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May 5, 2014 We tell a story in this country about the normalization of violence. We look at arrest records—particularly for adolescents and young adults—and see groups of young people who commit more and more violent crimes over time. The story we tell to explain this trend is one of children being hardened into violent adult criminals. We have come to believe that each offense paves the way for the next, that the punishment for the lower level ones is an inadequate...

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May 2, 2014 In late 2007, on the heels of a blistering report from the Little Hoover Commission—an independent California state oversight agency—the federal courts found that prison overcrowding is the cause of unconstitutional levels of health and mental health care in California prisons and mandated that the state reduce its prison population. In its report, the Commission recommended changing parole policies, supervising more offenders locally, implementing...

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Apr 30, 2014 In 2012, the number of patients with severe mental illness in prisons and jails was ten times the number in state psychiatric hospitals. Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights held a hearing entitled “Law Enforcement Responses to Disabled Americans: Promising Approaches for Protecting Public Safety.” Led by Subcommittee Chairman Senator Dick Durbin, it featured the verbal testimony of...
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Apr 29, 2014 Vera’s Cost-Benefit Knowledge Bank for Criminal Justice (CBKB) project has two main audiences for its work. One is a technical audience, including legislative, policy, budget and fiscal analysts, researchers, evaluators, criminologists, and others in similar or related professions. For these readers, the forest is important, but the trees are more their thing. The other audience is interested in the big picture and the policy ramifications at hand, with...

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Apr 22, 2014 New Orleans residents are detained in jail, especially pretrial, at significantly higher rates than people in other U.S. cities. Though the rate has been steadily decreasing, New Orleans still locally detains roughly 475 per 100,000 residents while the national urban average is about 250 per 100,000. Louisiana state law allows for a person to be detained up to 60 days while the prosecutor decides whether or not to file charges, which, combined with the...
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Apr 17, 2014 For more than 40 years—since Richard Nixon declared drugs the enemy in the early 1970s and continuing through the “War on Drugs” of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s—state and federal governments have zeroed in on drug enforcement, treating drug offenders in an increasingly harsh manner. In a new report—Drug War Détente? A Review of State-level Drug Law Reform, 2009-2013—Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections reveals that states have begun to scale back...

Apr 15, 2014 A few years ago, I met a young girl, “Denise,” who told me that her uncle had repeatedly raped her since she was eight. To stop the endless abuse, Denise said, she deliberately got pregnant by another man. Her plan worked. The uncle did stop raping her, but by that time, she was a mother at 15. Sadly, I did not meet Denise at a support group for incest survivors or a special high school program for teen mothers. I met Denise in a Delaware detention center...

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