Ipso Facto

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Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, said recently that there’s a very real possibility that someone infected with Ebola will enter the United States. However, he suggested the chances of a U.S. outbreak are highly unlikely, “it is a matter of isolating patients.” Can a patient with Ebola, or merely exposed to Ebola, be isolated or quarantined in Pennsylvania?

The U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government as well as state governments from depriving individuals of specifically protected liberty rights. There are exceptions. In Pennsylvania, the health and well being of the community at large may supersede individual rights of freedom and liberty.

Although matters relating to public health have been left largely to individual states to manage, the federal government does have jurisdiction over cases where communicable disease is introduced into this country from a foreign source or to prevent or curtail the interstate movement of communicable disease.

In more than 40 years, only one person -- Andrew Speaker a newlywed form Georgia who was honeymooning in Europe in 2007 and contracted a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis — has been isolated under federal law.

In Pennsylvania the Disease Prevention and Control Law (DPCL) provides that the state Department of Health, county/municipal health departments or a local heath authority may — without court intervention -- order an individual quarantined or isolated if the individual poses a significant threat to the health of the public and no lesser restrictive means is warranted.

The DPCL defines quarantine as the “limitation of freedom of movement of persons ... who have been exposed to a communicable disease.” The limitations may continue for a period of time equal to the incubation period of the disease. Isolation is the separation of persons already infected, from other people to prevent direct transmission of disease.

"Ebola is so scary and so unfamiliar; it’s really important to outline what the facts are, and that we know how to control it," Frieden told NBC News.

In 2002, only months after the 9/11 attacks, the Pennsylvania Legislature went even further by enacting the Counterterrorism Planning, Preparedness and Response Act. The law provides the governor with authority to order the temporary isolation or quarantine of individuals or groups. The law was intended for use following a suspected act of bio-terrorism. The statute does not specifically preclude the law from being utilized during a pandemic.

The governor also has the authority to order a "cordon sanitaire" which is the quarantining of an entire town or city. Such an act by the government has serious civil rights implications. People who have no apparent manifestations of a disease are forced, against their will, to remain in an area where other people are infected.

Another concern is the cost of quarantine or isolation and who bears the responsibility for payment. A 1990 tuberculosis outbreak in Fort Worth, Texas, resulted in various levels and durations of quarantine and isolation for 10 patients. The cost reached nearly $1 million. Pennsylvania public health authorities may be required to provide reimbursement for costs associated with isolation or quarantine.

In Pennsylvania, the local health office may order treatment, put restrictions on an individual's movement, restrict an individual to his or her home, put the individual under surveillance or even isolate the individual in an institution to ensure compliance.

However unlikely an outbreak of Ebola may be in Pennsylvania, it appears the commonwealth has the tools to deal with it in an effective and efficient manner -- even if it means some civil rights get trampled in the process.

-- This post first appeared as a guest column in the Delaware County Daily Times on Aug. 22, 2014

(Image: A hazmat worker cleans outside the apartment building of a Texas health care employee who tested positive for Ebola after providing hospital care for deceased Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan. LM Otero/Associated Press)

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As more and more school districts add police officers or armed security guards to their list of employees the number of students who are arrested as a form of discipline soars.

The most striking impact of school police officers so far, critics say, has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts. The phenomenon has been referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

“There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety,” Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland told the New York Times. “And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.”

Melodee Hanes, of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, describes the school-to-prison pipeline as “the pervasive use of court referrals as a means of disciplining kids in school."

More than 2 million students each year are suspended or expelled from school across the United States. Federal data, though limited, show that more than 240,000 students were referred to law enforcement.

The school-to-prison pipeline is being fueled by “zero-tolerance” policies that accelerate the involvement of the criminal justice system in routine school disciplinary practices. “Too often, so-called zero-tolerance policies, however well-intentioned they might be, make students feel unwelcome in their own schools; they disrupt the learning process,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. “And they can have significant and lasting negative effects on the long-term well-being of our young people, increasing their likelihood of future contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.”

In 2013, Texas took action to stem the flow of the school-to-prison pipeline. The laws, known as Senate Bills 393 and 1114, barred police officers from writing tickets for misdemeanors that occur on school grounds, though traffic violations are exempt from the ban. Officers also cannot issue citations for school offenses such as causing disruptions in class or on a school bus.

