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Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

If there’s anything dirtier than a rogue cop, it would have to be a rogue judge.

Put the two together and an epic miscarriage of justice is bound to occur.

The two are equally bad for different reasons. The bad cop has a badge and a gun. The judge exists for the sole purpose of seeing that justice prevails for society—that victims are protected and the guilty are punished. When one or both betray that trust, society is the loser.

Recent events up in Monroe have proved that Ronald Thomas and Larry Jefferson belong together—in the same jail cell.

It was bad enough that Thomas, a Louisiana State Police veteran of 18 years routinely went off the grid to go fishing or meeting up with his paramour—all while on the clock. But over a period of two years, Thomas, the evidence custodian for Troop F in Monroe, returned up to $1 million in confiscated drugs to the street by stealing packets of cocaine that he was charged with incinerating. The scheme enriched him by hundreds of thousands of dollars in dirty money. http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/14639945-75/state-police-evidence-scandal-ends-in-modest-prison-term-for-rogue-trooper

Thomas was enabled in carrying out his business venture because the evidence custodian position had few, if any, checks and balances.

In September 2012, for example, he removed two sealed boxes containing nearly 24 pounds of cocaine from the evidence vault. The evidence was scheduled for destruction and Thomas was to have taken it to an incinerator in Alexandria the next day. Hidden cameras in his office even recorded him stuffing cash into a sock and then secreting the money in his waistband before leaving work.

Thomas was charged after a year-long investigation and faced up to 20 years in prison. His attorney, Darrell Hickman said of his client at trial, “This is a man who is probably not going to be in trouble for the rest of his life. He lost his job, he lost his reputation, and he almost lost his family. That’s enough to bring any man back to reality.”

Really, Darrell? That’s your best defense? A real pity all accused felons couldn’t fall back on the “I’ll probably never get in trouble again” defense.

At least Thomas was a little more creative. He blamed his crimes in part on exposure to fumes from confiscated narcotics he handled for years after being removed from patrol to the evidence room.

Yeah, right. And I blame my poor grades in school to the foul odor of cabbage wafting up into my classroom from the school cafeteria.

So, what was his punishment? Did he get the full 20 years?

Nope.

One year in the lockup, plus a $15,000 fine (remember, he raked hundreds of thousands of dollars by forsaking his sworn oath to uphold the law), and 240 community service.

And that’s where Judge Jefferson becomes the topic of our story and picture is ugly, to say the least. Yes, Thomas was a bad cop, but this story is about a disgraceful judge, a judge whose ego knows no bounds and his respect for the law appears miniscule.

First, a little background. A city court judge first, he was removed from the bench by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Jan. 18, 2000 after being formally charged by the Judiciary Commission with four separate counts:

Charge I:  Judge Jefferson abused his authority as a judge with respect to the City Prosecutor for the Monroe City Court and the Clerk of Court for the Monroe City Court by exceeding his contempt power and/or abusing such contempt power, which demonstrates a lack of proper judicial temperament and demeanor. These actions violated Canons 1, 2, 3(A)(1), (2), (3) and 3B(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. art. V, § 25C in that the actions were willful misconduct relating to the judge’s official capacity and were persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought the judicial office into disrepute.  

Charge II:  Judge Jefferson abused and exceeded his authority as a judge when he banned the City Prosecutor from his courtroom and subsequently dismissed 41 cases. His conduct violated Canons 1, 2, and 3A(1), (2), and (3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. Art. V, § 25C in that he engaged in willful misconduct relative to his office and engaged in public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brought the judicial office into disrepute.

Charge III:  Judge Jefferson engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of La. R.S. 13:1952, Canons 1, 2, 3A(1) and La. Const. art. V, § 25C, in that he engaged in willful misconduct relating to his official duty and in public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Charge IV:  That Judge Jefferson failed to comply with the order of May 28, 1998, issued by the Louisiana Supreme Court, pursuant to which he was relieved of all administrative duties at Monroe City Court.   This was in violation of Canons 1, 2, 3(A)(1) and 3(B)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and La. Const. art. V, § 25C, in that he engaged in willful misconduct relating to this official duty and in persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

There’s more.

