A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.
Overcoming the Legal, Financial and Emotional Obstacles of Family Court
Whether you are currently incarcerated or have a history of incarceration, the Family Court system can be difficult to navigate. The most important advice I can give you is to be proactive and to be a strong advocate for yourself and your children. You will face many roadblocks along the way— do not give up.
The Hope-Filled Program That’s Keeping One-Time Criminals from Becoming Serial Justice Involved People
Arroyo says ATI helps these men realize their own potential and seize it. “By the end of the program, they realize things weren’t the way they were supposed to be. Now they have the opportunity to change that,” she explains. “We can’t undo what was done, but I hope for each individual to say, ‘No more. Not for me.’”
Fortune Society participants may not be able to change their past, but they can certainly modify the course for their future.
The Technicalities of Recidivism
“The claim is to protect public safety,” he said. But you don’t really protect public safety if you violate a person for committing a violation that doesn’t harm the public.”
The laws require parolees to have strict curfews, which Day says can prohibit them from doing everyday things such as visiting a significant other or watching a late-night movie with a friend.
Locked in their own cell: Rikers Island suffers for solitary ban
Having blown a self-imposed Jan. 2016 deadline, Ponte again postponed a promised end to the use of solitary confinement on Rikers Island for young justice involved people, ages 19 to 21, who break jail rules, following its elimination for younger teens.
As a chastened Ponte explained to the Board of Correction: too many of those young incarcerated people last month exploded in violence, including gang-related slashings and assaults on guards.
Some jailed teens at Rikers Island have earned nearly $1,000 for good behavior under incentive program
Some teen detainees enrolled in an incentive program have earned close to $1,000 each for behaving behind bars over the past year, records obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request show.
All told, the city has given 652 incarcerated individuals a total of $121,479 since last summer, the data reveals.
New York City Wants to Move 16- and 17-Year-Olds From Rikers Jail to Bronx Center
The plan calls for the city to reconfigure the Horizon Juvenile Center, which is currently used to hold 14- and 15-year olds, to house the 16- and 17-year olds who are typically sent to Rikers.
A 2015 settlement with the Department of Justice on reform at Rikers called on the city to seek an alternative location to house justice involved people under 18, although it stopped short of requiring it.
Get Juveniles Out of Rikers Island
New York City has developed a plan to move adolescents out of the notorious Rikers Island jail complex to a jail in the Bronx dedicated exclusively to 16- and 17-year-olds. This is an excellent and long-overdue idea that would do much to humanize the way the correctional system treats juveniles.
NYPD to develop training curriculum based on noted academic Dr. Phillip Goff’s analysis of ‘implicit bias’
A new course based on Goff’s analysis of implicit bias — and how to overcome it — is close to being finalized. It will be presented for review to Peter Zimroth, the federal monitor appointed after a judge in 2013 ruled that the NYPD’s stop, question and frisk practice violated the rights of minorities.
Policing Bias in the Ranks
The objective is to help people see where and when they succumb to stereotypes and to teach them how they can keep from acting on them. “The point is to decouple the bias from the behavior,” Phillip Atiba Goff, a Stanford-trained social psychologist and the president of the Center for Policing Equity, told me. Dr. Goff developed the training programs for police departments in New York and several other cities, but he stressed that the training will be useful only if its outcomes are analyzed to see if it actually works.
Arrests Plummet in NYC Schools, but Most Still Involve Students of Color
Without a more detailed understanding of police roles in schools, “that is when you end up with kids in handcuffs for things like writing on desks or even schoolyard fights. With no instructions [everything] becomes a police matter and often it happens to students of color,” Miller said. A new MOU will “restrict school safety officer [involvement] to instances where someone’s safety is at risk and not where a kid is misbehaving,” she said.
A new initiative helps incarcerated people see themselves as students
Sixty-seven different colleges and universities will provide accredited college courses in prisons as part of the Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program. Students will be able pursue — and complete — degrees from behind bars at the schools, which vary from community colleges in Oklahoma to large public research universities in New Jersey.
