Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tools and Best Practices in Representing Indigent Youth

The National Juvenile Defender Center just finished a presentation on the role of counsel, from the newly released Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) and companion National Juvenile Defense Standards (Standards), at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Seventh Annual Models for Change Working Conference. This workshop was particularly exciting because it was the first time many juvenile justice stakeholders had the opportunity to see a part of these newly developed tools, which were over three years in the making.

Our audience was very interested in the hypothetical fact-pattern of a juvenile defender representing a 15-year-old boy charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine who admitted he hadn’t been totally “upfront” about the facts. A lively debate ensued about the defender’s ethical obligations, the attorney-client privilege, and confidentiality.

What made this session so unique was our threading the companion standard throughout the JTIP lesson, which in turn provided support for the practice skills learned in the lesson. In addition, the interactive and dynamic components through exercises, the hypothetical scenario, and other training tools were a big hit!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Effectively Addressing Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System

Adolescents can be impulsive and difficult to work with.  Most child-serving systems can agree as to the problematic behaviors but may take very different approaches in dealing with the youth.  At the 7th Annual Models for Change conference in Washington DC on December 3rd, 2012 (conference updates can be followed on Twitter using #Models4Change) we describe the Mental Health Training Curriculum for Juvenile Justice, a new training tool developed and tested by the Models for Change Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network and the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ).

The MHTC-JJ provides juvenile justice staff with basic information about adolescent development, mental health disorders common among youth in the juvenile justice system, child trauma and practical strategies for supervising and engaging these youth.  Rather than a traditional punishment model, the MHTC-JJ curriculum emphasizes developmentally-sensitive interactions and de-escalation techniques that can result in more appropriate responses from youth and in safer and more satisfying work conditions for staff.

After training all the participating Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network states on the curriculum, the NCMHJJ, operated by Policy Research Inc., selected 10 additional sites to participate in a new training initiative designed to create sustainable mental health training capacity within state and local juvenile justice systems.  This effort, sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, uses a Train the Trainer model to train juvenile detention and correctional trainers on this curriculum. 

Over 40 applications for this new training initiative were received from states and jurisdictions across the country, underscoring the critical need that exists within the juvenile justice field for mental health training and resources.

Changing Dynamics: Cops and Kids of Color

“As much as you don’t want me to stereotype you, I don’t want you to stereotype me and tell me I come running up and beat you upside the head because I don’t do that” Officer 2004 Youth-Law Enforcement Forum
“My mom told me to respect the cops, but you’ve got to give respect to get respect.”  Youth 2004 Youth-Law Enforcement Forum
“You might see a black person on the corner and you automatically assume he’s dealing but he might be an A student but you’ll never know and you will use the same way to handle the situation that you would use with someone who gave you lip. I just want to know why you all stereotype us" Youth, School Youth- Law Enforcement Forum 2006
The Philadelphia Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Working Group was formed  by the statewide DMC Subcommittee  in 2003 to address DMC in Philadelphia.  The Working Group included leaders from five branches of law enforcement, public defenders, prosecutors, community members and youth who shared a commitment to reduce the number of kids of color coming into the delinquent system.  Data showed that the greatest disparities occurred at the point of arrest, which became the initial focus of the group.

The first Minority Youth- Law Enforcement Forum was held in 2003.  The Forums bring youth from the community together with law enforcement for frank discussions about their experiences.  The Forums include a facilitated panel discussion between youth and officers, small groups that allow officers and youth to talk more informally and a shared lunch.  Both youth and officers who were part of the forums said that they changed their opinions about each other after the conversations.  Both groups recommended additional training for police about how to work with youth.

The Philadelphia DMC Youth-Law Enforcement Curriculum was created in 2009 and incorporates the Forums’ panel discussions, breakout groups and shared lunch.  The Curriculum also includes training on adolescent brain development, the effects of trauma, and role-play exercises to help officers and youth practice effective ways to interact with each other on the street.

The Forums and the Curriculum aim to improve the relationship between officers and youth thereby  reducing both volatile interactions on the street and the number of arrests of minority youth.  Over 700 police recruits have been trained with the curriculum in Philadelphia and the program has been used in Pittsburgh and Lancaster, PA.

Re-Forming Probation: New Perspectives on Old Practices

Having witnessed the juvenile justice system firsthand over the past 17 years, the faces of parents and youth flash through my memory each time I walk into the waiting room.  I cannot help reflecting on whether or not my efforts as a therapist had any impact on their lives while they were assigned to the Probation Department.  Making clear and meaningful connections between the lives we are entrusted with and the daily work we perform answers this vital question. 