In Charge I, the Commission charged Judge Jefferson with abusing his authority as a judge by exceeding his contempt power and abusing such contempt power with respect to the city prosecutor and the clerk of court for the Monroe City Court. The Commission found that such acts demonstrated Judge Jefferson’s lack of proper judicial temperament and demeanor under the circumstances. Charge I included three incidents involving Judge Jefferson, the prosecutor, James Rodney Pierre, and the Clerk of Court, Ms. Powell-Lexing, in which the judge held these individuals in contempt of court. http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-supreme-court/1212290.html

“The majority recommends that Judge Jefferson be removed from judicial office,” the January 2000 decision said. “However, this court has previously stated that “[t]he most severe discipline should be reserved for judges who use their office improperly for personal gain; judges who are consistently abusive and insensitive to parties, witnesses, jurors, and attorneys; judges who because of laziness or indifference fail to perform their judicial duties to the best of their ability; and judges who engage in felonious criminal conduct.   Moreover, the removal of a duly elected member of the judiciary is a serious undertaking which should only be borne with the utmost care so as not to unduly disrupt the public’s choice for service in the judiciary.”

Judge Jefferson’s conduct warrants a two year suspension, retroactive to his interim suspension dated October 13, 1998. Effectively, the two-year suspension was in reality a 10-month suspension—to Oct. 13, 2000.

In September 2000, Judge Jefferson was sued by newsman Ken Booth in an effort to prevent his return to the bench. The lawsuit was thrown out because Booth could not prove he was a qualified elector in Ouachita Parish and thus, had no legal standing with the court.

But the court took matters a step further by point out the Supreme Court has no authority set qualifications for seeking office. “Once an individual has been removed from judicial office, he no longer is a judge, and is no longer subject to judicial disciplinary actions,” the ruling by the State High Court said. Because Jefferson’s license to practice law was not revoked, he was therefore eligible to seek another judgeship. http://www.leagle.com/decision/20002014765So2d1249_11742/BOOTH%20v.%20JEFFERSON

http://www.noethics.net/News/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2484:attorney-larry-d-jefferson-of-monroe-la-il-duce-wannabee-moron-&catid=150:louisiana-attorney-misfits&Itemid=100

Accordingly, in November 2007 he again won election to the Monroe City Court judgeship with 62 percent of the vote.

Then, in November 2014, he ran for judge of the 4th Judicial District Court (Ouachita and Morehouse parishes), capturing 61 percent of the vote.

And so it was in 2016 that a dirty cop came forward to receive justice from a tainted judge who handed down a disgraceful sentence.

Thousands of non-violent offenders occupy cells in state and parish prisons throughout Louisiana for minor transgressions—and they’re serving sentences considerably longer than the cop who ripped off $1 million in cocaine from the State Police evidence room.

And there are judges who will turn a blind eye to such crimes but will berate a city court prosecutor or a city clerk of court for the most minor of offenses.

There is a certain irony that the last names of Thomas and Jefferson would come together to spit in the face of honest cops and judicial integrity.

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Nearly two years ago, LouisianaVoice broke a story about a Mangham contractor’s claims that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) had bankrupted his company when it denied payments for his work. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/04/09/contractor-claims-in-lawsuit-that-dotd-official-attempted-shake-down-for-cash-equipment-during-monroe-work/

The reasons payment were denied? Because, contractor Jeff Mercer said, he resisted shake-down efforts by a DOTD inspector who demanded cash and equipment from him.

On Friday, after eight years of legal battles, Mercer won a unanimous $20 million judgment from a 12-person jury in 4th Judicial District Court in Monroe.

Work for which Mercer says he was not paid included:

  • Two projects on I-49 in Caddo Parish ($1.6 million);
  • A Morehouse Parish bridge project ($7.1 million);
  • Louisville Avenue in Monroe ($79,463);
  • Well Road in West Monroe ($50,568);
  • Airline Drive in Bossier City ($57,818);
  • Brasher Road in LaSalle Parish ($70,139).

