The Painful Lessons of a Corrections Crisis

When the Washington Department of Corrections learned a software programming error led to the erroneous early release of 3,000 prisoners, it took three years to address the problem. That led to at least two deaths—and some hard lessons about the need to recognize non-traditional emergencies before they became crises, according to a case study published this month.

Correctional institutions are usually well prepared to address serious emergencies like prison riots, but what happens when they encounter a crisis that staff and authorities never imagined could occur?

That was the situation which confronted the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) when authorities learned a software programming error had led to the erroneous early release of over 3,000 inmates between 2002 and 2015.

According to a case study analyzing the WDOC’s belated response, the episode made clear that correctional and other public institutions need to develop the “situational awareness” to deal with crises for which they had little training.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, showed that authorities could have headed off the crisis earlier if they had responded to a 2012 inquiry from a father who believed the perpetrator of a crime against his son had been released too early.

A request for a “fix” was sent to the Information Technology Unit (IT), but the WDOC failed to address it until 2015. Meanwhile, several of the erroneously released inmates had committed crimes, and were responsible for at least two deaths.

The sentencing miscalculation arose in 2002 following a Washington Supreme Court decision, In re King, which ruled that the WDOC had not awarded “good time” to inmates for the time spent in jail awaiting trial and during trial. But a change in the software programming used to recalculate each inmate’s release date to accommodate the ruling unwittingly led to total earned- time credits that exceeded the statutory maximum.

This resulted in inmates being released, on average, 55 days early.

WDOC’s failure to deal in a timely manner with the error once it was pointed out turned an “emergency into a crisis,” said the study.

Two of the three authors of the study, “The Making of an Institutional Crisis,” were key players in the episode. Dan Pacholke, the state’s Secretary of Corrections, led the emergency response. Sandy Felkey Mullins served on the governor’s staff as his senior policy advisor on public safety and government operations. Bert Useem of Purdue University conducted many of the post-crisis interviews with WDOC staff who had to decide whether and how to bring the inmates back to prison.

The WDOC leadership decided that bringing back offenders post-release to serve additional time on their sentence after several years of liberty would be “fundamentally unfair,” unless the offender had committed a class-A felony.

Specialized WDOC community response units accompanied local law enforcement to arrest inmates who it was decided did need to return to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentence. Unsurprisingly, the legitimacy of the arrest was often challenged by the former inmates—who argued they were being asked to “bear the burden of WDOC’s error” of being released and returned again.

Specialty teams for disturbance control were placed in prison facilities around the state in the event of possible unrest, though no noticeable inmate response arose. And a public communications strategy was developed.

Following the crisis, the WDOC redeveloped its IT procedures and issued instructions requiring anyone on headquarters staff who identified an issue that impacted public safety or critical operations to immediately inform his or her supervisor.

If the issue was not addressed, they were to go directly to agency leadership.

The principal lesson drawn from the episode, according to the study, was that large public agencies must train senior staff to have the flexibility to deal with incidents that are not part of their normal crisis training.

An agency needs to “develop in its culture the alertness not to solve, but rather to recognize, a crisis emergency and quickly mobilize a non-traditional response,” authors concluded.

“Agencies ….must develop situational awareness – thinking through the broad features of the situation and what must be done.”

TCR news intern Brian Edsall contributed to writing this summary. The full journal article is available for purchase only and can be downloaded here. Journalists can obtain free access by contacting TCR Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie at Victoria@thecrimereport.org

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Painful Lessons of a Corrections Crisis

When the Washington Department of Corrections learned a software programming error led to the erroneous early release of 3,000 prisoners, it took three years to address the problem. That led to at least two deaths—and some hard lessons about the need to recognize non-traditional emergencies before they became crises, according to a case study published this month.

Correctional institutions are usually well prepared to address serious emergencies like prison riots, but what happens when they encounter a crisis that staff and authorities never imagined could occur?

That was the situation which confronted the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) when authorities learned a software programming error had led to the erroneous early release of over 3,000 inmates between 2002 and 2015.

According to a case study analyzing the WDOC’s belated response, the episode made clear that correctional and other public institutions need to develop the “situational awareness” to deal with crises for which they had little training.

The study, published this month in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, showed that authorities could have headed off the crisis earlier if they had responded to an inquiry from the father of an victim in 2012 who believed his son’s perpetrator had been released too early.

A request for a “fix” was sent to the Information Technology Unit (IT), but the WDOC failed to address it until 2015. Meanwhile, several of the erroneously released inmates had committed crimes, and were responsible for at least two deaths.

