Friday, July 20, 2018

New Resource: Abell Foundation Report


The Abell Foundation has released a new report, “Fact Check: A Survey of Available Data on Juvenile Crime in Baltimore City,” collecting and analyzing available data on trends in juvenile crime rates, arrests, and outcomes in Baltimore City.

The report found that overall juvenile arrests are down in Baltimore, but juvenile arrests for violent crimes are up. However, for the first four months of 2018, total juvenile arrests were down 34 percent in comparison to arrest rates of the first four months of 2017.

In addition to arrest rates, the report also examines court cases for Baltimore’s youth. They found that the number of youth referred to adult court—indicating involvement in a violent crime—has increased slightly from 2013 (156 cases) to 2017 (216 cases). Even with that increase, less than 10 percent of juvenile arrests in 2017 were for crimes eligible for referral to adult court. While these numbers certainly need to be addressed, this directly contradicts the political narrative of a booming juvenile crime wave in Baltimore.

And there has been an increase in the return of juveniles originally charged in adult court back to juvenile court (19 percent in 2013 to 67 percent in 2017).  The report concludes that to better understand the level of juvenile violence in Baltimore, they need more access to data about juvenile records—such as recidivism data for youth charged with violent crimes.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Upcoming Event: Ending Incarceration of Women and Girls: How We Get There - Baltimore 7.21.18


Upcoming event - this Saturday, July 21, there will be a “Ending Incarceration of Women and Girls: How We Get There” town hall event in Baltimore. This event is to raise awareness about the current state of incarceration of women and girls in Maryland, and will addressing key issues such as ending women and girls incarceration, ending bail, alternatives to incarceration, re-entry, and voting/civil rights for returning citizens.

This event is free and will be held at the Impact Hub Baltimore, 10 East North Avenue from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM EDT. For more information and to pre-register for the event click here, you can also email lanefrazee@marylandjusticeproject.org with any questions you may have.

This event is sponsored by Maryland Justice Project, Out for Justice, and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Upcoming Event: 6th Annual Baltimore Back to the Neighborhood Expungement Clinic

Join us for the 6th Annual Baltimore Back to the Neighborhood Expungement Clinic July 25th 9am-1pm at American Brewery, 1701 N. Gay Street, for free legal assistance with expungements, voter registration, employment resources and information about civil forfeiture police misconduct and money bail. For more information please contact Mary-Denise Davis at mdavis2@opd.state.md.us 

A big thank you to our partners the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Abell Foundation.

Please share with anyone you know who may be interested. See you next week!



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Survey of New Resources


Mass Incarceration Starts Young - Podcast

"The United States locks up more people than any country in the world. That starts young: Roughly a million kids a year get caught up in the criminal justice system. In Caught, a new podcast from WNYC, we'll listen as some of those young people tell their stories over nine episodes. They'll help us understand how we got here--and how we might help, rather than just punish troubled youth. Welcome to Caught: The Lives of Juvenile JusticeCaught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice is supported, in part, by the Anne Levy Fund, Margaret Neubart Foundation, the John and Gwen Smart Family Foundation, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project." Listen now.


The Costliest Choice - Report

The Children and Family Justice Center has published the third installment of their year-long series, Community Safety & the Future of Illinois’ Youth Prisons. This issue, “The Costliest Choice: Economic Impact ofYouth Incarceration,” discusses why Illinois should depart from youth incarceration and instead invest in strengthening Illinois youth, families, and communities – restoring much needed services damaged by the state budget crisis. 

Illinois’ use of five state prisons – incarcerating about 425 juveniles – has a direct operational cost of about $514 per youth, per day. This cost does not including education, services, or aftercare. However, alternatives to youth incarceration save money up front and provide long-term safety benefits. The report states “youth incarceration is the costliest response to delinquency – in upfront costs, hidden costs, youth outcomes, and societal costs. Even for high-risk youth, the costs of the choice to imprison outstrip other, less damaging approaches.” 

“Strong communities are key to success.” Illinois needs to increase funding for youth justice reinvestment programs and expand the capacity of local nonprofits that provide state social services to youth and families. 

Vincent Schiraldi on Parole and Probation

Vincent Schiraldi started his career in criminal justice reform in 1981, although he always knew that he wanted to dedicate his life to helping people, or as he humbly states to be “in the human services field.” Schiraldi started working at the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, and then went on to create two nonprofits, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco and our very own Justice Policy Institute. Today, at the Justice Lab at Columbia University he is a leading voice in criminal justice reform, specifically in regards to parole and probation.

