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.

November 24th Summary

Prison Policy Initiative- New opportunity to weigh in on FCC prison phone regulation– Open to January 5th!

NY Times- A Plan to Cut Costs and Crime– For those familiar with Ban the Box initiatives, no new information here. Otherwise, not a bad introduction to it. Not so sure about the briefly noted criticisms that somehow not indicating criminal history will leader to greater profiling of minorities.

SE Missourian- Drug Court saves lives and money– Flouts some pretty remarkable state figures for the success of the program, with 90% of participants being arrest free, vs a 60-80% rearrest rate per non drug court offenders. The article doesn’t list dates however, so I’m personally somewhat skeptical of the authors data analytic abilities. Regardless, it’s probably still good, and it’s always nice for a feel good Op-ED style piece in SE Missouri.

November 14th Summary

Huffington Post- Corrections reform optimistic despite lame duck session– More optimism that a bi-partisan proposal for corrections reform might come up federally over the next two years. Here’s hoping it’s not unfounded.

Saint Peter’s Blog- Project on Accountable Justice Released report on Florida Prison Reform

Built In Chicago- Jail Education Solutions to assist with educational reforms in Philadelphia prison system– Real curious to see if there’s success with this sort of model. Certainly get points for creativity.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange- States are failing to protect juvenile records, study shows– For details on the scoring system, scroll to the end of the article for a link to the interactive map with more details.

University of Ontario- FSHH student investigates cost-effectiveness of drug-treatment courts– Readers interested in cost effectiveness or return on investment studies of drug courts or therapeutic courts in general might also look up a meta-analysis by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy

Release- New UK Drug Report Leads to Same Old Political Rhetoric– Provides a pretty insightful summary of the recent report, as well as a critique of officials responses to it.

November 6th summary

Law Students For Reproductive Justice- Cultural Competency in Drug Courts– I’ve always felt this was somewhat lacking from Therapeutic Court Programs, as compared to other public health or social service interventions. That’s really an opinion statement, I don’t know what a systematic review would say.

Virgin- US states vote wide reaching drug policy reform– Provides some summary of election night. Historic recreational marijuana initiatives pass in Oregon and Alaska, decriminalization passes in DC, In Florida, medical comes 3 points away from the 60% majority needed for an initiative to pass. Prop 47 in California passes!

Center for Court Innovation- Why courts hold the key to better drug treatment– Op ed style piece expounding the virtues of drug courts, not a lot of new information here but not bad to read if you’re in need of a refresher.

Santa Fe New Mexican- “Mindfulness” sessions help Drug Court offenders fight addiction, stress– Interesting to think what the evidence might say on this, or what sort of study could come out of this court in the future.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange- California Takes on Harsh Discipline and Academic Inequities for Black, Latino Students- Few months back this entire process started, culminating in lawsuit against the school district to try and rectify the lack of college prep, and redundant classes students in higher risk schools in CA are subjected to.

Mandatory rehab is just the newest front in the flawed war on drugs | Maya Schenwar

Maya Schenwar: Sentencing people to diversion programs still involves uprooting and confining them in an effort to make society ‘safer’

Source: www.theguardian.com

Have to admit this article poses an interesting question. One point of clarity I’d offer though, is that in my experience people of color are disproportionately NOT offered sentencing alternatives, including therapeutic courts, despite what the article implied by lumping alternatives with disproportional arrests and incarceration rates, as the article correctly indicated. I could be wrong about this, I have not seen official stats in sometime, but anecdotally from my experience in Washington state this appears to be the case, and is keeping with statistics cited by Mechelle Alexander noting the higher rates of referrals to federal courts for people of color, which to my knowledge, are less likely to offer sentencing alternatives.

 

On a similar critical note- the article makes no mention of people who enter therapeutic courts with differed say, property crimes, which occurs in some states (at least in Washington), suggesting the actions of some one who is committing a criminal act and eligible for treatment, a scenario distinct from the criticisms the article offers.

 

My criticism and personal discomfort aside, the author makes an valid point: for people who are arrested simply for possession, and have neither interest nor health or social imperative need for treatment, is mandated treatment really an ethical option? Furthermore, is the choice between a incarceration and a potentially felony record vs. mandated treatment really an ethical option?

 

I’m inclined to say no, yet I’ve met many addicts who would not have qualified as physically dependent, who did not want to quit, who entered a treatment program, and upon being reunited with their family and achieving some personal goals have exalted their thanks to the program and renounced their former preference to keep using. Again, anecdotal, but it does contrast with the scenario this article is portraying.

 

On a further complicating and rhetorical note- suppose the example of an adult who is otherwise law abiding and functional, but who has lost contact with their children because of their using behavior has alienated them, say by constantly attending events high, again technically functional perhaps, but at the very least annoying in the case of one meth user. If this person is arrested, is it ethically wrong this person be mandated a choice between treatment and jail? IMO, probably. Would treatment help them, and by proxy maybe help their children? IMO, probably. This is not just hypothetical I’ve worked with adults exactly like this, and I really could not tell you what the “right” (or, less wrong?) thing to do is, if we abandon the assumption that simply the act of possession or using of a controlled substance is a criminal offense.

So I don’t really know what is right, is the short answer. It’s a question, that seems to me to vary quite a bit from person to person, and I sure as hell don’t have a good answer. I agree mandating therapeutic courts or treatment seems short sighted, but it’s not as though the choice between a criminal record + jail or prison vs. treatment, is much of a choice for many to begin with. My takeaway, is that transitioning from high rates of incarceration to higher rates of therapeutic courts is a wise move, but it’s just a step in the right direction, not the end all be of all of correctional or drug policy reform.

October 20th Summary

Outreach for October 22nd- “National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation”

“The Throwaways”: New Film Spotlights Impact of Police Killings and Mass Incarceration in Upstate New York

California Prison Watch- Corcoran Strike For Medical Care Leads to hospitalization of Diabetic

Yahoo! News- Matthew Perry and Peter Hitchens Clash Over Drug Courts  Not really shocking information hear, but if you support therapeutic courts and want some celebrity self esteem boosting, nice quick transcript read.

Vocativ- Racial Makeup Great Predictor of Mass Incarceration. Article strikes me as a little hyperbolic at times, but I haven’t read the full study, my speculation is that regression analysis indicates racial make up, particularly larger African American or black communities, is the greatest predictor of a large prison population. Still, interesting intro to the study itself.

October 8th Summary

“Homeless Court” to open in SC. I’ve never heard of therapeutic courts being used specifically for this purpose, though I’ve known many drug courts to work with homeless populations. Does anyone know what the difference in success may be?

YNews- 2016: When Republican presidential candidates will finally take drug policy seriously. Better late than never perhaps. This is far from a systematic review of drug policy approaches, but it does seem to confirm a message I continually see, suggesting a growing trend on both sides of the spectrum towards drug policy reform.

USNews- Rikers Island Prison Reform a decent start, but more must be done. An Op-Ed piece urging us to remember that prison reform is just a piece of incarceration, or corrections reform more broadly.

J of Drug Policy- Medical Marijuana Programs: Implications for cannabis control, observations from Canada. Scholarly discussion piece, pdf is linked. Provides some discussion and scholarly references for the difference between defacto legalization of some medical programs, strict legalization programs (authors argue such is Canada’s historic approach) and legalized recreational programs.