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Report on Criminal Justice Reform Released

   CHICAGO - 8/6/2015 – Illinois could save nearly $110 million and significantly reduce its over-crowded prisons if it implements a series of policy changes, according to a report issued on August 6 by the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute.
   The report, “Making Illinois smart on crime: First steps to reduce spending, ease offender re-entry and enhance public safety,” details how Illinois’ criminal justice system could be more efficient and cut back on its $1.4 billion budget. Too often, prison systems are regarded as a place to warehouse offenders and today Illinois’ prisons are at nearly 150 percent capacity. But these reforms would make Illinois’ prison system more effective, and more focused on reforming people who commit crimes so they can complete their sentences and become productive members of society.
   “With policy and legislative changes, Illinois can achieve the goal of a lower crime rate, lower incarceration rate and smarter spending on criminal justice while maintaining public safety,” said Bryant Jackson-Green, criminal justice policy analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute and author of the report. “The key is focusing on rehabilitation and recovery, not just punishment and putting people behind bars.”
   According to Jackson-Green, reforming Illinois’ prison system starts with the following changes:
  • Expanding Adult Redeploy, a program that provides incentives for counties to create alternative programs for nonviolent offenders to received targeted care instead of going to state prison.
  • Establishing a restorative-justice program that brings victims together with offenders for mediation on property crimes.
  • Eliminating “max-outs” and encourage offenders to trade more time under mandatory supervised release for less time during the final year of their prison sentence.
  • Reclassifying nonviolent drug offenses the way Utah, South Carolina and other states have done so that low-level drug possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
  • Removing occupational-licensing restrictions to offer ex-offenders to work and support their families outside of crime.
  • Raising felony thresholds – the dollar ranges that match the value of property stolen – to the severity of sentences. These thresholds currently are not linked to inflation.
   “We applaud the interest shown to reform Illinois’ prison system by the Illinois Legislature and Gov. Rauner,” said Derek Cohen, deputy director in the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who co-authored the report. “Now is the perfect time to enact these common-sense reforms that provide better public safety and relief to the long suffering taxpayers of Illinois.”
   The report is available online at: http://illin.is/1KQTLrP
Source: Illinois Policy Institute

Virtual Reality Hardware Revenue Set to Climb

  (BusinessWire) - 7/30/2015 - The year 2016 will be the make or break year for the second coming of consumer virtual reality (VR), according to a new report from Tractica. Facebook and Sony are both set to release the much-anticipated Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus headsets, respectively, by which time HTC’s Vive head-mounted display (HMD) will have been on the market for a while. A number of lessons have been learned since the 1990s when consumer VR last generated this much hype, with huge strides having been made on the comfort of HMDs, creating a convincing level of immersion, the emergence of standards, and the development of compelling content.
   Tractica anticipates that these efforts will bear fruit in the coming years, and that combined revenue for head-mounted displays (HMDs), VR accessories, and VR content will increase from $108.8 million in 2014 to $21.8 billion worldwide by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 142 percent.
   As adoption begins to reach a critical mass, the market intelligence firm forecasts that the industry’s revenue mix will quickly shift from hardware sales to content. Content sales will represent more than one-third of total VR revenue by 2017, and will quickly grow to nearly two-thirds of all VR revenue by 2020, analysts say.
   “The stakes are high for VR given the huge amount of money invested in the industry by some of the world’s biggest companies,” principal analyst Craig Foster said. “Getting users to experience VR technology firsthand, and therefore truly understand its potential, remains a challenge, but the emergence of mobile VR solutions is helping. Even so, some observers strongly believe that anything requiring the user to wear a cumbersome device will ultimately fail. Consequently, industry players continue fine-tuning their products so as not to muddy the water for all involved.”
   Tractica’s report, “Virtual Reality for Consumer Markets,” provides a comprehensive analysis of the market dynamics, technology issues, and competitive landscape for consumer VR hardware and content. The report features global market forecasts for annual unit shipments and associated revenue during the period from 2014 through 2020. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the firm’s website.

Antipsychotic prescriptions a source of concern

   (NIH) - 7/8/2015 - Boys are more likely than girls to receive a prescription for antipsychotic medication regardless of age, researchers have found. Approximately 1.5 percent of boys ages 10-18 received an antipsychotic prescription in 2010, although the percentage falls by nearly half after age 19. Among antipsychotic users with mental disorder diagnoses, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was the most common among youth ages 1-18, while depression was the most common diagnosis among young adults ages 19-24 receiving antipsychotics. Despite concerns over the rising use of antipsychotic drugs to treat young people, little has been known about trends and usage patterns in the United States before this latest research, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., of the Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons and Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York City, and colleagues Marissa King, Ph.D., Yale, New Haven, Connecticut, and Michael Schoenbaum, Ph.D., NIMH, reported their findings on July 1 in JAMA Psychiatry.
   “No prior study has had the data to look at age patterns in antipsychotic use among children the way we do here. What’s especially important is the finding that around 1.5 percent of boys aged 10-18 are on antipsychotics, and then this rate abruptly falls by half, as adolescents become young adults," Schoenbaum said.  “Antipsychotics should be prescribed with care. They can adversely affect both physical and neurological function and some of their adverse effects can persist even after the medication is stopped.”
   The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved antipsychotics for children with certain disorders, particularly bipolar disorder, psychosis/schizophrenia, and autism. However, the research team found that the medication use patterns do not match the illness patterns. The mismatch means that many antipsychotic prescriptions for young people may be for off-label purposes, that is, for uses not approved by FDA.
  For example, maladaptive aggression is common in ADHD, and clinical trial data suggest that at least one antipsychotic, risperidone, when used with stimulants, can help reduce aggression in ADHD. To date, FDA has not approved the use of any antipsychotic for ADHD, making its use for this diagnosis off-label. In the current study, the combination of peak use of antipsychotics in adolescent boys and the diagnoses associated with prescriptions (often ADHD) suggest that these medications are being used to treat developmentally limited impulsivity and aggression rather than psychosis.
   Olfson and colleagues worked with the IMS LifeLink LRx database, which includes 63 percent of outpatient prescriptions filled in the U.S. The team looked at prescription data for 2006-2010 and found antipsychotic use increased with age in both boys and girls, beginning at 0.11 percent in 2010 for ages 1-6 years, increasing to 0.80 percent for ages 7-12 years and increasing again to 1.19 percent for youth ages 13-18 years before dropping substantially to 0.84 percent for ages 19-24.
   In children ages 1-6, boys were more than twice as likely as girls to receive an antipsychotic prescription (0.16 vs. 0.06 percent in 2010). This pattern held true for boys and girls ages 7-12 (1.20 vs. 0.44 percent in 2010) before narrowing for the 13-18 age group (1.42 vs. 0.95 percent) and finally becoming more comparable for young men and women ages 19 to 24 (0.88 to 0.81 percent in 2010). Among young people treated with antipsychotics in 2010, the youngest children, ages 1-6, were the least likely to receive the prescription from a psychiatrist (57.9 vs. 71.9, 77.9, and 70.4 percent for the other three age groups). This is a source of concern, as practice guidelines caution practitioners on the use of antipsychotic medications for young children in particular.
   Among young people receiving antipsychotic prescriptions, fewer than half had any medical visit that included a mental disorder diagnosis. That may be in part due to stigma about mental illness, or because primary care providers are concerned about reimbursement for treatment related to such diagnoses.
   “In addition to having a new look at antipsychotic use among youth, one positive finding coming from this study is that around 75 percent of these kids have at least some contact with a psychiatrist,” said NIMH Director Thomas Insel, M.D.
   Source: National Institutes of Health

Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2014