On January 20, 400 protesters staged a rally on the northern steps of Washington State’s Capitol Building to end mass incarceration. It wasn’t quite the Bastille, but for incarcerated individuals in Washington state, like the writers, it felt almost as liberating.
Former Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman joined two recently elected DAs, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, to describe the challenges faced by women prosecutors at a special panel at John Jay College to mark Women’s History Month.
Bill Lapinskas spent 26 years working at Alaska’s only maximum-security prison, the last three as its superintendent. He quit after receiving orders to roll back a program designed to prepare prisoners for release.
Under Proposition 57, inmates with convictions for nonviolent crimes serving less than life terms were eligible for parole after completing the term for their primary crime. Yet only 20 percent of eligible offenders have been paroled.
In the latest round of the innovative “Inside Justice Program” at John Jay College, Manhattan Assistant DAs and residents of correctional facilities sat in the same classroom to examine racial justice, community wellbeing and possible policy interventions for a fairer justice system.
Jim Manfre, a former assistant district attorney and sheriff, says “scare” rhetoric claiming the new law will increase crime should be ignored by his ex-colleagues. In an op ed published this week, he said evidence from other jurisdictions made clear that money bail had little to do with ensuring public safety.
Community supervision suffers when lawmakers create new potential violations, write Jesse Kelley and Arthur Rizer of the R Street Institute. Exhibit A: Last month, Congress was expected to vote on a bill to criminalize the sale and distribution of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products that is likely to hit hardest on African-Americans.
In Milwaukee, DA John Chisholm and Public Defender Tom Reed have teamed up to transform local justice from an ‘adversarial’ model to a system oriented to preventing harm and involving a network of community services. Could it work elsewhere?
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 376,000 drivers have their license suspended for failure to pay or respond. The state legislature is considering amnesty, along with a community service option, to help motorists escape the escalating cycle of fines and fees.
A movement to overhaul the architecture of correctional facilities modeled on designs used in Scandinavian prisons is gaining traction in the U.S., a conference at John Jay College was told. Speakers said more “humane” design could reduce violence inside prisons and cut recidivism.