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‘Even the Wins in Family Court are Sad’

New York City’s Family Court has been called the “saddest place in New York,” but reforms are beginning to improve the outcomes for children and families, according to a report by the Child Welfare Watch at The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. This month the city’s court administration is expected to release a package of reforms designed to increase efficiency and streamline the judicial process. Since 2006, there has been a 20 percent decline in child protective […]

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Prison Reformer Bronstein Called Ahead Of His Time

Alvin Bronstein, the late director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, anticipated the movement to reduce “mass incarceration” that is widely discussed in today’s criminal justice circles, former colleagues and friends were told at a memorial service yesterday in Washington, D.C. Bronstein, who filed many lawsuits contesting prison conditions in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, had a “perpetual sense of outrage” about the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” culture that dominated public policy at […]

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Cameras and 'Making a Murderer'

If you watched the popular, and controversial, Netflix documentary series, “Making a Murderer,” you were treated to a rare, compelling portrait of a trial inside the Wisconsin state courthouse. If filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi had been covering a trial in a different state, or different level or court, their documentary may have looked a lot different. We're familiar with fictional courtroom dramas in the movies and on TV, but in most real-life courtrooms across America, what cameras are […]

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Changing the Rules for Solitary

A “roadmap” for transforming the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons should begin with agreement that inmates should be confined for “the least amount of time necessary” and only when it is necessary to protect themselves or others, a colloquium of top corrections officials, academic experts and advocates has recommended. “The use of social isolation is greater than it has to be, in large measure because prisons have been called upon to do things they were never intended to […]

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Court Fees Create ‘Endless Cycle of Debt’ for Poor

Lawmakers should reduce court fines and other means of collecting criminal justice debt from the poor and reevaluate the judicial process that lands individuals in prison “simply because they are unable to pay their debts,” according to a study forthcoming in the Maryland Law Review. For instance, courts could eliminate reimbursement charges for public defenders if the individual cannot afford to pay them, waive or reduce court fees as needed, establish a payment plan or arrange payment via community service, […]

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Dealing With ‘Other People’s Children’

Ashley Nellis, author of “A Return to Justice: Rethinking Our Approach to Juveniles in the System,” speaks with TCR Contributing Editor David J. Krajicek about the “fear-driven” policies that extended America’s lock-’em-up fervor to include vast numbers of juveniles who were disproportionately black.

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Support for Prisoner Reentry Policy Tied to Religious Beliefs

A belief in divine forgiveness leads to a more positive attitude toward providing help to individuals returning from prison, according to a study published in Criminal Justice Policy Review. The study, based on a survey of 915 randomly selected Missouri residents, examined the impact of religious beliefs on support for rehabilitative programs such as housing assistance and transitional counseling, noting that support for prisoner reentry initiatives often “fades dramatically” when serious and chronic offenders are the recipients of such services. […]

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Can a Computer Predict Crime?

Can machines predict where crimes occur before human beings do? Will the technology be used in unbiased ways? How will these devices affect privacy? As concerns grow over what are called predictive-policing methods and their effect on Americans, one thing is clear: these new crime-fighting tools are not only being implemented around the country; they are increasing in sophistication and scope. Technology such as PredPol, which runs crime reports through an algorithm to discover locations with a high probability of […]

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Are Cops Really Under Siege?

Assaults on U.S. police officers have been dropping over the past quarter-century—with data suggesting 2015 is the second safest year for cops in nearly 50 years—but a prevailing law enforcement “siege” culture has created an explosive climate of confrontation in many communities, says author and blogger Radley Balko. The siege mentality has contributed to the increasing militarization of American policing, and it explains the hostile atmosphere that has grown since incidents involving police use-of-force around the country have received national […]

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Can New Technology Improve Policing?

While new developments in technology have given law enforcement organizations potentially important tools, such developments will have a minimal impact unless police managers pay closer attention to how they are deployed and used at every level of their organizations, says a study conducted by researchers at the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University, the Police Executive Research Forum, and Southern Illinois University. The multi-site study, supported by the National Institute of Justice, focused on four large U.S. […]