Science and Technology News

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Criminal Justice Technology in the News

Law Enforcement News
New Forensics Research Center to Develop Tools to Improve Law Enforcement's Investigation Capabilities, (01/26/2016), Justin Lee

A new joint U.S.-Chinese forensic technology research center aims to develop new tools and applications for rapid DNA tests, improved facial recognition and fingernail biometrics, according to a published report. The New Haven Register reported that the new research center is a collaboration between the University of New Haven's Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science and Beijing's China University of Political Science and Law. Under a five-year agreement, students and faculty from the two universities will also develop tools for digital forensic investigation, case management and evaluation, and robotics for investigating crime scenes.
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Cleveland Police Department Implements New Community Relations Initiative
Times Free Press, (01/28/2016), Paul Leach

The Cleveland Police Department in Tennessee has a new Community Relations Unit that combines public outreach and accreditation functions. The unit will be responsible for reviewing policies and maintaining the department's accreditation, crime prevention, public relations and public information functions.
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Framingham PD to Increase Staffing in Narcotics, Domestic Violence Units
The MetroWest Daily News, (01/27/2016), Jim Haddadin

The Framingham Police Department in Massachusetts will use a state grant to fund its Narcotics Unit and add staff for investigating domestic violence. The $81,133 grant is part of a $4 million grant program administered by the Department of Public Safety. The Narcotics Unit had gone from four officers to two, and plans to add a domestic violence investigator had been previously dropped. The department responded to more than 30 drug overdoses and more than 500 hundred domestic disputes during the first nine months of 2015 alone, according to the department's grant application.
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MEMS to Buy Vests to Protect Little Rock Medics, (01/27/2016), Scott Carrol

Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services of Little Rock, Ark., plans to buy ballistic-resistant body armor for its medics. Ambulance crews have not worn bullet-resistant gear since the mid-1990s, during the height of gang violence in the city. Officials estimate buying new armor for the agency's 220 uniformed personnel will cost about $150,000.
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Corrections News
New Device Helps Inmates Learn and Communicate
WFXL (01/31/2016), Donovan Long

Georgia inmates are using customized tablets to access educational materials and connect with their families. The Georgia Offender Alternative Learning devices also come preloaded with inmate handbooks. The tablets do not allow access to the Internet. Inmates can use the devices to email or video chat with their families.
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Pima Seeks Grant to Cut Jail Population
Arizona Daily Star, (01/31/2016), Patrick McNamara

Pima County in Arizona is seeking nearly $3 million in grant funding to address factors that can affect jail overcrowding. The grant, requested through the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, would help the county increase pretrial screening, expand weekend court sessions to resolve outstanding warrants, improve data collection, add more home monitoring for sentenced offenders and create an automated court-date reminder system for defendants awaiting adjudication. The grant funds would be used for additional criminal justice workers and for purchasing the technology needed to implement the changes.
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Powhatan Prison Locked Down for Weeks After Smuggling Attempt, Drone Overflight
Richmond Times-Dispatch, (02/01/2016), Frank Green

An attempt to smuggle a cellphone, ammunition and other contraband hidden in a basketball into a Virginia prison, followed by a drone overflight six days later, has resulted in a lengthy lockdown of the facility. The lockdown at the Powhatan Reception and Classification Center began on January 14 when authorities caught two people attempting to enter a job fair being held on the compound grounds that houses the prison. The two were apparently trying to smuggle tobacco, cellphones, knives and 9 mm bullets into the facility that were hidden inside a basketball. The facility was placed on lockdown and searched. On January 20, a drone was seen flying over the correctional facility's property, prompting a second search. Nothing is known to have dropped from a drone into the facility, officials said. The lockdown was eased somewhat February 1 to a modified lockdown, which means inmates can leave their cells but have to stay in their living areas.
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Obama Bans Solitary Confinement for Juveniles in Federal Prisons
The Washington Post, (01/26/2016), Juliet Eilperin

President Obama has announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, saying the practice is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences. In an op-ed that appeared in The Washington Post, the president outlines a series of executive actions that also prohibit federal corrections officials from punishing prisoners who commit "low-level infractions" with solitary confinement. The new rules also dictate that the longest a prisoner can be punished with solitary confinement for a first offense is 60 days, rather than the current maximum of 365 days.
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Alabama Man Serving Life Sentence for Murder Caught Live Streaming From Prison, (01/21/2016), Erin Edgemon

An Alabama man serving a life sentence for killing a man in 2011 faces new charges after being caught live streaming via social media from prison. While in prison at Elmore Correctional Facility, Devin Williamson, 26, created a Facebook page, and opened Periscope and GoFundMe accounts, according to Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton. He said Williamson admitted to creating the pages and live streaming videos from the Periscope app. Officials confiscated Williamson's cell phone and contacted the providers of the social media accounts, who shut them down. Williamson was transferred to another correctional facility and is charged with illegal possession of a cell phone and unlawful participating in social media.
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Drone Legislation Crashes in Colorado Legislature
The Durango Herald, (01/26/2016), Peter Marcus

Legislation that would have clarified that it is illegal to use a drone to drop contraband into a prison has been withdrawn from consideration in the Colorado legislature. The bill would have applied to unlawfully operating a drone within 1,000 feet of a detention facility with the intent of introducing contraband. Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, who introduced the legislation, asked the House Judiciary Committee to kill the bill after opponents raised several concerns, including that prohibiting drone flights within 1,000 feet of a prison could prevent photographers and videographers from accessing areas that are otherwise legal to capture.
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