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Bail reform, which could save millions of unconvicted people from jail, explained

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Hundreds of thousands of legally innocent people languish in jails on any given day simply because they can’t afford bail.

California passed legislation in August to get rid of money bail, joining the wave of states and local jurisdictions that have undertaken some form of bail reform over the past few years. When the new law goes into effect in 2019, people arrested and charged for a crime in California will no longer be asked to post bail as a condition of their release.

The trend away from money bail — the payment required for a person to be released from jail as they await court hearings is a welcome development. The use of money bail is one of the most troubling features of our deeply unequal justice system.

Bail amounts vary widely, with a nationwide median of around $10,000 for felonies (though much higher for serious charges) and less for misdemeanors (in some places such as New York City, typically under $2,000, though much higher in some jurisdictions). But even the lower amounts are more than most people can pay, and many spend time in jail for lack of as little as $500 or even $250.

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Kiss Bail Bonds in Las Vegas advertises an expedited get out of jail service with a free ride home.

Our reliance on bail has essentially created a two-tiered justice system in the US. Many of the nearly half a million unconvicted people confined in jails on any given day are there because they can’t afford to pay bail. As people await court hearings behind bars, sometimes for months or even years, they suffer from inadequate medical care and even dangerous conditions, and many lose their jobs and housing. They also have a higher chance of being convicted than if they hadn’t been assigned bail, as they take plea bargains just to get out of jail, whether or not they actually committed a crime.

They and their families are also targets for the $2 billion-per-year for-profit bond industry, which routinely exploits people — disproportionately people of color — in desperate situations.

There’s a rising movement to fight the money bail system. Advocates and legislators across the country are pushing to get rid of money bail in their states and in local jurisdictions. They argue that the system imposes an enormous and unfair burden on people and their families, especially low-income people of color. Udi Ofer, the director of the Campaign for Smart Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says the money bail system is “one of the most corrupt and broken parts of our justice system.”

Getting rid of money bail — and releasing many more people pretrial — is a high-impact policy shift that can dramatically improve millions of lives.

A brief history of bail

In the colonies, as in England, those who were eligible for pretrial release relied on friends and family (“personal sureties”) who agreed to pay an agreed-upon amount if they failed to appear at court. In this system, the vast majority of those who were deemed eligible for release actually were released, at least at first.

But in the 1800s, as people had trouble finding personal sureties, courts shifted to the use of “secured” money bail. The idea behind money bail is to provide a financial incentive for a person who has been accused of a crime — but not yet convicted — to attend court hearings at a later date.

Several forms of money bail are used in today’s courts. The most common form is “surety bail bond,” by which a person pays not the full amount but a fee — often around 10 percent of the bail amount — to a commercial bail agent. That bail agent agrees to pay the full bail amount if the person fails to appear at a court hearing. The 10 percent fee is not returned to the person, and bail agents often also require the person (or their friends and family) to sign over collateral to cover the full bail amount. The United States and the Philippines are the only two countries in the world with a legalized for-profit bond industry.

Another kind of money bail is “cash bail,” which is money paid to the court and returned — often minus a court fee — once the person returns for all court hearings.

Friends and relatives of a suspended patrolmen crowd a clerk’s office to arrange bail bond for the accused, in Denver, Colorado, on October 1, 1961. Denver Post via Getty Images
Friends and relatives of a suspended patrolmen crowd a clerk’s office to arrange bail bond for the accused, in Denver, Colorado, on October 1, 1961.

As early as the 1920s, reformers began to point out the problems with the bail system. Bail agents abused their power; judges set money bail that people couldn’t afford to pay. By the 1960s, advocates were pointing to studies showing that assigning bail was unnecessary: The vast majority of people would return to court if released without paying money bail.

The Bail Reform Act passed by Congress in 1966 established that a person should be released on their own recognizance, or under the “least restrictive conditions” that could ensure their appearance at court hearings, and many states passed their own similar statutes. But while these statutes attempted to curb the use of money bail, they did not get rid of it, as judges sometimes still assigned money bail that people could not afford to pay.