At the 7thAnnual Models for Change National Working Conference today in Washington, D.C., Dr. John Ryals, Jr. and Matthew Villio highlighted a Models for Change probation reform initiative in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.  Moderated by John Tuell, participants performed an exercise designed to stimulate their ability to link probation officer activities to client outcomes.  The activity mirrored processes used in Jefferson Parish during the Implementation Phase and created connections between daily work of probation officers with changes in youths’ behaviors.  Dr. Ryals and Mr. Villio presented work products from the four-year-long Probation Review process.  Following the presentation, participants engaged in a discussion with the presenters regarding challenges and processes.  Significant milestones in the Probation Review process include a thorough assessment process, documented results and recommendations, development and implementation of a comprehensive work plan, and creation of a Probation Review Guidebook and implementation report.  The Models for Change Probation Review Guidebook can be found online and the implementation report, entitled “Performing a Probation Review: How Best Practices Meet Everyday Practices” can be obtained by e-mailing Dr. Ryals at JRyals(at)jeffparish(dot)net. 

Among the significant achievements were revised management practices, linking client outcomes to probation officer activities, improved screening and assessment procedures, development of a Parent Accountability policy, creation of a dedicated pre-disposition investigation unit, and shaping of an innovative process to effectively handle status offender cases.  The Probation Review was undertaken by National Resource Bank consultants John Tuell and Janet Wiig, Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps and National Resource Bank consultants, through the Models for Change initiative.

Updates for this and other Models for Change Conference sessions can be followed @Models4Change using #Models4Change on Twitter.

Involving Families in the Juvenile Justice System

We hope you join us at our workshop on Family Involvement in Juvenile Justice at the 7th Annual Model for Change Conference.  Susi Blackburn, and myself, Wendy Luckenbill, are offering participants the chance to catch up on the latest from Pennsylvania’s ground breaking family involvement (FI) work.  We are proud to share that Pennsylvania has emerged as a national leader in this area, under our Models for Change grant initiatives, and forward now under our PA Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy.  We will bring for conference participants’ review Pennsylvania’s most pragmatic FI contributions to date, a training curriculum for juvenile probation officers, and a A Family Guide to Pennsylvania's Juvenile Justice System. Both tools promote enhanced collaborative partnership between families and juvenile justice practitioners.   
These tools were developed by family advocacy leaders and juvenile justice practitioners, and are aligned with both the 2009 monograph, Family Involvement in Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System, and the growing body of evidence based on probation practices, which are shifting to less intrusive, punitive practices, and which rely on family and community involvement for their optimum implementation.  

Participants will leave the workshop with samples of these tools, firsthand experience of the attitude shifting experiences the team has developed, and the opportunity to share innovative family involvement approaches they are supporting in their work. Presenters Susi Blackburn and Wendy Luckenbill have teamed with others on the  Family Involvement Committee  of the PA Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers since 2007.  We hope our products and the practitioner/family advocate teaming we (Susi and Wendy) bring to these efforts will inspire others to enhance their own family engagement and involvement efforts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Youth Defy the Stigma of Incarceration

Photo by: Richard Ross

By Adwoa Masozi 

Four men were on the panel. Three of them were young, in either their late teens or freshly 20s, with faces that gave little hint of the stony roads they’ve traveled. The fourth man was the moderator; he, too, was young, but new-age young, you know, mid to upper 30s. Educated, credentialed, possessing a polished tongue and natural wit with the audience. All these men were African American, and playing out before me was the “nearly 1 in 3 Black men will spend time in prison in their lifetime” statistic referenced in Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow. I cringed at the realization, but more so at knowing it doesn’t have to -- and shouldn’t be this way.

“I didn’t know difference between my needs and my wants …” Michael Kemp, one of the youth presenters, said this of his mind set prior to the arrest that led to him being placed in an adult facility in the Midwest, further estranging him from his family and community. Of that experience he said, “…Coming out of prison leaves you feeling like you need to protect yourself. It puts you in a survival mode instead of getting yourself together.” The expressions of the other young men grew more solemn and they gave nods to Michael as he spoke. I think this is a truth that they all shared.

