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...]

Fixing California’s Bail System

This group is putting women at the center of the battle to fix California's bail system As a public defender in New York City, Gina Clayton realized the cash bail system used in most state courts across the country was placing a heavy burden on women. The grandmothers and mothers who visited her office bailed relatives out so often that they knew several bond agents by name. Often the women navigated complicated contracts and paid high fees alone, she said. Many ended up swimming in debt. … [Read more...]

Urge Your Assembly Member to Support the RISE Act—Take Action TODAY

We all know that the War on Drugs has been a costly failure--and catastrophic for people of color—but "liberal" California's criminal code still continues the war by doubling or tripling the sentence for a nonviolent drug offense if the person has a prior conviction for a similar offense. These harsh "enhancements" have left almost 2000 Californians languishing in overcrowded county jails with sentences of 5-10 years or more. Thousands more are warehoused in state prisons. The California … [Read more...]

Cash Bail’s Lonely Defender

Pretty much everyone who spends any time examining the American system of secured cash bail comes away with the same conclusion: It’s unjust, expensive and ineffective, even counterproductive. People charged with crimes — all of whom are presumed innocent — get locked up for days, weeks or months not because they pose a risk of fleeing or endangering the public but simply because they’re too poor to buy their freedom. The harm that even short-term detention can cause is profound. Jobs are … [Read more...]

Criminal Justice Reform Starts with the Prosecutor

Respect. Self-worth. Hope. Proportionality. These were one-word visions for a reimagined criminal justice system from group of people who have considerable power to make change a reality: prosecutors. This summer 24 prosecutors from around the country and across the political divide came together in New York to discuss the criminal justice system and prosecutors’ role in it. Their aim was not to gain more resources to maximize convictions or felony charges, but rather to find ways to … [Read more...]

Undiscovered: Do Evidence Laws Force Defendants to Take Pleas “Blindfolded”

In September 2013, a fight broke out on the sidewalk outside the Bronx nightclub where Aaron Cedres worked as a bouncer. It was a confusing scrum of about a dozen people, and one man suffered a broken jaw and deep slashes to his head and back. A month later, Cedres — then a 25-year-old father with no criminal record — was charged with gang assault, which carried the prospect of 25 years in prison. Cameras had been posted outside the club, and the prosecutor said the tapes looked bad for … [Read more...]

Prison Dehumanizes Incarcerated: Prison Project Brings Them Back

In the last 35 years, California has built approximately 22 new prisons, and the state has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. The US's prison industrial complex has been called America's human rights crisis. So is it possible for prisoners have hope for their future? How do you retain your humanity in an inhumane system? Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actor's Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and … [Read more...]

Time to Refocus the Punishment Paradigm

Any parent can tell you that timeouts, groundings, and other punishments only go so far in encouraging good behavior. If kids are scolded over and over again, the reprimands can lose their effect: Walls go up, and cooperation goes down. But throw in a few high-fives or thumbs-ups to recognize a nice job clearing the dishes or picking up after a baby sister, and attitudes may brighten — and actions may begin to improve. It’s basic human behavior, the circuitry of motivation. Everybody needs … [Read more...]