Crimes and Their Punishments – Through the Ages

Punishments for Crimes through the ages – from the bizarre to outrageous, from the sublime to the ridiculous. We don’t know how lucky we are!

Many of us are apt to complain about sentences handed out by our Courts for crimes these days – too harsh, too lenient. But a quick look at some punishments for crimes through the ages, including in some countries today, we should really consider how much we really have to complain about.

Not only have punishments been truly shocking (and in some instances still are), but even some of the crimes are truly unbelievable.

Many Sydney criminal lawyers would have had their work cut out for them if some of these historical crimes were still on the statute books! Lucky for us that our complaints about the justice systems these days are limited to whether an offender should be given a jail sentence or community service, or whether a 2 year sentence is sufficient or whether 5 would have been better, and so on.

Thank goodness we don’t have to contend with crimes for which the penalty is being tortured to death by some truly unimaginable means. Criminal lawyers in Australia, as in Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and others, these days don’t have to plead for the type of mercy that offenders of times gone by had to. And of course, some of these barbaric practices do still exist today in other parts of the globe, as you can see below.

Some Crimes and Some Punishments You Won’t Believe

Take a look …

Crimes and Their Punishments

'Willful disregard for the facts': New York torches the Justice Department's crime-rate claims

nyc mayor bill de blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill blasted the Department of Justice at a press conference on Friday for its statement accusing the city of being “soft on crime.”

“It is an unacceptable statement that denigrates the people of New York City and the NYPD. It is an outrageous statement and absurd on its face, and ignores a quarter century of progress in this city in bringing down crime,” de Blasio said, adding that the city just marked its safest three months in history.

“We did not become the safest big city in America by being ‘soft on crime.’ I’ve never met a member of the NYPD who is soft on crime. This good police commissioner is not soft on crime. This is an insult, this statement.”

De Blasio demanded that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump renounce the statement, challenging them to “come here to New York City and look our police officers in the eye and tell them they’re soft on crime.”

The DOJ had released the statement after sending letters to nine so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions across the country, including New York City, threatening to withhold funding unless they prove by June 30 they are complying with federal law.

“Many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” the DOJ said in a statement, although research has found that jurisdictions with “sanctuary” policies in fact have lower crime rates than their nonsanctuary counterparts.

“New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance,” the statement continued.

Yet New York has reported record low murder and crime rates in recent years, following a steady downward trend since 1990. In his remarks Friday, a visibly irate O’Neill noted that in 2016, the NYPD jailed more than 1,000 people in 100 gang takedowns.

“Maybe we should ask them if we’re soft on crime,” he said.

“I like to think of myself as a pretty calm and measured person. But when I read that statement by the Department of Justice this afternoon, my blood began to boil.”

SEE ALSO: Justice Department targets 9 jurisdictions in escalating crackdown on ‘sanctuary cities’

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Squeaky clean Singapore takes umbrage at US cop show – CNBC

Singapore’s reputation for law and order doesn’t appear to have preceded it, at least as far as U.S. cop show Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was concerned.

The plot of the episode titled “Cinderella and the Dragon” called for the fictional FBI International Response Team to go to Singapore to find two missing American flight attendants.

It’s not clear whether any of the actors ever entered Singapore.

Producers of the show didn’t return an emailed request for comment.

The plot sent the characters to the Geylang neighbourhood.

Agent Clara Seger, played by actress Alana de la Garza, appears to have mispronounced the neighborhood’s name, before launching into this description: “Officially, it’s known as the red-light district, but more accurately it’s an overcrowded slum with a thriving underworld.”

While parts of the Geylang neighbourhood are zoned for legal prostitution, it’s also home to streets of two- and three-story shophouses, with businesses showcasing bathroom fittings and light fixtures.

Not to mention some pricey condominiums on the horizon.

Last month, Australian developer Lendlease sold around 50 percent of the 429 condo units at its mixed office, retail and residential development in the Geylang area. The pricing ranged from 1,600 to more than 2,000 Singapore dollars a square foot, or $1,150 to more than $1,400, putting the three-bedroom units at over 2 million Singapore dollars.

A representative of Lendlease said he doubted the episode’s portrayal would have much impact on the project.

Segar’s dialogue continued with this indictment: “It is the very embodiment of income inequality. There’s a lot of poverty, human trafficking, just a lot of crime.”

That would be news to Singapore’s commuters, who are regularly bombarded with posters admonishing that “low crime doesn’t mean no crime” to encourage better awareness.

It’s not uncommon for Singaporeans to leave their mobile phones unattended at hawker centers, or outdoor food courts, to “chope” or reserve seating.

The episode, with its suggestion that Singapore’s low murder rate indicated the local police would be unable to solve a homicide or that its courts don’t consider evidence closely, raised hackles on social media.

