Friday News Roundup: May 24, 2019

Friday News Roundup

This week in the news: Read the new Pew Research Center study on racial disparities in the justice system, the patriarchy of prison systems today, especially for young, black females, the new legislation for justice system reform announced this week calling for “radical change,” and more.

Criminal Justice News

From Police to Parole, Black and White Americans Differ Widely in their Views of Criminal Justice System

A Pew Research Center survey found that around nine-in-ten black adults (87%) said blacks are generally treated less fairly by the criminal justice system than whites, a view shared by a much smaller majority of white adults (61%). And in a survey shortly before last year’s midterm elections, 79% of blacks – compared with 32% of whites – said the way racial and ethnic minorities are treated by the criminal justice system is a very big problem in the United States today. The survey found that black and white adults also differ across a range of other criminal justice-related questions asked by the Center in recent years. Read the study’s results regarding crime, policing, the death penalty, parole decisions, and voting rights. (Gramlich, Pew Research Center, May 21, 2019)

Booker, Blumenthal Introduce Bill to Incentivize Prison Population Reduction

On Tuesday, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.)  introduced a bill to incentivize states to reduce their prison populations. The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act would give the Justice Department approximately $2 billion each year for 10 years to give out to states that reduce their incarceration rates without significant changes to their crime rates. States would become eligible for the awards if they reduce their prison populations by 7% over a three-year period without increasing their crime rates by more than 3%. The grant funds will be used for “evidence-based programs to reduce crime rates and incarceration,” the bill said. This plan was modeled on recommendations made by the Brennan Center for Justice, according to information sent to The Hill by Cárdenas’s office. (Frazin, The Hill, May 21, 2019)

Patriarchy in Prison: Exploring the Challenges Facing Incarcerated Women

This podcast discusses a trend happening at the national level: the number of incarcerated women in the prison system is increasing faster than the number of men. Many are calling this trend a result of “adultification bias,” which is a way of describing adult attitudes towards black girls: seeing them as less innocent than white girls of the same age. Studies done since 2017 show that adults indicate this bias towards black girls as early as the age of five years old. Furthermore, the podcast interviews the Deputy Secretary of the juvenile justice system in North Carolina who retells that “For girls that came into [their juvenile justice] system last year, 89% of them screened in as having trauma as the reason that has driven them towards the system.” Listen here for more. (Magnus & Stasio, WUNC, May 22, 2019)

A Top Justice Reform Funder Targets the Prison System, Aiming for “Radical Change”

$17 million in grants has been allocated between the Urban Institute and the Vera Institute of Justice to increase philanthropic engagement in justice reform. These grants are meant to focus on the prison system itself and shed more light on how to reform institutions that house the 1.5 million Americans in them. This article also introduces the new prison reform strategy announced alongside the funding. (Rojc, Inside Philanthropy, May 20, 2019)

What the Loss of the New York Police Museum Means for Criminal-Justice Reform

Almost seven years after Hurricane Sandy decimated the New York Police Department Museum in 2012, it is still defunct and its collections are still locked away. This article suggests that the loss has real consequences for our understanding of how policing has contributed to justice and injustice across the decades.  The article shares, without those historical records, we lose key insights into how law enforcement works – and how it fails. (Guariglia, The Washington Post, May 22, 2019)

Juvenile Justice News

More Utah Youth Are Being Kept out of Courtrooms and Detention Centers – the Goal of a Law That Brought Sweeping Reform

Two years ago, Utah lawmakers passed legislation that brought sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. The goal was to emphasize early intervention, and keep low-risk offenders in their homes instead of detention centers. State data shows that since the legislature passed the law in 2017, just over half of the cases where Utah youth have been referred to court have ended with what they call a “nonjudicial” remedy, such as peer court at school or group counseling for a family. And there’s been a 44% decrease of youth being ordered out of their homes and into detention programs. (Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, May 22, 2019)

Drug Court News

OWI Treatment Court, A Program That ‘Changes Lives’

This human interest story recounts a participant’s experience in an OWI treatment court (DWI), where they were admitted after being identified as high-risk and high need. The article shares the goal of these types of treatment courts which is to reduce recidivism rates, reduce participants’ substance use, and provide rehabilitation to participants. The participant calls the third offense that got them admitted into the OWI treatment court a “blessing and a turning point” because it brought them to the program that helped “piece [their] life back together.” (Anderson, WPR, May 20, 2019)

Public Defense News

Equal Justice Depends on Properly Funding Public Defenders

This article addresses further the EQUAL Defense Act Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced last week, which would boost resources for public defenders across the country. It offers a $250 million grant program, on top of case limits for public defenders. As a longtime prosecutor, Harris understands that a fully functional and adequately funded public defender’s office is essential to the pursuit of justice, and for ensuring safer communities and families. The promise of Gideon v. Wainwright, the 1963 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing everyone a right to counsel, is meaningless, she comments, without an adequately staffed office of dedicated attorneys to keep that promise. (Metzger, The Hill, May 22, 2019)

Ted Deutch, Kamala Harris Team Up on EQUAL Defense Act

On Tuesday, US Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) announced his partnership with Sen. Kamala Harris to assist with the proposed EQUAL Defense Act. Deutch weighed in on why he was backing the bill, saying, “The EQUAL Defense Act will provide financial support for public defense systems and training programs that aim to improve the delivery of legal services to indigent criminal defendants.” (Derby, Sunshine State News, May 22, 2019)