Thursday, September 29, 2011

Making Money off of Putting People in Prison

By Paul Ashton

Putting people behind bars is a big money-maker. In 2010 alone, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (GEO), the two largest private prison companies in the U.S., raked in over $2.9 billion dollars in revenue. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of people in state and federal private prisons in the U.S. totaled 129,336 in 2009, and CCA and GEO’s revenue was $2.77 billion. Talk about hitting the jackpot! The real question here is: should we make incarcerating people a business incentive? No.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pressing the Issue of Positive Justice Reform in the Press

By Jason Fenster

I spend the beginning of each day arranging press clips with our trusty team of interns. We, like most organizations, do this to keep an eye on what’s happening across the country, to see what policies are moving where and to keep an eye on messaging, both positive and negative, in state and local policy battles.

On September 6, an article titled “Low Crime Statistics Questioned by Chief” was published by The Orion. If, like me, you read this too quickly, you may have assumed this was a joke headline published by the satirical news source, The Onion. Why else would a Chief of Police dispute declining crime rates, public safety improvements, and better outcomes for people and communities? But, unfortunately, the explaining-away of positive developments and the harping on isolated, negative stories on the path to positive justice reforms are the norm for many on the “Crime and Courts” beat.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

California: Uniting to End Life Without Parole for Youth

By Daniel Gutman

Michelle Murray traveled nearly 400 miles – from Los Angeles to Sacramento – on a one day trip late last month to speak with her elected officials about the importance of Senate Bill 9. The California Assembly was only days away from voting on SB 9, a bill to end life without parole prison sentences for youth in California.

Michelle wasn’t alone on her trip. With her were other loved ones of people serving and family members who have fallen victim to violence. Together, along with a diverse coalition of faith leaders, students, and advocates, these families were united in their call for fair and just sentencing of youth.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Private Prison Industries are no Substitute for Real Jobs

By Amanda Petteruti

Given the dramatic job losses and unemployment figures in the U.S. over the last few years, it should be no surprise that people in prison who work for prison industries are losing their jobs too.

This might seem like an unfortunate turn of events for people in prison, cutting them off from wages and job skills needed for reentry. But the reality is that prison industries pay below minimum wage for low-skill jobs that do not currently exist in the U.S. economy, while historically generating significant funds for states, creating an additional incentive to put and keep people in prison. In 2002, state prison industries generated $3 billion in sales and $67 million in profits for states.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Three Strategies for Changing Juvenile Justice: Which Is Most Likely to Last?

 By Benjamin Chambers

A recent report from the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), titled, "Bringing Youth Home: A National Movement to Increase Public Safety, Rehabilitate Youth and Save Money," documented the extraordinary number of states and jurisdictions (at least 24) that are closing or downsizing their youth correctional facilities, due to budget cuts, legislation, lawsuits, and pressure from reformers. (Download the report for tips on ways to downsize wisely.)

This is a good thing, because it means taxpayers can save money or avoid the high cost of incarceration, and reallocate those monies to community-based programs that are more effective at helping young people turn their lives around.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recognizing All Victims of Crime

By Keith Wallington

Over the last few decades, the victim’s rights movement has been effective in highlighting the needs and concerns of victims of crime. This movement – born out of the women’s right era of the early 1970s – continues to pick up steam as states amend laws and policies to give victims more defined rights and services. However, as the victims right movement has evolved, so must it’s recognition of and treatment of victims.

When you hear the word “victim” seldom do you associate that with young African American men. Society, through sensationalist media reporting, scapegoating and rhetoric-laden politicking has done a thorough job of painting what a “perpetrator” and a “victim” look like. One of those paintings uses more color than the other. The irony of such mischaracterization is that young black males are victimized at a higher rate than any other demographic – according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2008 blacks are victimized at a personal crime rate of 26.6 percent in comparison to whites who are victimized at a personal crime rate of 18.6 percent – yet when victims are talked about, this population don’t enter the discussion.