A representative of Singapore’s police force didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment on whether the show’s writers contacted them for research purposes.

But in a sign that the local police were aware of the social media splash, the department posted crime statistics on Facebook, highlighting that some crime reports were at a 30-year low.

“Singapore was ranked first in Gallup’s Law and Order 2016 Report.

Remember, our statistics show that we are not like what TV shows say,” the post said.

—By CNBC.Com’s Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter@LeslieShaffer1

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.

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Attorney Zulu Ali Named Top 10 Best Lawyers in Criminal Law, Immigration Law, and Personal Injury by the AIOLC – PR Newswire (press release)

RIVERSIDE, Calif., April 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Attorney Zulu Ali of the Law Offices of Zulu Ali in Riverside, California has been named Top 10 Best Lawyers in Criminal Law, Personal Injury, and Immigration Law by the American Institute of Legal Counsel.  The American Institute of Legal Counsel is an invitation only legal organization recognizing excellence of practitioners in their respective areas.  Each lawyer must be formally nominated, have attained the highest degree of professional achievement in his or her field, and have an impeccable client satisfaction rating. 

Attorney Zulu Ali, a native of Shelbyville, Tennessee, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served with the Marine Security Forces.  After graduating from the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Attorney Ali served as a sworn police officer with the City of Shelbyville, City of Lewisburg, and Vanderbilt Police Departments, respectively. 

Attorney Ali earned a Juris Doctorate (law degree) from Trinity International University Law School and a liberal arts degree with an emphasis in African Studies from Regents College through a consortium with Tennessee State University.

Attorney Ali has been admitted to the California State Bar; United States District Courts for the districts of Central California, Southern California, Northern California, and Colorado; United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits; and the United States Supreme Court.

In 2007, inspired by civil rights attorneys Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and Avon Williams, Jr., who used the law and courts as a vehicle to make change and protect all people against injustice, Attorney Zulu Ali opened the Law Offices of Zulu Ali with a focus on representing persons accused of crimes and seeking criminal justice, immigrants, victims of discrimination, and persons seeking civil justice.  Attorney Ali and his law firm take on extremely difficult cases and matters that provide an opportunity to make changes in the law, through the courts, when the law is unjust.  

Attorney Ali serves as Director of the American Committee for United Nations Oversight, an advocacy group lobbying the United Nations for police reform; Director of the Stop and Frisk Academy, which trains at risk youth and others to deal with police encounters; Director of the Southern California Veterans Legal Clinic, a legal clinic offering no cost and low cost legal services to military veterans; and a member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers. 

Attorney Ali has been Honored Top 100 Lawyers by the National Black Lawyers-Top 100; Top 100 Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers-Top 100; Premier 100 Trial Lawyers by the American Academy of Trial Attorney; and Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys by the American Jurist Institute.

Attorney Ali had been named Top 10 Best Lawyers in Criminal Law and Personal Injury by the American Institute of Legal Counsel in 2016, making 2017 the second consecutive year to be honored in these categories. 

Media Contact:     
Zulu Ali 

SOURCE Law Office of Zulu Ali

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A city in Illinois realized it was spending a lot of money on one drug, so it sued the maker (MNK)

Larry Morrissey Rockford Illinois

ROCKFORD, Illinois — This city 90 miles from Chicago runs its own health plan for its hundreds of police, firefighters, and other city workers. And a couple of years ago city officials watching the books noticed something weird about its healthcare spending.

Just two babies on Rockford’s health insurance were eating up 2.5% of the plan’s total budget. That money wasn’t going for heroic surgeries or cancer treatment. Instead, the infants were being given a drug to stop infantile spasms, which is serious but easy to treat.

The problem was just nine vials of H.P. Achtar, the drug the children needed, cost the city nearly a half-million dollars. The drug isn’t new. It’s been around decades and used to cost just $40 a dose. But the drug’s owner hiked it up to $36,000 in recent years.

So this city of 150,000 decided to do something almost unheard of. It sued.

Cutting down on healthcare spending

On April 6, the City of Rockford filed a lawsuit against Mallinckrodt, the makers of H.P. Acthar, “to challenge an anti-competitive, unfair and deceptive scheme” that the company undertook “to enhance and maintain Mallinckrodt’s monopoly power in the U.S. market for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) drugs in violation of the U.S. antitrust laws.”

Class-action suits contesting high prices have become increasingly common; one against the makers of insulins and another against that maker of the EpiPen have been filed in the past few months. In 2016, Providence, Rhode Island, sued generic drugmakers over the antibiotic doxycycline and a heart medication called digoxin. The antibiotic has since been involved in a price-fixing case brought by 20 state attorneys general. And in 2014, Philadelphia’s transit agency sued Gilead, the maker of the hepatitis C cure Sovaldi, over the price of the drug, which has a list price of roughly $1,000 a pill.

