There Is a Better Way

One of the most difficult observations about today's national reality is that our nation is faced with a coup.  There is every indication the government has been commandeered by forces foreign to the values and hard fought triumphs to break open a system that had been closed to too many of its citizens. From insults hurled at Muslims, to accusations against immigrants, to false statements about transgendered persons serving in the military, to a roll back of Civil Rights legislation, to … [Read more...]

Trump Wants to Get Tough on Crime: Victims Don’t Agree

Sending more people to prison, deporting illegal immigrants, cracking down on marijuana use — those are some of the things the Trump administration has said will make America safer. But what do crime victims think about all this? It is a group whose views are rarely measured, but a poll commissioned by the Alliance for Safety and Justice sought to find out. A few notes of caution: The group supports criminal justice reform, including incarcerating fewer people, and seeks to promote the … [Read more...]

Making Affirmative Action White Again

Jeff Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee 20 years ago that affirmative action irritated people (he meant white people) because it could cause them to lose opportunities “simply because of their race.” This sense of grievance lies behind the Justice Department’s recent memo seeking lawyers to investigate “race-based discrimination” in college admissions. It also implies that all that stands between hard-working whites and success are undeserving minorities who are doled out benefits, … [Read more...]

Undiscovered: Do Evidence Laws Force Defendants to Take Pleas “Blindfolded”

In September 2013, a fight broke out on the sidewalk outside the Bronx nightclub where Aaron Cedres worked as a bouncer. It was a confusing scrum of about a dozen people, and one man suffered a broken jaw and deep slashes to his head and back. A month later, Cedres — then a 25-year-old father with no criminal record — was charged with gang assault, which carried the prospect of 25 years in prison. Cameras had been posted outside the club, and the prosecutor said the tapes looked bad for … [Read more...]

What Ever Happened to Mass Incarceration Reform?

Though it feels like eons ago, the summer of 2016 promised to be one of bipartisan efforts to tackle the issue of mass incarceration.  Unfortunately, the summer for criminal justice reform dissolved without fanfare into the craziness of the 2016 election.  And, with the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who ushered in a 1980’s throw-back Department of Justice directive on low-level drug offenses, it remains unclear whether there might be a return to a bipartisan approach to … [Read more...]

Innocence Is Irrelevant

This is the age of the plea bargain—and millions of Americans are suffering the consequences. t had been a long night for Shanta Sweatt. After working a 16-hour shift cleaning the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, in Nashville, and then catching the 11:15 bus to her apartment, she just wanted to take a shower and go to sleep. Instead, she wound up having a fight with the man she refers to as her “so-called boyfriend.” He was a high-school classmate who had recently ended up on the street, so … [Read more...]

ICE’s Latest Raids Swept Up More Than 500 Whose Only Crime Was Being in the United States

So much for prioritizing criminals for deportation. mmigration and Custom Enforcement announced on Tuesday that it had arrested 650 people, including 38 minors, in its latest round of raids, which took place July 23 through July 26. That’s roughly as many people as were arrested during similar large-scale sweeps earlier this year, after President Donald Trump first announced his administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. But while only 170 of the people arrested in January and February … [Read more...]

Can a Civilian Persuade L.A. Cops to Stop Shooting?

It’s 11 a..m. on a Tuesday last March, and Matthew Johnson, the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, is seated front and center with the four other part-time civilian commissioners in a large theater-style meeting room at the LAPD’s headquarters downtown. On today’s agenda is approval of a potentially historic new policy intended to decrease the high number of LAPD shootings. But as has been the case for years now, the angry, overwhelmingly black, overflow crowd is hurling … [Read more...]

Why Segregated Neighborhoods Persist

The long historical reach of racial housing policy. The major unfinished business of the civil rights movement, writes Richard Rothstein in his powerful new book, The Color of Law, is housing. Over the past fifty years, we’ve made considerable progress reducing discrimination in restaurants, hotels, transportation, voting, and employment, he writes, but residential segregation remains relatively high. A half century after the Kerner Commission found that “our nation is moving toward two … [Read more...]

The War on Drugs Never Ended

It will be up to thousands of state and local prosecutors to kill it once and for all. n a memo circulated in May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to seek the maximum penalty possible in every case. He didn’t single out any particular crimes for harsh sentencing, indicating that all offenses—including simple drug possession—should be punished in the harshest allowable manner. Sessions later defended the decision in a Washington Post opinion piece, arguing that a … [Read more...]