December 29th Summary

The Marshall Project- Shifting Away from Solitary– very cool interactive tools for comparing across years.

New Republic- It’s time to pay prisoners the minimum wage– Pretty thoughtful and well cited essay on the benefits of access to jobs or vocational training in prison, as well as fair compensation for work to prisoners.

Mindfully.org- Exonerations in the United States 1989-2003– Really interesting essay, explains the serious complexities between crime rates and exoneration rates. Many instances of almost seemingly inverted findings.

Click2Houston- Obama drug pardon disappoints advocates

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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.

Source: www.prisonpolicy.org

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 16th Summary

Mail Tribune- Our View: Sentencing Reform pays dividends– evidently paying off quite well in Oregon

The Californian- Prop 47 Impact: Drug Courts may lose grip on felons– As a reminder: Drug Courts vary significantly between the counties they exist in. I’m inclined to agree with the author, it’s seems unlikely to me offenders would opt for a rigorous drug court that requires a 100 day minimum in jail, when it’s possible their misdemeanor sentence would be shorter. But I doubt that deterrent would be as significant if the Drug Court simply didn’t require a mandatory jail stay, and instead use jail as a disincentive for non compliance, like, well what my impression is, most drug courts do. I can’t speak to the rest of the drug courts of California, but if they don’t require as harsh a jail stay, they may not be as threatened by the lack of felony sentencing.

AL news- Alabama among nation’s leaders in moving away from youth incarceration, study says– certainly a contrast to Alabama’s reputation for incarceration.

The Marshall Project- Kids are different– In addition to a review of recent changes or otherwise steps towards to changing juvenile incarceration practices, also provides some interesting follow up too on some “restorative justice” practices that began in California schools recently, that have apparently significantly reduced suspensions.

December 10th Summary

In these times- “Chipping Away At The System:” Maya Shcenwar on Alternative to Our Justice System– I’m curious to know what others think of this book. I’m sure it’s important for people to remember the emotional toll of incarceration as well as statistics, but I’m curious to know if the author’s proposals for non incarceration corrections solutions are detailed and articulated well enough to be analyzed for feasibility and effectiveness. I’m wary of making a judgement call one way or the other on that without having read the book yet, but admittedly I’m skeptical.

Justice Policy Institute- Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration– report on full costs of youth incarceration.

PBS- Feds to Reconsider Harsh Prison Terms for Drug Offenders– Considerations being made for restructuring of federal mandatory minimum guidelines. Nice, but does not push state guidelines, and IMO could go much farther.

Desert Dispatch- Drug seizures increase at county jails– Not sure if these statements about attributing the cause of the increase are true, but 109% increase is likely nothing to shake off. (unless of course it’s a real increase from 2 incidents to 4)

Citywatch- California’s Prison Reform Making Things Worse at County Jails– Less than this article is interesting (criticisms like these seem somewhat common IMO) read the response at the end from Jeffrey Callison, Press Secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who suggests while perhaps drug confiscation in county jails is on the rise, that jail populations have not risen disproportionately to where they would have otherwise.

December 9th Summary

Mindfully.org- Business Behind Bars- IMO- this is exactly the sort of reform we need to stay away from, exploiting incarcerated people for abysmal wages seems to me to be both morally wrong and likely only to lead to very poor policy, unlikely to slow incarceration growth. Thankfully, I am skeptical this is actually gaining the traction this post implies, but nevertheless it’s a good reminder to me to stay wary of some proposals as the ever increasing framing of corrections reform as a bipartisan issue expands.

NJ.com- Bill would require NJ prisons to limit solitary confinement– here’s hoping we see some duplicate legislation around the country.

Lansing State Journal- ‘Gutted’ sentencing reform bill passes full Michigan house– always sad to see otherwise quality legislation gutted, but what else is new.

News-Sentinel.com- Jail release could depend on prediction of risk– How does this more data-driven bail risk assessment differ from offender scores or other systems of determining risk? Hypothetically I’m inclined to support it, but I really need more detail about how it’s calculated.

 

December 5th Summary

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange- Op-ed: Too Many Obstacles for Californians Looking to Seal Juvenile Records– References a survey of some interest.

The Marshall Project- Will Millennial Embrace Prison Reform? Two Harvard guys aim to find out.- Hey hear’s hoping something comes from this, it’s a very laudable goal.

The Marshall Project- The Misleading Math of ‘Recidivism’– Good read for a better understanding of the complexities of generating recidivism rates, and the role of parole violations in this. Even for those with a background in calculating or analyzing these rates, provides some background on the use of these rates in popular media, which could be of interest to note.

The Dissenter- UN Anti-Torture Watchdog Dismayed at US Failure to Provide Redress for Chicago Police Torture Survivors– I really don’t know enough about the accusations of torture in question to have a very useful opinion here, but! Interesting read nonetheless.