CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Police Brutality in the African American Community

Stand Tall 
Faced down, never more 
For we know the score
We all know how this story ends

TAKE THE BLACK FOLKS CHALLENGE

STOP THE VIOLENCE ON THANKSGIVINGS DAY

Take The Pledge!


We decree that the week of Thanksgivings is "Stop the Violence Week" in the black community.


We African Americans, a proud people, of enslaved people decree that on this day, Thursday, November 28, 2019 and moving forward that we will and can prove to this nation, ourselves and to others that we will not harm or kill a single innocent Black person.


We decree that November 28, 2019, Thanksgivings Day will forever be known as the day Black folks  across the world started loving ourselves more and showed the world that on this day we put to rest the notion that all black people are violent; have no self worth  and all we do is kill each other. 


We decree that black folks will not decimate our back community by killing or harming our future, our children. On this day of thanks, not a single black child will be beaten, shot or harmed by the hand of another black person. And if we see someone hurting a black child we will report it to the authorities. 


On this day of thanks, we black people agree to look out for our elders. We will love and respect our elders and promise to carve out time for our matriarchs and patriarchs.


On this day of thanks, we agree not to show cause  for having the police to come to our door and having another innocent black person shot and killed by the police in our own home.


On this day of thanks we decree that not one member of our race will look down on our people and will forever promise to lift us all up. For if we dont care about us, why should others?


We further decree that on this day and forever more we declare that no other race of people will be able to say that the collective Blacks are not capable of governing ourselves and making our people proud.


FIinally, on this 28th day of Novenber 2019, we declare this day as the day for whom the bell tolls. And black people will have to rely upon us to save us from some of our destructive bevaviors.


Be it forever noted that on the 28th of November 2019, black people took the challenge and successfully passed.

DON'T COME FOR ME, WHY DON'T YOU DO SOMETHING?

This challenge is put forth for the betterment of our people. And anyone reading this who disagrees with it, it is you right to do so. If you don't want to participate, then don't. Don't shame others into not participating. But, what is more important is don't  fool yourself that this is not needed.


Don't criticize, just keep moving.!


This challenge comes from the heart.

Record Number of Police Officers Banned From Service for Misconduct

October 14, 2019. At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the USA have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade, an investigation by USA TODAY Network found.

Officers have beaten members of the public, planted evidence and used their badges to harass women. They have lied, stolen, dealt drugs, driven drunk and abused their spouses.

Despite their role as public servants, the men and women who swear an oath to keep communities safe can generally avoid public scrutiny for their misdeeds.

Black Female Killed by Cops

 Black Female Killed in Her Own Home: Fort Worth officer involved shooting

Criminal Justice in the African American Community

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

Civil liberties groups fear Congress rewrite of patent laws on genetic testing


When the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 against a company that tried to patent a diagnostic screening method for mutated genes that lead to breast cancer, it opened a golden age for testing.

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Civil liberties group asks local law enforcement to stop using facial recognition technology 

With coming statewide moratorium on biometric surveillance by law enforcement officers, group asks policing agencies to stop using facial recognition technology



A civil rights watchdog on Wednesday asked local law enforcement officials to quit using facial recognition technology, citing an impending change to state law that will temporarily bar officers from collecting and using biometric data.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sent a letter to the San Diego Association of Governments asking the agency to “begin the process immediately to suspend this fatally flawed program that threatens the civil liberties of people in California.”

The agency, known as SANDAG, oversees the system that local agencies use to access facial recognition technology. Essentially, the system allows some officers to take pictures of people and compare them to the agency’s database of mugshots — some 1.8 million mugshots, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The civil rights group’s request comes two weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1215, requiring policing agencies to hit the pause button on biometric surveillance involving “officer cameras.”   

AB 1215 sets a three-year moratorium, from January to the start of 2023, prohibiting law enforcement from “installing, activating, or using any biometric surveillance system” in connection with cameras used by officers.

