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New California Crime Stats: The Good-Bad News

Just released Criminal Justice Statistics Center 2008 crime numbers and Center for Health Statistics 2007 death figures deal a double whammy to three decades of California's criminal justice failure. But first, the ironies. The 2008 figures show California's crime index (key offenses reported to police) stands at its lowest level since 1963, including the lowest rates of homicide in 40 years. Among youth, 2008 arrest rates continue the trend of the last seven years, with felony rates at their…

Now the hard part of prison reform...
Last month, CJCJ released a detailed study documenting the feasibility, benefits, and cost savings of closing California's juvenile prison system and transferring its dwindling roster of inmates to county detention facilities. The main obstacle now is to convince counties and traditionalists that the state will provide sufficient funding, which would be a fraction of the annual $250,000 per ward, $400 million total cost of state lockup.  Juveniles are the easy part of deincarceration reform,…
The Return of the Chain Gang
In my previous blog I referenced a recent book by Douglas Blackmon on the subject of convict leasing.  One of the enduring offshoots of this system has been the "chain gang," popularized by the film "Cool Hand Luke" (with Paul Newman, which carefully tried to make it seem as if it were mostly white) and memorialized in several books (e.g., "I am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang" -- also made into a movie, again trying to be race-neutral).  Chain gangs began in the South around the turn of…
Race and the Drug War, Part II
After more than 20 years, even with the heightened awareness of the impact of the drug war on blacks and other minorities, Congress still does nothing.  The drug war's impact has reached directly into minority neighborhoods with devastating results.  A recent book by Todd Clear documents the impact of mass incarceration (brought about mostly by the drug war) on these communities.  He shows that "get tough on crime" polices in recent years have actually contributed to higher crime rates in these…
Race and the Drug War, Part I
The "war on drugs" must be seen as a concerted effort (whether this has been intended is irrelevant) to keep the black population in a secondary status.  Such an effort can be traced to the days of slavery and even for about 100 years after slavery officially ended, at least in the South (see Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name ; Anchor Books, 2009). Consider the following data: Overall incarceration rates (2006): White male = 736; Black male = 4,789; lifetime chances of going to prison…
Fix the Prisons? Part II
I stated in Part I of this blog that the prison system is "functional" in that it benefits some segments of the population.  One obvious segment it benefits is all of those who work inside.  Indeed, with $68 billion in annual expenditures on the American prison system plus strong unions in many states you have a very strong vested interest in keeping the prison a going concern (the "reforms" would serve mostly to make working conditions and pay and benefits much better).  Then too we have all…
Fix the Prisons? Part I
Senator Jim Webb, an outspoken critic of America's prison system, has argued that we need to "fix our prisons" (Parade Magazine ), I would like to offer a different perspective and pose the following question: Do we really need to "fix" or "reform" the prison? I ask this question for many different reasons, not the least of which is the obvious fact that despite the overwhelming evidence that prisons have not been a big factor in reducing crime (note that not only does the US have the highest…
A Modest Proposal on Prison Costs: Reign in the Overtime
For the past 20 years the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice has critically examined the control exercised by special interests group over California's prison policy -- especially the state's prison guards union.   With their ability to spend millions of dollars to defeat political enemies, the guards union has achieved unprecedented success in promoting their agenda and resisting reform efforts. In her recent editorial, Sacramento Bee editor, Pia Lopez, analyzes the historical influence…
The Trouble in Antioch
"As more and more black renters began moving into this mostly white San Francisco Bay Area suburb a few years ago, neighbors started complaining about loud parties, mean pit bulls, blaring car radios, prostitution, drug dealing and muggings of schoolchildren," the Associated Press reported on December 30. As Antioch's black population escalated sharply over the last decade to 16% of the city's 101,000 residents in 2007, "longtime homeowners complained that the new arrivals brought crime and…
Media Hype and Distortion