In the 1970s and ’80s, fear of rising crime led to the Bail Reform Act of 1984. The act allowed a judge in a federal court to detain someone either for flight risk — that is, if there was convincing evidence that they would abscond if released — or if they were assessed to be a serious threat to public safety. Many states adopted similar statutes in the ’70s and ’80s. A few years later, the Supreme Court in United States v. Salerno affirmed the constitutionality of detaining someone for reasons of public safety, while also making it clear that “in our society liberty is the norm,” and detaining someone prior to trial is the “carefully limited exception.”

Nearly 30 years later, pretrial detainment is not a “carefully limited exception.” Judges routinely assign bail that people can’t afford to pay. Between 1990 and 2009, releases in which courts used money bail in felony cases rose from 37 percent to 61 percent.

Studies have shown that even at low amounts, most people cannot quickly post bail. They end up staying in jail for days or weeks (and sometimes much longer); for instance, in Philadelphia from 2008 to 2013, nearly 40 percent of those with bail set at $500 or less stayed in jail for at least three days. In these cases, money bail effectively detains people without giving them the rights they could have if they underwent a formal detention hearing.

Moreover, the way decisions about bail are made raises serious questions about the system. A judge setting bail usually takes mere minutes to issue a decision. There’s also evidence that this process is incredibly arbitrary. For example, recent analysis of bail decisions in New York City from FiveThirtyEight shows that the chance of being assigned cash bail varies wildly — between 2 and 26 percent for misdemeanors, and 30 to 69 percent for felonies — depending on which judge happens to be overseeing a court on a given day.

In many places, courts follow bail schedules — amounts that are based on charge — without taking into account details of a person’s case or their ability to pay, and often without defense counsel being present. Nearly 11 million people are admitted to jails across the country each year, many because of their inability to pay bail. (Most people in “jails” are unconvicted, whereas “prisons” are where people serve sentences.)

 Peter Wagner / Prison Policy Initiative

Beyond the sheer numbers are the personal stories of those who have suffered as a result of the money bail system. One story is that of Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old in New York City who was accused of stealing a backpack in 2010. His family couldn’t afford the $3,000 bail set by the judge, and he spent the next three years in a jail on Rikers Island awaiting trial. Browder refused to plead guilty, and his case was finally dropped by the prosecution, who sent him home. However, after years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, Browder had trouble readjusting to his old life. He died by suicide in 2015.

Prisoner rights activists, in seeking justice for Kalief Browder, held a press conference at New York City Hall asking for Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and Department of Correction Commissioner Ponte to immediately shut down Rikers Island, on February Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images
Prisoner rights activists, in seeking justice for Kalief Browder, held a press conference at New York City Hall asking for Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and Department of Correction Commissioner Ponte to immediately shut down Rikers Island, on February 23, 2016.

The bail reform movement takes shape

Catalyzed by the injustice of money bail, many advocates and leaders across the political spectrum are pushing to end its use.

One important strategy for fighting the system is to argue in court that setting unaffordable money bail is unconstitutional — a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. Nonprofits including Civil Rights Corps, Equal Justice Under Law, the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center have lodged dozens of lawsuits challenging the practice in many states, including Texas, Alabama, Illinois, and California.

These suits have led to some major victories, including a 2017 ruling from a federal judge who found that the money bail system in Harris County, Texas, was unconstitutional. In the year after her ruling, more than 12,000 people — accused of misdemeanors and held on money bail that they couldn’t afford — were released. (The decision is being appealed.)

The fight against bail is also taking place at the local level, with the election of progressive district attorneys. District attorneys have enormous discretion in the cases they decide they will pursue and the charges they bring, as well as in whether they ask the judge to set bail in a particular case. Progressive district attorneys, such as Kim Foxx in Chicago and Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, have decided that their offices will not seek bail for a range of charges.

ACLU’s Udi Ofer (left), State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner participate in a panel discussion on criminal justice reform in Washington D.C., on May 9, 2018. Paul Morigi/AP
ACLU’s Udi Ofer (left), State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner participate in a panel discussion on criminal justice reform in Washington D.C., on May 9, 2018.

