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Institute for Justice's Center for Judicial Engagement;
The Constitution was written to limit government power, but those limits are meaningless unless judges restrain public officials when they overstep their bounds. Judicial engagement is a cutting-edge approach to judicial review that ensures that Americans receive an honest, reasoned explanation in court whenever they allege a plausible abuse of government power. Enforcing the Constitution is CJE's annual review of the judiciary's performance. The 2015-2016 edition summarizes and analyzes 20 notable examples of judicial engagement and judicial abdication in a variety of contexts. We begin close to home, with a family out for a summer walk. We end in a place where most do not expect to find themselves - prison. In all of these contexts, Americans are confronted by government power; in all of these contexts, judicial engagement maintains the rule of law and protects our freedom.Fulfilling the Constitution's promise of liberty requires judicial engagement. This report explores the judiciary's performance in 2015-1016.
National Juvenile Justice Network;
"Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform" catalogs the wide and impressive array of reforms in the field of juvenile justice that occurred over the last year and a half. Highlighted reforms include newly passed state and federal laws, administrative policy changes, judicial decisions, and new funding allocations. The document also includes a new section, "Promising Commissions and Studies," that focuses on a range of government-sponsored efforts which are frequently the precursors to concrete, instituted reform. Specific reforms included in the publication are the closure of large, harmful juvenile prisons; increase in programs that offer community-based alternatives to confinement; strengthened practice standards for juvenile defenders; and additional procedural and substantive protections for youth in and out of court.
Center For Judicial Engagement;
This year's edition of Enforcing the Constitution showcases the importance of judicial engagement and the perils of judicial abdication in a variety of contexts . We begin close to home, with a family out for a summer walk . We end in a place where most do not expect to find themselves—prison. In all of these contexts, Americans are confronted by government power; in all of these contexts, judicial engagement maintains the rule of law and protects our freedom.
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law;
While mass incarceration has emerged as an urgent national issue to be addressed, the reforms currently offered are dwarfed by the scale of the problem. The country needs bolder solutions.How can we significantly cut the prison population while still keeping the country safe? This report puts forth one answer to that question. Our path forward is not offered as the only answer or as an absolute. Rather, it is meant to provide a starting point for a broader discussion about how the country can rethink and revamp the outdated sentencing edifice of the last four decades. This report is the product of three years of research conducted by one of the nation's leading criminologists, experienced criminal justice lawyers, and statistical researchers. First, we conducted an in-depth examination of the federal and state criminal codes, as well as the convictions and sentences of the nationwide prison population (1.46 million prisoners serving time for 370 different crime categories) to estimate how many people are currently incarcerated without a sufficient public safety rationale. We find that alternatives to incarceration are more effective and just penalties for many lower-level crimes. We also find that prison sentences can safely be shortened for a discrete set of more serious crimes. Second, based on these findings, we propose a new, alternative framework for sentencing grounded in the science of public safety and rehabilitation.Many have argued that regimented sentencing laws should be eliminated and replaced with broad judicial discretion. Others counter that this would reinstate a system wherein judges are free to deliver vastly divergent sentences for the same crime, potentially exacerbating racial disparities and perpetuating the tradition of harsh sentences.This report proposes a new solution, building on these past proposals. We advocate that today's sentencing laws should change to provide default sentences that are proportional to the specific crime committed and in line with social science research, instead of based on conjecture. These defaults should mandate sentences of alternatives to incarceration for lower-level crimes. For some other crimes that warrant incarceration, they should mandate shorter sentences. Judges should have discretion to depart from these defaults in special circumstances, such as a defendant's criminal history, mental health or addiction issues, or specifics of the crime committed. This approach is grounded in the premise that the first principle of 21st century sentencing should be to protect public safety, and that sentences should levy the most effective, proportional, and cost-efficient sanction to achieve that goal. It aims to create more uniform sentences and reduce disparities, while preserving judicial discretion when needed. Our proposed sentencing defaults for each crime weigh four factors:Seriousness: Murder, for instance, should be treated as a far graver crime than writing a bad check.Victim Impact: If a person has been harmed in the commission of a crime, especially physically, weight toward a more serious sentence.Intent: If the actor knowingly and deliberately violated the law, a more severe sanction may be appropriate.Recidivism: Those more likely to reoffend may need more intervention. Our findings and recommendations, determined by applying the four factors above to the prison population, are detailed below. (The rationale for these factors and our full methodology is described in Appendix A.)
