December 23rd Summary

New  York Times- Go to Trial: Crash the system- Michelle Alexander–  If there was a mass movement of coordinated plea bargain refusals, it would drastically increase defendant bargaining power, so claims author Michelle Alexander. Really interesting thought, has there been organizing across arrested individuals before?

The Marshall Project- The New “New Policing”- These are solid recommendations, ranging from policy solutions (at least in the form of say, creating regulatory body) to broader conversation about philosophically the role of police in the 21st century. Many other government entities have been asked to reevaluate their role for modernization (I hear the phrase “Public Health’s changing role in the 21st century” about once a day) why not police?

AZ Central- Prosecutors ignore data, push dogma– Is this the behavior of Prosecuting Attorney Advisory (or other bodies) Councils or offices more broadly? I’d speculate Arizona is on the conservative end (no kidding) but regardless? Seems like serious questions could be raise by their methodology, pretty basic mishap of mistaking correlation with causation it seems to me.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange- Why the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Re-authorization Act Matters to Cities


Winnable and under-discussed justice reform ideas for 2015 | Prison Policy Initiative

Eight ideas for criminal justice reforms that are ripe for legislative victory.


Folks from the Prison Policy Initiative are great. Here’s their list abstracted:


  • Ending prison gerrymandering
  • Lowering the cost of a call home from prison or jail
  • Repealing or reforming ineffective and harmful sentencing enhancement zones
  • Protecting letters from home in local jails
  • Requiring racial impact statements for criminal justice bills
  • Repealing “Truth in Sentencing”
  • Creating a safety valve for mandatory minimum sentences
  • Reducing pretrial detention


Only thing I’d add is a quick informative note on the racial impact statements. Washington State has optional “Health Impact’ statements that include equity on both disenfranchised or higher risk groups. A similar strategy could be employed, as in the examples from Oregon and others.

December 4th Summary

Gone for the holidays, my apologies. Keep in mind these are up to date as of the 4th, likely missed some things over the last week.

Michigan Live- Welfare drug testing pilot program approved by Michigan House– Really quite regrettable, any arguments mustered in opposition to welfare benefits to people who use drugs surely must concede that current data sources still mean this will be a decision that ultimately costs more money, potentially affecting services for using and sober clients alike.

Prison Policy Initiative- Tracking State Prison Growth in 50 States– There’s no short-edge of these graphs on the internet today, but I am especially fond of these as it shows variation between states, regions, rates of incarceration and totals (presumably steady state totals) as well as county jails, state and federal prisons. So, in many ways this is the most cogent visualization of growth of incarceration in the U.S, least that I have seen.

Prison Culture- Send White People to Jail: Protest in the Era of Black (Mass) Incarceration– Not sure I follow the entire article, worthy of a closer read no doubt.

Talk Poverty- Mass Incarceration and the Health of Our Communities– It’s not uncommon to hear people arguing for a public health approach to substance abuse (and thus, often by implication drug crimes) and sometimes even to other crimes. This article offers some more tangible exploration of this idea, with opportunities under the ACA.

Portland Press Herald Op Ed- Criminal court judge: We don’t ‘mass incarcerate’ select groups– Despite the title, which to me seems to be clearly targeting critics of mass incarceration, specifically the abhorrently disproportional rate of incarceration among black men; the article actually vears off to most strongly criticize calls for eliminating life sentences for violent crimes, which a priori, the author is correct, would not make a huge dent in incarceration rates or totals. Still, not sure I agree with it, but once again an antithetical read is not a bad thing on principle.

Truthout- Justice Department Takes Steps to Reform Grant Program Incentives– Interesting, I’d like to hear more thoughts on this from inside DOJ workers. I’m no stranger to ambitious, laudable goals translated into  failed attempts at revising grant criteria.

