Friday, October 28, 2011

Fearmongering for COPS Funding

By Tracy Velázquez

Back when the first “stimulus” bill – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA – came out in 2009, JPI and a number of other organizations sent a letter to Congress saying that spending billions for the COPS (Community Oriented Policing) program and other law enforcement would be a poor investment. Two and a half years later, with this money largely spent, we know little about what the outcomes were, either in terms of job creation or increased public safety.

Yet here we are again, with the administration trying to shove another $4 billion in COPS spending down our throats via the President’s jobs bill. Attorney General Holder reaffirmed that ramping up law enforcement was a top priority in his speech at the Association of Chiefs of Police conference on Monday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

JJDPA: An Investment in the Future

By Amanda Petteruti

While the U.S. Congress faces many tough choices in the 2012 budget, retaining funding for programs that save money and improve communities must be a priority. One example is the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Since its passage in 1974, the JJDPA has established the protections that keep youth out of adult jails, separate from adults when jail is the only option, out of the juvenile justice system for behavior that would not be illegal for adults, and encourages states to reduce the number of youth of color that come into contact with the juvenile justice system. These protections have gone a long way to promote the well-being of youth across the country and sparked numerous programs and initiatives that not only keep communities safe, but also save taxpayers money.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

California Can (and Should) Do Better

By Nastassia Walsh

California, like much of the country, has a problem. The state has too many people in prison. At around 170,000 people, California boasts the highest prison population in the country, making up more than 10 percent of the total U.S. prison population. Sometimes it’s good to be on top, but this is nothing to brag about. And, after a court order forcing California to reduce the number of people held in its prisons by around 40,000 (which still results in its prisons being over capacity), the state is finally starting to do something about it. But California’s proposed “solution” of realignment—moving people from state prisons to local county jails—may have some benefits like keeping people closer to home, but does not get at the heart of the problem. To really ensure a continuing reduction in the number of people incarcerated, while maintaining public safety, and saving millions—and perhaps billions—of taxpayer dollars per year, California must examine every aspect of its justice system, not just find new places to stash people to get the government off their backs.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Time for a New Justice Paradigm

By Tracy Velázquez 

Last month, after being denied a sentence commutation, Tarif Abdullah died in a Maryland prison. Even though Tarif was not the “trigger man,” at age 21 he was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in a crime that resulted in a fatality. At the time of his death from cancer, Tarif had served 25 years behind bars – effectively his entire adult life. He is one of many in Maryland unable to secure a commutation or parole due to the state law giving the governor authority to approve or deny release for "lifers."

In the past few years, driven by a combination of budget crises and changing public opinion, a number of states have reduced sentences for nonviolent offenses. Policymakers are beginning to understand that it actually hurts public safety to lock people up for breaking drug laws and other lower level offenses, and the longer someone is incarcerated the greater the obstacles they’ll face at release in successfully re-engaging with their families, their community, and the workforce.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pencil Us In!

Just Policy Blog is now about two months old! We’ve had a number of readers and we thank you. We hope that you continue to read.

Fall is a typically a busy time for JPI. This fall, we’ll be releasing several reports, including one showing the effects of incompetency to stand trial policies and practices in Maryland and another on the role that school resource officers have played in schools. We’re working with DC Lawyers for Youth to launch their documentary about juvenile justice reform in D.C. on October 18th (you can RSVP here) and with grassroots organizations in Baltimore on a reentry event to be held on October 19th (send an email to get more information).