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.