Two Parties, Two Platforms on Criminal Justice
The Republican document reflects recent tensions in conservative circles. It includes the language of conservatives who call for reducing incarceration — influential Republican patrons like the Koch brothers, politicians like Rick Perry, Rand Paul and Newt Gingrich — but it also includes plenty of traditional invocations of law and order. An ambitious bipartisan sentencing reform effort in Congress, which Sen. Ted Cruz supported and then abandoned, has been whittled down and allowed to languish.
Mass Incarceration Is Making Infectious Diseases Worse
The penal system remains a source of diseases that spread among incarcerated people at rates far exceeding those in the communities from which they came. Of more than 10 million incarcerated people in the U.S. alone, 4 percent have HIV, 15 percent have hepatitis C, and 3 percent have active tuberculosis. These diseases are part of our criminal justice system, then, metered out and sanctioned implicitly by the state.
Five Voices on Reforming the Front End of Justice
The Prisoner Reentry Institute of John Jay College, with support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, recently released two reports on national roundtables convened to explore pretrial practice, the “front door” to the criminal justice system. The college asked five of the participants — a police chief, a district attorney, a public defender, a probation officer and the head of the national umbrella group of county executives — to reflect on what they have learned about how to divert suspects from that front door without compromising public safety.
The Wrong Way to Count Incarcerated Individuals
Voting rights advocates have been pressing the Census Bureau for more than a decade to stop counting incarcerated people as “residents” of prisons — where they typically remain for only a short time — instead of the communities they call home. The bureau, in a rejection of common sense and fairness, has proposed rules for the 2020 census that continue this discredited practice.
States consider restorative justice as alternative to mass incarceration
Boulder is one of many places around the country turning to restorative justice as an alternative to prosecution and possible imprisonment. Instead of fighting the charges in court, justice involved people selected for restorative justice agree to accept responsibility for their actions, meet face-to-face with victims and come up with a plan to repair the harm they’ve caused.
The Strange Death of José de Jesús
The strange way in which José died, after spending just three days in detention, drew the attention of immigrant rights advocates. Of the at least seven suicides of ICE detainees since 2005, five happened at Eloy, prompting questions from advocates about the detention center’s readiness to provide mental health services to the immigrants detained there. And according to a recently released report from ICE, the detention center failed to meet several agency standards in the events leading up to José’s death.
The Rape Victims Silenced By Their Prison Cells
To start, two of the victims are still incarcerated and serving life sentences. (HuffPost is not naming them without their explicit permission.) They are essentially powerless to speak out about the pain inflicted on them. There is no viral victim impact statement to educate the public about the horror of being assaulted by a trusted authority figure, forced to live alongside them and unable to leave the scene of the crime.
Court: Imposing Sentences Via Videoconferencing Is Inhumane
Convicted criminal justice involved people may not be sentenced through videoconferencing but must be given the opportunity to look a judge in the eye, a state appeals court has ruled.
Citing Marshall McLuhan’s famous observation that “the medium is the message,” a Michigan appeals court said a trial judge failed to acknowledge the humanity of an incarcerated person with drug involvement who watched remotely from a jail as a judge on a screen handed down his sentence from a courtroom.
Disabled Behind Bars
While widely regarded as a positive development, deinstitutionalization was not accompanied by the public investment necessary to ensure that community-based alternatives were made available. As a result, while people with disabilities—and particularly those with mental health conditions—were no longer living in large numbers in institutions, many began to be swept up into the criminal justice system, often due to minor infractions such as sleeping on the sidewalk. Indeed, federal and state jails and prisons are now home to three times as many people with mental health conditions as state mental hospitals.
The 14-Year-Old Who Grew Up in Prison
Most people with Olds’s intelligence are in college by that age, or else are out in the world working, learning who they are. He had none of those luxuries. The vast desert of a life entirely contained in institutions stretched before him. He needed to find an oasis, or he wasn’t going to make it.
The Precarious New Republican Orthodoxy on Crime
His solution isn’t crime control plus deincarceration. It’s firearms, so that “law-abiding” citizens can send “bullets flying in the other direction” when they come under criminal or terrorist attack. And when put to the voting test, this approach drew rather more support from rank-and-file Republicans than Right on Crime’s.