While the Monroe News-Star gave substantial coverage to the court decision, LouisianaVoice was the first media outlet to give Mercer the time of day back in April of 2014 when we first learned of his troubles with DOTD. Monroe television station KTVE did a brief interview with Mercer following our initial story, but that was it—until yesterday’s decision. http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/local/2015/12/04/contractor-wins-20m-suit-against-dotd/76813444/

In our 2014 story, Mercer said that three of his employees filed sworn affidavits with the court in which all four say DOTD inspector Willis Jenkins demanded that Mercer either “put some green” in his hand or that Mercer place a new electric generator “under his carport” the following day.

One employee, John Sanderson, said he was approached by Jenkins who informed him that he “could make things difficult” on Mercer. “He indicated that this burden would not necessarily be on the Louisville Avenue project but on future jobs awarded to Jeff Mercer, LLC,” Sanderson said. “I replied, ‘You didn’t mean to say that,’” whereupon, Sanderson said, Jenkins repeated his threat. “During that conversation, I heard Willis tell Jeff that he ‘wanted green,’” Sanderson said.

Incredibly, Jenkins admitted making the comment but said it was a joke. Despite getting complaints about the shakedown attempt, DOTD never investigated the allegations. (Note to Jenkins: don’t joke like that in airports.)

Another Mercer employee, Bennett Trip, said in a signed statement that he heard Jenkins tell Mercer he “wanted some green.” He said he also heard Jenkins tell another Mercer employee that Jenkins, pointing to a generator in Tripp’s truck, said he “wanted one of those under his carport.”

Following complaints by Mercer, Jenkins was subsequently removed from the Louisville Avenue project by DOTD Engineer Marshall Hill who said it was not the first time he’d heard such claims about Jenkins. But Tripp said the shakedown continued when another state official told Mercer employees, “Y’all had my buddy removed and we’re going to make the rest of the job a living hell.”

Mercer claimed in his lawsuit there was collusion among DOTD officials to “make the jobs as costly and difficult as possible” for him. He told LouisianaVoice in April of 2014 that after receiving verbal instructions on the way in which one project was to be done, it was subsequently approved but later, DOTD officials, including defendant John Eason, advised that the work was not acceptable.

He said that DOTD officials provided false information to federal investigators; that he was forced to perform extra work outside the contract specifications; that a prime contractor, T.J. Lambrecht was told if he continued to do business with Mercer, closer inspections of his jobs would result, and that job specifications were routinely changed which in turn made his work more difficult.

Doughty said DOTD officials in Baton Rouge threatened his client with federal prosecution when he asked for payments for work he’d done. An FBI investigation initiated by DOTD was subsequently dropped.

Mercer eventually was forced to shutter the doors on his construction firm which had employed 20 to 40 people.

DOTD interoffice emails obtained by LouisianaVoice seem to support Mercer’s claim that he was targeted by DOTD personnel and denied payment on the basis that the agency was within its rights to “just say no.”

One email from DOTD official Barry Lacy which was copied to three other DOTD officials and which stemmed from a dispute over what amount had been paid for a job, made a veiled threat to turn Mercer’s request for payment “to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General.”

Still another suggested that payment should be made on a project “but never paid to Mercer.”

“I did everything they told me to do,” Mercer told LouisianaVoice. “But because I refused to allow one DOTD employee to shake me down, they put me out of business. They took reprisals and they ostracized me and broke me but now I’m fighting back.”

Both Mercer and his Rayville attorney David Doughty indicated they had reported the events to the governor’s office but no one in the Jindal administration, which has spent eight years touting its ethics record, offered to intervene or even investigate his allegations.

Not only did the jury hold DOTD liable for damages, but it also held four individual DOTD employees—Willis Jenkins, Michael Murphy, Eason and Barry Lacy—personally liable.

That, of course raises the obvious question of will there now—finally—be a criminal investigation of the four individuals? After all, the jury’s verdict centered on Mercer’s claims of extortion, bribery and plain old shakedowns in the purest sense of old-time Louisiana politics.