Advocates have also sought to push for reform in another venue: state legislatures. This year, California was the first state to legislate money bail entirely out of existence. Legislation in New Jersey that virtually eliminated money bail went into effect in 2017. (Washington, DC, also did away with incarceration as a result of money bail, back in 1992.) Some states, including Massachusetts, have passed statutes requiring that courts inquire into ability to pay money bail, and others, including Alaska and Illinois, have put restrictions on the cases in which people can be assigned money bail or encouraged courts to use “unsecured” bail (only payable if the person fails to appear in court).

But while there is wide consensus that bail reform is needed, there’s disagreement about what it should look like.

The shared goal of reforming bail is to get rid of the wealth-based pretrial system — and to do this without a significant increase in crime or failure to appear in court. There are many specific proposals across jurisdictions, but these are the main elements that advocates tend to agree on:

  • Release the vast majority of people as they await court hearings with no conditions except making all court appearances, and make very limited use of pretrial detention.
  • Increase use of “pretrial services,” which could include check-in calls with officers and texted court reminders (studies have shown these can significantly improve court appearance rates), as well as helping people attend court by offering transportation. In recent years, many states have passed legislation to create or bolster pretrial service agencies.

There is, however, a big debate among advocates about how to decide whom to detain pretrial — which gets us into the contentious topic of “risk assessment.”

A controversial tool

Risk assessment refers to a tool to help predict a defendant’s risk of failing to appear for court and rearrest. So far, risk assessment tools have been adopted by several states, including New Jersey, Arizona, and Kentucky, as well as by dozens of local jurisdictions across the country.

The tools use data from past cases to predict who is a “high,” “medium,” or “low” risk for not showing up to their court dates and rearrest, based on factors such as criminal record and age at arrest. An algorithm then produces a score, which is then used by judges in determining whether to hold someone in jail (“remand” them), or to release them to some form of supervision or on their own recognizance (with the agreement to appear for court hearings).

There are a variety of such tools available, including the Public Safety Assessment tool developed by the Arnold Foundation and the COMPAS tool developed by the for-profit company Equivant (formerly Northpointe).

One of the main arguments for using such algorithms is that judges are already making these kinds of predictions in their heads but are highly fallible and inconsistent. By adopting a tool, some argue, judges will have additional information to guide them on who to release into the community versus who to hold in jail pretrial. They argue that such tools can help courts better achieve the goal of reducing pretrial detention, without a rise in failures to appear in court or risk to public safety.

Cherise Fanno Burdeen, CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute, stresses that the tools on their own should not determine who is detained. But she argues that they have an important role in improving the evidence about who is very likely to return to court and pose little risk to the community. “It’s inappropriate not to use the data that’s available to us to improve our decision-making,” she says.

However, many other advocates have spoken out against such risk assessment instruments. One argument is that risk assessment algorithms predict the wrong outcomes: Instead of giving the probability of risk of violent crime or real flight risk, they predict risk of any arrest and failure to appear in court. (There are a couple of exceptions such as the Arnold Foundation’s tool, which does give a separate score for chance of arrest for a violent crime.)

Another major concern is that the tools are biased against people of color. Because people of color have been disproportionately targeted by police, this argument goes, criminal history data will also skew accordingly — and in turn skew risk assessment results. (This has led to discussion of competing kinds of statistical fairness, as well as potential ways to adjust an algorithm to make it more fair.) Further, advocates also point out that an instrument could actually lead to higher pretrial detention — depending on the subjective decision of how “risky” is deemed too risky by the designers of the tool.

Finally, there’s a growing question about the real-world impacts of the tools, with researchers pointing out that we have little evidence on how they are used by judges. A recent independent evaluation from Kentucky shows many judges selectively ignored an algorithm’s recommendations, and that as a result, jail populations did not decrease over time as intended.

Opponents of risk assessment want the vast majority of people who are arrested to be released (some with pretrial services), and for the minority charged with certain violent crimes to have an individualized hearing in order to consider the specific factors and evidence in their case. While some acknowledge that prediction tools could be useful in making certain decisions — for instance, to determine those who should be released, or who could benefit from additional support — they oppose the tools currently on offer.

More than 100 groups, including the ACLU and NAACP, recently signed a statement advising against adopting pretrial risk-assessment tools, while giving recommendations to the many jurisdictions that have already adopted a tool — for example, the wider community should be included in designing a transparent algorithm, and any tool should be regularly audited by independent researchers to ensure that it is reducing jail populations and racial disparities. The debate about risk assessment is likely going to continue as more states and jurisdictions consider adopting a tool in the years ahead.

