PUBLICATIONS 2018-05-07T21:11:07+00:00
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Electronic monitoring pioneer wants less punishment, more reward



Vera Institute of Justice report

Divided Justice: Trends in Black and White Jail Incarceration


ADDED 4/23


Judges Called ‘Last Line of Defense’ for Mentally Ill in Justice System

The lack of adequate alternatives to jail or prison to help mentally troubled individuals who run afoul of the law is a “horrible American tragedy,” judges and prosecutors from around the country were told at a New York University School of Law conference. Read More

District Judge Rejects Pleas in Favor of Juries

In what a sentencing expert calls a “remarkable” opinion, a federal judge in West Virginia explains why he is rejecting some plea bargains between prosecutors and defendants. Read More

54% in CO Justice System Have Serious Brain Injury

Researchers who screened 4,100 people in jail, on probation or assigned to drug courts in Colorado found a high number with brain injuries, compared with eight percent of the general population. Those with the most serious impairments are being offered treatment options. Read More

How Drug Courts Can Respond to the Opioid Crisis

Evidence-based reforms could make them more effective, writes an addiction expert. He offers one example: stop limiting approved medication-assisted treatment to Vivitrol. Read More

DOJ Juvenile Justice Unit Faces Big Staff Cuts

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has only 60 employees, but one-fourth of its positions may not be filled after attrition. That would reduce efforts to insure state compliance with a federal law providing juvenile justice aid. Read More

Can ‘Court Watchers’ Help Reform America’s Flawed Justice Systems?

A program that trains ordinary citizens in New York to act as watchdogs over the city’s courts has attracted flak from some who argue their criticisms are not well-informed. But the “Court Watchers” respond they are already having a positive impact. Read More



Is Alameda County’s Sheriff Reaching Too Far?

For years, police have been criticized for not being invested in the urban communities they patrol. Officers typically focus on street crimes, and that usually means arresting large numbers of low-income people of color and funneling them into the court system. Alameda County Sheriff Capt. Martin Neideffer wants to change this dynamic. The sheriff’s Youth and Family Services (YFS) Bureau is a combined economic development, mental health services, job training, and counseling provider.

Privatizing Criminal Procedure

As the staggering costs of the criminal justice system continue to rise, many states have begun to look for non-traditional ways to pay for criminal prosecutions and to shift these costs onto criminal defendants. Many states now impose a surcharge on defendants who exercise their constitutional rights to counsel, confrontation, and trial by jury. As these “user fees” proliferate, they have the potential to fundamentally change the nature of criminal prosecutions and the way we think of constitutional rights. This intrusion of market ideology into the world of fundamental constitutional rights has at least two broad problems: it exacerbates structural unfairness in a system that already disadvantages poor people, and it degrades how we conceive of those rights. This Article proposes solutions to ameliorate the harshest effects of these rights-based user fees but also argues for the importance of resisting the trend of the privatization of constitutional trial rights.

50 State Data on Public Safety – California Workbook: Analyses to Inform Public Safety Strategies

The CSG Justice Center produced 50 state-specific workbooks that contain more than 60 data visualizations showing historical trends and data comparisons related to crime, arrests, recidivism, and correctional populations, and provide policymakers with key questions to help identify opportunities to increase public safety.


ADDED 4/15


When Bail Feels Less Like Freedom, More Like Extortion

As commercial bail has grown into a $2 billion industry, bond agents have become the payday lenders of the criminal justice world, offering quick relief to desperate customers at high prices.

California’s Controversial DNA Collection Law Upheld in Court

The state Supreme Court left intact a voter-approved California law Monday that requires police to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested on suspicion of committing a felony, sidestepping questions about what it means for the tens of thousands of people who are arrested but never charged or convicted

John Oliver Puts Immigration Courts on Trial on Last Week Tonight

The country’s 60 or so immigration courts, which are governed by the Department of Justice and thus subject to shifting governmental priorities, are where immigrants go to argue their right to stay in the country. The courts must determine whether a claim is valid or whether they should be sent back to their country of origin. Oliver featured one young woman who was arguing her asylum claim in immigration court and worried that she would be killed if she was deported, which is horrifying, because as Oliver notes, kids should only have to worry about “sitting with the cool kids while they eat their Tide Pods.”


Also See

Electronic Monitoring

The use of electronic monitoring (EM)-ankle bracelets, GPS, etc.-is on the rise, but what is the proper role of EM in pretrial cases? PJI’s blog this week offers some thoughts on the proper role of EM in pretrial cases.

Legal and evidence-based practice remind us people should be released before trial with the least restrictive conditions needed to assure pretrial success. As a constraint on liberty, EM can be quite onerous and cause many of the same consequences as jail-lost jobs, attenuated families, etc.

Also, more research is needed to understand if and when EM is effective and how it fits into the pretrial context. And data should be collected and published to ensure EM is not used disproportionately on African Americans and other people of color. When EM is used, the cost should never fall on the person being monitored. Doing so would amount to a financial condition of release that unfairly burdens poor and working class people-just like money bail.

