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...]

Feeling ‘Dirty’ About Sentencing

Last month, retired federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin shared her experiences imposing mandatory minimum sentences in a Washington Post “Perspective”piece. “Mandatory minimums were almost always excessive,” she wrote, “and they made me feel unethical, even dirty.” According to Judge Scheindlin, “The fact that the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners is largely due to mandatory minimum sentences.” Scheindlin … [Read more...]

Immigration Agents Discover New Freedom to Deport Under Trump

In Virginia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents waited outside a church shelter where undocumented immigrants had gone to stay warm. In Texas and in Colorado, agents went into courthouses, looking for foreigners who had arrived for hearings on other matters. At Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers arriving after a five-hour flight from San Francisco were asked to show their documents before they were allowed to get off the plane. The Trump administration’s … [Read more...]

When Police Kill • Policing Without Permission

Two Books Argue the Case for Police Reform From Within It is, to hear the new president’s posse tell it, an exceptionally dangerous and thankless time to be a police officer in the United States. In the streets, we are told, there is a “war on cops,” fired up by the activists of Black Lives Matter. In the corridors of Washington, liberals want to deny law enforcement the powers they need to keep us safe. The media runs endless video loops of a few police shootings of civilians, and the Justice … [Read more...]

The Liberator: Susan Burton on the War on Drugs, Black Motherhood and Freedom

In 1981, Susan Burton’s 5-year-old son, her baby, ran into the street outside their home in South Los Angeles and was killed when a Los Angeles police officer struck him with his car. And he kept going. “The policeman never even stayed around,” Burton, 64, told The Root. “It was almost like it was a hit-and-run. And all I knew is when I was sitting in the hospital, a whole army of police officers descended into the hospital. “They never ever ever even said, ‘Ms. Burton, I’m sorry,’” … [Read more...]

Can Policing Really Change?

Ten Lessons From the DOJ’s ‘Pattern or Practice’ Bias Probes The first consent decree ordered under the  Justice Department “pattern or practice” program to investigate local police departments for violations of constitutional rights was signed 20 years ago.  There’ve been 30 settlements with departments since that first Pittsburgh agreement in 1997. It’s therefore an appropriate time to assess the program’s  impact. What has it achieved? Has it effectively reduced police … [Read more...]