Working as intended, the laws have fueled a larger-than-anticipated 83 percent decline in the number of Texas schoolchildren prosecuted in adult court for infractions such as disrupting a classroom, court figures show.

Almost 90,000 juvenile cases were kept out of adult court by the new laws, which were written to encourage schools to handle most behavior problems internally instead of relying on police or the courts. “We were expecting a drop. I don’t think we were expecting that significant a drop in the first year,” said David Slayton, director of the Texas Office of Court Administration.

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Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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The American Judicature Society, a powerful advocate for judicial reform, ethics and research, is shutting its doors after 101 years in existence.

The society was founded in 1913 as part of the progressive movement, in response to demands for legal reform. The Society has long pushed for merit selection of judges and has also championed ethical conduct for judges and discipline for that skirt their oath.

The demise of the American Judicature Society doesn’t mean that ethics enforcement will be relaxed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently issued a ruling determining the high court has the power to suspend judges.

Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille wrote in the court's opinion, "The Supreme Court has the supervisory power, an aspect of its authority at King's Bench, to order the interim suspension without pay of sitting jurists."

The Judicial Conduct Board had argued that 1993 amendments to the state constitution creating the board stripped from the Supreme Court its ability to discipline judges.

"Acting within their respective authorities and jurisdictions, both the Supreme Court and the Court of Judicial Discipline have authority to issue orders of interim suspension and to impose sanctions upon jurists. To the extent that any such orders ultimately or necessarily conflict, the order of the Supreme Court is 'supreme' and controlling," Castille wrote.

Not every judge accused of an ethics violation is removed for the bench. The Judicial Conduct Board filed ethics charges against Erie Judge Stephanie Domitrovich in July. The complaint states that Domitrovich was critical, impatient and disrespectful in the courtroom. She is charged with six counts of judicial misconduct.

The Judicial Conduct Board asked the court to suspend Domitrovich with or without pay while the disciplinary proceedings proceeded. The Court of Judicial Discipline has determined not to suspend Domitrovich. An ethics trial has not yet been scheduled.

All judges are vulnerable when it comes to ethics complaints. A conservative legal firm is accusing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of violating the Judicial Code of Conduct.

At the heart of the claim are recent comments made by Ginsburg about impending gay marriage battles that could come before the Sixth District Court of Appeals, which governs Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Ginsburg told an audience at the University of Minnesota Law School recently that “there will be some urgency” if the appeals court backs bans on gay marriage, forcing the Supreme Court to act more promptly.

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Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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Former offenders are saddled for life with criminal records that make employment, education and public benefits difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. A prison term should not mean a lifetime of misfortune for a former offender. Yet, that is what the criminal justice system produces every day.

Job seekers with criminal records have always struggled to find work. It is not just violent offenders and felons who are rejected by employers. A misdemeanor or an old conviction can be enough to cost a person a chance at a job. About 70 million people in the U.S. have been convicted of a crime.

A conviction has real and lasting consequences. Forbes Magazine reported that a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, found that 96 percent of human resource professionals say their companies perform criminal background checks on applicants.

Many criminal justice practitioners point to the lack of employment opportunities for returning prisoners as the most important obstacle to a successful reentry. A failed reentry means a return to prison; soaring taxpayer funded corrections costs; and increased victimization.

Some states, and cities, are trying to do something to eliminate barriers for former offenders seeking employment.

There is a growing movement called Ban the Box, a reference to the check box on a job application that asks, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" Having the check box may prevent many ex-offenders from getting a fair shot at a job.

Some employers immediately set aside an applicant who checks the box. This prevents perspective employees from having an opportunity to sell themselves in an interview and it prevents perspective employers from evaluating an applicant on the merits.

Ban the Box will not prevent employers from checking an applicant's criminal record. The measure merely postpones the review to later in the assessment process to give former offenders a chance at getting a job.

Four states -- Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island -- have passed laws that force private employers to remove the question regarding conviction history from job applications, according to National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Eight more states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico -- have removed the question from applications for public or state jobs.

In addition, more than 60 cities have banned the box, including Baltimore, Louisville and Indianapolis. According NELP, New York City is considering its own version, called the NYC Fair Chance Act.

