White Supremacy ‘a Sickness,’ says Ex-Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young

Civil rights leader and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young’s “distinguished contributions to justice” were cited by American Society of Criminology president Karen Heimer in giving him the Presidential Justice Award.

Civil rights leader and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young was honored for  his “distinguished contributions to justice” by the American Society of Criminology (ASC), which concluded its annual meeting over the weekend in Atlanta.

In his remarks to the participants, Young recalled his efforts to promote Atlanta as a  “city too busy to hate,” noting that he had been taught by his father that “white supremacy is a sickness.”

Young, who served as the host city’s mayor from 1982 to 1990, said he sent police officers into the city’s housing projects to help young people gain self-confidence through activities like midnight basketball league.

Young, 86, admitted to the academic audience that in college he got a “D” in sociology.

He got a standing ovation with his closing declaration that “peace is practical… it makes sense…and it is possible.”

Young received the Presidential Justice Award from outgoing ASC president Karen Heimer of the University of Iowa.

Young served as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s as a senior aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. He was elected three times to Congress before being appointed by President Jimmy Carter as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1977.

This report was prepared by Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Racial Justice Should Be Cornerstone of Criminal Justice, Conference Told

Unless Americans come to grips with the long, ugly history of race relations, there is little hope of making fundamental changes in the criminal justice system, speakers told the Smart on Crime conference at John Jay College Tuesday.

Lawmakers and activists cannot tackle criminal justice reforms without addressing systemic racial disparities in the U.S., a conference at John Jay College was told Tuesday.

“They go hand-and-hand,” G.T. Bynum, mayor of Tulsa, Okla., told a discussion panel exploring the continuing impact of racial bias on the criminal justice system.

Bynum noted that his own political career was inspired by the responses to the “massacre” that destroyed Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood in 1921, leaving at least 36 dead, and some 10,000 homeless. Often called the country’s worst “race riot,” the incident was sparked and led by whites, effectively obliterating what was then considered the wealthiest African-American community in the U.S.

He noted that none of the ringleaders of the massacre were ever prosecuted, even though police could have easily found out who they were, and compared it to the swift law enforcement reaction to the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing seven decades later.

Other members of the five-person panel made similar points about the nation’s failure to acknowledge the lingering effects of racism on official behavior. The panel was part of the college’s second annual Smart on Crime Innovations Conference, a two-day event where scholars, activists and politicians from across the nation convene to discuss innovative strategies to replace the now-discredited “tough-on-crime” approaches of the 1990s.

Bynum cited as one example from his own city a community-policing model that calls for residents to play active roles in maintaining public safety in their neighborhoods. He said placing the burden solely on police officers can create a disconnect between residents and often overworked and understaffed police forces.

“Criminal justice in the community is reliant on the community,” he said. “It’s every citizen’s job in the community to make that community safer.”

The community-policing model, he added, will not only control crime but also help police officers and residents view one another as allies.

Jason Hernandez, whose life sentence for selling crack cocaine was commuted by former President Barack Obama in 2013, said he doubted that he would have received similar treatment by a white president. Though he championed more diversity in the criminal justice system, he said the issue is deeper than that.

“When you have a Hispanic or African-American officer, prosecutor, or judge—they’re usually one of the worse ones,” he says.

“We have to change their mindset. There is no connection between the defendant and the ones that are arresting them, prosecuting them and imposing their sentences.”

Kimberly Foxx, State’s Attorney for Cook County, Il., said it all comes down to access.

As a black woman who lived in public housing in a single-parent household, she argued that she has more in common with the defendants and victims that walk through her courtroom than with the lawyers that work for her. She described how external factors, such as the lack of access, can ruin people lives and lead to mass incarceration.

“It doesn’t begin with the criminal justice system,” she says. “Every piece of those factors—education, affordable housing, mental health access—ends with the criminal justice system.”

For Jeffrey Robinson, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Deputy Legal Director, said learning the true history of U.S. race relations should be the first start of anyone looking for solutions to racial disparities.

“This history is hidden, but it’s hidden in plain sight,” he said. “If we don’t have a common baseline of what race has done to us in America, then it will be impossible to go forward, because we’re all talking about different things.”

Candice Jones, president of the Washington, DC-based Public Welfare Foundation, discussed racial disparities in incarceration and warned people not to rely solely on politicians to find solutions.