Assessing the risks of bail reform

Bail reform has had broad support from many quarters in recent years, with the major exception of — you guessed it — the for-profit bail industry, which has been vociferous in its warnings about the risk of getting rid of money bail. The industry warns that crime (and especially violent crime) will go up as more people are released. But this risk is likely not that high. Even the “high risk” group, as it is labeled in risk assessment tools, has only about an 8 percent chance of being arrested for a new violent crime within six months.

 Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Michelle Esquenazi, known as The Bail Bond Queen, seen in her office in Hempstead, New York, on December 4, 2015. Esquenazi, the mother of four with a “masters degree from the streets of Brooklyn” says she worked her way up from a paralegal student on welfare to CEO of a phenomenally successful company.

The experience of jurisdictions that have gotten rid of money bail also shows that releasing many more people doesn’t correlate with a high level of rearrest for violent crimes. Washington, DC, got rid of secured money bail and bolstered pretrial services in 1992; today, it releases 94 percent of those accused of crimes as they await court hearings. Of those people, 88 percent returned for all court appearances last year, and only 2 percent were arrested for a violent crime as they awaited court hearings.

The main risk that reformers tend to worry about is not a rise in crime, but instead, as Human Rights Watch puts it, the risk of replacing “one harmful system with another.” Advocates worry that legislation some states have considered or adopted will have the consequence of giving courts too much leeway in detaining people pretrial, or even encourage them to do so.

This was the basis for one of the major objections to the new California legislation from groups such as the ACLU: The bill states that many of those accused of misdemeanors will be released, but specifies a “rebuttable presumption of detention” for a wide range of non-misdemeanor charges. In those cases, the court would use risk assessment tools and potentially hold those deemed “high risk” in jail.

Essie Justice Group, a nonprofit organization of women with incarcerated loved ones, helped create and supported a previous version of the bill, but opposed the version that was passed. Gina Clayton-Johnson, the executive director and founder, said that the legislation “completely undermines the purpose for which black and brown women, formerly incarcerated, currently incarcerated, and low-income communities have been rallying around the cry for bail reform.”

There’s also a risk that in lieu of money bail, courts might start to assign a high number of people to unnecessarily onerous forms of supervision, such as electronic monitoring, which advocates argue can be nearly as punitive as being in jail.

These concerns underscore a broader point: What matters is not just getting rid of money bail, but taking care that any new system does much better to make liberty the norm, and pretrial detention or punitive supervision the carefully limited exception.

The future of bail

There’s a lot of momentum around bail reform that advocates believe will translate into further big policy shifts in the coming years. States like New York that considered — but did not pass — legislation to get rid of money bail (or much reduce it) this past year may well be able to do so in coming years. District attorneys are running progressive campaigns all over the country. There’s also legislation proposed at the federal level, including a bill put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and another from Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY), which include federal support for states in their bail reform efforts. (The federal system relies very little on money bail; the majority of people detained in federal cases are ordered to be held in jail.)

 Andrew Spear for The Washington Post via Getty Images
A bail bonds service in Wilmington, Ohio, on January 19, 2017.

Part of the work of the ACLU (which is working on bail reform in 38 states), JustLeadershipUSA, Color of Change, and many other organizations is also to raise awareness of how millions of people are being incarcerated each year due to inability to pay bail, without being convicted. In the past few years, the topic has gone from being relatively low-profile to a major area of reform.

In the meantime, since legislative and judicial changes can take time, a rising number of charities are paying bail to get people out of jail now. These include many local and state groups that are part of the National Bail Fund Network, as well as the Bail Project (for which I volunteer) and New York City’s Dollar Bail Brigade, which pays bail for hundreds of people each year who, due to an administrative quirk of the city’s system, are stuck in NYC jails on $1. There are also campaigns to bail out many people at once: This month, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization is leading a mass bailout to pay bail for hundreds of women and teenagers held in Rikers Island jails in NYC.

