How Fines and Fees Criminalize Poverty

Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines — like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine — so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. … [Read more...]

When Will There Be Zero Tolerance For Racism?

Congressman John Conyers was the first politician to leave his job after the “Me Too” hashtag galvanized women to speak up about sexual misconduct, harassment and more. Too bad that impetus did not float up to the top, when an avowed grabber of women’s genitals was elected to lead this country. Too bad, too, that the many members of Congress who have paid accusers out of a taxpayer-funded slush fund have not been unmasked. We know some of the names. Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold (R) … [Read more...]

Chalottesville: When Police Fail

The police are supposed to keep order and let people exercise their Constitutional rights. When they don't, people get hurt and even die. ast summer in Charlottesville, in a clash between neo-Nazis and confederate monument supporters on one side, and “antifa,” or anti-facist, and Black Lives Matter supporters on the other, numerous people were hurt, and one person, Heather Heyer, was killed when a white nationalist supporter drove his car into a crowd. Now an independent report has come out, … [Read more...]

How Do You Clear a Pot Conviction From Your Record?

It depends on where you live. (Californians, you’re in luck.) ddy, a burly 65-year-old professional musician, walked into a free legal clinic in Los Angeles County one July morning hoping to clear his record. More than three decades ago, he served two years probation for attempting to sell a few gram bags of marijuana, a felony that put the immigrant, a legal U.S. resident with a green card, at greater risk of deportation. Thanks to Proposition 64, the California ballot initiative that … [Read more...]

America Only Country Still Sentencing Kids to Die in Prison

For too long we have depicted our youth, especially our black youth, as lost causes. But they can change. s a black man in America, I’m keenly aware that people who look a lot like me are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. The way adults of color are treated in our justice system is already upsetting, but the way our justice system treats children, especially black children, is simply deplorable. Nowhere is this more clearly evident than on the issue of juvenile sentencing. Black … [Read more...]

Walter Scott Shooting: Michael Slager, Ex-Officer, Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

More than two years ago, the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black motorist, by a white South Carolina police officer set off a wave of national protests over racially biased policing and the use of lethal force. On Thursday, Michael Slager, who was fired as a North Charleston patrolman days after the shooting, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars after pleading guilty in Scott's death. U.S. District Judge David Norton, in issuing the sentence, said Slager shot Scott with … [Read more...]

Tracking the Impact of the Prison System on the Economy

One of the most popular parts of our 2003 book The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry concerns the economic power of the criminal justice system. I updated three of the graphs and concepts from that book. The justice system may have slowed its growth in recent years, but it still has a large hold on the economy. In 2012 — the most recent data available — the more than 2.4 million people who work for the justice system (in police, corrections and judicial services) at … [Read more...]

How Washington Winks at Violent Discipline of Special Needs Kids

Kaden Perrizo was 11 years old when he entered an “orthopedic impaired” class at Taylor Elementary in Santa Clara, California. Kaden suffered an immune system disease as a toddler that left him unable to walk without leg braces or to speak more than a few words; his parents say he functions cognitively like a 4-year-old. His teacher, according to allegations set forth in a lawsuit brought by Kaden's parents on his behalf, tied him to a chair. He was also confined in a 3-by-4-foot cell made of … [Read more...]

Don’t Let Judges Hijack California Bail Reform

Californians who want to bring fairness to the criminal system recognize that there is no justice without meaningful bail reform. Wealthy people buy their liberty and fight their cases from home without regard for public safety. Poor people – the vast majority of criminal defendants – languish in jail even for minor charges. They lose jobs and their families go into debt paying non-refundable bail bonds. Those who can’t pay bail face a heartbreaking choice – assert their innocence and stay in … [Read more...]

Reaching Inside the Jails to Break the Cycle of Homeless Arrests

A door opened, and three men walked out of captivity into a sun-drenched waiting area. It’s a scene repeated hundreds of times a day at Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail. But instead of being greeted by family members and friends, these men were met by Victor Key, a case manager for Project 180, a downtown agency that is on the front line of a homeless strategy called jail in-reach. The three men had been arrested for felonies. A psychiatrist had diagnosed them with mental illnesses … [Read more...]