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Report: Most States ‘Rethinking’ Collateral Consequences

All but nine states have taken steps since 2009 to limit the damage that having a criminal record can cause for those who have already served time, according to a new report from the Vera Institute of Justice. An individual’s criminal history can disrupt access to social benefits, limit employment opportunities and certain civil rights, but between 2009 and 2014, 41 states and the District of Columbia passed 155 bills designed “to mitigate the burden of collateral consequences for individuals […]

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Vera: Criminal Justice Reform is a Nationwide Trend

Legislation passed in states across the nation in 2013 pushed aside old “tough on crime” policies in favor of community-based programs and practices that “can produce better outcomes at less cost,” according to a new report from the non-profit Vera Institute of Justice. The report examines 85 bills passed in 35 states that relate to reducing prison populations or costs, expanding community-based sanctions, implementing risk and needs assessments, developing re-entry support programs or research into better criminal justice policies. “By […]

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What America Can Learn From European Prisons

Certain aspects of the German and Dutch prison systems may be useful to American prison reformers looking for answers to lighten the load of overincarceration, according to a new report from the Vera Institute of Justice. In February 2013, delegations of corrections and justice system leaders from Colorado, Georgia and Pennsylvania prison facilities in Germany and the Netherlands, where they spoke with inmates, researchers and prison officials. Their report describes the considerably different approaches that Germany and the Netherlands take […]

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Closing the Justice-Health Data Gap

A newly launched website is aiming to bridge the communication gap between justice and health systems. Justice and Health Connect, a site created by the Vera Institute of Justice, provides resources intended to aid in data sharing between community health and justice systems. The site’s launch comes on the heels of recent studies that highlighted a need for services that identify those with mental illnesses and other medical issues in the criminal justice system. The sites features include a toolkit […]

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When Indigent Defendants Have Mental Health Disorders

A new study is aiming to help develop guidelines and resources for indigent defense attorneys to use when representing clients with mental health disorders. For the two-year study, which began on Jan. 1, researchers from the Vera Institute of Justice are conducting interviews with 250 defendants with mental health disorders and their defenders during jail intake screenings; analyzing criminal justice administrative records describing charges, criminal histories and case outcomes; and analyzing the costs of different indigent defense models. Issues that […]

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Shamed into Silence

Silence both sheltered and shamed Erin Esposito when she endured sexual abuse that lasted for much of her childhood. From the age of three until she was a teenager, said Esposito, who was born deaf, her father and two brothers abused her. Confused and scared, she said nothing until her adult life unraveled in a haze of drugs and alcohol. Part of her recovery has been to recount her experiences. “I can't change my past, but I decided and committed […]

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Who Belongs in Prison?

The Georgia legislature, once noted for its tough-on-crime approach, voted last year to stop imprisoning certain non-violent offenders—particularly those involved in drugs—and divert them instead into cheaper, community-based rehabilitation programs.

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Study: Prosecutorial Discretion Leads to Inconsistent Decision-Making

A study of prosecutorial decision-making by the Vera Institute of Justice found inconsistencies in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion and “considerable variation” in how individual prosecutors handled similar cases. Vera researchers studied the impact of legal, quasi-legal and extra-legal factors on charging decisions, plea offers, sentence recommendations, and post-filing dismissals in two participating jurisdictions. The study suggests factors such as lack of resources, internal policies and relationships with law enforcement and other actors in the criminal justice system can contribute […]

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Police, Justice Officials Ask Congress: Save Anticrime Aid

Many of the nation’s top state and local law enforcement officials joined leading criminologists and practitioners today in blunt appeals to Congress to spare federal anti-crime programs from major new funding cuts. The appeals, contained in separate letters signed by 2,700 law enforcement officers and almost 900 criminal justice officials, academic criminologists, and groups representing prosecutors, state legislators and mayors, warned that such cuts would “eviscerate the crucial role the federal government plays in crime control by the spurring of […]