The panel took place during the First Annual Justice for Youth Summit, a conference organized by the Campaign for Youth Justice. The panel, “Straight from Us,” was aimed to give the three young men a platform to speak about their experience in the District of Columbia's juvenile justice system.  Since that experience, each of speakers have been able to turn their lives around through finding employment, and becoming peer-mentors and youth leaders in Free Minds Book Club and the FREE project, which offers tools to help justice-involved youth begin to understand and grow from their experience even before they leave prison. Michael and the two other youth presenters have made it their goal to inspire others to stay focused and commit to achieving their dreams in spite of the post-incarceration stigmas they bear in our society.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rhetoric or Results?: Juvenile Justice Reform in the Last 10 Years

By Angela Watson

It’s no secret that youth between the ages of 10-17 aren’t always the best decision makers (neither are adults for that matter … but that’s a different conversation
). However, our juvenile justice system doesn’t seem to reflect such truth. In fact, more often than not our juvenile justice system treats youth, who are still coming of age and finding their way in the world, as if they don’t deserve the proper and attention and care necessary to aid them in the process of becoming productive adults. Steadily since the 1960s, the idea and rhetoric of the “juvenile justice system” has faded.
The result is that the current “juvenile justice system” has been converted into a junior version of the adult criminal justice system. Without going too far into the ills of our criminal justice system, propelling children into such a barbaric system is nothing short of appalling. And it’s worth mentioning that it costs taxpayers an arm and a leg to support the juvenile justice leg of the prison industrial complex. Unfortunately, for our nation’s youth, our nation’s future, an over dependency on mass incarceration doesn’t leave a bright outlook on what is to come for our nation’s citizens as a whole.

It wouldn’t be fair to attempt a discussion on this topic without giving recognition to the multitude of reforms that the juvenile justice system has attempted to implement over the past 10 years to rectify the virtual attack on our nation’s youth. Certain states and localities have made major differences while others continue on the path of converting misguided children into institutionalized “delinquents” and eventually, but not too soon thereafter, institutionalized adults.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline

By Diana Auborg Millner

The Children's Defense Fund released the State of America's Children 2012 Handbook [in August], an annual compilation of national data on child well-being, as well as its Portrait of Inequality which focuses on the state of the most vulnerable black and Latino children and youth in America. While the snapshots are sobering for both populations, the report on black children outlines a stunning set of statistics that paint the contours of CDF's theory: that black children are fed into a "Cradle to Prison Pipeline" at higher rates than any other group.

Image from Fairness Works
There is quite a bit of work that has been done on the school-to-prison pipeline - a confluence of forces, including zero tolerance policies that push disadvantaged children out of school and in into the criminal justice system. CDF's Cradle to Prison theory argues that black children and youth not only face multiple risks, but that from birth and throughout childhood and adolescence, confront debilitating obstacles that often push them into premature death, prison, and failed lives. Some black children face an entire childhood of hardship and stressors that many adults could not withstand, and ultimately fall into an "abyss of poverty, hunger, homelessness and despair."

Hmm, you might think, could they be overstating this? You may even consider black children that you know who have overcome tremendous odds and achieved success - proving that some can climb their way out of the morass of disadvantage that so easily entangles. However, CDF's report is not a collection of assertions, but rather a fact-based siren warning that an unacceptably high percentage of black children will meet this fate if adults (you and me) don't figure out how to fix things.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Baltimore: How a Broken Bail System Leads to High Incarceration Rates and Costs

By Inimai M. Chettiar

This blog post was originally posted to the Brennan Center for Justice blog on September 26 during JPI Bail Month.

Today, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) released the third in its series of reports highlighting the nation’s broken pretrial incarceration and bail system. The report, titled Bailing on Baltimore, Voices from the Front Line of the Justice System, focuses on Baltimore, Md., as an example. The selection of the Baltimore City Jail, one of the 20 largest in the country, was deliberate. It is one of the few jails that keeps data on those incarcerated and their bail amounts.

Like most counties, Baltimore’s bail system relies almost entirely on “money bail,” meaning the accused need to pay to gain their freedom before adjudication. Remember, these people are only accused of a crime, the state has yet to prove its case and they are, as a legal matter, innocent. Nonetheless, their continued liberty is dependent on their bank balance. Although bail commissioners in Baltimore have the power to release defendants on their own recognizance, this option is rarely chosen. In fact, there is almost never an assessment of the effect of pre-trial incarceration on the defendant, their ties to the community, and the likelihood they may commit another crime if released. It is a simple monetary decision. Either pay the price that is set (based on the accusation and a previous record, if any), or go to jail. Equally disheartening is that a majority – 61 percent – of all defendants are not even offered the money option in the first place. They are incarcerated straight away. In addition to considerations of fairness and justice, this is also a rotten deal for taxpayers and government budgets. An incarcerated person is prevented from contributing productively to the economy or society, and the government must pay for their incarceration and day-to-day needs. Such a system has little economic grounding.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What is the Purpose of Bail?

