Sentencing Reform in California

On February 27th, I had the opportunity to present to the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee Number 5: Public Safety on the crucial topic of California sentencing policy. I have been involved in this issue for the past 31 years at the CJCJ, and have witnessed the explosive and unprecedented growth of the state’s prison population that began after passage of the Determinate Sentencing Law in 1977. The Determinant Sentencing Law ushered in a period of unprecedented prison expansion as the … [Read more...]

Crime Hotspots Need Investments, Not Just Policing

Anti-crime strategies should try to fix what makes hotspots prone to violence. On the last day of 2016, a solemn procession made its way across Chicago. Hundreds of mourners and their supporters marched together, carrying 762 wooden crosses — one for each victim of the year’s terrible homicide toll. Had the marchers ended the demonstration by planting those crosses at the site of each murder, they would have clustered in a few areas of the sprawling city, creating a haphazard array of … [Read more...]

Breaking Faith

The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is something much worse. Over the past decade, pollsters charted something remarkable: Americans—long known for their piety—were fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The vast majority still believed in God. But the share that rejected any religious affiliation was growing fast, rising from 6 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure was 35 percent. Some observers predicted that this new … [Read more...]

Sex Offender Sentencing: Did the Supreme Court Base a Ruling on a Myth?

Last week at the Supreme Court, a lawyer made what seemed like an unremarkable point about registered sex offenders. “This court has recognized that they have a high rate of recidivism and are very likely to do this again,” said the lawyer, Robert C. Montgomery, who was defending a North Carolina statute that bars sex offenders from using Facebook, Twitter and other social media services. The Supreme Court has indeed said the risk that sex offenders will commit new crimes is “frightening … [Read more...]

Feeling ‘Dirty’ About Sentencing

Last month, retired federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin shared her experiences imposing mandatory minimum sentences in a Washington Post “Perspective”piece. “Mandatory minimums were almost always excessive,” she wrote, “and they made me feel unethical, even dirty.” According to Judge Scheindlin, “The fact that the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners is largely due to mandatory minimum sentences.” Scheindlin … [Read more...]

Immigration Agents Discover New Freedom to Deport Under Trump

In Virginia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents waited outside a church shelter where undocumented immigrants had gone to stay warm. In Texas and in Colorado, agents went into courthouses, looking for foreigners who had arrived for hearings on other matters. At Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers arriving after a five-hour flight from San Francisco were asked to show their documents before they were allowed to get off the plane. The Trump administration’s … [Read more...]

When Police Kill • Policing Without Permission

Two Books Argue the Case for Police Reform From Within It is, to hear the new president’s posse tell it, an exceptionally dangerous and thankless time to be a police officer in the United States. In the streets, we are told, there is a “war on cops,” fired up by the activists of Black Lives Matter. In the corridors of Washington, liberals want to deny law enforcement the powers they need to keep us safe. The media runs endless video loops of a few police shootings of civilians, and the Justice … [Read more...]

Minors in Adult Prison

On February 1st and 2nd, representatives from dozens of youth justice organizations from across the state gathered for the annual meeting of the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice (CAYCJ), a coalition committed to ending the treatment of youth as adults. In 2016, CAYCJ led the campaign to pass Prop 57, an initiative that abolished direct file and improved the process governing transfers of young people from juvenile to adult court. Due in large part to the efforts of CAYCJ … [Read more...]

Metro Approves $646M Annual Multi-Agency Transit Policing Contract

At last Thursday’s meeting, the Metro board approved a new five-year multi-agency transit policing contract. For the past decade, transit policing had been done by the L.A. County Sheriff Department (LASD.) Under the new contract transit policing will be done by LAPD, LASD, and Long Beach Police Department. When the proposal first came to the board in November-December 2016, it was $547 million annually: L.A. Police Department – $370 million – 68 percent L.A. County Sheriffs … [Read more...]

Trump’s First Roundup

What we learned from that surge of immigrant arrests In a town near Seattle, immigration agents went to the home of a convicted Mexican drug trafficker. In passing they also picked up his son, who had no criminal record and a legal permit to work in the United States. In El Paso, Texas, agents walked into a county courthouse and detained an immigrant just after she received a protective order as a victim of domestic abuse. And in Alexandria, Virginia, agents stood wait one morning across … [Read more...]