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California judges want to decriminalize traffic tickets, reducing fines and license suspensions

Cantil-Sakauye’s proposal actually comes from a panel of judges who’ve been grappling with the bureaucratic nightmare in the state’s halls of justice spawned by an avalanche of driver’s-license suspensions that have, in a way, been caused by the court system’s own budgetary woes: Members of the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System say cash-strapped courts have tried to bolster their coffers by tacking on surcharges to traffic tickets — as high as $490 for a simple $100 fine for an elementary violation, like a busted headlight. Failure to pay those amped-up fines, which are huge challenges for the poor and working class, then triggers additional penalties and suspended driver’s licenses.


 From recent Crime Reports (

Rural Jail Growth Helps Fuel U.S. Mass Incarceration

The number of pretrial suspects jailed jumped 436 percent between 1970 and 2013 in rural counties, says the Vera Institute of Justice and the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety + Justice Challenge. Read more

Will Justice Reform Survive the Revival of ‘Tough on Crime’ Policies?

Keir Bradford-Gray, chief defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, believes it will. In a conversation with The Crime Report, she argues that the work of local jurisdictions and community groups in developing problem-solving courts, diversion programs and other reforms will be hard to reverse. Read more

Higher Imprisonment Rates Don’t Curb Drug Abuse: Study

A Pew Charitable Trust analysis shows no correlation between state-level imprisonment rates of drug offenders and rates of illicit drug use, overdose deaths, and arrests. These findings reinforce previous research disputing the theory that stiffer prison terms deter drug use and related crime. Read more

Hunting the Internet’s Sex Predators

The director of a recent Netflix documentary on child sex-traffickers has called for legislation restricting commercial sex sites. But Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, an expert on human trafficking at George Mason University,  argues police need the sites to identify –and save—the victims. Read her column



The Importance of Data Sharing to Support Integration of Substance Use Treatment in California’s Medi-Cal Program

Effective coordination of health care services is critical to delivery system reform efforts taking place across the country — particularly in the context of mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services. With passage of the Drug Medi-Cal Organized Delivery System waiver in 2015, California is on the cutting edge of efforts to ensure access to a full continuum of evidence-based and well-coordinated SUD services. The success of this demonstration rests in part on the ability of counties and their participating plans and providers to manage, share, and coordinate data on behalf of their patients and populations. Despite barriers to SUD treatment data management and sharing, several counties across California have made great strides in this area. This brief, made possible by Blue Shield of California Foundation, highlights two examples from San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. Lessons from California can inform initiatives in states across the country that are using data to better coordinate behavioral health care delivery.

Behavioral health law puts a detour around jail cells in Colorado mental health response

Jail cells are no longer a substitute for the help needed by people in behavioral and mental health crises in Colorado. Senate Bill 207 abolishes the practice of locking up people simply because of mental health distress. Instead, the new law creates a needs study, regional contractors, training for first-responders, community partnerships, mobile units, and, by Jan. 1, a 24-hour walk-in center on the Western Slope. The Department of Human Services, which runs the state’s response program, will get about $7.1 million from marijuana taxes next year and $7.4 million the next year to extend and bolster services across the state. About $5.2 million a year will go toward law enforcement and mental health professionals working together on ways and means.

How L.A. County Faced Its Tragic Problem with Sex-Trafficked Kids

Los Angeles police and social workers believed the young girls picked up as prostitutes could best be helped through the juvenile court system. Then they realized little would change until they went after the traffickers who had made L.A. County one of the top child sex-trafficking hubs in the U.S. Read more from Kristy Plaza of WitnessLA.

Gun Violence Kills Business Growth and Jobs: Report

An Urban Institute study released last week found that sudden spikes in gun violence can reduce the growth of new businesses, while neighborhoods with higher gun violence had fewer retail and service businesses, and fewer new jobs. The study looked at six U.S. cities. Read more.

Do All Violent Offenders Need Long Prison Terms?

Fordham law professor John Pfaff says the country needs to re-examine the way “politics and punishment interact.” In part 2 of an extended conversation with The Crime Report about his book, “Locked In,” Pfaff focuses on what he believes is local prosecutors’ aggressively punitive approach to people convicted of violence. (Read part 1 here).

Prop 47 funding to fight criminal recidivism has finally arrived –right on time

Long awaited but right on time, more than $100 million in state funding is headed toward cities and counties to treat, house and retrain Californians whose addictions or illnesses make them high risks to commit crimes and to wind up in jail or prison.

 L.A. County might stop charging needy defendants a $50 fee

The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a motion Tuesday that would revoke the registration fee, which the county allows these defendants to be charged before they receive any legal services. The motion does not address other fees that defendants might be assessed after a case ends.



Jails exist for punishment or public safety, not for locking people up who can’t afford bail

Two virtually identical bills would finally catch California up with those jurisdictions that rely on smarter, cheaper, more effective, more just and more enlightened ways to deal with people accused of crimes. SB 10 by Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and AB 42 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) would require courts to use risk assessments and pretrial services instead of bail schedules. This is the right approach, and the Legislature should embrace it.



Private diversion programs are failing those who need help the most

Most defendants would rather accept entry into a diversion program than face prison time. But the economic incentives for private diversion programs virtually ensure that the citizens enmeshed in them are vulnerable to excessive prices and get little oversight or protection from the prosecutors who have farmed out the programs. The story of the chaos surrounding the “clients” of CorrectiveSolutions, a for-profit California company, is illustrative of the industry’s problems.

Looking Beyond the ‘White Bears’ in Criminal Justice

Preventing wrongful convictions and misconduct means fixing mistakes and flaws before they happen. That’s only possible if justice agencies (and the media) stop focusing exclusively on whom to blame for an error, and look at the circumstances that make errors possible, writes Boston defense attorney James Doyle. Read his column here.

Violence Rate Rate Up 4.2% in Big Cities, Survey Finds

Chicago and Baltimore drove the increase in violent crime reports last year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Its survey found that Chicago accounted for 55.1 percent of the big-city murder rate increase. Read more.

A Police Chief Reflects: ‘Handcuffs Are Not the Solution’

In his forthcoming book, former Dallas Chief David Brown ponders the lessons learned over a 33-year career in law enforcement, capped by the July 2016 shooting tragedy that left five Dallas officers dead. Brown sits down with TCR’s Isodoro Rodriguez and discusses the need to change the “culture of policing” in order to bridge the divide between communities and law enforcement around the country. Read more.


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