Is America a country where people get second chances or a country where a single mistake follows a person for life?

There is a lot of work to be done to provide former offenders with a meaningful opportunity to earning a living wage. Progress is being made. This week, Washington D.C. banned the box, Illinois’ governor signed a similar law and, according to National Public Radio, Wal-Mart and Target have eliminated the criminal history question from their employment applications.

(Image: iStock/Getty Images)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released two reports this week that appear to be in conflict with one another. Crime rates are down for 2013, but incarceration rates are up. Locking up a few thousand more people is not going to make crime rates fall, but it begs the question -- if there are fewer crimes shouldn’t there be less people in jail?

The nation's violent crime rate declined slightly last year after two years of increases according to BJS.

BJS’s National Crime Victimization Survey found the overall violent crime rate -- which includes rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault -- declined from 26.1 victimizations per 1,000 people in 2012 to 23.2 per 1,000 in 2013.

The rate of violent crime in 2013 was similar to the rate in 2011 -- 22.6 per 1,000. Since 1993, the rate of violent crime has declined from 79.8 to 23.2 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older.

The victimization report is based on an annual scientific survey of Americans on whether they had been victimized in the previous year. The interviews included about 90,630 households and 160,040 persons last year.

It differs from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, which is based on voluntary submissions from local police departments of crimes reported to them. Many criminologists consider the victimization survey a more accurate picture of the nation's crime, because the FBI's data are incomplete.

At the same time, the incarceration rate has increased. At the end of 2013, the U.S. held an estimated 1,574,700 people in state and federal prisons, an increase of approximately 4,300 prisoners, about a three percent increase from 2012. This was the first increase reported since the peak of 1,615,500 prisoners in 2009.

The incarceration totals rose in 27 states. With at least 700,000 in local jails, not included in the BJS report, the national total behind bars remains well over 2 million. Only six states had fewer prisoners at the end of 2013 as compared to 2000.

Critics question why more people should be behind bars while crime is dropping.

Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report, suggests that the basic answer is that there is not necessarily a connection between the two sets of numbers.

Gest wrote, “About 450,000 people entered prison last year as a result of a court sentence. That is only a small fraction of the 6.1 million violent crimes. Most crimes don't lead to arrests or prosecutions, and only some of those cases result in an offender going to prison. So it is very possible for the crime rate to be going slightly in one direction and the imprisonment rate slightly in the other, as was the case in 2013.”

(Image: Istock/Thinkstock)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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Domestic violence impacts literally millions of women each year. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report prepared by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Center for Disease Control found that nearly one in three women in the United States have been slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

With that grim statistic in mind and the alarming nature of professional football player Ray Rice’s case it may be surprising to know that domestic violence has dropped precipitously since the mid-1990s.

The rate of domestic violence in U.S. households declined 63 percent, from 13.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 1994 to 5.0 per 1,000 in 2012. Both serious domestic violence (rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault) and simple assault (push, shove, slap, threaten) decreased.

Why the long and sustained drop in domestic violence?

Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined suggested, “Those countries in which women are better represented in government and in the professions, and in which they earn a larger proportion of earned income, are less likely to have women at the receiving end of spousal abuse.”

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found access to protective orders, assistance with child custody and support, divorce and property distribution and domestic legal disputes around immigration, housing and public benefits help alleviate the burdens of domestic violence.

Lonnie A. Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation wrote recently that these services "appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives to their relationships."

Criminal justice practitioners have focused a lot of attention -- with considerable success -- on enhanced sentences, emergency shelters, counselors and hotlines. Those efforts are priceless after an assault has occurred. However, such efforts do not prevent the pervasiveness of violence.

Domestic violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault committed by intimate partners -- current or former spouses, boyfriends and immediate family members.

I recently wrote in a column for GateHouse Media, “The greatest impact on violence against women in America and around the world is to empower women. In this country, women have excelled at every level. That kind of transformation is underway in many countries around the globe. However, until full equality is achieved professionally and personally, here and abroad, the scourge of domestic violence will continue.”

(Image: VvoeVale/Getty Images)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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As the new school year begins many school districts are heightening security.

Security measures continue to evolve 20 months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 students and six staff members dead following a rampage by a 20-year-old gunman.

