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Minor Crimes, Major Challenges

From The Crime Report

Only 18%of arrests are for crimes in one of the seven major categories.


Everything You Think You Know About Mass Incarceration Is Wrong

In his new book, “Locked In,” the economist and law professor John Pfaff challenges popular assumptions about how America became the most incarcerated nation on Earth. The war on drugs did not generate the wave of incarceration, punitive sentencing and private prisons are not mainly to blame, and if we want to dig our way out we have to start at the beginning: with the vast discretion prosecutors have to charge defendants in the first place.


Big data may be reinforcing racial bias in the criminal justice system

Big data has expanded to the criminal justice system. In Los Angeles, police use computerized “predictive policing” to anticipate crimes and allocate officers. In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., machine-learning algorithms are used to set bond amounts. In states across the country, data-driven estimates of the risk of recidivism are being used to set jail sentences.


Don’t look now, but American judges are attacking debtor’s prison

But mass incarceration of people simply because they are poor is also the natural outgrowth of a jail system that is chronically underfunded, locally administered, and concerned more with warehousing troublemakers than with constitutional due process.

However, things have started to change — most recently by something called a model bench card for justices. It says that nobody can be jailed for nonpayment of fines without a hearing establishing that they had the money and deliberately refused to pay, or that nonpayment was not the defendant’s fault and alternatives to incarceration were inadequate.



“Sentencing Outcomes in US District Courts: Can Offenders’ Educational Attainment Guard
Against Prevalent Criminal Stereotypes?” By Travis W. Franklin. Crime and Delinquency vol. 63 no. 2 (2017) pp. 137-165.

The research demonstrated that high school graduates are 10% less likely to be sent to prison than those who did not finish high school and, when sent to prison, their average sentence is 1.4% shorter. Additionally, those who were either Hispanic or Asian faced greater chance of being incarcerated than whites (24% and 38%) and males faced greater chance of imprisonment compared to females.


PEW RESEARCH completed a major study on how approximately 8,000 police officers feel about their work and community relations.  Four key findings are:

Most officers – 86% – say high-profile incidents between blacks and police have made their jobs harder.

Black and white officers differ over perceptions of fatal encounters and ensuing protests.

Police work is marked by conflicting experiences and emotions.

While physical confrontations are not part of the daily routine, a third of officers say they have struggled or fought with a suspect resisting arrest in the past month.

Read more about these findings and the other key discoveries at:


Another article from the Pew Research survey of police officers finds that black and white officers see many key aspects of policing differently. The link to this article is:


A RAND video on why correctional education matters, including filming inside Mule Creek State Prison of a college program for inmates and interviews with Senator Loni Hancock and DCR’s Correctional Education Director, Brant Choate.   Find it at:


California State and County Governments Spend More Than $20 Billion Annually on Incarceration and Responding to Crime. By Chris Hoene, et al. California Budget & Policy Center. Oct. 2016. 3 p.

“Despite … significant reforms, spending on incarceration and crime-related activities at the county and state level remains high. As of 2014-15, California’s state and county governments spent $20.7 billion on incarceration and responding to crime…. Significantly reducing state and county spending … will require continued implementation of recent reforms and going beyond recent changes in criminal justice policy…. Policy changes … could include simplifying the state’s complex Penal Code in order to shorten prison sentences, providing state officials with new policy options for further reducing incarceration, and increasing the use of alternatives incarceration at the county level, particularly for youth.”
A publication from the Public Policy Institute of California’s Criminal Justice Group. The title is California’s County Jails in an Era of Reform


California’s Historic Corrections Reforms. By Magnus Lofstrom, et al. Public Policy Institute of California. Sep. 2016. 36 p.