Category Archives: ethics

Want to cut crime? Start making smaller jails

When you build smaller jails and stop treating jail as a business, you start to have to come up with more creative solutions to keep non-dangerous people out of jail.

This is partially why residents balked at Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s proposal in 2010 to build an even larger jail to house 5,832 inmates. Not only could Gusman’s staff not control the population they had, but the city’s increasing incarceration rate was not correlating with a decline in crime. Crime had, in fact, been increasing.

Gusman’s proposal was squashed by a coalition of community organizations that mobilized residents and convinced the city that it could not financially afford to keep, as one city council representative put it, jailing its way to becoming a safer city. The city ended up approving a new jail in 2011 that was just a quarter of the size the sheriff wanted: 1,485 beds, though the city was holding twice as many inmates as that at the time. This meant the city had to rethink and revamp its incarceration practices moving forward.

Could the threat from Jihadists be overstated?

Despite a lot of rhetoric from Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, the threat from Jihad is overstated (at least in the United States which is far more of a target than Canada).

The slaying of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church last week, with an avowed white supremacist charged with their murders, was a particularly savage case. But it is only the latest in a string of lethal attacks by people espousing racial hatred, hostility to government and theories such as those of the “sovereign citizen” movement, which denies the legitimacy of most statutory law. The assaults have taken the lives of police officers, members of racial or religious minorities and random civilians.

Non-Muslim extremists have carried out 19 such attacks since Sept. 11, according to the latest count, compiled by David Sterman, a New America program associate, and overseen by Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert. By comparison, seven lethal attacks by Islamic militants have taken place in the same period.

If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers. A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.

“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman, whose study is to be published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum.

I am going to assume the same can be said in Canada that hate groups are a far bigger threat to our security than ISIS.

Welcome to your new police state

I can’t tell you what we are doing because I signed a non-disclosure agreement

The issue led to a public dispute three weeks ago in Silicon Valley, where a sheriff asked county officials to spend $502,000 on the technology. The Santa Clara County sheriff, Laurie Smith, said the technology allowed for locating cellphones — belonging to, say, terrorists or a missing person. But when asked for details, she offered no technical specifications and acknowledged she had not seen a product demonstration.
Buying the technology, she said, required the signing of a nondisclosure agreement.
“So, just to be clear,” Joe Simitian, a county supervisor, said, “we are being asked to spend $500,000 of taxpayers’ money and $42,000 a year thereafter for a product for the name brand which we are not sure of, a product we have not seen, a demonstration we don’t have, and we have a nondisclosure requirement as a precondition. You want us to vote and spend money,” he continued, but “you can’t tell us more about it.”
The technology goes by various names, including StingRay, KingFish or, generically, cell site simulator. It is a rectangular device, small enough to fit into a suitcase, that intercepts a cellphone signal by acting like a cellphone tower.
The technology can also capture texts, calls, emails and other data, and prosecutors have received court approval to use it for such purposes.
Cell site simulators are catching on while law enforcement officials are adding other digital tools, like video cameras, license-plate readers, drones, programs that scan billions of phone records and gunshot detection sensors. Some of those tools have invited resistance from municipalities and legislators on privacy grounds.
The nondisclosure agreements for the cell site simulators are overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and typically involve the Harris Corporation, a multibillion-dollar defense contractor and a maker of the technology. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone.

Wired Magazine named Harris Corporation the number 2 most dangerous thing on the internet right now.

The Harris Corporation and the U.S. Marshals Service are tied for going above and beyond to conceal information from the public, courts and defendants about law enforcement’s use of so-called stingray technology. Harris is the leading maker of stingrays for law enforcement, which simulate a cell tower to trick mobile phones and other devices into connecting to them and revealing their location. Federal and local law enforcement agencies around the county have been using the devices for years—in some cases bypassing courts altogether to use them without a warrant or deceiving judges about what they’re using to collect the location information. Why? They say it’s because Harris’s contract includes an NDA that prohibits customers from telling anyone, including judges, about their use of the technology. It’s hard to know who’s really initiating the secrecy, though—Harris, because it wants to protect its proprietary secrets from competitors, or law enforcement agencies, because they’re worried suspects will find ways to counteract the devices. The secrecy reached an extreme level this year when agents with the U.S. Marshals Service in Florida swooped in to seize public records about the use of stingrays to keep them out of the hands of the ACLU.