On Wednesday, SANDAG issued a statement that it and the Automated Regional Justice Information System, or ARJIS, are aware of the legislation, and they “will work closely with our law enforcement partners to assure compliance with this and all other pertinent laws as they are enacted.”


San Diego police spokesman Sgt. Matthew Botkin said the department only uses the technology to help officers identify people who are unwilling or unable to provide proof of their identity. He said the department will consult its attorneys for guidance in responding in accordance to the new law.

Electronic Frontier Foundation investigative researcher Dave Maass penned the letter to SANDAG, and also authored a blog posted Wednesday on the group’s website, laying out which local agencies access the facial recognition data and how often.

In 2018, according to Maass’ post, San Diego County-area law enforcement agencies asked to use the facial recognition technology more than 25,000 times.

In addition to the Sheriff’s Department and police departments throughout the region, many other law enforcement agencies have access to the technology through SANDAG.

According to Maass, users include community college and university police departments, at least one tribal police agency and several federal agencies, among them Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Family Law

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

A look at how the court system affects Black families.


Family Law Act United States

Family Law - US. The purpose of Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is to ensure the welfare and well-being of the quality of life of children and families. Their programs are aimed at empowering and equipping individuals, families and communities by finding solutions to difficult situations, through assistance, support and caring.


Private International Law Conventions to Which the United States Is a Party

Private International Law Conventions for which U.S. Signature/Ratification/Accession Is Under Consideration

Other Private International Law Conventions

Private International Law Resources

Child Support

Intercountry Adoption

Child Abduction

Work in Progress

Women in Prison

Civil Liberties

Women in Prison

The imbalance of power between inmates and guards involves the use of direct physical force and indirect force based on the prisoners’ total dependency on officers for basic necessities and the guards’ ability to withhold privileges. Some women are coerced into sex for favors such as extra food or personal hygiene products, or to avoid punishment.  

 

• Powerlessness and Humiliation There are 148,200 women in state and federal prisons. In federal women’s correctional facilities, 70% of guards are male.  Records show correctional officials have subjected female inmates to rape, other sexual assault, sexual extortion, and groping during body searches. Male correctional officials watch women undressing, in the shower or the toilet. Male correctional officials retaliate, often brutally, against female inmates who complain about sexual assault and harassment. • Retaliation and Fear In many states guards have access to and are encouraged to review the inmates’ personal history files (this includes any  record of complaints against themselves or other prison authorities). Guards threaten the prisoner’s children and  visitation rights as a means of silencing the women. Guards issue rules-infraction tickets, which extend the woman’s   stay in prison if she speaks out. Prisoners who complain are frequently placed in administration segregation. • Impunity  Ineffective formal procedures, legislation and reporting capacity within U.S. jails and prisons accounts for much of the  ongoing sexual abuse of women. In 1997, according to the US Justice Department only 10 prison employees in the  entire federal system were disciplined, and only 7 were prosecuted. If a prison official is found guilty, he is often simply  transferred (“walked off the yard”) to another facility instead of being fired. The inmate may also be transferred. See also Amnesty International USA’s “The Issue:: Sexual Assault and Misconduct Against Women in Prison” 

 

The Issue: Sentencing and The War on Drugs 

 

A 1997 study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that women were over represented among low level drug offenders who were non-violent, had minimal or no prior criminal history, and were not principal figures in criminal organizations or activities, but nevertheless received sentences similar to “high level” drug offenders under the mandatory sentencing policies. From 1986 to 1996 the number of women sentenced to state prison for drug crimes increased ten-fold.  

