An Unsupported Population, and the news in criminal justice this week

“Not only are these women unsupported by the current system, but they are continually being re-victimized by policies and practices that fail to account for their needs.”

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition released its second report on women in Texas prisons and jails, “An Unsupported Population: The Treatment of Women in Texas’ Criminal Justice System.” The report explores the unique issues facing women in Texas facilities, and makes recommendations for policies and programs that treat women with dignity and increase the likelihood of successful reentry. The first report, about the surge of women into the state’s justice system, is available here.

“…Americans actually want fewer prisons—and now favor policies and politicians that put fewer people in them.”

New polling from the Vera Institute shows that support for criminal justice reform breaks through the urban-rural divide, with respondents in rural communities, small cities and major metro ranking prison and jail construction last in a list of public spending priorities and indicating support for prioritizing addiction treatment options over incarceration.  The poll also found considerable skepticism about the fairness of the justice system across geographic divides, with 49% agreeing with the statement “too many people are in jail for the wrong reasons,” and 55% agreeing that “our justice system discriminates against poor people.” And in The Hill, Right on Crime’s Marc Levin wrote about the need for rural communities to be included in criminal justice reform.

“We have to reduce costs to taxpayers and help non-violent offenders get the help they need so they can be productive citizens.”

Oklahoma legislators passed justice reform bills this week that are projected to reduce the growth in the inmate population by 4851 beds in the next ten years. The bills include judicial discretion in sentencing, administrative parole processes for nonviolent offenders, expanded use of drug courts, the creation of a risk and needs assessment tool for sentencing, and expanded access to expungement.

“As leaders, we all have a role to play in the overuse of detention and now is the time for us to take responsibility for reversing the trend.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced this week that the city’s jail population has reached its lowest level in nearly 40 years. In early 2005, the Orleans Parish jail complex held about 6500 inmates; by December 2017 the population had dropped to 1427. As part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, the city developed a plan to further decrease the jail population through diversion programs, pretrial risk assessments, and improved procedures to reduce extended jail stays.

“The city has been perpetuating an exploitative system, charging exorbitant fees in a way that it knows is likely to make it so folks never get their cars out of impoundment.”

Reason’s C.J. Ciaramella examined Chicago’s vehicle impound program, and how the combination of complex asset forfeiture processes, zero-tolerance drug policies, and a Home Rule amendment have raised millions of dollars for the city and helped bankrupt thousands of residents. Impound fines for driving on a suspended license in the past 12 months came to over $10 million, a figure that does not include towing, storage and filing fees.