Fighting extradition back to the United States: The basics

Every day, across the United States, a percentage of people who are suspected of committing crimes, and know that they are wanted by law enforcement, (or have been released on bail or on their own recognizance) attempt to evade arrest, or delay proceedings, by relocating to other cities, counties, states, or countries.

Individuals who have fled may enter another country undetected, or be nabbed at the border by customs and immigration agents of the foreign state. If the suspect manages to bypass detection at the border, they may engage in another crime (typically a petty one like shoplifting), get arrested, and after their name (including other identifying details) is run through on or more appropriate databases (e.g., Interpol), the local police notice that there is an outstanding warrant for them back in the United States.

And so starts a long involved judicial process. The United States government is contacted, and an extradition warrant is issued. This situation is framed by the following facts.

It’s in the best interests of the foreign government to return the person to the United States to face trial as soon as possible, as it’s costing them resources (i.e., a prison cell, feeding the person, time for their legal department to process paperwork, etc.).

But they are not going to immediately ship the suspect back home if there is a possibility that the individual is going receive the death penalty or that the prison conditions in the state or federal bureau of prisons violate national, regional and international human rights standards that they are signatories to.

Most foreign nationals, who are in this situation, try to block their extradition back to the United States. If they are not able to do this themselves, which is usually the case, it’s primarily their loved ones (typically parents or spouses) who hire private attorneys, or legal aid lawyers in the guest country who do this work.

The loved ones, (who are formally known clients), in the United States, usually have little experience in these matters and few economic resources try to find an interested and competent lawyer/law firm. Few lawyers/law firms, however, have experience in international extradition matters and the ones that do can be quite pricey. This can set up lots of frustrating dynamics for the suspects, loved ones and the lawyers. In general, in these matters, you get what you pay for. If the law firm that is chosen lacks expertise it will mean a lot of wasted resources (i.e., time, money, emotional anguish, etc.).

Once the client makes a decision about which legal counsel to use, the lawyer/law firm takes a retainer, and then starts gathering evidence and filing forms. During this process, they may partner with a lawyer or law firm in the foreign country. They may also subcontract with a number of experts (i.e., death penalty, corrections, psychologists/psychiatrists, doctors, etc.)

One of the ways that legal council fight extradition is by delaying the process as much as legally possible. In this situation, delay is your friend. It gives the defense more time to put on a spirited defense.

The passage of time also increases the possibility that memory of witnesses to the alleged crime/s will fade, and they may forget important details of the case; they may even pass away or in the case of law enforcement, may change jobs, quit policing, or be convicted of a crime and thus their reliability as a witness may be jeopardized. All this typically works to the accused benefit.

If there is a possibility that the suspect may be sentenced to the death penalty, then the competent lawyer may also be able to negotiate this off the table.

On the other hand, clients sometimes hire a legal professional who is not a good fit to assist them. This scenario often leads to bad advice, poor legal strategy, considerable confusion, unnecessary emotional turmoil, and wasted resources.

On rare occasions the defense can prevent the extradition of an individuals who is wanted for extradition from being sent back to the United States.

But the reality is that sooner or later the person under whose name the extradition has been issued, will most likely be returned to the United States to face trial. A competent lawyer/law firm, with the assistance of appropriate subcontracted expertise, however, can manage the process in order to minimize the legal consequences that the accused will eventually face.

Crime rates, reporters, and experts. A cautionary tale

When it comes to crime, journalists are typically interested in answering three logical questions:

• Is the crime rate increasing or decreasing? (This is usually framed as “Is crime out of control insert jurisdiction here?”)
• What can we realistically do about it?
• And are the police or politicians doing enough to address this challenge?

But in the process of answering these questions, both reporters and sometimes those asked to comment, often neglect (and fail to mention and explain) a handful of contextual issues.

The first concerns the reliability of crime statistics. Most experts understand that not all crime that occurs is reported to law enforcement. There are lots of reasons why, but it’s widely accepted that the types of crimes that we have the best data on are homicides when there is a dead body, and car thefts where the owners usually file a claim with an insurance agency.