“I don’t think we should get under any illusion that one political party is going to save us on this issue,” she said.

“In this nation, we’re dealing with a crisis of human bondage that groups profit from. We have to get concrete pretty quickly on how we’re going to address this stuff. We don’t have another two generations to sacrifice.”

The Smart on Crime conference continued Wednesday.

J. Gabriel Ware is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Kerner Report 50 Years Later: Political Support for Justice Reform Still a Challenge

Is justice in the US still hampered by a racial divide? Three scholars re-examine the 1968 report on its 50th anniversary and find few reasons for optimism.

Fifty years ago this week, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission, headed by Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner) issued its report. The panel was named by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots. The panel concluded that the U.S. was headed toward “two societies, one black, one white-separate and unequal.”

This week, The Milton Eisenhower Foundation published “Healing Our Divided Society,” a look at how the U.S. has changed in the half-century since the report. The volume has three chapters on criminal justice. Delbert Elliott of the University of Colorado-Boulder asks if the nation has enough evidence-based programs and practices to mount a comprehensive violence- and crime-prevention initiative.

He says the current set of programs that meet a high enough scientific standard to take to scale is small and their impact would be modest.

“The political will to abandon ineffective and harmful programs and embed evidence-based programs, practices, and policies in our educational, health, and justice systems must be found,” Elliott says. “This was the critical obstacle identified in the original Kerner Commission report. It remains the critical obstacle.”

Former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, now at George Mason University, cited several reasons for optimism about policing. Few law enforcement leaders believe they can arrest their way out of the opioid crisis.

“Instead, there is a commitment to working in tandem with public health professionals to address these problems, using treatment and data tools,” she says. Because criminal justice is largely a state and local enterprise, reform will continue with or without leadership from the bully pulpit in Washington, she says.

Elliott Currie of the University of California Irvine says the Kerner report’s “basic message remains strikingly on target. Serious violent crime continues to be a fundamental, inescapable fact of life in most racial ghettoes in America.”

He notes the “racialized character of violent death.”

A recent survey in Chicago found that “a stunning 86 percent of blacks, versus 50 percent of whites, said that it was ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ that a young person in their neighborhood would be a victim of violent crime.” He concludes that “the ‘startling’ differences in personal security the [Kerner] commission highlighted are still very much with us.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Justice Reformers Launch Scorecard on Progress in a ‘Watershed’ Year

The Vera Institute of Justice plan s to tracks major trends and developments in criminal justice throughout the country, focusing on 12 key areas, ranging from gun ownership to sexual assault.

A national criminal justice advocacy and research group has launched a project that tracks major trends and developments in criminal justice throughout the country, focusing on 12 key areas of the justice system.

The State of Justice Report, released by the Vera Institute of Justice, also peers at the system through a number of different “lenses,” spotlighting bipartisan coalitions, racial justice, disability rights, and public health issues.

Vera, calling 2017 a “watershed year for criminal justice,” points to New Jersey’s lead on bail reform under a Republican governor, as well as other states that passed legislation limiting money bail and/or pretrial detention, such as Kentucky, Connecticut, New Mexico, and California. Locally, New Orleans passed a bail reform ordinance; and both Philadelphia and San Francisco issues reports on the impact of cash bail, signalling that leaders are taking a serious look at revising the system.

According to Vera, last year brought a growing recognition of the connection between domestic abuse and gun violence. While there has long been a preponderance of data linking intimate partner homicides and guns, “gaps in laws, policies, and practices in many jurisdictions continue to allow people subject to domestic violence protection orders or who have been charged with domestic violence crimes to possess firearms,” the authors write.

Last year, a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers introduced legislation to strengthen background checks on gun owners. And “eight states (Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington) adopted laws restricting gun ownership for people convicted of domestic violence or subject to a restraining order, bringing the total number of states with such laws to 27.”

Other bipartisan efforts that made progress last year were improvements to how sexual assault evidence is processed (SAFER Act of 2017), as well as state-level reforms in Louisiana and Massachusetts. Finally, says Vera, Democrats and Republicans around the country are pushing back against the Trump administration’s “tough on crime” agenda.

Vera Institute’s chapters on opioids, policing, bail, prosecutions, public defense, jails, youth justice, immigration justice, victims, sentencing and decriminalization, prisons, and reentry can be explored on their website.

This summary was prepared by TCR Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org