The sentencing miscalculation arose in 2002 following a Washington Supreme Court decision, In re King, which ruled that the WDOC had not awarded “good time” to inmates for the time spent in jail awaiting trial and during trial. But a change in the software programming used to recalculate each inmate’s release date to accommodate the ruling unwittingly led to total earned- time credits that exceeded the statutory maximum.

This resulted in inmates being released, on average, 55 days early.

WDOC’s failure to deal in a timely manner with the error once it was pointed out turned an “emergency into a crisis,” said the study.

Two of the three authors of the study, “The Making of an Institutional Crisis,” were key players in the episode. Dan Pacholke, the state’s Secretary of Corrections, led the emergency response. Sandy Felkey Mullins served on the governor’s staff as his senior policy advisor on public safety and government operations. Bert Useem of Purdue University conducted many of the post-crisis interviews with WDOC staff who had to decide whether and how to bring the inmates back to prison.

The WDOC leadership decided that bringing back offenders post-release to serve additional time on their sentence after several years of liberty would be “fundamentally unfair,” unless the offender had committed a class-A felony.

Specialized WDOC community response units accompanied local law enforcement to arrest inmates who it was decided did need to return to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentence. Unsurprisingly, the legitimacy of the arrest was often challenged by the former inmates—who argued they were being asked to “bear the burden of WDOC’s error” of being released and returned again.

Specialty teams for disturbance control were placed in prison facilities around the state in the event of possible unrest, though no noticeable inmate response arose. And a public communications strategy was developed.

Following the crisis, the WDOC redeveloped its IT procedures and issued instructions requiring anyone on headquarters staff who identified an issue that impacted public safety or critical operations to immediately inform his or her supervisor.

If the issue was not addressed, they were to go directly to agency leadership.

The principal lesson drawn from the episode, according to the study, was that large public agencies must train senior staff to have the flexibility to deal with incidents that are not part of their normal crisis training.

An agency needs to “develop in its culture the alertness not to solve, but rather to recognize, a crisis emergency and quickly mobilize a non-traditional response,” authors concluded.

“Agencies ….must develop situational awareness – thinking through the broad features of the situation and what must be done.”

TCR news intern Brian Edsall contributed to writing this summary. The full journal article is available for purchase only and can be downloaded here. Journalists can obtain free access by contacting TCR Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie at Victoria@thecrimereport.org

from https://thecrimereport.org

You Choose: Which Criminal Justice Stories (and People) Mattered in 2017?

The Crime Report launches its seventh annual readers’ poll of the year’s most significant criminal justice stories and newsmakers. Our staff and contributors have nominated their choices. Please choose from our list, or suggest others. We’ll publish the results next week.

What were the most significant criminal justice stories and trends in the U.S. during 2017?

Which person (or persons) had the most significant impact?

For The Crime Report’s seventh annual year-end review, TCR staff, columnists and contributors have nominated news stories or developments that, in our collective judgment, have had a critical impact on the U.S. criminal justice this year—and will likely continue to resonate during 2018.

We’ve also identified a handful of “newsmakers” whose work or actions during 2017 were especially impactful.

Now we’d like to hear from you.

Since our readers are among the nation’s thought leaders in the criminal justice world—journalists, academics, practitioners, advocates—the results of our annual surveys always attract special attention. .

We think it is a constructive way of putting a complicated and often troubling year into perspective (pretty much what we try to do for each day’s news in TCR)—and we hope you agree.

Below are 15 stories/developments we’ve identified as candidates for our “Top Ten” criminal justice stories of 2017. We’ve added a brief rationale for each.

Please check up to ten.

Feel free to tell us why you made your choices. We’ll be happy to publish a selection of the best comments (anonymously if you prefer).

Similarly, please choose two newsmakers from the second list who you believe had a major impact on the U.S. criminal justice system in 2017, and/or will bear watching in 2018.

Picking a newsmaker does not, of course, mean you endorse his/her views or actions.

TCR’s Newsmaker of the Year is a recognition of that person’s impact—for good or ill—on criminal justice in 2017.

We wanted to keep the list manageable. Inevitably, some issues, newsmakers or developments that may be on your priority list are missing here. So we’ve left space for a “write-in” ballot, where you can add a story or person you think we’ve overlooked. If enough readers join you, your choice might make the final cut!

Please send in your replies by midnight Eastern Standard Time tomorrow (Friday, December 15). The final results will be published next week.

