News Roundup

WRAL reports that the ordeal of a Raleigh bar owner accused of attempting to smuggle drugs out of Honduras ended Thursday when Amanda Laroque landed at RDU.  Laroque was detained by Honduran authorities last month when she went through airport security carrying a “can safe,” a fake drink can that is used to hide valuables.  Honduran authorities accused Laroque of trying to smuggle drugs out of the country and jailed her.  Tests later revealed that the can safe did not contain drugs, and, after spending several nights in a jail called “the cage,” Laroque was allowed to return to North Carolina.  Keep reading for more news.

Jail Deaths.  This week, the News & Observer published a five-part investigative report entitled “Jailed to Death” that examines deaths of inmates in North Carolina jails.  According to the report, in the past five years 151 inmates have died either while in jail or shortly after in hospitals.  An overview of the N&O story with links to each part of the series is available here.

The N&O series mentions that suicide has been the leading cause of jail deaths nationally since 2000 and accounted for about a third of jail deaths in 2014, the most recent year for which national data is available.  A recent report by Disability Rights North Carolina entitled “Suicide in North Carolina Jails” says that the rate of suicide in North Carolina jails over the past four years exceeds the national average.  The Disability Rights report suggests that the significant percentage of jail inmates who have mental health issues combined with the fact that jails traditionally are not funded or equipped to provide mental health services creates an environment where the risk of inmate suicide is high.

Plea Bargaining.  The Atlantic has an article this month that takes a critical look at plea bargaining, a system that readers of this blog already know accounts for an overwhelming majority of criminal convictions at the state and national level.  The author spends time in the criminal courts of Nashville, Tennessee, to get an inside look at the practice of plea bargaining in a busy jurisdiction.  Readers of this blog will be familiar with the institutional pressures that the author discovers contribute to the extensive use of plea bargaining – an expansive criminal code, lengthy potential prison sentences, and a high volume of criminal cases on court dockets.  The article is an interesting read and a reminder that the general public may not be aware of the prevalence of plea bargaining in the American criminal justice system.

DPS Flickr.  This WRAL story about the Department of Public Safety posting pictures to Facebook of contraband intercepted on its way into a North Carolina prison clued me in to something I didn’t know: NCDPS maintains a Flickr page where they post photos of all sorts of contraband and of a variety of NCDPS activities.

Swipe Right.  The ABA Journal reports that a new dating app called “Gatsby” aims to protect users against criminals.  The app runs criminal background checks on all potential users and bans people who have misdemeanor or felony convictions.  Some of you may wonder what happens if there’s a mistake and a person is banned who doesn’t deserve to be – rest easy folks, there’s an appeal process.

Werewolves of Whispering Hollow Again.  As the start of the school year approaches, kids ages 8 to 14 may want to read some fiction before they’re forced to turn their attention to the dry facts and figures of textbooks.  The Charlotte Observer reports that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Chad Webster recently released the first book in a planned series of mysteries that may be just what these kids need – Mystery Muffin & Soda Pop Slooth: The Legend of Mr. Creepy is available at local bookstores and from Amazon.

Jogging.  We’re probably all familiar with the annoying situation a London jogger found himself in recently.  As he was running down a wide and nearly deserted sidewalk, the jogger encountered a woman walking in the opposite direction who he perceived to be in his way.  Naturally, instead of slightly altering his course, he pushed her into the path of an oncoming bus, which narrowly missed her.  Two days after CCTV footage of the incident was released, Runner’s World says that an arrest has been made in the case.

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