Even as Many Eyes Watch, Brutality at Rikers Island Persists

From the New York Times

On Sept. 2, four correction officers pulled Jose Guadalupe, an inmate classified in medical records as seriously mentally ill, into his solitary-confinement cell at Rikers Island and beat him unconscious.

A little over two months later, three guards wrestled another inmate, Tracy Johnson, to the floor, pepper-sprayed him in the face and broke a bone in his eye socket. Then, on Dec. 9, yet another group of officers beat Ambiorix Celedonio, an inmate with an I.Q. of 65, so badly that, as surveillance footage later showed, he had bruises and scratches on his face and blood coming from his mouth.

The brutal confrontations were among 62 cases identified by The New York Times in which inmates were seriously injured by correction officers between last August and January, a period when city and federal officials had become increasingly focused on reining in violence at Rikers.

It was in August that the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan issued a damning report about brutality at the jail complex and threatened to sue the city unless conditions there improved. And in November, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that ending pervasive violence at Rikers had become a top priority for his administration.

But The Times’s examination makes clear that the violence has continued largely unabated, despite extraordinary levels of outside scrutiny, a substantial commitment of resources by Mr. de Blasio and a new team of high-ranking managers installed by the correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte, who took over the job in April.

This reminds me of the many conversations I had about jail with former inmates.  The stories are not all that dissimilar.  

Also: Some architects are wondering if the design of prisons themselves make them more violent.

Today, prison design is a civic cause for some architects who specialize in criminal justice and care about humane design. There is a lot of research documenting how the right kinds of design reduce violence inside prisons and even recidivism. Architects can help ensure that prisons don’t succumb to our worst instincts — that they are not about spending the least amount of money to create the most horrendous places possible, in the name of vengeance — but promote rehabilitation and peace.

F.B.I. Director Speaks Out on Race and Police Bias

From the Washington Post

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, delivered an unusually candid speech on Thursday about the difficult relationship between the police and African-Americans, saying that officers who work in neighborhoods where blacks commit crimes at a high rate develop a cynicism that shades their attitudes about race.

Citing the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the Broadway show “Avenue Q,” he said police officers of all races viewed black and white men differently. In an address to students at Georgetown University, Mr. Comey said that some officers scrutinize African-Americans more closely using a mental shortcut that “becomes almost irresistible and maybe even rational by some lights” because black men are arrested at much higher rates than white men.

In speaking about racial issues at such length, Mr. Comey used his office in a way that none of his predecessors had. His remarks also went beyond what President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. have said since an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in August.

Mr. Comey said that his speech, which was well received by law enforcement officials, was motivated by his belief that the country had not “had a healthy dialogue” since the protests began in Ferguson and that he did not “want to see those important issues drift away.”

Previous F.B.I. directors had limited their public comments about race to civil rights investigations, like murders committed by the Ku Klux Klan and the bureau’s wiretapping of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  But Mr. Comey tried to dissect the issue layer by layer.

He started by acknowledging that law enforcement had a troubled legacy when it came to race.

“All of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty,” he said. “At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.”

Mr. Comey said there was significant research showing that all people have unconscious racial biases. Law enforcement officers, he said, need “to design systems and processes to overcome that very human part of us all.”

Rise in Murders Has St. Louis Debating Why

Murder is on the rise in St. Louis

Across from the Little Explorers Learning Center, diagonal to a crumbling house where heroin dealers and hangers-on often mill about, a garland of teddy bears adorns a telephone pole, a memorial to the latest victim to fall here at one of this city’s deadliest corners.

The victim was a 27-year-old man shot dead on Dec. 23, one of the last casualties in a year of surging gun violence.

“It’s nothing to get a firearm,” said Michael Shelton, who was badly wounded by gunfire eight years ago at this same corner, in the bleak Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood of north St. Louis, and is now determined to stay out of trouble. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t carry or have easy access to one.”

Murder rates have fallen sharply in most of the country. But St. Louis is one of a few major cities, including Memphis and Washington, where the number of homicides jumped last year. It is also one of several cities, including Baltimore, Detroit, Gary, Ind., and New Orleans, where violent crime, concentrated in low-income minority neighborhoods, has remained stubbornly high, though down from the crack-driven peaks of the early 1990s.

So why is it happening?

