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Policy Brief: “Slow to Act – State Responses to 2012 Supreme Court Mandate on Life without Parole"

Wednesday, July 09, 2014
The Sentencing Project released a policy brief on state responses two years after Miller v. Alabama. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws in 28 states that mandated life without parole (LWOP) for some juvenile offenders, but a majority of these states have not passed new laws; others have replaced LWOP with mandatory decades-long sentences, while few have applied the changes retroactively. “Slow to Act: State Responses to the 2012 Supreme Court Mandate on Life without Parole” reviews how legislatures and courts have responded and cites statistics on juveniles in the justice system that often fails to rehabilitate them.

While four states — Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, and Wyoming — have allowed resentencing for juveniles mandated to LWOP, most are denied the chance for a new sentence.  State Supreme Courts in Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Texas have ruled that Miller works retroactively and that some people can attain a new sentencing hearing.

The brief concludes that Miller and other recent Supreme Court decisions reflect a shift in the belief that juveniles are not merely small adults, but that more must be done to cement this belief in the criminal justice arena. 

For the policy brief, click here.

Policy Brief: “Ungovernable” and Runaway Youth

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) released a policy brief on how certain youth are vulnerable to involvement with the juvenile justice system. The brief focuses on youth who are runaways or “ungovernable” (beyond the control of their parents) – characteristics researchers say stem from family conflict that is difficult for young people to resolve. According to the brief, runaway case rates for African-American youth are more than three times the rate for White youth; additionally, their ungovernability case rate is more than twice that of white youth. Citing its report, “National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses for guidance on runaway and ungovernable youth, CJJ makes several recommendations on the developmental, behavioral, and social nuances about this high-risk population to professionals and systems such as first responders and law enforcement officers.

For the policy brief, click here. To access the full report “National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses,” click here.

NACDL Report: Stop Punishing People After They Have Completed Their Sentences

Friday, June 13, 2014

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) released a new report titled “Collateral Damage: America’s Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime — A Roadmap to Restore Rights and Status after Arrest or Conviction.” According to the report, there are myriad barriers for those leaving prison and trying to reintegrate to society, which has legally and culturally stigmatized them. The report cites data about the criminal justice population and includes testimony from people from various parts of the criminal justice system. It concludes with 10 key recommendations in support of a nationwide drive to establish a legal infrastructure that would provide people with past criminal records equal opportunities.

Click here to access the report summary, and here for the full report. For the press release, click here.

JHA Releases Three New Reports on IDOC Facilities

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The John Howard Association (JHA) recently released three new reports on Illinois Dept. of Corrections (IDOC) facilities: IYC-Harrisburg, a facility for boys in southern Illinois; Crossroads Adult Transitional Center, a minimum-security male facility on the west side of Chicago; and Danville Correctional Center, a medium-security male facility in east-central Illinois. To access the report on IYC-Harrisburg, click here. To access the report on the Crossroads Adult Transitional Center, click here. To access the report on the Danville Correctional Center, click here.

Backgrounder: The Cost of Private Prisons – Do They Actually Save Money?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In the Public Interest, a resource center focused on the privatization and contracting of prisons, has released a backgrounder highlighting the inefficiency of private prisons to save money. “The Cost of Private Prisons” questions the claim by the private prison industry that governments can save money by privatizing prisons. According to the group, research and the recent experiences of states show that the promised cost savings often fail to materialize for government agencies that contract with for-profit prison companies. The piece cites Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio, and Hawaii as states where private prisons have failed to save money. It also summarizes recent research and state reports related to private prison costs, and discusses some common yet problematic tactics employed to make private prisons appear cost effective.

To listen to a podcast on the backgrounder, click here. For a link to the backgrounder, click here.

National Research Council Report: U.S. Should Significantly Reduce Rate of Incarceration

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The National Research Council has released a new report advocating for a national effort to revise criminal justice policies in the United States in order to reduce imprisonment rates on grounds that the costs of the current rate of incarceration outweigh the benefits.

