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...]

When Reagan’s War on Pot Came to California

Black helicopters, the National Guard and ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ Now that marijuana is finally legal for recreational use in the state of California, we’ve been looking at the drug’s history in the state — how it has been used, regulated and prohibited. In the first post, we looked at the origins of marijuana and cannabis prohibition, going back to the early 20th century. For this post, we’ll pick it back up in the late 1960s, as Richard Nixon begins his crusade against illicit substances and, … [Read more...]

Conservatives Just Don’t Understand That Racism Runs Deep in American Education

Behind the push to roll back school discipline protections lies a dangerous dismissal of bias in classrooms. Betsy DeVos and company are at it again. The DeVos-led Department of Education is currently cooking up ways to get rid of the 2014 Obama-era guidelines for K-12 public school discipline, which was aimed at ameliorating discrepancies based on race, class and disability when it comes to how students are punished in school. In November, conservative think tanks Center of the American … [Read more...]

As Labor Pool Shrinks, Prison Time Is Less of a Hiring Hurdle

rapidly tightening labor market is forcing companies across the country to consider workers they once would have turned away. That is providing opportunities to people who have long faced barriers to employment, such as criminal records, disabilities or prolonged bouts of joblessness. In Dane County, Wis., where the unemployment rate was just 2 percent in November, demand for workers has grown so intense that manufacturers are taking their recruiting a step further: hiring inmates at full … [Read more...]

2018-19 Budget Proposal Would Expand California’s Youth Correctional System at a Time of Falling Populations

Last week, Governor Brown released his budget for fiscal year 2018-19, which proposes a 1 percent increase in spending across adult prisons and the state’s youth correctional system, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Notably, the budget pledges $3.8 million for a new young adult pilot program at DJJ, which would prop up the failing system and extend its harms to a new population of young people. Despite substantial state investment in local alternatives to DJJ, including more than $260 … [Read more...]

A Brief Case for Prison Abolition

We know prisons are racist, classist and abusive. Are they also obsolete? pris•on ab•o•li•tion noun 1. The dismantling of the prison system; the end of coerced confinement as punishment 2. The construction of alternatives to prison and of a world that disincentivizes violence “While there is a lower class I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” —Socialist Eugene V. Debs, in a statement to the court after being … [Read more...]

Justice Shouldn’t Come With a $250 Fine

For those who hope to see the criminal justice system operate more fairly, this is an exciting time in the United States. Cities and counties across the country have recently elected a new wave of reform-minded prosecutors. But the fines and debt that many of them want to use instead of incarceration can be just as unfair and ineffective as the long sentences they say they reject. In November, Nueces County, Tex., elected a progressive district attorney, Mark Gonzalez. His platform included a … [Read more...]

Coalition Merges Art and Activism for Holiday Message about Mass Incarceration

At a busy intersection in Baldwin Hills, artist Jasmine Nyende sat on a jail bed, with dolls tied to its posts. The dolls represented “every member of my family who has slept in a prison bed,” said Nyende, 24, who read poetry about the impact of the massive numbers of people in jails and prisons from her perch near Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards. Nyende was one of dozens of artists taking part in a Christmas Eve demonstration called #JailBedDrop, coordinated by Justice … [Read more...]

JusticeLA: Reinvesting in Our Communities

have, admittedly, never been to jail. I’ve never spent months waiting in a detention center, unable to post bail because my family didn’t have an extra $30,000 lying around. I’ve never been pressured to take a plea bargain because, regardless of my guilt, spending three years in prison sounds better than thirty. I’ve never had to re-enter society branded with the modern day Scarlet Letter—my voting rights decimated, my relationships strained, my employment options limited beyond belief. So I … [Read more...]

When a Gay Inmate Loses the Ability to Blend In

Outed by Accident, More Vigilant by Necessity Streams of inmates flowed from the yard toward the squat, gray, one-story cell blocks of the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield, Pa. It was 3:15, “yard-in” time, and the men were hot and restless. There was no shade on the yard. It’s designed that way: any protection from the sun would provide not only comfort, but also concealment. Soon, an officer flung the gate open, and we jostled our way through, becoming bottle-necked … [Read more...]