Science and Technology News

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Criminal Justice Technology in the News



School Safety Report Recommends Cellphone Ban, More Police in Delaware Schools
WDEL, (10/18/2016), Amy Cherry

Banning all cellphones in Delaware schools is one of several recommendations in a new school safety report. The report was issued by the Special Committee on School Safety, which was formed after a student was killed in a bathroom at a Wilmington high school earlier this year. The report cited gang violence and cyberbullying, and committee members said cellphones are aggravating school violence problems. The panel asked for a pilot program initiative in at least one district, where cellphones would be banned or significantly restricted. The panel also recommended the state fund technology and training programs to help teachers and administrators deal with cyberbullying, and add school resource officers in all school districts.
Link to Article


For Maine Law Enforcement, No Liftoff on Drones for Doing Police Work
Portland Press Herald, (10/19/2016), Kate McCormick

Most law enforcement agencies in Maine are not using unmanned aircraft systems in their work, citing cost, state and federal regulation, and a lack of manpower, according to an informal survey by the Portland Press Herald. Last year, the Maine legislature passed a law regulating how law enforcement can use drones. The Maine law requires police to obtain a search warrant before using drones in criminal investigations, solicit approval from local governments before purchasing a drone and develop drone policies that meet minimum standards set by the state.
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Smyth County Deputies to be Armed to Reverse Opioid Overdoses
Swvatoday.com, (10/20/20160, Stephanie Porter-Nicols

Sheriff's deputies in Smyth County, Va., are among the latest law enforcement officers to be equipped with Naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses. The sheriff's office will use a $1,200 grant to place 16 Naloxone kits in patrol vehicles. Since 2007, prescription painkillers and heroin have killed more than 4,400 people in Virginia. Nationwide, heroin and opioids account for approximately 25,000 deaths per year.
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School Shooting Drill Tests Readiness and New Police Drones
Modesto Bee, (10/22/2016), Marijke Rowland

The Modesto Police Department recently used unmanned aerial vehicles in an active shooter training exercise held in conjunction with the Stanislaus Union School District. The department unveiled its new unmanned aircraft in August. The UAVs are equipped with cameras that can record and give real-time images to pilots on the ground. For the drill, a mobile command with video screens served as home base for the UAV operators, who then relayed information to officers on the ground.
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3D-Printed Fake Hand Fools Fingerprint Readers
Michigan Radio, (10/21/2016), Newsroom and Catherine Shaffer

Michigan State University scientists testing the accuracy of commercial fingerprint scanners discovered that the scanners can be tricked with a 3D-printed fake hand. The finding was incidental to their goal of testing the accuracy of a set of fingerprint scanners. To design a consistent and repeatable scanner test, the researchers designed a 3D replica of human fingers in the form of a glove with fingerprints on all five fingers. The intention was to develop a method for testing and calibrating commercial scanners, as requested by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Once they began testing the scanners, it became apparent that the fake hand could be used to spoof a fingerprint reader. If someone could acquire a set of fingerprints, and makes a fake hand with those fingerprints, they would have the same access privileges as the owner of the prints.
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Courts News

Shelby Court to Get New Justice Information System
The Commercial Appeal, (10/24/2016), Katie Fretland

Shelby County, Tenn., plans a major change in November to the computer system that tracks information about criminal cases. As part of a $9.7 million project to integrate criminal justice information systems with new technology, information from cases since 1981 will be reformatted into a new system for people who need minute-by-minute access, according to Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft. The project will bring new websites to the public and software to public defenders and prosecutors, as well as launching a new offender management system for the Shelby County Sheriff's office, Shelby County Jail and Division of Corrections.
Link to Article


Corrections News

Mystery Drones Fly Over State Prisons in Sullivan County
MidHudsonNews, (10/20/2016)

New York State Police and prison officials are trying to determine who has been flying drones nightly over the Sullivan and Woodbourne correctional facilities. The flyovers by three to five drones at a time began in mid-October, according to state police. They appear in the late afternoon to early evening and fly as late as 11 p.m. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision bans use of unmanned aircraft systems over a correctional facility's property.
Link to Article


As Inmate Population Climbs, Number of Corrections Officers Drops
Oklahoma Watch, (10/20/2016), Trevor Brown

As the number of inmates housed in Oklahoma state-run prisons grew by 12 percent from 2006 to 2016, the number of corrections officers overseeing the offenders dropped by 14 percent. During a legislative hearing on October 19, corrections officials and lawmakers warned this could put officers in danger and drain state funds by increasing overtime pay and the amounts paid to counties for holding state inmates in jails. Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh told the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee that because of funding constraints, his agency can fill only about 75 percent of its authorized positions, and maintaining that level is difficult because the department has trouble attracting and retaining employees.
Link to Article


Kentucky Jail Using New Drug Treatment for Inmates Addicted to Opioids
CBS News, (10/19/2016), Jim Axelrod

