Ex-Inmates Behind Push for California Employers to ‘Ban the Box’

  Many of the 7 million Californians with a prior arrest or conviction likely can relate to Sandra Johnson’s job hunting experience nearly a decade ago. On every employment application, she checked a box that inquired about criminal history. “It was terribly hard,” the 59-year-old mother and grandmother said of the months she spent seeking work after completing a San Francisco drug treatment program. “I would go and apply and I would never hear back because that box was always … [Read more...]

Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017

With growing public attention to the problem of mass incarceration, people want to know about women’s experience with incarceration. How many women are held in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the United States? And why are they there? While these are important questions, finding those answers requires not only disentangling the country’s decentralized and overlapping criminal justice systems, but also unearthing the frustratingly hard to find and often altogether missing … [Read more...]

Both Red and Blue States Rely on Prison Labor

Earlier this month, Steve Prator, who heads the sheriff’s office in Caddo Parrish, one of the largest in Louisiana, held a press conference in which he bemoaned the state’s newly passed prison reforms, which could reduce the inmate population by as much as 10 percent by gradually releasing nonviolent offenders who would be eligible for a new early-release program. Why? Apparently, he didn’t want the parish to lose its captive labor pool. “That’s the ones you can work,” Prator said of the … [Read more...]

They Thought They Were Going to Rehab

They Ended Up in Chicken Plants The worst day of Brad McGahey’s life was the day a judge decided to spare him from prison. McGahey was 23 with dreams of making it big in rodeo, maybe starring in his own reality TV show. With a 1.5 GPA, he’d barely graduated from high school. He had two kids and mounting child support debt. Then he got busted for buying a stolen horse trailer, fell behind on court fines and blew off his probation officer. Standing in a tiny wood-paneled courtroom in rural … [Read more...]

There’s a Pretty Good Chance Your American Flag Was Made by a Prisoner

People of color are incarcerated in huge numbers. And they’re manufacturing America’s symbol of freedom. very generation or so, the American flag becomes a flashpoint in civic discourse. In recent memory, it’s been held aloft by civil rights marchers and burned by critics of the Vietnam War. It became a show of unity after 9/11 and, some would argue, a symbol of militarism as US intervention ramped up in the years after 2001. Today, it represents a country deeply divided along partisan lines, … [Read more...]

Black Lives Matter, Other Activists Protest to Stop Jail Expansion

Dozens of people gathered outside the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration on Tuesday to protest the expansion of jails in the county, while inside the building the Board of Supervisors finalized next year’s budget. Wearing prison-orange T-shirts that read “I am not the property of L.A. County jail,” activists from a coalition of anti-incarceration groups perched on and around 100 steel-frame jail bunks that had been arranged on the street outside the Hahn Hall of … [Read more...]

Bail Roulette: How the Same Minor Crime Can Cost $250 or $10,000

An antiquated, haphazard system allowing counties to set bail for misdemeanors often caters to conservative values and targets the poorest people Encompassing Yosemite national park, Mariposa County is among California’s most beautiful regions. But if you’re arrested for panhandling or public intoxication, Mariposa can be the state’s ugliest county. People arrested for minor misdemeanors in Mariposa County are on the hook for $10,000 bail, which is supposed to insure someone shows up to … [Read more...]

Can Alternatives to Money Bail Work?

A New York City experiment suggests that bail methods which do not require paying large sums of money are a viable alternative to a system that is often skewed against the poor. A report released Friday by the Vera Institute of Justice found that “partially secured and unsecured” bonds could be as effective in guaranteeing a person’s appearance at trial as traditional cash bail requirements that place an onerous burden on most defendants’ resources─often ensuring that low-income individuals … [Read more...]

Why Jeff Sessions’ Recycled Crime-Fighting Strategy Is Doomed to Fail

Funneling more gun criminals into federal prison won't reduce homicides. Just look at St. Louis. ewly minted Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in St. Louis, the latest stop on his tour to promote his muscular solution to what he called the “dangerous new trend” of the rising national violent crime rate. Addressing a crowd of more than 200 federal and local law enforcement officials at the city’s towering federal courthouse in late March, he vowed to “use every lawful tool we have to get the … [Read more...]

Inside the Movement to Free People Who Are Only in Jail Because They Can’t Afford Bail

Eliminating cash bail has become a focal point in the fight to transform the criminal justice system. Inside the wins and challenges of a growing movement that raises money to free people of color who are in jail simply because they can't afford to post bail.   bony* had been in an Atlanta jail for two weeks when one May evening, just before Mother’s Day, she got an unexpected visit from an attorney with good news: Someone had found her name through an open records request and wanted to pay the … [Read more...]