Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2019
Prison Policy Initiative By Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner
March 19, 2019
Can it really be true that most people in jail are being held before trial? And how much of mass incarceration is a result of the war on drugs? These questions are harder to answer than you might think, because our country’s systems of confinement are so fragmented. The various government agencies involved in the justice system collect a lot of critical data, but it is not designed to help policymakers or the public understand what’s going on. As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build, however, it’s more important than ever that we get the facts straight and understand the big picture.
This report offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country’s disparate systems of confinement. The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories. This report provides a detailed look at where and why people are locked up in the U.S., and dispels some modern myths to focus attention on the real drivers of mass incarceration.
The Real Difference Between Jail and Prison
Reader's Digest by Lauren Cahn
We tend to use the terms "jail" and "prison" interchangeably. And while both are legally sanctioned confinement facilities, they're not the same thing.
Both “jail” and “prison” refer to secure facilities that are legally permitted to deprive people within the criminal justice system of certain constitutional rights (such as the right to go where they want when they want). But under the law, they’re not the same thing. So what is the difference between jail vs. prison?
Jails are confinement facilities for people awaiting trial or sentencing. They’re usually run by local law enforcement and maintain only one level of security.
Prisons are confinement facilities for those who’ve already been convicted of crimes. Usually, prisons are run by the state or federal government (or a private company under contract with the government). Prison facilities are segregated by, and their physical design reflects, their security level (minimum, medium, or maximum); prisoners are assigned to a security level based on the crimes for which they’re convicted as well as other factors. And it’s not always effective—consider these
COOK COUNTY CHIEF JUDGE RELEASES NEW REPORT ON BOND REFORM SHOWING OVERWHELMING SUCCESS
Coalition to End Money Bond
Late last week, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans released a new report about bond reform and its impact in Cook County. Notably, the court also released case-level data for the first time, which will allow independent analysis by people outside the court system. The central conclusion from the new report is simple: fewer people are being incarcerated in Cook County Jail and increased pretrial releases “did not increase the threat to public safety in Cook County.”
What this truly means is that releasing more people pretrial in recent years has, in fact, increased public safety. In addition to the fact that reforms have not been shown to increase already low re-arrest rates, jailing fewer people will ultimately reduce crime because pretrial incarceration increases recidivism. The changes have also meant that, on any given day in Cook County, thousands of people who are members of the public are spared the inherent harms—physical, economic, emotional, legal—that necessarily occur in jail.
The report analyzes data about tens of thousands of bond decisions made in Cook County in 2016 and 2018, both before and after the implementation of General Order 18.8A, the local court rule requiring judges to set money bonds only in amounts people can afford to pay. According to the report, the Order has had clear positive effects: money bonds have been used less frequently overall, the median money bond amount has dropped significantly (from $5,000 to $1,000), and the average daily number of people in Cook County Jail has declined from 10,064 in January 2014 to 5,799 in December 2018. Despite the Order’s stated goal of ensuring “no [one] is held in custody prior to trial solely because [they] cannot afford to post bail,” however, approximately 2,000 people were locked up in Cook County Jail for just that reason on the day of the report’s release.
County Board limits landlords’ inquiries into tenants’ criminal histories
Chicago Sun-Times by Rachel Hinton
The Cook County Board on Thursday passed limits on the practice of asking potential tenants about their criminal histories, despite pleas to hold off until landlords and property owners had a chance to air their concerns.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle hailed the measure as balancing “the need for inclusion with the need for safety,” but one landlord shared war stories about renting to ex-offenders who stole from her other tenants and nearly set up “a meth lab in my house.”
Dubbed the “Just Housing” ordinance, the measure is actually an amendment to the county’s housing ordinance. It is designed to end housing discrimination against people trying to turn their lives around. The amendment adds language that prohibits potential landlords or property owners from asking about, considering or requiring the disclosure of “covered criminal history,” meaning arrest records, charges, juvenile records and conviction histories will be off limits to landlords.
New York City’s Bail Success Story
The Marshall Project By ELI HAGER
March 14, 2019
Judges have drastically cut back on bail and jail in criminal cases, a new study shows. And defendants are still showing up in court.
