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Countering Technology-Facilitated Abuse

Understanding Risk Assessment Instruments in Criminal Justice


Supporting Students to be Independent Learners: State and District Actions for the Pandemic Era

State Grades on School Finance: 2020 Map and Rankings

Racial and Ethnic Representation in Postsecondary Education


The Role of the United States Postal Service in the Age of COVID-19

Access for All: Innovation for Equitable Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Delivery

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Changing Nature of Work: Lose Your Job, Show Up to Work, or Telecommute?


COVID-19: Opportunities to Improve Federal Response and Recovery Efforts

Air Travel and Communicable Diseases: Status of Research Efforts and Action Still Needed to Develop Federal Preparedness Plan

COVID-19 in Children and Adolescents in Europe: A Multinational, Multicentre Cohort Study

July 3, 2020


The proliferation of websites, social media platforms, and applications that enable users to interact virtually and often anonymously has given rise to new modes and methods of perpetrating harassment, abuse, and other criminal behaviors that compromise victims' privacy and safety. These types of acts, termed technology-facilitated abuse, can involve the use or distribution of the victim's personal information, which compromises the victim's privacy and poses a threat to their safety. Efforts to combat these profoundly harmful acts are limited by a lack of awareness among the general public and criminal justice practitioners, impediments to investigation and adjudication presented by digital spaces, and laws and policies that have not kept pace with advancements in digital technologies. In this report a panel of experts discusses the challenges, opportunities, and complexities faced by law enforcement and criminal justice practitioners in technology-facilitated abuse cases. Using these discussions, the panel members identified and ranked needs for the public, law enforcement, and criminal justice practitioners to successfully identify and prosecute such cases. This report provides a prioritized list of needs and accompanying context from the discussion that resulted from this effort. Needs mentioned include implementing public education and technology-facilitated abuse prevention efforts, promoting awareness of technology-facilitated abuse among criminal justice practitioners, improving criminal justice practices and policies for addressing technology-facilitated abuse, and mitigating harm and empowering victims of technology-facilitated abuse.

Source: RAND Corporation

Algorithmic tools are in widespread use across the criminal justice system today. Predictive policing algorithms inform police deployment with estimates of where crime is most likely to occur. “Patternizr” is a pattern recognition tool at the New York Police Department that helps detectives automatically discover related crimes. Police departments also use facial recognition software to identify possible suspects from video footage. District attorneys in Chicago and New York have leveraged predictive models to focus prosecution efforts on high-risk individuals. In San Francisco, the district attorney uses an algorithm that obscures race information from case materials to reduce bias in charging decisions. This report recommends that policymakers should preserve human oversight and careful discretion when implementing machine learning algorithms. In the context of risk assessment instruments, it is always possible that unusual factors could affect an individual’s likelihood of misconduct. As a result, a judge must retain the ability to overrule a risk assessment instrument’s recommendations, even though this discretion may reduce accuracy and consistency. Also, any algorithm used in a high-stakes policy context, such as criminal sentencing, should be transparent. This ensures that any interested party can understand exactly how a risk determination is made, a distinct advantage over human decision-making processes. The data used to generate their predictions, should be carefully examined for the potential that any group would be unfairly harmed by the outputs. Data scientists should work to build next-generation risk algorithms that predict reductions in risk caused by supportive interventions. For example, current risk assessment instruments only infer the risk of misconduct if an individual is released without support. They do not consider the influence of supportive interventions—such as court-date text-message reminders—even though they may have a tampering effect on an individual’s risk for misconduct. Finally—and perhaps most importantly—algorithms should be evaluated as they are implemented.

Source: Brookings Institution


The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting closure of school buildings have revealed the deep inequities that already existed in many schools, and connectedness is one of those gaps. Data from school climate surveys demonstrates that students of color, English-learners, and students from low-income families do not feel safe at school, in part because they do not have the kind of caring, trusted relationships that create belonging – and in part because they do not feel challenged with meaningful, rigorous work. This report provides recommended actions for states from a diverse set of leaders and focused on culturally and linguistically responsive education. Recommendations include: 1) enable community partnerships to bring valuable cultural capital into schools; 2) ensure all students have access to rigor; 3) equip the education workforce to engage students with rigor through culturally and linguistically responsive education; 4) amend state laws and regulations to define “safety” and “school safety” in ways that encompass students’ experience of psychological/intellectual safety and belonging; and 5) improve and prioritize school climate measurement and support to better attend to cultural and linguistic diversity. All five recommendations embrace one fundamental idea: Culturally and linguistically responsive education helps students become independent learners. Education leaders at all levels and people on both sides of the political divide agree that confidence, competence, and interpersonal skills are not just the keys to success in school – they pave the way for success in work and community life.

Source: Aspen Institute

This report grades all 50 states in two key categories of school finance: overall spending on K-12 and equity, or just how fairly and evenly that money is distributed throughout a particular state. The report collects the most recently available federal data from the Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and other sources—2017 data, in this case—to get a more detailed look at how much states spend on their public schools and how they go about spending it. The states get scored and graded on eight separate indicators. Four of them deal with spending levels alone, and the other four on just how that funding gets spent, with an eye toward equity. To make sure things are comparable, the researchers adjust some of these indicators for factors like regional cost differences and for students who may be more expensive to educate, such as low-income children and those with disabilities. Florida’s score is a “D+” with an “A-” in equity and an “F” in spending. Florida spends about 2.9% of its total taxable resources on education, compared to a national average of 3.6%.

