Crime Fiction to Read Now

By Louis Sharman

There have been some incredible, on-the-edge-of-your-seat crime novels published this year; some featuring our favorite protagonists while others thrill us with brand new, nail-biting narratives that you simply can’t put down.

Crime fiction seems to be ever-increasing in popularity recently, no doubt due to the proliferation of television and film adaptations. We’ve loved detectives from Rebus to Precious Ramotswe and Inspector Montalbano to Sherlock Holmes for years now, yet our appetite for the crime genre never wanes, only grows.

It’s fair to say that the quality of screen adaptations does vary, with some fans left disappointed with casting or plot amendments. Nevertheless, you can be sure that somewhere in the pipeline are plans to adapt some of the biggest crime books of recent years—so you may want to read them first. Here are four that you shouldn’t miss.

Disappeared by Anthony Quinn

Quinn’s debut novel has been hailed one of the greatest crime novels of the year, ahead of many more established crime writers. Set in Ireland, the novel concerns the disappearance of an Alzheimer’s patient set against a backdrop of the aftermath of the Troubles. It’s up to the wonderfully-named Inspector Celsius Daly to discover that the victim isn’t all he seems. The novel is tense, evoking Irish politics and history. One reviewer said it was “a major piece of work.”

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

Very different to the author’s other crime-fighting creation, Rebus, Inspector Malcolm Fox has divided opinion among Rankin fans. The fact is, he’s different and that’s never going to please everyone. However, Fox has been called “a worthy rival” in this book, in which Fox is tasked with finding out whether a police colleague took advantage of females he arrested. Add to that the murder of the accused’s uncle and you’ve got quite an involved plot.

The Black Box by Michael Connelly

The latest in the Harry Bosch series sees the investigator linking a bullet from a recent crime to a case which occurred back in 1992 which was never solved after Bosch himself passed it over to a special task force. Indications are that what was thought to be an accidental death during the LA riots was in fact, something more sinister. The book is praised as “riveting and relentlessly paced.”

Beastly Things by Donna Leon

Commissario Brunetti, the clean-nosed, family-man detective thinks he recognizes the body floating in the lagoon, yet the victim possesses no identification other than some distinctive shoes. Without a missing person report, the case ceases. However, as with most Brunetti cases, Signorina Elettra comes to the rescue with some vital information, which provides Brunetti with a “fragile lead.” Gripping and harrowing, what’s lovely about the Brunetti series is Leon’s vivid description of Venice, which paints a romantic backdrop to even a grotesque murder.

A few more

Other fine pieces of crime literature include The Bat—Jo Nesbo’s 1997 novel scheduled for a July 2013 re-release—and John Grisham’s The Racketeer, not to mention James M Cain’s posthumous and “lost” novel, The Cocktail Waitress. Fans of the genre won’t be disappointed.

Louis Sharman works for a company called Foyles, a legendary award-winning independent bookstore with a long history. Foyles is based in London and Bristol, UK.

Should the death penalty be abolished?

Image from MapsofWorld.com: Should the death penalty be abolished?By Saroj Kumar – MapsofWorld.com

We’ve recently launched our 65th Infographic in the FryDayPoll series: “Should The Death Penalty Be Abolished?” It explores the history of the death penalty being practiced as a form of punishment across the globe. There are several facts and statistics that suggest a trend towards abolishing it. This well-researched infographic gives a clear picture of death penalty practices and various other factors that influence its adoption as a form of punishment.

Infographic: Should the death penalty be abolished?

Image provided by Saroj Kumar – MapsofWorld.com

Celebrate National Library Week – April 14-20, 2013

American Library Association National Library Week promotional image with Caroline Kennedy and girlBy Nancy E. Oliveira, Editor

The American Library Association encourages you to celebrate National Library Week, April 14-20, with the theme Communities matter @ your library.

Local free public libraries continue to provide equal access to literature—from the classics to the latest best-sellers—to all members of their communities. Whether you’re wealthy or poor, educated or not, libraries provide you with great works of literature.

Literature has the power to transform lives. Libraries provide the books—the tangible resources—to help make those transformations happen.