Just to refresh your memory, here are the top ten stories and top newsmakers who made TCR’s year-end list for 2016.

We look forward to hearing from you!

PLEASE CLICK ON SURVEY HERE

from https://thecrimereport.org

Death Penalty Decline Signals ‘Long-Term Change’ in Capital Punishment

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a Washington, DC-based advocacy group.

The report, entitled ‘The Death Penalty in 2017,” notes that the 23 executions in 2017 were the second fewest since 1991, and the number of total imposed or projected death sentences (39) this year is the second lowest since 1972, the report said.

table

Table courtesy DPIC

“The new death sentences imposed in 2017 highlight the increasing geographic isolation and arbitrary nature of the death penalty,” said DPIC Director Robert Dunham in a press release accompanying the report.

Just three countries—Riverside, CA; Clark, NV; and Maricopa, AZ—were responsible for more than 30 percent of the death sentences levied around the country.

Nearly 75 percent of executions took place in four states: (Texas (7); Arkansas (4); Florida (3); and Alabama (3).

The report notes that Harris County, Tx., which once led the nation in the number of executions, and did not execute any prisoner or impose any death sentence this year, is symbolic of the decline.

Dunham said the declining numbers coincide with a sharp drop in public support for the death penalty across the U.S., now at 55 percent—a 45-year low.

See also: Texas  Death Row Population Down Again

Download the full report here.

Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Death Penalty Decline Signals ‘Long-Term Change’ in Capital Punishment

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

With executions and death sentences at near-historic low levels so far this year, the U.S. is witnessing a “long-term change in capital punishment,” according to a report released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a Washington, DC-based advocacy group.

The report, entitled ‘The Death Penalty in 2017,” notes that the 23 executions in 2017 were the second fewest since 1991, and the number of total imposed or projected death sentences (39) this year is the second lowest since 1972, the report said.

table

Table courtesy DPIC

“The new death sentences imposed in 2017 highlight the increasing geographic isolation and arbitrary nature of the death penalty,” said DPIC Director Robert Dunham in a press release accompanying the report.

Just three countries—Riverside, CA; Clark, NV; and Maricopa, AZ—were responsible for more than 30 percent of the death sentences levied around the country.

Nearly 75 percent of executions took place in four states: (Texas (7); Arkansas (4); Florida (3); and Alabama (3).

The report notes that Harris County, Tx., which once led the nation in the number of executions, and did not execute any prisoner or impose any death sentence this year, is symbolic of the decline.

Dunham said the declining numbers coincide with a sharp drop in public support for the death penalty across the U.S., now at 55 percent—a 45-year low.

See also: Texas  Death Row Population Down Again

Download the full report here.

Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

You Choose: Which Criminal Justice Stories (and People) Mattered in 2017?

The Crime Report launches its seventh annual readers’ poll of the year’s most significant criminal justice stories and newsmakers. Our staff and contributors have nominated their choices. Please choose from our list, or suggest others. We’ll publish the results next week.

What were the most significant criminal justice stories and trends in the U.S. during 2017?

Which person (or persons) had the most significant impact?

For The Crime Report’s seventh annual year-end review, TCR staff, columnists and contributors have nominated news stories or developments that, in our collective judgment, have had a critical impact on the U.S. criminal justice this year—and will likely continue to resonate during 2018.

We’ve also identified a handful of “newsmakers” whose work or actions during 2017 were especially impactful.

Now we’d like to hear from you.

Since our readers are among the nation’s thought leaders in the criminal justice world—journalists, academics, practitioners, advocates—the results of our annual surveys always attract special attention. .

We think it is a constructive way of putting a complicated and often troubling year into perspective (pretty much what we try to do for each day’s news in TCR)—and we hope you agree.

Below are 15 stories/developments we’ve identified as candidates for our “Top Ten” criminal justice stories of 2017. We’ve added a brief rationale for each.

Please check up to ten.

Feel free to tell us why you made your choices. We’ll be happy to publish a selection of the best comments (anonymously if you prefer).

Similarly, please choose two newsmakers from the second list who you believe had a major impact on the U.S. criminal justice system in 2017, and/or will bear watching in 2018.

Picking a newsmaker does not, of course, mean you endorse his/her views or actions.

TCR’s Newsmaker of the Year is a recognition of that person’s impact—for good or ill—on criminal justice in 2017.

