Thursday, November 21, 2013

Virginia's Justice System: Expensive, Ineffective and Unfair

This Just Policy Blog is a repost from the Campaign for Youth Justice Blog originally posted Wednesday, November 20, 2013.

By Christine Brugh
Last week, the Justice Policy Institute released a new brief titled, “Virginia’s Justice System: Expensive, Ineffective, and Unfair.” The brief examines trends in incarceration in Virginia, delving into topics such as racial disparity and drug laws. According to the brief, Virginia has the 8th highest incarceration in the United States, making it even more pertinent that these disparities be addressed.

During Governor Allen’s tenure, prisons in Virginia have become even tougher, and have earned a reputation for being one of the most severe systems in the United States. Over-incarceration has contributed to this reputation and has serious consequences for communities and taxpayers in Virginia. The increased use of incarceration has been justified by the goal of reducing crime through the incapacitation of law-breakers. However, this comes at the expense of disproportionate incarceration of African Americans and African-American youth.

The brief reports that the cost to incarcerate a young person in a juvenile facility is approximately $100,000 per year. Virginia’s policies on juvenile justice falls behind those of other states; youth as young as 14 year- old can be transferred to criminal court for certain offenses, and in some cases, the transfer is automatic. According to the brief, Virginia is unnecessarily transferring many of these youth to adult court: a majority of these adolescents do not receive sentences requiring placement in adult prison.

Monday, November 4, 2013

'Lead Them Back to Good Jobs, Good Homes and a Better Life'

By Mishana Garschi

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of theMarch on Washington and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, George Washington University is hosting a year-long “Pro(Claiming) Freedom” series of events. The fall segment concluded in September with an address from New York Times bestselling author Michelle Alexander. Her renowned book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has brought the issue of racial and criminal justice to the forefront – finally giving these issues some of the attention they deserve.

In honoring and remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander asked, “What does Dr. King’s dream mean in an era of mass incarceration?” Here Alexander is eluding to the fact that 65 million people in this country have been branded as criminals and stripped of their human rights that they supposedly won in the  civil rights movement. Alexander outlined key points of her book, which illuminates how mass incarceration has specifically marked African-American men as permanent second class citizens through the "War on drugs."

Alexander concluded with the opinion that any successful path to racial justice in the criminal justice system must include those individuals that have been marked as “guilty.” She stated, “We need to create an underground railroad for people released from prison and lead them back to good jobs, good homes and a better life, but we have to be willing to work for the abolition of this system of mass incarceration in America.”