A Kentucky jail has added administering the drug Vivitrol to its substance abuse treatment program to help inmates kick the opioid habit. The program in the Kenton County jail combines traditional psychotherapy and 12-step support groups with giving inmates an injection of Vivitrol just before they're released, and then once a month after release. The drug blocks the effects of opiates for up to 30 days. Vivitrol is designed to be taken for a year or two after release while an addict gets re-established in the community. Since February, 22 Kenton County inmates have completed the program and none have re-offended.
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Pilot Program for Correctional Facilities Gives Returning Citizens a Chance
Michigan Chronicle, (10/21/2016), Roz Edward

Detroit has a new job training program for prison inmates that includes training in environmental employment, culinary arts and hi-lo operation. Groups of approximately 25 inmates will be trained every month. The certifications gained allow inmates returning to the community the opportunity to interview for positions as soon as they are released. The program is funded by a $4 million grant from the Michigan Talent Investment Agency and the Department of Labor.
Link to Article


Putting Telemedicine Behind Bars
Modern Healthcare, (10/22/2016), Erica Teichert

Correctional facilities are turning to telemedicine as a cost-effective solution for providing high quality care. In May 2016, New York City's Rikers Island jail complex began using telemedicine to treat its inmates. Since the initiative began, 52 inmate patients have had virtual checkups and information visits with infectious disease, gastroenterology and urology specialists. The visits allow doctors to spend up to 30 minutes with a patient. Although Rikers' telemedicine program has started small, the facility has a robust inmate intake program that could help NYC Health & Hospitals quickly ramp up telemedicine visits.
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Solitary Confinement for California Inmates Cut Sharply
SFGate, (10/24/2016), Bob Egelko

California has greatly reduced the use of solitary confinement and has nearly eliminated its long-term use in prisons under a year-old legal settlement, according to lawyers for the prisoners. The state had 9,870 prisoners in isolation cells in December 2012, shortly after inmates filed a class-action lawsuit. In August 2016 the total was down by 65 percent to 3,471, said the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the inmates. The center also reported a 97 percent reduction in the number of inmates kept in solitary confinement for 10 years or more. Under the lawsuit settlement approved by a federal judge in October 2015, inmates who have committed violent felonies in prison can be kept in solitary confinement for up to 10 years. They can be held longer only if they have been found to pose a continuing threat to other inmates or guards. Prior to the lawsuit, inmates were sometimes kept in solitary for 20 years or more, based on the prison system's findings that they were affiliated with gangs. Under the new rules, isolation cells are reserved for those guilty of assaults, weapons possession, drug dealing and other serious crimes while in prison.
Link to Article


Among State Lawmakers, Compassionate Release of Inmates Is Divisive Issue
Boston Globe, (10/20/2016), Milton J. Valencia

Massachusetts state lawmakers are divided on proposed legislation to allow compassionate release of state inmates. Earlier this year, a bill calling for compassionate release of Massachusetts inmates cleared the Senate. The proposal was sent to a House committee and then for a study, which effectively killed it for the legislative session. Under a compassionate release program, a correctional facility can ask a judge to reconsider an inmate's sentence based on new circumstances, such as failing health. The proposed legislation would create a mechanism for the lawyer or family member of an inmate or a prison official to ask a judge to release a terminally ill inmate to the care of a family member or caretaker.
Link to Article


Hancock Co. Sheriff Fights Drug Problem With Body Scanner
WISHTV, (10/21/2016), Jessica Smith

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department in Indiana is buying a $120,000 body scanner to help thwart the smuggling of drugs into the jail. So far this year, deputies have found drugs inside the jail 11 times, and there were 16 separate incidents last year. Earlier this year a cell block of women tested positive for drugs, after jail officials say a woman managed to sneak drugs inside.
Link to Article


Parolee Drug Testing Finds Success in South Dakota
Argus Leader, (10/21/2016), Mark Walker

Some areas of South Dakota are employing a parolee drug testing program to reduce probation violations by drug offenders. The Fifth Judicial Circuit's 24/7 HOPE program is a random drug testing program. Participants are expected to call the sheriff's office every morning to see if it's their day to test. A person who fails a drug test is placed under arrest and taken to jail for a brief period. In some cases, a positive drug test ends in a defendant's probation being revoked.
Link to Article


Sentence for Violating Monitoring Found Improper
Law.com, (10/24/2016), Joel Stashenko

A New York appeals court said a man was improperly sentenced when he could not pay the fee for a court-ordered monitoring device following his felony drunken-driving conviction. The Appellate Division, Third Department, panel ruled that Sullivan County Court Judge Michael McGuire did not have the authority to make a defendant pay the costs of monitoring for his ankle bracelet as one of the terms of his five-year probationary term in 2013.
Link to Article


Drone Drops Becoming a Prison Problem
Kingston Whig-Standard, (10/21/2016), Ian MacAlpine