Why St. Louis suffered a major setback in a year in which many cities saw further progress is hotly debated. By all accounts, the proliferation of guns among young men here is beyond control, turning petty insults, neighborhood rivalries and drug disputes into lethal melees of attack and reprisal that can occur in waves. There was a 33 percent rise in homicides last year, to 159, compared with 120 in 2013 in this city of 318,000.

Jennifer M. Joyce, the city’s circuit attorney, or prosecutor, an elected position, complains that in St. Louis, the illegal possession of a gun is too often “a crime without a consequence,” making it difficult to stop confrontation from turning lethal.

At the same time, deeper social roots of violence such as addiction and unemployment continue unchecked. And city officials also cite what they call a “Ferguson effect,” an increase in crime last year as police officers were diverted to control protests after a white officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in the nearby suburb on Aug. 9.

The violence is not uniform. Nearly all the increase in murders in St. Louis last year occurred in eight neighborhoods, said Richard B. Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

So what is the solution?

But everyone — politicians to social workers — points to persistent causes including poverty, a youth culture that glorifies gun violence and what some say has been an unusually permissive legal response to guns.

“Ferguson didn’t help, but this homicide rate had been building,” Ms. Joyce said. She called for tougher responses to gun possession, which she described as an early warning sign of violence to come.

Missouri, with a strongly pro-gun population outside the big cities, has permissive laws including one that allows the carrying of a loaded gun in a car without a permit. When the police discover a gun in a car with several passengers, including some with felony records, but no one admits to owning the gun, criminal charges are often impossible, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

In addition, according to a 2014 study by Mr. Rosenfeld and his colleagues, a majority of those who are convicted of illegally possessing a gun but not caught using it in a crime receive probation rather than jail time. Gun laws and enforcement are stiffer in many other cities.

Besides focusing on guns, Ms. Joyce hopes to duplicate a much-praised program of the Manhattan district attorney, which tracks the most violent individuals and tries to make sure that, when they are picked up even for minor violations, they receive special attention from prosecutors.

Of course, there is only so much police can do.

More precise police work is well and good, said James Clark, vice president for community outreach at Better Family Life, a nonprofit social service group based in Wells-Goodfellow just two blocks from the notorious intersection of Arlington and Ridge Avenues, where the last murder of 2014 took place.

“But we’ve got to stop expecting the police to solve the crime problem,” Mr. Clark said, adding that only with a huge increase in social aid could a cultural collapse be prevented. “There is a void that the police can’t fill.”

Mr. Clark, a respected presence on the streets, is trying to help rescue youths and families one at a time, sending workers out to knock on doors and link people up with social services, from drug treatment to anger management to prenatal care.

“Our neighborhoods are resource deserts,” he said. “Every neighborhood needs a center with drug treatment, G.E.D. lessons, recreation for the kids.”

Murder seems to be the crime that police can so least prevent.  It seems like such an irrational and crazed decision to take another persons life that even police are helpless to prevent unless they are there right then.  

If I was in St. Louis, I would support more officers just as I would social resources.  People need hope and a community free of guns and cracking down on the guns will make things better but there is also something else at play in St. Louis and if there is such a willingness to take another person’s life over a minor thing like an insult, then that is something that police can’t change.

Where container ships go to kill other people

There aren’t too many places left in the world where the practice of ship breaking—scrapping old ships for metal—can still exist. These days, environmental and labor regulations in the developed world have displaced the practice to India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, where cargo carriers are salvaged for their steel.

The largest vessels wind up on the shores of the city of Chittagong in Bangladesh, where the industry has become a vital part of the country’s urbanization. It employs roughly 200,000 workers and supplies the country with 80 percent of its steel. Ship breakers beach and dismantle vessels daily wearing flip­-flops and T-shirts. It’s no easy task, considering ships are constructed to withstand the elements for the 30 years they spend operating on international waters.

It’s a great day for organized crime


As the number of RCMP investigators tackling the terrorism threat continues to grow, it is raising concerns that other important federal cases are taking a back seat.

Last October, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told a Senate committee that 300 investigators had been pulled from organized crime and financial crime cases to help support 170 members dedicated to RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams across the country.

The number of re-assigned investigators is closer to 500 now, a senior law enforcement source told Postmedia News this week, adding that the number fluctuates daily.