Granted, civil and criminal trials are vastly different. In a civil trial, a verdict can be reached on the lower standard of a “preponderance of the evidence” while criminal charges must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In a civil suit, the plaintiff must only prove that there was a greater than 50 percent chance, based on all reasonable evidence, that the defendant committed the action that caused damages. In criminal matters, however, there is a higher standard. The prosecutor must prove that the accused committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

But even with required higher standard of proof, the fact that a civil jury was unanimous in its decision should be sufficient to prompt at least a criminal investigation by the Ouachita Parish District Attorney’s office. Because federal funds were involved in the construction projects, and because Mercer was a contractor under the federal Disability Business Enterprise (DBE), a federal grand jury probe should ensue. “Who protects the DBE from the DOTD?” Doughty asked. “The people who are supposed to guard DBE companies are within DOTD itself (and) he didn’t get any help from them.”

Additionally, offenses committed under the funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 carry even stiffer penalties. ARRA funds were used on the I-49 projects.

The civil award puts the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office in an awkward position. The AG’s office defended the state’s interests in Mercer’s lawsuit and now that the jury has cited public corruption in its award, the office now finds itself in the unenviable position of being required to investigate public corruption in a case it had just defended in civil court. http://www.ag.state.la.us/Article.aspx?articleID=6&catID=8

“It’s been a long fight,” Mercer told the News-Star. To LouisianaVoice, he exulted, “We waxed their butts.”

He still has two more suits for more than $10 million in contractual losses pending in Baton Rouge district court.

Doughty told the News-Star that people “are tired of corruption and tired of reading about this type of thing” and that the jury “was sending a message.”

DOTD is expected to appeal the jury verdict to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal and if the state court decision is upheld, most likely the state will apply for writs with the Louisiana Supreme Court. If the decision is upheld in the higher courts, the State Legislature would then have to appropriate the payment.

All that means it could be years before Mercer sees a dime but judicial interest continues to run from the date the lawsuit was filed and the state ultimately could be forced to pay as much as an additional 50 percent.

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While Bobby Jindal is touting all the wonderful innovations, budget cuts, employee reductions, etc., that he has initiated in Louisiana, The Center for Public Integrity has a few items he may wish to soft peddle as he goes about trying to convince Iowans that he’s really serious about running for President and not the joke we in Louisiana know him to be.

The center has just released its 2015 integrity grades for each state and it isn’t very pretty for Louisiana.

In fact, the state received a flat-out grade of F and ranked 41st out of the 50 states overall with a composite score of 59 out of a possible 100. Only seven states had lower composite scores—Pennsylvania and Oregon (58), Nevada (57), Delaware and South Dakota (56), and Michigan and Wyoming (51).

Mississippi (61) and Alabama (67), normally found competing for Louisiana on lists of all things bad, were well ahead of Louisiana with rankings of 33rd and 7th, respectively. Alaska had the highest score at 71, good enough for a C. Michigan was the worst with its 51.

Louisiana wasn’t alone in getting a failing grade of course; there were 10 others but in the other states we can only assume the governors are at least attempting to address their problems. Jindal isn’t. He capitulated long ago as he set out on his quest for the brass ring that continues—and will continue—to elude him. Though he has only two months to go in office, he in reality abandoned us three years and 10 months ago—right after he was inaugurated for his second term. Truth be told, he has been at best a distracted administrator (I still can’t bring myself to call him a governor) for his full eight years and at worst, guilty of malfeasance in his dereliction of duty.

Harsh words, to be sure, but then his record screams out his shortcomings (loud enough to be heard in Iowa, one would think) and his lack of a basic understanding of running a lemonade stand, much less a state.

