A Couple of Notes on Labor Day – Update for September 5, 2016

We’re still doing a weekly newsletter … we’re just posting pieces of it every day.  The news is fresher this way …


It is an inmate article of faith that the BOP Release Preparation Program – hours of mind-numbing lectures by bored presenters imparting incomplete, irrelevant or just plain wrong information – is a joke. It seems the Department of Justice Inspector General agrees.

In a report released last Wednesday, the IG found “the BOP does not ensure that the RPPs… are meeting inmate needs. Specifically, BOP policy does not provide a nationwide RPP curriculum, or even a centralized framework to guide curriculum development. Rather, it leaves each BOP institution to determine its own RPP curriculum, which has led to widely inconsistent curricula, content, and quality among RPP courses.”

prerelease160905The BOP data show that less than a third of inmates required to take the RPP actually complete the program. What’s more, the IG said, “there are often few incentives for inmates to participate and no repercussions for those who refuse or choose not to complete the program.” Even when inmates do participate, they’re as likely to be bored as to benefit. The IG said “the BOP cannot ensure that the courses are consistently of a quality high enough to be useful to inmates. “

The BOP pledged to make specific improvements, saying it “will establish a mechanism to assess the extent to which the (program) provides inmates with relevant skills and knowledge to prepare them for successful re-entry to society.”


Dept. of Justice Inspector General, Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Release Preparation Program (Aug. 31, 2016)



Much of the forensic analysis used in criminal trials is not scientifically valid, according to a draft report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

expert160905The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the study, to be released in final form later this month, raises questions about the use of bite-mark, hair, footwear, firearm and tool-mark analysis routinely used as evidence in thousands of trials every year. The report contends the lack of scientific rigor “is not just a hypothetical problem but a real and significant weakness in the judicial system.”

“It has become increasingly clear in recent years that lack of rigor in the assessment of the scientific validity of forensic evidence is not just a hypothetical problem but a real and significant weakness in the judicial system,” the Journal quotes the draft review as saying.

“What they’ve done is turn the accepted reliability of expert witnesses and their evidence on their heads,” complained Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. But Barry Pollack, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the entire area of forensic science in criminal trials “cries out for further independent analysis.” He said the report also should open the door to old cases being re-examined. “I would be surprised if there aren’t further exonerations as the result of re-examining those old cases.”

The lack of scientific rigor “is not just a hypothetical problem but a real and significant weakness in the judicial system,” the report said.

Wall Street Journal, Presidential Advisory Council Questions Validity of Forensics in Criminal Trials (Sept. 1, 2016)


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