Ineffective Assistance of Library: The Failings and the Future of Prison Law Libraries

By Jonathan Abel, in Volume 101, Issue #5 of The Georgetown Law Journal (June 2013).  Here’s the abstract:

The prison law library has long been a potent symbol of the inmate’s right to access the courts. But it has never been a practical tool for providing that access. This contradiction lies at the core of the law library doctrine. It takes little imagination to see the problem with requiring untrained inmates, many of them illiterate or non-English speakers, to navigate the world of postconviction relief and civil rights litigation with nothing more than the help of a few library books. Yet law libraries are ubiquitous in American prisons. Now, in light of a technological revolution in legal research methods, prison libraries face an existential crisis that requires prison officials, courts, scholars, and inmates to reconsider the very purpose of the prison law library. This Article takes up that challenge by providing a novel historical account of the prison law library’s development.

This Article uses original historical research to show how prison law libraries arose, not as a means of accessing the courts, but rather as a means of controlling inmates’ behavior. By placing the origin of the prison law library in the first decades of the twentieth century–half a century earlier than typical accounts–this Article shows how the law library evolved to take on a new purpose in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Supreme Court and other courts first began to fashion a law library doctrine. The central argument of this Article is simple: The courts’ attempts to graft an access-to-courts rationale onto a law library system that had developed for other purposes led to a law library doctrine riddled with contradictions and doomed to failure. This historical account helps explain a prison law library system that never really made sense in terms of providing access to the courts. As prisons look to update their law libraries in light of sweeping technological changes, it is all the more important to understand the history of the law library system so that authorities can plan for its future.

 

 

A plea to scholars

Dear scholars,

Please pay attention to where you place your scholarship.   Are you aware of the cost of some journal subscriptions?  One example, of many, is the Journal of Law & Society.  The Stanford Law Library used to get this print subscription with discounted rate and paid $161 for the current 2013 print subscription. We just received word from Hein (who handles the subscription for us) that the publisher will begin to charge us the full price with an additional payment of $851.00.

What made me think of this was the receipt yesterday of a new publication from my hero Carl Malamud.  Carl has become quite the pamphleteer and his most recent is On Crime and Access to Knowledge.    I urge you all to read it.

In the pamphlet, Carl tells the story of the late Aaron Swartz and discusses JSTOR, PACER, and broader information access issues such as Carl’s heroic efforts to make public safety documents, such as building codes, available to the public.

But on the issue of what Aaron did with JSTOR, Carl makes this important point:

. . . One must remember that JSTOR is a messenger, an intermediary, and if there is fault here, that fault is ultimately the fault of the scholars who wrote those articles and allowed them to be locked up.  It was a corruption of scholarship when the academy handed over copyright to knowledge so that it could be rationed in order to extract rents.

Please think twice before you place a piece of your scholarship with a particular journal.  Find out what it costs to subscribe to the journal; find out what databases include its text (your librarian can help with this); ask the journal if you can retain ownership and publication rights.  And ask yourself:  Do you really want your scholarship tightly locked up behind expensive pay walls?

 

New Argentine Law Journals from Ediciones Infojus

Argentina’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights publishing house Ediciones Infojus recently launched five legal journals that will be available free of charge on their Infojus legal portal site. All five journals will publish three issues per year. Registration is required to access the full-text.

http://www.infojus.gov.ar/index.php?kk_seccion=revistas

Details about  the five journals:
Revista de Derecho Privado (ISSN 2250-8015)
volume 1 devoted to BioLaw and includes an index.

Revista Derecho Público (ISSN 2250-8031)
Volume 1 includes full-text of selected new statutes and articles on communications law, protection of rural land, UNASUR, and  economic aspects of foreign investment laws.

Revista Derecho Penal (ISSN 2250-8066)
Volume 1 focuses on alternatives to incarceration and includes an index.

Revista Derecho del Trabajo (ISSN 2250-8074)
Voulme 1 devoted to outsourcing.  Includes legislative and case law updates and an index.

Filosofía del Derecho (ISSN 2250-8058)
Volume 1 contains articles on theoretical, methodological and normative aspects of law.

Additional information about this journal project is available in Spanish at
http://www.prensa.argentina.ar/2012/06/05/31291-alak-presento-ediciones-infojus.php

FBI, BJS Launch Online Tool For Analyzing Crime Data

http://ucrdatatool.gov/

Welcome to a new way to access UCR statistics

The U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI have launched an online data tool, aimed at making it easier to research and analyze crime data. The data tool lets users perform queries on custom variables like year, agency, and type of offense. Until now, making comparisons of Uniform Crime Report data required searching annual reports and manually crunching the numbers. The new tool aims to make it easier for users to make use of the raw numbers, the FBI says.
BJS developed the UCR data tool for the FBI as part of a collaboration between the agencies to improve crime data accessibility. The ucrdatatool.gov replaces a long-standing data BJS online tool that presented crime trends from the FBI’s UCR. More information about the methodology and best practices for using the new tool are available on the site.