If this trend continues, there is a legitimate concern that organized crime — which takes the form of drug trafficking, human smuggling, identity theft, money laundering and fraud — could “flourish,” Pierre-Yves Bourduas, a retired RCMP deputy commissioner, said Wednesday.

In Bourduas’ opinion, the No. 1 threat remains organized crime and the No. 1 “weapon of mass destruction” is drugs. If these are allowed to go unchecked or are given less attention, “then there might be consequences for Canadian society writ large.”

“It’s a delicate balance,” he said.

The federal government has a decision to make, said Garry Clement, a retired superintendent who was in charge of the RCMP’s proceeds of crime program. Does the RCMP focus on one area? Or does it get additional resources to continue with other parts of its mandate?

For now, he said, “it’s a great day for organized crime.”

Few white collar workers realize the impact that manual labour has on people’s bodies and lives

From The Atlantic

Yet many of the people in the surrounding county, Buchanan, derive their income from Social Security Disability Insurance, the government program for people who are deemed unfit for work because of permanent physical or mental wounds. Along with neighboring counties, Buchanan has one of the highest percentages of adult disability recipients in the nation, according to a 2014 analysis by the Urban Institute’s Stephan Lindner. Nearly 20 percent of the area’s adult residents received government SSDI benefits in 2011, the most recent year Lindner was able to analyze.

According to Lindner’s calculations, five of the 10 counties that have the most people on disability are in Virginia—and so are four of the lowest, making the state an emblem of how wealth and work determine health and well-being. Six hours to the north, in Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties, just one out of every hundred adults draws SSDI benefits. But Buchanan county is home to a shadow economy of maimed workers, eking out a living the only way they can—by joining the nation’s increasingly sizable disability rolls. “On certain days of the month you stay away from the post office,” says Priscilla Harris, a professor who teaches at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, “because that’s when the disability checks are coming in.”

Just about everyone I spoke with at the Grundy clinic was a former manual worker, or married to one, and most had a story of a bone-crushing accident that had left them (or their spouse) out of work forever. For Rose, who came from the nearby town of Council, that day came in 1996, when he was pinned between two pillars in his job at a sawmill. He suffered through work until 2001, he told me, when he finally started collecting “his check,” as it’s often called. He had to go to a doctor to prove that he was truly hurting—he has deteriorating discs, he says, and chronic back pain. He was turned down twice, he thinks because he was just 30 years old at the time. Now the government sends him a monthly check for $956.

Police Investigate Family for Letting Their Kids Walk Home Alone

This is getting insane

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister, Dvora, walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. You’ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyperprotective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv explicitly ally themselves with the “free range” parenting movement, which believes that children have to take calculated risks in order to learn to be self-reliant. Their kids usually even carry a card that says: “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid,” although they didn’t happen to have it that day. They had carefully prepared their kids for that walk, letting them go first just around the block, then to a library a little farther away, and then the full mile. When the police came to the door, they did not present as hassled overworked parents who leave their children alone at a playground by necessity, or laissez-faire parents who let their children roam wherever, but as an ideological counterpoint to all that’s wrong with child-rearing in America today. If we are lucky, the Meitivs will end up on every morning talk show and help convince American parents that it’s perfectly OK to let children walk without an adult to the neighborhood playground.

Perhaps if they had been black and lived in South Carolina, they would have been arrested like Debra Harrell, the single mother who let her daughter go to the playground while she was working at McDonald’s. As white suburban professionals, the Meitivs experienced a lower level of intrusion, but still one that would make any parent bristle. The police asked for the father’s ID, and when he refused, called six patrol cars as backup. Alexander went upstairs, and the police called out that if he came down with anything else in his hand “shots would be fired,” according to Alexander. (They said this in front of the children, Alexander says.) Soon after, a representative from Montgomery County Child Welfare Services came by and required that the couple sign a “safety plan” promising not to let the children go unsupervised until the following week, when another CPS worker would talk to them. At first, the dad refused, but then the workers told him they would take the kids away if he did not sign.

When we lived in Calgary, I walked a mile from where lived in Deer Ridge Estates to my elementary school.  I walked home for lunch, watched the Buck Shot Show and then walked back to school.  At the end of the day we walked home again, always avoiding the Catholic school whose crossing guard picked on us.

No one thought that was wrong.  The lawyer who lived behind us.  The vet on the corner.  The cop on our street.  Walking a mile was normal.  We walked around a mile to get the crappy mall.  We walked a mile to play at our school’s park.  We went about two miles to the convenience store so we could get hockey cards and those crappy hockey sticker books.