The Private Prison Primer: At what cost? Part 1
An eerie thing about private prisons is that they reduce human life to a day-by-day dollar-and-cents amount, the language of the Private Sector, where cost-cutting and efficiency are apparently taken for granted. They morph the complex effect an understaffed and unsatisfied workforce can have on a prison environment into a fine or a contractor swap. The criminal, the capitalist, and the conscience meet in the private prison, and the numbers are supposed to speak for them all.
The case for college in prison
The Second Chance Pell pilot couldn’t come at a better time, as the country not only moves away from mass incarceration, but also faces a rapidly changing economic landscape. Some may argue that people who are incarcerated should only receive vocational or GED-level educational opportunities, but the reality is that they—and the people who will hire them—need other skills.
The Costs of Incarceration: How Prison Fees Maintain the Social and Economic Order of America
Dozens of scholars, researchers, and think-tanks come together to calculate the number of dollars each incarcerated person or crime costs “us” — the Vera Institute of Justice found that across the country, the average taxpayer cost was $31,286 per incarcerated individual, per year in a study they released in 2012. The problem with these types of conversations is that they frame the incarcerated as a burden on society, they distance “us” from “them,” and they invisibilize the human beings whose lives are forever impacted by the criminal justice system.
Social networks in prisons impact incarcerated people’s health and re-entry
Aside from the occasional brush with “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix, many are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the American prison system and the day-to-day lives of the justice involved people within it. Penn State professor of sociology and criminology Derek Kreager is researching incarcerated people’s networks to demystify the connections that incarcerated people make in prison in order to help them lead healthier, more positive lives within and outside of the system.
Unreliable Field Drug Tests Result In Innocent People Pleading Guilty
But individual stakeholders in the system must first acknowledge personal responsibility before we can make this right: the overburdened defense lawyers who take pleas without insisting on confirmatory laboratory tests, the prosecutors and judges who promote the pleas to get high rates of “dispositions” as quickly as possible, the back-logged crime laboratories that are relieved not to do confirmatory tests after guilty pleas, and police officials who ignore the high false positive rates and assume anyone who pleads guilty after a field test must have at least been attempting to possess drugs and couldn’t be an innocent victim of an unreliable test.
Letting Prosecutors Write the Law
Ghostwriting occurs when prosecutors or state attorneys draft substantive opinions or orders that state judges then quickly sign, often without altering a single word or fixing typos, thus elevating to case law one side’s naturally biased view of the facts and the law of a case. The practice exists even though the Supreme Court has frowned on it and state bar officials have disciplined judges for it. It exists even though it undermines one of the more fundamental premises in our justice system; that judges will undertake an independent evaluation of contested issues in a case and not just take one side’s word for things.
Punished for Being Poor
In Virginia, more than 900 people have lost their driver’s licenses because they couldn’t pay the court fees associated with having them restored. That means that indigent people who may have been pulled over for the most minor of infractions can lose their license unless they pay stiff penalties. Research has shown that most drivers with suspended or revoked licenses—including those who have lost licenses because of failure to pay a fine—keep driving anyhow, usually because there is no alternative way to get to work, take children to school, or make medical appointments.
Guards Offer Snack Bounty To Beat Up 13-Year-Old Boy In Detention
A 13-year-old identified as A.R. was hospitalized for three weeks after staff at the Broward Juvenile Detention Center offered a “snack bounty” in exchange for beating him up. After A.R. was struck on the head by another teenager, staff left him in a solitary room that was scrubbed with bleach. Inhaling the toxic fumes, A.R. suffered a near-fatal asthma attack that landed him in the hospital. But his mother, Shantell McNair, wasn’t informed about the incident until her son was released 21 days later.
Air Conditioning Is a Human Right
In 2011, the State of Texas convicted Larry McCollum of forgery, for passing a bad check. He was supposed to serve a short prison sentence of two years, then go home to his family. Instead, the conditions inside Texas prisons gave him a death sentence. He died of heat stroke—indoors.
A Defender Office for Supreme Court Advocacy?
An “independent federal public defender office charged with representing poor defendants before the United States Supreme Court” is necessary to fill gaps in legal services to the poor and “better balance the scales of justice between the government and the defendants,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said earlier this month.