Drone sightings and contraband drops from the unmanned aerial vehicles over prisons continue to be a problem for Correctional Service Canada and its institutions. Through an Access to Information Act request, the Whig-Standard was given documents with details of drone sightings on six separate days and one drone drop of contraband at one area institution in 2015. Information on drone sightings or drops for 2016 is not yet available, an official from CSC said.
Link to Article


Murder Blade Smuggled into Pentonville Prison Was Likely to Have Been Flown in by Drone
The Sun, (10/20/2016), Mike Sullivan

A large hunting knife smuggled into Pentonville prison and used to stab one inmate to death and critically wound two more may have been smuggled in by drone. A source said that the four-inch weapon found at the murder scene, "is not a knife that has been made inside a prison - a so-called shank. The conclusion is that is has been thrown over the wall or brought in by a drone."
Link to Article


Winnebago County Prosecutors Want More Ankle Bracelets That Detect Alcohol Consumption
Rockford Register Star, (10/18/2016), Jeff Kolkey

Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato wants to expand the use of an ankle bracelet monitoring device that detects when a defendant consumes alcohol. The Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) device attaches to the ankle and detects alcohol consumption through contact with the skin. Since September 2015, it has been an option for Winnebago County (Ill.) judges in DUI cases as a condition of bond, probation, court supervision or conditional discharge. Bruscato wants to expand the program's use to other types of felony cases such as domestic violence, when alcohol is known to play a role in the behavior of a defendant.
Link to Article

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Department Releases Intake and Charging Policy for Computer Crime Matters



October 25, 2016
Courtesy of Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Criminal Division

As computers play an ever-greater role in our lives and cybercrime becomes both more commonplace and more devastating, the need for robust criminal enforcement of effective computer crime laws will only become more important.  As we’ve said in public remarks last year, we urgently need targeted updates to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that will help the department protect our privacy and security online.  A number of recent prosecutions have demonstrated our commitment and success in bringing significant prosecutions under these vital statutes.  Prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, in conjunction with the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) in Washington, have brought cases against hackers and carders like Roman Seleznev and Marcel Lazar and cyberstalkers and sextortionists like Ryan Vallee and Michael Ford, and have conducted challenging and cutting-edge cybercrime operations, such as the takedown of the Darkode hacking forum last year.

It is, of course, not enough to have effective laws; those laws must also be enforced responsibly and consistently.  It is also important that the public understand how the department applies the law in this context.  In order to further that goal, the Criminal Division, primarily through CCIPS, has been sharing its knowledge about cybercrime and the laws that impact cybersecurity for two decades.  We have convened public-private partnership events, published public manuals, testified numerous times before Congress on threats such as ransomware, participated in and recently hosted [external link] symposia and released Best Practices for Victim Response and Reporting of Cyber Incidents.  Many of these materials as well as press releases related to computer crime and intellectual property prosecutions are available at cybercrime.gov.

In the course of recent litigation, the department yesterday shared the policy under which we choose whether to bring charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: the 2014 Intake and Charging Policy for Computer Crime Matters.  This document guides federal prosecutors in determining when to open an investigation or charge an offense under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

As set forth in the memorandum, prosecutors must consider a number of factors in order to ensure that charges are brought only in cases that serve a substantial federal interest.  Among the factors that are considered are the following:


  • The sensitivity of the affected computer system or the information transmitted by or stored on it and the likelihood and extent of harm associated with damage or unauthorized access to the computer system or related disclosure and use of information;
  • The degree to which damage or access to the computer system or the information transmitted by or stored on it raises concerns pertaining to national security, critical infrastructure, public health and safety, market integrity, international relations or other considerations having a broad or significant impact on national or economic interests;
  • The extent to which the activity was in furtherance of a larger criminal endeavor or posed a risk of bodily harm or a threat to national security;
  • The impact of the crime and prosecution on the victim or other third parties;
  • Whether the criminal conduct is based upon exceeding authorized access consistent with several policy considerations, including whether the defendant knowingly violated restrictions on his authority to obtain or alter information stored on a computer, and not merely that the defendant subsequently misused information or services that he was authorized to obtain from the computer at the time he obtained it;
  • The deterrent value of an investigation or prosecution, including whether the need for deterrence is increased because the activity involves a new or expanding area of criminal activity, a recidivist defendant, use of a novel or sophisticated technique, or abuse of a position of trust or otherwise sensitive level of access; or because the conduct is particularly egregious or malicious;
  • The nature of the impact that the criminal conduct has on a particular district or community; and
  • Whether any other jurisdiction is likely to prosecute the criminal conduct effectively, if the matter is declined for federal prosecution.


In addition, the policy requires prosecutors to conduct certain types of consultation to assure consistent practice across the department’s many offices.  In particular, prosecutors must consult with CCIPS before bringing charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. 

We are proud of the work we have done to protect the privacy and security of Americans online.  Through this policy, the department continues to take very seriously our responsibility to seek justice for the victims of cybercrime and to do so in a fair and responsible manner.