Steven Yoder


Steven Yoder writes about criminal justice, immigration, and other domestic policy issues. His work has appeared in SalonThe Fiscal Times, The Crime Report, and elsewhere.

Recent Articles

Gun Control’s Long Game

AP Photo/Mike Groll

You could be forgiven for thinking that recent news out of New York proves gun-rights supporters have lawmakers on the run. In mid-February, 500 outraged opponents of gun restrictions held a rally in Albany’s freezing temperatures to protest the state’s new gun-control regulations passed January 15. The president of a large state gun dealer said on January 21 that tens of thousands of assault rifle owners would boycott an April 2014 registration deadline mandated by the law. An anonymous source in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office responded like a parent who’s given up doing anything about their acting-out teen: “Many of these assault-rifle owners aren’t going to register; we realize that.”

That official called it right. Those who expect the New York SAFE Act— which bans the purchase of new assault weapons and requires registration of those owned before the law took effect—to keep new assault rifles out of New York immediately will probably be disappointed.

Local prosecutors and cops have wide latitude in how aggressively to pursue busts and convictions under state law, says James B. Jacobs, professor of constitutional law at New York University. In a wink and nod to gun-rights supporters, the New York Sheriff’s Association issued a statement on January 25 asserting that the law doesn’t require its members to “go door-to-door to confiscate any weapons newly classified as assault weapons, and [sheriffs] will not do so.” In downstate Ulster County, the district attorney told a local paper that when dealing with otherwise law-abiding citizens who have banned weapons, “(police) will take those items away, but that’s not necessarily something we would prosecute.”

All of that would seem to augur poorly for getting results on the ground with new gun laws in other states. Why pass an assault-weapons ban if it’s honored more in breach than observance?

Life on the List

Does publicly posting names of convicted sex offenders actually reduce the number of sexual offenses?

Former Virginia Attorney General and current Gov. Bob McDonnell gestures after demonstrating upgrades to the Virginia sex offender registry. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

You could say it started with three small-town Minnesota boys riding their bikes to a convenience store on an October night in 1989. As they were returning home on a dark stretch of road, a man stepped out of the darkness holding a gun. He told them to lie face down on the ground and then directed two of them -- Trevor Wetterling, age 10, and Aaron Larson, 11, to run into the woods and not look back or he'd shoot them. That was the last that they, or anyone, would see of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling.

Closing the Door on Juvenile Lockups

States have been scaling back their juvenile prisons and allowing troubled youth to stay in their communities. But without money and oversight, local control could fall far short of real reform.

(AP Photo/Dale Atkins)

Fifteen-year-old Frank and his brother Joseph had gotten into fights before, but this one was different. When the two started throwing punches one day in December 2008, their mother Nancy tried to intervene. Frank responded by hitting and kicking her, and then pinned her head against the wall.

Prisoner's Dilemma

Some states are looking to end policies that allow prisoners to accrue child-support debt while in prison and have most of their wages garnished when they get out -- policies that drive many ex-prisoners to re-offend.

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

As the budget debate unfolds over the next several months, the focus will likely be on big-ticket items like Social Security and Medicare and how they will affect the deficit. Inevitably lost in the high-stakes wrangling are the many small-bore programs that have a significant impact on individual Americans. To wit: President Barack Obama's 2012 budget contains a proposal -- on page 279 of an attachment to the main document -- that would end draconian state-level policies that force low-income fathers convicted of crimes to continue paying child support while in prison, leaving them saddled with debt they will never be able to pay once they're released.