We wanted to keep the list manageable. Inevitably, some issues, newsmakers or developments that may be on your priority list are missing here. So we’ve left space for a “write-in” ballot, where you can add a story or person you think we’ve overlooked. If enough readers join you, your choice might make the final cut!

Please send in your replies by midnight Eastern Standard Time tomorrow (Friday, December 15). The final results will be published next week.

Just to refresh your memory, here are the top ten stories and top newsmakers who made TCR’s year-end list for 2016.

We look forward to hearing from you!

PLEASE CLICK ON SURVEY HERE

from https://thecrimereport.org

You’re Safer in a ‘Sanctuary City,’ says New Study

A California study rebuts arguments that urban counties which limit or refuse  cooperation with immigration authorities in reporting undocumented immigrants are breeding grounds for crime. In particular, white residents of sanctuary cities are 62 percent less likely to die from gun violence than their counterparts elsewhere, the study found.

In a rebuttal to government claims that “sanctuary” cities are breeding grounds for crime driven by undocumented immigrants, a new study says that residents of areas where authorities limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities are safer from violent death.

The study by the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) compared 2015 crime figures in 33 large central metropolitan counties where some form of sanctuary policies are in effect (including 12 who do not cooperate at all with federal immigration authorities)—representing over 50 million Americans—with 35 counties with no sanctuary policies, with some 40 million Americans.

It found that white residents in particular were 26 percent less likely to die from illicit drug overdoses; 33 percent were less likely to die from all violent causes. Moreover, some 53 percent of white residents of those counties were less likely to be victims of homicide, and 62 percent less likely to die from gun violence than their white counterparts elsewhere.

“The impact of sanctuary cities on people of color is less consistent,” noted study author Mike Males, a senior research fellow with CJCJ.

“But overall, African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native American residents generally experience greater safety in countries with at least some sanctuary policies.”

He added: “Urban sanctuary and partial sanctuary counties have more racially diverse populations and are generally safer from violent death, whether self-inflicted or by others, than urban countries without established sanctuary policies.”

Males cautioned that the figures do not prove that sanctuary policies “directly contribute” to community safety; but he said arguments that reduced cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities is associated with deadly consequences, “particularly for urban, white residents” were disproved by his findings.

Males noted that polls suggest that although half of Americans support sanctuary policies, white respondent were least likely to support them, reflecting the rhetoric promoted by the White House and the Department of Justice that undocumented immigrants were responsible for disproportionate rates of criminal activity—particularly violent crime and illicit drug trafficking—and have cost “countless innocent American lives.”

Last June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act”—which would prevent cities and states that decline to assist ICE from participating in some federal grant programs. The legislation is still pending.

Focusing on the 12 urban counties where sanctuary policies are fully in effect, Males found that rates of homicide for whites are 31 per cent lower—and gun deaths are 59 percent lower—than in the country as a whole.

Cities with full sanctuary policies include New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Authorities in those cities often explain their refusal to provide assistance to ICE in reporting undocumented immigrants by saying it improves public safety, by reassuring residents that they can report crimes or assist police in investigations without worrying about whether their immigration status makes them vulnerable to deportation.

A complete copy of the report, along with tables, is available for downloading here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Non-Whites Comprise 55% of Private Prison Inmates: Study

An Oregon State University professor says his comparative study of prison demographics supports critics who say private prisons “skim the best inmates with the lowest needs in attempt to minimize costs.” The study found that inmates in for-profit institutions serve disproportionately shorter sentences than the general incarcerated population.

Inmates of private prisons are disproportionately non-white compared to incarcerated state and federal populations, according to a study published this month in the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice.

The study author, Brett C. Burkhardt, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy, compared the demographics of private prison inmates and employees to those in state and federal prisons, based on 2005 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities—the most recent figures available.

According to the study’s findings, white inmates make up 53 percent of the adjusted population in state prisons, but only 45 percent of the population in private prisons.

 Just as significantly, Burkhardt says his findings show that private prison inmates serve shorter sentences on average than their counterparts in federal and state institutions.

“Critics have long suspected that private prison firms skim the best inmates with the lowest needs in attempt to minimize costs” wrote Burkhardt, noting that they operate according to a “business ethos” that directed them to maximize revenues and minimize costs.

Contractual arrangements between a government and contractor specify the types of inmates that may or may not be received by private prisons. But because public record laws typically do not apply to private prisons, these documents are not readily available, Burkhardt wrote.

“This is unfortunate because the private contractors are providing a service that is fraught with potential violations of inmates’ constitutional rights and because taxpayers are paying the price,” Burkhardt added.