 

• According to The Boston Globe, "nearly 26% of the nearly 2000 men and women crowding Massachusetts prisons for  drug crimes are first-time offenders…. Worse, nearly three out of four drug traffickers who do get charged in major cases, but agree to forfeit substantial drug money to prosecutors, bargain their way out of the long sentences…. The result: those with no money or information to trade face the hard mandatory sentences." •     From 1986 to 1996, the number of women sentenced to state prison for drug crimes increased from 2,370 to 23,700. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington DC Prisoners in 1997) • In 1986, 12.0% of women in prison were drug offenders. In 1991, 32.8% of women in prison were incarcerated for drug offenses.  (Women in Prison, Survey of State Prison Inmates, 1991. US Department of Justice, March 1994, NCJ 145321) See also Amnesty International USA’s “The Issue: The War on Drugs: The Source of the Explosion” The Issue: Medical Neglect of Women in US Prisons 

 

Women are often denied essential medical resources and treatments, especially during times of pregnancy and/or chronic and degenerative diseases. • Failure to refer seriously ill inmates for treatment and delays in treatment Women inmates suffering from treatable diseases such as asthma, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, cancer, late-term miscarriages, and seizures have little or no access to medical attention, sometimes resulting in death or permanent injury. Instances of failure to deliver life-saving drugs for inmates with HIV/AIDS has also been noted. • Lack of qualified personnel and resources and use of non-medical staff There is too few staff to meet physical and mental health needs. This often results in long delays in obtaining medical attention; disrupted and poor quality treatment causing physical deterioration of prisoners with chronic and degenerative 

diseases, like cancer; overmedication of prisoners with psychotropic drugs; and lack of mental health treatment. The use of non-medical staff to screen requests for treatment is also common.  • Charges for medical attention In violation of international standards, many prisons/jails charge inmates for medical attention, on the grounds that charging for health care services deters prisoners from seeking medical attention for minor matters or because they want to avoid work. In some supermaximum prisons, where prisoners cannot work at all, the US Justice Department has expressed concern that charging prisoners impedes their access to health care. • Inadequate Reproductive Health Care In 1994, the National Institute of Corrections stated that provision of gynecological services for women in prison is inadequate.  Only half of the state prison systems surveyed offer female-specific services such as mammograms and Pap smears, and often entail a long wait to be seen. • Shackling During Pregnancy Shackling of all prisoners, including pregnant prisoners, is policy in federal prisons and the US Marshall Service and exists in almost all state prisons. Shackling during labor may cause complications during delivery such as hemorrhage or decreased fetal heart rate. If a caesarian section is needed, a delay of even 5 minutes may result in permanent brain damage to the baby.  • Lack of treatment for substance abuse The gap between services available and treatment needs continues to grow. The number of prisoners with histories of drug abuse is growing, but the proportion of prisoners receiving treatment declined from 40% in 1991 to 18% in 1997.  • Lack of Adequate or Appropriate Mental Health Services 48-88% of women inmates experienced sexual or physical abuse before coming to prison, and suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. Very few prison systems provide counseling. Women attempting to access mental health services are routinely given medication without opportunity to undergo psychotherapeutic treatment.  See also Amnesty International USA’s “The Issue: Medical Neglect of Women in U.S. Prisons” 

The Issue: Discrimination Based On Gender, Race and Sexual Orientation 

The growth in incarceration has had its greatest impact on minorities, particularly African Americans. Women are most vulnerable to different forms of discrimination, including sexual harrasment or abuse. Women that do not fit the “norm”, such as lesbians, face increased risk of torture and abuse.. 

 