While there are many, many serious problems with the criminal justice system, money bail stands out as particularly egregious: One in five people behind bars in this country is unconvicted, and many are there because they cannot pay bail of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. In 1964, then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy said to Congress, “The rich man and the poor man do not receive equal justice in our courts. And in no area is this more evident than in the matter of bail. ... This is a cause in which there is great work to be done.”

More than 50 years later, Kennedy’s words ring truer than ever.

Stephanie Wykstra (@swykstr) is a freelance writer and researcher based in New York.

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"The United States and the Philippines are the only two countries in the world with a legalized for-profit bond industry."
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Safe Abortions by Mail Now Ship to the U.S.


The pills come with instructions, and if women have questions, Gomperts says they can Skype with her or call her help desk. Anti-abortion groups say these pills are not safe, but Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, told me that “it doesn’t appear that women are having serious complications” from self-inducing abortions using pills. However, if women using these regimens experience heavy bleeding or some other complication—as about 3 percent of women have—they are generally advised to go to a hospital and say they had a miscarriage.

Women on Web has never worked with American women because Gomperts worried that the American anti-abortion movement would try to close down the organization. In an interview, she told me she still has that fear, but she was being inundated with requests from women in countries such as the United States, where abortion is technically legal but growing more difficult to access. “I got an email from a woman who was living in a car with two kids,” she told me. “Something had to be done.”

Read: When abortion is illegal, women rarely die. But they still suffer.

She launched Aid Access as a separate service in order to mitigate the risk to Women on Web, and she claims that every step of the Aid Access process is legal. (According to Gomperts, the FDA allows people to import medicines for their personal use.) Gomperts launched the service six months ago, but has kept it quiet until now. She estimates she has already sent pills to 600 women.

A new Guttmacher Institute report on self-managed abortion notes that what Gomperts is providing is recognized as an acceptable option by the World Health Organization:

A person’s ability to self-administer mifepristone and misoprostol after receiving instructions from a provider is well established, and there is evidence that it is safe and effective for someone to do so without the direct supervision of a provider. WHO recommends this option if the individual has “a source of accurate information and access to a health-care provider should they need or want it at any stage of the process.”

In an email, Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, criticized this service as unsafe for women. “Handing out deadly drugs through the mail is a disaster waiting to happen,” she said. “Women later in pregnancy or women experiencing an ectopic pregnancy in particular are in great risk—two things that must be determined by examination and not by some online questionnaire.”

When I asked whether Students for Life and other anti-abortion groups would try to shut down Aid Access and similar organizations, she said, “The pro-life movement will absolutely be committed to preventing this dangerous business from harming American women.”

I asked Gomperts whether she worries that in becoming the only abortion doctor for large swaths of America by providing abortion pills, she might become overwhelmed with requests. “I have no idea,” she stammered. “I really don’t know. That’s probably something that in principle … I don’t know. I wish I had a better answer to that.”

Finally, she said, “I hope I will be the first of many others so I won’t be in a situation where I can’t deal with the amount of requests.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to <a href="mailto:letters@theatlantic.com">letters@theatlantic.com</a>.

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Hey Ho

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I am pleased to announce that the newest Hakase record is done! You can listen to it here and buy a copy if you want! I'm very pleased with how these songs turned out, if you like cute and chill bloops and bleeps it may be your jam! It is also available on itunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and whatever other streaming music service you may prefer.

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chicken parts soup for the chicken parts soul

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October 17th, 2018next

October 17th, 2018: I am actually kinda sorry.

– Ryan

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[rss title] chicken parts soup for the chicken parts soul

[img title] also, chicken soup isn't medicine. enjoy!!

[mailto subject] ryan, for a man who eats tasty meat, you sure are horrible at describing the process of eating tasty meat

GOP Senator Pushed VA to Use Unproven “Brainwave Frequency” Treatment

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Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, pushed doctors at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Reno to adopt an experimental mental health treatment marketed by a company with ties to his office.

On a Friday night last December in his Reno office, Heller, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced VA officials to representatives from a health care startup called CereCare. The company markets an “off-label” method of treating addiction and post-traumatic stress, using electromagnetic brain stimulation.