When I was ten, we used to take the LRT from Anderson Station downtown and back.  We used to roam downtown Calgary.  We had those Kangaroo shoes with pockets that held a quarter in case we needed to phone home. 

The fact that kids these days can’t do what those same cops and child welfare workers did as children shows how much of a nanny state that cities are becoming.

Of course as The Atlantic points out, there is an alternative.

Why is nothing still being done about missing and murdered aboriginal women?

Scott Reid asks some uncomfortable but necessary questions

Nothing. Not a damned thing. A deliberate and enormous dose of nothing at all.

That is the only accurate description for what the Harper government has done in response to this summer’s killing of Tina Fontaine and the resulting calls for an inquiry into this country’s more than 1,100 missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Nothing. Not hardly even lip service.

For roughly 10 days in August, the nation took a short break from not caring about these women, most of whom linger on the margins of society. The shattering horror of this 15- year-old girl’s murder — the way she was snapped and squeezed into a garbage bag and then disposed of casually — stirred some brief attention. Aboriginal groups, the country’s premiers, opposition leaders and editorialists caused a short-lived ruckus. There were calls for a formal inquiry to examine the root causes of this unstopping tragedy, the adequacy of the police response, and what might be done to better respond to and halt the frequent loss of life. Even some prominent Conservatives added their voices to this cause, including Brad Wall, the premier of Saskatchewan.

Stephen Harper said no.

He insisted that Tina’s death, and all the other deaths and all the other assumed-but-we’ll-probably-never-know-for-sure-what-happened-deaths are a matter strictly for the police. And that was pretty much all he had to say, silently suggesting that either he doesn’t believe there are root causes to such violence and murder or, if they do exist, they are better left to someone else to care about and deal with.

Quickly, others came forward with a host of reinforcing arguments as to why an inquiry would be a dreadful waste of time — that it would divert funds that could otherwise be dedicated to helping aboriginal women or that it would tell us nothing we don’t know already or that it would be an insult to the police or that it isn’t justified because statistics show that aboriginal men are dying at equally alarming rates. Not every argument against an inquiry was dedicated to doing nothing. But in their own way each ended up lending momentum to that cause.

Eventually, someone came up with the less uncomfortable idea of a national roundtable. Less out of a sense of embarrassment than a desire to simply shove the issue aside, the government agreed. It promised to get to work.

Then the news happened, as it always will. Mike Duffy lumbered into our lives again. ISIL released beheading videos. We went to war. Two soldiers were killed on our own soil. Sexual harassment exploded as a topic of national discussion. With every passing day these important matters dominated an increasing share of mind and, by default, Tina moved further and further from our thoughts.

It’s now been 96 days since her tiny, busted body was fished from the Red River. In the competition to respond to that tragedy, nothing is winning. And it’s winning by a mile.

This is what for profit college education looks like

It’s not pretty

In 2007, the California attorney general filed a lawsuit against Corinthian Colleges, Everest’s parent company. California’s complaint against Everest and Corinthian included a litany of allegations: falsified job placement statistics, aggressive and unethical sales practices, and a pattern of jobless graduates carrying mountains of debt.

But that case never went to trial: The lawsuit was immediately settled with no admission of wrongdoing on Corinthian’s part. The company paid a $500,000 civil penalty and $4.3 million in restitution to students at campuses that had notched the worst violations. As of this year, according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke on background, $3.4 million of that money has been paid out to 6,000 eligible students, for a total of approximately $560 each.

Six years later, a new California attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, filed a new lawsuit against Corinthian that was, for the most part, indistinguishable from the first complaint, detailing the same violations, alleging that the company had materially broken every agreement made in the previous settlement. The recent federal lawsuit, and those in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, trace similar lines.

The Department of Education began its own investigation into Corinthian in January, requesting details on everything from the company’s job placement rates to financial aid practices. In June, it claimed Corinthian was taking too long to respond completely, and temporarily cut off the school’s access to the federal financial aid money that made up almost 90% of its revenue. Corinthian was so short on cash that even the 21-day delay sent them into a financial tailspin, threatening bankruptcy; the DOE eventually agreed to release the funds, but only on the condition that Corinthian would sell off or close all of its campuses within six months. The final list included only 12 schools that would be shut down; Corinthian plans to sell the other 85, likely to a private equity firm or a for-profit competitor.