By Jean Chung

Let’s clear something up right away: Bail and money bail are not the same thing. Bail refers to any condition of pretrial release. Lots of conditions of release have nothing to do with money; supervision and monitoring, for instance. It’s money bail, specifically, that requires someone to pay an amount of money to get released pretrial, making a person’s financial resources a determining factor in whether or not that person sits in jail.
The bail system in Baltimore relies almost exclusively on money bail. Last spring, I interviewed 13experts on the Baltimore bail system, and I asked all of them the following question:

What is the purpose of bail?

What I heard over and over again was this: Bail is supposed to do two things. One: make sure that someone comes back to court for their trial. Two: protect public safety.

Wait a second. How does a system that relies on money bail protect public safety? Money bail doesn’t keep violent people locked up; it just keeps poor people locked up. People who may pose a threat to public safety can still get out of jail; they just need to have the money to do it.

And that’s just one of many problems when it comes to bail in Baltimore.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bail Bond Companies Profit While Poorest Defendants Remain in Jail

By David M. Reutter and Mel Motel

As America’s prison population has swelled over the past three decades to become the largest per capita in the world, the number of special interests that feed off the prison industrial complex has grown. The expansion of companies that benefit from crime and incarceration is no accident; it is the result of extensive lobbying by businesses that profit from other people’s misfortune – primarily the misfortune of the poor, who are vastly overrepresented in our nation’s prisons and jails.

Often overlooked among the special interests that profit from the criminal justice system in the U.S. is an industry that portrays itself as one dedicated to helping people get out of jail. In actuality, though, it is involved in keeping people incarcerated in order to protect its bottom line.

Just 20 years ago in most jurisdictions nationwide, the services of bail bondsmen were only required by defendants who had a high bond set by the court, which typically occurred in cases involving serious crimes or repeat offenders. Most defendants were released through publicly-funded pretrial services that granted release on personal recognizance based on a promise to appear at future court dates.

Currently only Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin prohibit commercial bail bondsmen. Other jurisdictions have laws that allow, and sometimes encourage, the use of bail bond companies. This expansion of the bonding industry has contributed to high jail populations.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reform Effort on a Century of For-Profit Bail Bonding

By Spike Bradford
1912 San Franciso Call article
lamenting corruption in for-profit
bail bonding.

As part of the JPI team working on a series of reports about money bail, for-profit bail bonding and the bail and pretrial experience in Baltimore jails, I have been researching bail bonding in the U.S. Much of what I’ve learned has been surprising and eye-opening, but no aspect has been as shocking as the history of bail bonding reform. Or, I should say, lack thereof.
For-profit bail bonding, the practice of paying a third party to guarantee your future appearance at trial for a crime you have been accused of, was established in the U.S. just before the end of the nineteenth century. It was the brainchild of the McDonough brothers, San Francisco organized crime bosses who would bail out bookmakers and prostitutes to get them back to work as quickly as possible. From the beginning, the trade was one of disrepute.
During for-profit bail’s century-plus history, it has undergone periods of reform driven primarily by the facts that it discriminates against poor people, erodes public safety and is prone to corruption. In fact, corruption in for-profit bail bonding has been so pervasive that four states --Wisconsin, Kentucky, Oregon and Illinois -- as well as numerous other jurisdictions, have outlawed or heavily discouraged the practice. 

I recently came across an old newspaper article from the March 18, 1912 San Francisco Call, in which police and court leaders vowed to “clear out bail bond evil” and the “shysters” who engaged in it. The “evil” behavior mentioned in the article --dated 100 years ago -- is virtually identical to behavior that can be found today just by searching for "bail bonding corruption." 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

For the Love of Money Bail: There’s No Science to It

By Dr. Melissa Neal

In my careful investigation into the use of money bail, one of the most striking things I encountered was the blatant lack of research supporting this practice. The use of money bail is so accepted in our society that it has taken a place in our general nomenclature.  It’s part of jokes we make about going out and having a good time – “bring your bail money."  It’s part of our fundraising campaigns – “Bail our Executive Director/Principal/Fire Chief out of jail with a contribution!”

Yet, the lack of research supporting the effectiveness of money bail was remarkable. While the majority of U.S. jurisdictions depend on money bail as a primary way of releasing people from jail while they await trial, the evidence supporting its use is severely lacking. It appears intuitive that posting money would compel compliance in attending court hearings and not being re-arrested, however, little research has been done to confirm this and it is usually supported anecdotally.