The meeting came about because two of CereCare’s partners had a business connection to Heller’s senior aide in Reno. “We’ve known her for years,” one of the partners, Nino Pedrini, said of the aide, Glenna Smith. Pedrini and his partner have a separate joint venture with Smith’s former employer. “This was Glenna reaching out to us, knowing what we were doing, saying we think there’s a fit here where you folks can help our veterans,” Pedrini said.

Smith declined to answer questions about her role in arranging the meeting; she said she has never had a financial interest in Pedrini’s companies.

The Trump administration is encouraging the VA to use more alternative treatments, even though doctors and mental health experts caution against steering patients to procedures that haven’t been scientifically demonstrated to be safe and effective. The administration’s enthusiasm for such experimental treatments has opened the door to a flood of hopeful vendors like CereCare.

Heller declined to answer specific questions about the meeting. In a statement, he said he “will never apologize for supporting policies that could lead to additional treatment options for Nevada veterans because no one who has served this country should be waiting for care once they return from combat.”

Heller co-sponsored a bill directing the VA to start a pilot program on CereCare’s procedure. Another of CereCare’s partners, Judi Kosterman, participated in drafting the legislation, she said in an interview. Kosterman described herself as CereCare’s expert on the procedure, and her business card identified her as “Dr.” She is not a physician and her doctorate is in education, according to official records.

The bill says it provides no additional funding, so the pilot program would come at the expense of other treatments that are already proven to be effective. For that reason, it drew opposition from Veterans of Foreign Wars, which represents 1.6 million members. “The VFW believes that VA must spend its already scarce health care resources on therapies that have shown promise or have a proven track record,” the organization told Congress. Other veterans groups, such as Amvets and Vietnam Veterans of America, supported the bill because they said the treatment is worth trying. The Senate veterans committee hasn’t voted on the bill.

The procedure that CereCare was pitching to the VA uses electrical scans of the brain and heart to detect a patient’s “intrinsic brainwave frequency” and find “the area of the brain in need of restoration,” according to materials brought to the meeting. CereCare then uses that data to apply electromagnetic pulses from a machine called a transcranial magnetic stimulator.

This procedure is off-label, meaning it uses equipment approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but in a way that is not approved by the agency. Off-label procedures are not uncommon or illegal, but the FDA has not signed off on their safety or effectiveness.

Pedrini brushed off concerns about FDA approval. “The thing we all have to get over is FDA approval on some things,” he said. “You’ve got to try things. We can’t get hung up on 20 years of the FDA trying to approve something because of the bureaucracy and red tape.”

Many mental health professionals oppose pushing patients into experimental procedures. They urge treatments that are scientifically validated or, under certain circumstances, that are part of a well-run clinical trial. “Physicians in the VA, and any other health care setting, should not be forced to disclose treatment options for which there is no scientific basis for safety and efficacy,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness told Congress in 2016.

But these experimental treatments have found favor with political appointees in the Trump administration. Two of Trump’s policy priorities for the VA — letting more veterans go to private doctors, and reducing suicide among veterans — have combined to lead officials to embrace private companies pitching unconventional treatments.

The president appointed Jake Leinenkugel, a Wisconsin beer baron turned senior adviser at the VA, to chair a commission studying nontraditional treatments like the one CereCare sells. The commission’s congressional charter says its members should have a background in treating mental health and experience working with veterans; Leinenkugel has neither. (He didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

At the commission’s first meeting, in July, Leinenkugel encouraged deploying hyperbaric chambers — not because of any scientific evidence, but because of companies’ lobbying. Two large organizations had contacted him over the previous 12 or 13 months, he said. “They’re becoming much more proactive. They’re gaining resonance on the Hill and also in states,” he said. “So, whether or not we think that treatment works or has any evidence based to it at this point in time, it is not relevant to me.”

At the Reno meeting, Heller’s staff and CereCare talked about four veterans with mental health issues who could receive the treatment, according to meeting notes provided to ProPublica. A local veterans nonprofit group was offering to cover the cost of the four veterans’ treatment so the VA wouldn’t have to pay, according to Pedrini.

CereCare could have used that money to treat those patients without the VA’s involvement. But Heller wanted the VA to bless CereCare’s procedure as a pilot program to put it on a path to widespread adoption, according to the meeting notes. “Dean Heller wanted their endorsement,” said Walter A. “Del” Marting, another of CereCare’s partners. (Marting donated $500 to Heller’s re-election campaign in 2015, according to Federal Election Commission records.)