But it’s still a little unusual for a midsize city to be leading the charge.

Rockford is part of a growing movement of employers keeping track of how much they’re spending on medications. In going after Mallinckrodt the city hopes to inspire other employers to take on the rising prices of prescription drugs.

city hallAs a self-funded health plan, Rockford’s essentially pays for its employees’ health care expenses out of its own pocket, instead of those funds coming from a health-insurance company.

Starting in 2005, Rockford wanted to get a better idea of how much the city was spending on healthcare. At the time, the city was running a $4 million deficit in its health fund. By looking at the city’s healthcare spending, Rockford managed to put $12 million in reserve at one point, which the city then used to start a clinic for its employees.

As part of that initiative, the city realized it spent a lot on specialty pharmaceuticals, a term that’s often used to describe costly medications that are a bit more complex than the antibiotic you might pick up at the pharmacy. These include biologic drugs used to treat autoimmune disorders, and Acthar, a drug that came on the market in the 1950s.

“We set this chain of events in motion where we were constantly reviewing the drug spend, and that meant getting pretty granular at the specific drugs that were being purchased and how they were being utilized,” Ryan Brauns, a consultant at Rockford Consulting & Brokerage who has been working closely with Rockford’s health fund since 2005, told Business Insider.

That’s when they started seeing a trend. “The most significant cost threat to the plan at this point is specialty medications,” he said. Overall, medical expenses for Rockford were down 0.25% in 2016 compared to 2015 in the face of a 6% rate of regional medical inflation. Pharmacy expenses, on the other hand, were up 25.2% in 2016 compared to 2015.

One drug that made up 2.5% of the total health fund

Achtar is not frequently used, but its high price tag means a few prescriptions can add up quickly. In addition to infantile spasms, the drug is used to treat flare-ups of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders. In 2015, Medicare spent $504 million on the drug.

HP Acthar chart price

In total, Rockford and its employees spent almost $500,000 on Acthar in 2015, coming out to a gross cost of $54,339.76 per vial, according to the suit. The cost made up a significant portion of Rockford’s $20 million healthcare fund.

” While we will not comment on the details of this litigation, we can reiterate our publicly expressed view related to the FTC settlement – that we strongly disagreed with allegations that we engaged in any anti-competitive behavior,” a Mallinckrodt spokesman said in a statement to Business Insider.

Rockford, of course, has catastrophic claims it has to cover every year, such as emergency surgeries, accidents, or other unexpected medical bills. But Kim Ryan, associate director of human resources, told Business Insider that “the pharmacy seems to be the most blatant and growing problem that health plans are facing trying to control all these expenses,” she said.

“The abuse that can take place through the network in the pharmacy benefits management world, and how something like this could happen is really very shocking,” Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey told Business Insider. Morrissey ‘s term as mayor is up at the beginning of May, but Morrissey said Mayor-elect Tom McNamara supports the suit.

While Rockford investigated its drug spending, Mallinckrodt settled with the Federal Trade Commission over Acthar in January, agreeing to pay $100 million, after the FTC charged the company with violating antitrust laws. Back in 2013, Questcor (a company that Mallinckrodt later acquired) bought a competitor to Acthar called Synacthen. The FTC alleged that this kept other companies from selling the competing drug at a lower price. As part of the settlement, Mallinckrodt had to agree to license Synacthen to Marathon Pharmaceuticals to treat infantile spasms and nephrotic syndrome in the US.

“Questcor took advantage of its monopoly to repeatedly raise the price of Acthar, from $40 per vial in 2001 to more than $34,000 per vial today – an 85,000 percent increase,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a January news release. “We charge that, to maintain its monopoly pricing, it acquired the rights to its greatest competitive threat, a synthetic version of Acthar, to forestall future competition. This is precisely the kind of conduct the antitrust laws prohibit.”

Mallinckrodt, on the other hand, had a different perspective on the settlement.

“We are pleased with the agreement reached to resolve this legacy matter, although we continue to strongly disagree with allegations outlined in the FTC’s complaint, believing that key claims are unsupported and even contradicted by scientific data and market facts, and appear to be inconsistent with the views of the FDA,” the company said in a news release at the time.

But the settlement didn’t go far enough, Morrissey argued. “The question that I asked when I was going through some of the background before the lawsuit was filed, was how in the world does the federal government allow a $100 million settlement on a drug” when the government didn’t get a commitment to change the price moving forward, he said.

This is why Rockford decided to file its own suit against the company, using the FTC’s case as a starting point. Morrissey said he hoped the case would clear up some misconceptions about how much employers are paying for medications.