Now, with the use of bail schedules, monetary amounts for specific offenses are standardized in many places. Yet, once again, there is no evidence that one sum of money for an offense will better produce pretrial compliance over another sum. There is no empirical evidence showing which amounts of money bail are appropriate for certain types of offenses. Rather, we see bail schedules bolstering the rise in money bail amounts and often having very little relationship to the actual cost of loss or damage caused by the offense.  For certain offenses such as rape or murder, could we ever begin to suggest a monetary amount to be appropriate for those types of violations?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bail Fail Highlights Broken System

By Thomas Giovanni, Brennan Center for Justice
This post was originally published 9/11/12 on the Brennan Center for Justice blog as part of JPI Bail Month.

Today, the Justice Policy Institute released the first of three important reports regarding bail. The report highlights the consequences of a system dependent upon an accused person’s ability to pay. It is important to remember that people subjected to this system are considered innocent according to the law. Yet, they are penalized nonetheless. JPI, a national non-profit organization, offers new data and provides recommendations for practical reform.

Entitled Bail Fail, the study highlights how, in conjunction with the large-scale, fast-paced, assembly line nature of the criminal justice system, the bail system creates a reality where the outcome of a criminal case depends less on the facts of the case and more on the finances of the person charged. In the criminal justice system, 80 percent of the accused are too poor to afford an attorney, more than 60 percent are people of color, and the bulk of the cases are low-level, non-violent offenses. Most of this population cannot afford bail and are incarcerated before trial for long periods even though they have not been found responsible for any crime. Bail Fail notes60 percent of the jail population is not convicted but being held pretrial,” and that “this issue is a huge contributor to the mass incarceration of people in the United States, resulting in overcrowded facilities and unsustainable budgets.” The report further points out that “those too poor to pay a money bail remain in jail regardless of their risk level or presumed innocence . . . U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2011 stated that keeping people awaiting court dates in county jails costs around $9 billion each year.” That amount is roughly equivalent to the annual budget for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September is JPI Bail Month

This month, JPI is dedicating all of its resources to educating the public on bail. Some of us know the issue well, but many of us don’t realize that using money as a pretrial release mechanism contributes to jails overcrowded with unconvicted people, burdens low-income communities and supports an ineffective for-profit industry. 

Despite a lack of evidence that financial release options improve pretrial outcomes, jurisdictions throughout the country continue to rely on money as a proxy for risk in the pretrial process. This approach weakens public safety and creates two criminal justice systems: one for those with money and one for those without. The for-profit bail bonding industry, a corporate insurance behemoth that profits off the inequitable bail system, has enjoyed over 100 years of corruption and political influence and continues to skew judicial decision-making and put profit before public safety. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Solitary Confinement Comes to Washington

Mock solitary cell on display during the Capitol Hill hearing.
By Sal Rodriguez

“Solitary confinement does one thing, it breaks a man's will to live and he ends up deteriorating,” testified Texas death row exoneree Anthony Graves, before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Tuesday. The hearing, convened by Subcommittee chair Senator Richard Durbin, was the first of its kind at the federal level on the issue of solitary confinement.

For over 18 years, Graves spent 22 to 24 hours in an 8-by-12 foot cell, with a steel bed, small desk, toilet and a small window. Inside the hearing room was a replica of such a cell that approximates the living conditions of over 80,000 incarcerated individuals. Psychologist Craig Haney testified that “the cells themselves are often scarcely larger than the size of a king sized bed. Prisoners thus eat, sleep, and defecate each day in areas just a few feet apart from one another.”

It’s a nightmare scenario I’ve read about for the past year in my work on this issue for Solitary Watch. Again and again, I have received letters from individuals held in isolation units across the country, sometimes for 10, 20, and 30 years describing terrible psychological pain. One individual, isolated for over five years, described daily life as consisting of “reading, writing, crying and begging for death.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Let's Give Kids Better Mental Health

By Melissa Neal, DrPH

“People are just not reaching us where we are at.  We want to be reached.” – Washington, D.C. focus group youth participant.

The mental well-being of our youth is crucial to achieving progress and prosperity in our communities. In Washington, DC, youth face particular challenges as disparities in resources and risks vary drastically in just a matter of miles. I wrote JPI’s report, Mindful of the Consequences: Improving the Mental Health for DC’s Youth Benefits the District, to show that current prevention and treatment services do not match the level of need and many youth are at risk for contact with the justice system due to untreated mental problems. To illustrate this, I mapped where arrested youth are coming from: predominately areas of low income and high rates of risk factors that impact mental well-being.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Are We Spending So Much To Lock Up Elderly Prisoners Who Pose Little Threat?

This submission was originally posted June 13, 2012 on the American Constitution Society blog

By Inimai M. Chettiar and Vanita Gupta

Elderly prisoners are the least dangerous group of people behind bars but the most expensive to incarcerate. Yet despite this truth, the number of elderly prisoners is skyrocketing. Harsher sentences for less serious crimes – one defining characteristic of our failed “tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies – are responsible for this staggering increase in the number of older prisoners, and taxpayers are taking the hit.