Some states have stipulations about the kinds of inmates eligible for detention in private prisons, he noted. Private prison contracts in Arizona, for example, mandated that high-risk inmates or those with high medical needs were sent to state or federal prisons.

In Minnesota, one private prison did not accept offenders over the age of 60, or anyone with mental health orders.

Historically, he observed, private prisons have fared poorly on a variety of performance measures, including access to health care and work assignments.

Compared to state-run prisons, inmates in private sector prisons have limited access to disease prevention programs, are guarded by staff with less training, and have more grievances.

The study also found that private prisons are typically non-unionized workplaces that disproportionately hire female workers and women of color. Staff workers in private prisons also receive lower wages than those in the public sector.

The demographics for private prison employees show similarly imbalances when compared to state and federal prisons. Some 40 percent of the staff  in private prisons are African American, compared to 22 percent in state prisons; 11 percent are Hispanic, compared to six percent in state prisons.

Women make up roughly half of the prison staff in private prisons, but only about 25 percent in state and federal prisons.

To the extent that private prisons hold and employ different populations, they should be viewed as an auxiliary piece of the prison system, not a direct substitute for traditional state or federal prisons, suggested Burkhardt.

The study raises questions about the process by which inmates are assigned to private vs. public prisons.

Typically, policy makers have viewed private prisons as engines for economic growth.

“But given documented pattern of poor compensation and instability in private prison jobs, the true result is likely to be an employment model that takes advantage of existing market insecurities among historically marginalized groups of workers,” the study said.

That model, concluded Burkhardt, “is not the robust economic engine that civic leaders might hope for.”

The study is available for purchase here, but journalists can obtain a free copy by contacting Victoria Mckenzie, deputy editor of The Crime Report at Victoria@thecrimereport.org

This summary was prepared by TCR News Intern Megan Hadley. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Los Angeles Study Finds $19 Billion Levied in Money Bail between 2012-2016

The four-year study, by the “Million Dollars Hoods” project at UCLA’s Bunche Center, reports the nearly $194 million actually paid in bond sureties disproportionately affected individuals in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Some 223,000 who couldn’t pay were held before trial.

Individuals arrested in Los Angeles, most of them from the city’s poorest neighborhoods, paid nearly $194 million in nonrefundable bail bond deposits and more than $17.5 million in cash between 2012-2016, according to a study of the impact of the money bail system in America’s second largest city.

The payments represented a fraction of what the study said was the “massive” $19.3 billion in bail set during that four-year period, which one of the authors called an example of a “justice system that routinely reacts more punitively towards poverty than affluence.”

The study, conducted by a team of researchers at UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies as part of an incarceration mapping project called “Million Dollar Hoods,” found that of the $193.7 million in nonrefundable deposits paid to bond agents during the period, Latinos paid $92.1 million, African Americans paid $40.7 million, and Whites paid $37.9 million.

Moreover, according to the study, the communities in Los Angeles whose residents were levied the largest overall sums of bail also have the highest unemployment rates.

Citing earlier research that showed bail assessments were usually paid by women, including mothers, spouses and relatives of the accused, the authors said it was more than likely that the bail amounts were “disproportionately paid by women, namely Black women and Latinas.”

“Moreover,” the study said, “Each community likely paid much more when accounting for post-arraignment payments, the service fees charged by bail bond companies, and, in some cases, asset seizures.”

In a separate post, Isaac Bryan, one of the co-authors, described his own experience when he was called by a bond agent soon after a relative was arrested and deemed eligible for bail.

Isaac Bryan

Isaac Bryan

“They explained my family member would be released if I could pay either the entire bail amount in cash, and have it refunded at the conclusion of their court proceedings, or pay…10 percent of the total bail in exchange for a surety bond—with one caveat: I would never be refunded that 10 percent.”

Bryan said he wasn’t able to pay the full bail amount of $25,000 in cash or the non-refundable amount.

“As a result, my family member sat incarcerated pretrial simply because I did not have the financial means to purchase their freedom,” wrote Bryan, who is completing his Masters in Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“Money bail is perhaps the most obvious feature of a justice system that routinely reacts more punitively towards poverty than affluence.”

According to the study, 62,118 people during the four-year period were able to come up with the cash or surety required for their release pre-trial, but over 70 percent of those booked could not pay, “which left 223,366 people in LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) custody prior to arraignment between 2012 and 2016.”