Discrimination Based on Race: • Over a five-year period, the incarceration rate of African American women increased by 828%. (NAACP LDF Equal Justice Spring 1998.) An African American woman is eight times more likely than a European American woman is to be imprisoned; African American women make up nearly half of the nation’s female prison population, with most serving sentences for nonviolent drug or property related offenses.  • Latina women experience nearly four times the rates of incarceration as European American women. • State and federal laws mandate minimum sentences for all drug offenders.  This eliminates from judges the option of referring first time non-violent offenders to scarce, financially strapped drug treatment, counseling and education programs.  The racial disparity revealed by the crack v. powder cocaine sentences insures that more African American women will land in prison. Although 2/3 of crack users are white or Hispanic, defendants convicted of crack cocaine possession in 1994 were 84.5% African American.  Crack is the only drug that carries a mandatory prison sentence for first time possession in the federal system.  Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation: •  Human Rights Watch has documented categories of women who are likely targets for sexual abuse. Perceived or actual sexual orientation is one of four categories that make a female prisoner a more likely target for sexual abuse, as well as a target for retaliation when she reports that abuse. • If a woman is a lesbian, her criminal defense becomes more challenging.  Jurors in the US were polled as to what factors would make them most biased against a defendant, and perceived sexual orientation was chosen as the most likely personal characteristic to bias a juror against a defendant, three times greater than race. (National Law Journal 11/2/98.) • The case of Robin Lucas depicts how sexual identity may subject a woman to further abuse or torture by a guard. She was placed in a men’s prison where male guards allowed male inmates to rape her.  The male guards taunted her about her same sex relationship, saying to her “maybe we can change your mind”.  See also Amnesty International USA’s “The Issue: Discrimination Based on Gender, Race and Sexual Orientation” and “The Issue: The Impact on Children of Women in Prison”. 

 


I

The Courts

NAACP's Criminal Justice Fact Sheet

Women in Prison

Let's take a look at the judges, sentencing and prison terms handed down on Blacks in the USA.


Introduction To The Federal Court System

The federal court system has three main levels: district courts (the trial court), circuit courts which are the first level of appeal, and the Supreme Court of the United States, the final level of appeal in the federal system. There are 94 district courts, 13 circuit courts, and one Supreme Court throughout the country.

District Courts

The district courts are the general trial courts of the federal court system. Each district court has at least one United States District Judge, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a life term. District courts handle trials within the federal court system – both civil and criminal. The districts are the same as those for the U.S. Attorneys, and the U.S. Attorney is the primary prosecutor for the federal government in his or her respective area.

Circuit Courts

Once the federal district court has decided a case, the case can be appealed to a United States court of appeal. There are twelve federal circuits that divide the country into different regions. The Fifth Circuit, for example, includes the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Cases from the district courts of those states are appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana. Additionally, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has a nationwide jurisdiction over very specific issues such as patents.

Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the American judicial system, and has the power to decide appeals on all cases brought in federal court or those brought in state court but dealing with federal law. For example, if a First Amendment freedom of speech case was decided by the highest court of a state (usually the state supreme court), the case could be appealed to the federal Supreme Court. However, if that same case were decided entirely on a state law similar to the First Amendment, the Supreme Court of the United States would not be able to consider the case.



NAACP's Criminal Justice Fact Sheet

NAACP's Criminal Justice Fact Sheet

NAACP's Criminal Justice Fact Sheet


Incarceration Trends in America


· Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in America increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million.

· Today, the United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has 21% of the world’s prisoners.

· 1 in every 37 adults in the United States, or 2.7% of the adult population, is under some form of correctional supervision.

·  

Racial Disparities in Incarceration


· In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.

· African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.

· The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.

· Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested,
42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially
waived to criminal court.


· Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US
population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.

· If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites,
prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.

Drug Sentencing Disparities


· In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17 million whites and 4 million African Americans reported having used an illicit drug within the last month.

· African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites.

· African Americans represent 12.5% of illicit drug users, but 29% of those arrested for drug offenses and 33% of those incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses.

Effects of Incarceration


· A criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent. The negative impact of a criminal record is twice as large for African American applicants.

· Infectious diseases are highly concentrated in corrections facilities: 15% of jail inmates and 22% of prisoners – compared to 5% of the general population – reported ever having tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, or other STDs.

· In 2012 alone, the United States spent nearly $81 billion on corrections.

· Spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of spending on Pre‐K‐12 public education in the last thirty years.

  

FAQs

NAACP's Criminal Justice Fact Sheet

NAACP's Criminal Justice Fact Sheet

Civil Rights v Civil Liberties


"Civil rights" and "civil liberties" are terms that are often used synonymously, interchangeably, but the terms are actually very distinct. Civil liberties are freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution to protect us from tyranny (think: our freedom of speech), while civil rights are the legal rights that protect individuals from discrimination (think: employment discrimination).