“There’s this mythology that the healthcare industry tries to describe that this doesn’t hurt anybody except big insurance companies,” Morrissey said. But in the case of Rockford, “Every dollar that we overpay there is a dollar that can’t go to other community services, has to be paid for by taxation.”

In its lawsuit, Rockford also named United Biosource Corporation, a company that’s owned by the pharmacy benefit manger Express Scripts.

What’s ahead

After Rockford filed the complaint on April 6, Brauns said he got calls from other employers who might be interested in joining in on the class-action suit. In particular, those calls came from employers in the public sector who have started looking at their own health plans.

“There’s been a lot of talk about what to do with rising cost of pharmaceuticals,” Brauns said.

Using this case, Rockford wants to get Acthar on Washington’s radar. It’s not without the realm of possibility. President Donald Trump has said drugmakers are “getting away with murder” and expressed an interest in negotiating drug prices, something the government isn’t allowed to do for Medicare and Medicaid. And in March, the president met with Reps. Elijah Cummings and Peter Welch, at which time the representatives showed Trump a bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.

As the case goes forward, the city hopes to get a refund on the $500,000 it spent on Acthar. Morrissey said he hopes the case goes beyond that. Ideally, the case will bring the price down so that if Rockford needs to purchase Acthar again, the city won’t face the same prices.

“There’s zero discouragement of future antitrust conduct when you get a slap on the wrist,” Morrissey said.

SEE ALSO: Something weird’s going on with the doctors prescribing one of pharma’s most controversial blockbuster drugs

DON’T MISS: One of the most controversial drug companies in America is out of the industry’s lobby

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Rodrigo Duterte Charged in International Criminal Court by Lawyer for Henchman – U.S. News & World Report

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U.S. News & World Report

Rodrigo Duterte Charged in International Criminal Court by Lawyer for Henchman
U.S. News & World Report
HONG KONG/THE HAGUE (Reuters) – A Philippines lawyer filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Rodrigo Duterte and senior officials on Monday, accusing them of crimes against humanity in a nationwide anti-drugs …
Charge Rodrigo Duterte With Mass Murder, Lawyer Tells The HagueNew York Times
Criminal case vs Duterte filed before International Criminal CourtPhilippine Star
Philippines Lawyer Accuses President Duterte in Suspected Drug Dealer KillingsTIME
Newsweek –Austin American-Statesman –VICE News
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Trump appears to be bringing back the drug war, but cops may not welcome its return

Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump

Senior Trump administration officials have signaled that the US’s protracted drug war will return to full force, but law enforcement, long tasked with manning the front line of that war, may not welcome the return of the duties and dangers it entails.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have both spoken of cracking down on the drug trade and drug use, singling out marijuana, which Sessions has called “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

“Let me be clear about marijuana,” Kelly said during a speech this week in Washington, DC. “It is a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.”

“Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the US Congress we in DHS are sworn to uphold all the laws on the books,” Kelly added.

Sessions was similarly harsh when speaking about marijuana during a speech in March.

“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store,” Sessions said. “And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”

trump kelly pence

Law-enforcement officers, however, have consistently rated marijuana as one of the least-threatening illegal drugs.

A Drug Enforcement Administration survey of more than 1,400 state and local law-enforcement agencies for the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment found that less than 5% said they saw the drug as their “greatest threat,” while only 5.4% said marijuana was the biggest driver of violent crime.

“Most law enforcement would like to see some type of legalization or decriminalization for marijuana,” Raeford Davis, a former North Charleston police officer, told Business Insider. “The only ones that oppose that are what I would call ‘dead-enders’ in policing … Legalization is coming and law enforcement officers welcome that.”

Among the public, support for legal marijuana recently hit an all-time high — 61%.

Greatest drug threat DEA 2016 NDTA

Davis said police officers he has spoken to agree that the current approach to drug enforcement is not working. Differences in opinion emerge over what to do next.

In states where marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized, officials, like Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, have cautioned the federal government against reinstituting a hardline policy on the drug.

Beyond the focus on marijuana, however, research has shown that strict enforcement has missed the mark when it comes to reducing or eliminating drug trafficking and use.

A 2012 study conducted by the University of Florida found threats of severe punishment were “generally weak and insignificant” in reducing drug use. A 2013 British Medical Journal study found that between 1990 and 2007 the average price for heroin, cocaine, and marijuana fell by more than 80%, while average purity increased 60% for heroin, 11% for cocaine, and 161% for marijuana.

The get-tough policies that the Trump administration has hinted “will have zero effect as far stopping distribution or use,” Davis said, leading instead to more conflict between police and the communities they serve.