Schiraldi has two reports out on parole and probation, one from a national perspective and the other focused on New York State. Since the creation of the parole and probation systems, they have deviated from their original intent and have become a trigger to mass incarceration. Schiraldi states that “nationwide there are almost five million people on probation and parole. That’s more people than live in half of U.S. states, one in 53 adults. It was never meant to be that big and it’s now a processing-back-to-prison environment.”

In an article that Schiraldi co-authored with Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, they state that when looking at the quality of justice, we often only measure its success by recidivism rate - which is “inadequate and often misleading.” Instead of focusing on recidivism rates, we should focus on alternatives to incarceration and improving what systems we already have in place - such as parole and probation, which were originally created to help people who are incarcerated. Highlights -

  • “[Probation and parole were] originally meant to be alternatives to prison, they now have become tripwires and triggers to mass incarceration.”
  • “Nationwide there are almost five million people on probation and parole. That’s more people than live in half of U.S. states, one in 53 adults. It was never meant to be that big and it’s now a processing-back-to-prison environment.”
  • On Less is More in New York report: “Twenty leading probation and parole administrators signed on to our report, which calls for ultimately cutting the systems they run in half and to reduce technical violations that lead back to prison.”
  • “There’s a lot of research showing that community cohesion and resilience makes communities safer, not just more police and more prisons.”
  • On Rikers Island: “New York’s already the least incarcerated and safest big city in the country. We’re going to do something that no U.S. city has done.”

Finding Strength Through Poetry - Poetry and Profiles

“Once you’ve been behind bars, words can feel like freedom.”

Formerly incarcerated people are now finding a new voice through poetry, thanks to the Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop. This workshop helps young men find a way to give expression to their lives during and after incarceration. Since 2002, the program has worked with teenagers charged and imprisoned as adults in the D.C. Jail and the federal prison system.

You can listen or read some of the members’ poetry here: https://wamu.org/story/18/02/23/minds-still-free-former-prisoners-find-strength-poetry/


Monday, November 20, 2017

Risk Takers: How did the justice system change to meet the needs of the youth population?



This blog is a part of a series dedicated to celebrate JPI’s 20th Anniversary. Bart Lubow’s piece is excerpted from comments he delivered at the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s JuvenileDetention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) conference in Orlando, Florida in April 2017 on the occasion of JDAI’s 25th anniversary. JPI has been proud to partner with JDAI since its inception. We are particularly thankful to the leadership of Bart and other champions from the Casey Foundation and around the country, who made this success story possible and continue the work.
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Twenty-five years ago, the juvenile justice system was struggling to survive.  It was widely condemned as soft, ineffective, and unaccountable.  Elected officials across the country, reacting to a brief spike in violent crime, ridiculed and diminished the system, most obviously by passing a slew of laws that took the most serious cases and mandated that they be prosecuted and incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system. The core notion behind the creation of juvenile justice—that youth were different from adults and deserved a system that recognized those developmental differences—was at risk of being abandoned. 

For a variety of reasons juvenile justice did deserve criticism.  While it was perceived as soft on crime, juvenile justice was in fact locking up rather minor law violators—misdemeanants, probation violators and status offenders--in jails and prisons which we euphemistically called “youth study centers” and “training schools” but which were endemic with abuse and neglect like their adult counterparts.  None of this would have been allowed had the youth in question looked like, spoke like, lived near or were related to people like me.  Indeed, the collective complexion of those who were grist for this mill was darkening at a rapid rate, with more and more Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American youth being hauled before a system that routinely acted as if youth of color were all dangerous and unredeemable.

From this, the Annie E. Casey Foundation began the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. JDAI required a huge political risk, a major shift in the way we approach pretrial detention for youth, and the development of new procedures and programs to better serve America's troubled young people. We believed that the basic myth driving the incarceration explosion—that locking up large numbers of people was the pathway to public safety—was fundamentally wrong.  Second, we argued that the use of detention was driven first and foremost by the policies and practices embraced by adults, not the behavior of the kids.  Third, we hypothesized that a focus on detention reform—while limited given the many problems with juvenile justice—would spill over to affect other issues.  Finally, we argued that no system which claimed to represent “justice” could have any credibility as long as it was perceived as biased and unfair in its treatment of youth of color. 

Now there are about half as many youth locked in juvenile facilities as there were 25 years ago, and juvenile crime rates are a modest fraction of what they were as recently as 15 years ago.  If nothing else, over the past 25 years JDAI has demonstrated that it is possible to radically reduce confinement without sacrificing public safety. 

