Photo used with permission from Richard Ross.
Michelle Alexander wrote in The New Jim Crow: “The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.”
February is Black History Month. It’s a time for everyone to reflect on the legacy of progress that black leaders have left throughout history in the fight for liberation, equitable treatment, and empowerment. It is also a time for white allies to examine what they could be doing better to interrupt their own racism and that of others, what it means to support black leadership, and how our nation’s policies continue to oppress black lives. And indeed, it is a time for white allies to heed Alexander’s call to re-examine the role of the criminal legal system in society.
Continue reading “Examining the role of public defenders in disrupting racial injustice”
On December 21, President Trump signed H.R.6964 – Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018. This law reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) Reauthorization Act. First authorized in 1974, the act ensured certain minimum standards for the treatment of youth in the justice system, banning incarceration for status offenses (such as drinking, which is prohibited only based on the age of the accused) and adopting a requirement that youth incarcerated in adult facilities have sight and sound separation from adult inmates. Since 1974, reauthorizations of the law have included provisions that require states address racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system and incentives for states to use evidence-based interventions to reduce juvenile delinquent activity.
However, despite seeming longstanding federal commitment to the idea that all young people deserve a second chance, the JJDPA had languished, pending reauthorization, for more than ten years. So, when Trump signed the reauthorization act on the coattails of the much anticipated Second Chance Act, juvenile justice practitioners everywhere (myself included) were relieved and elated.
Continue reading “Modest Reform: How JJDPA matters and why it is still not enough”
This past Fall, The Marshall Project launched, “What’s the Story?”, a monthly speaker series that highlights how narratives and media impact criminal justice policies and practices. The latest event on January 23, 2019 featured Tayari Jones, Piper Kerman, and David Simon. All three spoke powerfully about how broadcast and print media can shape perceptions and drive the narrative around criminal justice.
Continue reading ““What’s the Story?” Reflection: The Marshall Project Monthly Speakers Series and the Power of Media”
Over the past decade, veterans treatment courts have transformed the way the justice system identifies, assesses, and responds to veterans. One of the keys to veterans treatment court’s success has been the inclusion of veterans from the community who serve as mentors to their fellow veterans in crisis.
Continue reading “Veteran Mentors in Veterans Treatment Court: Engage, Encourage, Empower”
The truth of the common quip “all politics is local” has seemingly eroded in the last several years. The modern method of consuming news means our collective attention is squarely aimed at the actors we can all recognize or the systems which we are all familiar. We are less informed and less engaged in the issues in our own community. But whether or not the public is engaged, the American political system hinges on decentralized power spread over millions of jurisdictions. This is especially true of the criminal justice system. Despite what is taught in high school civics classes, the justice system is not a single body or multiple bodies under a clear hagiarchy. Police, prisons, jails, public defenders, prosecutors, the judiciary, and the various ancillary services all operate independently with virtually no meaningful oversight or coordinated direction from a higher body. Each, however, can affect what justice looks likes in a community. Continue reading “The role of local institutions in the criminal justice reform debate”
If I’m home at 9:00 a.m. on a weekday, the television is most likely tuned to Judge Mathis. Greg Mathis is humorous, but a no-nonsense judge who oversees small claims cases in Chicago. Don’t tell any lawyer, but I feel like I’ve earned an honorary law degree after watching this show for many years. For many people, television is their only knowledge of the court system. Although entertaining, these shows aren’t an accurate representation of real courtroom proceedings. To learn more about the operations of a court, a treatment court specifically, I visited a docket in a Mid-Atlantic state. Here is what I learned.
Continue reading “Dignity in the Court”
In 2017, I was pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at American University and needed a job. When I entered the university’s administration staff recruiting program, I did not have much in mind beyond editing Excel spreadsheets. However, when an email told me that the Justice Programs Office (JPO) was hiring, I was excited to interview for a center within the School of Public Affairs, where I earned my undergraduate degree. I have always had a passion for public policy and working for the Justice Programs Office turned out to be an excellent complement to my studies. I’d like to share some of my favorite memories from working here. Continue reading “A Culture of Community and Dignity”
Every year when November comes, I immediately think of Thanksgiving and what I am thankful for. This year, November also means midterm elections and exercising our right to vote. I recognize, though, that not everyone is able to participate in this essential part of our democratic process whether it is due to misinformation, cumbersome voter registration laws, or felony disenfranchisement laws. Being able to vote allows us to share our voice and help shape the direction of this country. Breaking down the barriers to voting is critical to making sure all voices are heard. That is why this year, I am so thankful that Florida voters passed Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to more than one million citizens with a felony conviction.
Continue reading “Thankful for the Right to Vote: Ensuring Returning Citizens Have the Right Also”
“The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” – Unknown
As I walked into my first (and only!) law class in grad school, there was a quote written on the whiteboard. Our professor looked at us and asked, “How does this apply to our case today?” The case in question was “In re Gault,” the landmark US Supreme Court case which established the right to counsel for juveniles in delinquency cases in 1967. That may have been my only law class, but I continue to grapple with the issues raised by this case through my work training and providing technical assistance to juvenile drug treatment courts. In the 51 years since Gault, we’ve come a long way to ensure justice for youth, but there are still steps we need to take, especially when it comes to the right to counsel.
Continue reading “In Re Gault – Progress or Regression”
The goal of juvenile justice interventions is to motivate adolescent behavior change—not an easy task, as any parent can attest. Teen behavior can be baffling; adolescents are impulsive, they love to take risks, their peers are essential to their self-image, and their emotions play a key role in their decision-making process. But there are strategies that have been proven to help adolescents, even the most at-risk youth, to live healthy lives.
Continue reading “Integrated Case Planning”