Monthly Archives: October 2016

Juvenile Justice in Wisconsin

Here is an excellent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the 68 juvenile lifers in Wisconsin, and the ways in which the Supreme Court’s intent in Roper to create meaningful reform in the world of juvenile justice has fallen on deaf ears there and in many other states. California and Massachusetts are cited as exceptions.

The Realities of Mental Health Care in the U.S.

The Huffington Post lists the” 5 Distressing Realities About the State of Mental Health Care in America” as:

1. Suicide rates are on the rise.

2. The media is inaccurately representing mental illness and violence.


3. Mental health disorders are the costliest health condition in America.

4. Doctors don’t take mental illness as seriously as they should.

5. Mental health has not been given its due during the election cycle.

Is Mass Incarceration Declining?

report by Dan Kopf of the website Priceonomics shows mixed results, with incarceration actually rising rather than declining in almost half the states. More than half the total decline in prison population in the US was the result of California’s response to Brown v Plata, the 2011 court case that ruled conditions in California prisons to be unconstitutional and forced a release program.The report quotes John Pfaff of Fordham Law:

“While federal reforms—such as the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which decreased the punitiveness of some drug sentences and the elimination of private federal prisons—receive a great deal of media attention, Pfaff argues that they have a limited impact on incarceration. Of the nearly 1.6 million Americans incarcerated in prisons, only about 200,000 are in federal prisons. “If we freed every single federal prisoner today,” says Pfaff, “we would still have the highest incarceration rate in the world.”

Pfaff’s research on the causes of mass incarceration shows that decisions made by local prosecutors and police are the most important drivers of the increase in country prison population. Specifically, prosecutors are much more aggressive in charging individuals with felonies today than they were thirty years ago—even for the same crime.

“I feel like the most important way to reduce incarceration would be to restrict the ability of prosecutors to file felony charges,” Pfaff said. “We need legally binding charging and plea bargaining guidelines like the ones judges operate under.”

Mental Health Teams for SFPD

The San Francisco Police Dept. has implemented a new policy, forming a five-member mental health team that would join police officers on calls involving people who they suspect may be mentally ill or under the influence of drugs.

Officials said the idea was to let highly trained clinicians try to pacify troubled individuals, and hopefully avoid the sorts of deadly police confrontations that have recently set off protests around the country. Barbara Garcia, the director of the Department of Public Health, said the collaboration of agencies would allow mental health professionals to spot opportunities for interventions that the police might otherwise miss.

Yes On 57

The LA Times endorses Prop 57 as a “much-needed check on prosecutorial power.”

The Times calls Prop 57 “Governor Jerry Brown’s effort to recalibrate California’s criminal justice system by returning to judges, parole boards, and prison officials some of the power that craven lawmakers and frightened voters have, over the years, unwisely transferred to prosecutors. It’s a welcome and needed measure, although less simple than the brevity of its language or various assertions on both sides would suggest. The Times urges voters to read it, understand it, and vote “yes.”

6 Million Lost Voters

That’s the Sentencing Project’s estimate of state-level felony disenfranchisement. Read the study here:

“A record 6.1 million Americans are forbidden to vote because of felony disenfranchisement, or laws restricting voting rights for those convicted of felony-level crimes. The number of disenfranchised individuals has increased dramatically along with the rise in criminal justice populations in recent decades, rising from an estimated 1.17 million in 1976 to 6.1 million today.”

California Restores Voting Rights

A new law signed last week restores voting rights to felons in county jail in California. The law was authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), who said it would reduce the likelihood of convicts committing new crimes.

“Civic participation can be a critical component of re-entry and has been linked to reduced recidivism,” Weber said when the bill was introduced.

On Wednesday, Weber said California is setting an example at a time when other state’s are trying to limit voting rights.

“I wrote AB 2466 because I want to send a message to the nation that California will not stand for discrimination in voting,” Weber said Wednesday after the bill was signed.


Judges Who Are Elected Like Politicians Tend to Act Like Them

From the NY Times, Adam Liptak discusses studies showing that judges facing re-election are more likely to impose harsh criminal sentences, including death sentences.

“Proximity to re-election makes judges more punitive — more likely to impose longer sentences, affirm death sentences and even override life sentences to impose death,” a report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law concluded last year.

One study released last week found that elected judges are less likely to support gay rights than are appointed ones. The effect was most pronounced in cases decided by judges who ran in partisan elections.