That conflict could cost police “trust and respect in the community, and then you do not get cooperation from them when you’re trying to investigate real crimes, like murders and robberies and shootings,” he added.

baltimore police

At the height of the drug war, in the 1980s and 1990s, tougher law-enforcement efforts and criminal-justice policies spurred more arrests and introduced longer sentences for drug crimes. Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people in US prisons for drug-related crimes spiked from 40,900 to 469,545, according to the Sentencing Project.

Mandatory-minimum requirements — which some of Sessions’ appointees want to keep — meant many non-violent offenders were given sentences of 20 years to life.

“The people we put away were low-level drug users, not violent criminals,” Tim Longo, a member of the Baltimore police between 1981 and 2000, told the BBC. “We were casting a wide net and catching a lot of people, but most of what we got were guppys and minnows.”

The aggressive strategy has “broken down police departments,” according to Davis. “Even hardened drug enforcers will tell you we can’t arrest our way out of this.”

To their credit, both Sessions and Kelly have spoken of anti-drug policies other than law enforcement.

california marijuana protest

In his March speech, the attorney general mentioned treatment, education, and prevention, though he did not elaborate on what policies he would pursue to those ends.

Kelly, in an NBC interview, downplayed the role marijuana had in driving the international drug trade and mentioned a move to shrink the market for illegal drugs.

The solution is a comprehensive drug-demand-reduction program in the United States that involves every man and woman of goodwill,” he said.

However, at a time when an opioid epidemic has killed or harmed tens of thousands, more muscular law-enforcement policies would likely impede public-health efforts, Leo Beletsky, a public-health and drug policy expert at Northeastern University, told the BBC.

“The tactics they’re talking about would just fuel the crisis,” he said.

“Our current [enforcement], particularly the street-level enforcement, is just ineffective,” Davis told Business Insider, “and it just really unnecessarily criminalizes people and, in fact, increases crime with the drug-related violence.”

SEE ALSO: Top military commanders say they can’t keep up with the amount of drugs flowing into the US

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NOW WATCH: Public policy expert: Trump’s claim that drugs are cheaper than candy bars isn’t ‘entirely untrue’

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Singapore Tourism Board Fires Back at 'Criminal Minds' | TravelPulse – TravelPulse

PHOTO: Singapore Tourism Board is firing back at inaccuracies in a Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders episode. (Photo via Flickr/Mike Behnken)

A recently aired episode of the CBS Television show Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders set in Singapore was riddled with the factual inaccuracies, and Singaporeans are not happy.

Even the Singapore Tourism Board has jumped into the fray.

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The premise for Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, a spin-off from Criminal Minds, is that the FBI investigates crimes involving Americans in overseas locations. And to ramp up the suspense for the episode Cinderella and the Dragon, which aired April 12, let’s just say screenwriters took poetic license to new levels. 

To quote an article in the community news service site,, “any Singaporean viewer would start to barf minutes into the show, as a ‘Singaporean proverb’ flashes on the screen, which [is] complete utter BS.”

The proverb, “Where there is a sea, there are pirates,” is, in fact, a Greek proverb.

READ MORE: Tourism Officials in Singapore Announce Record-Breaking Travel Year

And the errors didn’t stop there. The show also referred to the city’s Geylang neighborhood as an “overcrowded slum with a thriving underworld,” when in fact it’s better known as a hangout for foodies. Also, a scene that supposedly takes place in Geylang was actually shot in a different part of the city, Gluttons by the Bay.

The Singapore Tourism Board is firing back with a series of Facebook posts demonstrating that Singapore is “Criminally Shiok.” Shiok is a term used in Singapore that roughly translates to “very pleasing.”

Each post took a small shot at the inaccuracies in the show, including a photo of Changi International Airport, with the caption “Here’s what the world’s best airport REALLY looks like.”

A very glam photo of Gardens by the Bay was accompanied by the caption “Good evening from ‘the dark side of paradise.’”

The Facebook posts have general several thousand reactions and nearly a thousand shares.

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He robbed banks and went to prison. His time there put him on track for a new job: Georgetown law professor. – Washington Post

Shon Hopwood, a former federal inmate, is joining the faculty at Georgetown University Law Center in D.C. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

During a break in a basketball game to raise money for charity, Shon Hopwood told some of his Georgetown law students it felt different than the last time he was on a court: When he played basketball in federal prison, he had to carry a shank in case his team started to lose.

His students laughed. He ran back onto the law-school court — and sank the winning shot.

Hopwood’s new job as a tenure-track faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center is only the latest improbable twist in a remarkable life: In the last 20 years, he has robbed banks in small towns in Nebraska, spent 11 years in federal prison, written a legal petition for a fellow inmate so incisive that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, done that again, earned undergraduate and law degrees and extremely competitive clerkships, written a book, married his hometown crush and started a family.