The Center for Media Justice released a set of guidelines today that elaborate on these and other considerations for jurisdictions looking to start using/improve their use of electronic monitoring. If jurisdiction does choose to use EM, it’s imperative to ensure the technology is accurate and working properly to avoid false alerts. There are examples of pretrial services agencies using EM sparingly. Allegheny County, PA used EM for less than 1% of cases in 2017 with a 71% success rate of those in the program.


ADDED 3/11


Sonoma County changes policy to proactively clear past pot-related convictions

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch abruptly changed course Monday, deciding her office will begin reviewing past marijuana-related crimes to reduce or expunge eligible convictions after saying last month it would not.

Ohio Considers Bail Reform
Interview with American Bail Coalition Executive Director Jeff Clayton; CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute, Cherise Burdeen; and State Representative Jonathan Dever from Madeira, one of the two lawmakers who introduced Ohio’s bail reform bill.

Text-to-Pay Service Available for Traffic, Infraction and Criminal Cases
The Orange County Superior Court has implemented a Text-to-Pay service for traffic, infraction and criminal cases. It is a fast, convenient and secure way to use a smartphone to make payments or explore other case options, even when the Court is closed.

Beyond the Adversarial System: Achieving the Challenge – APA & NLADA 2018
APA and NLADA are excited to announce that today is the official release of our joint publication-Beyond the Adversarial System: Achieving the Challenge. Traditionally, prosecutors and defenders are adversaries in the courtroom. In order to achieve the goals of the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, of system-wide sustainable change, collaboration with all system actors is essential. However, broader criminal justice reform can often be difficult to achieve when dealing with traditionally opposing roles. Therefore, APA and NLADA have drafted a joint publication entitled “Beyond the Adversarial System: Achieving the Challenge,” which stems from our April 2017 joint meeting that brought together SJC prosecutors and defenders from four jurisdictions. The goal of the publication is to provide prosecutors and defenders throughout the nation with effective strategies on how to collaborate and develop new ideas to address systemic criminal justice issues while still maintaining their traditional roles in the courtroom. Accordingly, the publication contains nine recommendations for prosecutors and defenders to foster beneficial and productive working relationships so that together, we can create meaningful and lasting change. 




The Problem with Parole

States that set out a decade ago to trim prison costs have learned that success lies in a few areas — rolling back draconian sentencing that drove up prison populations in the first place, and remaking parole and probation systems, which have, in numerous cases, sent as many or even more people to jail for rule violations as the courts do for new crimes. The woefully underfunded parole system fell in line with the jail-first agenda. Parole officers, who were buried under massive caseloads, sent parolees back inside for technical violations, like failing drug tests, missing curfew or socializing with friends they had been forbidden to see. With nearly five million people in the nation under supervision — more than twice the number housed in prisons and jails — the parole and probation systems have become what corrections researchers now describe as a significant driver of recidivism.

Divided Justice: Uncovering Trends in Black and White Jail Incarceration, 1990-2013

A new report released this week from the Vera Institute of Justice reveals some interesting trends. Black jail incarceration rates are still 3.6 times higher than white incarceration, but black jail incarceration rates have fallen significantly since the nationwide peak in 2005, while white jail incarceration rates have steadily grown across all regions and jurisdiction types since 1990. Between 2005 and 2013, the black jail incarceration rate declined by 20 percent across the country, as did the number of black people held in jails. In contrast, local incarceration of whites has continuously and steadily grown; between 1990 and 2013, the jailed white population doubled.

Counties slow to spend millionaires’ money on mental health
California State Auditor Elaine Howle found that county mental health programs had stashed $231 million from the tax that should have been returned to the state by the end of the 2015-16 budget year.

Palantir has secretly been using New Orleans to test its predictive policing technology
According to Ronal Serpas, the department’s chief at the time, one of the tools used by the New Orleans Police Department to identify members of gangs like 3NG and the 39ers came from the Silicon Valley company Palantir. The company provided software to a secretive NOPD program that traced people’s ties to other gang members, outlined criminal histories, analyzed social media, and predicted the likelihood that individuals would commit violence or become a victim. As part of the discovery process in Lewis’ trial, the government turned over more than 60,000 pages of documents detailing evidence gathered against him from confidential informants, ballistics, and other sources — but they made no mention of the NOPD’s partnership with Palantir, according to a source familiar with the 39ers trial.


From the Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Safety Performance Project (

Many Juveniles Held for Low Level Offenses

Nearly a quarter of juveniles in out-of-home placements in 2015 were not confined for serious or violent crimes. Research has generally found that confining juveniles fails to reduce recidivism and can actually worsen outcomes for some young people. 

How Kansas is Improving Its Juvenile Justice

Kansas passed bipartisan juvenile justice reforms in 2016, and they are already showing signs of success. Youth confinement has dropped 34 percent, prompting the state to shift more than $12 million in savings to community-based programs that reduce recidivism and improve outcomes.

How States Use Data to Improve Policy Making

States are increasingly harnessing their administrative data to help inform decision-making. A new 50-state assessment from Pew’s data as a strategic asset project explores these efforts, including programs to identify youth most at risk of recidivism

Alabama’s Juvenile Justice Reform Plan

“Tackling juvenile justice is the earliest way to change behavior before it becomes a long term, high cost problem,” Alabama State Senator Cam Ward said at a recent gathering with Americans for Tax Reform






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