Protest the Moral Madness of LA County’s Jail Construction Plan

Later today, at a special budget meeting, the LA County supervisors will adopt a budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. That budget includes $92 million in interest payments for the cost of a new $2.2 billion dollar jail. We urge Justice Not Jails supporters to makes themselves heard on the ethical insanity of moving forward with a massive jail construction plan that totally ignores other ongoing efforts to divert people away from the jail system and to release significant numbers … [Read more...]

The Mental Health Crisis Facing Women in Prison

A new study shows a striking disparity between incarcerated men and women. More than two-thirds of incarcerated women in America reported having a history of mental health problems — a far higher percentage than their male counterparts, according to a study released Thursday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Although the prevalence of mental health disorders among people in prisons and jails is a well-known problem, the dramatic gender disparity exposed in the new report has been less … [Read more...]

Report: America’s Prisons Are So Polluted They Are Endangering Inmates

Environmental hazards are having a massive affect on one of society’s most marginalized groups: The incarcerated. According to a new investigation from Earth Island Journal  and Truthout, mass incarceration has led to some of the most egregious examples of environmental injustice. “[M]ass incarceration in the US impacts the health of prisoners, prison-adjacent communities, and local ecosystems from coast to coast,” the authors of the special report said. Prisons are often located in areas … [Read more...]

What’s Hidden Behind the Walls of America’s Prisons

Few Americans fully appreciate just how many of their fellow citizens are ensnared in the criminal justice system. Some may have heard that there are about 2.3 million people behind bars, but that figure tells only part of the story. Yes, in a stunning array of 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails and 76 Indian Country jails, as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers and prisons in … [Read more...]

Still Life: America’s Increasing Use of Life and Long-Term Sentences

Amid historically low crime rates, a record 206,268 people are serving life or virtual life sentences—one of every seven people in prison. The number of people serving life sentences in U.S. prisons is at an all-time high. Nearly 162,000 people are serving a life sentence – one of every nine people in prison. An additional 44,311 individuals are serving “virtual life” sentences of 50 years or more. Incorporating this category of life sentence, the total population serving a life or virtual life … [Read more...]

Public Defender Fees Must Go

Imagine you just moved to Los Angeles. You can’t find a job and are temporarily homeless. And just when you think things can’t get worse, you’re arrested for blocking a sidewalk when you set up a tent to sleep. You appear at your court date and because you can’t afford a lawyer, the judge tells you to speak with a public defender. But that’s not free. The public defender immediately hands you a form that says that you must send a check for $50 to a private collections agency to “register” for … [Read more...]

Era of Mass Expansion: Why State Officials Should Fight Jail Growth

One out of every three people behind bars is being held in a local jail, yet jails get almost none of the attention that prisons do. Jails are ostensibly locally controlled, but the people held there are generally accused of violating state law, and all too often state policymakers (and state reform advocates) ignore jails. In terms of raw numbers state prison reform is the larger prize, but embracing the myth that jails are only a local matter undermines current and future state-level reforms. … [Read more...]

Less on Prisons, More on Prevention? California Starts the Shift

Two and a half years after 60 percent of Californians voted for Proposition 47, the initiative is coming to a head. The measure reduced nonviolent drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and reallocated the money saved into programs for mental health, substance abuse treatment, victim services and truancy prevention. Now the money is finally going somewhere, and it’s a lot of money. $103 million, to be exact. What took so long? “The intent of the measure was to capture … [Read more...]

Making America’s Failing Prisons Work

A lot is known about how to reform prisoners. Far too little is done Shirley Schmitt is no one’s idea of a dangerous criminal. She lived quietly on a farm in Iowa, raising horses and a daughter, until her husband died in 2006. Depressed and suffering from chronic pain, she started using methamphetamine. Unable to afford her habit, she and a group of friends started to make the drug, for their own personal use. She was arrested in 2012, underwent drug treatment, and has been sober ever since. … [Read more...]

What Inmates Learn in Prison? Not Much

A new survey of 2,000 federal prisoners reveals big gaps in teaching reentry skills. Crocheting. How to play bridge or the game show “Jeopardy.” Tips on reviewing movies. Those are the continuing education options one inmate described in a new survey (Using Time To Reduce Crime) of 2,000 federal inmates that offers an inside look at how U.S. prisons fail to teach useful skills to help ease the path back home. “No one ever fails any class,” said another inmate. “Everyone receives a … [Read more...]