So when reporters, police, or politicians talk about non-fatal/non-lethal shootings, for example, in general these are undercounted. More importantly drawing conclusions about them, is primarily speculation. For example, just because a person is shot does not mean that they are going to die. A number of things can happen to save that persons’ life so the event is not classified as a non-fatal shooting (i.e., very good and improved emergency room procedures, quicker response times by emergency medical personnel, and first responders have improved their ability to sustain life). Alternatively high rates of non-fatal shootings, may be the result of a higher than average number of shooters who are unskilled and thus bad shooters. Also maybe the guns they are using are lousy and are not accurate?

Second, and more recently, there have been claims that bail reforms are leading to an increase in crime. Yes we can point to individuals who while out on bail have engage in crimes, some of them quite horrific, and thus it would be a seductive to make this kind of relationship. But the there no clear empirical evidence that bail reform is leading to increase in violent crime.

Third, another assumption is that if we only had more or better police then crimes would fall. Again, Criminology 101 (and most human services classes) will tell you that crime is not as closely connected to police practices as most people think, but instead, is the result of numerous things happening in families, streets, communities, and the economy in general. The police are only one aspect of crime control. This means that they can only have a minor effect on large macro social processes like crime, and in turn crime rates. Thus, contrary to Eric Adams, the recently elected Democratic electoral candidate, more police does not necessarily mean less crime. In fact, it can have the opposite effect because more police on the street means that each one has a vested interest in detecting crime, criminals, etc. and thus this in turn will boost crime statistics.

Fourth, another frequent assertion is if we only had more and better paying jobs we would see less crime. This might be true if all crimes were financially motivated, but jealous lovers rarely physically hurt or kill their loved ones (i.e., domestic violence) because of disputes over money.

Fifth, there is a popular belief that if one type of crime is increasing in frequency, then there is a tendency to assume that all categories of crime are also going up. Reporters and those who are asked to comment on these trends sometimes fail to disaggregate all crime versus violent crime versus homicides. This is when it is important to realize that almost every type of crime has a different causal dynamic.

Finally, there’s a tendency to see what happens in one city in terms of crime, must be occurring throughout the country. We know that in some jurisdictions violent crime is up and others it is down. There are micro level processes going on in neighborhoods and by extension cities that just don’t translate in a national manner.

Some parting thoughts. Over the past 15 months COVID-19 has significantly changed human interactions, and by necessity it has had an effect on patterns of social interaction, use of public space, and thus individuals proclivity to engage in crime and also be victims of this activity. We have also seen gun purchases soar over this time, but the patterns of use are not completely understood.

Thus what we are seeing, in terms of crime, may be an aberration. The point is both reporters and experts must exercise care in interpreting crime and crime rates, and avoid the tendency to easy to generalize from anecdotal or incomplete evidence.

Photo Credit: Neil Moralee
Is that actually a crime

How editors of academic journals can increase the willingness of scholars to review papers and get better reviews

Scholarly research is significantly improved through peer review. Although for profit organizations, like book publishers, usually pay reviewers a nominal honorarium in the form of money or books, if the research is submitted to an academic journal, peer review is typically done by external reviewers for free.

Experts who are asked to perform these types of review usually make an informal cost-benefit calculation about agreeing to review and the level of their effort. If the expected reward (i.e., commitment to service or a field, etc.) is higher than their projected expenditure of level of effort (including competing obligations) they may agree to review a paper.

However, if the process of peer reviewing is unnecessarily bothersome and burdensome, not only will reviewers be disinclined to assist journal editors, but they may also be reluctant to submit papers for review to those journals too.

I get it. Acting as a journal editor is a thankless, but necessary task. And it is difficult to secure reviews from qualified experts in a timely manner, especially ones that will assist both the researchers who submit papers and ones that will make your job easier.

That’s why it’s very important that journal editors continuously ask themselves, how can they make the donation of this valuable free labor as painless and attractive as possible, and insure that reviewers will do it again?

