Reimagining Prison with Frank Gehry

Prison as college campus. Prison as wellness center. Prison as monastery. “I’ve personally spent only one night in jail,” Frank Gehry confessed. “I didn’t like it very much.” Gehry, 88, who has been described as our greatest living architect (and, by an admiring pro-cannabis website, as a Very Important Pothead), said he got his only taste of incarceration when he was busted for possession many years ago. Last Friday in New Haven, that night behind bars was a kind of credential. An invited … [Read more...]

Computer Programs Are Deciding How Long People Spend in Jail

The United States jails more of its citizens, by percentage and in raw numbers, than any other country on earth, including those we label dictatorships and criticize as human rights violators. Judge, jury and parole board verdicts are influenced by everything from lived experience to momentary mood to how recently participants have had a food break. Studies consistently show that being black counts against defendants,resulting in far longer, harsher penalties than white offenders get for the … [Read more...]

From Education to Social Programs, Tis the Season to Punish the Poor

The disdain for dependency that Charles Dickens exposed 180 years ago is driving social policy in the United States today. r. Bumble, the parish beadle who oversees provisions for the poor in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, complains: “We have given away… a matter of twenty quartern loaves and a cheese and a half, this very blessed afternoon, and yet them paupers are not contented… Why here’s one man that, in consideration of his wife and large family, has a quartern loaf and a good pound of … [Read more...]

The Year in Religion: A Ray of Hope Amid the Usual Fecklessness

dc]T[/dc]aking my cue from the revised pater noster commended by His Holiness, I begin by asking that God not let me fall into the powerful temptation to superimpose my own characteristic gloom on the news at hand. It’s always a challenge for me not to play Diogenes, but I must try. At the very least, I will end this piece on a hopeful note. I can’t avoid beginning with a huge problem, however: one that has to do with the widespread religious misreading of the historical moment we face. It … [Read more...]

Make Your Year-End Gift NOW: We Will Match It 100%

In 2018 Justice Not Jails is hiring a local organizer to expand its main mission of bringing more faith communities to the fight against racism in policing and criminal justice. To give this work an extra boost, the Steering Committee will fully match all year-end contributions made before Dec. 31. This means your tax-deductible gift of $50 actually means $100 for JNJ. Don't wait, make your gift today in any amount. And thanks for your commitment to the shared struggle for justice. … [Read more...]

The Opioid Crisis Is Getting Worse, Particularly for Black Americans

The epidemic of drug overdoses, often perceived as a largely white rural problem, made striking inroads among black Americans last year — particularly in urban counties where fentanyl has become widespread. Although the steep rise in 2016 drug deaths has been noted previously, these are the first numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to break down 2016 mortality along geographic and racial lines. They reveal that the drug death rate is rising most steeply among … [Read more...]

How Fines and Fees Criminalize Poverty

Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines — like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine — so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. … [Read more...]

America’s Big Cities Saw Drops in Crime and Murder in 2017

So much for the “American carnage” that Trump warned about. After two years of unsettling increases, America’s crime and murder rates may have declined in 2017. A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice looked at crime and murder rates in the 30 largest US cities, updating figures from another report released in September with more data for the rest of the year. Over the past two years, Brennan had found increases — sometimes sharp rises — in the violent crime and murder rates. Many … [Read more...]

When Will There Be Zero Tolerance For Racism?

Congressman John Conyers was the first politician to leave his job after the “Me Too” hashtag galvanized women to speak up about sexual misconduct, harassment and more. Too bad that impetus did not float up to the top, when an avowed grabber of women’s genitals was elected to lead this country. Too bad, too, that the many members of Congress who have paid accusers out of a taxpayer-funded slush fund have not been unmasked. We know some of the names. Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold (R) … [Read more...]

Something Really Rotten in LA County: Secret List of Problem Deputies Thwarts Constitutional Justice

Fifty-four years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must make defendants aware of all evidence that might be favorable to their cases, including information that could undermine the credibility of the government witnesses who, for the most part, are police officers. That constitutional principle is massively violated in LA County, thanks to the way prosecutors here are barred from accessing the personnel records of the Sheriff Department's 9,400 sworn officers—mostly sheriff's … [Read more...]