Whether you’re running a Changing Lives Through Literature alternative sentencing group or some other literature discussion group, encourage your members to continue reading and thinking about literature.

Find out how your community matters to your local library by visiting your library during National Library Week. Comment on this blog post to share with us how you participated in National Library Week.

For more information visit American Library Association – National Library Week.

Image provided by American Library Association.

Prison Overpopulation, Alternative Sentencing, and Immigrant Deportation

By Kyle T. Green

Prison Overpopulation

With the issue of prison overpopulation on the nation’s collective mind, a closer look at alternative sentencing trends may help to provide answers. Since 1997, total state and federal incarceration rates have gradually increased, by a total of about ten percent to date. The increase corresponds with a consistent decreasing trend in alternative sentencing such as probation, probation with confinement, and prison with community confinement. Perhaps more surprisingly, is the sizable disparity in alternative sentencing between citizens and non-citizens, linking the incarceration rate growth to the rise in non-citizen offenders in the federal sentencing population.

Alternative Sentencing Disparity

In a report entitled “Alternative Sentencing in the Federal Criminal Justice System,” the United States Sentencing Commission found that, while non-citizens represent only 8.6% of the nation’s population, they comprise upwards of 15% of the total prison population and nearly 30% of the Federal prison population. According to the study, sentencing policies differ vastly between U.S. citizens and non-citizens, as non-citizens rarely receive alternative sentencing. For the purpose of comparing rates and procedures of citizens and non-citizens in the federal system, the USSC divides offender sentences into four zones:

  • Zone A:  0-6 month confinement—probation only; probation with confinement; prison with community confinement; imprisonment
  • Zone B:  1-12 months confinement—probation with community confinement can be substituted for imprisonment; one month of the total term imposed must be imprisonment
  • Zone C:  8-16 months confinement—imprisonment for at least half of the minimum range of the sentence, with the remaining half in community confinement
  • Zone D:  1 year-life—no probation or community confinement

The vast majority (between 86% and 95%) of non-citizens in Zones A, B and C were sentenced to prison, while far less U.S. citizens in corresponding zones were sentenced to imprisonment.

U.S. citizen offenders in Zone A have consistently been sentenced to probation at a rate of approximately 75 percent. Probation for non-citizen offenders in the corresponding zone had dropped to 13.1% in 2007, making the ratio of alternative sentencing almost six to one, of U.S. citizens versus non-citizens.

Trends are similar in Zones B and C: 30-50% of citizens are sentenced to probation versus 3-4% of non-citizens. Only in Zone D do sentences correlate. Zone D sentences do not fluctuate as much due to the harshness of the crimes involved. The great majority of both U.S. citizens and non-citizens are sentenced to prison for Zone D-related crimes.

Sentencing Policy and Antiquated Law

The explanation of this disparity lies in a mix of sentencing policy and antiquated law. For instance, illegal aliens are subject to deportation and account for approximately 80.3% of non-citizen Federal offenders. The Bureau of Prisons assigns deportable aliens to confinement at their second highest custody level, requiring institutional supervision and prohibiting work details or other programs outside the secure institution.

At the same time, since 1917 there has been a law which provides that immigrants can be deported only after they have served their sentences here in the U.S., in order to ensure that they were adequately punished. Therefore, an illegal immigrant who is convicted of a crime, even an immigration offense, is automatically sent to Federal prison, where they must serve their sentence with little to no chance for parole or other alternatives before they can be deported.

Deportation Loophole as a Solution to Prison Overpopulation

Now, a loophole does exist that allows immigrants to be deported without serving their full sentences if they were convicted of non-violent offenses. However, the appropriate power must request early deportation and correction officials almost never use the exception. Thus, it is clear that some change must be made in the imprisonment-before-deportation rule to reduce the number of non-violent illegal immigrants being held in the system. Amending the law to allow for immediate deportation of immigration related offenses could, not only balance the disparity of alternative sentencing, but ease overcrowding and prison budget crises as well.

Kyle T. Green is a criminal defense attorney in Mesa, Arizona.  Mr. Green has handled cases on both sides of the law and is a passionate advocate for justice.