States were graded on 13 criteria by the Center for Public Integrity:

  • Public Access to Information—F
  • Political Financing—D
  • Electoral Oversight—D+
  • Executive Accountability—F
  • Legislative Accountability—F
  • Judicial Accountability—F
  • State Budget Processes—D+
  • State Civil Service Management—F
  • Procurement—D+
  • Internal Auditing—C+
  • Lobbying Disclosure—D
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies—F
  • State Pension Fund Management—F

http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18407/louisiana-gets-f-grade-2015-state-integrity-investigation?utm_campaign=stateintegrity&utm_source=digest&utm_medium=link&goal=0_ffd1d0160d-08c0be5058-100352837&mc_cid=08c0be5058&mc_eid=c4ee01d834

The scores given each of these, and their national ranking were even more revealing.

Public Access to Information, for example scored a dismal 30, ranking 46th in the country.

In the scoring for Internal Auditing, on the other hand, the state’s numerical score was 79, but was good enough for only a ranking of 32nd.

Likewise, the grading for Procurement (purchase of goods and contracts) had a numeric score of 69, good enough to rank the state 25th. But numeric score of 64 for Lobbying Disclosure while rating only a D, was still good enough to nudge the state into the upper half of the rankings at 24th.

One of the biggest areas of concern would have to be the state’s numeric grade of only 40 for Judicial Accountability, plunging the state to next to last at 49th. (This is an area that has flown under the radar but one the legislature and next governor should address.)

The lowest numeric score was 30 for Public Access to Information, fifth from the bottom at 46th. LouisianaVoice can certainly attest to the difficulty in obtaining public records, having found it necessary to file lawsuit against the state on three occasions in order to obtain what were clearly public records. Even after winning two of the three lawsuits, we still experience intolerable foot-dragging as agencies attempt to stall in the hopes we will give up.

We will not. If anything, the stalling only strengthens our resolve to fight for the public’s right to know.

To compare Louisiana to other states in each of the 13 criteria, go here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18822/how-does-your-state-rank-integrity

In the final days of the 2015 legislative session the state Senate approved a bill that removed the exemptions pushed through by Jindal in his first month in office in 2008 which kept most government records from disclosure. State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) was quoted in the report as saying, “It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”

Jindal called his changes his “gold standard,” but the report said it is “riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”

That looked like a promising reversal to the secrecy of the Jindal administration but then the legislature agreed to postpone implementation of the new law that abolished the abused “deliberative process” exception until after Jindal leaves office next January.

Jindal also managed to gut the state’s ethics laws early in his first year. Enforcement of ethics violations was removed from the State Ethics Board and transferred to judges selected by a Jindal appointee. That prompted long-time political consultant Elliott Stonecipher of Shreveport to say that while the state’s ethics laws looked good on the surface, there was “no effective enforcement and that breeds more than just a system of corruption, but an acceptance of those practices,” the center’s report said.

The center reported that it is not Louisiana’s ethics laws that produced such a poor grade, but the day-to-day interpretations of the laws by various departmental legal advisors.

Since the center’s first survey of public integrity on a state-by-state basis, no fewer than 12 states have had legislators or cabinet-level officials charged, convicted or resign over ethics-related issues, the report said.

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A professor of Criminal Justice and retired Louisiana State Police Officer compares drug offenses with sex crimes in Louisiana in response to David Vitter’s vitriolic political ads suggesting that releasing non-violent drug offenders will harm public safety.

By Wayne “Steve” Thompson, PhD (Special to LouisianaVoice)

According to Louisiana Revised Statute 40:967, the state of Louisiana has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for possession of 28 grams of cocaine or crack cocaine. According to Louisiana Revised Statute 14:34, the state of Louisiana does not have a mandatory minimum for aggravated battery which includes shooting or stabbing someone. Second degree rape has a mandatory minimum of two years (LRS 14:42.1). To sum it up, a man who threatens to kill a woman so she will not resist while he rapes her is required to do less time in jail than a person with a handful of cocaine or crack cocaine.

I have personally worked cases involving drug use and drug dealing resulting in decades if not centuries of incarceration. I have served numerous warrants on drug dealers while serving on the LSP SWAT team. I have assisted in the investigation of sex crimes cases. I found it frustrating the level of leniency towards sex offenders who received less punishment than drug offenders. Leniency for sex offenders is required to make sure there is room for the statutorily mandated sentences of non-violent drug offenders. My frustrations are shared by many in the criminal justice community.