Online Book:The Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice in Africa

The Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice in Africa

Authors:

Etannibi E. O. Alemika,  Richard Bowd, Simon Robins,  J. Nnamdi Aduba, Emily I Alemika, Irvin Kinnes, Annie Barbara Chikwanha

Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies, 2009.

http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?q51=Mali&ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&lng=en&id=104300

Chapters:

Chapter 1

Criminal justice in Africa

Chapter 2

Criminal Justice Norms, politics, institutions, processes and constraints

Chapter 3

Status quo or traditional resurgence

Chapter 4

Restorative approaches to criminal justice in Africa: Case of Uganda

Chapter 5

Bail and Criminal Justice Administration in Nigeria

ICTY Manual on Developed Practices

The United Nations has published the “International Criminal Trinunal for the Former Yugoslavia Manual on Developed Practices.”  The manual is a synthesis of best practices for prosecuting individuals for human rights violations.  The text includes the following chapters: 

Investigation

Indictment

Arrest Warrants

Pre-Trial

Trial Managementl

Trial Judgement Drafting

Appeals

Enforcement of Sentences

Referral of Cases to Domestic Jurisdictions

Judicial Support Services

Legal Aid and Defence Counsel Issues

 

ICTY Manual on Developed Practices

http://www.icty.org/x/file/About/Reports%20and%20Publications/manual_developed_practices/icty_manual_on_developed_practices.pdf

From the Introduction to the Manual:

As the ICTY proceedings draw to a close, it has become increasingly important to emphasize the shared responsibility of international and national jurisdictions in the prosecution and prevention of war crimes, and crimes against humanity and genocide. The close cooperation between international and domestic courts is essential to maintaining the radical departure from a culture of impunity and to fostering a culture of accountability. In this perspective, one should view the completion of the ICTY’s mandate as a strategy devised to allow the continuation by domestic actors of the activities that were initiated by the ICTY. The ICTY’s pioneering role and its unprecedented body of practice and case law will be its most significant achievement, and the continuation of its work through the local prosecution of war crimes by courts in the region its real legacy.

However, criminal proceedings for violations of IHL at the domestic level will only succeed if domestic institutions have sufficient resources and adequate capacity to handle complex criminal trials of this nature. The purpose of this Manual is to contribute to this process of capacity-building by sharing the ICTY experiences and established practices in the prosecution and adjudication of complex cases. Other international and mixed jurisdictions will also benefit from this work, so that the know-how developed by the ICTY may provide some guidance on the challenges of delivering justice.

Federal Prosecution Data for December 2008

From the good folks at TracFed:

==========================================
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
==========================================

Greetings from TRAC. The latest case-by-case data from the Justice Department show that in December 2008 the government reported 13,457 new prosecutions. This represents an increase of 14% from the previous month, but a significant 27% decrease from September’s high of 18,434 new filings. The immigration category continues to dominate the DOJ’s caseload, accounting for 59% of all new cases filed in December in U.S. Federal Court.

In addition to the most recent figures on prosecutions, TRAC continues to provide additional free reports on current enforcement trends. Go to

    http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/bulletins/

for information on December 2008 convictions and prosecutions in the areas of drugs, white collar crime, immigration, official corruption and more. You can also find free reports on the enforcement activities selected government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, DHS and DEA.
   
The December 2008 criminal data are also available to TRACFED subscribers via the Express, Going Deeper and Analyzer tools. Go to http://tracfed.syr.edufor more information. Customized reports for a specific agency, district, program, lead charge or judge are available via the TRAC Data Interpreter, either as part of a TRACFED subscription or on a per-report basis. Go to http://trac.syr.edu/interpreterto start.

TRAC is self-supporting and depends on foundation grants, individual contributions and subscription fees for the funding needed to obtain, analyze and publish the data we collect on the activities of the US Federal government. To help support TRAC’s ongoing efforts, go to:

    http://trac.syr.edu/sponsor/

   
David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University
Suite 360, Newhouse II
Syracuse, NY  13244-2100
315-443-3563
trac@syr.edu
http://trac.syr.edu

The American Idol Approach to Legal Scholarship

From “Online Colloquy Allows Legal Academics to Vote Up or Down on Essays,” by Thomas Adcock, New York Law Journal, Friday, June 6, 2008, p. 24:

THREE PROFESSORS of criminal law are bent on demolishing a fusty convention of colloquy by using the Internet to make scholarship more efficient and more democratic.
The trio — Professors Paul H. Robinson of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Kimberly Ferzan of the Rutgers School of Law at Camden, N.J., and Stephen P. Garvey of Cornell Law School — say their effort is serious scholarship’s answer to TV’s ‘American Idol.’
Their vehicle is a Web site, launched in January, that has thus far attracted 120 academicians to ‘vote’ up or down on essays submitted for their considered debate.

 

For more information: 

http://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/phrobins/conversations/

TRACking federal prosecutions

The good folks at TRAC (Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse), providers of a popular online database here, just sent out this e-mail:

TRAC has just added a unique new feature for displaying all the U.S. statutes cited by federal prosecutors as the primary charge in their prosecutions and convictions. For every law, there are case counts and the full text of the relevant statute . . . In addition, for those laws with a sufficient number of matters, there are links to exclusive TRAC reports on the prosecutions and convictions under the selected statute, as well as a link to a U.S. map showing the geographic distribution of convictions across the country.

 

 

For more information:

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University
Suite 360, Newhouse II
Syracuse, NY  13244-2100
315-443-3563
trac@syr.edu
http://trac.syr.edu