Number of Fatal Shootings by Police Nearly Identical to Last Year

Police nationwide shot and killed 492 people in the first six months of this year, a number nearly identical to the count for the same period in each of the prior two years. Fatal shootings by police in 2017 have so closely tracked last year’s numbers that on June 16, the tally was the same. Although the number of unarmed people killed by police dropped slightly, the overall pace for 2017 through Friday was on track to approach 1,000 killed for a third year in a row. The Washington Post … [Read more...]

Hangman’s Noose, Symbol of Racial Animus, Keeps Cropping Up

It was the beginning of the night shift last Wednesday at the United States Mint in Philadelphia, a secure facility that manufactures money, when a white male coin maker strode across the factory floor to the workstation of an African-American colleague. He was carrying a piece of rope. The rope had an official purpose: to seal coin bags once they were full. But the worker, who operates the machinery used to make coins, instead looped and twisted it into a hangman’s noose, according to Rhonda … [Read more...]

Color of Justice

An individual’s race and ethnic background determine how he is treated at the “front end” of the criminal justice system, according to a study published this week. The study, which, focused on poor African-American, Latino and white defendants (all male) in San Francisco, found what it called “systematic differences” in outcomes during the preliminary steps of an individual’s involvement in the justice system, from arrest and booking to the pretrial phase. “Defendants of color are more … [Read more...]

With Prop. 47 Funds, Communities Can Move from Punishment to Prevention

Earlier this month, California reached an important milestone in its fight against mass incarceration: $103 million was awarded to local public agencies to expand mental health, addiction treatment and support services for those returning home from prison. These programs will soon be available thanks to Proposition 47, which voters approved in 2014 to bring common sense back to the justice system. California stopped sending people to state prison for low-level offenses like drug possession, … [Read more...]

Why We Shouldn’t Drug Test Poor People

The Senate Republicans’ stalled effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not the only profound threat to our health care system. If Gov. Scott Walker gets his wish, Wisconsin will be the first state that requires adults without children to undergo drug testing if they want to receive Medicaid. Other states could follow his plan. This would tie lifesaving health care benefits to government procedures that force people to submit to degrading invasions of privacy. Of all the ways to help … [Read more...]

Prison Mental Health Crisis Continues

A new Bureau of Justice Statistics report offers another grim view of mental health problems in America’s prisons and jails. Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates 2011-12 is the first government update on the mental health of incarcerated populations since 2006. BJS has made some changes to its data collection, making comparisons to earlier reports difficult, but the takeaway is the same, ten years later: U.S. prisons and jails are filled with people who … [Read more...]

How Drug Prohibition Fuels American Carnage

During President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address, he declared that “in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The populist right would do well to apply that formulation to the street violence associated with the drug trade. The War on Drugs is a decades-old federal effort that has failed as consistently and completely as any government initiative in American history. A generation has passed sinceNational Review declared it … [Read more...]

A Presumption of Guilt

Late one night several years ago, I got out of my car on a dark midtown Atlanta street when a man standing fifteen feet away pointed a gun at me and threatened to “blow my head off.” I’d been parked outside my new apartment in a racially mixed but mostly white neighborhood that I didn’t consider a high-crime area. As the man repeated the threat, I suppressed my first instinct to run and fearfully raised my hands in helpless submission. I begged the man not to shoot me, repeating over and over … [Read more...]

Protest the Moral Madness of LA County’s Jail Construction Plan

Later today, at a special budget meeting, the LA County supervisors will adopt a budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. That budget includes $92 million in interest payments for the cost of a new $2.2 billion dollar jail. We urge Justice Not Jails supporters to makes themselves heard on the ethical insanity of moving forward with a massive jail construction plan that totally ignores other ongoing efforts to divert people away from the jail system and to release significant numbers … [Read more...]

Philandro Castile and the Terror of an Ordinary Day

Philando Castile was shot to death last July on his way home from buying groceries with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter. Last week, the Minnesota police officer who killed him was acquitted by a jury on all counts. I am haunted by how ordinary Mr. Castile’s final moments were. He was just running errands with his family. It’s this denial of the right to simply be — the perpetual state of otherness — that dangerously shadows black people. This is most obvious in our criminal … [Read more...]