At the meeting, a VA representative suggested that if CereCare or Heller’s office know of four veterans needing mental health care, they should be sent to the VA for evaluation and treatment. Kosterman, who was present, said the VA officials appeared skeptical of CereCare’s procedure. She described the VA’s position as, “Veterans are a protected class, and we are responsible to protect them from being experimented with or being involved in something we haven’t validated.”

It’s not clear what happened to the four veterans. But the pilot program never moved forward, much to CereCare’s frustration. “The whole thing got bogged down in clearances and approvals and reviews,” Marting said.

Heller put a positive spin on the meeting, posing for a photo and tweeting, “Thank you to the Reno VA, Reno Vet Center, Renown Health, CereCare, the Nevada Military Support Alliance, & Northern #NV community members for joining me for a productive discussion about ways to reduce suicide among veterans and improve mental health care for them.”

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Google and Uber

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How are these murderous sociopaths not in jail?

"If it is your job to advance technology, safety cannot be your No. 1 concern," Levandowski told me. "If it is, you'll never do anything. It's always safer to leave the car in the driveway. You'll never learn from a real mistake."

Levandowski had modified the cars' software so that he could take them on otherwise forbidden routes. A Google executive recalls witnessing Taylor and Levandowski shouting at each other. Levandowski told Taylor that the only way to show him why his approach was necessary was to take a ride together. The men, both still furious, jumped into a self-driving Prius and headed off.

The car went onto a freeway, where it travelled past an on-ramp. According to people with knowledge of events that day, the Prius accidentally boxed in another vehicle, a Camry. A human driver could easily have handled the situation by slowing down and letting the Camry merge into traffic, but Google's software wasn't prepared for this scenario. The cars continued speeding down the freeway side by side. The Camry's driver jerked his car onto the right shoulder. Then, apparently trying to avoid a guardrail, he veered to the left; the Camry pinwheeled across the freeway and into the median. Levandowski, who was acting as the safety driver, swerved hard to avoid colliding with the Camry, causing Taylor to injure his spine so severely that he eventually required multiple surgeries.

The Prius regained control and turned a corner on the freeway, leaving the Camry behind. Levandowski and Taylor didn't know how badly damaged the Camry was. They didn't go back to check on the other driver or to see if anyone else had been hurt. Neither they nor other Google executives made inquiries with the authorities. The police were not informed that a self-driving algorithm had contributed to the accident.

Levandowski, rather than being cowed by the incident, later defended it as an invaluable source of data, an opportunity to learn how to avoid similar mistakes. He sent colleagues an e-mail with video of the near-collision. Its subject line was "Prius vs. Camry." (Google refused to show me a copy of the video or to divulge the exact date and location of the incident.) He remained in his leadership role and continued taking cars on non-official routes.

According to former Google executives, in Project Chauffeur's early years there were more than a dozen accidents, at least three of which were serious. One of Google's first test cars, nicknamed kitt, was rear-ended by a pickup truck after it braked suddenly, because it couldn't distinguish between a yellow and a red traffic light. Two of the Google employees who were in the car later sought medical treatment. A former Google executive told me that the driver of the pickup, whose family was in the truck, was unlicensed, and asked the company not to contact insurers. kitt's rear was crushed badly enough that it was permanently taken off the road.

In response to questions about these incidents, Google's self-driving unit disputed that its cars are unsafe. "Safety is our highest priority as we test and develop our technology," a spokesperson wrote to me. [...]

As for the Camry incident, the spokesperson [said that] because Google's self-driving car did not directly hit the Camry, Google did not cause the accident.

These words actually came out of this creature's mouth, on purpose, when it knew that humans could hear it speaking:

"The only thing that matters is the future," [Levandowski] told me after the civil trial was settled. "I don't even know why we study history. It's entertaining, I guess -- the dinosaurs and the Neanderthals and the Industrial Revolution, and stuff like that. But what already happened doesn't really matter. You don't need to know that history to build on what they made. In technology, all that matters is tomorrow."

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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