But the lawsuits, investigations, and even the Department of Education’s forced shutdown are unlikely to result in any real change for the vast majority of Everest’s current and former students. One of the deep ironies of Corinthian’s collapse is that there are, experts say, effectively too many victims for there to be any reasonable way to compensate them, or to actually shut down the dozens of Everest campuses. It would cost the government billions to forgive the outstanding debt of former students, and any attempt to shut down Corinthian’s schools would displace 70,000 current ones.

The lawsuit by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau seeks debt relief for students — but only on a tiny fraction of loans, those made directly by Corinthian, not the federal loans that make up the vast majority of students’ debt. Lawsuits in California, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts may provide some restitution to former students in those states, but like the 2007 settlement, would do little more than chip away at students’ loan tallies.

Corinthian College’s impending demise will likely work against former students, said Pauline Abernathy, the vice president of policy organization The Institute for College Access and Success. “The issue is, if [the government] were to win a lawsuit, where would the money come from to compensate students?” Abernathy said.

It’s all but impossible that any real money will come from Corinthian. Corinthian is so cash-strapped that it has been selling off assets — even equipment belonging to its chain of automotive schools — just to stay afloat until it finds a buyer for its campuses. It is extremely unlikely, experts agree, that any state would be able to recover a substantial settlement from the company.

“The chances are slim” that former students will ever see any kind of meaningful debt relief, said Maura Dundon, senior policy counsel at the advocacy group Center for Responsible Lending.

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare

This is an extremely depressing read in Rolling Stone about how incredibly corrupt the U.S. banks and are how comfortable the Obama administration has been in letting in continue

In September, at a speech at NYU, Holder defended the lack of prosecutions of top executives on the grounds that, in the corporate context, sometimes bad things just happen without actual people being responsible. “Responsibility remains so diffuse, and top executives so insulated,” Holder said, “that any misconduct could again be considered more a symptom of the institution’s culture than a result of the willful actions of any single individual.”

In other words, people don’t commit crimes, corporate culture commits crimes! It’s probably fortunate that Holder is quitting before he has time to apply the same logic to Mafia or terrorism cases.

Fleischmann, for her part, had begun to find the whole situation almost funny.

“I thought, ‘I swear, Eric Holder is gas-lighting me,’ ” she says.

Ask her where the crime was, and Fleischmann will point out exactly how her bosses at JPMorgan Chase committed criminal fraud: It’s right there in the documents; just hand her a highlighter and some Post-it notes – “We lawyers love flags” – and you will not find a more enthusiastic tour guide through a gazillion-page prospectus than Alayne Fleischmann.

She believes the proof is easily there for all the elements of the crime as defined by federal law – the bank made material misrepresentations, it made material omissions, and it did so willfully and with specific intent, consciously ignoring warnings from inside the firm and out.

She’d like to see something done about it, emphasizing that there still is time. The statute of limitations for wire fraud, for instance, has not run out, and she strongly believes there’s a case there, against the bank’s executives. She has no financial interest in any of this, no motive other than wanting the truth out. But more than anything, she wants it to be over.

In today’s America, someone like Fleischmann – an honest person caught for a little while in the wrong place at the wrong time – has to be willing to live through an epic ordeal just to get to the point of being able to open her mouth and tell a truth or two. And when she finally gets there, she still has to risk everything to take that last step. “The assumption they make is that I won’t blow up my life to do it,” Fleischmann says. “But they’re wrong about that.”

Good for her, and great for her that it’s finally out. But the big-picture ending still stings. She hopes otherwise, but the likely final verdict is a Pyrrhic victory.

Because after all this activity, all these court actions, all these penalties (both real and abortive), even after a fair amount of noise in the press, the target companies remain more ascendant than ever. The people who stole all those billions are still in place. And the bank is more untouchable than ever – former Debevoise & Plimpton hotshots Mary Jo White and Andrew Ceresny, who represented Chase for some of this case, have since been named to the two top jobs at the SEC. As for the bank itself, its stock price has gone up since the settlement and flirts weekly with five-year highs. They may lose the odd battle, but the markets clearly believe the banks won the war. Truth is one thing, and if the right people fight hard enough, you might get to hear it from time to time. But justice is different, and still far enough away.