When the Washington Department of Corrections learned a software programming error led to the erroneous early release of 3,000 prisoners, it took three years to address the problem. That led to at least two deaths—and some hard lessons about the need to recognize non-traditional emergencies before they became crises, according to a case study published in December.
Doug Jones, Alabama’s senator-elect to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is a former federal prosecutor who has advocated for less-harsh sentencing and more alternatives to prison. Lauren-Brooke Eisen of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program calls Jones “a groundbreaking voice for prosecutorial reform to end mass incarceration.”
While many “red” states enact criminal justice changes, Florida has stood still and its prison population continues to grow, critics say. They are pushing for reforms in next year’s legislative session.
Sports bettors in many states risk prosecution even when their wagers are placed on offshore sites—a legacy of anti-gambling laws created during the pre-internet era. A New York attorney writes it’s time to test the validity of those laws, even if it challenges a lucrative source of state revenue.
When prosecutors and judges are turned into vote-seekers, efforts to develop more humane approaches to punishment and law enforcement suffer, the veteran TV journalist said in an interview aired on CUNY’s “Criminal Justice Matters” program Tuesday. He charged that the Trump administration’s “tough on crime” rhetoric has made things worse.
Reform efforts can bring together legislators with diverse backgrounds and interests. These include controlling crime, reducing prison costs, embracing religious ideas about redemption, reducing the size of government, grappling with the effect of imprisonment on families and minority communities, and questioning the morality of locking up so many people.
If a lawyer were present at all police interrogations–including of children under 15—prosecutors could avoid scandals like the two Chicago men who won new trials this month on the grounds of false confessions, and 15 others exonerated after findings of police misconduct, says a juvenile justice advocate.
Juries decide fewer than four percent of criminal cases today—and fewer than one percent of civil cases. The widespread use of plea bargaining, which helps prosecutors clear crowded dockets, is the principal reason—but it raises serious constitutional questions, says a University of Illinois College of Law professor.