The authoring group, the Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration in the United States, reviewed the evidence on the causes and effects of high incarceration rates and the implications for public policy, public safety, and the effects on those in prison, their families, and communities. The report also recommended reforming drug crime policy, citing that current policies have resulted in a tenfold increase in the incarceration rate for drug offenses from 1980 to 2010.

The committee stressed that future policy decisions should also follow four principles identified as absent from recent policy debates on prisons: proportionality, parsimony, citizenship, and social justice.

Click here to access the full report by creating a free account, and here for the press release.

Event: Criminal Record Expungement Summit

Friday, May 16, 2014

A full service expungement summit will take place in Forest Park on Saturday, June 7. The Adult and Juvenile Expungement Summit and Ex-Offender Job Information Seminar seeks to help clear criminal records for individuals convicted of offenses that took place in Cook County. Services will include:
- Adult felony and misdemeanor expungement
- Juvenile and felony misdemeanor sealings
- Juvenile record expungement
- Clemency and certificates information
- Free legal advice

Volunteer attorneys will be available on site to help with expungement applications, preparation, and filing. The summit will also feature information on employment, job training, health care, and other services for ex-offenders. The event will be hosted by the Living World Christian Center and is presented by the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. For additional information, call (312) 603-5200 or visit: For the event flyer, click here.

Saturday, June 7, 2014
Registration: 8:30 a.m.
Doors close: 6 p.m.

Living Word Christian Center
7600 Roosevelt Rd.
Forest Park, IL 60130

Report: Drug War Détente?

Friday, April 25, 2014
The Vera Institute of Justice released a new report on state-level legislative reforms to drug policy from 2009 to 2013. During this time, nearly fifty bills related to criminal justice reform passed in more than thirty states. The report identified five main areas addressed by these reforms: (1) repealing or limiting mandatory penalties, (2) modifying drug sentencing schemes, (3) expanding access to early release mechanisms, (4) expanding or strengthening community-based sanctions, and (5) ameliorating collateral consequences. The report offered summaries of several bills in each of these reform areas, providing a practical guide for those looking to enact similar reforms in other states or on the federal level. Click here to access the full report, here for the report summary, and here for the report’s “Mapping Drug Law Reform” infographic.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Announces New Clemency Initiative

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On Wednesday, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced a new clemency initiative that would make thousands of inmates eligible for early release from prison. The clemency initiative grew out of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's "Smart on Crime" plan, designed to strengthen the criminal justice system, promote public safety, and deliver equal justice under the law. The initiative expands the conditions under which President Obama can offer clemency, especially for individuals serving long sentences for drug offenses. Cole detailed six criteria for individuals seeking clemency under the new initiative: they (1) are serving a federal sentence that is longer than current mandatory sentences for the same offense; (2) are serving time for nonviolent, low-level offenses without ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs, or cartels; (3) have served at least 10 years of their sentence; (4) have no significant criminal history; (5) have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and (6) have no history of violence before or during imprisonment. Click here to read the Department of Justice Press Release, and here and here to read articles about the new initiative.

Event: Illinois Human Services Budget Briefing

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Next week, the Illinois Human Services Commission is hosting two budget briefings in Springfield and Chicago to focus in on the Illinois state budget for Fiscal Year 2015 and its impact on human services.  The briefings will provide information about the "default" budget and how its implementation would impact human services. The Governor's Office will talk about the budget, and the briefings will provide the opportunity to learn about revenue options and what can be done to help ensure the continuation of critical services needed in the community. Providers, organizers, advocates, community residents, and foundations that care about Illinois' human services system are encouraged to attend. Click here to access the Governor's budget proposal. Click here to RSVP for the event in Springfield and here to RSVP for Chicago. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Springfield State Museum Auditorium
502 S. Spring Street
Springfield, Illinois

Friday, May 2, 2014
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Bilandic Building, Room C-500
160 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, Illinois

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