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Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie Briefing

Friday, March 28, 2014
The Prison Policy Initiative released a research briefing on the mass incarceration of individuals in U.S. state prisons, federal prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, local jails, Indian Country jails, military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitments, and prisons in U.S. territories. With more than 2.4 million people held in these facilities, the U.S. has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. The briefing is paired with a pie chart graphic presenting a breakdown of the “whole pie” of the correctional system. This pie chart highlights staggering numbers including over 400,000 individuals who are in jail awaiting trial and nearly 15,000 children detained in juvenile facilities for technical violations or status offenses, which offer a strong visual argument for the need for change in the criminal justice system. Click here to access the full briefing. 

Report: Justice Reinvestment Initiative – State Assessment Report

Monday, March 24, 2014
A report released by the Urban Institute and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) offers a detailed background of the Justice Reinvestment (JRI) model and takes a closer look at the preliminary outcomes of the JRI model in seventeen states. The JRI model grew out of state-level efforts to implement cost-effective and evidence-based approaches to public safety and criminal justice reforms. Each of the eight states where JRI policies have been in effect for at least one year has seen a reduction in the prison population. It is estimated as much as $4.6 billion will be saved through justice reforms in the seventeen JRI states over the next several years. Currently, JRI efforts have saved more than $17 million over the past three years. The report notes that while the preliminary findings are promising, continued assessment is needed to measure the impact on state justice systems and how the impact aligns with projected reductions in prison population and costs. Click here to read the full report.

No Entry: A National Survey of Criminal Justice Diversion Programs and Initiatives

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) at TASC recently published a survey of criminal justice diversion programs that provide alternatives to criminal conviction at various stages of the justice system, from street-level law enforcement to court involvement. More than 100 diversion programs across the U.S were included in the survey. Key findings include that many programs focus on individuals with substance use and mental health issues and limit eligibility to individuals with first-time or low-level offenses. Authors also observe that, overall, diversionary programs lack standard definitions, language, and overarching standards for data collection, reporting, and evaluation. The report comes at a critical time, as criminal justice policy and practice reform efforts seek ways to keep communities safe, hold people accountable for their behavior, and spend public dollars wisely. Click here to read the full report.

JHA Report: Menard Correctional Center

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The John Howard Association (JHA) recently released a report from their monitoring visit to Menard Correctional Center. Menard operates a maximum security male facility, medium security unit, and a Reception and Classification center. Menard is the largest maximum security facility in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and currently houses 3,769 individuals. JHA’s key observations include Menard’s success at implementing incentives while reducing the use of lockdown, the improvement of individuals’ access to the law library and grievance system, the need for continued increase of facility transparency and accountability, and the heightened public interest in Menard due to media coverage of a hunger strike by individuals detained in an increased segregation unit. The report recommends that program expansions continue to receive support, including quality of life improvements, prison hospice, and assisted living programs. Click here to access the full report.

Report: From Courts to Communities, the Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses

Wednesday, March 05, 2014
The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) and the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Resource Center released a new report to raise awareness about state responses to youth status offenses. These offenses include behaviors like running away and skipping school, which are prohibited only because of an individual’s status as a minor. This report considers how to effectively approach such cases with community-based systems rather than in the juvenile justice system. Authors identify five hallmarks of effective community-based systems: diversion from court, an immediate response, a triage process, services that are accessible and effective, and internal assessment. The report also highlights program and policy efforts from a handful of states that respond to status offenses directly in the community. Click here to read the full report.

CTA Reinstates Rail Car Servicer Apprentice Program

Monday, February 24, 2014
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) officials announced the reinstatement of the CTA rail car servicer apprentice program after the CTA and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 308 were able to resume talks and reach an agreement. The CTA previously let the program expire in December of 2013 after a dispute arose between CTA management and the ATU Local 308. The reinstatement of this program, combined with the bus servicer program introduced last year, expands the CTA’s apprenticeship program to 265 total positions. The program provides entry-level employment as a second chance for individuals with prior convictions, individuals completing drug-treatment programs, individuals who have faced domestic violence, and others. Click here and here to read more.

Report: Playbook for Change? States Reconsider Mandatory Sentences

Monday, February 24, 2014
The Vera Institute of Justice released a report examining state-level mandatory-minimum sentencing reform since 2000. Efforts have largely targeted reform for nonviolent drug offenses through expanding judicial discretion with “safety valve” provisions, limiting automatic sentence enhancements, and repealing or revising mandatory minimum sentences. Many states are looking to foster a more just system as evidenced by the 29 states that have moved to reform mandatory minimums since 2000. In addition to providing a summary of state reforms, the report raises important questions about the impact of these reforms and offers recommendations to ensure reform efforts fulfill their promises, are sustainable, and protect public safety. Click here to access the report summary and full report.

Report: Healthcare Not Handcuffs

Monday, February 24, 2014
A recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) provides a framework for criminal justice and drug policy advocates to navigate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to take advantage of the opportunity to shift attention to public health approaches for drug use disorders. The report is divided into two main parts: part one addresses major provisions of the ACA relevant to working with people who have substance use and mental health disorders; part two offers recommendations for practical action steps to use the momentum of the ACA to encourage a health-oriented approach to drug policy, to ensure access to care for individuals most likely to encounter the criminal justice system, and to expand the ACA to reduce criminal justice involvement. Click here to read the full report.

Report: Stemming the Tide, Strategies to Reduce the Growth and Cut the Cost of the Federal Prison System

Friday, February 14, 2014

A research report from the Urban Institute set out to examine potential strategies to reduce the federal prison population in response to the rapid growth of those incarcerated and the dangerous overpopulation that characterize the U.S. prison system. The report reviewed several options for reform, including modification of federal drug prosecution and sentencing, giving judges more sentencing discretion, lowering of truth-in-sentencing requirements, application of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to past cases, extension of earned and good time credits, and responsible release of more elderly and terminally ill inmates. The authors recommended a mix of reforms to sentencing, prosecution, and release policies in order to have a meaningful impact on the federal prison population and costs. Click here to read the full report.

Holder Urges Reconsideration of Ban on Voting Rights for Individuals with Felony Convictions

Friday, February 14, 2014
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged states to repeal laws prohibiting individuals with felony convictions from voting, which has disenfranchised millions of Americans. In his speech at Georgetown University, Holder stated that now “is [the] time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise who are no longer under federal or state supervision” and labeled these restrictions as unnecessary, unjust, and counterproductive. This call expands on other efforts by Holder to encourage criminal justice reform, including his “Smart on Crime” initiative and the modification of the Justice Department’s sentencing policies. Click here to read more about the speech and here to access the full transcript.

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