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.

Why Blacks Lives Also Matter Outside the Criminal Justice System

I’ve been working at a small non-profit in the middle of South Los Angeles since 2008, exclusively representing people with criminal records, mostly black and brown folks. In 2010, I started litigating cases against employers, background check companies, and government agencies for violating what few rights people with criminal records have. This is the vantage point from which I’ve been observing the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, I began to see patterns in my … [Read more...]

In Search of the Felon-Friendly Workplace

Rick Plowman’s business, installing suspended ceilings in offices, schools and hotels, could use new blood. But hiring is tough, he tells the man sitting in his office. The 20-somethings he sees haven’t had the work ethic, haven’t had the hustle. “I have a hard time hiring people with that drive,” he says. “I go through a lot of employees that don’t have that drive.” The man listening, Scott Anders, is a federal probation officer — and he spots the opening he came for: He pitches Mr. … [Read more...]

How Much Does Prop 47 Really Cost?

California has long been seen as a harbinger on crime and punishment. During the tough-on-crime 1980s and ‘90s, California led the charge, passing “Three Strikes” and other harsh sentencing laws that became a model for other states to follow. In California, these laws led to prison crowding so extreme that the federal government put the whole system under receivership. The tide is beginning to turn on criminal justice. California is again setting the national tone, first by rolling back … [Read more...]

A Home After Prison

For nearly 10 years, Marcus lived in a tiny cell in Sing Sing prison. His wife and children were eager for him to return to their home in public housing in Harlem. After he completed his sentence for attempted armed robbery and possession of stolen property, his parole board said he was ready to rejoin society. But the city’s public housing authority disagreed: Because Marcus — a pseudonym — had a criminal record, he was ineligible to live with his family. Nationwide, more than 600,000 people … [Read more...]

Why Aren’t Rehabilitation Programs Seeing Promised Windfall From Prop. 47?

In 2014 when California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 47 -- the ballot initiative calling for the release of non-violent drug offenders from state prisons -- they were told more than $100 million would be available for rehabilitation services to prevent recidivism. Officials in Sacramento estimated state savings from the thousands of newly released inmates would provide the largess for programs aimed at behavioral health, substance abuse, education and crime victims. But now as … [Read more...]

Crime Rates Not Affected by Realignment Releases

California drastically reduced its prison population, and crime didn't skyrocket the way critics thought it might ince 2011, California has taken radical steps to address its prison-overcrowding crisis by enacting a series of laws meant to reduce the state's prison population. California's plan, the centerpiece of which was the Public Safety Realignment Act in 2011, has been maligned by critics who believed the realignment would cause a spike in crime — or at least not deliver the promised … [Read more...]

Harnessing County Level Prop 47 Savings

Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act, passed by California voters in November 2014, effectively reduced the status of several low-level property and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. While Prop 47 mandates that state budget savings, resulting from a drop in prison populations, be transferred to a fund that supports mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, school truancy, drop-out prevention, and victim services; there is no mandate that Prop 47 county … [Read more...]

Downsizing California’s Prisons Not Dangerous, Studies Show

After California’s prison population reached the crisis stage of overcrowding — with some prisons at 300 percent capacity — the state in 2011 began to parole thousands of inmates to their original counties. Within 15 months, more than 27,500 inmates had been ‘‘realigned’’ from state prisons to county jails or to parole in what was called ‘‘an act of mass forgiveness unprecedented in US history.’’ This led to the fear that suddenly returning thousands of convicts to the streets would cause a … [Read more...]

Jerry Brown Lowballing Prop 47 Savings?

California’s crime rate bottomed out last year and began to rise again, some law enforcement leaders and elected officials complained that they had been misled. All those programs they had been promised that were supposed to help addicts and former inmates reenter society safely, without committing new crimes, had failed to materialize. Consider, for example, this assertion by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in his State of the City speech in April: “The safety net that was supposed to come … [Read more...]

U.S. Urges Colleges to Rethink Questions About Criminal Records

The Obama administration is urging universities and colleges to re-evaluate how questions about an applicant’s criminal history are used in the admissions process, part of an effort to remove barriers to education, employment and housing for those with past convictions, in many cases for minor crimes. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. released a “Dear Colleague” letter to universities and colleges on Monday along with a guide, “Beyond the Box: Increasing Access to Higher Education for … [Read more...]