You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a fair court trial. You also have the right to vote and the right to privacy. Americans are very familiar with these rights, but are they considered civil rights or civil liberties? This article explores the differences between civil rights and civil liberties, with specific laws corresponding to each term.

Civil Rights

Civil rights concern the basic right to be free from unequal treatment based on certain protected characteristics (race, gender, disability, etc.) in settings such as employment, education, housing, and access to public facilities. A civil rights violation occurs in designated situations where an individual is discriminated against on the basis of a protected characteristic. Most civil rights laws are established through the federal government via federal legislation or case law.

Civil Liberties

Civil liberties concern basic rights and freedoms that are guaranteed -- either explicitly identified in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, or interpreted or inferred through the years by legislatures or the courts.

Civil liberties include:

  • The right to free speech
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to remain silent in a police interrogation
  • The right to be free from unreasonable searches of your home
  • The right to a fair court trial
  • The right to marry
  • The right to vote

The law differentiates between civil rights, which means the basic right of freedom from discrimination based on certain personal characteristics such as gender, race, or disability, and civil liberties which are basic freedoms. Civil liberties concern the actual basic freedoms; civil rights concern the treatment of an individual regarding certain rights. Unlike civil liberties, where the government grants broad-based rights to individuals, civil rights are not only granted by the government but also contain a protective aspect of those rights based on certain characteristics.

One way to consider the difference between civil rights and civil liberties is to look at 1) what right is affected, and 2) whose right is affected.

For example, as an employee, you do not have the legal right to a promotion, mainly because getting a promotion is not a guaranteed "civil liberty." However, as a female employee you do have the legal right to be free from discrimination in being considered for that promotion -- you cannot legally be denied the promotion based on your gender (or race, or disability, etc.). By choosing not to promote a female worker solely because of the employee's gender, the employer has committed a civil rights violation and has engaged in unlawful employment discrimination based on sex or gender.

Here's another example: the right to marry is a civil liberty, while gay marriage is a civil rights matter. If a couple (either same-sex or opposite-sex) is denied a marriage license because the court clerk has decided not to issue them at all, then their civil liberties have been violated. But if the clerk denied marriage licenses only to LGBT couples, it is a civil rights violation.

Contact a Civil Rights Attorney for Help with Your Legal Claim

Knowing the difference between civil rights and civil liberties can help to determine whether you have a civil rights claim. If you believe your civil rights have been violated, consider speaking with a civil rights attorney near you to better understand your legal options

Criminal Justice News

Trump's Agenda

Legislative Initiatives

Real testimonials

President Donald Trump's administration has been discreetly diminishing federal support for halfway houses used by federal prisoners by severing numerous contracts in recent months, which has sparked concern that, as a result, inmates will be forced to spend more time in prison than necessary.

The decision to reduce federal funds falls in line with Trump's pro-law enforcement agenda as well as the actions taken by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to revamp to the war on drugs with longer prison sentences for drug crimes as well as crackdowns on immigration.The cuts were confirmed by Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Justin Long, who said only areas with small populations and facilities that are underutilized will be impacted, according the exclusive report by Reuters.

"The Bureau remains firmly committed to these practices, but has had to make some modifications to our programs due to our fiscal environment," Long said. He added that referral or placement rates had not been reduced.

The non-profit organization, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, strongly disagreed with the decision and suggested it would cause more harm than good.

"We need to improve re-entry services ... This move flies in the face of that consensus,” said Kevin Ring, who leads the non-profit, told Reuters. "Is cutting re-entry opportunities really going to make us safer? Congress needs to ask the Justice Department if this is part of their strategy."

Sessions is due to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.



Real testimonials

Legislative Initiatives

Real testimonials

Reports of abuse in the criminal justice system


he criminal justice system is designed to protect the citizenry of the United States. It keeps us from injustice from ourselves, from our neighbors, and from total strangers. This is the ideal. Unfortunately, reality rarely ever lives up to such noble ideology.

