Fifty Years Ago…

Fifty years ago on April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a famously prophetic sermon where he publicly spoke out against the Vietnam War. He connected together the triple evils of militarism, racism, and classism. He called people to respond to the “fierce urgency of now.” This April 4, Justice Not Jails and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity will be honoring the fiftieth anniversary of King’s call to action with a renewed call to work for justice in our society. We invite … [Read more...]

Sentencing Reform in California

On February 27th, I had the opportunity to present to the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee Number 5: Public Safety on the crucial topic of California sentencing policy. I have been involved in this issue for the past 31 years at the CJCJ, and have witnessed the explosive and unprecedented growth of the state’s prison population that began after passage of the Determinate Sentencing Law in 1977. The Determinant Sentencing Law ushered in a period of unprecedented prison expansion as the … [Read more...]

Crime Hotspots Need Investments, Not Just Policing

Anti-crime strategies should try to fix what makes hotspots prone to violence. On the last day of 2016, a solemn procession made its way across Chicago. Hundreds of mourners and their supporters marched together, carrying 762 wooden crosses — one for each victim of the year’s terrible homicide toll. Had the marchers ended the demonstration by planting those crosses at the site of each murder, they would have clustered in a few areas of the sprawling city, creating a haphazard array of … [Read more...]

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017

Wait, does the United States have 1.3 million or more than 2 million people in prison? Are most people in state and federal prisons locked up for drug offenses? Frustrating questions like these abound because our systems of confinement are so fragmented and controlled by various entities. There is a lot of interesting and valuable research out there, but varying definitions make it hard — for both people new to criminal justice and for experienced policy wonks — to get the big picture. This … [Read more...]

The Unbearable Whiteness of American Lent

During one of the airless afternoons I spent in St. Rita Sunday school, our teacher gave us the exercise of drawing the indulgences that we would give up for the upcoming Lenten season. Peering at the kids around me all sketching out their favorite snacks and most-beloved toys, I stared at my bright yellow construction paper at a total loss. When the time came to stand up and explain our choices, my paper was still blank and I became increasingly nervous as all of my white classmates proudly … [Read more...]

Breaking Faith

The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is something much worse. Over the past decade, pollsters charted something remarkable: Americans—long known for their piety—were fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The vast majority still believed in God. But the share that rejected any religious affiliation was growing fast, rising from 6 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure was 35 percent. Some observers predicted that this new … [Read more...]

Sex Offender Sentencing: Did the Supreme Court Base a Ruling on a Myth?

Last week at the Supreme Court, a lawyer made what seemed like an unremarkable point about registered sex offenders. “This court has recognized that they have a high rate of recidivism and are very likely to do this again,” said the lawyer, Robert C. Montgomery, who was defending a North Carolina statute that bars sex offenders from using Facebook, Twitter and other social media services. The Supreme Court has indeed said the risk that sex offenders will commit new crimes is “frightening … [Read more...]

LA County Tiptoes Forward on Bail Reform

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors should give quick approval Wednesday to a proposal by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to consider overhauling the county’s money bail system. Too bad it’s the only thing about this vital effort that could be done with any urgency. It should be obvious that it’s long past time to reconsider a system that keeps L.A. County jails crowded with people who are just cooling their heels awaiting trial because they can’t afford to pay bail, while their riskier but … [Read more...]

Prison Food: A Public Health Problem

This past fall, a new report from Prison Voice Washington detailed the decline in food quality served in the state's correctional facilities. While incarcerated people often voice complaints about (very real) quality-of-life issues related to food service, there is a broader public health concern here: the long-term health consequences of forcing incarcerated people to consume unhealthy food. The Prison Voice Washington report The report from Prison Voice Washington reveals how changes in food … [Read more...]

Trump’s Distortions of Crime, Violence, Drugs and Youth

How does a rigorously fact-based organization respond to President Donald Trump, who shows no interest in factual discussion of serious American issues like crime, violence, and drugs? In his February 28, 2017, address to Congress, Trump declared, “The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.” In fact, 2015’s murder increase (up six percentage points from 2014, coming after a 47 percentage point decline in the murder rate since 1990 to … [Read more...]