work for changes in State laws that contribute to wrongful convictions.

Further, there can be no more important office that oversees the operation of the criminal justice system than the office of your County and State district attorney.

District attorneys are the key policy making decision makers who decide who gets prosectuted and who doesn't, and how prosecutions are managed.

Most citizens are only vaguely aware of how their District Attorney's office is run. As Unitarian Univeralists we can be more curious about the operation of our District Attorney's offices and how the policies of our local District Attorney's impact how cases are charged and prosecutions are conducted.

Number of DNA exonerations to date (12/07/19) since 1989 achieved by The Innocence Project, 21 from death row, = 367

In how many states = 37

With what average number of years served in prison = 14

Average age at wrongful conviction = 26

Average age at exoneration = 43

Number of people out of the 367 who confessed to crimes they did not committ = 41

To be continued

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Principle two - affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

There are plenty of examples of evil in America. Injustice is rampant in our hyper-capitalist society. The way we treat the poor, the sick, the young, the old, people of minority races, offenders, is legendary. While all of these are important, perhaps one of the most egregious examples of evil is wrongful convictions and the infliction of unjust criminal justice penalties on the wrongfully proclaimed guilty.

The second principle of Untarian Universalism is that we covenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. This affirmation and promotion is badly needed in our contemporary society when poor people who can't mount a robust defense against false accusations are oppressed and subjugated by dysfunctional prosecutors and judges who see the administration of criminal justice as a game played in a competitive playing field based on adversarial rules of play which often are misused, abused, and corrupt.

All of this is why I support the Innocence Project which is an organization which tries to correct and rectify the injustice of our criminal justice system.

The Innocence Project has been in existence for 26 years and during that time they have accomplished many significant and wonderful things. For example, to date, 367 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 21 who served time on death row.

For more click here.

Friday, March 8, 2019

What do you think about bail reform?

Editor's note:
Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. One of the biggest promoters of injustice in our society is our criminal justice system. It is a two tiered system. The highest tier is for people with money who can afford bail and powerful attorneys who are well connected and highly skilled. The lowest tier is for poor people who cannot afford bail and cannot afford skilled well connected attorneys.

New York State needs to enact bail reform. UUs should be educated and concerned about the dysfunctions in our criminal justice system.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Second principle practice - American gulag part one

From "Captive Market" by Michael Ames in the February, 2015 issue of Harper's Magazine:

The United States currently holds about 2.3 million men, women, and children inside secure concrete and metal boxes from which they will almost certainly not escape. 

Our nation is exceptional in this way, with incarceration rates that far surpass those in Russia, Iran, or any other country on earth. 

One in twenty-eight American children has a parent in jail. African Americans have for decades been arrested for narcotics at more than three times the rate of white Americans, despite using drugs at roughly the same rate. 

There are more black men in the prison system right now then there were male slaves in the antebellum South. 

Counting parolees and probationers, the corrections system controls the lives of nearly 7 million people. Half of all federal inmates are in prison for drug offenses, and post-9/11 immigration roundups have provided a new human- inventory stream. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of detainees held each year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) more than doubled—from
209,000 to at least 429,000—making foreign migrants one of the largest demographics in federal custody.

Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote 7 principles and values. The second principle is "Justice, Equity, and Compassion in Human Relations" There is a huge values gap between what we, as Americans say we believe in and value, and our practices what we actually do. How can be close this values gap and bring our values more into alignment with espoused values.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Public square - "Criminal" criminal justice system

Yesterday, we began, a new feature on the UU A Way Of Life online magazine, entitled, "The Public Square," which will examine how our UU faith might apply to public events and policies in our society.

Yesterday we commented on the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson police in Ferguson, MO. In the editor's note I commented that racism seems more entrenched in the increasing militarizing of our police in our communities and the seeming obquitous phenomenon of police brutality against people of color.

Today, 08/14/14, the Pew Research Center re-published the results of a poll it did last year that found that blacks reported that police and the criminal justice system is the most racist institution in our American society.

Blacks are much more likely than whites to say that blacks faced unfair treatment in dealing with police or in the courts, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. And blacks perceived racial biases to be greater in the criminal justice system than in other institutions.
For more information click here.

Unitarian Universalism is a very white denomination historically and currently. It also ignores, for the most part, the significant injustices in what I call our "criminal" criminal justice system. If Unitarian Universalists want to get serious about working on the issues of institutionalized racism in our society the local criminal justice system would be a good place to start.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When did you we see you in prison and visit you?

Matthew 25:31-40

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.

Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Lauretta got me started doing prison ministry when I was going to Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in Albion, NY.

Since we both have left that church I have continued visiting and writing the prisoner whom I had been visiting and writing to.

Now I like to think I am doing this as part of the Brockport Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry.

The United States incarcerates more offenders per capita that any nation in the world. It is getting so expensive that states like California and New York are having to discharge prisoners because taxpayers can no longer afford to house them. It costs about $35,000 a year to keep a person in prison. They could have been sent to an Ivy League Private College for that.

Of course the prison industry employs working class people in rural communities and keeps politicians in office for "bringing home the bacon".

I was observing the guards during my visit today. They are mostly middle aged white guys watching younger black and Hispanic guys. It's like the old plantation days when the whites supervised and economically benefited from the servitude of the blacks.

The prisoner I visit is a white guy in his early 30s who is clearly the minority in this prison doing 6 years for a crime of sexual assault, his first offense, and when he is released he will be a registered second level sex offender and will be heavily stigmatized as a threat to his community which he is not.

Our criminal justice system in the United States is seriously dysfunctional and extremely expensive and benefits primarily the middle class who provide the attorneys, judges, parole officers, correction officers, etc who job it is to "work the system" of mostly poor nonviolent people who society has significantly marginalized to begin with and then when they transgress incarcerate them.

There are a number of moral and ethical issues raised by the way we operate our criminal justice system in the United States. One of the values of Unitarian Universalism is "justice, equity, and compassion" in human relations. I don't see much of this in our criminal justice system which is primarily adversarial and retributive.

There are better ways of doing criminal justice such as restorative justice.

I have questioned myself many times on why I have responded albeit reluctantly to Lauretta's request to visit a fellow UU in prison. I have no clear answer other than I feel deep down in my heart that I owe it to him and if I can help as one UU to another I am willing to do what I can.

I go to see the prisoner once per month and write him a couple times a month and send him books and articles and food periodically.

I do it on our behalf, on the behalf of us Unitarian Universalists. I want to feel I am representing and living out a faith that cares about human dignity, and justice, and is willing to facilitate human potential.

I can say, Well, Lord, I went once per month and the last time was August 28, 2009. I will go again in September. Okay?

And I can hear the King say to me, "David, you've been a real idiot, and made plenty of lousy mistakes in your life, but hey, I mean, did you visit some prisoners so I guess you're not as big a doofus as you think you are."

Being a Unitarian Universalist, a real one, not just one in name only, requires the practice of corporal works of mercy, you feeling me?

I would love to hear what you do to live out your Unitarian Universalist faith. I would like you to brag about what you do to contribute to more justice, equity, and compassion in the world. Leave us a comment.
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