Monday, August 26, 2013

From Chicago with Love: Alternative Recommendations for Struggling Communities

Just Policy Blog Guest Blogpost

By Angela Rudolph

Dear Conservatives,

Thank you for your concern regarding the high instances of gun violence and its impact on the African-American community in Chicago. In recent months I have been blown away by the number of times I have turned on my television to either the cable or broadcast news programs to see so many of you championing the need for a targeted address to the violence plaguing the city I love. In the July 21 episode of CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Newt Gingrich stunned me with his seemingly heartfelt distress regarding the violence on the south and west sides of Chicago. During a recent appearance on CNN’s Pierce Morgan, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson  the leader of the South Central Tea Party (South Central who knew?) mentioned the 500 gun deaths we had in our city last year and called for a renewed focus on community violence.  Add on top of these cries, the attempts by Ben Shapiro, Editor in Chief at a conservative news and opinion website to focus attention on the murder of Chicago teen Darryl Green. It has been amazing to see all of these, previously thought, unlikely supporters following the happenings here so closely, calling on the African-American community and our leaders to address the “rampant black on black crime spree” in cities like Chicago. This outpouring of love and concern is, to say the least, overwhelming.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Aging Behind Bars

Guest Blog Post By Criminal Justice Degree HubThe elderly population in prison is rising at a staggering rate. The consequence of mass incarceration and strict sentencing policies at the federal and state level, older prisoners require more expensive care at a time when their danger to society at large is waning. Most are likely to die in prison, as programs designed to release such prisoners on compassionate grounds are rarely invoked, and don’t have much potential to reduce the population of elderly prisoners. Continued high rates of long-term incarceration of the elderly are likely to add billions to state and federal criminal justice budgets.
Aging Prisoners
Source: Criminal Justice Degree Hub The Rise of the Elderly Prison Population
Between 2007 and 2010, the number of state and federal prisoners age 65 or older grew 94 times faster than the overall prison population.

Between 1981 and 2010, the number of state and federal prisoners age 55 and over increased from 8,853 to 124,900. By 2030, that number is projected to grow to 400,000, an increase of 4,400 percent from 1981.

4 Types of Elderly Prisoners

Old offenders

Age at 1st incarceration: 50 or older
Sentence length: 20 years or more
# of terms: 1st prison term
Crimes committed: Murder or sex crimes

Young long-term prisoners

Age at 1st incarceration: Younger than 50
Sentence length: Varies
# of terms: Either 1st term or repeat offenders
Crimes committed: Murder, armed robbery, rape, repeat drug offenses

Repeat prisoners

Age at 1st incarceration: Younger than 50
Sentence length: 20 years or more
# of terms: 2nd or more
Crimes committed: Burglary, theft, drug possession

Young short-term offenders

Age at 1st incarceration: Younger than 50
Sentence length: Less than 20 years
# of terms: 1st
Crime committed: Burglary, theft, drug possession
Why The Elderly Are In Prison
The overall prison population has doubled during the past 20 years from 739980 prisoners in 1990 to 1543206 prisoners in 2010 due to truth-in-sentencing guidelines and “three strikes” laws.

The number of inmates serving life sentences quadrupled between 1984 and 2008; inmates who live a long time with life sentences will grow old and are most likely to die in prison.
The number of inmates sentenced to life without parole more than tripled between 1992 and 2008.

Government Fiscal Impact
Care for aging prisoners is at least twice as expensive than for younger prisoners because this population:

* Has more health problems and requires more medical care
* Requires longer and more frequent hospitalizations
* Needs care outside of the prison system, which represents 72 percent of all healthcare costs spent on aging prisoners

Managing the Problem

By the time a person turns 50, the likelihood of that person committing another crime has dropped precipitously. Only 16.9 percent of prisoners released at age 45 and older return for new sentences.

Policies that could reduce the number of aging prisoners include:
* Granting conditional release for aging prisoners who pose little safety risk
* Utilizing and expanding medical parole
* Reauthorizing and expanding aging prisoner release programs
States could save an average of $66,294 every year for each released aging prisoner, which accounts for increased parole, housing and public benefits costs.
Impact of annual cost savings of releasing the average aging prisoner versus keeping them behind bars:
* Low, $28,362
* Medium, $66,294
* High, $104,434.


Bureau of Justice Statistics, Human Rights Watch, American Civil Liberties Union, Pew Center for the States

The Criminal Justice Hub provides information and advice about traditional and online and criminal justice schools and careers in criminal justice.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Right on Time: Juvenile Justice Resource Centers for Advocates

The Justice Policy Institute has a special position in the social justice world in that we address adult criminal justice issues, in addition to juvenile justice issues. Our research runs the gamut, analyzing data to understand racial disparity in the adult and juvenile systems, commenting on upticks in incarceration, and making connections to policies and practices that affect incarceration rates and trends.