The entire trajectory of juvenile justice has changed in the past two and one-half decades.  States across the country are now raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction and rolling back mandatory transfer laws, rather than pulling more youth into adult courts and prisons.  More and better tools are being used to inform decisions and stronger, more innovative alternatives have expanded the range and effectiveness of options in lieu of confinement.  At the national level, the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for crimes committed before age 18 and declared mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences unconstitutional.  A movement to end solitary confinement has emerged with interest at the local, state and federal levels of government.  Over the past 25 years, juvenile justice, rather than retreating under criticism, has increasingly served as the laboratory for more enlightened and effective approaches to crime, some of which are now infiltrating many state adult justice systems.

While JDAI, is not responsible for all the progress of the past 25 years, it has been in the center of much of it and it at least deserves credit for forsaking the myths and excuses of the past and for helping to nourish a wide array of practitioners, advocates and researchers whose ideas and voices were hidden during the dark days of the so-called super-predator era. We have learned many things relevant to a better future, not the least of which is to not be constrained by the limits that the status quo would impose on our thinking. 

We have come very far, but not nearly far enough for this system to pass what we have come to refer to as the “my child” test.  There can be no let-up in our clamor for change, not while lives are at stake and communities suffer the effects of mass incarceration.  The clamor must now come, first and foremost, from the next generation of reformers. All enterprises of this scale and influence are built from collective, collaborative work.  All of us stand on the shoulders of others.

           


Bart Lubow is a Senior Consultant with the Annie E. Casey Foundation
With almost 40 years of improving criminal justice systems, Bart Lubow served as director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group from 2009 until 2014. Today, as a senior consultant, he supports the Foundation’s juvenile justice reform agenda, which includes reducing unnecessary confinement in order to minimize long-term consequences of incarceration, prevent family disruption and increase opportunities to positively alter the life trajectories of youth in the juvenile system.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rethinking the School to Prison Pipeline

By Michelle Manno
JPI Guest Blogger

Last year’s civil rights survey by the Department of Education revealed some disturbing trends: Out-of-school suspensions for black students are common for preschoolers and a pattern of disciplining black students more than white students is consistent from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Advocates for equity in education highlight the fact that many school districts emphasize the policing of students as opposed to counseling and are more committed to hiring security officers than school counselors. This approach helps create a “school-to-prison pipeline” that impacts students throughout their educational careers.

“Suspending a student for misbehavior usually makes things worse,” says Joshua Aronson, associate professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt, which recently launched Counseling@NYU. Not only does the child miss instruction, but he or she is rejected by the community in a very public fashion.” 

The Department of Education survey collected data from public school districts during the 2013-2014 school year, and their analysis found that black preschool children were 3.6 times more likely than white children to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions. In the K-12 years, black students were suspended at rates almost four times higher than white students and expelled from school without educational services at a rate that was nearly double. They were more than two times more likely to be disciplined through the involvement of school security officers, such as a school-related arrest.

While policing in schools disproportionately affects students of color, research shows that it doesn’t increase safety. The Justice Policy Institute released a report on the school to prison pipe in 2011 titled Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools. They found that many schools have “School Resource Officers” who spend their time acting as law enforcement at schools. The presence of SRO’s resulted in disproportionate punishment rates for students of color, including suspensions and arrests, without actually making schools safer.

The Need for a Long-Term Solution
Some factors may be contributing to the fact that black students are disciplined at higher rates, including the racial bias of teachers. Yale University’s Walter Gilliam has spent more than a decade studying this trend, and he told NPR that most adults interpret disruptive behaviors differently and that these perceptions depend on the race of the child.

“We tend to hold African-American children as more culpable,” he said in the article. “And we think they're older than they are.”

And focusing on discipline as a method of dealing with behavior issues can have a long-term effect on students in many ways. They are too frequently absent from the classroom and miss out on all of the lifelong benefits that are derived from academic achievements.

“This punishes the child and marks them as a problem without uncovering the underlying reasons for the misbehavior, which typically is an unmet need,” says Aronson.

UCLA’s Civil Rights Project framed such sentiments in some hard data. A study by the Project shows that student suspensions cost the nation $35 billion in lost taxpayer revenue — by linking them to the “cost of keeping people in prison and paying for health care, since students who get suspended are more likely to drop out of school, earn less money, and get involved in the criminal justice system.”

A Counseling-Focused Approach
An effective alternative to discipline is to give teachers support to better address students’ behavioral issues, and school counselors play a key role in such a strategy.

“Schools need the resources to find out what students need and the resources to meet those needs,” says Aronson. “This may cost more in the short-term, but it is a mere fraction of the cost of incarcerating the high percentage of suspended students who will end up in prison.”

