Dallas Plans to Take Advantage of the 2007 Cite and Summons Law

dallas_co_jailNext year, the Dallas Police Department and county officials will make another attempt at reducing the amount of time an officer will spend on nonviolent misdemeanor suspects by taking advantage of the 2007 cite-and-summons law. The law was written by former Rep. and Right on Crime Fellow, Jerry Madden, and passed with bipartisan support and backing from both conservative and liberal criminal justice advocates.

Successful roll-out in Dallas — and a similar new program in Houston — would give criminal justice reformers across the political spectrum added momentum for next year’s lawmaking session. Priority goals for the left-right Texas Smart on Crime Coalition include further refinement of Texas’ drug laws, with emphasis on keeping the repercussions minor for minor offenses.

Continue reading at The Dallas Morning News

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“What’s Next for Criminal Justice Reform?”

The 2014 Texas Tribune Festival featured a panel discussion on criminal justice reform titled “What’s Next for Criminal Justice Reform?”

The panel was moderated by Marshall Project Editor-in-Chief Bill Keller and panelists included Texas Criminal Justice Coalition Executive Director Ana Yáñez-Correa, state Rep. Abel Herrero, exoneree Michael Morton, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation Vikrant Reddy, and state Rep. James White.

Listen to audio on Texas Tribune

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Maintaining Safety While Being Fiscally Responsible

The last several decades have seen a massive government expansion in crime. Over-criminalization has expanded state and federal prisons, causes a burden to taxpayers and a concerning cycle of recidivism. Because states can no longer finance this overkill response to low-level non-violent offenses, it is fiscally necessary that they reduce sentences. To accomplish this while maintaining safety for citizens, reentry programs, vocational training and drug-treatment programs are needed to ensure lower recidivism. This is particularly important for juveniles for which interventions are much more effective, saving taxpayer dollars in the future. To accomplish all of this for citizens states and municipalities are key for effective implementation.

The “get tough on crime” movement, emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to enormous increases in drug arrests, longer prison sentences with mandatory minimums, more punitive juvenile justice sentencing and greater incarceration of juveniles, low-income individuals and people of color.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), about 6.98 million people were under some form of adult correctional supervision in the U.S. at yearend, 2011. This is the equivalent of about 1 in 34 adults – or about 2.9 percent of the adult population – in prison or jail, or on probation or parole.

By the end of 2012, there were around 1.35 million people incarcerated in state prisons, 217,800 in federal prisons and 744,500 in local jails. From 1998 to 2009, the state cost of mass incarceration of criminals increased from $12 billion to $52 billion per year.

Today, there is movement to reform the criminal justice system and reverse the trend of mass incarceration of nonviolent and drug related offenders. Federal, state and local leaders are looking for innovative ways to reduce the costs of criminal justice and corrections by keeping low-risk, nonviolent, drug involved offenders out of prison or jail, while still holding them accountable and ensuring the safety of our communities.

The Administration, Congress and many states are enacting new policies to slow the growth of prison populations and even downsizing corrections systems to save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Continue reading at Public CEO

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Report Finds Flaws; Makes Suggestions to Increase Justice

New research has revealed ways to ensure greater liberty for citizens. Revealing flaws in current investigations, this research shows that many individuals, including numerous veterans, have been wrongfully imprisoned based on faulty evidence. With recommendations for the future, there is hope that justice and liberty will be increased.

The National Academy of Sciences released a groundbreaking report Thursday that provides strong scientific confirmation and explanation of what we’ve long known about the reliability of eyewitness identifications: They’re not nearly as reliable as we’d like to think. In fact, eyewitness misidentifications have contributed to 72% of the 318 wrongful convictions that were later overturned by DNA evidence.

Researchers looked at more than 30 years of basic and applied scientific research on memory and identification. They found that “the malleable nature of human visual perception, memory and confidence; the imperfect ability to recognize individuals; and policies governing law enforcement procedures can result in mistaken identifications with significant consequences.”

These findings are no surprise to Kirk Bloodsworth, Dennis Maher and Brandon Moon, who collectively spent 44 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit before being proven innocent by DNA.

Continue reading at USA Today

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Illinois Criminal Justice Crossroads

Even acknowledging the change in dialogue for both parties about criminal justice reform, many states still have a long way to go. Illinois is at a crossroads, poised to follow either states such as California whose overcrowded swollen prisons pose both a safety and financial burden to its citizens, or states like Texas and New York that have safely decreased their numbers of offenders. Hopefully Illinois will choose the option to lower the government expansion of crime, finding a more cost-effective way to divert low-level non-violent offenders from becoming high-risk criminals. The beginnings of change have been seen in the state and need to be continued.

After decades of using incarceration as the country’s primary response to crime, leading Republicans and Democrats are embracing safe, fair, and cost-effective prison reform.

As Illinois prepares to elect its next governor, voters should ask the candidates where they stand on this issue and what their vision and goals are for the state’s crowded and under-resourced $1.3-billion prison system.

Like all states, Illinois’ prison population has grown exponentially over the past 40 years, going from around 6,000 inmates in 1974 to 49,000 today, despite the fact that the system was designed to hold only 32,000.

Continue reading at Huffington Post

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