Recently, our reports like "Common Ground," addressing the recent trend in the reduction of juvenile confinement reform across the U.S., and our series on Washington, D.C. youth, have kept us grounded in juvenile justice -- an area that advocates and the general public are increasingly gravitated towards in an effort to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.
With Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement Tuesday that the Justice Department will prioritize fixing a "broken" justice system, advocates, policymakers and practitioners, are propelled to continue reform work. And now, the icing on the cake is that there’s a new resource out there to help advocates, policymakers, and practitioners make communities safer and improve outcomes for youth.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced the launch of the new Models for Change Resource Center Partnership. As a part of the partnership, four new Resource Centers will be available to help provide judges, prosecutors, defenders, policymakers, advocates, probation officers, and mental health and social service agencies with much needed technical assistance, trainings, tools, and resources to help advance juvenile justice reform across the country.

Over the last decade, there have been juvenile justice reform efforts in 35 states. Much of this work is grounded in the seminal research funded by the foundation that showed that adolescents are fundamentally different from adults, and that treating juvenile offenders as adults, relying on incarceration, and failing to commit resources to rehabilitation and treatment is expensive, jeopardizes public safety, and compromises future life chances for young people in contact with the law.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Prison Phone Predicament

By Victoria Ravenel
Have you ever considered the importance of prison phones?

Keeping incarcerated individuals in contact with the outside world is immensely important to their re-entry into society – a smooth transition lessens the likelihood of repeat offenses.

But phones cost money, even in prison. So who pays?

As I learned through coverage in the Los Angeles Times' and at the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights (LCCR) on July 25, it is not the incarcerated persons, but the families and taxpayers who must pay the unreasonably high costs of prison phone calls. 

And just what are the costs? This skit, put on by LCCR organizers helped me and a host of social justice interns from Washington, D.C.,  see not only the monetary costs, but the impact on communication between the incarcerated and their families as well.

Background: This scenario features a mother of three whose husband has been incarcerated for five years. All of her children are in school and the oldest child is applying for college this month. Between the mother and her oldest child, both have been working overtime but there is one more application fee to be paid for. After groceries, rent, and transportation they both only have enough to pay for the last application fee.

Prison Phone Call Transcript

*phone is ringing*

Loved one: Hello?

Operator: I have a collect call from John Wilson.  Would you like to accept the charges?

Loved one: *looks at money left* I’m sorry.  I’ll decline the charges.

Operator: Ok. Thank you. Have a nice day.

*hours later…phone is ringing*

Loved one: This is Mary, how may I help you?

Operator: I have a collect call from John Wilson.  Would you like to accept the charges?

Loved one: *sighs* Sure. That’s fine.

Operator: Ok.  Ma’am you do realize that because this call is taking place in Virginia and is going out to Maryland that you will be charged a $4.95 connection fee?

Loved one:  Ok. I understand. Put him through.

Impacted person:  Hey, how is everything?  I called you guys earlier.

Loved one:  I know.  I know.  I couldn’t accept the call just yet.  I was picking the girls up from school.  Never mind that, how are you holding up?  Are you eating?

Impacted person:  Just missing you guys.  I want to hear about the girls though.  Have any decisions been made yet on schools?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mobbing, er, Missing the Point

Just Policy Blog Guest Post
By Angela Rudolph

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on May 18, 2013 signed into law legislation increasing the criminal penalties against individuals who use electronic communication or social media to organize violent flash mobs. Senate Bill #1005 allows a judge to hand down an extended prison sentence to anyone convicted of mob action who used social media or text messaging to organize it. Supporters of the bill argued the legislation is in response to a “growing trend” of large groups using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to organize flash mobs to commit crimes. Lawmakers and police cited summer-break concerns of mob attacks being on the rise, pointing to previous incidences of teens being arrested after groups began randomly attacking each other and pedestrians along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile causing dozens of arrests and multiple injuries.

We see it virtually every year when the weather gets warm,” City of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said after the Mag Mile attacks. “We were deployed, we were right on top of it and made the arrests. Preventing it is something that's very difficult to do."

Friday, August 2, 2013

"The Times, They Are a-Changin'"

By Peter Leone
In early February 2013, I assumed the role of Acting Executive Director at JPI, an organization I've known and respected since its founding 15 years ago. For the past eight years, I have had the privilege of serving as a member of the Board of Directors, and for the last two, as chair. During my brief tenure here, I’ve made a number of new professional friends and acquaintances.

Earlier this summer, JPI released its first book,  IncarcerationGeneration, a series of reflections written by those who have been most affected by the system as well as those seeking to change it. During the past six months, we also released several reports including Common Ground and Juvenile Justice Reform in Connecticut; both reports describe the forces shaping the decline in juvenile incarceration rates in several states and point to opportunities to develop more humane, cost-effective, and responsive justice policies in other jurisdictions.