One example, outlined by NPR, is Van Ness Elementary in Washington, D.C., which trains teachers in Conscious Discipline and provides them with a support network that includes a staff social worker, a psychologist, and weekly visits from a clinical psychologist. Every pre-K classroom at the school also has a “safe space” where kids who are being disruptive can be peaceful and calm down — and preschoolers are taught calming techniques, like “breathing slowly into a pinwheel to make it spin.”

Unfortunately, in the current framework, more than 20 percent of high schools don’t even have a school counselor at all, and 1.6 million students attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer but not a school counselor. To alter the dynamics of the school-to-prison pipeline, those kinds of odds need to change.

As JPI celebrates its 20th Anniversary, Education Under Arrest remains a great tool for understanding the effects of the school to prison pipeline. Work done by organizations like JPI and the Department of Education shows the importance of alternatives to policing in schools. By making positive investments in our students, we can create better schools and safer communities.

Michelle Manno is an education writer at 2U. She works with schools such as Counseling@NYU – the online master's in school counseling and online master’s in mental health counseling from NYU Steinhardt – to create resources that support K-12 students. Say hi on Twitter @michellermanno.

Friday, June 16, 2017

This Father’s Day, Think About the Empty Seats

By Keith Wallington
JPI State Based Strategist

Remember your first great achievement as a child? Was it your first talent show or dance recital? First little league hit, basket made, or goal scored? Think back to that moment. What made it so special? Who was there? There’s no better affirmation of a child’s achievement than a parent’s approval. 

Remember the excitement? Now imagine that seat in the audience being empty, and the hurt and disappointment that follows. That empty seat is a reality for too many kids across the country due to the justice system’s devastating impact on families and communities. The residual effect of the justice system’s disproportionate impacts on people and communities of color are reflected in those empty seats. One in four black children is at risk of having an incarcerated parent compared to one in thirty white children.  

This Father’s Day, remember all the fathers who have been separated from their children as a result of the justice system. Many acknowledge that the United States’ system of slavery was so terrible because of the beatings, mutilations and overall inhumane physical treatment of slaves. However, the cruelest part of slavery for many slaves in the U.S. didn’t lie in the inhumane physical treatment, but rather, the separation of families. There is no greater pain or loss than a parent being separated from their child, and the separation of families now routinely happens under the cover of the justice system. The impact cannot be overstated. As a coach for my son’s basketball and baseball teams I see and feel the reality of those empty seats. I can tell within the first practice which of my players does not have a father figure in their lives. There is a difference. You can see it. You can feel it. And the kids certainly can, too. 

The void the justice system creates by removing so many fathers in poor communities of color creates a ripple effect that is felt throughout the entire community. While at the Justice Policy Institute over the past seven years, I’ve worked on these important issues in communities around DC, Maryland and Virginia. I also live in Maryland, where blacks make up 29% of the overall population but about 72% of the prison population. This disproportionate impact of the justice system on black males has devastated entire communities and left voids that are filled by gangs and others who try to take advantage of the absence of strong parental figures. If we want to create a better future for our kids, we must begin by altering the trajectory of many fatherless kids by investing in them, and healing their communities. 

According to The Right Investment, a report by the Justice Policy Institute, the Maryland community where the justice system spends the most money incarcerating residents is Sandtown-Winchester in Baltimore, where Freddie Gray was from. Taxpayers spend $17 million a year incarcerating residents from this one community alone. But when you look at the indicators of a healthy neighborhood, such as employment, education, housing, and treatment services, you then see that Sandtown has the highest unemployment rate, highest percentage of people without a high school diploma, the highest number of abandoned houses, and highest rate of emergency narcotic calls to 911. Sandtown also has one of the highest percentages in Baltimore of female-headed households with children under 18 (at 79.2%), compared to the city average of 54.4%. So, while it cost $37k a year to incarcerate someone in Maryland, that same $37k could provide drug treatment for 8 people, employment training for 7 people, and a GED course for 37 people in impacted communities. In communities deeply impacted by the justice system, it becomes clear where investments are needed and why so many children are without fathers due to incarceration, instead of receiving the support they need.

As JPI celebrates its 20th anniversary year, I reflect on the work we’ve done towards reducing the impact of the justice system, with most of my focus on communities around the DMV. We know that there is a whole generation of missing fathers, an Incarceration Generation, and much more reform that needs to be done towards creating safer, stronger communities. 

Rather than targeting resources towards locking up so many black men, states and the federal government could invest more wisely and preserve the family structure, rather than continue to spend enormous amounts of money in the justice system that results in the mass separation of family. We can and must do better!  Instead of rendering so many black children fatherless, it’s time to work on healing and strengthening communities through smart, targeted investments that result in diplomas, not criminal records.