There is a saying: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” As long as there are mortal men with ulterior motives (which defines a large preponderance of mankind), there will be corruption and abuse. The criminal justice system has seen its fair share of abuses since its inception. These abuses in power clearly stands against the ideals of this great nation. However, we are men and thus tend to err and deviate. There is an obvious need to create a remedy for the system so that it may live up to its noble idea.

The first step to rectifying the situation is through knowledge. Knowing just what injustices occur and where is a good place to start. Here are ten examples of criminal justice abuse–throughout both history and the branches of the system.

US PATRIOT ACT:
The patriot act is a model of terrific marketing. Most people aren’t aware that it’s actually an acronym and that it stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. No one in their right mind would vote against such terminology. Unless they happened to have the foresight to realize that it would also become a more sinister model. A model for massive abuses in power.
Since its inception in 2001, the abuses related to the patriot act are numerous and widespread. There have countless unjust arrests and detainment due to its ambiguous wording and law enforcement zeal to defend security. Until 2007, the FBI was issuing hundreds of thousands of national security letters. Most pertaining to US citizens. However, the ACLU won a landmark victory that prohibited the practice to continue. That all being said, the abuses of power are still rampant from the act itself.

Abraham Lincoln’s Suspension of Habeas Corpus
Abraham Lincoln is renown throughout the United States (and many other cultures) as the Great Emancipator. His Emancipation Proclamation was what set the legal precedent to the 13th amendment, which forever granted freedom to the slaves. This is surely a good thing and no one can dispute the positives of this part of Lincoln’s legacy. However, he did more than just free slaves. He made it a legal precedent to indefinitely detain American Citizens.

The writ of Habeas Corpus is used to ensure that people cannot be unjustly detained. I.e, to be detained without sufficient evidence. Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order that suspended this right. Now, people could be held indefinitely without a just reason. It was a powerful tool to invoke during the civil war. It was also an amazing abuse of executive power.

Legislative Initiatives

Legislative Initiatives

Upcoming Criminal Justice Events

Federal Criminal Justice Reform in 2018 

Did you know? 

  • The United States’ prison population has reached 2.2 million people, and has increased 500 percent over the past 40 years 
  • without a corresponding increase in crime.
  • The United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation.
  • Nearly two-thirds of inmates in America’s jails are awaiting trial

Deliberations about criminal justice reform are gaining momentum in Congress in 2018. As state actions over the last decade have lowered prison populations and stabilized corrections budgets, Congress is considering where on the federal level it’s feasible to follow suit.

State Action

State legislation on the front end of the prison system has focused on adjusting mandatory minimum sentences, drug penalty thresholds and felony thresholds. The goal is to preserve expensive prison space for the most dangerous offenders, while redirecting others to diversion programs, community supervision or treatment. States have also considered the back end, aiming in part to reduce recidivism rates by providing offenders with educational and job-training services and skills they need to be successful after release. Given that related costs to families, states and the federal government reach, by some estimates, $182 billion dollars annually, it’s no surprise that legislatures in nearly every state have passed laws to reduce prison populations and spending in recent years.

Federal Action 

While congressional action is difficult to predict, recent developments in the House, Senate and administration may be poised to coalesce around substantive criminal justice reform this year. There are numerous bills introduced so far in the 115th Congress on this issue, but certain bipartisan legislation appears more likely to move forward.

House Legislation. Former ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced HR 4261, the SAFE Justice Act, in November 2017. With 15 bipartisan cosponsors and referral to the subcommittee, the bill was the culmination of the House Judiciary Committee’s Over-Criminalization Task Force, led by Representative Scott and subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). The legislation is touted as a state-tested framework for reducing the size and expense of the prison system and federal criminal code. The sponsors point to the federal imprisonment rate’s 15 percent increase compared to the 4 percent decrease at the state level over the past decade. They even highlight certain states in their initiatives, noting a total of 32 states that reduced both their crime and imprisonment rates over the past five years.

