New York State has agreed to a major overhaul in the way solitary confinement is administered in the state’s prisons.
The move to significantly reduce the number of inmates held in isolation and improve living conditions is the result of a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The state recently announced a five-year, $62 million agreement that is expected to result in a number of reforms.
Under the provisions of the agreement
New York state will immediately move roughly 1,100 inmates into alternative programs. There are approximately 60,000 inmates currently housed in New York prisons.
The state will also develop training programs for corrections officers designed to encourage the use of forms of discipline and security other than isolation. Prisoners still held in solitary for more than 180 days will receive additional counseling, social time, and access to telephones.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the changes “will result in a safer correctional system, as well as a fairer and more humane response for inmates who engage in misconduct.”
Around 4,000 New York state prison inmates are held in solitary confinement on any given day. The lawsuit alleged many are confined for 23 hours a day to their cells.
Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said in a press release that it was “simply wrong to unilaterally take the tools away from law enforcement officers who face dangerous situations on a daily basis.”
Powers said prisons were overcrowded with violent offenders and that assaults by inmates on staff has almost doubled since 2012. “Any policy changes must prioritize the security of everyone who works and resides in these institutions.”
The agreement will need the approval of a federal judge before it can take effect.
Retail giant Amazon has filed a John Doe lawsuit against 1,114 freelancers who solicit customers on the website Fiverrs.com. The suit was filed on Washington state court Oct. 16, 2015.
Before filing the lawsuit, Amazon conducted an undercover sting operation by “purchasing ‘reviews’ for products and communicating directly with some of the defendants,” the complaint states. The reviewers who were sued are those Amazon claims sold fake reviews for as little as $5.00 each.
The John Doe lawsuit was necessary because Fiverr freelances use pseudonyms. The company’s name is derived from the fact the jobs, referred to as gigs, cost $5.
Despite the lawsuit, the offer for $5 reviews doesn’t appear to have slowed down. A search for “reviews” produced hundreds of results. While many offered reviews for Amazon, one Fiverr freelancer visibly posted that she would not do them.
For the consumer, it’s nearly impossible to tell a fake review from a legitimate one. Many of the freelancers on Fiverr request that the client write the review and they will post it. Some freelancers boast they have dozens of Amazon accounts with various IP addresses.
Those willing to pay for reviews aren’t always seeking a five-star rating. There are those who will pay for negative reviews to be posted against their competitors. For those looking to keep their hands clean in case legal action is taken that could reveal their identity, paid reviewers are the answer.
As the New York Times reported Dec. 15, in early November one business was hit with 200 one-star reviews, many posting in a matter of minutes.
As for the Amazon lawsuit, the company claims in court papers that “Most of the defendants offer positive or 5-star reviews for Amazon sellers’ products. Indeed, many encourage the Amazon seller to create the text for their own reviews.”
At least one freelancer went to great lengths to make the paid review appear legitimate. “In at least one instance, the seller of a ‘Verified Review’ was willing to receive an empty envelop, not the product itself, simply to create a shipping record,” the lawsuit alleges.
This is the second lawsuit Amazon has filed over fake reviews.
The next step will likely be disclosure, and the court could require Fiverr to turn over the names and contact information for the 1,114 freelancers named in the suit.
A community in northern New York state is shocked, saddened and stumped by the recent disappearance of over a dozen dogs.
Dogs have been reported lost, stolen or missing from seven different townships in St. Lawrence County, near the Canadian border. The dogs vary in breed and include Pomeranians, Labrador retrievers and mixed breeds.
Officials there said there could be any number of reasons for the disappearances. They could be taken to be used for dog fighting, for resale or for breeding in puppy mills.
Dognapping has been on the rise and some experts say that it has become an organized, multimillion dollar business that they further claim few pay attention to until it happens in their own community.
According to the American Kennel Association, in 2013, the organization has tracked more than 590 pet thefts from news and customer reports, a 31 percent increase over 2012. Thefts range from tiny puppies being stuffed into purses at pet stores to most recently, purebred pets being snatched from cars in parking lots and shelters. The AKC offers the following advice to prevent your “best friend” from being a target of a crime:
In the Neighborhood
Keeping your dog close to you reduces the likelihood it will wander off and catch the attention of thieves.
Dogs left outdoors for long periods of time are targets, especially if your fenced-in yard is visible from the street.
If strangers approach you to admire your dog during walks, don’t answer questions about how much the dog cost or give details about where you live.
On the Road
Besides the obvious health risks this poses to the dog, it’s also an invitation for thieves, even if you are gone for only a moment. Leaving expensive items in the car such as a GPS unit or laptop will only encourage break-ins and possibly allow the dog to escape, even if the thieves don’t decide to steal it too.
This popular practice among city-dwelling dog owners can be a recipe for disaster. If you need to go shopping, patronize only dog-friendly retailers or leave the dog at home.
It is also recommended that the dog be microchipped. The procedure is relatively painless and most microchips will last the life of the dog.
Lawyers for Rolling Stone magazine were granted a protective order aimed at limiting the amount of information and documents disclosed during the defamation case filed by University of Virginia Associate Dean Nicole Erano.
Eramo’s lawsuit stems from the November 2014 Rolling Stone story “A Rape on Campus” that told of an alleged gang rape at a campus fraternity house and was later exposed as a fraud, primarily by the Washington Post.
Sabria Erdely, named as a defendant in the suit, authored the story.
The information the proposal secures confidentiality of includes unpublished news gathering materials and that of a personal or intimate nature regarding any individual.
Eramo is seeking $7.85 in damages. Another lawsuit, filed by three University of Virginia graduates and members of the fraternity who were portrayed in the debunked account of the gang rape, has each seeking $75,000 for each count
The story evolved around a woman only identified as “Jackie” who claimed she was gang-raped in 2012 at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. Erdely failed to contact those named in the story, according to those involved.
Rolling Stone subsequently issued an apology, as did Erdely.
The Charlottesville Police Department conducted an investigation and said it found no evidence to back the claims of “Jackie.”
A report published by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism earlier this year said Rolling Stone failed at virtually every step of the process, from the reporting by Erdely to an editing process that included high-ranking staffers.