But this could be his most compelling role yet. His time in prison gave him an unusual perspective on the law that allows him to see things other lawyers overlook, and a searing understanding of the impact of sentencing and the dramatic growth in incarceration in the United States.

“It’s one of the big social-justice issues of our time,” he said. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners. “Between prison, jail, home confinement, probation, parole, combined it’s about 10 million people. It’s a big number.” And almost three-quarters of released prisoners are back in custody five years later. He hopes to change some of that.

Shon Hopwood with his wife, Ann Marie, and children Mark, 7, and Grace, 5, in Washington. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

“The story’s still writing itself,” he said in his office recently, marveling while students hurried to class outside. “I feel like I’m living someone else’s life quite often these days.”

Shon Hopwood’s life didn’t start out as remarkable. It began with a happy childhood in a town of 2,500 people in Nebraska. His dad managed a cattle feed yard, and his parents helped found a church. He was friendly and well-liked, uninterested in school, and best known for his skill on the basketball court.

An athletic scholarship to college ended when he got kicked out for not going to class. After two years in the U.S. Navy, he drifted back to Nebraska, depressed, drinking, doing some drugs, living in his parents’ basement and working 12-hour shifts on a cattle farm, shoveling manure.

One night his best friend turned to him in a bar and suggested that they rob a bank.

In August 1997, Hopwood walked into a bank, sweating, heart racing, dropped a metal toolbox to the floor with a bang and pulled a rifle from his coveralls. With the terrified customers and tellers locked into a vault, he sped away with $50,000 of other people’s money and his friend, who knew every bit as well as he did that what they had done was horribly wrong.

His friend suggested sending the money back, with a note. Instead, Hopwood went on to rob four more banks.

At his sentencing, 30 family members stood behind him, most of them crying. He was 23 years old. Judge Richard Kopf thought he was a punk. He had not forgotten Nebraska’s history of violent bank robberies. When Hopwood told him he was going to turn his life around, Kopf said something disdainful like: I guess we’ll see in about 13 years.

LEFT: Undated photo of Shon Hopwood (Courtesy of Shon Hopwood). RIGHT: Hopwood at Georgetown University Law Center. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

His first morning in federal prison, Hopwood got up early to work out and watched as two inmates yanked another one from a pullup bar, knocked him to the ground and stomped on the man with steel-toe boots leaving bits of teeth in pools of blood.

Working in the prison law library sounded like a good idea.

At first, he just checked books out. But in the summer of 2000, a Supreme Court decision caught inmates’ attention: Essentially, Hopwood explained, “things that can increase your sentence need to be proven to a jury, or you need to plead guilty to them.” He had been sentenced based on guidelines for armed robbery, even though he had pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery. A technicality, maybe, but he began dreaming of getting out early. Among all the other reasons to leave, he had begun a friendship, by mail, with a girl from back home.

After two months of research, he mailed off a brief and quickly got a response: He had filed it to the wrong court.

And when he redirected his appeal, Kopf denied it; the new decision did not apply retroactively in his case.

Still, something had clicked. Trying to figure out a solution to the legal puzzle was the first academic thing Hopwood had ever enjoyed. And it came easy. Soon he was sending memos to other inmates’ lawyers, suggesting strategies. Then he was writing briefs.

Shon Hopwood, center (seated), teaches at Georgetown University Law Center. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

He was finding errors, often from overworked public defenders, like a young man sentenced to 16-and-a-half years for possessing less than a handful of crack cocaine because he had mistakenly been labeled a career offender. With Hopwood’s help, his sentence was reduced by more than 10 years.

The third brief he ever wrote was for a friend whose appeal had been denied. Hopwood spent months learning about the Supreme Court and habeas petitions, and one night he realized how he could frame an argument using the Sixth Amendment rather than the Fifth. After many drafts, honed by conversations with fellow inmates that forced him to distill the legal issues into simple, compelling logic, he typed out a petition for certiorari and mailed it off.

Months later, he was working out early one morning when a prisoner came running toward him, screaming that Hopwood was going to die. He tensed for a fight; he had recently survived a situation in which he fully expected to be stabbed to death by gang members.

But the man was holding a newspaper, with the story of the Supreme Court accepting a petition from a federal prisoner.

The odds of that happening are maybe 1 in 10,000, said Seth Waxman, the former solicitor general of the United States who agreed to argue the case for free. He read the petition with amazement. “It was incredibly good. It really identified, in sort of a crystalline form, the questions presented. It explained the conflict, it explained the importance.”

He immediately wanted to talk to the bank robber who could write such a thing, and thus began a friendship that would help change the trajectory of Hopwood’s life.

