US Dept of Justice OJJDP Releases Spring 2016 Issue

OJJDP has released the spring 2016 issue of the online “Journal of Juvenile Justice.” This issue features articles on the impact trauma has on youth and the importance of a trauma-informed juvenile justice system. Other topics include studies on substance use as a predictor of the types of offending among youth, the effect of ethnic/racial socialization on recent aggressive behaviors among youth who offend, and gender and the risk for recidivism among youth in truancy court. Also included is a pilot study to assess probation officer knowledge of youth with intellectual disabilities.

OJJDP, in collaboration with BJS, seeks a Visiting Fellow to enhance its capacity to analyze and report critical data to the field regarding juvenile justice populations. OJJDP and BJS are particularly interested in hosting a Fellow to expand OJJDP’s capability to analyze and report data on youth in adult prisons and jails, needs of youth in custody and availability of services, and youth victimization and offending. Applications are due by May 23, 2016. See here for more info.

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Why Mass Incarceration Doesn’t Pay

This New York Times Opinion Piece makes the argument that United States sentencing rules are failing and need to be changed. By using a cost-benefit analysis framework, the authors find that “the law of diminishing marginal benefits  applies to incarcerating additional people or adding years to sentences. Research finds that more incarceration has, at best, only a small effect on crime because our incarceration rate is already so high. As the prison population gets larger, the additional prisoner is more likely to be a less risky, nonviolent offender, and the value of incarcerating him (or, less likely, her) is low…The same general principle applies to the length of prison sentences, which in many cases have gotten longer as a result of sentence enhancements, repeat-offender laws, “three strikes” laws and “truth-in-sentencing” laws. Longer sentences do not appear to have a deterrent effect; one study finds, for example, that the threat of longer sentences has little impact on juvenile arrest rates.

“The bottom line: The putative benefits of more incarceration or longer sentences are actually costs.” To read more, click here.

Osborne Association Honors David Simon

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Upon receiving the Thomas Mott Osborne Spirit Medal from the Osborne Association, David Simon, activist and writer of “The Wire” and “Show Me a Hero”, said that “in New York City, an increase in incarceration in the closing decades of the last century coincided with the city’s regilding and renewal which, Simon explained, made draconian policies seem less damaging. It made it seem like zero tolerance was a rational policy,” he said. “When it was tried in places like Baltimore, St. Louis, Cleveland, Philadelphia, or Washington, it had a much different result. But we bought it.” Simon closed by offering a story about the life of Donnie Andrews, the man who served as the real-life inspiration for Omar, one of the best-known characters in “The Wire.”

States of Incarceration

The New School hosted the two-day national summit of States of Incarceration, “a coalition of 500 individuals from 20 cities across the United States that is building a participatory public memory project on the history and future of mass incarceration. The public dialogues are part of a broader effort—including a national traveling exhibition, Web platform, public dialogues, a “Shape the Debate” mobile campaign, and a podcast series—to undertake a national public reckoning with one of the most pressing issues of our time.” The next opening reception will be at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Riverside California where scholars, educators, and community members doing work in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire explore the challenges of criminalization facing youth today—especially those who are marginalized due to poverty, racial and educational inequities, or disability—and seeks to build sustainable transformative justice alternatives for the Inland Empire and beyond. Click here to see the list of exhibitions and events.

Khalil Cumberbatch was one of the many individuals who shared stories of incarceration at the summit. “Cumberbatch grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, during the 1980s; in the latter part of the decade, the neighborhood was decimated by the crack epidemic and the drug trade that came with it. There were “systems of oppression” everywhere he turned, from underfunded schools to draconian policing.”

“Prison culture shaped my experience—my friends and I talked about it in the sense that it was inevitable,” he told the crowd gathered at the Theresa Lang Community and Student Center in April. “I expected to be arrested.” To read more about Mr. Cumberatche’s story and about the exhibit, see the New School blog here.

The Prison in Twelve Landscapes

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A new film from Canadian director Brett Story explores how incarceration has transformed the American landscape. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes traces the ways mass incarceration affects the country’s physical and social spaces through 12 vignettes, from a playground in L.A. designed to repel registered sex offenders, to Ferguson, Missouri, to Whitesburg, a Kentucky mining town whose economy is supported by a federal prison. See more here.


Tribeca Film Festival Highlights Human Cost of Incarceration

“At a time when criminal justice reform has gained national attention and bipartisan support from even the leading candidates for president, a handful of documentaries at the Tribeca Film Festival are giving a close-up to the human cost of mass incarceration.”

“The films are filled with tender and tragic stories of people — many of them poor, many of them black men — who made mistakes at a young age and were locked away for questionably long terms. They are stories of debatable justice, but are more principally films about human dignity.” Read more here.