Like many states, New York has a bail law that is half a century old. The legal rules that in 2010 made it possible for 16-year-old Kalief Browder to be jailed on Rikers Island for three years for allegedly stealing a backpack—just because his family couldn’t pay $3,000 in bail to get him out—all remain on the books.
Criminal justice reformers around the country are admonishing the Empire State to change its system, arguing that having to pay money to get out of jail unfairly targets the poor. And a newly elected Democratic majority in Albany is eager to heed those calls, as lawmakers this month pore over the final details of a bill that would make New York the third state to virtually abolish money bail.
California Programs Helps People On Parole To Function In Society
Heard on Morning Edition by Elissa Nadworny
May 2, 2019
A re-entry program in San Bernardino, Calif., for released offenders is like a bridge between the world of corrections and the world of social services. The program helps people on parole transition.
The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and a big part of that is re-offenders. One way to get those numbers down is to give people on parole the tools they need to function in society. In San Bernardino, Calif., there is a promising effort to do just that. Here's NPR's Elissa Nadworny.
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New Report Names Nearly 4,000 Companies Profiting Off of Private Prison Industry
Common Dreams by Eoin Higgins
A new report provides information on which corporations are profiting from the private prison industry.
The report (pdf), which was released by criminal justice advocacy group Worth Rises, is based on a database run by the organization that lists a total 3,900 companies in 12 sectors that make money off of the prison industrial complex.
The scope of the income taken in by these companies, the report says, is in the tens of billions.
"Today, more than half of the $80 billion spent annually on incarceration by government agencies is used to pay the thousands of vendors that serve the criminal legal system. They are healthcare providers, food suppliers, and commissary merchants, among others. And many have devised strategies to extract billions more from the directly impacted communities supporting their incarcerated loved ones."
Supporting the Coalition to End Money Bond and Chicago Community Bond Fund
On April 10, 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices announced it will be hosting three listening sessions on pretrial justice and accepting written comments through June 30th of this year. This is a direct result of the Coalition to End Money Bond and our allies’ demands for a process for public input into this important conversation. Over the last several months, we collected nearly 1,000 signatures in support of a public hearing and sent in hundreds of postcards from individual supporters calling on the commission to hear the voices of impacted communities. Thank you for your part in making this happen!
The currently scheduled hearings are:
If you are interested in a deeper dive into the Coalition to End Money Bond's statewide campaign and the Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices, you can join us
Tuesday May 7th for a teach-in at
Grace Place (637 S Dearborn) from 6-8pm!
More details are on the facebook event page.
Currently, the best way to support our work is sharing this petition calling on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices to hold a public hearing. You can also share this facebook post and twitter post that promote the petition with the video produced by Tom Callahan. There is also a video explaining a bill we are supporting, the Equal Justice for All Act, which was created by Danbee Kim. You can share using this twitter post and this facebook post.
Justice and freedom for Strawberry Hampton
From our partners at MacArthur Justice Center: Strawberry Hampton is a Black transwoman who has survived unspeakable abuse in the Illinois Department of Corrections. She has spoken out about her experiences and as a result, IDOC has retaliated against her by adding time on her sentence. In short, Strawberry will have to serve an additional 9 months behind bars because she is trans women who reported abuse to IDOC officials. We have filed the attached petition requesting that the governor commute her sentence. We have been told that a sign-on letter from a wide, diverse cross-section of people and organizations could help bring Strawberry home.
United States Still Has Highest Incarceration Rate in the World
Equal Justice Initiative
New prison and jail population data released this week by the United States Department of Justice shows the United States still incarcerates its citizens at a rate 5 to 10 times higher than other industrialized countries. Some 2.27 million people were incarcerated in jails and prisons across the country in 2017 —a 500% increase over the last 40 years.
The Sentencing Project analyzed the data, which is current through the end of 2017. It shows that the prison population nationwide declined by 7.3 percent since its highest level in 2009, but the decrease is primarily attributable to reforms in six states that have reduced their prison populations by at least 30 percent in the past 20 years: Alaska, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 1,489,363 people were incarcerated in state or federal prisons at year-end 2017. At the current rate of decline, it will take 75 years to cut the prison population by half, the Sentencing Project reports.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive