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hartford criminal defense lawyerMost people are aware of the practice of solitary confinement in prisons, either from watching movies about prison or hearing about the treatment of prisoners in the news. Prisoners in the United States are routinely subjected to this form of confinement, which is also known as isolation or segregated confinement. However, this practice has been shown to cause a great deal of psychological harm, as well as physical health problems. Because of this, advocates for prisoners' rights are seeking to reduce or limit the use of solitary confinement, especially since it can be an issue that disproportionately affects minorities who become caught up in the criminal justice system.

Problems With Solitary Confinement and New Laws and Policies to Address the Issue

Solitary confinement is defined as holding a prisoner in isolation and restricting their contact with other people for at least 22 hours per day for a period of 15 days or more. In many cases, prisoners in solitary confinement are held in a small cell, with no access to natural light or fresh air. They are often denied exercise, recreation, and contact with family and friends. Lights in cells may be left on at all times, limiting a person's ability to sleep. While short periods of isolation may be necessary to protect the safety of a person or others, there are some cases where prisoners may be held in solitary confinement for weeks, months, or even years. 

This type of isolation can have serious consequences to a person's mental and even physical health. People who are held in solitary confinement are likely to experience severe psychological distress, which may involve anxiety, depression, panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia, and feelings of hopelessness that may lead them to attempt suicide. Those who have been held in long periods of isolation may experience social withdrawal, difficulties with impulse control, violent outbursts, memory problems, and a worsening of pre-existing mental health issues. Solitary confinement can have a number of physical effects as well, such as chronic headaches, dizziness, fatigue, pain in the muscles and joints, decreased appetite, problems with eyesight, sleep disorders, and difficulty managing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. 


hartford crimnal defense lawyerIn recent years, the use of cell phone location data by police in criminal investigations has become a controversial issue. Critics argue that the use of this data violates privacy rights, while proponents argue that it is a valuable investigatory tool. While there is no denying that the use of location data can help law enforcement investigate crimes and identify suspects, there are valid privacy concerns that can affect the rights of defendants in criminal cases. Recently, the extent of police surveillance of private citizens has become more clear as advocates have uncovered the widespread use of a tool that can track people's location data.

Fog Reveal Provides "Mass Surveillance on a Budget"

An investigation by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has found that the company Fog Data Science LLC has provided a cell phone location data tracking tool to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. This tool is known as Fog Reveal, and it allows police to access information about people's devices and track their movements over multiple months. While this has aided police in investigations and prosecutions of several high-profile cases, the use of this tool has been secretive, and in many cases, law enforcement officials and prosecutors have failed to disclose the methods used to identify suspects during criminal cases.

Fog Reveal uses information purchased from data brokers who obtain location data from apps used on people's smartphones. This data is supposedly anonymous, since it does not include any personal details such as people's names or addresses, and users are tracked through "advertising IDs" that are assigned to their devices. However, it is often a simple matter to identify a person by tracking the locations they visit regularly, such as their home and workplace. Most people are unaware that the apps they regularly use will sell their data to others and that this information may be accessed by law enforcement.


juvenile criminal defense laywerThe criminal justice system in the United States often comes under fire for the way people are treated when they are arrested, charged with crimes, placed in detention, or imprisoned. While many criminal justice reform advocates have raised concerns about the treatment of adult prisoners, issues related to juvenile offenders are often even more troubling. Some recent reports have shown that minors in juvenile detention facilities throughout the United States are often subject to harsh treatment and placed in unsafe conditions. To ensure that their rights are protected, minors who are involved in the juvenile justice system and their family members can work with a criminal defense attorney who can help them determine the best ways to resolve their cases.

Problems With Juvenile Detention

When minors are accused of committing criminal offenses, juvenile courts will usually handle cases differently than when adults are prosecuted for crimes. The juvenile justice system is supposed to focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Minors should be provided with support to help address the causes of juvenile delinquency and help them avoid committing offenses in the future. While detention in juvenile facilities may be appropriate in some situations, other solutions may be used, such as placing a minor on probation, requiring them to attend educational classes or receive psychological treatment, or imposing sentences of community service and restitution.

Unfortunately, this is not always the reality. Officials in some states have been more likely to sentence minors to juvenile detention, and in recent years, there have been several reports of minors in juvenile detention facilities being mistreated. In Texas, minors in these facilities are often kept locked in cells for extended periods of time, without even being able to use the bathroom. In Louisiana, violence at juvenile facilities led the governor to move some minors to a maximum security prison. These issues have become worse due to understaffing at facilities, and some states have relaxed their requirements when hiring staff members, increasing the likelihood that minors will suffer mistreatment.


hartford criminal defense lawyerThe prison industry has come under fire in recent years due to its focus on earning profits while failing to protect the rights of prisoners. While this has been an issue addressed by criminal justice activists in relation to private prisons, many have also raised concerns about the practices followed by government agencies. A recent report found that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has focused on using funds in accounts owned by prisoners to earn profits for the agency rather than paying restitution to victims or ensuring that prisoners meet other financial obligations, such as child support.

Prisoner Funds Managed by the BOP

The Federal Bureau of Prisons manages two separate pools of money owned by prisoners. The first is known as the deposit fund, and it may consist of any funds kept in accounts for prisoners, who may not have access to traditional bank accounts. The other pool consists of prisoner commissary accounts, and it is known as the Trust Fund. These accounts are used by prisoners to make purchases of food or other items while behind bars, as well as services such as phone calls or internet access. 

Money in the deposit fund is held in trust, and the BOP does not earn an income from these funds. However, money in the Trust Fund may earn interest for the BOP. The commissary purchases made using these funds are also a significant source of income for the BOP, and the agency generates around $80 million per year, which is used to pay salaries and benefits for BOP personnel. Even though prisoners are limited to spending around $400 per month through commissary funds, many keep thousands of dollars in their accounts.


Hartford criminal defense lawyerDNA evidence is being used more and more often in criminal cases. Since everyone's DNA is unique, samples of blood or other bodily substances left behind at a crime scene can often be used to identify suspects. However, because family members share genetic information, police officers may gather DNA from other people to attempt to determine whether their relatives may have committed crimes. This has raised a number of concerns about privacy and whether these types of searches are Constitutional. 

Lawsuit in New Jersey Challenges Collection of Baby DNA in Criminal Cases

The New Jersey Office of the Public Defender (OPD) recently took legal action to address a subpoena used in a case in which the New Jersey State Police were seeking to identify a suspect in a sexual assault that took place in 1996. The police had narrowed down the potential suspects to one of three brothers. While they did not have a search warrant allowing them to take DNA samples from any of the suspects, they did request a blood sample that was kept on file with the state's Newborn Screening Laboratory. This sample had been taken in 2012, and by comparing the child's DNA with the DNA from the original crime scene, investigators were able to determine that the baby was the child of the person suspected of committing the crime. This gave them enough information to request a search warrant for a DNA sample from the child's father and prosecute that person for the 1996 offense.

These practices have raised alarms about the privacy of people's genetic information. The state of New Jersey requires blood samples to be taken from all newborn infants to screen children for different types of medical disorders. These samples are given willingly with the understanding that they will be used for medical purposes, and few people realize that a child's genetic information could be accessed by law enforcement during criminal investigations. In the case in question, a grand jury subpoena was used to obtain the DNA sample, and officials were only required to show that they had reasonable grounds to believe that the data would be relevant to a criminal investigation. This is a much lower standard than would be required in a search warrant in which officers must demonstrate that they have probable cause to believe that the information being requested is evidence that will demonstrate that a suspect committed a crime.

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