Don’t Let This Probation Department Overhaul Proposal Sit on the Shelf

A report on the Los Angeles County Probation Department that comes before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday makes many astute observations, but one in particular stands out: So many reports, studies, motions and reviews of the troubled department have been filed and shelved in the last several years that the officers who staff juvenile halls and camps and who supervise adults as an alternative to jail just assume that nothing will change — and proceed accordingly. Is this one more of those … [Read more...]

Computerized Criminal Behavior Predictions Are No More Effective Than Untrained Humans

Without effective scrutiny, algorithm-based software could hurt those who are already the most vulnerable. The effectiveness of the criminal justice system has been debated since its creation. There is great difficulty in developing a uniform system when criminal defendants’ circumstances are variable. Thanks to recent coverage of police shooting, sexual assault cases and self-defense trials over the last few years, the criminal justice system has become interwoven with our daily news of … [Read more...]

America’s Real Digital Divide

A group of former Facebook and Google employees last week began a campaign to change the tech companies they had a hand in creating. The initiative, called Truth About Tech, aims to push these companies to make their products less addictive for children — and it’s a good start. But there’s more to the problem. If you think middle-class children are being harmed by too much screen time, just consider how much greater the damage is to minority and disadvantaged kids, who spend much more time in … [Read more...]

The Cost of Being ‘Savage’ in a Supposedly Civilized World

This country is rich with awful things to say about everybody. There’s a slur for you and a slur for me — more than one. And because we’re terrified of dealing with them head on, we’ve made them just as easy to warp and defang. Ask anybody who has played HQ Trivia. HQ is the 12-question smartphone fad that has turned Americans into daily-quiz junkies. And in any given session, a stumper might come along that wipes out a huge number of players. (On Nov. 14, nearly half the players misidentified … [Read more...]

The Shame Is Not Ours: Black America, Poverty and the War on Drugs

The so-called war on drugs was created to target black, brown, poor and working-class communities, those communities that have borne the brunt of institutionalized, systemic, white supremacist violence. John Ehrlichman, chief domestic adviser to President Richard Nixon and Watergate co-conspirator, admitted as much in an interview with Dan Baum that was recounted in a 2016 Harper’s Magazine interview: The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the … [Read more...]

Bryan Stevenson on What Well-Meaning White People Need to Know About Race

An interview with Harvard University-trained public defense lawyer Bryan Stevenson on racial trauma, segregation, and listening to marginalized voices. In the United States today, African Americans are five times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard University-trained lawyer, works every day toright this wrong. He has argued five cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court; won reversal, release, or relief for 115 wrongly committed death row inmates; and also won … [Read more...]

Marijuana Is Now Legal in California. Continuing to Punish Prior Offenders Is Cruel and Unnecessary

  Marijuana is now legal under California law, but hundreds of thousands of Californians have criminal records for possessing or selling the drug when it was still banned. Those records can make it harder for people to get a job, obtain a loan, go to college, rent an apartment or otherwise become productive members of their community — even if their marijuana arrest happened decades ago. Proposition 64 not only allowed the sale and adult use of marijuana going forward, subject to … [Read more...]

He Stole $5…His Bail Was Set at $350,000

The case of a San Francisco senior citizen accused of stealing $5 and a bottle of cologne from his neighbor reveals the obvious injustice of California's bail system, and may finally lead to reform. Kenneth Humphrey has languished in San Francisco County Jail for more than 250 days on $350,000 bail. His charges include robbery and residential burglary for allegedly stepping into his neighbor's room in their senior housing complex. But in late January, a panel of state appeal court judges … [Read more...]

How Cash Bail Hits Poor People of Color Hardest

A new UCLA report finds that thousands in LA jails are “too poor to pay the price for freedom.”  new report shows how the use of money bail in the city of Los Angeles has spawned a massive industry built on the backs of poor communities of color. The report, released Monday by UCLA’s Million Dollar Hoods Research team, which conducts data mapping projects about the Los Angeles jail system, found that from 2012 to 2016, more than $19 billion in cash bail was levied against people arrested by … [Read more...]

Huge Increase in Arrests of Homeless in L.A. — But Mostly for Minor Offenses

Los Angeles police found Reed Segovia slumped in a folding chair near the Venice boardwalk early one spring morning in 2016 and shook him awake. The officers handed the homeless street artist a ticket for sleeping on the sidewalk. Three months later, LAPD officers were citing Segovia again when they discovered an unpaid ticket for sleeping on the beach. This time, they handcuffed him, loaded him into a squad car and took him to jail. L.A. officials have denounced "criminalizing" … [Read more...]