You may be shocked to learn how much money states are dumping into housing aging prisoners who pose little safety risk. Today the American Civil Liberties Union released a report, “At America’s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly,” which details the growth of our aging prisoner population, the low public safety threat elderly prisoners pose and the fiscal impact of incarcerating them. Strikingly, the report estimates that the average aging prisoner costs taxpayers about twice as much as the average prisoner.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bi-Partisan Criminal Reform Efforts Take Root in Maryland

By Mellisa Coretz Goemann

While there may be gridlock in Congress, bipartisanship can still be found in many states, including Maryland. Two weeks ago, Governor Martin O’Malley signed the Earned Compliance Credit and Reinvestment Act of 2012 (HB 670/SB 691) into law.  Sponsored by Del. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Washington Counties) and Senator Christopher Shank (R-Washington County), the bill had broad bi-partisan support among legislators and activists, which included the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Justice Policy Institute, and the American Legislative and Exchange Council.

What the Earned Compliance Credit Act does is to extend the concept of “good time credits” beyond those currently incarcerated to those individuals on probation and parole. While incarcerated, people earn credit for good behavior, which encourages such behavior and expedites their release. Increasingly, states such as Maryland are expanding this concept to provide earned compliance credits for individuals on parole or probation. These programs have proven to be a win-win for both public safety and the state coffers, which helps to create bipartisan support.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Arresting Development

Retired Police Chief David Couper reached out to JPI following the release of “Rethinking the Blues: How we police in the U.S. and at what cost.”  As a law enforcement trainer and writer on policing, Chief Couper shared with us his thoughts on what’s needed to improve law enforcement efforts in the U.S.

I have been a member of the clergy for almost 20 years. Prior to that, I was chief of the Madison (Wisc.) Police Department. At the time I retired, we were acclaimed as one of the best police departments in the nation and that year I received the national police leadership award from the Police Executive Research Forum. But I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about police on a national basis as my interest in peace and justice went beyond Madison and into the world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guest Post: Starting Out in the Criminal Justice Field

It’s college graduation season and new graduates are ready to tackle our teetering job market. For many college students, a job in the criminal justice field is an attractive career choice; certain specialties in particular continue to grow. For example, interest in forensics, computer security and homeland security seems ever expanding. A 2011 article in U.S. News even names homeland security as one of nine "hot college majors" with over 300 programs created in the field since 9/11. How is the criminal justice field changing, though, and what do these changes mean for students?

Those looking to start out in criminal justice today will likely face a different landscape than the criminal justice professionals before them, with different requirements and expectations. Four-year bachelor’s programs in criminal justice and even Master’s degrees are becoming more and more common as students look to secure positions in the criminal justice field. Those already working in the field are seeing an increased emphasis on evidence-based practice, community-based corrections and technology.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Working for a Better Future: Improving Public Safety by Employing Youth

By Spike Bradford

In Washington, D.C., a robust and holistic employment program for youth is key to building positive life outcomes for the District’s youth and creating safer communities. In our most recent research brief, Working for a Better Future: How expanding employment opportunities for D.C.’s youth creates public safety benefits for all residents, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) describes how youth unemployment in D.C. ranges between 1.6 and 2.3 times the national average and how increases in youth employment rates have been linked to decreased rates of arrest in the city.

Having a job has been shown to be a “protective factor” against crime and arrests for youth. Jobs help young people gain experience in the work world and effective job assistance programs provide youth with mentoring, life skills training, and a connection to their community.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Keeping the Focus on the Victims

By Keith Wallington

April 22 is a very important week as it recognizes victims from all over the country. This week also serves as a reminder that too many times we ignore the real needs and concerns of victims in a rush to advance other agendas. In order to truly recognize victims we need to invest in the needs and concerns of victims to help them heal from whatever ordeal they have experienced. In many cases, victims simply want to be recognized by the justice system and not utilized. Despite a growth in victim involvement since the early 1980s, research has shown that victims may not believe that justice has been served in their case, and may be left feeling re-victimized by the process. Additionally, there has been a propensity by those on the left to use victims to achieve a less retributive justice system and by those on the right to use victims to promote a more retributive justice system; both with damaging effects on the system.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guest Post: Faith Leaders Opposed to Prison Privatization

By Dr. Iva Carruthers

Several months ago I was blessed to meet a young man, Marcus, whose story is not unlike so many young African American young men who find themselves on the other side of a prison cell.