Voices from Solitary Confinement
What is solitary confinement? It is the Bing, Box, Hole, Block; a cage, cave, shoe box, ice box, oven, grave; a “grey, limitless ocean,” “an island surrounded by vicious sharks,” a “sea of madness during an eternal perfect storm of despair and heartache”; an unimaginable terror, an austere sameness, an immense darkness, a timeless place, a terrible endurance; it is social death, the slow march of death, a sentence worse than death, a thousand internal deaths.
Virginia high court considers whether McAuliffe erred in restoring criminal justice involved people’s voting rights
The Supreme Court of Virginia heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could doom Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 justice involved people ahead of the November general election. An attorney for state Republicans challenging the Democratic governor argued that the move was an unprecedented and unconstitutional overreach, while an attorney for the state defended it is as a bold but legal use of McAuliffe’s power.
Solitary Confinement in Rhode Island Faces Challenges From Legislators, Activists
“Despair. Do you know what it is like to live in despair? To feel trapped, suffocated, like the walls are closing in for good?” wrote an incarcerated person from inside a segregation unit in Rhode Island. “To be buried alive and witness your own humanity escaping without your body. I sit in a cell where it’s so quiet you can literally hear your own heart beat.”
OC Gang Cops Keep Uttering Nonsense to Win Convictions—And It Usually Works
In California’s war on crime, politicians and judges have made it easier to convict suspected gang members by weakening rules of evidence and imposing severe punishments not applied to other members of society who commit the same crimes. For example, if the government can convince a jury to believe a defendant, say, violently stole property for the benefit of a gang, that person could face an additional 10-year sentence on top of the penalty for the underlying offense. There are scenarios, such as in the Sanchez matter, however, in which the gang enhancement is even more punitive.
How are the record number of people returning from Louisiana prisons making their way in the world?
Louisiana is the incarceration capital of the world. But most people behind bars aren’t locked up forever. In fact, 90 percent of them will someday be released. So that makes Louisiana also the reentry capital of the world– a role the state is ill-prepared for.
Md. drops plan to halt drug smuggling by banning letters to incarcerated people
The state’s Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen T. Moyer proposed the ban last month but said Wednesday that he had dropped the request. Lawmakers and civil liberties advocates called the ban an extreme and unconstitutional move that would have deprived justice involved individuals of contact with loved ones.
Florida prisons a ‘time bomb,’ union delegate tells lawmakers
Calling Florida prisons “a ticking time bomb,” members of the union representing state corrections officers called on Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers on Wednesday to convene an emergency legislative session to address the state’s prison crisis.
One recent riot, several uprisings by incarcerated people, and widespread attacks on officers and incarcerated people have alarmed members of Teamsters 2011, the union representing the state’s 2,000 corrections and probation officers.
Eastern State Penitentiary and the Critique of Mass Incarceration
It’s an immediate relief to step across the bright red threshold that leads into “Prisons Today.” The exhibit is air-conditioned, unlike the museum’s vaulted cellblocks and the prison yard outside the door. (Kelley jokes that the cool air is a trick to draw visitors in.) But discomfort returns quickly. Across from the door, another chart feels designed to shock or assault visitors, offering a stark visualization of how the number of people incarcerated in America has exploded since 1970, against the only slight uptick in violent crimes. “Mass Incarceration Isn’t Working,” the panel below it reads.
Judge’s order: Elliott Williams’ jail cell became ‘burial crypt’
The Williams case is one of at least a dozen civil rights lawsuits against the county for deaths and serious injuries in the jail. Verdicts against the county in the Williams case, or any of the other suits, could cost county taxpayers millions.
Earlier this year, a jury found against the county, ruling that the Sheriff’s Office deliberately indifferent, in the first of these cases to reach trial stage.
Judge throws out ex-L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca’s plea deal, saying six months in prison not enough
Baca, 74, had pleaded guilty in February to a single charge of lying to federal investigators. But the former sheriff’s involvement in trying to derail the investigation reached further than that, Anderson said.
At stake was what the investigators were trying to expose, Anderson said: an “us-versus-them” culture in which deputies covered up for one another and responded to incarcerated people with enough violence to send them to the hospital.
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