Now Hopwood was spending his time doing things such as reading a 1,650-page textbook on criminal procedure. Twice. He was taking college classes and paralegal studies. And with new sentencing guidelines, he was busy churning out work for other inmates, taking on 10 or more cases at a time. “I was running a law firm in prison,” he said lightly. Because he was now convinced that sentences beyond about five years didn’t make sense for any but the most dangerous criminals, because he was upset by the disparities in sentences, because he saw prison more often hardening people or cutting off their chances for reform than turning their lives around, he enjoyed seeing people packing for home. He had another petition granted by the Supreme Court.

When he walked out of prison in October 2008, he was 33 and overwhelmed with anxiety about rebuilding his life. He knew no one was clamoring to hire felons. He wanted to get married and go to college, and he had no money. He was working at a carwash when he had another moment of grace: A family-run legal printing business in Omaha agreed, after getting some reassurance from Waxman, to hire him to help with their Supreme Court briefs. “If that doesn’t happen, none of this does,” he said.

A story in the New York Times unleashed a flood of invitations to speak, and a book deal. Still it was difficult, given his résumé, to get into law school. But the University of Washington granted him a full scholarship that made it possible — even with a little boy at home, and a girl born on the first day of law school — to attend.

He startled his former probation officer in the elevator of the courthouse one morning two months after his supervised release ended. He was not there for his mandatory check-in this time. He was arriving for work, clerking for a federal judge.

As he was studying 12 hours a day, he was wondering: Would he be granted a law license at the end of all this, or would they reject him because of his criminal record? The hearing was long, but in the end, the vote was unanimous. And in April 2015, after he passed the bar exam, he was sworn in as a lawyer by the D.C. Circuit judge who had chosen him for a prestigious clerkship.

He joined Georgetown on a teaching fellowship about a year-and-a-half ago, working with students on cases in the appellate clinic. He sees issues others don’t, strategies that others don’t, said Steven Goldblatt, director of appellate litigation.

“He understands the problems of incarceration in a way that somebody who just studies them as an academic is not able to get,” said William Treanor, the law school’s dean.

Many colleagues were struck by his academic writing, Goldblatt said. Hopwood wrote about the rule of lenity, which he described as designed to protect citizens from getting caught in vague laws, and argued it must be revitalized to push Congress to write with more precision when drafting laws that take away liberty.

It’s not a theoretical issue, Goldblatt said. It’s fundamental. “It symbolizes what Shon is all about,” he said. “Why wasn’t there more written about it? Damned if I know.”

The surreal moments continue. Recently Hopwood helped his former criminal defense attorney practice a case to be argued in front of the Supreme Court. He also spoke on an academic panel with Kopf, the judge who sentenced him. It was an emotional meeting for both. Kopf gave Hopwood a gift that had great meaning for him, a leather briefcase Kopf had received from a former prisoner whom he had defended. It was a recognition, Kopf said, that he and Hopwood were both trying to emulate justice.

“I don’t know if it was atonement as much as it was, ‘Carry on — keep doing what you’re doing,’ ” Kopf said, thinking out loud. “I would do anything for Shon.”

Hopwood is still, at 41, haunted by guilt and regret for his crimes. But he is an optimist by nature, and he has accepted that he can only change the future. Now his primary goal is to help people, whether by serving as a reminder that you can turn your life around, by giving students an understanding of the real impact of the law, or, he hopes, by influencing the criminal justice system.

So while he kept the letter from a law firm offering him $400,000 a year, it was just as a curiosity. The money would be nice, but influence is what he wants. The Capitol dome is literally in view from campus, and most days he walks right past the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ headquarters.

Even now, preparing to start a new position at Georgetown on July 1 as an associate professor of law, with a young family, and all the gratitude he has for the friends along the way, he doesn’t feel like he’s made it.

“I’ll feel that way when the federal government passes a bill that gets rid of federal mandatory sentences,” he said. “That will be the moment for me.”

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Two former prisoners reveal how they turned their lives around after their release

doe fund workers

For some former prisoners, the hardest part about serving time is figuring out what to do when they get out.

Between finding a place to live, earning enough money to support themselves, and adjusting to a changing society, life as an ex-inmate can be overwhelming and stressful.

For some, it can lead to re-offending. According to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that examined data from 30 US states between 2005 and 2010, two thirds of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years, and more than a third were arrested after just six months.

But one organization is trying to reverse those statistics. The Doe Fund, a New York City-based nonprofit that provides jobs, education, and housing to recently released male prisoners through its Ready, Willing & Able program.

“Through a combination of paid work, social services, education, and career training, the men of Ready, Willing & Able forge a path to self sufficiency,” Alanna O’Donnell, media affairs manager for the Doe Fund, told Business Insider.