Incarceration does not work

 Thirty-two percent of state felony convictions were for drug offenses in 2002 and more than 60 percent of those were sentenced to incarceration (Vanderwaal et al., 2006). There were 253,300 drug offenders in state prisons in 2005 (United States Department of Justice, 2008). The estimated cost of incarcerating these offenders is from $5 billion to $8 billion dollars per year. The average incarceration cost per offender is around $30,000 per year.

The drug war is an exercise of futility. Drug prices have gone down and the availability of drugs has increased (Caulkins & MacCoun, 2003). Long incarcerations result in higher recidivism or have zero effectiveness in reducing recidivism (Marinelli-Casey, et al., 2008; Caulkins & Reuter, 2006; Harvard Law Review, 1998; Vanderwaal et al., 2006). The user is still able to obtain drugs because there are plenty of people willing to stand in for a drug dealer when he or she is incarcerated. It is not the same for a violent offender. There is no line of violent offenders who want to step into the shoes of a sex offender, robber, or murderer. There are only victims. The incarceration of violent criminals can actually reduce the number of victimizations.

What does work?

According to Vanderwaal et al. (2006), drug treatment is more effective than incarceration in reducing drug use and reducing recidivism. Many states have realized this evidenced by numerous legislative acts which reduce mandatory minimum sentences and the establishment of over 1,600 drug courts by the end of 2004. The Back on Track (BOT) program in California is focused on first time low level drug dealers. They participate in extensive community service and meet positive goals such as school and employment requirements. If the participants successfully complete the program, they have their records sealed. Rivers (2009) reported the program has a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent and the cost is only $5,000 per participant. When this amount is compared to the reported prosecution expense of $10,000 and an annual incarceration rate of up to $50,000, it is a great success, a bargain for taxpayers.

Why does Louisiana lead the world in incarceration rates?

Research based treatment programs are a common sense alternative to incarceration that improves the ability to incarcerate violent offenders. An ad recently released in the Louisiana gubernatorial campaign condemned efforts to release up to 5,500 nonviolent drug offenders. That is 5,500 prison beds that can be used for violent offenders. The fiscal impact alone based on current incarceration costs is a savings of approximately $165 million every year. I am sure our schools could use that money.

The excessive punishments have been inspired by political popularity which also inhibits our ability to use common sense penalties and treatment. The public and law enforcement have shifted to the ideals that the drug problem is social, psychological, biological, and medical. The criminal justice system is ill equipped to deal with such problems.

Politicians are hesitant to change how we treat drug offenders for fear of appearing soft on crime resulting in damage to a political career. The fear is not created by the person who chooses innovation over ineffectiveness. The fear is created by opponents of the candidate by taking the methods out of context. I will attempt to place them in context.

Any effort to reduce the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders through research proven treatment is a stance against violent criminals. Those who oppose such efforts are actually supporting keeping violent offenders in our midst. An attempt to create fear for political gain is described by Sheriff Tony Mancuso of Calcasieu Parish as “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”

Why do politicians think these ads work?

There is only one explanation, the perception of ignorance. The candidate must believe the voters at large have never dealt with a friend or family member who suffers from drug abuse and believe they should be treated versus incarcerated. We need representatives who will reduce our prison population with research proven best practices to make room for violent offenders. The people behind such political ads do not want violent offenders on the street and I would never make that claim. But, by putting such blatantly ignorant ads out, that is what they are facilitating.

References

Caulkins, J. P. & MacCoun, R. (2003). Limited rationality and the limits of supply reduction.       Journal of Drug Issues, 33(2), 433-464.

Caulkins, J. P. & Reuter, P. (2006). Reorienting U.S. drug policy. Issues in Science &        Technology, 23(1), 79-85.

Harvard Law Review. (1998). Alternatives to incarceration. Harvard Law Review, 111(7), 1863-  1991.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:34. (1980). Aggravated Battery.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:42.1. (2001). Forcible Rape.