Specifically, HR 4261 aims to address crime prevention, sentencing alternatives, the growing prison population and recidivism. The comprehensive bill starts at the beginning of the prison life cycle, allocating resources to evidence-based crime prevention and community policing while using transparency measures and outcome performance tracking to curtail overcriminalization—or overly expansive criminal codes­—in the federal criminal justice system. For those facing criminal allegations, the bill emphasizes probation and problem-solving courts as alternatives to harsher sentencing. It also establishes a system of tiered performance incentives designed to reduce the number of probation supervisees who are ultimately sent to prison in each judicial district.

Should the accused face prison time, the bill would reserve mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking leaders and allow for increased exceptions to mandatory minimums where appropriate. Low-risk geriatric and terminally ill inmates would also receive increased flexibility. For offenders who have served their time, the bill uses an expanded system of credits earned for time served and evidence-based prison programming to improve post-prison integration. The bill also emphasizes a system of immediate sanctions for violating, or credits for complying with, supervision conditions after release.

Senate Legislation. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) criminal justice reform bill, S. 1917, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, also focuses on both the front and back ends of the prison system but differs its approach in several ways. First, S. 1917 would shift the application of mandatory minimums rather than focus mainly on reducing them. On the one hand, the bill would increase judicial discretion in sentencing firearm offenders, nonviolent offenders or those with broader criminal histories. It would reduce enhanced penalties for specified nonviolent repeat drug offenders and end the mandatory life sentence for three-time drug offenders. On the other hand, it would allow enhanced penalties to apply to previously convicted violent offenders and drug felons, and apply new mandatory minimums for crimes related to interstate domestic violence violations or weapons sales to blacklisted countries. It also would allow adding five years to sentences involving fentanyl-laced heroin trafficking

Similar to HR 4261, the bill provides for reforms on the back end via prerelease prison programming, but S. 1917 would also use evidence-based and individualized risk assessments to assign inmates to certain programs. This would incorporate opportunities for early release or home confinement and span education, job training and drug rehabilitation. For juveniles, the bill would limit solitary confinement, increase opportunities for parole, and provide for sealing and expungement of criminal records. The bill also contains compassionate release allowances for terminally ill or elderly inmates.

The bill takes a broader aim at reform by redirecting savings accrued from the act to establish the National Criminal Justice Commission, tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system. The bill was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 16, and awaits consideration on the full Senate floor.

Administration’s Actions. The Trump administration has also indicated an interest in reforming the criminal justice system. President Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with criminal justice reform advocates in mid-January to discuss recidivism rate reduction and effective re-entry procedures. The president said he’d like to employ “job training, mentoring and drug addiction treatment” to assist recently released offenders in becoming productive members of society. The administration has hosted roundtable discussions with federal and state officials, prison reform experts and others over the past six months, including at the Camp David presidential retreat in early January.

Between far-reaching legislation in both the House and Senate, and clear interest from the administration, there’s reason to believe comprehensive criminal justice reform on the federal level may occur. Only time will tell whether we can expect significant changes to materialize this year, or whether competing priorities will delay federal remedies. As the United States continues to set records for the size and cost of our prison populations, reform will remain a top priority for lawmakers.


Upcoming Criminal Justice Events

Upcoming Criminal Justice Events

Upcoming Criminal Justice Events


June 26, 2019

Reentry Ready Announces Comprehensive Plan to...

Wed, 9 AM – 12 PM
Dechert LLP, 1900 K St NW
Washington, DC


Fair Sentencing of Youth: Continuing the...

Wed, 6 – 8 PM
Alley Powered by Verizon, 2055 L St NW suite 400
Washington, DC


2019 Forum on Criminal Justice

Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019
Hyatt Regency Crystal City At Reagan National Airport, 2799 Richmond Hwy
Arlington, VA


 17th Annual International Males of Color...

Mon, Oct 7 – Wed, Oct 9
Virginia Union University, 1500 N Lombardy St
Richmond, VA

FAQs

Upcoming Criminal Justice Events

FAQs

Coming soon.