Communities Not Jails

Where we spend our money says a lot about our priorities. That’s why California’s legislature must reject the governor’s plan to spend $250 million more taxpayer dollars to build new jails. Since 2007 alone, the state has spent $2.2 billion on jail construction. That’s quite enough — especially when we know that investing more in prevention and treatment is far more affordable and effective at breaking the cycle of incarceration. The quarter of a billion dollars proposed in this year’s budget … [Read more...]

Enhancements Leave Thousands of California Inmates With Extraordinarily Long Sentences

An investigation into California’s criminal sentencing structure by NBC Bay Area discovered tens of thousands of convicted criminals serving time in prison longer than the sentence for their original, underlying crime, all because of California’s system of sentence enhancements. Critics and researchers say dozens of ‘extra’ provisions exist in California’s penal code which can be added on as sentence enhancements at the discretion of prosecutors. Those critics say the system has led to … [Read more...]

Does Smarter Sentencing Equal Lower Prison Numbers?

The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate—and efforts to reduce it have been the focus of studies by leading academics, advocacy groups and policymakers. Most recognize that if significant change is going to come, it will be at the state level, where the majority of prisoners are held—and for the past decade or so, states have been pursuing strategies for reforming sentencing codes, developing alternatives to incarceration, and reshaping prisoner re-entry policies aimed at … [Read more...]

The Collateral Victims of Criminal Justice

Since the financial crisis, complaints that corporate wrongdoers suffer light penalties have become routine. One reason is the Department of Justice’s longstanding policy that prosecutors must consider the “collateral consequences” that pursuing a corporation might have on innocent employees, shareholders, pensioners and even the financial system at large. Amid public outrage, Congress has hauled in prosecutors to ask precisely how often collateral consequences have led them to give the banks a … [Read more...]

Speaking Out For a New Model of Criminal Justice — October 25

  Justice Not Jails Presents: "Turning the Page" Speaking Out and Standing Up for a New Model of Criminal Justice Saturday, October 25, 2014 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Holman United Methodist Church - White Hall 3320 W. Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles With 10 days to go before Election Day, community leaders will gather to speak out on the urgency of making major structural changes that will reduce incarceration rates, restore devastated neighborhoods, and improve public safety. Prop 47 … [Read more...]

Statistical Bigotry Is Just Bigotry

Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly recently justified racial profiling based on “overwhelming… damning” statistics: It was wrong for [Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer George] Zimmerman to confront [black teenager Trayvon] Martin based on his appearance. But the culture that we have in this country does lead to criminal profiling because young black American men are so often involved in crime, the statistics [are] overwhelming. But here is the headline: young black men commit homicides at … [Read more...]

Why the Gigantic, Decades-Long Drop in Black Youth Crime Threatens Major Interests

Imagine that a time-liberated version of vigilante George Zimmerman sees two youths walking through his neighborhood: black, hoodied Trayvon Martin of 2012, and a white teen from 1959 (say Bud Anderson from Father Knows Best). Based purely on statistics of race and era, which one should Zimmerman most fear of harboring criminal intent? Answer: He should fear (actually, not fear) them equally; each has about the same low odds of committing a crime. For nearly all serious and minor offenses, … [Read more...]

Exclusion from Obamacare Only Hurts Undocumented

The United States is widely known as the “melting pot” of the world, with a reputation for welcoming people from different countries, races, and religions. As an American born in the country, it is easy to take for granted the benefits and securities that are naturally attached to our status; but as a person coming into the country, either legally or illegally, the well-known comforts of having rights, equal opportunities, and cultural freedom are often withheld. While the enactment of … [Read more...]

SB 649’s “Wobbler” Option Creates Flexibility for Certain Drug Offenders

SB 649, authored by State Senator Mark Leno, pursues a similar approach to Realignment by recognizing that people convicted of simple drug possession, as well as the overall community, will not benefit from austere penalties. Rather, these incarcerated persons would benefit greatly from sentences that expand access to rehabilitation, which can be better provided through this bill. SB 649 brings the penalties for criminal handling of more addictive drugs, such as cocaine, into line with drugs … [Read more...]

What Crime Victims Really Want

Flipping through this year’s proposed criminal justice legislation, it is hard to miss Crime Victims United (CVU), a seemingly-omnipresent victims’ rights group that registers strong support for tough-on-crime legislation and adamant opposition to bills seeking to reform sentencing laws or reduce incarceration. Their stance is in line with the conventional wisdom that victims want vengeance and favor a punitive approach to criminal justice. But despite CVU’s dominance in the media and in … [Read more...]