Realignment and Re-Entry Support

Like most states, California has never seriously invested in helping ex-offenders re-establish themselves in society after serving their time. Because California is now required by a federal court to reduce state prison populations, this could be an opportunity for low-level offenders to be released into re-entry programs. Instead, under what is called “realignment,” many sheriffs are seeking to keep low-level offenders locked up rather than assist in their successful re-entry. We need to fight for comprehensive re-entry support in order for realignment to be meaningful.

When Twisted Justice Stops Prisoners from Starting Over

After Casey Irwin, 37, was released from prison, she worked a string of low-wage jobs that made it nearly impossible for her to pay the rent or put food on the table for herself and her two kids. Irwin's criminal record prevented her from getting affordable housing. She applied for higher-paying jobs, but her lack of education (she dropped out of high school) and history of incarceration limited her work options. Her husband was still in prison on the fraud charges that had gotten them both … [Read more...]

Ending the Jail-to-Street-to-Jail Cycle

George Washington (not the famous one) first ended up in a New York homeless shelter in the mid-1980s, after he came home from prison for robbery and crack cocaine hit the streets. Since then, he’s passed between girlfriends’ houses, hotels, shelters all over the city, rooming houses, family members’ couches, rehab facilities, and a cell on Rikers Island. Washington, 54, is considered a “frequent flier”: someone who has cycled in and out of jail on mostly low-level charges. These repeat … [Read more...]

Susan Burton: A Modern-Day Harriet Tubman

She was 4 years old when her aunt’s boyfriend began to abuse her sexually. Then at 14, she had a baby girl, the result of a gang rape. Soon she fell under the control of a violent pimp and began cycling through jails, prisons, addiction and crime for more than 20 years. Yet today, Susan Burton is a national treasure. She leads a nonprofit helping people escape poverty and start over after prison, she’s a powerful advocate for providing drug treatment and ending mass incarceration — and her … [Read more...]

Child Support Relief Coming for Incarcerated Parents

Squeezing in an executive action just a month before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Obama administration on Tuesday quietly unveiled a new federal regulation that will allow incarcerated parents to lower their child-support payments while they are in prison. The new rule, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requires states to notify all parents incarcerated for more than six months of their right to ask the child support agency for a temporary … [Read more...]

A Lifer Goes Free

This 'Unsung Hero' was a convicted murderer until Gov. Brown set him free immediately e stared across the San Quentin State Prison yard at an old man, a lifer hopelessly sitting, white hair, slumped shoulders, blending into the gravel dust and beige brick. It was 2003, 10 years into his own 25-to-life bid. That image – of an aging man eroding into his surroundings – changed everything. “I can’t do this,” convicted murderer Tung Nguyen of Santa Ana said to himself. He was 26 at the time. … [Read more...]

A Compassionate View on Crime

The passage of Prop 47, the 2014 bill that reduced six types of low-level, nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors, came with a lot of controversy. Surely, committing crime should have consequences, but some feared that without any real punishment beyond tickets and minimal fines, crime would go up. On the other hand, how harsh should punishment be for petty theft or drug use? Voters erred on the side of hope and second chances. This week, USA Today reported that nearly 200,000 felony charges in … [Read more...]

How California’s Job Standards Worsen Recidivism

California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country: Fifty-eight percent of individuals released from prison end up back in the system within three years, compared with the national average of 40% when excluding California, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Although there are a host of reasons for this unfortunate distinction, one is that the Golden State government makes it unusually difficult for its struggling residents to find jobs. All states have … [Read more...]

White-Collar Supremacy

Richard B. Spencer is one of the main figures of the alt-right movement, a former doctoral student from Duke whose movement supports the creation of “an ethno-state” for white Europeans and “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” The Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis”; a recent Los Angeles Times profile ran with a photo of him in sunglasses and a black shirt, looking more like a hipster academic … [Read more...]

LA County Counted on Prop 47 to Save Money: It Hasn’t Yet

A California law that turned some felony offenses into misdemeanors to save costs has had no monetary benefits so far for Los Angeles County, according to a report presented on Tuesday. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors heard updates from eight department leaders – including Sheriff Jim McDonnell – on whether or not Proposition 47 has had any cost saving effects. Overall, departments either reported increased workloads or else a lack of a solid data system to track … [Read more...]

Prop 47 Brings Arrests To 55+ Year Low

California saw its overall arrests plunge to a record-breaking low last year following the adoption of Proposition 47, a voter-approved initiative to reduce penalties for drug and property crimes, changing them from felonies to misdemeanors. According to CBS, California saw 52,000 fewer arrests overall in 2015 compared to the previous year – the lowest arrest rate in the state since 1960 when they began keeping arrest records. “I think it’s quite clear that Prop. 47 is the major contributor … [Read more...]