New participants in the program get paid to clean streets and sidewalks across New York. They continue on to training for specific trades, including culinary arts, building maintenance and pest control. Mandatory education classes teach them skills like literacy, financial management, and relapse prevention.

By the end of the program, participants are connected with job opportunities to sustain themselves and are given help applying for their own apartments.

“The tools they gain and the opportunities they earn permanently break the cycles of drug-use, incarceration, and poverty for them and their families, for life,” O’Donnell said in a statement to Business Insider, pointing us to some research outlined on The Doe Fund’s website:

“An independent study by Harvard University’s Dr. Bruce Western found that Ready, Willing & Able graduates are 60% less likely to be convicted of a felony three years after exiting the program. Overall, the program cuts the risk of future police contact by a third.”

Doe Fund worker

“I call it the ‘no more excuses program,'” director Anthony Isaacs told Business Insider.

Isaacs, 60, can speak firsthand about the program’s benefits. His first job after 25 years in multiple prisons around New York state was a case-management position with The Doe Fund that he secured six months after his release — he has since worked his way up. The program is “rewarding on both sides,” he said.

“For the staff, we’ve had people who have spent a long time behind the wall and come out and been through the program and understand that it can work,” Isaacs told Business Insider.”That a nine-to-five beats doing 10-to-20 any day.”

Isaacs set himself up for post-prison opportunities by attending many programs offered at the prison, including “educational, vocational, life skills, aggression replacement, drug and alcohol prevention, business planning, stress management, youth awareness and delinquent intervention.” He also earned a bachelor’s degree in social science while at Eastern Correctional Facility, and a master’s degree in Professional Studies & Urban Ministries from the New York Theological Seminary while at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

Anthony Isaacs

Another Doe Fund worker, William Bossio, 59, struggled with life after prison before he found the organization.

“When you first come home, it gets overwhelming cause everything bombards you,” Bossio told Business Insider. “Bills start accumulating, your wants become more than your needs, and you get yourself in trouble. That’s happened to me multiple times.”

Bossio did several prison stints, the longest of which was 12 years at multiple prisons including New York’s Rikers Island for a bank robbery. He was most recently released from Hudson Correctional Facility.

At the urging of his parole officer, Bossio attended a meeting for the Ready, Willing & Able program. Once he graduated, he secured a job as a dispatcher for the Doe Fund, making sure Ready, Willing & Able participants get to their work stations on time.

“I guess I had to be pushed into making the right decisions,” Bossio told Business Insider.

Bossio said he was “blessed to find a job” after prison, a time when even preparing your next meal can feel unfamiliar and stressful.

“A lot of guys, myself included, have difficult times the first year” after prison, Bossio said.

But Isaacs and Bossio’s success stories show that there is hope for prisoners to have productive lives on the outside.

SEE ALSO: 7 people went undercover as inmates for 2 months, and they revealed harrowing details about an Indiana jail

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Singapore Tourism Board Fires Back at 'Criminal Minds' – TravelPulse

PHOTO: Singapore Tourism Board is firing back at inaccuracies in a Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders episode. (Photo via Flickr/Mike Behnken)

A recently aired episode of the CBS Television show Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders set in Singapore was riddled with the factual inaccuracies, and Singaporeans are not happy.

Even the Singapore Tourism Board has jumped into the fray.

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The premise for Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, a spin-off from Criminal Minds, is that the FBI investigates crimes involving Americans in overseas locations. And to ramp up the suspense for the episode Cinderella and the Dragon, which aired April 12, let’s just say screenwriters took poetic license to new levels. 

To quote an article in the community news service site,, “any Singaporean viewer would start to barf minutes into the show, as a ‘Singaporean proverb’ flashes on the screen, which [is] complete utter BS.”

The proverb, “Where there is a sea, there are pirates,” is, in fact, a Greek proverb.

READ MORE: Tourism Officials in Singapore Announce Record-Breaking Travel Year

And the errors didn’t stop there. The show also referred to the city’s Geylang neighborhood as an “overcrowded slum with a thriving underworld,” when in fact it’s better known as a hangout for foodies. Also, a scene that supposedly takes place in Geylang was actually shot in a different part of the city, Gluttons by the Bay.

The Singapore Tourism Board is firing back with a series of Facebook posts demonstrating that Singapore is “Criminally Shiok.” Shiok is a term used in Singapore that roughly translates to “very pleasing.”

Each post took a small shot at the inaccuracies in the show, including a photo of Changi International Airport, with the caption “Here’s what the world’s best airport REALLY looks like.”

A very glam photo of Gardens by the Bay was accompanied by the caption “Good evening from ‘the dark side of paradise.’”

The Facebook posts have general several thousand reactions and nearly a thousand shares.

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