From Education to Social Programs, Tis the Season to Punish the Poor

The disdain for dependency that Charles Dickens exposed 180 years ago is driving social policy in the United States today. r. Bumble, the parish beadle who oversees provisions for the poor in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, complains: “We have given away… a matter of twenty quartern loaves and a cheese and a half, this very blessed afternoon, and yet them paupers are not contented… Why here’s one man that, in consideration of his wife and large family, has a quartern loaf and a good pound of … [Read more...]

How Fines and Fees Criminalize Poverty

Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines — like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine — so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. … [Read more...]

Along with Voting Rights, Restore Jury Duty to Ex-Inmates

One of the broken promises of the criminal justice system is that a person who completes felony time in prison or jail will leave with a clean slate and a chance to start over. It doesn’t work that way. Liberty once lost is rarely fully restored. At criminal justice reform rallies, advocates have made a ritual of unrolling a lengthy scroll that lists thousands of collateral consequences of felony convictions — punishments that were never part of the judge’s sentence but are nevertheless quite … [Read more...]

Eric Holder Is Tired of Being Polite

Eric Holder is still getting used to letting loose.  He says firing Robert Mueller “would raise the possibility of impeachment” for President Donald Trump, and that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is both “racially insensitive” and “racially unaware.” But when I spoke with Holder 10 days out from the 2017 election, the most important thing the former attorney general thought he could do was to remind the mostly African-American parishioners at Rising Mount Zion, a Baptist church in Virginia’s … [Read more...]

Giving Felons a Second Chance Isn’t Just the Right Thing to Do

It Also Saves Money arcella White was 15 when her father, a police officer, was shot dead while responding to a break-in. After his death, she moved from Utah to California, where she tangled with the law. None of her offenses were violent, and in total she spent less than a month behind bars. But nearly four decades later, at the age of 69, White has paid an unexpected price for her mistakes. Last year, her applications for senior housing in the San Francisco Bay Area were rejected because of … [Read more...]

When Race Tips the Scales in Plea Bargaining

New research finds that prosecutors give white defendants better deals than black defendants. TWO OFFICERS ESCORTED a young black man into the courtroom, bringing him in handcuffs from a holding cell in the back called “the pen.” They placed him beside his public defender and stepped away. So far, things were routine. The prosecutor had offered the man a plea deal of probation and he indicated that he would accept. In a scene that plays out dozens of times a day in the Bronx criminal court, … [Read more...]

What America Taught the Nazis

In the 1930s, the Germans were fascinated by the global leader in codified racism—the United States. here was no more extravagant site for Third Reich political theater than the spectacular parade grounds, two large stadiums, and congress hall in Nuremberg, a project masterminded by Albert Speer. From 1933 to 1938, he choreographed massive rallies associated with the annual conference of the Nazi Party, assemblies made famous by Leni Riefenstahl’s stunning documentaries of 1933 and 1935, The … [Read more...]

Preventing the Next American Gun Tragedy: One Mother’s Story

The attack in Las Vegas earlier this month was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, with 58 dead and hundreds of people injured. While the families of the victims and Americans around the country grieve the catastrophic loss of life, legislators and lobbyists are already strategizing how to use this shooting as a catalyst for pushing their gun policies. Whether it is a pro-gun stance to endow schools and businesses with weapons of their own, an anti-gun position to reduce gun … [Read more...]

California’s Sexual Assault Law Will Hurt Black Kids

Gov. Jerry Brown of California is poised to sign a worrisome bill that will codify the Obama-era sexual assault guidelines. Those rules told colleges to toughen up on sexual assault allegations or risk losing federal dollars. California’s law explicitly applies to children in public kindergarten, elementary and high schools. So a first grader could face dire consequences if found to have committed an act of “sexual violence,” which is broadly defined to include any “physical sexual acts … [Read more...]

The First White President

The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy. It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds … [Read more...]