Criminal Justice Reform Starts with the Prosecutor

Respect. Self-worth. Hope. Proportionality. These were one-word visions for a reimagined criminal justice system from group of people who have considerable power to make change a reality: prosecutors. This summer 24 prosecutors from around the country and across the political divide came together in New York to discuss the criminal justice system and prosecutors’ role in it. Their aim was not to gain more resources to maximize convictions or felony charges, but rather to find ways to … [Read more...]

America Has Locked Up So Many Black People It Has Warped Our Sense of Reality

For as long as the government has kept track, the economic statistics have shown a troubling racial gap. Black people are twice as likely as white people to be out of work and looking for a job. This fact was as true in 1954 as it is today. The most recent report puts the white unemployment rate at around 4.5 percent. The black unemployment rate? About 8.8 percent. But the economic picture for black Americans is far worse than those statistics indicate. The unemployment rate only measures … [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...]

Old Jerry Tries to Fix Young Jerry’s Mistake

Hang around long enough and you might see things turn full circle. People included. Like a comet, they come back around. Gov. Jerry Brown is a comet. He dominated the Capitol cosmos two generations ago, floated off and circled back. Now one of the major public policy issues of 40 years ago also has returned, meteor-like. It concerns criminal sentencing. Like too many things involving government, however, the jargon is wonky: "determinate" and "indeterminate." Put simply, it's … [Read more...]

Cut Sentences for Low-Level Drug Crimes

Now that Congress is within sight of passing the most significant federal sentencing reforms in a generation, it’s worth taking a closer look at where the legislation falls short. The main driver of the federal prison population is, by far, the dramatic increase in the time people spend behind bars — specifically, those convicted of drug offenses, who account for nearly half of the nation’s 199,000 federal inmates. From 1988 to 2012, the average time served for drug crimes more than doubled in … [Read more...]

Rare White House Accord With Koch Brothers on Sentencing Frays

For more than a year, a rare coalition of liberal groups and libertarian-minded conservatives has joined the Obama administration in pushing for the most significant liberalization of America’s criminal justice laws since the beginning of the drug war. That effort has had perhaps no ally more important than Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by a pair of brothers who are well-known conservative billionaires. Now, as Congress works to turn those goals into legislation, that joint effort … [Read more...]

ACLU “Alternatives to Incarceration” Forum: November 10th

Toward Saner Approaches That Treat Communities More Humanely While Saving Taxpayers Money What: ACLU SoCal Pasadena-Foothills Chapter Public Forum When: Tuesday, November 10th, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Where: Neighborhood Church, 301 No. Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena RSVP HERE he decades-long war on drugs and war on crime have produced baleful results. In recent years, California’s prison population exploded to over double the 80,000 its prisons are designed to hold, with prisoners crammed … [Read more...]

Why the Police Want Prison Reform

“We need less incarceration, not more, to keep all Americans safe.” Criminal justice reform groups have been saying this for years. This time the source is unexpected: More than 130 of the nation’s top law-enforcement officials, including big-city police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and attorneys general, have joined the call to end to the harsh, counterproductive practices and policies that have driven America’s devastating prison boom, destroyed communities and written off an entire … [Read more...]

How Will California’s Sentencing Reform Affect Communities?

Wednesday, 18 February, 7:00 PM The California Endowment 1000 N Alameda Street Los Angeles, CA Californians recently approved Proposition 47, a ballot measure instituting shorter prison terms for nonviolent crimes that could make at least 10,000 people eligible for release from prison. Tens of thousands more may be able to have felonies expunged from their records. And, many people who would have been sent to prison for years now may receive less jail time or be sent to rehabilitation … [Read more...]

How Prosecutors Can Lead on Public Safety

From the Capitol to the courtrooms, prosecutors can chart a new path on public safety in California by championing at both local and state levels one of the biggest ways we can transform our justice system in this generation--sentencing reform. Right now, the U.S. puts more people in prison and jails than does any other nation in the world. The costs associated with incarceration are staggering. California alone spends more than $9 billion per year on prisons. Despite all of these … [Read more...]