In the past few years, the topic of police reform, and the role of legal interventions by the courts has been discussed by politicians and covered extensively in the media. One of the more intrusive forms of court interventions is the use of a consent decree – a settlement agreement filed in federal court between plaintiffs and the local government agency in charge of the police. Typically consent decrees are overseen by a judge, who can legally enforce provisions in the agreement.
From the 1970s until about 2010, the number of individuals incarcerated in state prisons, federal prisons, and local jails increased dramatically. The main drivers were (1) changes in laws leading to longer, often mandatory, sentences, (2) "truth-in-sentencing" legislation requiring individuals convicted of violent crimes to serve at least 80% of their sentences, and (3) increased use of incarceration for drug-related crimes. Since then, there have been concerted efforts in some jurisdictions to reduce the number of individuals incarcerated.
The several television programs under the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) brand are crime dramas depicting how sophisticated forensic tools are used to solve cases. Because such tools are based on science, they are only as good as the science on which they rest. How good is the science? As the references listed below make plain, much of the forensics depicted in television programs is at best fanciful, and real-life forensics are too often not much better.
UPDATED: The FBI recently released the 2016 crime figures from its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system. Based on information from all of the police departments responding, property crime fell by 2% compared to 2015, while violent crime was up 3.5% in the same time period.
Since 1980, the share of the US population that is foreign born has doubled, rising from just over 6% in 1980 to over 12% in 2010. Compounding this demographic shift, the share of the foreign born population of Mexican origin also doubled, leading to a quadrupling of the fraction of US residents who are immigrants from Mexico. A majority of recent immigrants of Mexican origin living in the United states are thought to be undocumented, leading to a contentious policy debate concerning the collateral consequences of this particular type of immigration.
October 24, 2019
October 16, 2019
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