Few criminal justice reforms can be enacted, and none of them will be sustained, unless we discard an approach that systematically dehumanizes minority lives at both the individual and neighborhood levels. Reformers who neglect that work are building on sand, writes TCR’s legal affairs columnist.
A new law requiring the New Jersey attorney general to compile and analyze a wide range of criminal justice information could fuel future reform efforts in the state. “This is potentially groundbreaking legislation, and it calls for data collection and reporting that currently exists nowhere in the United States,” said Duke University law Prof. Brandon Garrett.
Media reports on criminal justice often relate exclusively to urban areas. But policymakers need to turn their attention to rural communities, where long distances can make it more difficult to access justice, writes the chief of policy innovation for Right on Crime.
Traffic stops have been triggers for many of the recent fatal encounters between police and civilians. An Arkansas law professor suggests a separate traffic agency staffed by trained civilians could perform the same public safety function with less potential for racial bias and escalation of force.
Currently, the Sixth Amendment’s “Confrontation Clause” only allows defendants to question testimony against them at the trial stage. But a law professor argues that in a system where 97 percent of cases are resolved by plea bargaining, the limitation amounts to a denial of justice.
As analysts begin examining the details of the incoming administration’s justice reform plans, many are also noting the constraints. With a Senate Democratic majority likely out of reach, President-elect Joe Biden will have to drum up old friendships across the aisle to push Democratic legislation forward.
Feminism has become “a legitimator of penalty in an era of declining faith in criminal punishment,” says a former defense attorney in a paper arguing that the #MeToo movement has unwittingly strengthened a justice system that is overly punitive and racially imbalanced.