Marcus lived a challenging life, made some bad choices and was convicted of a non-violent drug possession charge. What makes his story different is that he found a new way forward. Just before his release on parole, Marcus was connected to a mentorship program that encouraged artists who were incarcerated. This mentorship program was created by one faithful person who takes seriously the charge to “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were there in prison with them…” (Hebrews 13:3).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

To Be Free at Last with Michelle Alexander

By Zerline Hughes

Earlier this year, I had the honor of attending the annual convening of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference an event that brings together instrumental faith leaders from around the country in an effort to come to one accord on how to bring together congregations and communities to address the various causes that need their advocacy and attention.

The Justice Policy Institute’s involvement with the Proctor Conference stemmed from an invitation from New York Times bestselling author, Michelle Alexander. She is working with the SDPC on its To Be Free at Last movement, a national campaign to end mass incarceration. Alexander’s bestseller, “The New Jim Crow: Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” has rallied varied communities, -- scholars, practitioners, faith based and grassroots organizations and the families of those incarcerated – to seriously tackle the ills of our criminal justice system.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Election time: Vote to Send JPI to Netroots Nation!

By Zerline Hughes

I guess I’m officially a blogger. JPI has a blog. I write for it every now and again. That makes me a blogger. Wow! Who’d have thought!

So, why not try out for a scholarship sponsored by Democracy for America and America's Voice to attend the NetRoots Nation Conference for bloggers. I AM a blogger, aren’t I? My boss nominated me (it’s an honor just to be considered), and now all I need is your vote!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Youth of Today Represent the Future of Our Tomorrow

By Karina Watts

“Let’s not send kids to prison unless there is an immediate threat. Let’s look at what works and what won’t cost the tax payers money.” That was a quote from Pat Nolan, Vice President of Prison Fellowship a nonprofit organization that advocates for criminal justice reform.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a bipartisan briefing titled “Reduce Crime, Reduce Costs, and Improve Lives and Communities through Evidence-Based Prevention.” The briefing focused on evidence-based intervention strategies that would prevent crimes before they occurred. Originally introduced by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), the Youth PROMISE Act or the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education is designed to reduce juvenile crime and gang violence through evidence-based programs and intervention strategies that have been shown to be effective and be cost-saving.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women’s Day: U.S. Must Address Impact of Mass Incarceration on Women

By Tracy Velázquez
International Women's Day is an opportunity to reflect on changes needed around the world to improve the lives and status of women. Here in the U.S., the increasing impact of the criminal justice system on women is one of the most pressing human rights and social justice issues of our time.

More women are ending up behind bars than ever. Between 1980 and 1989, the number of women in U.S. prisons tripled. And the number of women in prison has continued to rise since. In the last 10 years, the number of women under jurisdiction of state or federal authorities increased 21 percent, to almost 113,000. During the same time period, the increase in the number of men in prison was 6 percentage points lower, at about 15 percent. The increase in women in the federal population was even larger- over 41 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Our Take: Congressional Briefing on Private Prisons

By Benjamin Laman-Maharg

After a recent, narrow defeat of what would have been the largest private prison expansion in United States history in the Florida House, JPI went to the Hill last Thursday to discuss the dangerous private prison industry and its effect on American communities. The four person panel drew a crowd of over 50 people.

The panel members included:
  • Bill Mefford, Director, Civil and Human Rights, General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church
  • Joshua Miller, Labor Economist, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
  • David Shapiro, Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union, National Prison Project
  • Tracy Velázquez, Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Working on a New History, a New Dream Together

By Zerline Hughes

As Black History Month concludes, we would like to share with you our involvement in a special project that has brought together like-minded organizations and individuals: "Dream of a Nation."

This project, a glossy, 446-page book of essays highlighting a people-centered initiative focused on big dreams, bold innovations, and realizing our full potential as a nation, is an effort to elevate awareness and inspire action around a range of critical social, environmental, and economic issues. Essays highlight such issues as waging peace, strengthening community, media reform, people-centered government, ending poverty and more.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest Post: The Old Cliché

By Gail Tyree

The old cliché “Gone up the River” takes on a whole new meaning in South Florida. As a child, I would often hear my mother and her friends sit on the front porch and talk about young men from the neighborhood that have gone up the river. I often wondered what that phrase meant.

“Gone up the river,” as I have come to understand, is when someone is convicted of a crime, incarcerated and sent away to a facility to serve out their imposed sentence. While serving their sentence the expectation is that they will be rehabilitated. In some cases that means educated, treated for drugs, alcohol and/or mental illness and sent back to their families and communities a more productive citizen. A “river” meant to teach you how to swim in mainstream society and, when you reach the bank, return redeemed as a productive part of that society. That’s in the best possible circumstances.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

JPI's on the Hill

By Zerline Hughes

JPI started 2012 its our feet with our continuing coverage on justice-involved veterans, commenting on the President’s FY2013 budget, offering testimony in Maryland on expungement and record shielding and publishing a report on the intersection of education and public safety in Washington, DC.

