He Stole $5…His Bail Was Set at $350,000

The case of a San Francisco senior citizen accused of stealing $5 and a bottle of cologne from his neighbor reveals the obvious injustice of California's bail system, and may finally lead to reform. Kenneth Humphrey has languished in San Francisco County Jail for more than 250 days on $350,000 bail. His charges include robbery and residential burglary for allegedly stepping into his neighbor's room in their senior housing complex. But in late January, a panel of state appeal court judges … [Read more...]

How Cash Bail Hits Poor People of Color Hardest

A new UCLA report finds that thousands in LA jails are “too poor to pay the price for freedom.”  new report shows how the use of money bail in the city of Los Angeles has spawned a massive industry built on the backs of poor communities of color. The report, released Monday by UCLA’s Million Dollar Hoods Research team, which conducts data mapping projects about the Los Angeles jail system, found that from 2012 to 2016, more than $19 billion in cash bail was levied against people arrested by … [Read more...]

Cash Bail System Hurts Poor and Communities of Color in L.A.

In advance of a legislative battle over reforming California’s cash bail system, a new report shines light on which Los Angeles communities pay the most bail and by how much. The Price for Freedom, published by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, analyzed arrest data from 2012 through 2016. The authors concluded that the money bail system takes a “multi-billion dollar toll that demands tens of millions of dollars annually in cash and … [Read more...]

Trump’s First Year Has Been the Private Prison Industry’s Best

The Trump administration has been a godsend for the private prison industry xactly 17 months ago, in August of 2016 -- back when most election polls had Hillary Clinton clinching the 2016 presidential election -- the Obama administration announced that it would end the Justice Department’s (DOJ) reliance on private prisons. The announcement came seven days after the DOJ’s inspector general (IG) called on the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to more rigorously oversee its contracts with private … [Read more...]

The Gender Divide: Tracking Women’s State Prison Growth

The story of women’s prison growth has been obscured by overly broad discussions of the “total” prison population for too long. This report sheds more light on women in the era of mass incarceration by tracking prison population trends since 1978 for all 50 states. The analysis identifies places where recent reforms appear to have had a disparate effect on women, and offers states recommendations to reverse mass incarceration for women alongside men. Across the country, we find a disturbing … [Read more...]

For Survivors of Prison Rape, Saying ‘Me Too’ Isn’t an Option

Rodney Smith said the two men who cornered him on his first day in a Louisiana jail a decade ago were big. At age 23, he had been arrested for check fraud earlier that day. He recalled them towering over him. He tried to stand up, but one of them pushed him down. He pleaded with his eyes to the other men in the cell, but they either turned their backs or continued watching silently. When the first man exposed his genitals to Smith and demanded Smith perform oral sex on him, Smith said he did it … [Read more...]

Falling Black Imprisonment Rates: Four Theories

One of the most damning features of the U.S. criminal justice system is its vast racial inequity. Black people in this country are imprisoned at more than five times the rate of whites; one in 10 black children has a parent behind bars, compared with about one in 60 white kids, according to the Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality. The crisis has persisted for so long that it has nearly become an accepted norm. So it may come as a surprise to learn that for the last 15 years, racial … [Read more...]

A Brief Case for Prison Abolition

We know prisons are racist, classist and abusive. Are they also obsolete? pris•on ab•o•li•tion noun 1. The dismantling of the prison system; the end of coerced confinement as punishment 2. The construction of alternatives to prison and of a world that disincentivizes violence “While there is a lower class I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” —Socialist Eugene V. Debs, in a statement to the court after being … [Read more...]

Coalition Merges Art and Activism for Holiday Message about Mass Incarceration

At a busy intersection in Baldwin Hills, artist Jasmine Nyende sat on a jail bed, with dolls tied to its posts. The dolls represented “every member of my family who has slept in a prison bed,” said Nyende, 24, who read poetry about the impact of the massive numbers of people in jails and prisons from her perch near Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards. Nyende was one of dozens of artists taking part in a Christmas Eve demonstration called #JailBedDrop, coordinated by Justice … [Read more...]

When a Gay Inmate Loses the Ability to Blend In

Outed by Accident, More Vigilant by Necessity Streams of inmates flowed from the yard toward the squat, gray, one-story cell blocks of the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield, Pa. It was 3:15, “yard-in” time, and the men were hot and restless. There was no shade on the yard. It’s designed that way: any protection from the sun would provide not only comfort, but also concealment. Soon, an officer flung the gate open, and we jostled our way through, becoming bottle-necked … [Read more...]