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Federal Prison Handbook

Articles by Bill Barton

Devastating Consequences of Chicago Gang Database – And No Way to Be Removed

In 2018, the MacArthur Justice Center filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Chicago, former Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, and the city’s police officers, challenging the city’s gang database. The suit was filed on behalf of several community groups and four specifically named plaintiffs who are currently in the database.

This year there’s a plan. As of February 26, the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) set a plan to revamp the controversial Chicago gang database within the next 12 months.

According to Charlie Beck, interim CPD superintendent, the new system will involve much stricter criteria when adding someone to the database, as well as centralizing the police department’s gang information.

Previously, referrals from any officer — including school resource officers — that someone’s name be added to the database could occur without oversight or vetting. “Thousands of people have been erroneously classified,” according to the complaint.

“Who’s going to believe them that they’re not a gang member if you have this official record saying they’re a gang member? The consequences are devastating, particularly to the immigrant community,” said MacArthur lawyer Vanessa del Valle. “Being labeled as a gang member hurts people in their immigration proceedings. It prevents ...

A Mass Purge of Misconduct Records by Phoenix, Arizona Police

Few people realize that Phoenix police regularly “purge” the disciplinary records of police, an Arizona Republic investigation uncovered. And it’s been going on for two decades.

The Republic uncovered “more than 600 acts of wrongdoing” committed by 525 cops (out of nearly 3,000 sworn employees) in just the past five years, with 90 percent of all “sustained misconduct investigations” being purged.

Police unions hold sway. As pointed out in a September 9, 2019, article by Tim Cushing, “There’s nothing about American policing that police unions can’t make worse. A powerful obstacle standing in the way of accountability and transparency, police unions ensure Americans remain underserved by their public servants.”

In Phoenix, The Republic “obtained the complete list of misconduct records from the Fiscal Management Bureau, which is responsible for transferring disciplinary records from the Police Department to the city’s Human Resources Department. The Republic also obtained a list of misconduct record kept by the Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau which conducts internal affairs investigations. By cross-referencing the two sets of records, The Republic identified hundreds of disciplinary cases that had been hidden from internal affairs and the Department’s leadership.”

Kevin McGowen was among them. The now-former ...

Cops Killed Nearly 13 Times More People Than Mass Shooters

by Bill Barton

Mass shootings in the U.S. “have claimed the lives of 339 people since 2015,” which, while certainly egregious, is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the 4,355 citizens killed by police during the same timeframe, according to

There is no question that some ...

Police Still Have Access to Records That Are Supposedly Sealed, Suit Alleges

by Bill Barton

According to a recent Collateral Consequences Resource Center report, “While police in 12 states are prevented by law from accessing records of arrests that did not result in a conviction, officers in New York and elsewhere can look up such files if they get permission from a ...

Tenth Annual NRC Report Magnifies Limits of Forensic Evidence

by Bill Barton

Steven Mark Chaney was convicted of a 1987 murder based partially on the testimony of forensic scientists, which linked him to the crime by a bite mark found on the victim’s skin. The court heard that Chaney’s teeth were a “perfect match,” and that there was a ...

Critics Claim Thin Blue Line Protects Cops and Prosecutors in Orange County, California

by Bill Barton

At about 6 a.m., August 19, 2018, Orange County police officer Michael Devitt yanked Mohamed Sayem from his Jeep and punched him several times in the face and stomach, an incident captured on Devitt’s dashboard camera.

Devitt and fellow officer Eric Ota had awakened the apparently intoxicated ...

Prosecutors Working to Clear Wrongful Convictions With Mixed Results

by Bill Barton

Before the murder charge against him was finally dropped, Richard Phillips had the decidedly dubious distinction of being locked up longer than any other eventually exonerated prisoner—he was incarcerated for 45 years, convicted of a crime he did not commit. 

According to a report from the ...

Killer’s Bold DNA-Based Defense to Get New Mexico Supreme Court Hearing

by Bill Barton

Anthony Blas Yepez, in October 2012, beat to death the 75-year-old boyfriend of his girlfriend’s mother in a drunken dispute. Charged with first-degree murder, Yepez said he could not remember much of the incident and didn’t know why his reaction was so violent. Public defender Ian Loyd, ...

Michigan Will Pay $1.5 Million to Longest Serving Exonerated Prisoner

by Bill Barton

Richard Phillips, a Michigan man who was wrongfully incarcerated for 46 years before being exonerated in spring 2018, will receive a settlement of $1.5 million from the state, more than a year after he was released without even as much as a bus ticket. Phillips is the ...

Black Drivers in Missouri 91 Percent More Likely to Be Stopped Than White Drivers

by Bill Barton

A report by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt reveals that black motorists in that state are 91 percent more likely to be pulled over than whites. The 2018 report illuminating this statistic was released in May.

Scott Decker, an Arizona State University professor of criminology and criminal ...



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