Steven Yoder

Steven Yoder has written about criminal justice and other domestic policy issues for Salon, Al Jazeera America, The Fiscal Times, and others—online at @syodertweets.

Recent Articles

Cops Gone Wild

Bad cops will keep sexually assaulting women they’re sworn to protect until we get stronger laws and better data on the number of victims.

When 20-year-old Sarah Smith got into an accident with a motorcyclist in 2008, it was nothing but bad news—she was driving with a suspended license. It got worse. When police showed up, officer Adam Skweres took Smith aside and implied that he could either make it look like the accident was her fault or give the other party a ticket. It depended on whether she’d agree to perform unspecified sexual favors. Skweres also threatened that if she told anyone, he’d “make sure you never walk, talk, or speak again,” and looked at his gun. That scared her enough that she immediately reported what he’d done to the police, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . Another four years passed before the department arrested Skweres and suspended him without pay, and then only because he tried to rape a woman while on duty. By that time, Smith had moved out of the city for fear of running into him again. Three other women told stories similar to Smith’s, and on March 11 Skewers pleaded guilty to...

Gun Control’s Long Game

AP Photo/Mike Groll
AP Photo/Mike Groll Y ou 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...

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. The subsequent fruitless search led President Bill Clinton to sign a law in September 1994 designed to help police quickly locate potential perpetrators of sex offenses. The Jacob Wetterling Act required states to create sex-offender registries accessible to police, though not to the public. But that same year, 7-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton Township, New Jersey, was lured across the street, then raped and murdered by a neighbor who -- unbeknownst to her parents -- had served six...

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. Ordinarily, that would have landed Frank in a juvenile jail. Instead, he was sentenced to 18 months probation and enrollment in a New York City program cheerily named Blue Sky , a joint venture of the city and a local nonprofit that provides targeted therapy for Frank and his family at home. Today, Frank goes to school and works part time, and his aggressive behavior, according to program staff, is a thing of the past. Across the country, states are moving delinquent youth out of huge juvenile lockups and, in the best cases, into local alternative programs like Blue Sky. That trend represents a hard-won victory for advocates of reform. But local control sometimes comes with pitfalls that some...

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. Melissa Lindsay knows exactly how that will affect the people she works with at the Ohio Poverty Law Center in Columbus, Ohio. An attorney and fellow of the nonprofit Equal Justice Works, she counsels ex-prisoners on how to get beyond the hurdles set up by state-level child-support policies, which often land them back in prison. The...