One way to insure that potential reviewers will accept invitations to review is by making the process and experience as user friendly as possible and recognizing reviewer’s efforts in a manner that is meaningful.

Here are my suggestions, some of which journals do and others that some may benefit from:

1. Provide explicit instructions (and/or questions that should be answered) by reviewers regarding the appropriateness of the papers under peer review. Periodically re-examine the instructions and/or questions to be answered by reviewers, not to mention their format, to determine if they enable the quality reviews you are seeking.

2. Don’t have your managing editor spend what appears to be a ridiculous amount of time, going back and forth with the author/s of a paper that has been recently been submitted, forcing them to insert one sentence due diligence information directly into the manuscript, only to give the author/s a bench reject.

3. Advise the managing editor to respond in a timely manner (e.g., not a month) to the author/s of new submissions that there papers need be reformatted to accommodate to the to nuances of the journal format.

4. Be careful about turning the day-to-day management of the journal over to others, unless you are going to properly supervise them. If you are a journal editor, and you are too busy with your own teaching, research, or administrative/service work, then consider sharing the task of running a journal, in an equitable manner with one or more competent colleagues.

5. I understand the importance of giving all paper writers a chance, but by the same token, don’t give reviewers papers that you honestly believe are not going to make it through the peer review process. If you feel that the paper will not pass the review process, then write a few thoughtful sentences or a paragraph why, and send this to the paper writer. Don’t simply pass the buck to your reviewers. Most academics hate to get bench rejects, but it is better to learn early in the review process that your paper is inappropriate and why, than hearing it two-six months later from grumpy reviewers.

6. Make sure that the criteria for evaluation of peer reviewed papers are clearly signposted and properly explained. Better still, have separate fields for the reviewers to fill out with a minimum number of characters.

7. Do not use your editorial board’s members as window dressing. Use them, as much as possible to review papers, assist you in finding appropriate reviewers for papers, and in making thoughtful policy decisions you are considering. If one or more of them continuously refuses to review, takes ridiculously long times to complete this task, and needs to be continuously reminded to return their reviews then with fair warning they should be dropped from the editorial board. Have a system to regularly (e.g., yearly) add or replace members on your board. Add new people to the board, from your most active and helpful reviewers to accomplish this task.

8. Avoid burning your reviewers out. Unless you are on the editorial board, sending reviewers more than two papers a year is inappropriate.

9. Send your reviewers periodic reminders when their reviews are due. If they don’t respond to you in a couple of days or at most a week send them a friendly reminder. Reviews that linger more than 2 months are unacceptable. Quick turnaround times are appreciated by authors and word gets around. You get more and better submissions that way.

10. Clearly indicate on the invitation to review when you want the review returned. Due dates should not come as a surprise in the next e-mail the reviewer receives.

11. Don’t ask for a review due in a week’s time after the reviewer has agreed to write it.

12. Mentor reviewers whom you believe could benefit from this kind of assistance so that they can improve this skill. Get a diverse set of reviewers and editorial board members (different countries/racial and ethnic backgrounds/genders, academic ranks, etc.). This usually increases diversity of ideas, gives opportunities to under-represented groups, etc.

13. When the reviews are completed and you have sent them to the author, take the extra step and send an extra blind copy to the reviewers (blind their names too). We like to see how our evaluation compares to our colleagues. Sometimes this gives us an informal benchmark on how to improve our reviewing.

14. In addition to partnering with an organization like Publons that tracks reviewers efforts, once a year publish the names of the reviewers of the articles as an appendix.

There are plenty things wrong with scholarly journals, but one of the easily solvable ones have to do with the peer review process. Over the past two decades, with the advent of e-mail and web-based reviewing platforms significant improvements have been introduced into the academic paper reviewing process, but the above listed suggestions may improve the process and experience, and assist editors of scholarly journals to recruit and maintain appropriate reviewers.

Photo Credit:
Photographer: William Murphy