The massacre at Sandy Hook brought about new procedures, cutting-edge equipment and security personnel.

This school year extends many of those efforts, some partly funded by state or federal grants. Experts point out that schools are one of the safest places for children and say security upgrades should be driven by factual assessments, not fear.

At Franklin Regional High School a student stabbed 21 students last spring. The western Pennsylvania school district received a Safe Schools Initiative Competitive Targeted Grant to improve security. The grant money will be used to upgrade building locks, improve communications throughout the school, improve response plans and train district staff members.

In Connecticut, police will be making more frequent visits to school buildings and doing periodic checks of buildings throughout the year, making sure students are aware of their presence.

"I've heard new alarms, new security with the doors, new cameras in the hallways which is reassuring," said Cindy Ramadanov, the parent of a school aged child.

The school also installed a box in the main office where students or anyone else can anonymously drop a note to report any situation.

"It makes me feel better. We weren't really aware last year, but we know the kids are safe," Ramadanov added.

Some school districts are only beginning to implement security measures that have become routine in other parts of the country. In Georgia, once the school day begins in some districts, the doors to the schools will be locked and visitors will need to press a button on a control panel to get in.

The control panel includes a video camera that allows staff inside the school to see who is at the door. Upon entering the school, visitors will follow the normal visitor procedures, signing in and showing identification to receive a visitor’s badge.

When visitors are ready to leave, they must exit the building through the main entrance and officially check out.

In Minnesota, some school districts installed "school safe activation buttons", commonly called panic buttons. The buttons can lock school entrances and trigger a school lockdown. Staff say the measures save precious time.

Other new security measures include flashing lights in hallways and outside of buildings that can alert students and staff to a lockdown. Students will soon undergo drills to better understand the new system, which is designed to create barriers in the threat of an intruder, allowing law enforcement more time to respond.

In the 21st century, unfortunately, returning to schools is about more than new books, old friends and the optimism of a new year.


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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Ninety years ago this this week, Clarence Darrow gave a 12-hour summation in the sentencing hearing for Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold.

The case known as Leopold and Loeb was heralded as the “trial of the century.” The case was not really a trial at all. Darrow had changed the young men’s pleas from not guilty to guilty and focused his efforts on preventing a death sentence.

On May 21, 1924, Leopold and Loeb rented a car and stocked it with tools to commit the “perfect crime.” Then they drove to a park near a local prep school to wait for the perfect victim. They found Bobby Franks.

The two wealthy University of Chicago students lured the 14-year-old Franks into the car. The two men murdered Franks for the thrill of the kill.

The next morning, a man on his way to work found Frank’s naked body, his face and genitals burned with acid, in a culvert in an isolated field outside of Chicago.

Darrow’s change of plea had turned the case on its head. Darrow, a graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, needed only a reduction from death by hanging to life in prison to win the case.

Darrow’s summation has been characterized as one of the greatest orations ever presented in opposition to the death penalty.

Darrow asked the judge, “Why did they kill little Bobby Franks? Not for money, not for spite; not for hate. They killed him as they might kill a spider or a fly, for the experience. They killed him because they were made that way.”

He continued to argue, “Kill them. Will that prevent other senseless boys or other vicious men or vicious women from killing? No!

Darrow pleaded, "If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, and more considerate than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry I have lived so long."

He concluded “Your Honor, what excuse could you possibly have for putting these boys to death? You would have to turn your back on every precedent of the past. You would have to turn your back on the progress of the world. You would have to ignore all human sentiment and feeling …You would have to do all this if you would hang boys of eighteen and nineteen years of age who have come into this court and thrown themselves upon your mercy.”

Cook County Circuit Court Judge John R. Caverly was impressed. He imposed a sentence of life in prison for both men.

(Image: Nathan Leopold, 19, far right, and Richard Loeb, 18, second from right, are seen during their arraignment in a Cook County courtroom with attorney Clarence Darrow, left, in July 1924. The two teenagers were convicted and sentenced to serve life plus 99 years for the murder-kidnapping of Bobby Franks in May 1924. AP Photo)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His new book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010: The Crimes, Arrests, Trials, Appeals, Last Meals, Final Words and Executions of 46 Persons in the United States is now available from McFarland & Company publishers.

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