The project was led by Bunche Center Director Kelly Lytle-Hernandez. Other authors of the study, entitled, “The Price for Freedom: Bail in the City of L.A.,” were Terry Allen and Margaret Dooley-Sammuli of the American Civil Liberties Union in California, who served as consultant.

The UCLA-based Million Dollars Hoods describes itself as a “community-driven research project” involved in mapping the cost of incarceration in the Los Angeles metropolitan region. A video of the group’s work can be downloaded here.

See also: Why the Money Bail System Needs to End by Cherise Fanno Burdeen, CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute. 

To download the Los Angeles bail study, please click here.

Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Justice Reform Subverted by Politics, says Bill Moyers

When prosecutors and judges are turned into vote-seekers, efforts to develop more humane approaches to punishment and law enforcement suffer, the veteran TV journalist said in an interview aired on CUNY’s “Criminal Justice Matters” program Tuesday. He charged that the Trump administration’s “tough on crime” rhetoric has made things worse.

Political “ambition” and rhetoric have subverted efforts to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, says veteran TV journalist Bill Moyers.

“No other nation in the world permits its justice system to be organized around political ambition,” Moyers said in an interview aired Tuesday on CUNY-TV, the public network operated by the City University of New York.

Moyers said the practice in many jurisdictions across the country of electing judges and prosecutors clouds serious debate about challenges like prison reform by appealing to the kind of “tough on crime” rhetoric that appears to win elections—but is often unrelated to fact.

“You get political appeals, not the appeal of data and reason brought to bear,” said Moyers, who was most recently executive producer on “Rikers: An American Jail,” a hard-hitting documentary about New York’s troubled detention facility.

Moyers told Stephen Handelman, host of the monthly “Criminal Justice Matters” program and editor of The Crime Report, he believed there was a rising public awareness of the need for justice reforms in both “red states and blue states.”

But he added there was also a need for more public service journalism that could provide the facts required by the public to weigh the variety of options for change, especially at a moment when President Donald Trump and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions are arguing that the only way to deal with criminals “is to lock’em up and throw away the key.”

Moyers, who served as a special assistant to President Lyndon Baines Johnson when the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice was established in 1965, warned that many of the principles established in the commission’s landmark report were in danger of being reversed by the new administration.

LBJ

President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Photo by manhhai via Flickr.

Recalling that LBJ had once told him that “A man’s judgment is no better than his information,” Moyers said the commission’s first challenge was to gather data on operations of the justice system that until then had never been tabulated on a national level.

“Data is the backbone of reform (and) in 1965 we had no national data on crime,” Moyer said. “We did not consider criminal justice as a system. Even LBJ believed that the federal government had nothing to do with local justice.”

After exploring the relationship among police, prosecutors, courts, and corrections, the commission report, released in 1967, developed recommendations aimed at making the prison system “less venal and the justice system more efficient,” said Moyers, whose 40-year career as a public broadcaster earned him 46 Emmys and nine Peabody Awards.

His groundbreaking public affairs series have included NOW with Bill Moyers (2002-05), Bill Moyers Journal (2007-10), and Moyers & Company (2011-15).

Moyers said such an approach was still crucial to helping raise public awareness of the need to develop further solutions to problems such as prison overcrowding or bail reform.

Editor’s Note: In March, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation to create a national justice commission, the first nationwide review of the justice system since the LBJ commission 50 years ago.

Moyers described his Rikers film, released last year, as an effort to bring people face to face with the stories of those suffering from the “culture of brutality” in many jails across the country.

While “brilliant reporting” by journalists has exposed the patterns of violence that have made Rikers a notorious example of that culture, Moyers said he wanted to let former inmates speak directly to the camera, “unfiltered” by journalists, to bring those issues home.

He said that he hoped the film would prod authorities to undertake the reforms suggested by a New York City commission, chaired by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman—including replacing Rikers with smaller facilities situated in the neighborhoods where many of the offenders came from.

“Until you see the person who is suffering (from the system), you can’t understand it on an emotional and conscientious level,” he said.

At the same time, he called journalists to concentrate on policy and data, rather than be deflected by the political rhetoric.

Moyers was named last week by John Jay College and The Crime Report as the 2018 Justice Media Trailblazer, an annual honor recognizing individuals in the media and media-related fields who have made a major impact on the justice debate.

He will receive the award at a dinner at John Jay College in New York on Feb. 15, 2018.

Judge Lippman will introduce him.

The dinner is open to the public, but advance reservations are required. Information about the dinner is available here.

from https://thecrimereport.org