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March 2016 Archives

Ending The Drug War One Prisoner At A Time

A staggering number of Americans are serving prison sentences far out of proportion with the severity of their actions. President Obama has promised to alter the landscape for people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. He recently commuted the sentences of 61 such inmates. He has now stepped in to grant clemency in 248 cases, including many where the inmate was serving a life sentence.

Drug Crimes And Pregnancy

State and federal laws concerning illegal drugs have proliferated almost without regard to their effectiveness. Time and again, legislators have doubled or tripled down on methods that do not produce positive results. While there are many victims of the failed, yet ongoing War on Drugs, few have as much to lose as women who are forced to deal with those laws in connection with a pregnancy. Between draconian penalties associated with drug offenses and overzealous, ill-informed child welfare agencies, mothers and their children face serious harm from the laws designed to "protect" our society.

Faith In "Scientific" Evidence Is Sometimes Misplaced

No two sets of fingerprints are the same. That statement or something to its effect has been repeated in so many television shows and movies that it is well-established in our culture. Yet, a review of the results from fingerprint examiners shows a shockingly high level of variation. When a group of examiners were asked to retest prints 7 months after they first analyzed them, the examiners reproduced the same result roughly 90 percent of the time. That means 10 percent of the examiners disagreed with their own prior work. Evidence, such as fingerprint analysis, that has the air of science around it may be given undue weight by judges and juries.

Juveniles And The Sex-Offender Registry

If the goal of sex offender registration is to protect young people, its use in the case of juvenile offenders is problematic. A startling percentage of sex crimes involving underage victims are committed by other children. In 1 out of 8 of these cases, the person committing the offense is under the age of 12. Sex offender registration law can allow for a child as young as 9 to be branded for life, often under highly questionable circumstances.

Justice For All Is The Goal, Not The Reality

Even a cursory investigation into arrest and conviction rates and criminal sentences should be enough to demonstrate the need for criminal justice reform. Statues depicting Lady Justice, blindfolded and holding a scale, call to mind the importance of an impartial and fair process for determining guilt or innocence. That ideal does not reflect the truth experienced by so many after an arrest. A recent report from the Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress demonstrates how the criminal justice system does not conform to its lofty standards when it comes to dealing with members of the LGBT community.

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Kohlmetz, Steen & Hanrahan, P.C.

741 Southwest Lincoln Street
Portland, OR 97201
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In portland: 503-224-1104
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