In November 2013, a Freedom House delegation traveled to Turkey to meet with journalists, NGOs, business leaders, and senior government officials about the deteriorating state of media freedom in the country. The delegation's objective, and the plan for this report, was to investigate reports of government efforts to pressure and intimidate journalists and of overly close relationships between media owners and government, which, along with bad laws and overly aggressive prosecutors, have muzzled objective reporting in Turkey.Since November, events in Turkey have taken a severe turn for the worse. The police raids that revealed a corruption scandal on December 17, and the allegations of massive bidrigging and money laundering by people at the highest levels of the government, have sparked a frantic crackdown by the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party. More journalists have been fired for speaking out. Hundreds of police officers and prosecutors have been fired or relocated across the country. Amendments to the new Internet regulation law proposed by the government would make it possible for officials to block websites without court orders. The government is also threatening the separation of powers by putting the judiciary, including criminal investigations, under direct control of the Ministry of Justice. The crisis of democracy in Turkey is not a future problem -- it is right here, right now.This report on the media recognizes that what is happening in Turkey is bigger than one institution and part of a long history that continues to shape current events. The media in Turkey have always been close to the state; as recently as 1997, large media organizations were co-opted by the military to subvert a democratically elected government. The AK Party was formed in the wake of those events. But even as it has tamed the military, the AKP has been unable to resist the temptations of authoritarianism embedded in the state the military helped create. Over the past seven years, the government has increasingly employed a variety of strong-arm tactics to suppress the media's proper role as a check on power. Some of the most disturbing efforts include the following:Intimidation: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an frequently attacks journalists by name after they write critical commentary. In several well-known cases, like those of Hasan Cemal and Nuray Mert, journalists have lost their jobs after these public attacks. Sympathetic courts hand out convictions in defamation cases for criticism.Mass firings: At least 59 journalists were fired or forced out in retaliation for their coverage of last summer's Gezi Park protests. The December corruption scandal has produced another string of firings of prominent columnists.Buying off or forcing out media moguls: Holding companies sympathetic to the government receive billions of dollars in government contracts, often through government bodies housed in the prime minister's office. Companies with media outlets critical of the government have been targets of tax investigations, forced to pay large fines, and likely disadvantaged in public tenders.Wiretapping: The National Security Organization has wiretapped journalists covering national security stories, using false names on the warrants in order to avoid judicial scrutiny.Imprisonment: Dozens of journalists remain imprisoned under broadly defined antiterrorism laws. A majority of those in prison are Kurds, and some analysts believe the government is using them as bargaining chips in negotiations with the Kurdish PKKThese tactics are unacceptable in a democracy. They deny Turkish citizens full access to information and constrain a healthy political debate. Journalists and government officials alike acknowledge that reporters and news organizations have practiced self-censorship to avoid angering the government, and especially Prime Minister Erdogan.The intentional weakening of Turkey's democratic institutions, including attempts to bully and censor Turkey's media, should and must be a matter of deep concern for the United States and the European Union. As the AKParty's internal coalition has grown more fragile, Erdogan has used his leverage over the media to push issues of public morality and religion and to squelch public debate of the accountability of his government. The result is an increasingly polarized political arena and society.Freedom House calls on the government of Turkey to recognize that in a democracy, a free press and other independent institutions play a very important role. There are clear and concrete steps the Turkish government must take to end the intimidation and corruption of Turkey's media. Chief among these are the following:Cease threats against journalists.Repeal the criminal defamation law and overly broad antiterrorism and "criminal organization" laws that have been used to jail dozens of journalists.Comply with European and international standards in procurement practices in order to reduce the incentive for media owners to curry favor by distorting the news. Turkish media owners themselves must make a commitment to support changes in procurement practices if they are to win back the trust of Turkey's citizens.Although building a resilient democracy is fundamentally up to Turkish citizens, the international community cannot afford to be bystanders. The European Union and the OSCE have raised strong concerns about government pressure on Turkey's media, and the EU's warnings against governmental overreach have been pointed. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the United States. The Obama administration has been far too slow to realize the seriousness of the threat to Turkey's democracy. U.S. criticism of the Turkish government's recent actions has come from the State Department spokesperson and White House press secretary, not from the high-ranking officials who need to be engaged in responding to a crisis of this scale. Where European governments and institutions have been specifically and publicly engaged with the government over the crisis, the Obama administration has avoided the difficult issues. It is time to speak frankly and with seriousness about the growing threat to democracy in Turkey, and to place freedom of expression and democracy at the center of the policy relationship.