As local governments increasingly rely on fines, fees, and harsh collection practices, federal courts should take a more aggressive role in intervening when these practices pose “irreparable harm” to poor Americans, according to a study in the Harvard Law Review.
The rate of growth for female incarceration has outpaced that of males by 50 percent since 1980–and over 60 percent of women in state prisons have a child under 18, according to a fact sheet released Thursday by the Sentencing Project, ahead of Mother’s Day.
A forthcoming study argues that putting sentencing authority in the hands of impartial judges will curb prosecutors’ “unfettered” power to force poor defendants to plead guilty or face trial. The study authors propose a more transparent system, similar to Australia’s, which automatically reduces a sentence by fixed percentages if the accused elects to go to trial.
A Bronx-based organization has raised $30 million to take its bail advocacy nationwide. The Bail Project is scheduled to open offices in St. Louis and Tulsa, Okla., in January and spread to more than three dozen cities in the next five years.
Anyone arrested in New York City is entitled to three phone calls. One of them ought to be to 1-833-3-GOODCALL, a 24-hour hotline started in the Bronx last fall that links an accused criminal to public defenders.
The proposal by Democrat Kamala Harris and Republican Rand Paul would authorize total spending of $10 million a year for states that replace cash bail with a system that considers community risk, not a defendant’s ability to pay. New Jersey has already moved forward with a system that some call a model for the nation.
Algorithms devised by private contractors are being used in bail, sentencing and parole decisions. Often, the proprietary details of the algorithms are closely held. So how does a judge weigh the validity of a risk-assessment tool if he or she can’t see how its recommendations are made?
As little as three days behind bars has been shown to make someone more likely to be rearrested later. So requiring individuals to put up money bail or await their trial behind bars not only discriminates against the poor, but risks public safety.