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January roundup of criminal justice news and commentary
Top reads: a guaranteed income for formerly incarcerated people in Florida allowed people to spend time caring for their families; the story of jailhouse lawyer Kelly Harness; what it’s like giving birth in prison.
Hear Bianca Tylek on the CHAT podcast, talking about her excellent work to challenge the companies making massive profits off of the suffering of incarcerated people.
And here is the brilliant Andrea James on the Just Access podcast, talking about her work to end the incarceration of women and girls.
A new documentary called Art and Krimes, about formerly incarcerated artist Jesse Krimes, is out in select theaters. You can see it at the Stanford University Anderson Collection on Feb 15, or the Roxie in San Francisco on February 16, with more screening dates to follow.
Clementine Jacoby, founder of Recidiviz, gave a TED talk about how bad data traps people in the criminal justice system, and how to solve it.
Learn about Louisiana’s system of forced prison labor through video testimonies gathered by the Promise of Justice Initiative.
Here is a poignant thread by Matthew Hahn, a formerly incarcerated person telling his story about how his dedication towards education in prison didn’t protect him from being blackballed when he applied for a job at a nonprofit. He became an electrician and joined a union instead, and shared how the union was far more accepting of his past than the prison-focused nonprofit.
The New York Times did a focus group with police officers, presented in this mixed media report. Not one of them said crime was the most important problem in America.
Solutions and Wins
Prism reported on a guaranteed income program for formerly incarcerated people in Florida, featuring stories of people who were able to provide essential caregiving to their families thanks to the program.
Oregon’s governor Kate Brown has ordered the state to forgive $1.8 million in traffic fines owed by 7000 people who were being prevented from getting their driver’s licenses.
A Pennsylvania Court has ruled that the impeachment articles filed against Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner (who was reelected by a huge margin in 2021) failed to meet the constitutional standard. It’s not clear if this means the impeachment process must stop. Reform opponents, including the police association that is furious about Krasner investigating their officers for crimes, have put enormous energy into targeting Krasner since he was first elected. The court’s ruling is a huge relief, though the fight will continue.
Commentary and Analysis
The former mayor of Ithaca wrote about progressives’ winning message on crime.
Garrett Felber wrote for the Boston Review, urging us to understand the history of calls for prison abolition, which were woven into the 20th century’s civil rights movement and a central focus of key civil rights leaders.
The United Kingdom has a growing incarceration problem, the worst in western Europe, even though crime is going down. See this excellent brief from Novara Media, which includes some analysis on the historical reasons driving over incarceration in the UK.
Radley Balko argued that Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein should resign, after Bernstein publicly ridiculed his new colleague for hiring a clerk with a criminal record.
The wonderful Olayemi Olurin wrote in Teen Vogue (one of our favorite publications) about the cruelty and waste of America’s system of mass incarceration.
Scholar Andrea Ritchie gave an interview on the need to end policing, in relation to her new book on the subject.
You may have heard that Governor Hochul of NY nominated former prosecutor Hector LaSalle, called anti-union and anti-abortion by his critics, to be chief justice of the state supreme court. He failed to make it out of the judiciary hearing, though the governor may press on with a constitutional challenge to get her floor vote (much to the confusion and dismay of New Yorkers as to why she is going to the mat for this guy). For some helpful context, see this very helpful summary thread and this piece in Politico.
Inflation is hitting people in prison and the families who support them.
A doctor in Beverly Hills was shut down for prescribing a lot of opioids. The patients who depended on him to manage their very complex pain cases are suffering terribly.
Many people in society may continue to embrace punishment as a concept, but many parents are moving away from the idea of teaching children through pain and suffering. I’ve been learning a bit about the gentle parenting movement and think it could be a way to approach the broader issue with people. See also this sweet meditation in the New Yorker.
Criminalizing homelessness is very costly and ineffective. Per Housing Matters, “it costs taxpayers $31,065 a year to criminalize a single person experiencing homelessness while the yearly cost for providing supportive housing is $10,051." See this detailed thread for analysis.
Criminologists Don Stemen and David Olson of Loyola University Chicago ask Is Bail Reform Causing an Increase in Crime? The authors conclude that “reducing pretrial detention and eliminating money considerations from decisions about detention have had minimal negative effects on public safety.” Specifically, Stemen and Olson’s survey of eleven jurisdictions that reduced or eliminated the use of bail and pretrial detention since 2017 found no consistent relationship between such reforms and violent crime rates the year following their enactment.
California police were more than twice as likely to use force against Black residents than white residents during traffic and pedestrian stops in 2021.
An older piece that I saw referenced recently and found interesting - research on how we treat stranger violence more severely than non-stranger violence, and why that’s wrong.
Wall of Shame
A review of 2022 police killings published by Mapping Police Violence, a project led by Sam Sinyangwe, found that 70% of the time when police killed people, it happened after a ‘routine encounter’ such as a traffic stop, and not when any serious crime or violence was alleged.
Possession of drugs ‘by ingestion’ (meaning, you already took the drug) is a serious crime in South Dakota. That makes it nearly impossible for someone to move on from addiction.
Arizona prison officials have been inducing early labor for women in prison against their will.
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