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Jul 12, 2013 In Descamps v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled on the approach lower courts may use when deciding whether state offenses count for the purpose of federal sentence enhancements that rely on an offender’s criminal record. Like its earlier decision in Alleyne v. United States, the Supreme Court’s opinion in Descamps v. United States is a reminder of the importance of finality in jury verdicts and guilty pleas. When Michael Descamps was sentenced on...

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Jul 10, 2013 In Peugh v. United States, the Supreme Court held that sentencing courts cannot use amended sentencing guidelines in effect at the time of sentencing if they yield higher sentences than the guidelines in effect at the time of the crime were used. To do so would violate Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, which mandates that "No [...] ex post facto Law shall be passed." Ex post facto laws are laws that retroactively alter the legal consequences of...

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Jul 8, 2013 Since the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, defendants have had a Sixth Amendment right to demand that any fact which enhances a sentence’s statutory maximum be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Normally understood, the Sixth Amendment requires a jury to decide all facts that determine the penalty range of a crime. Yet the Court under its 2002 decision in Harris v. United States maintained that this right did not...

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Jul 5, 2013 As violent crime rates continue to decline nationally, they have remained comparatively high in Chicago. Overall, reductions in violent crime in Chicago have been modest—dropping 9 percent from 2009 to 2010. That’s why the city’s recent 32 percent drop in homicide rates caught the national media’s attention in June. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attributed this drop in homicides to policing strategies. He declared that the city could bring down the rates even...
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Jul 3, 2013 By Timour Lalanne, intern, Vera’s Washington, DC office. Increasingly, public discussion about policy intersects with questions of public health—whether the social and economic costs of obesity, the inequalities in the nation’s health care services, or the high rates of suicide among veterans. A recent public health briefing on Capitol Hill offered some promising recommendations for policy changes that could close the care gap as well as an assessment of...

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Jul 1, 2013   Last August, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the nonprofit organization MDRC, announced the first project in the United States that is funded by a social impact bond (SIB). The Osborne Association and Friends of Island Academy will deliver the program—the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE)—at Rikers Island, and the Vera Institute of Justice will evaluate it. Christian Henrichson...

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Jun 28, 2013 A recent piece on ABC News Channel 5 in Cleveland, Ohio, highlighted the Baby Elmo Program for young fathers at the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility. The program, which was designed by researchers at Georgetown University, develops the relationships between incarcerated teen fathers and their babies through intensive experiential learning. Participating fathers attend a parenting class, then visit with their children in a comfortable and...

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