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:967. (2007). Prohibited Acts-Schedule II, Penalties.

Marinelli-Casey, P., Gonzales, R., Hillhouse, M., Ang, A., Zweben, J., Cohen, J. Hora, P. F., &    Rawson, R. A., (2008). Drug court treatment for methamphetamine dependence:           Treatment response and posttreatment outcomes. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.      34(2), 242-248.

Rivers, J. L. (2009). Back on track: A problem-solving reentry court. Bureau of Justice Statistics    Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved on November 22, 2009 at             http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pdf/BackonTrackFS.pdf.

United States Department of Justice. (2008). Number of persons under jurisdiction of state           correctional authorities by most serious offense, 1980-2005. Retrieved November 24,    2009 at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/tables/corrtyptab.htm.

Vanderwaal, C. J., Chriqui, J. F., Bishop, R. M., McBride, D. C., & Longshore, D. Y. (2006).       State drug policy reform movement: The use of ballot initiatives and legislation to       promote diversion to drug treatment. Journal of Drug Issues, 36(3), 619-648.

Editor’s note: In one of the two debates attended by Vitter prior to the Oct. 24 primary election, both he and State Rep. John Bel Edwards agreed that alternative programs needed to be implemented in order to alleviate prison overcrowding. That, of course, was before Vitter decided to ignore his own position to the issue and to paint Edwards as “soft on crime.”

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For political junkies and political reporters out there, this is just the ticket and it’s coming out party is tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 8, just in time for Louisiana’s fall elections.

Freagle, a free political social network designed to connect voters and candidates to engage the way our founders intended, will debut in Louisiana on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

LouisianaVoice anticipates it will make regular use of the site in order to keep its readers updated on political candidates.

Freagle.com will provide a personalized political platform on which voters can customize their issue and election preferences in order to cut through the noise and spin of our current political dialogue to learn who is on their ballot and where those candidates stand on the particular issues they care about.

“Freagle is designed to connect voters to the candidates on their ballot and provide a simple mechanism for learning about where they stand and what they will do if elected,” Freagle founder and CEO Niki Papazoglakis said. “It also allows candidates to easily engage with voters on the topics they care about individually without expensive micro-targeting and polling.”

Freagle is currently operating at: http://www.freagle.com/ . The full site will be live on Tuesday.

Citizens who use Freagle can easily determine who is on their ballot, in their specific precincts. The site will use the voter’s address to automatically connect them to the races on their ballots, but voters also have the ability to manually follow races in other districts. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

“I hope that by making it easy and convenient for voters to be informed and engaged on elections and amendments, more people will turn out to the polls this fall and feel confident that the votes they cast are for the people and topics that best reflect their personal views,” Papazoglakis said. “Ultimately, I hope that Freagle is a catalyst to re-engage voters in this representative democracy and get us back to a citizen-led government.”

Freagle’s other features will include:

  • Simple means of comparing candidates. Election forums will allow voters to conduct side-by-side comparisons of the candidates in each race on their ballot and on individual issues.
  • On-Demand candidates’ debates. Voters can pose questions to all candidates in a race who subscribe to Freagle from the Election Forum wall rather than individually through other venues like websites, Facebook or Twitter and without having to be selected or have timed responses in live forums.
  • My Ballot tool. Voters can research and make voting decisions throughout the election cycle and print their choices before going to the polls.
  • Verification. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

Papazoglakis said Freagle would also be a valuable tool for the news media. “The media will have a simple place to track all of the elections from a single location including who has qualified in each race, where the candidates stand on the issues, and how they are engaging with voters, “ she said. “In addition, comprehensive campaign finance reports are easily accessed from each candidate’s profile.”

Freagle will feature a custom report from the state Ethics Commission that will have significantly more information than the standard download from the Ethics website, Papazoglakis said, adding that the site will also include all campaign contributions for each candidate.

News media outlets wanting more information about Freagle should contact Papazoglakis at (225) 615-4570 or niki@freagle.com.

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