Friday, July 19, 2013

Crime Stats and Google

An economist has been mining Google search data to learn more about crime, particularly for crimes that are underreported. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, How Googling Unmasks Child Abuse, N.Y. Times, July 13, 2013.

Stephens-Davidowitz writes that another expert said that child abuse and neglect declined during the recession. Great news, right? But Stephens-Davidowitz found that certain Google searches went up, correlating with areas of high unemployment and decreased social services.

After declining for many years in the United States, the searches that seem to have come from abuse victims themselves rose as soon as the Great Recession began. On weeks that unemployment claims rose, these searches rose as well.
He also found higher rates of child mortality due to abuse—deaths due to abuse are less likely to be unreported than abuse itself.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz's scholarly paper on this study is Unreported Victims of an Economic Downturn, July 12, 2013.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Witness Testifying Via Skype

Weekend Edition this morning included this:

Witness in Zimmerman Case Testifies by Skype
Two problems arise with the new technology: The witness's testimony in this case was interrupted by pranksters; and appearing via Skype may violate the constitutional right to face your accuser. Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon talks with attorney John Hutchins about using Skype in criminal cases.
Listen here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Judge Texts Hint to Prosecutor

A judge in Texas thought of a helpful line of questioning for the prosecution and texted a note to another prosecutor, asking her to pass it along to trial counsel. She did, but now regrets it. Judge texted during trial to help state, says ex-prosecutor, ABA Journal News, July 9, 2013.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Calling Home Is Expensive

Most prisons charge inmates such high rates that "a phone call from an inmate across town may be ten times more expensive than ringing a friend in Singapore," says the Legal Times blog. Now the FCC might do something about it. The agency is holding a day-long workshop today.  FCC Tackles Cost of Prison Phone Calls, The BLT: The Blog of the Legal Times, July 10, 2013.

It's a big issue for the quality of life of inmates and their families. It also affects access to counsel (defense counsel get hit with big bills accepting calls from clients). And it affects state budgets: a Virginia legislator who wants to reform prison phone rates acknowledges that the state general fund would miss the millions of dollars it has been making from the high rates. "What do we replace the lost revenue with? That's our problem."