Mass Incarceration: Prisoners of Time

Despite the enactment of justice reforms in many states, the nation’s prison and jail population has dropped only slightly in recent years. Well over two million people remain behind bars, and there has been little dent in the “mass incarceration” that that has been criticized by many on both the left and the right. A new report from the Urban Institute tells much of the reason why: Prisoners sentenced to long terms under laws passed in previous decades still are locked up, and there is … [Read more...]

Color of Justice

An individual’s race and ethnic background determine how he is treated at the “front end” of the criminal justice system, according to a study published this week. The study, which, focused on poor African-American, Latino and white defendants (all male) in San Francisco, found what it called “systematic differences” in outcomes during the preliminary steps of an individual’s involvement in the justice system, from arrest and booking to the pretrial phase. “Defendants of color are more … [Read more...]

Prison Mental Health Crisis Continues

A new Bureau of Justice Statistics report offers another grim view of mental health problems in America’s prisons and jails. Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates 2011-12 is the first government update on the mental health of incarcerated populations since 2006. BJS has made some changes to its data collection, making comparisons to earlier reports difficult, but the takeaway is the same, ten years later: U.S. prisons and jails are filled with people who … [Read more...]

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...]