November 25th Summary

PEW Charitable Trusts- States Project 3% Increase in Prisoners by 2018

Argus Leader- Justice Reform holds prison population steady in South Dakota

Quartz- It’s not Ferguson: US cops who kill are rarely indited– and the data are poorly managed

The Economist- Criminal Cities– The author at times uses the phrase “crime rate” vaguely, and I think interchangeably with violent crime rate, thought if not, than there is considerable room for error in their speculation of falling “crime” rates as possibly related to city to city immigration. Similarly, I’m not convinced that the poor economic climates of the cities they’ve mentioned, or perhaps the presence of better social programs among the comparisons, is not a better hypothesis for why violent crime has fallen in some cities but not others. Regardless, interesting to think about; more important to remember that there are harsh regional disparities in crime rates, violent or otherwise, and that declining national rates may be masking some of the most disparate locations.

November 21st Summary

Huffington Post- For the First Time Ever, a Prosecutor Will Go To Jail for Wrongfully Convicting an Innocent Man– Has anyone seen official responses to this post? I don’t doubt the authors credentials, but I do wonder what the criticisms would be.

KSFY- ABC- Tribal Parole Pilot Program helps to reduce prison population

The Marshall Project- Overlooking Rape– News on New Orleans reopening hundreds of rape cases, plus background on reportedly low rape rates likely being the result of decreased investigation by police.

PBS- Point of View– Not all that new of information, but sort of interesting to read statements side by side of pro vs. opposed incarceration reform folks.  Though there is something artificial about it, as I think that many of the “pro” individuals identified, might agree with the criticisms of violent offenders given by the “opposed” side, where there’s not a whole lot written on the views of non violent offenders.

The Marshall Project- Is the Criminal Justice System Defensible?– A spirited essay debate between Judge Harvie Wilkinson III and Stephen Bright, lecturer at Yale Law school and president of the Southern Center for Human Rights. Judge Wilkinson believes that criticism of the American justice system is one sided and over-exaggerated, professor Bright argues against this. Really interesting read, obviously, self-evident through this blog I’m on the side of professor Bright, but a healthy dose of an opposing view point seems to me to be a smart move every now and then.

The Detroit News- Michigan prison sentence reform gains momentum

NPR Utah- Utah Lawmakers Consider Bringing Back the firing squad– Kind of absurd.


November 10th Summary

New Jersey Spot Light- Since implementing a new program known as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, New Jersey has had 71 percent fewer juvenile incarcerations.

The Cap Times- Sheriff calls jail conditions inhumane, works to gather support for reforms. Longer expose style piece, highlighting both the lack of resources for mental health treatment/diversion programs, and human and financial consequences of what happens when people with preventable criminal episodes end up in jails. Pretty cool to see law enforcement taking a role in gathering support for treatment.

Prison Legal News- Modern-Day Slavery In America’s Prison Workforce– Longer Op-Ed, if you’re not familiar with the roots of prison work in convict leasing, what was historically referred to as “slavery by another name,” pretty good read for that. On a larger note, calls into question a sort of hidden cost of incarceration, since it’s well established that should prisoners be paid, say, even minimum wage, the cost of maintaining these facilities would grow by an order of magnitude.

Bayview- Last day for public comment to oppose censorship of letters in Pelican Bay

Open Society Foundation- ACLU receives $50 million dollar grant to address incarceration reform.

Urban Institute- The Justice Reinvestment Initiative– Series of experiences and policy recommendations from participating collaboratives across the country. Curious how the collaborative approach works out for some of these recommendations, not really expressed in detail in this report but interesting nonetheless.

Third Hunger Strike Begins at the Tacoma Detention Center

Immigrant detainees are putting their bodies on the line for the third time this year, to call attention to the inhumane treatment in the GEO Group detention center. Geo Group, a corporate giant that profits off the unnecessary suffering of those it imprisons for the convenience of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while their civil immigration status is investigated. Advocates are concerned that hunger strikers will suffer retaliation similar to the retaliation inflicted during previous