A recent column by Steven Levitt in the New York Times on the subject of homicide is unusual. In this column he is referencing a recent study by James Fox of Northwestern University. Fox is one of the most often quoted criminologists in the country when it comes to homicide (here's the link to his report ). The media are typically selective in their treatment of the subject of crime.  Typical headlines dealing with Fox's report include this one from the New York Times: "Homicides by Black…
We can't just shoot 'em
California's growing budget crisis and prison lawsuits are focusing more attention on a serious policy question: Are there better ways to reduce crime and treat criminals than by spending $36,000 in taxpayer dollars every year to lock up each low-level property and drug possession offender in state prison? California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports show the state now imprisons 30,000 offenders sentenced for non-invasion property crimes or simple drug possession, at a cost…
More Election Reflections
While the loss of California's Proposition 5 was a huge disappointment to the prison reformers, the sound rejection of Proposition 6 by California voters provides some consolation.  Proposition 6 represented a billion dollar raid on the state treasury by Sacramento lobbyist for the benefit of their law enforcement and prison interest group clients.  Because the initiative was intended to increase the jail and prison population, the campaign was bankrolled by private prison companies, bail…
Election Reflections
Last night's elections should give us all cause for hope that the United States is moving into a post conservative era that will usher in a new wave of social policy. However, the defeat of California's Proposition 5 should be a reminder of the challenges ahead in shaping a more humane and rational criminal justice system. Proposition 5 offered an opportunity to bypass the prison industrial complex interest groups who exert a stranglehold on reform legislation at the state capital.…
Vote Yes on Proposition 5
On Election Day, California voters will have the opportunity to bring permanent change to its morally and financially bankrupt criminal justice system by voting for Proposition 5 -- the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA). Prop 5 circumvents the special interests dominance that has brought California's criminal justice system to the brink of collapse and paralyzed attempts to bring responsible change through the normal legislative process. The power of the prison industrial complex…
Justice Policy Journal - Volume 2, Number 2 - Fall 2005
(ISSN 1530-3012) From the editor Vocational, Educational and Psychological Assessments of Deaf Inmates Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other: The Benefits and Challenges Associated with Risk Classification Tools Research Brief: Violence Against Girls Provokes Girls' Violence Measuring Organizational Capacity among Agencies Serving the Poor: Implications for Achieving Organizational Effectiveness Globalization, Inner City Crime and the Coming Legitimacy Crisis An Examination…
Justice Policy Journal - Volume 3, Number 1 - Spring 2006
(ISSN 1530-3012) From the editor Three Strikes and You're In: The Effect of Ewing v. California and Three Strikes Legislation on Prison Population and Resource Management Technology-Driven Literacy Programs as a Tool for Re-connecting Incarcerated Mothers and their Children: Assessing their Need and Viability in a Federal Prison Research Brief: Is There Justice in the Juvenile Justice System? Examining the Role of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Political and Demographic…
CJCJ 2007 Legislative Watch
CJCJ 2007 Legislative Watch Bay Area IndyMedia, March 24, 2007
San Francisco Seeks Reentry for Returning California Prisoners
San Francisco Seeks Reentry for Returning California Prisoners, September 27, 2006
California's Three-Strikes Law Ineffective

The data reported in the analysis here do not support claims that the three-strikes law reduced crimes rates through deterrence and selective incapacitation.

Big Time for Petty Crime: The Story of Petty Theft Offenders in California

At the cost of approximately $21,000 per year, California is spent $105 million per year to imprison shoplifters.  This study examines whether it impacted crime rates.

Race and America's Criminal Justice System

A 1995 discussion of race and the criminal justice system in America.

Parole Violators in California: A Waste of Money, A Waste of Time

The study examines California's system of parole and makes recommendations for improvement.

Concrete And Crowds: 100,000 Prisoners of the State

As California's prison population tops 100,000, we urge policy makers to reflect upon the high costs and negative results of our reliance upon jails. 

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