Minor Crimes, Major Challenges

Responding to minor crimes is arguably one of the most critical activities of any police department. Given that low-level arrests also clog the nation’s courts and jails, it is remarkable that this police function has received so little public attention.The resource demands are certainly substantial.  These enforcement actions also provide opportunities to reduce crime and enhance public trust.  In addition, they pose considerable safety risks to the responding officers. By any measure, … [Read more...]

Sanctuary Cities in Name Only

President Trump’s plan to deport millions of people appears to be underway. Last week, federal immigration officials arrested more than 600 people at their homes and workplaces in at least 11 states, sending terror through immigrant communities. The abruptness of the raids provoked criticism from local officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, who vowed to “stand with” immigrant communities. But mass deportation under President Trump will also happen through a more routine policy … [Read more...]

Everything You Think You Know About Mass Incarceration Is Wrong

Or at least misleading, says this contrarian scholar. Here’s why it matters. Critics of the prison-happy American criminal justice system tend to subscribe to a narrative that goes like this: Mass incarceration was ignited by the war on drugs (blame Nixon or Reagan), was pumped up by draconian sentencing and is now sustained by a “prison industrial complex” that puts profit before humane treatment and rehabilitation. John Pfaff, in his provocative new book, “Locked In,” calls this the “Standard … [Read more...]

Dutch Get Creative to Solve a Prison Problem: Too Many Empty Cells

The Netherlands has a problem many countries can only dream of: a shortage of prison inmates. While countries like Belgium, Britain, Haiti, Italy, the United States and Venezuela have grappled with prison overcrowding, the Netherlands has such a surplus of unused cells that it has rented some of its prisons to Belgium and Norway. It has also turned about a dozen former prisons into centers for asylum seekers. About a third of Dutch prison cells sit empty, according to the Ministry of … [Read more...]

Trump’s Vague, Failed Rhetoric Has Potential to Unleash New Harm

Recent executive orders are yet another example of President Trump’s fear mongering; using falsehoods, misinformation and coded rhetoric to push through his extreme and intolerant agenda. The Drug Policy Alliance's work to end the war on drugs connects the dots on these kinds of attacks on civil and human liberties. Trump’s vague “reduce crime” policy and creation of a new taskforce to strategize explicitly on illegal immigration, drug trafficking and violent crime, are nothing but throwback … [Read more...]

‘Rooms Infested With Spiders’: California Youth Urge Changes in Conditions at Juvenile Facilities

Nearly six years after he spent more than a month locked up in a juvenile hall in Los Angeles County, Francisco Martines vividly recalled the conditions in his cell. Inside the small concrete room at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, Calif., he says the dirty walls were covered with graffiti tags and stained with the residue of spit and excrement. The stench of urine was unmistakable. At night, Martines had trouble sleeping on a ripped mattress. A thin blanket did little to keep him … [Read more...]

The History the Slaveholders Wanted Us to Forget

Writing in 1965, the distinguished British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper argued against the idea that black people in Africa had their own history: “There is only the history of the Europeans in Africa,” he declared. “The rest is largely darkness.” History, he continued, “is essentially a form of movement, and purposive movement too,” which in his view Africans lacked. Trevor-Roper was echoing an idea that goes back at least to the early 19th century. But it wasn’t always this way. When the … [Read more...]

In Criminal Justice, “Simple” Solutions Are Usually Wrong

Sometimes, traditions in journalistic coverage can wrench a public discussion down the wrong path. A recent Washington Post series on the District of Columbia’s criminal justice system targeted flaws in the Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA), detailing horrific acts of violence and frightening statistics neatly juxtaposed with anodyne responses from criminal justice spokespeople. The articles raised serious questions about the operation of the criminal justice system in the District of … [Read more...]

Better Solution Than a Border Wall? End Drug Prohibition

What does a multi-billion dollar mistake look like? He looks like a 70 year-old demagogue politician who occupies the White House. And it appears we will have a big-ass wall to remind us of it. If President Donald Trump follows through with his promise to build a ridiculous wall under the pretext of stopping migrants and drugs from entering the U.S., we will have a constant reminder when our tax dollars build his wall. Regarding immigration I’m no expert on that matter. That said, … [Read more...]

What We Can Learn from the Amazing Drop in Juvenile Incarceration

Lesson One: Don’t make policies when emotions are running high. The Bureau of Justice Statistics announced in a year-end report a 2 percent reduction in the number of prisoners nationally, continuing a modest decline of recent years. Overlooked by most observers, though, was the fact that the number of juveniles held in adult prisons declined to fewer than 1,000, an 82 percent drop from the peak year in 1997. Although America’s penchant for incarceration has been widely recognized in recent … [Read more...]