Sunday, March 13, 2016

Black-box DNA software, diligent participation credits, suicide lull, and other stories

Here are a few items I haven't had time to write about in more detail but which merit Grits readers' attention:

Diligent participation credits: A guide
Check out this guide from the Smart on Crime Coalition on how judges may implement diligent participation credits for state-jail felons under HB 1546, passed by the Legislature last year.

Lull in jail suicides
It's rather remarkable that Texas hasn't had a jail suicide in three months since the new intake form was adopted by the Commission on Jail Standards, though Grits has doubts that's the sole causal factor. The Houston Chronicle reported that, "More than 140 inmates have killed themselves in Texas jails over the last five years, or about 24 inmates, on average, committing suicide every year. In 2015, that number spiked up to more than 30."

The conservative case for on-demand drivers: Reentry
Marc Levin of TPPF recently reframed the debate over fingerprinting Uber and Lyft drivers in terms of the "ban the box" debate and the need for flexible, entry-level work for people with criminal records:
On-demand services like Uber, Lyft, Handy and Instacart are poster children for a growing type of flexible work. It’s easy to get started and there are no set schedules. This can be a vital bridge to a better life for people looking to get back on their feet. They can earn an income while simultaneously going to school, taking care of their kids or interviewing for full-time work.

Yet despite the promise of innovation, several cities in Texas are trying to impose fingerprinting requirements for ride-hailing services — a process that would disproportionately burden people with low-level, nonviolent offenses who are looking for a way to support themselves.

Politicians must resist calls from incumbent interests to impose regulations on new competitors that require ineffective and duplicative screening techniques that were developed decades ago. They would be wise to consider how these seemingly innocent regulations come at a great cost to citizens, taxpayers, and consumers — blocking even those with minor mistakes from seeking opportunities in the on-demand economy.
That explains in a nutshell, along with affordability concerns in the capital city, why Grits will support the alternative ordinance on the ballot in May to eliminate excessive regulation of on-demand drivers.

'The List'
There were come compelling Texas examples in this extensive New Yorker piece about juveniles on the public sex offender registry.

Texas' influence on conservative crimjust debates
Texas' 2007 probation reforms probably don't deserve all the credit they get for de-incarceration, given that we still have the nation's largest state prison population. But the influence those reforms had on the terms of debate among conservative movement folk is undeniable, as evidenced by this account at The Daily Signal. Our friends at TPPF have been making the case for federal reforms from a conservative perspective, countering more authoritarian (and less informed) voices in the Texas GOP.

'Black Box' DNA software
BuzzFeed picked up on a tidbit that seems significant: Some DNA mixture analysis software includes proprietary algorithms that their progenitors won't allowed to be reviewed by defense experts, similar to commercial breathalyzer devices used at DWI stops. As Grits reported earlier, because of the nature of these calculations, which rely on a technique called "probabilistic genotyping," the results from this process are actually different every time - so they're not replicable, in addition to not being transparent.

Against privatized community corrections services
Our pal Cate Graziani from Grassroots Leadership and D.C. lawyer Arjun Sethi had a column in Politico lamenting privatization in corrections beyond the prison system, urging skepticism toward "the growing network of facilities and companies built to handle court-ordered community corrections, correctional medical care, and mental health and civil commitment facilities." See more examples here.

Substituting jails and prisons for mental health care
Vox had an article recently offering explanations for "How America's criminal justice system became America's mental health system."

Bodycams sans transparency
Judging by this item from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Texas isn't the only state where expanded use of body cams by police has been accompanied by legal provisions limiting transparency.


Anonymous said...

Grits, to require potential uber drivers to be finger printed is unfair to the minority's! If, they are not required to have a ID to vote because it is unfair then why the finger prints for uber drivers?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You're blathering, 2:49, that's nonsensical drivel.

Anonymous said...

But at the same time, ride hailing services do have to be careful about who drives for them. Who would you want to hire? Obviously, no sex offenders or those with crimes of violence. No thieves or credit/debit card abuse charges: they might steal. No DWI/drug charges: they might drive high or drunk. No prostitution because they might set up shop in the car. That really doesn't leave much to choose from. Criminal mischief, trespass, failure to ID, etc.......

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So let the ride sharing services be careful, 11:35, they already do background checks. Leave government out of it. "Who do you want to hire?" is a question for employers and consumers, not City Council.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Grits, I encourage you to reexamine the context of Uber's resistance to regulation. The abuse of the referendum process they are running here, the similar efforts they've mounted elsewhere, suspicious links to shady funding, statements by Emil Michael about blackmailing journalists who report on Uber's plans, etc. Yes, affordability is Austin is an issue, sure, but if you take a broader look at what Uber is trying to do, I hope you may change your mind. They don't object to EXCESSIVE regulation -- they object to ANY regulation by any local authorities. It's just the kind of thing that you usually seem to oppose.