Source: Education Week

The U.S. population is becoming more educated, but large gaps in postsecondary attainment based on race or ethnicity remain, particularly at more selective colleges. As a growing number of jobs require a college degree, it is imperative to increase college access among all racial and ethnic groups. In this report, authors examined whether different racial and ethnic groups have equal access to higher education by looking at representativeness across postsecondary institutions. They constructed a new measure that compares each college’s racial and ethnic demographics with the demographics of the college’s market, evaluating whether each racial or ethnic group is over- or underrepresented at individual colleges and college sectors, relative to that college’s or sector’s pool of potential students. The authors confirm the presence and persistence of large national gaps in representation and find that Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented at more selective schools in ways that cannot be explained by differences in community demographics.

Source: Urban Institute

Government Operations

In May 2020, a statement from the United States Postal Service said that the its main source of revenue—letter-mail volume—had dropped dramatically as businesses cut back on sending advertisements and bulk mail and that it will exhaust its cash on hand by the end of September. Unlike other federal agencies, the United States Postal Service does not receive tax dollars for its operating expenses; instead, it relies on postage and product sales and services. As part of a nationally representative survey about how Americans are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic the authors asked more than 2,000 individuals about their perceptions of the United States Postal Service; their concerns about handling mail and packages during the COVID-19 pandemic; and how they felt the postal service compared with private courier companies, such as FedEx and United Parcel Service. Overall, this survey found that the public places a very high level of trust in the United States Postal Service as an agency; it ranks just below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but significantly above the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Congress. These results are consistent with a long history of surveys indicating that the public holds a highly favorable view of the postal service. Furthermore, the survey found that trust in the United States Postal Service is significantly higher in rural communities than in urban communities.

Source: RAND Corporation

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps millions of households with low or no incomes purchase food. Households currently access SNAP benefits using electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards, which work like debit cards. With new payment technologies available and with the growing need for online purchasing options amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that SNAP benefit delivery evolves to ensure participants can purchase food in the same manner as other customers. The authors interviewed national SNAP experts, state officials, consumer advocates, and representatives of food retailers, EBT processors, and related technology companies to understand the current EBT system and how future benefit delivery could be more equitable and inclusive. Recommendations include allowing online purchases, enabling mobile payments and other mobile applications, using chip cards and delivering multiple benefits on one card.

Source: Urban Institute

Stay-at-home orders save lives, but the extent to which they threaten livelihoods depends on the nature of one's work. How much has the ability to work from home mitigated the economic effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic? In the first week of May 2020, RAND researchers conducted a survey of more than 2,000 individuals in the nationally representative RAND American Life Panel (ALP) to find out how their lives changed as a result of the pandemic. The authors focus on the 1,277 individuals who were working for pay or profit in February 2020. Findings include that between February and May 2020 one in six workers lost their jobs, 44% of those workers were laid off, furloughed, or on unpaid leave, and that jobs offering exclusive telecommuting is most prevalent in legal, computer, scientific, architecture and engineering, and business finance operations.

Source: RAND Corporation

Health and Human Services

In response to the national public health and economic threats caused by COVID-19, four relief laws were enacted as of June 2020, including the CARES Act, in March 2020. These laws have appropriated $2.6 trillion across the government. Six areas—Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); Economic Stabilization and Assistance to Distressed Sectors; unemployment insurance; economic impact payments; Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund; and Coronavirus Relief Fund—account for 86% of the appropriations. The authors identified several challenges related to the federal response to the crisis, as well as recommendations to help address these challenges. Challenges include incomplete and inconsistent viral testing data, the distribution of supplies, and questions and concerns with the Paycheck Protection Program, Unemployment Insurance plans. The authors provide recommendations for Congress such as that Congress use the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Federal Medical Assistance percentage for any future changes to the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage formula during current or future economic downtowns. In addition, the authors provide several recommendations for Executive Action including that the Secretary of Labor should, in consultation with the Small Business Administration and the Department of the Treasury, immediately provide information to state unemployment agencies that specifically addresses the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program loans, and the risk of improper payments associated with these loans.

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

The transmission of COVID-19 has been greatly aided by air travel. In light of the pandemic and warnings about the risks of air travel, U.S. passenger airline traffic fell by 96% in April 2020 as compared to April 2019. COVID-19 is only the latest communicable disease threat to raise public health concerns regarding the spread of contagion through air travel. Ensuring that the United States is prepared to respond to disease threats from air travel, as well as conducting the necessary research to reduce the risks of contagion, are two vital responsibilities of the federal government. The authors found that the United States still lacks a comprehensive plan for national aviation preparedness to limit the spread of communicable diseases through air travel. In December 2015 during the Ebola epidemic, the authors recommended that the Department of Transportation work with relevant stakeholders, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks. They also found that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has conducted limited research on disease transmission during air travel or in airports. The authors earlier recommended FAA improve how it sets research priorities.

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

To date, few data on paediatric COVID-19 have been published, and most reports originate from China. This study aimed to capture key data on children and adolescents with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection across Europe to inform physicians and health-care service planning during the ongoing pandemic. The authors included all individuals aged 18 years or younger with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, detected at any anatomical site by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing, between April 1 and April 24, 2020, during the initial peak of the European COVID-19 pandemic. Five hundred eighty-two individuals with PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were included, with a median age of 5.0 years and a sex ratio of 1.15 males per female. Twenty-five percent had pre-existing medical conditions. Four children died; at study end, the remaining 578 were alive and only 25 (4%) were still symptomatic or requiring respiratory support. COVID-19 is generally a mild disease in children, including infants. However, a small proportion develop severe disease requiring ICU admission and prolonged ventilation, although fatal outcome is overall rare. The data also reflect the current uncertainties regarding specific treatment options, highlighting that additional data on antiviral and immunomodulatory drugs are urgently needed.

Source: Lancet

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