Inmate Phone Calls and Reducing Recidivism

Public Domain
Public Domain

In a statement issued last week, the Federal Communications Commission paves the way to reduce the high cost of telephone calls from prison inmates to their social support network.  According to one report, a 15-minute call can run as high as $17.30 for some inmates.  Long distance interstate calls already have rate caps at $0.25/minute for collect calls and $0.21/minute for prepaid calls.  Capping in-state rates would save the social support network of inmates $128 million/year by some estimates.  Many lawyers, myself included, refuse to take calls from inmates, in part because of the expense.

Why should we care?

Communication between inmates and their social support network has been demonstrated to reduce recidivism.

Mass Incarceration: A “Holocaust in Slow Motion?”

In a recent article in the DePaul Journal for Social Justice, “A ‘Holocaust in Slow Motion?’ America’s Mass Incarceration and the Role of Discretion,” a former federal prosecutor and a sitting federal judge highlight the “stunning metrics of mass incarceration in America” and discuss the role of discretion of lawmakers, prosecutors and judges and make suggestions for how our system can be more fair and just.

The “land of the free” incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any country in the world.

800px-Alcatraz_Island_-_prison_cells
Marine Perez, CC BY 2.0

The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.  The U.S. has 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails.  The U.S. is the world leader in incarceration with a 500% increase over the past 40 years.  The number of people in federal prisons for drug offenses increased 1950% between 1980 and 2010.  Of all the inmates in federal prisons, nearly half are serving time for drug offenses.  One in forty-five children have a parent in prison and one in ten have a parent under correctional supervision, straining them financially, disrupting parental bonds, separating spouses, stressing the remaining caregivers, leading to a loss of discipline in households, and to shame, stigma and anger.

But we get a safer society with the bad guys locked up, right?

On average, a person can make roughly $11,000 more [illegally] from spending time in prison versus a person who does not spend time in prison.

Springfield’s Red Light Cameras will come down

Joe Ravi, CC-BY-SA 3.0

The City of Springfield announced it will remove the red light cameras from intersections.  The cameras have been deactivated since the 2010 Missouri Supreme Court decision in City of Springfield v. Adolph Belt, Jr.  I served as the lawyer for the retired veteran highway patrolman who argued the cameras jeopardized public safety and the extra-judicial hearing process violated the basic rights of motorists.

Amos Bridges wrote a nice watchdog piece outlining the history of the case and cost to the motorists and taxpayers.   Final cost of the red-light camera program to Springfield taxpayers:  $461,504.62.  Cost to motorists of illegal fines:  $807,163.00.  Legal fees paid by the City to defend the camera program in court:  $124,244.62.  Accidents prevented:  0.

Kudos to the City and to Councilman Burlison who, it was reported, suggested the change.  Councilman Burlison has a long history of fighting for our basic freedoms.  Some will remember he was one of my clients in the lock down and mass search case against Springfield Public Schools and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office that we took to the United States Supreme Court.

“Missing” 4 Year Old Boy

I represent the father of the 4 year old boy, Benjamin, for which an Endangered Person Advisory was this morning issued by the Polk County Sheriff.

My client has been and continues to follow the law and engage the court system in order to advocate for the best interests of his child. The boy was neither lost nor endangered. Nor was he ever “found.” He was never abducted from the Polk County Courthouse nor anywhere else. Indeed, he was never in Polk County during the relevant time period. Throughout the past few days, Benjamin has been safe, happy and engaged with his school, family and friends.

Continue reading “Missing” 4 Year Old Boy

Choosing a Lawyer

“The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.” Missouri Supreme Court Rule 4-7.2

So, what is the best way to choose a lawyer? Looking around the web, we find lots of suggestions.

Continue reading Choosing a Lawyer

Client Confidentiality and Email

UncleSamListensIn
Jeff Schuler, CC BY 2.0

So, in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures about the NSA eavesdropping program, there has been an ongoing discussion among lawyers about how to protect the confidentiality of our client communications. This website is part of my response to that.

I changed web/email hosts and upgraded my email to include encryption between my computer and my mail server. So when I email clients (and anyone else) the transmissions are encrypted on “my side.” But they may or may not be encrypted on “your side.”

The three largest email providers, Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo!, default to SSL encryption by default, so about a billion of you are squared away. As for the rest, you should check with your service provider about encryption before you send me secret messages about your case!

Trials & Appeals