Late February and March are no different with upcoming testimony on Capitol Hill. This is precisely what we publish our groundbreaking research analysis for: to alert policymakers and their staff on the ills of the criminal justice system. We want our research to touch advocates and practitioners, and we want Congress and legislators across the country to fully understand that the U.S. criminal justice system doesn’t work, costs too much, and simply isn’t fair. We want lawmakers to understand that there are alternative processes that we can employ, moving away from the overly harsh and punitive laws that exist. There is more we can do than to just affix a Band-aid on the problem of overcrowded prisons, private prisons, racial disparities and broken families. We need to invest in proven policies that address the root causes of crime and provide robust services and supports for those who do come into contact with the justice system.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Taking the Politics Out of Parole

By Tracy Velázquez and Walter Lomax

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the Maryland Parole Commission’s responsibilities is deciding whether someone serving a parole-eligible life sentence should be allowed to return to the community. They must evaluate whether someone is a threat to public safety; assess a person’s likelihood of being successfully reintegrated into society; look at the circumstances surrounding the original offense; and judge whether the person earned their release through their accomplishments and behavior while in prison. And the seriousness of the crime and the impact on those who were harmed must also be added to the equation. As of March 2010, only 59 out of over 2,500 “lifers” made it through this intensely rigorous process, and had their applications for either a parole or a commutation of their sentence (to a specific term of years) approved by the Commission and sent on to the Governor’s office for final approval.

Monday, February 13, 2012

It’s Not the Kids that are Bad, It's the Policies

By Amanda Petteruti

Disappointingly, there seems to be widely-held perception that the youth of today behave worse than any generation of kids before them. A fair amount of research has been dedicated to showing this generation of kids doesn’t behave any more badly than previous generations, but instead it is public perception that casts them as wild and out of control. In the 1990s, this led to a wide array of policies designed to punish youth to the maximum, including laws that transfer youth to adult court, zero tolerance policies that put police in schools, and an overall reliance on confinement. . The result was more than 100,000 youth committed to the juvenile justice system in the late 1990s.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Racial Profiling is Jaw Droppingly Offensive

By Keith Wallington

Photo Credit: CBS-2
I recently read a USA Today article about East Haven Connecticut Police Chief Leonard Gallo being suspended for “waging a campaign against Latino residents that included beatings, false arrest and harassment.” It is important to note that this happened in a town where Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. recently quipped that he “might have tacos” as a way of supporting the Latino community. Pick your jaw up.

I’m not saying the mayor and chief are racist but do I need to tell you it’s hot when the thermostat reads 100? These comments and practices are reflective of a justice system plagued with stereotypes that are weaved into policing practices and contribute to the disproportionate incarceration of people of color; which results in the degradation of families and communities in those populations.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Military Suicides: Those We Might Yet Save

By Penny Coleman

When my husband Daniel came home from Vietnam in 1969, he was a mortally wounded man. Some essential part of him had been damaged, but the damage was invisible from the outside. On the inside, something malignant had implanted, something that would fester and ultimately prove to be as lethal as any bullet or bomb.

Soldiers throughout the ages have suffered traumatic injuries in response to the horrors of war. When their most basic beliefs about right and wrong, conscience, compassion and humanity are shattered, they can be transformed in malignant ways. For some, the urge to destructive behavior will be directed outward, devastating their families and support networks, their careers, their place in the world. When their lives spiral out of control, many of them will end up behind bars. For others, the urge will be towards self-destruction. They will risk and abuse their bodies, and far too many will die by their own hands.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vote on the Top Report of 2011

By Jason Fenster

Welcome back! After a brief hiatus, JustPolicy Blog is ready to kick start a busy and exciting 2012. We have an interesting slate of reports in the queue. This year, you can look forward to more of JPI’s expert research and analysis on the relationship between policing and incarceration in the United States, a series of reports on bail, and a collection of briefs on creating a public safety strategy in D.C. by making smart investments in social services.

But before we dive into 2012, let’s take a look back at what was a very exciting and successful 2011. We launched our new website and blog, were featured in the Baltimore Sun, The Hill and on MSNBC (to name a few), set (and broke) JPI records for website visits and built new partnerships with organizations across the country. I hope that you’ll make your way through the post and let us know which was your favorite report of 2011.